Dating Procrastination

Last night I decided that I probably should start dating, or at least contact this dating service and see what they think.  I thought that, if I want signs, then it probably counts for something that my parents and my rabbi mentor think I should be dating.  And, while I have no real idea what God thinks, getting married and having children is a mitzvah (commandment), so I should probably be pursuing it.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I have a certain calm when I thought I should be dating, albeit accompanied by anxiety.  It didn’t seem particularly immoral to go on dates with my mental health issues; the worst that can happen is the women don’t want to see me again.  Plus, I should do my hishtadlut (effort) if I want HaShem (God) to send my soulmate.

This morning the calm was gone.  I felt very depressed again, albeit not particularly anxious (too depressed to be anxious.  Anxiety requires a certain amount of energy, concentration and motivation).  I felt that I’m too depressed and my self-esteem is too low to face multiple rejections again.  I felt that I’m too weird and screwed up for anyone to be able to love me (the evidence from previous crushes/dates/girlfriends supports this thesis).  I worried that I want sex more than I want love (given that I’m a celibate virgin, it is hard to judge how realistic this fear is) and wouldn’t be able to cope with a real relationship, for all that my ex-girlfriends felt that I was attentive to their emotional needs.  It felt like dating in this state would just be misleading people (shadchan (matchmaker), dates) into thinking I’m a functioning human being when I’m blatantly not.  I’m sceptical of whether shadchanim and dating sites really help (some evidence suggests they don’t); I don’t think there’s a science, or even an art, to matching people, it just seems like pot luck whether you get set up with someone compatible even if you’re ‘normal,’ let alone a freak like me.  And it seems immature to think that someone else could solve my problems, or even help me to live with them better.  It seems pretty inevitable that I’m going to be miserable and lonely all my life, simply because I’ve been miserable and lonely all my adult life so far.  And if I’m going to be miserable anyway, I’m much better off being miserable by myself than making someone else miserable.

It just seems my life is to be one long stretch of misery and loneliness, occasionally punctuated by brief moments of hope, just to seem more painful when they are gone.  It doesn’t seem a lot that I can do about this.  Being single is only part of this, but it’s probably the least amenable to improvement (although the longer I’m unemployed, the more questionable that seems).  I’m back to feeling I would rather die than be like this forever.  My habit of seeing everything in life as an ethical question (“Is it morally right for me to date?”) rather than a pragmatic question (“Would dating make me happier/more energised/more motivated/less depressed?”) probably doesn’t help, as it makes the question too complicated.  Although, to be honest, I’m not sure what the answer to the pragmatic question would be either.  A lot would depend on how quickly I found someone right for me, or whether I would find someone at all.

Well, anyway, my rabbi mentor just got back to me while I was writing this and said I should continue dating “even though it is difficult at times.”  I suppose that’s as near to the word of God as I’m going to get (although I trust my rabbi mentor because he’s a trained counsellor and the wisest person I know as much as because he’s a rabbi).  I don’t know how I keep going with it despite disappointment.  It’s like job applications, and I’m getting quite disenchanted with those, except that I find it easier to believe that someone could employ me than be in a relationship with me.

***

Speaking of job applications, I’m applying for a part-time job somewhere that sounds potentially good, if they could accommodate my need to leave early on winter Fridays, but writing the personal statement shows me that while I have some of the skills and experience they want, I don’t have all of them by any means.

***

A bookmark that came free with a book I purchased this week advises me that it’s better to be happy and odd than miserable and ordinary (the quote is apparently from Goodnight Mister Tom, which I’ve never read).  I would agree, except that I seem to be both odd and miserable.

***

I feel apprehensive about getting through Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Shavuot (Pentecost), but there’s not a lot I can do about that now.  See you on Tuesday (or possibly late on Monday night).

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You Can’t Win

My parents are away for a few days, starting this morning, and I have the house to myself.  This is good in some ways, but bad in others.  In particular, my loneliness gets worse when they’re away.  Even though I don’t talk to them that much, I seem to benefit from other people being in the house, which I guess sheds light on my desire to get married.  Of course, when they’re here, I get frustrated with them, particularly if I feel they’re treating me as a child.  It’s difficult being an adult living with my parents, especially as, to some extent, they have good reason for assuming I can’t cope by myself because of my high functioning autism and depression.  More on this below.

***

I felt very depressed again today and lacking in energy, motivation and concentration.  I really wasted the day sleeping as I struggled to sleep last night, then slept through the morning and dozed off again after breakfast.  I kept going back to lie on the bed because I feel so drained.  That was how I dozed off after breakfast.  I just have no energy for anything.  I felt as limp as a rag doll much of the day and didn’t feel able to do anything except type a bit.  I didn’t even feel able to read much, although my mood energy and concentration got a bit better in the late afternoon.  I don’t know why my mood has sunk recently.  It’s possible that the busy week I had two weeks ago, with a break-up and two stressful job interviews and then three job rejections (actually two rejections, plus belated feedback from a third) knocked me out and I have recovered, which feels a bit pathetic.  I feel I should (that word again) be better at recovering, but I can’t make myself better by beating myself up, sadly.

Well, all I managed to do today was go for a half hour walk and buy bananas, as well as ten minutes of Torah study.  I did find a new job to apply for, only to find that it seems I had wanted to apply for it in February, but the advert was taken down before I applied for it.  As I haven’t seen it advertised lately, I’m guessing they didn’t fill the post first time around or possibly they’re advertising for a similar, but non-identical role, so I decided to try again, but I got dismayed by the lengthy online application and request for evidence CPD and the like (with my issues it’s hard just to hold down a part-time job, let alone do CPD).  Other than that, the only productive thing I did was watch an episode of Doctor Who as research for my book.

***

My life seems to be about contingency planning right now.  What career can I build for myself given that I don’t seem to be able to build one in librarianship?  Will I manage to make one as a writer?  This is hard, especially as I don’t know anyone who could advise me and am not convinced that I am a good writer (albeit that my low number of blog followers may be due to my writing in a style that might fit better in a weekly magazine or newspaper column than a daily blog post and not necessarily a sign that I should not write book-length pieces).  What religious community should I go to, given that my current is not perfect, but might be the least-worst option for now, and how can I integrate if I can’t find a perfect fit?  What outlets can I find for my loneliness, my need to give and receive love and my sexuality, given that Jewish law and social anxiety seem to rule most options out?  I guess pets might be an option again, but I’ve gone off the idea a bit.

***

There’s a beautiful piece in the latest Jewish Review of Books that I read today, John J. Clayton reflecting on getting old with Parkinson’s Disease.  It would have caught my attention anyway, for being quite religious, which is unusual (admittedly not quite so unusual in the JRB than in a mainstream newspaper), but I found a lot of it seemed familiar to my situation, even though depression is a very different illness to Parkinson’s (although I do have medication-induced tremor at awkward times).  The sense of trying to stay positive and grateful when you can feel your strength, even your life dripping away.  Wanting to stay positive so other people will be able to praise your inner fortitude and gratitude when you’re gone, but really not feeling up to it.  The sense of life not going according to plan, the feeling of this isn’t supposed to happen.  I can’t shake the jealous feeling that somehow I lost my life, the feeling, as Clayton said, of being a ghost, of watching my peers live the life I wanted to live, that I felt I would/should live.

***

My Mum just called on What’sApp.  It didn’t go well.  I think the line was bad; at any rate either I couldn’t hear her properly or she was hesitating a lot.  I thought she couldn’t hear me and spoke louder, so she said I didn’t need to shout.  We both ended up getting annoyed with each other.  The underlying cause, of course, is that I’m nearly thirty-six and have lived alone before, but because of my “issues,” my parents feel the need to check up on me in a way that they don’t do to my (younger, married) sister.  And knowing that, on some level, I probably do need to be checked up on only makes it feel worse.  It doesn’t help that, because of my autism, I don’t like speaking on the phone generally and I especially don’t like sudden phone calls out of the blue, which disrupt my plans (even if, as tonight, I don’t really have concrete plans, they still make me worry how long the call will take, what I should say and so on) and feel like an invasion of my metaphorical space.  Now I feel angry and guilty, feeling worse for knowing that I don’t have a legitimate reason to get angry.  Plus, of course, the worry that “If some horrible holiday-related disaster happens to my parents, then the last time I spoke to them would be an argument” (rather than it being me grunting goodbye when I was basically asleep this morning).

Now I’m trying to work out if I’ve ever told my family any of the above, or if I’m just autistically assuming that they know it.  This has all come about because I was depressed yesterday and also because when they went away for a week in the winter, they didn’t tell me to phone, so I assumed they didn’t want to hear from me and stayed out of contact all week.  They assumed I would phone, but I didn’t.  I was depressed all week and I think they blamed themselves, although if they had phoned I would almost certainly have lied and said I was fine, because I’m not good at opening up about my emotions in person (as opposed to in writing), particularly with my parents, with whom I don’t always have a straightforward relationship.

I did text them to apologise, but I still feel bad.  I also feel bad (a different type of bad) about not being able to cope with basic social interactions because of my autism.

***

This post seems to be full of my pleading “issues” to explain why I do, or don’t do, the things people expect me to do.  This just makes me feel useless, even if it’s true.  I feel that if things had been even slightly different for me perhaps I could have turned my autistic traits into strengths rather than weaknesses and succeeded in the work sphere at least, even if not in my social/family/romantic life.  Maybe I will be able to turn things around, I just can’t see how.

I’m Gonna Be (Drained)

I woke up today feeling totally wiped out, exhausted and depressed.  In a way these days are a little easier than days when I’m a bit down, but still feel I ought to job hunt or work on my books or study a lot of Torah because it’s easier to accept that I can’t do as much as I would like.

Although I hoped to go to volunteering late, in the end I missed it completely.  I wasn’t well enough.  I felt useless and sinful.

I went for a walk and did literally two minutes of Torah study.  That’s all I managed.  Other than that I just watched TV (Doctor Who, research for my book including the terrible, historically inaccurate and antisemitic The Witchfinders which was only watched because I needed to do so) until it was time to go out with my family for my Mum’s birthday.  The food was good, but they ran out of dessert and we had to pay by cash as their card reader broke.  The restaurant was too noisy for me, with a lot of customer noise plus ‘background’ music at just the right level to annoy me: too quiet to listen to properly, but loud enough to distract me with vaguely-recognisable beats and stop me listening to the conversation as my autistic brain tries to tune in to it properly.  I mostly let the conversation wash over me and didn’t worry too much about joining in.  It seemed the easiest option.  Although I did identify Come On EileenDancing Queen and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles); also some Beatles, but I forget what.

Because there was no dessert, my sister and brother-in-law came back to our house for hot drinks and cake.  I found that a bit easier because it was quieter, even if the conversation centred on our shared dismay at the political situation.  I do feel bloated after everything I’ve eaten this evening.

While we were out, my Mum mentioned that the woman she wanted to set me up with some time ago (daughter of her friends who had mental health issues) is now engaged.  So that’s another missed opportunity, or a narrow escape from more rejection, depending on how you want to look at it.

I feel lonely.  It’s still hard to believe anyone could ever want me.  I certainly don’t think I could find someone in time to have children, which upsets me, let alone that I could be well enough for dating, marriage and children to be realistic prospects any time in the next few years.  It’s frustrating that there is no religiously legitimate outlet for my sexuality and no practical outlet for my desire to love and be loved romantically.  It’s frustrating that the women I have liked were not interested in me.  It’s also frustrating that I recently found someone who was interested in me, but she wasn’t right for me at all.  Although probably on days like today I’m being selfish anyway.  I want someone to love me, but I don’t have the energy/capability to love anyone else.

I suspect people like me don’t get married or have children or find communities they fit in.  I should be glad I even have a few friends, as I don’t think I deserve/could cope with that.

Sex, Politics and Alcohol

(Don’t say I shy away from the big topics here.)

I woke late, later than I wanted.  I was going in to work at lunchtime and staying late at an event this evening, but even so I wanted to be up at 9am, whereas I got up about 9.40am.  I was slow to get going, feeling depressed.  I wondered what I would say to my younger self, about to be diagnosed with depression for the first time seventeen years ago.  It was hard to think of anything encouraging.  I could say that he/I would at least survive, but I’m not keen on pure survival as a goal.

For some reason that I don’t understand, I thought a lot about my two failed relationships.  I don’t know what it is about me that prevents me from forming relationships.  Well, I do know, because on some level it’s autism and depression, but it’s hard to know what specifically stops me.  To be fair, both my exes had issues about as much as I did, so perhaps I shouldn’t just blame myself.  It’s hard not to blame someone, though, and I don’t really want to blame them either (as I said, they had issues too).  Given how long it was before I went out on my first date (I was twenty-seven) and the gap between my first and second relationships, I could be in my forties before I get the chance to try again, which is going to make starting a family harder.

***

I struggled through the early part of the work day (i.e. early afternoon) feeling like the idiot child again.  I felt I was making stupid mistakes and not thinking to do things until they were pointed out to me which could potentially be an autistic executive function deficit, I suppose, but that only occurred to me just now, not at the time; at the time I just thought I was being stupid and useless.  My boss was nice about it, which somehow just makes me feel worse.

Late afternoon brought the event/exhibition we were running.  From my point of view, it was similar to the event/exhibition we ran a few weeks ago, in terms of my curating rare books and trying to remember enough of my history BA to be able to talk about them while secretly hoping that I don’t say anything outrageously wrong.  At any rate, radical politics from the English Civil Wars and Interregnum seem popular again.  I was actually less affected by the crowds and noise than I had feared, except when someone dropped something on the other side of the room with a loud metallic noise which distracted me even though no one around me seemed to notice.  From everyone else’s perspective, this event was different to the previous one as we had food and wine (which I didn’t eat (a) because I was curating and (b) because it wasn’t kosher).

The other, bigger, difference was that we had some guest speakers.  They were interesting, but I didn’t take much in because I had been a bit triggered by the political nature of the event – not anything party political, but just general thoughts about protest (the theme of the event) and where I stand.  I feel counter-cultural in some ways, but I don’t subscribe to any political party or ideology and feel rather disenfranchised by contemporary politics.  I honestly struggle to find anyone I could in good conscience vote for at the next election (unless Elmo from Sesame Street stands against Theresa May again).  I fantasise about dropping out without knowing where I would go.  In fact, not only do I feel counter to mainstream culture, but also to the main counter-culture (to paraphrase The Avengers, I’m counter-counter-counter-cultural).  I feel Orthodox Judaism is strongly counter-cultural too (how could it not be, by far the smallest of the world’s major religions?), but too many Jews miss the point and end up with conformist bourgeois lives.  But the revolutionary potential is there.  For example, Buy Nothing Day is an established anti-consumerist protest day.  I once calculated that Orthodox Jews spend approximately two months not buying anything at all (if you add together Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Yom Tov (festivals) it comes to about two months, depending on whether Yom Tov falls on Shabbat in any given year and on whether you live in Israel and get one day less Yom Tov).  Shabbat itself is a very revolutionary egalitarian idea, a sanctuary in time that everyone receives in the same amount, regardless of wealth or status (cf. Heschel and Seeskin), a day when no one can compel anyone else to do anything.

I feel I am drifting from the point somewhat (sorry, it’s 1.30am and I’m drained, but not sleepy and need to get my thoughts in some kind of order before bed).  It’s just that whenever politics comes up lately (lately = for the last few years) I feel vaguely guilty for not having firm party political views (my opinions are more emotions or attitudes and not necessarily coherent).  But as the frum (religious) community is mostly conservative and my Doctor Who/online friends are mostly progressive, I would offend someone either way, so maybe it’s just as well that I quietly question everything, but say nothing.  It just means I always feel ‘wrong’ and under threat of rejection, as if I didn’t feel like that for umpteen other reasons already.  (My assumption that people would reject me because I don’t share their political views may be false, but in all the talk in the media of social media echo chambers, it’s hard to think otherwise.)

***

I got home at 10.30pm absolutely exhausted.  I had to “people” some more, as my parents had guests: my uncle’s mother-in-law over from Israel for a significant birthday (a tenuous family connection, but she’s essentially a family friend of long standing by now) and some other friends of my parents who are also friends of my uncle’s mother-in-law, including someone I used to work with.  So I had to go in and say hello when I really wanted to crash.  But I managed it.

***

The other thing that upset me a bit today was getting mistaken for a PhD student by the historian guest speaker.  Sometimes I feel I should have gone down that route, that I would be happier reading books than caring for them.  And high functioning autistics can do well in academia.  But every time I go to university, my depression gets bad and I say I will never go back.  Plus, if I was doing a PhD, it would probably end up being in the history of antisemitism, which would be hugely depressing, if necessary.

There was something else that was upsetting me, but I don’t want to get into it at 1.30am.  Maybe tomorrow.  Actually, I am going to go into it, because it’s upsetting me.  I feel I’m a really bad person because I get distracted by being attracted to people of the opposite sex.  I know most people are like that, but… well, I suppose I feel I should be above it in some way.  I worry that it affects my interactions, although I do try hard not to react to people differently based on how attractive I find them, and I certainly don’t flirt with women or anything improper.  I just wish it didn’t happen.  I don’t like being so aware of how attractive I find some women.  Particularly as I don’t think anyone finds me attractive, which makes the whole thing seem one-sided and exploitative.

When I wrote an article on Hevria.com years ago about being scared of my sexuality, someone commented to say I see women as “anxiety-inducing sexual objects” which upset me, probably because I’m scared it’s true.  Well, “anxiety-inducing” is true, but I have social anxiety, so everyone makes me anxious.  But, given that it seems unlikely that I will ever get married, I just wish I was asexual so I didn’t have to even worry about this craziness (being attracted to people).  There’s a story called Liking What You See by science fiction writer Ted Chiang, about whether it would be good if we could switch off physical attraction.  I think it probably would be good.

***

It’s 2.15am and I should get to bed.  I am probably coming down from today – not that it was particularly positive, but that social interactions and being busy at work get the adrenaline flowing and I need to unwind.  I can’t really crash tomorrow, unfortunately, as in the afternoon I’m speaking to someone from The Network (the local government-run organisation that provided group therapy courses I have recently attended), although I’m not sure there’s a lot more that they can do for me right now.

Confessions of a Justified Sinner

I feel depressed and listless today.  I don’t know why, aside from the usual reason (depression).

My sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner, but I didn’t feel very social.  I was better once they arrived than I thought I would be, but dinner was mostly small talk, which I struggle with from an autistic point of view.  I get bored by the conversation and struggle to think of anything to say; when I do, I don’t always make myself heard.  I find the conversation draining especially as it seems to be very loud; I’ve noticed Mum and Dad are both getting a bit hard of hearing which may be why it seems to be so loud, but I find it draining.  I don’t know if other autistic people have coping strategies for this kind of thing.  I don’t want to be rude.  I try to take an interest in family members’ lives, especially big life events (my sister and brother-in-law are moving into their first real home together this week and my parents were talking about their recent holiday), but sometimes it gets too much for me.  I feel bad about this, but don’t know what I can do about it.

***

Purim is over now, so I should be in Pesach-preparation mode.  I usually find some interpretations of the exodus story or the haggadah to make the seder more interesting and not just a reading of the same text each year, but I have little enthusiasm for it this year.  It’s partly the depression and partly the – well, religious crisis is putting it too strongly, but lack of religious motivation I currently have, the feeling that I’m a bad person and can never change because God has stacked the deck against me with autism and depression.  Plus, last year I thought that no one actually appreciates what I say, except my Dad and maybe my sister.  I fear the other guests just want to get on to the meal and go home and that they tolerate me at best.  I don’t know if this is true.  I would love to go to a seder one year where there is a real discussion and I learn something, but I can’t see it happening any time soon.

***

I googled “how to deal with sexual frustration.”  Most of the pages assumed I was in a relationship I had got bored of and wanted to rekindle.  The ones that assumed singledom mostly suggested things that aren’t halakhically-acceptable.   Other than that, it just said sports or hobbies as displacement activities, neither of which have worked for me in the past and neither of which are really options at the moment, mainly because of depression leaving me drained.

Perhaps most people would have the confidence to date and if I was like them, I would be asking my parents to set me up with their friends’/neighbours’ children as they (my parents) want.  Certainly the daughter of my Mum’s friend whose profile I saw on a dating website has a couple of things in common with me.  But I’m too scared of rejection, too sure that no one could love someone as depressed, autistic and especially unemployed (or about to be unemployed) as me, especially as her dating profile specified that she wanted to marry a professional.  Maybe, as I implied yesterday, I’m scared to date for reasons beyond social anxiety, scared of losing independence or something, or just scared of yet more rejection.  Or maybe it’s just lack of self-esteem; confident people seem more able to blag their way to what they want, whether it’s a partner, a career or position and esteem within the community.

***

Out shopping today I felt very angry with God.  I know lots of autistic people would not change how they are and see autism as a difference and not a disability, but I keep thinking that so many of the bad things in my life would either not be present or would be easier to deal with if I was not autistic, or perhaps if my autism had been diagnosed earlier.  I might not be depressed, might not be single, might not be lonely, might not be unemployable, might not be so poorly socialised into my religious community… and so on, and so on.  Nor do I have the “autistic superpowers” some autistic people claim to have; I can sometimes go into hyperfocus, but I don’t have useful sensory sensitivity or a special interest that is socially useful or which makes me popular.  I suppose it’s crazy to go down the route of “what if,” but it’s hard not to when real life seems so stagnant.

I just keep asking why God would do this to me.  I’m open to the idea that God makes us suffer to grow or so that we learn to help others, but I can’t see how I can realistically help others when I’m in this state and as for growing, if anything, as earlier paragraphs might have indicated, I’m going backwards, getting less religious.  I guess if my emunah (faith) wasn’t so strong, I would seriously be contemplating going off the derekh (stopping being religious), I find my religious life so dull and sometimes painful and with such few positive aspects to it at the moment.  I just happen to believe that God exists and that this is how He wants me to live, for reasons I don’t understand.  I still worry that one day I will stop believing and doing and then all this effort will have been wasted.

***

There was an article in the Jewish Chronicle a few months ago about a charity in Israel that helps people with moderate learning disabilities, including non-high functioning autism, to get married.  They provide practical and emotional support for a couple with learning disabilities to learn to live together.  I think, how can it be possible for someone with more severe autism than me to get a job and get married, and yet my intelligence just seems to make it harder for me to find a job or a wife, for reasons that I don’t really understand.  It doesn’t help that I’m not sure what help I want/need at the moment.  A friend suggested A S Mentoring to me as being able to help with my employment needs, but having looked at their website, I’m not sure if they’re offering anything that could help me; I want to be more sure what I want before contacting them.  Similarly with dating, maybe if I had the confidence to date, a lot of the issues surrounding it would fall away, but I’m too scared of rejection to dare to ask to be set up with anyone or to ask someone out.

***

I did at least go shopping today and did about twenty minutes of Talmud study.  I also worked on my Doctor Who book for an hour and a half or so (albeit with distractions), sorting out the third draft of chapters two and three.  It’s quite good, but not great, but I’m not sure I really have the skills to make it better.

***

This bit is probably of limited interest to most of my readers, but I’m watching Quatermass, the fourth and final science fiction serial featuring Professor Quatermass, broadcast in the seventies, more than twenty years after the first three serials.  It’s a bleak story to watch while I’m feeling depressed (SPOILERS: pretty much all the sympathetic characters die horribly), but it is haunting and psychologically terrifying by turns, as well as reflective of the social unrest and stagflation of Britain in the seventies.  That things in real life never quite turned out as badly as they did in Quatermass might give hope that Brexit and populism might not lead to the end of civilisation as we know it.  (As an aside, and getting really far off the subject, Nigel Kneale is not often lumped together with John le Carré, but both share an outlook that might best be described as “Tory Anarchist” (to quote George Orwell), horrified by Soviet totalitarianism, but also disgusted by American capitalism, hoping for some kind of kinder, authentically British alternative, but resigned to Britain’s post-imperial decline.  There is definitely more to consider here e.g. the skill both writers have for creating a fictional world through dialogue and a few telling details. </autistic special interests>)

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.

Nearly Shabbat

15.00  Feeling terrible.  I should be getting ready for Shabbat or working on my books, but I can’t.  Want to go back to bed.  I wish I was dead.  I don’t know if I really think that.  I’m coming to realise that the feelings that I think are wanting love or sex might not be that at all, but something else (or something else tied up with wanting love and/or sex), so maybe feeling “I wish I was dead” is really something else too.  About loneliness or self-hatred, which is probably what the “wanting love/sex” feeling is too.

***

My sister wants to go out with me motzei Shabbat (Saturday evening), but I don’t really want to.  Maybe on Sunday, if it’s not a big thing, but not Saturday evening.  I don’t know though.  I don’t know and I don’t know how to say anything.  I’m just shut down (not in an autistic sense but actually maybe in an autistic sense; I don’t really understand melt-downs and shut downs and how they fit into my life).

***

Listening to Elton John sing Tiny Dancer over and over again.  Sometimes, particularly when I’m very depressed, I listen to the same song over and over (apparently even this is an autistic thing).  Usually there’s some kind of link from the lyrics to how I feel, but I think this is just about the music.  The song used to be triggering for me, for complicated reasons, but this seems to have worked as exposure therapy.

***

The assistant rabbi said yesterday that people who are frightened of getting drunk on Purim have no “inside”, because if you’ve got a real inside (inner world) there’s nothing in there to fear.  I’ve never been drunk, I don’t really drink at all and I’ve always been very scared of getting drunk and I’m glad depression and antidepressants give me reasons not to drink.  What does that say about me, and my “inside”?

***

16.45  Shabbat chores finished.  I should really have hoovered, at least the kitchen and my bedroom, but I don’t feel able.  I’m exhausted.  I’m not sure if I’m going to go to shul, I just feel exhausted (plus when I’m home alone I always feel nervous about going out with the Shabbat candles lit even though I’m only using tea lights).  No time to work on my books.  I guess this week was never going to be easy between networking course, work disruption and my parents being away.

***

This post is stupid.  My blog is stupid.  Why do people even read this?

You Don’t Have to Be Neurotypical to Work Here – But It Helps!

I struggled to sleep again last night, despite not feeling consciously anxious.  I did my usual trick of eating porridge as a way of ingesting soporific warm milk (I don’t like the taste of milk ‘straight’) which worked, but I wonder how much of my weight gain is due to things like this.  Although the dark chocolate Kit-Kat I had for dessert at dinner because I was so depressed was probably worse.  The result was that I overslept this morning and rushed out to my networking workshop and got the Tube rather than the bus to save time, only to discover I’d been overcautious and arrived half an hour early.  I was too embarrassed to go in straight away and paced up and down outside for quarter of an hour.  I was still the first person there.

The workshop was quite good and, to my relief, didn’t involve too much interaction.  We did have to sell ourselves with an ‘elevator pitch’ which I struggled with.  The whole morning just underlined for me, if I could have forgotten, how vague I am on my career aspirations (not least because I really want to be a writer and librarianship is a time-filler while I work on my first books or second-choice in case I can’t write), how few people there are in my social network, how few professional contacts I have in the sector I work in and so on.  I did feel that with all the emphasis in the workshop on building networks of people, using casual conversations to build careers and using body language to put across meaning that the world of work is built for extrovert neurotypicals, not introverts or autistics.  The whole experience did make me feel somewhat negative about my career prospects.  At least I’m not a salesman like one of the people in the workshop.

I got home minutes before the torrential rain, which was good.

***

A strange thought this morning: when I had my first ever psychiatric assessment, at the university counselling service at Oxford, the psychiatrist was surprised that, at the age of nineteen, I’d never had a girlfriend and asked if I was gay.  When I said I wasn’t, he asked if he was sure I wasn’t gay.  (Goodness knows what he would have made of the fact that I didn’t even go on a date until I was twenty-seven.)  I hope that nowadays something like that would flag up high-functioning autism as a possible explanation as well as non-heterosexuality (and that non-heterosexuality would include asexuality as well as homo- and bi-sexuality).  To be fair to him, high-functioning autism was a lot less well-known sixteen years ago, but you would think that a mental health professional at Oxford would encounter more high-functioning autistics than the average person.

***

Another thought this morning: because of the way my mental health issues interact with my religious practices, I have to make an at least semi-conscious decision to remain Jewish frequently, whereas many Jews, frum (religious) as well as non-frum, can coast on autopilot.  But I constantly have to choose to put my energy into prayer, Torah study and being part of the community, just as I have to constantly choose to artificially limit my already limited (because of depression and autism) dating pool to the frum community.  This has disadvantages, in that I’m much more likely to go off the derekh (stop being religious), I am not well-integrated into the frum community and Judaism is not as organic a part of my life as it should be, as well as the fact that my issues interfere with my mitzvah observance to a significant extent.  However, perhaps it makes me more thoughtful about my beliefs and practices and more understanding of other ‘fringe Jews’ (as a now-defunct blog used to refer to Jews on the edge of the frum community, by choice or otherwise).  I do feel guilty that I invest such a small percentage of my time and energy in prayer, Torah study and communal activities, but this is the only way I can function right now.  It helps to be neurotypical here, too.

***

This evening I’m out, doing something cultural/religious, listening to Robert Alter speak about translating the whole of Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible).  I’m going by myself as I don’t know anyone currently in London who would like to go to hear someone talk about academic (as opposed to frum) Bible translation, although I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to ask a friend even if I had one.  I tend to assume that I should do cultural things by myself, whether from habit or because my friends don’t share my interests, although I do sometimes go to art galleries with my sister and try to see a ‘straight’ play with my Mum once a year, usually at the Open Air Theatre.  It will be a late night and I’m worried about getting up in time for work in the morning, so I’m doing as much of my evening routine as I can beforehand.  Hence blogging now.  Other than that, I hope just to relax and recuperate from the stresses of this morning before going out, which will doubtless tax my autistic self in various ways.

Busyness, Loneliness and Jewish Studiousness

I didn’t have work today, having gone in on Monday instead, so I got to sleep in.  I actually slept for something like eleven hours and finally woke feeling refreshed.  I don’t know why I need to sleep so long; I used to assume it was the depression making me exhausted, but it may also be the effort of masking depression and autism in social situations and at work.  I started sleeping longer at weekends when I was a teenager, which is probably fairly common, but that was also the time I first started showing symptoms of depression and when school perhaps started becoming harder from an autistic point of view, as the nature of friendship changed and became less about playing together and more about sharing emotions.

The downside of sleeping in is that doing everything I wanted to do today became harder, especially as I was feeling a bit down, or at least sluggish (it’s not always easy for me to tell the difference between the ‘low mood’ and ‘low energy’ aspects of depression, which I guess is alexithymia again).  I probably wanted to do too much anyway, but as I said yesterday, chores have a habit of breeding.  I needed to get a haircut and buy an anniversary card for my uncle and aunt, catch up on this week’s Talmud study, speak to Remploy about career’s advice and workplace support options for someone with depression and autism and a few smaller things.  I also wanted to get through some more Doctor Who episodes for research (not relaxation, as it’s become a chore at times to do it, although I enjoyed the much-maligned The Gunfighters). 

I managed everything except speaking to Remploy, which was good, especially as I can now put aside the second drafts of another two Doctor Who book chapters.  I shook quite a bit while having my hair cut, which wasn’t good.  I’m trying hard not to beat myself up about not getting everything done.  As I said, I probably wanted to do too much anyway.  The problem is I hate having my haircut and I was nervous about having to contact Remploy so the urge to procrastinate is there, along with the fear that I was procrastinating even if I wasn’t.  Of course, the reason I’m so sluggish today is probably at least in part because I did quite a bit yesterday, so to some extent there’s a trade off.  I will see if I can speak to Remploy before I go into Shabbat mode tomorrow afternoon.

***

I try to push myself sometimes to read things that are out of my usual comfort zone, so I’m reading 13 Minutes, a thriller about teenage girls and their cliques and bitchiness.  It’s been making me think of my school days, which were miserable, but I realise from the book that a lot of what was going on went over my head.  I just wasn’t aware of a lot of stuff in terms of interpersonal dynamics (friends, lovers, enemies).  I don’t know if that was autism or just being out of the loop, if the two aren’t really the same thing.  I certainly wasn’t really aware of my peers having sex like the characters in the book.

Now, of course, I think about it too much.  I feel that there’s a huge part of life I’m locked out of.  I don’t know why I fixate on that.  I’m not a great traveller, but I don’t feel that I’m missing out much there.  I don’t touch drugs or alcohol, but I don’t feel that I’m missing out on them.  Maybe because I long for intimacy more than sex per se and feel I’ve never or rarely experienced the kind of closeness I want with people.  Or because from a frum point of view, sex is bad until you get married, when it’s good, which makes it harder to write off.  My frum peers have lots of children by this point.  I hope I get rewarded for my abstemiousness at some point, but I worry that I won’t.  It’s not like I really had a choice; I couldn’t have sex even if I wanted, women have never exactly thrown themselves at me.  Tehillim/Psalms asks God to store our tears in a flask and record them as a sign that He is with us.  It can be hard to feel that my suffering is somehow preserved for a meaningful goal, though.

***

On a more positive note, I mentioned doing the weekly Talmud study above and while I still feel that I understand very little of the actual arguments of which the Talmud is mostly comprised, I think I am slowly learning key words and logical terms.  In the long run, that’s probably more important than actually understanding the arguments.

In the last few days I’ve felt more confident in my own Jewish knowledge in general, at least compared with other ba’alei teshuva (people ethnically Jewish but raised non-religious who became religious later on in life), which is a positive thing given that many of the people in my shul are ba’alei teshuva.  I feel that I probably do know a lot compared to the average ba’al teshuva, although most of the time I’m too scared to reveal my knowledge.  I also feel that I have more of a sense of an underlying philosophy of Judaism than many Jews have.  I feel like a ba’alat teshuva or geyoret (convert to Judaism) might accept me as a husband, although there is still a feeling that she would be ‘settling’ for me in the absence of someone better and that a frum (religious) from birth Jewish woman wouldn’t accept me.  I don’t know whether this is true.

***

Related to this, I do feel today that someone might want to marry me; the problem is finding a job to support a family/make myself more attractive and in working out how to actually meet women, given that I’m not integrated into the frum community enough to get set up on dates.  Plus, as I said, I do still have the nagging sense that if someone did marry me, she would be ‘settling’ for me, not marrying me because she really wants me in the first instance, although for a while today even that feeling disappeared.  But there’s no telling what I will think tomorrow.

The Unwilling Warrior

The improvement I experienced in my mental health last week seems to have quietly drifted away again.  I feel drained and depressed again today, as I did yesterday.  To be fair, I have some level of functionality, so it’s not as bad as it’s been in the past.  Or am I just getting better at coping, or at doing what mentally healthy, neurotypical people would consider “coping” even if it doesn’t necessarily help me?  I sometimes wonder if my mood is still very bad (although it’s objectively better than it has been at some times in the past), but I just do more things so everyone assumes I’m fine until I have one of my suicidal blips.  I think people if people see that you’re functional, they will assume that you’re well, physically and mentally, until you tell them otherwise, sometimes even after that.

I did at least go to shiur (Talmud class) yesterday and manage some work on my Doctor Who book yesterday evening, while today I went to my sister’s mother-in-law’s birthday party, or at least an hour of it.  I hardly knew anyone there and was very anxious so couldn’t stay longer than an hour.  There were some complicated food issues so I didn’t eat much.  I didn’t really talk to anyone I didn’t already know either.  Fortunately my sister’s in-laws are understanding of neurodiversity issues because their daughter has serious learning disabilities.

When my sister’s father-in-law made a toast to his wife, he broke down in tears because of her ongoing cancer treatment, but everyone else in the room, including his wife, started laughing.  My autistic brain couldn’t really cope with that.  As the twelfth Doctor (probably the nearest to an autistic Doctor) said, “It’s like two emotions at once.  It’s confusing.  It’s like you’re malfunctioning.”

***

On the way there, my Dad pointed out the bus stop I would need if I left early, but also pointed out various irrelevant things.  I asked him not to add all this detail saying that the irrelevant details crowd out the relevant ones in my brain.  My Mum said that I hadn’t really explained it to them like this before and it’s easier to understand now why I struggle with my Dad’s verbosity.  She also said that she has now read the autism leaflet I gave her, which is good.  When I left the party she told me to focus on the fact that I went at all, not on the fact that I left early.  I’ve been trying to do that, but not always succeeding.  I did call myself a “defective freak” briefly, but mostly kept the urge to internally monologue about being a terrible, useless person under control.

***

Home now and crashing after “peopling” today.  Struggling to daven (pray) a little and not even going to try more than a tiny five minutes of Torah study.  The problem with watching Doctor Who according to an externally-directed order for research is when something I don’t really want to watch comes up.  The Sensorites is better than its reputation in fandom would suggest, but it’s too slow and predictable for me to want to watch all six episodes (two and a half hours) in one day, so I will stop early and watch something else (probably the last episode of Jonathan Creek.  He’s probably also autistic, to be honest).

***

I’ve been feeling lonely again today.  I guess parties will do that to me.  “V” commented on yesterday’s post to say that one day I’ll find someone who can love me.  It doesn’t seem very likely.  I can’t imagine what Someone could see in me – and my issues – that no one else has seen.  I suspect my sexuality is likely to be forever inside my head, which surely isn’t healthy and certainly is not right from a halakhic (Jewish law) perspective.

***

This line from The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (p.76) resonated with me: “And he had been fool enough to think that he might serve to bring together two worlds to which he didn’t belong.”  I feel that I’m trying to bring together two worlds, the Jewish world and the contemporary West, despite not really belonging to either of them.  I don’t know where I go from here.

Brief Update and Quotes

Not a lot happened today.  I was a wreck of anxiety and depression on the Tube into work and my line manager was late in, so I spent the first twenty minutes or at work so panicking and trying to work out what I was supposed to do, but once she turned up I calmed down and think I did OK, if perhaps a bit slow.  She’s away on Thursday and her line manager, who is supposed to be the person I speak to if I’m stuck, is in meetings half the day, so that will be a test of how well I’m adapting.  And then I’ll be halfway through my contract already!

Other than that there’s not a lot to say, except that I had another couple of autistic moments.  Someone from the shul (synagogue) financial team wanted me to sort out my gift aid form (a way charities can claim tax revenue back from the government, but only from donors who were taxpayers themselves) and I replied speaking of calendar years when I should have been speaking of tax years, of course.  Sometimes I astound myself at my unworldliness (that’s not good, by the way).  More amusingly, my line manager was talking about one class I need to help prepare for having “students from different time periods.”  I knew she meant students studying different time periods, but for a split-second part of my brain was thinking of time travellers coming to use the library.

Some quotes from the last few days, for me to ponder on as much as anything else:

Me (in a comment here about Google-stalking old acquaintances): Weirdly, more than I want to know what people are doing, I want people who came into my life to know just how hard my life has been. Perhaps the ones who hurt me, but mostly the ones who I potentially hurt (I don’t know if I did) or at least the ones who would have witnessed my craziness and freakishness. I wish they could just know that there are reasons for my being a freak (depression, autism), I wasn’t just some crazy weirdo who messed up their lives on a whim. – I’ve felt like this for years particularly regarding people who were around when the depression became unmanageable when I was doing my BA.  I guess it just reflects how messed up I feel I am and how much I feel other people perceive this.  I don’t know if they really do.  I feel anyone who knew me at university in particular must think that I’m some kind of freak.  I suppose it would be good not to think like this and try to move on, but it’s hard.

E.: Having autism doesn’t cancel out your good qualities.  It just means you might express them differently. – I need to internalise this.  I feel that autism and depression make me a freak (that word again), autism more so than depression, because depression is more common (I think) and somewhat more socially acceptable these days.  It’s a struggle to think of myself as different rather than weird.  I just hope I can find someone who sees that too (the quote from E. was in the context of a discussion about whether anyone would ever want to marry me).

Someone from well-being group: You can’t control the first thought, but you can control the second one.  – This actually seemed really empowering to me.  I wish I had heard it when my religious OCD was at it’s worst, but it’s something to remember if it flares up again.  But also it can apply to other unwanted thoughts (anger, lust, self-hatred, etc.).

Sex, Death and Other ‘Bad’ Thoughts

I wrote the first half of this post last night, but I didn’t want to post four times in twenty-four hours.  To be honest, I’m slightly reluctant to post something as despairing and self-loathing as this, but I feel compelled to do so, to confess.  I don’t know why.  It makes it a bit easier to cope, I suppose, although explaining how is trickier.  I hope people get something out of it.  There are twenty or so people ‘liking’ this regularly, so that has to mean someone likes this stuff, right?

I just feel so despairing.  I hate myself so much, and that self-hate seems to me to be entirely legitimate, if anything disproportionately small to the things I have; I should, if anything, hate myself more, not less.  Yet the few people I have let into my deepest secrets (some of them, anyway) tell me that I’m quite normal.  It is difficult to know what to make of this.

People seem to reach the conclusion from a rapid conversation that I’m an intelligent and good person.  This has happened to me on short phone calls to the Samaritans.  I do not know how they come to these conclusions, which seem astoundingly wrong to me.

Sometimes I wish there was a prophet or rebbe that I could go to and find out the meaning of my life and what I should do with it, or even just if I’m a good person.  But I don’t believe in da’at Torah (the belief that great Torah scholars have a quasi-prophetic ability to answer even mundane, practical questions in an inspired way).  Likewise I don’t believe in getting blessings from rebbes or rabbis or praying at the graves of dead tzadikim (saintly people).  I pray to God, but He always seems to say “No.”  I’m willing to trust that it’s for the best, but I wish He would give me more practical fortitude to keep going.

***

My rabbi mentor has not returned my emails for a couple of weeks.  I am a bit worried about him, and also concerned to hear the answers to some of my halakhic (Jewish law) questions which I don’t want to take to the rabbis of my shul, who will be too strict or at least too Charedi (ultra-Orthodox).  Similarly, some kashrut questions I sent to the London Bet Din (rabbinical court) (well, one question several times because I wasn’t sure if it sent properly) has gone unanswered.  I feel vaguely worried, but the fact that I’m coping OK is a sign that the religious OCD at least is under control; a few years ago I was a constant wreck, waiting to hear back from rabbis or the Bet Din about my questions.  Nowadays I can dismiss some at least of the questions as obviously unnecessary.

***

On to today: last night I struggled to get to sleep and then today I struggled to get up.  I actually woke up an hour earlier than I intended and couldn’t get back to sleep because I felt so stiff and achey – I think I had been cold and curled up.  My cold is mostly gone, but I still feel really depressed, unsurprisingly (it wasn’t just going to vanish with the cold).  I still really hate myself too.  I can’t understand how anyone cares about me, except that I must deceive them about who I really am.  Sorry about that.  I shouldn’t say that.  Except that I did, and I’ve struck it through, but not deleted it.  It’s hard to stick to what I said about trying not to criticise my blog here.

***

I started my depression/resilience/activity course today.  It was quite good, but very anxiety-provoking.  In fact, the whole day has been anxiety-provoking, both social anxiety and general anxiety.  I struggled on my course with the activity done in pairs as I did not really know what to say.  I don’t think my pair and I did it properly in the end, but I think I was confused.  I’m worried about having to set an achievable target at the end of each session, which amounts to two a week, as the class is on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then report back on success (or otherwise) in the next class.

On the course they said that one never goes backwards in recovery.  Even if one seems to go backwards, one is in fact learning necessary things about oneself.  It doesn’t seem that way.  Someone said he had been depressed for three years and was worried if he would ever recover; I silently worried that I have been depressed sixteen years or so and don’t seem to be able to recover for more than a few months at a time.

***

Freud, I’m informed, thought life boiled down to eros and thanatos, the sex instinct and the death instinct.  I think that I think about both too much.  I see the skull beneath the skin, to paraphrase Eliot.  I was certainly thinking of dying in my course today, when I was feeling anxious that I wouldn’t be able to set achievable targets and that I didn’t want to be monitored by a class of strangers or even to be in the room with sixteen people.  I just wanted to die.  It’s a release sometimes to think of dying, of killing myself or just of being dead.  I do believe in an afterlife, but most of the time I think I’m too wicked to deserve it, but Jews don’t believe in eternal damnation, so the idea of just not existing seems like some kind of a release.  I sometimes try to visualise my body decomposing, which probably isn’t a nice thing to think about.  I guess this is suicidal ideation, thinking about suicide and death rather than actually planning to kill myself.  My experience, as I think I’ve said before, is that crisis teams are not interested if you are merely thinking about death, only if you actually have a plan to kill yourself, although the distinction between thinking about death and having a plan to kill yourself is, I think, less clear cut than that policy implies.  I was probably thinking about this too much in the course today, a symptom of anxiety and despair.

To be honest, I was probably thinking of sex too much as well as death.  I think that thinking about sex at all is bad for me, both for religious reasons and because it’s fairly obvious to me that no one is ever going to be interested in me.  I beat myself up about sex a lot, though, because of religious reasons and feminist reasons.  For example, just feeling attracted to someone there instantly provokes guilt for hirhuim assurim (forbidden thoughts) and also for objectifying women.  It’s a relief in a way that no one else at the course seemed to be Jewish, so far as I could tell, so everyone is off limits anyway.  It would be good if I could just avoid thinking about sex and love, because I don’t think anyone could ever love me.

***

Whenever I see frum families, especially frum women, with their children, which happens a lot where I live, I feel that I will never get married and have children and I feel so lonely.  I wonder how almost everyone else in the community manages to pair off so easily and I don’t.

I see frum (religious) children where I live and imagine them on a trajectory from school to yeshiva/seminary to careers in accountancy and law (men) or teaching or occupational therapy (women) and marriage and children… A few will be hit by some kind of life issue and a few more will drop out of the frum community, but most are going to be on that path for life.  I felt vaguely today that I made a choice for the religious life over the secular one, thinking although it entailed sacrifices, it would bring rewards.  Actually, this isn’t really true.  I never sat down and said, “Today I’m going to be frum.”  I just drifted into it, from a traditional background to full observance over many years.  My point is that if I was offered that choice – and in a sense it is still before me, I could still stop being religious – that is what I would choose and why.  Except I never received the rewards of being frum, the this worldly ones anyway: family, community, support, meaning, spirituality; but I don’t have the worldly benefits of not being religious either.  I ended up with a non-functional depressive/autistic life that I can’t imagine anyone deliberately choosing.

***

I have so many ‘bad’ thoughts, they frighten me.  I worry about what they say about me, whether I will act on them.  When my religious OCD was worse, I did a lot of reading about it and learnt that everyone has ‘bad’ thoughts and that people who obsess over them with OCD (scrupulosity) are less likely to act on them than anyone else.  But I wonder why I have so many bad thoughts.  I wish I could know what other people think, to know if my thoughts are ‘normal,’ both in nature, intensity and frequency… thoughts of self-harm and suicide, thoughts of death and decay, sexual thoughts, violent thoughts, blasphemous thoughts, offensive thoughts…  I feel I must be a bad person, or at least a very unwell person, to have so many bad thoughts, even if I don’t act on them (and I’ve acted on thoughts that I think do make me a bad person).  I find it hard to dismiss them as just thoughts that everyone has as no one else seems to report them, except very unwell people, which is not encouraging.

***

I start my new job tomorrow.  I really wish I didn’t.  I just feel sure it’s going to go disastrously wrong.  I can’t work out why anyone would want to employ me, except, again, that I deceive them about how useless I really am (which is another thing I’m not supposed to write/think).  They just sent me a massive email with induction information.  I’m not sure why they waited until the end of the day before I start to send this – it would have been easier if I could have had time to read through it properly.

The Two Minutes Hate

(I have mixed feelings sometimes about the purpose of trigger warnings, but it’s pretty clear that this needs one for suicidal ideation.)

“I hate myself.  I hate my life.  I hate disrupted sleep.  I hate waking up late every day.  I hate being exhausted all the time.  I hate not having the motivation to do anything.  I hate never enjoying anything.  I hate not understanding my emotions.  I hate making stupid mistakes, particularly at work.  I hate sniping at everyone all the time, even when I don’t mean to.  I hate catastrophising all the time.  I hate despairing all the time.  I hate not meeting my religious obligations.  I hate being lonely.  I hate being sexually frustrated.  I hate being overweight due to medication and I hate hating being overweight.  I hate not being able to cope with basic social interactions.  I hate avoiding social occasions I might enjoy if I wasn’t depressed and socially anxious.  I hate freaking out when people try to talk to me.  I hate being overwhelmed by background noise.  I hate the inward-looking narcissism of mental illness.  I hate spending too long aimlessly surfing online because I don’t have the energy/motivation to do anything productive and because it’s the only form of interaction I can cope with, but ending up just making myself more lonely and depressed.

I hate hating myself and my life.  I hate thinking about hurting myself and killing myself so much.

Above all, I hate being so bleeding miserable all the time.”

This is basically how I woke up today.  I went to bed really late (2.00am) because I felt too awake and depressed to actually get ready for bed; then I couldn’t get to sleep because I was too awake and depressed.  So I slept through most of the morning again and woke up catastrophising about starting my new job in under a week and wondering if I’m actually going to make it there.

I wish I could see an upside to my life, but I can’t.  I know the trend among autistic people is to see high-functioning autism as a difference with certain positives rather than a disability, but I can’t see any positives to my autistic traits and certainly not to my depression and social anxiety.  I really just want to die, but I’m too scared to attempt anything (and vaguely aware there are people who would be upset, but I have to concentrate hard to feel that through the nihilism and pain).

How long is it possible to go on hating yourself and wanting to die?  I’ve been suicidal, on and off, for sixteen years or more.  Not constantly, but at times.  I don’t know how long it’s been cumulatively.  When I feel really depressed, let alone suicidal, it’s hard to remember that I’ve ever been not depressed, but at the rare times I’ve been emotionally OK, it’s hard to remember I’ve ever been depressed.  So it feels like I’ve been suicidal, or at least fantasising about suicide, for years, but it might not be.

I’ve been told I should phone the NHS crisis team when I feel like this, but unless you’re actually literally about to try to kill yourself, they aren’t interested and tell you to phone your GP, who sends you back to the crisis team…  Typical bureaucracy.  I could phone Samaritans, but I don’t feel I have much to say at the moment.  Maybe eat lunch and see how I feel after that, if I feel up to phoning Samaritans.

I’m not going to do anything, I just feel like **** and wish I wasn’t here.

Down Again, Down Again, Jiggity Jig

My parents and my cousin went to football today (Spurs vs. Bournemouth… perhaps inevitably, the family are Spurs fans (they have a reputation for being the most Jewish club).  Spurs won 5-0).  I’m not sure whose idea it was; I think it was my parents’ and then my cousin asked to join them, but I’m not sure.  I don’t like spectator sport, so I stayed at home.

***

I woke up feeling really drained and quite depressed again.  It’s only got worse as the day has gone on.  I wish I could have a good day that wasn’t followed by a bad one as ‘payment’ for it.  I don’t feel up to doing the chores I was supposed to do today.  I forced myself to go for walk and to do ten minutes of Torah study.  I should also try to write back to the author Yaakov Klein, who emailed me about my recent comment about his book on my blog, although I’m procrastinating about that because I feel ashamed that I got annoyed with what he wrote.  But really, I just want to eat and sleep.  My problem with depression used to be fighting the urge to sleep too much.  That’s still an issue (I got up after 11.00am today), but lately it’s become just as much of a struggle to avoid eating.  I’m probably better at fighting the urge to comfort eat than the urge to oversleep, but it’s hard.

I don’t even feel particularly motivated to watch TV, let alone do anything more active.  I’ve got a lot of anhedonia today, although there’s a lot of exhaustion and depression too.  I just wrote the following about anhedonia in a comment on the Mental Health at Home blog:

Anhedonia is hard too. I find that it can be the hardest thing because the people around me will give me more sympathy if I’m visibly exhausted or suicidal, but if everything just seems meh, no one really cares or even knows that I’m sitting there not enjoying things that in the past I would have liked. To make it worse, I suspect I’ve had anhedonia since my early teens (at least) so it’s difficult to remember by this stage that I used to enjoy stuff a lot more.

***

I’m thinking about relationships again.  I don’t know why I’m so desperate to be in one, considering I usually avoid social interactions.  Actually, that’s not really true.  I do know why I want to be in a relationship: because I have a complicated relationship with my parents and sister stemming from a difficult, love-starved childhood (for reasons not in my family’s control) and so I’m desperate to be loved by someone to try to meet that long-felt, rarely-met need for affection and care.  This is not a particularly healthy reason to want to be in a relationship, doubly so when you consider that it’s compounded by a lot of religious repression and guilt about perfectly normal sexual desires, plus the fact that my lack of romantic success in the past makes me feel that I’m destined to be romantically and sexually inadequate forever, even if I do end up getting married.

I just wish someone really understood me and connected with me, I suppose.  I want to love and be loved, which probably isn’t surprising given my personal history (loneliness, bullying), but I worry I want to be loved more than I want to love someone else.  I’m not sure I could express love correctly anyway.  Whatever “correctly” is in the context.  Autism, social anxiety and depression do not make it easy to develop social skills, and I guess that loving is a social skill.

I’ve been told that I’ll meet someone when I least expect it, but that’s not how dating really works in the Orthodox world, where people mostly get set up on blind dates by third parties and it’s often all researched and thought out beforehand.  That said, I did start dating E. out of nowhere (she contacted me through my blog and we emailed for a while platonically before dating), but that didn’t end well and I can’t imagine lightning striking twice with another random emailer.  Actually, thinking about it, I met someone else I briefly dated through my blog, in a slightly different way, so maybe I’m wrong.  Or maybe lighting will strike twice, but not thrice.  Although I find it hard to imagine that anyone could like me even platonically, let alone romantically, having read the embarrassing, self-centred rambles I post here.

I just feel it would feel good if someone loved me, and let me love her, but I would still be depressed, anxious and autistic, so it wouldn’t really change anything.

Wishy-Washy Charlie Brown

Today is a burnt out day after two busy days.  At least it’s nearly Shabbat (the Sabbath).  The bit of optimism I had yesterday is hard to find today.  I worry that I’m going to mess up my new job the same as I messed up my last two jobs.  I worry that I’m simply not well enough to work.  I worry that no one could ever love me, particularly if I can’t get and keep a full-time, or at least closer to full-time, job.  I feel that I missed my chance to get married, that everyone my age is married by now, which is not true, but feels true.  I dreamt last night about the daughter of my parents’ rabbi’s wedding, thinking that rabbi’s children, like royal children, get married easily without any problems.  I woke up thinking that rabbis are the aristocracy of the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world in many ways.  In some ways I’m glad to be part of a community that values education so highly, but (a) it’s often education in a highly specific area that is valued (although more modern communities can value wider knowledge) and (b) it’s not an area that I excel in or have studied in depth.

I just want to be loved, really, and to be able to love someone who loves me.  I’m fed up with crushing on people who aren’t interested in me and having to hide my feelings and be careful what I say in case they think I’m a creepy stalker.  I feel unlovable.  Yesterday I was trying to think of reasons why someone might want me as a husband.  It was hard, but it feels even harder today.

Some years ago, two Orthodox Jewish sex therapists (one is a rabbi) produced a sex manual aimed at Orthodox Jews, because they felt too many frum people are ignorant and nervous about sex.  It’s probably the only contemporary sex manual aimed at people who are virgins on their wedding night.  The psychotherapist I was seeing earlier this year encouraged me to read it, because I was curious and nervous about sex.  I tried to order it, but there was a problem with the order and I took it as a sign that I shouldn’t read it.  Then when I was dating E. earlier this year I ordered it again and it arrived, but then E. and I broke up and I haven’t picked it up since then.  I do still have a lot of questions and anxiety about sex, but the thought of reading it just makes me feel that no one will ever want me.  I can’t see myself ever getting married.  It’s hard to imagine that I could even date again.  I wouldn’t even try to do that unless I was working for longer hours and earning more money.  Not that earning more money would make me that much more attractive, but it would marginally help.

When I was growing up, there was a girl at primary school in the year above me who had a striking appearance, very red hair.  She went to my shul (synagogue) as well, so I used to see her a bit, from a distance – I never spoke to her or even knew her name.  When I got older I thought she was pretty, but she grew up and got married, then got divorced.  I moved out of the area and didn’t think about her.  But then last year my parents went to an engagement party and she was there and asked after me by name.  This surprised me, as I didn’t think she even knew of my existence, let alone my name (I didn’t know her name at the time, but then, I’m bad with names).  So now every so often I think about her.  She was probably only being polite, but part of me wonders if she asked after me because she liked me.  It’s silly really.  Even if I saw her again, I wouldn’t have the confidence to talk to her.  All my crushes are silly.  No one could ever like me.

I don’t know why I’m even writing all this.  I’m pathetic, really.  No one could like some with depression AND social anxiety AND autism AND on a low income.  Then factor in that they have to be Jewish, with a compatible level of belief and observance, and my difficulty fitting in to the community…  It’s silly to think that there could even be someone out there for me, let alone that I could meet her and build a relationship with her.

I was davening (praying) before and crying, not through great kavannah (mindfulness) or devekut (cleaving to God), but just through loneliness and despair.

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.

Blogging Too Much (Sorry)

My head feels like someone stole my brain and replaced it with cotton wool.  I went for a walk for about twenty minutes.  Bought tomatoes.  I motivated myself to go by saying that I would go into the charity shop afterwards and browse the books, but it was shut.  The sign said “Back in 5m (ish)” but I didn’t want to wait.  Walking was difficult, I was so drained.  I’m worried about getting to work tomorrow.  I could see myself getting signed off work again.  On the way to the shops I passed someone I know from shiur and his kids.  He was driving, so I didn’t have to talk to him or feel guilty for not talking, but it just reminded me that other people my age (he is somewhat younger than me – I was at kindergarten with his elder brother) have lives and children.

I feel I missed the boat with my life.  People say that childhood is the happiest time.   Mine wasn’t awful, but in retrospect it seems quite difficult.  So I wonder how I will ever have any joy in my life if those were the happiest days of my life.  Plus our culture (I guess I mean secular Western popular culture) sends out the message that it’s only possible to find love (or enjoy sex, for that matter) if you’re under forty, and I’m aware that I’m climbing closer to forty than thirty.  And frum (religious Jewish) culture assumes everyone is happily married by twenty-five.

Lying on my bed with music playing.  I don’t really want to listen to music.  I don’t really feel like doing anything.  Part of me wants to read or watch a DVD, but I can’t get involved in anything.  Just feeling overwhelmed at the thought of reading one book or one DVD.  I want to read/watch everything… and nothing.  I just don’t have the energy/concentration/motivation.  I also can barely keep my eyes open, even though I’m not tired in the sleepy sense.  I had to daven Mincha (say the afternoon prayers) largely by rote before because I couldn’t focus on my siddur (prayerbook).  So, blogging too much today, because I can that without thinking (which says a lot about this blog…).  Sorry for taking too much space on your blog reader/inbox.  Maybe I’ve been over-stimulated this week.  I just made a playlist of music to listen to for a bit, so I don’t have to keep getting up and skipping a track.  Draw the curtains and lie in the dark with my eyes shut and the music on quietly.

Ramblings

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was OK, but this evening has been tough.  The shooting at a shul (synagogue) in America has really upset and depressed me (for what it’s worth, it’s already been knocked off the top story spot on BBC news online by a football club owner’s helicopter crash).  I keep going back to the news online, but I don’t know why.  It can only get worse.  I suppose I want to understand why someone would want to do something like that.

I had a waffley paragraph of political despair here, which I decided to cut (it wasn’t controversial, just rambling), but I do worry about the way the world is going, polarising between equally repulsive far-right and far-left views.  As a natural centrist (albeit with a bit of an anarchist streak), it is hard to feel comfortable in the world.

I guess it all does make going to volunteer at the asylum seekers drop-in centre tomorrow (today now) seem more important.  At least I’m helping people, and people who are different from me in terms of race and religion.  I just hope it makes a difference somehow, even a very small difference.

More banally finishing the job application for a major British public institution proved very difficult, although I’ve sent it off now.  I answered some questions badly and one I could not really answer at all.  I just fudged it.  I won’t even be called to interview, but it’s too late tonight to start another application somewhere else.  I don’t know if I’ll have time tomorrow, as I’m volunteering and I need to cook dinner when I get home as Mum and Dad are out (and, yes a new episode of Doctor Who is on in the evening).  And then I got a migraine that thankfully responded quickly to painkillers, but made me feel worse for a while and slowed down the job application writing.

I didn’t mention that I got a rejection this week for more or less the only job that I’ve applied for recently that I really wanted to get.

A friend emailed me out of the blue to see how I’m doing, which was nice, but on the whole I’m still feeling very lonely, although it’s hard to tease apart exactly what the loneliness is, how much is about friendship, love, sex, attention, empathy, support or what.  I’m thinking more and more seriously about getting a pet (guinea pigs at the moment) but I’m unsure.  Mum turned out to be open to the idea when I raised it, but Dad didn’t say anything.  My worries are that I read that they need really big cages ideally and I’m not sure how much space I have in my room.  Plus, given that I daven (pray) and study Torah in my bedroom, I would have to ask a halakhic question about whether that is permissible with guinea pig litter around.  But I don’t know if getting a pet is a good idea.  Would it help me and be a step on the road to finding a wife and kids or would it cement my life as a loner, the male equivalent of the Crazy Cat Lady?  Can pets even help someone who really wants a meaningful adult romantic relationship?

I still feel really confused about what is ‘wrong’ with me and whether I can ever get the help I need.  Even if I don’t have autism, I have a lot of the symptoms, yet because I don’t have a diagnosis, I can’t access any support services (not that I’m sure that there is much for adults on the spectrum – it seems to be mostly geared up to children).  Yolanda commented on a previous post to say that a diagnosis might help me to be kinder to myself.  I responded that I was thinking the exact same thing today, but that really my depression diagnosis should also allow me to be kinder to myself, but I still beat myself up for being depressed for so long, for not managing to do things I could do years ago (although I do other things I didn’t do then), for not managing as well as other people with mental health issues might be managing and so on.

Still, at least we get an extra hour tonight.  I wish that happened more often than once a year.  I don’t need material things much more than the basics (food, shelter, books and science fiction DVDs), but I wish people could buy me more time for Chanukah or my birthday.

“Good Ol’ Charlie Brown… How I hate him”

I seem to be stuck in a rut, getting neither better nor worse.  Last night in shul (synagogue) I was thinking of writing a bitter, sarcastic post about not fitting into the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community, but today I don’t feel so bitter, although I’m still pessimistic.  The frum world is a community where one fits in largely by contributing.  There are various different roles available, but I can’t find one that suits me.  I don’t earn enough to be a big philanthropist, I don’t have the confidence to lead services (although I have in the past), my social anxiety keeps me away from a lot of chessed (social care) opportunities and so on…  I feel there must be something I’m good at that contributes meaningfully, but I can’t find it.  Even my blog seems to be read more by non-Jews than Jews, which wasn’t really what I expected (I think the number of Jewish blogs has declined in recent years, but that could be a subjective impression or reflective of my own reading habits.  They may have been crowded out by professional or semi-professional sites like HevriaTabletThe Wisdom Daily and Mosaic.)

Today yet again I knew answers in shiurim (religious classes), but was too shy to speak up.  There’s a guy in one shiur I go to who seems to like the sound of his own voice too much.  He knows a lot, but he does speak more than anyone else, both asking and answering questions (and sometimes answering questions that were asked of the rabbi before he can answer).  This is starting to really annoy me, but I’m sure it’s only because his over-answering throws makes my shyness look even worse.

I spoke to my parents about dating last night.  It was a mistake, because it was me playing ‘Ain’t it awful’ again and getting annoyed when the disagreed, but I guess some good came out of it.  First, my Mum said that the woman she was trying to set me up with lives in America, so I’m not quite sure why she even got mentioned.  I asked my parents if they thought I would ever get married and they both said yes.  I knew my Dad would, because he’s dreamt about my being married and having children, and he thinks his dreams are precognitive (I disagree).  I still don’t think I’m going to get married, but in the course of the discussion we did come up with the name of one Modern Orthodox rabbi (and Doctor Who fan) who might be able to find me a suitable shadchan.  It does seem hard though as I have two separate (although not contradictory) set of criteria: within the category of frum women, I want to find someone who is geeky (or at least tolerates my geekiness), but I also need to find someone who accepts my mental health issues.  It’s hard to go in both directions at the same time.  My Mum tried to encourage me to go back to dating websites or to try dating apps, but I’m wary of them.  My experience was that dating websites are expensive and, for whatever reason, women were generally not interested in me (either in contacting me or responding to emails I sent them), although to be fair I met my first girlfriend through J-Date.  I actually had more success on J-Date than I did on J-Wed (which is a more specifically frum site geared particularly for dating for marriage rather than just looking to date generally), which seemed counter-intuitive.  Mind you, I’m not sure whether I had a reasonable sample size in terms of numbers of people and amount of time I was on there.  I still don’t think they’re the way to find geeky and/or mental health-tolerant individuals, although I’m not sure what a better way to do that would be.

I read various online cartoons every day.  I saw a Peanuts cartoon today (obviously not a new new one, but one newly on this site) where Peppermint Patty refers to Charlie Brown as “boring, dull, wishy-washy ol’ Chuck” and says that no one could love him,  not knowing that he is hiding nearby.  I feel that one could say the same things about me.  Actually the very first Peanuts cartoon reads “Well!  Here comes ol’ Charlie Brown!  Good ol’ Charlie Brown!  Yes, sir!  Good ol’ Charlie Brown… How I hate him!”  I worry that that’s me too.

(It also slightly disturbs me nowadays that all the children in Peanuts are in love with each other.  Patty loves Charlie Brown, Sally is in love with Linus (“My sweet babboo”), Lucy is in love with Schroeder and of course Charlie Brown is in love with the Little Red-Haired Girl who we never see.  (The bird Woodstock once tragically fell in love with a worm.)  This never bothered me as a child, but it does bother me as an adult.  I also have a horrible feeling that one day I’m going to buy the Complete Peanuts books, which run to twenty-five volumes and will cost serious £££ (that’s serious $$$$$ if you’re American).

A couple of people have told me lately that I’m a good person.  I find that really hard to believe, especially as no one ever gives me concrete examples of the good things I’m supposed to have done.  I don’t know why they believe I’m a good person; it’s certainly not a belief I’ve ever tried to spread.  And I think about sex far too much for a frum person, although to be fair people who don’t read my blog won’t know that, as I don’t talk about sex at all.

I had a weird dream last night.  I don’t remember all the details, but my boss from my old job was my step-mother (yuk!) and she was telling me off for various things and I answered her back and said she had no right to tell me what to do.  I’m hoping that means that my resolution to reduce my negative self-talk has gone down to a deep level, although so far all I’ve really been able to do is try to be consciously aware of my self-critical thoughts rather than challenge them.  I still worry that if I don’t beat myself up all the time, I’m going to turn into a narcissist.  I did just send an email to find out if a nearby therapy centre could potentially offer me CBT for my low self-esteem.

Tomorrow I’m writing a job application and talking to my rabbi mentor and, if I get time, trying to catch up with the pile of stuff that has built up over the Yom Tov (festival) period.  The job actually looks like a good one, primarily cataloguing, fairly easy commute and well-paid, but full time, which would be hard.

New Doctor Who in less than twenty-four hours…

Thoughts for the Day (Depression, PhD, Job Hunting, Sexual Frustration)

I had minor surgery (local anaesthetic) this morning.  It went OK, but I shook a bit.  I didn’t even notice I was doing it, the nurse pointed it out to me.  My shoulder hurts where the incision was, but I’m otherwise OK.  I’m annoyed that I have to go to the nurse at the GP’s surgery next week to have the stitches removed though, as last time I had a similar procedure they used stitches that dissolved (they used those here for internal stitching).  The problem is less the hassle of going (it’s not like I’m taking time off work) and more the difficulty of now having to make two appointments at a surgery that does its best to stop you making even one!

I’ve been encouraged to google think tanks and see if any of them want researchers.  I googled The Institute for Jewish Policy Research, but pretty much everyone who works there has a PhD, which makes me think I’m not suitable.  Years ago the Community Security Trust, the charity that monitors antisemitism in the UK and provides training and education for Jewish organisations (schools, synagogues, charities) to provide voluntary security (because the police admit they haven’t got the resources to keep the Jewish community safe from violence.  Seriously.  And the Corbynistas say Jews invent antisemitism) was looking for a researcher.  I can’t remember why I didn’t apply for the job at the time.  I was probably working on my MA at the time and I didn’t think I would want to go into research, but I would apply for it now, although it would be the most depressing job in the world.  Around the same time the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks was looking for a researcher.  I probably didn’t apply for that one either because of my MA and doubts about my Hebrew reading abilities (not to mention my Aramaic), but, again, I would apply now if it came up.  It would pretty much be my dream job right now, actually.

I’m still wondering if I should do a PhD and if so what in.  I need to find something (1) that interests me, (2) that I have the right skill set to work on, (3) that is worthwhile and meaningful, (4) that doesn’t mean I have to sign up to political/critical perspectives that I find problematic and (5) preferably isn’t really depressing (antisemitism again) and right now I can’t really think of anything.

Still job hunting.  I hate the jargon the adverts are written in.  I’m a big fan of George Orwell, not so much the novels as the essays, and articles like Politics and the English Language have made me suspicious of people who can’t speak in plain English, be they humanities professors, political activists or big companies (or, I suppose, some Orthodox Jews, who speak Yeshivish). I have no idea what phrases like “Consolidates business requirements” and “Inputs into overall content strategy” actually mean and suspect they don’t mean anything.  I’m also irritated by online application forms that ask for CV and then ask you to manually re-enter a load of information already on your CV (employment history, qualifications etc.), only in lots of little boxes, so you can’t copy and paste.

One job advertised for a temporary librarian until October (starting in July, so either I missed their advert until now or they haven’t been advertising well), hours 8.30am – 6.00pm which seems excessive even for someone who isn’t depressed.

I was thinking today about my energy levels.  I was beating myself up for having procrastinated and not achieved much today (surgery, half an application and a trip to the shops to buy ingredients I hope to cook for dinner, but I’m running out of time).  But if I think of myself like a computer, with free memory being analogous to energy levels, then for me running a basic ‘program’ like ‘write job application’ or ‘walk to shops’ takes vastly more ‘memory’ (energy) than it does for other people or even for myself when not so depressed.  Plus I have several programs working in the background, such as ‘don’t kill/hurt self’ and ‘don’t go back to bed,’ programs that take up a lot of memory (energy) all the time and which non-mentally ill people (or even not so mentally ill people) don’t have to run at all.  Seriously, people don’t realise how tiring not hurting yourself can be.

I probably do beat myself up for things that I shouldn’t.  I’m surely not the only frum (religious) Jewish male, certainly not the only single frum Jewish male in his thirties, to have sexual thoughts, even towards people who I shouldn’t (married women, nineteen year olds), but I beat myself up endlessly about them.  I worry that if I don’t beat myself up I will end up as a rapist or an adulterer or something, I suppose.  It’s very difficult not to have any legitimate outlet for sexual release long-term.  Because however one tries to deal with one’s feelings one ends up doing something forbidden, even if it’s just hirhurim (fantasies), which just adds to my guilt.  I’d like to know how other people cope, but (a) the number of single frum men my age is vanishingly small and (b) such things are not talked about.  There’s a parable in the Talmud which is too long to go into in detail here, but the gist of it is that the sages captured the drive for sexual excess, but they were warned by a prophet not to kill it, because that would destroy the world, because sexuality is a natural and healthy part of the world.  So they tried it reduce it to half its size to limit it to marriage, but “no half things are granted by Heaven.”  Sexuality is a blessing and there are no half blessings.  If you are going to be attracted to any women (including your wife, if you ever have one, however unlikely that seems), you are going to be attracted to married women and younger women.  It is up to you to police your behaviour and avoid turning into another Harvey Weinstein.  But it seems unfair to have to worry about this without even a legitimate outlet for my sexuality (marriage).  I often wish I was asexual.  As I don’t think I will ever be able to marry and have children, being asexual would make my life a lot easier and would dramatically reduce my negative emotions (depression, despair, anxiety, loneliness, guilt etc.).

I Skyped E. today.  She’s worried about me.  She wants me to try a new psychiatrist or new meds or ECT.  I feel guilty for saying that I’m not sure there is anything I can do.  I’m not sure I can even get referred back to a psychiatrist, although I will try.  At the moment I can’t even get an appointment with my GP.  Beyond this, I feel that although I say I want people to care about me, at the moment I just want to retreat to my man-cave, so I feel like a hypocrite.  To be fair, it’s less misanthropy and more that I don’t have the energy for social interaction (particularly one as confusing as E. and me) and that I’m terrified of angering people because I’m aware that I sound so irritable so much of the time.  Which of course just angers people.

Mostly Bad News

I had a therapy session today to discuss whether to continue therapy.  My therapist says that she was recommending ending therapy less because I made ‘wrong’ decision, more because she felt therapy was not helping me and I was moving backwards into a child state that she thought I had moved away from.  I agreed that I’m not sure if therapy is really helping, although with psychodynamic psychotherapy it’s notoriously difficult to measure any kind of improvement.  I had been wondering whether to try a new therapist with a different approach (although I don’t know what) or a frum (religious) Jewish therapist who might be better placed to help me navigate the Orthodox Jewish community.

Contrary to what my therapist said, I do feel that I am still trying to push outwards, albeit that it is often two steps forwards and one back because, as I’ve said before, the harder I push at the world, the harder the world pushes back at me.  My therapist did at least feel that I’m a lot better than I was when I started seeing her six years ago, which is true.

We decided to leave things for a bit.  We were breaking for a month or so anyway because of my holiday and then her holiday, so we decided to meet again after the break either to discuss how to continue or to do a proper end of therapy meeting.

That was fairly positive.  More problematic was what happened when I tried to get a repeat prescription of my medication.  My antidepressant, clomipramine, was not available in the dosage I take at four different pharmacists, due to undisclosed supply problems (the supplier says there is a problem, but not what it is).  I take 75mg  in the morning and the same in the evening, as a 25mg tablet with a 50mg one.  Neither 25mg or 50mg tablets are currently available.  10mg tablets are available, but you can’t take 75mg with 10mg tablets.  In theory I could split it 70 : 80, if the doctor prescribed it, but that would involve taking fifteen tablets a day even before my other tablets (four psychiatric medications, one hay fever tablet and four vitamin supplements).  I don’t really want to have to take twenty-four tablets a day and I certainly don’t want to have to take all of those to America.

Whatever happens, I have to get a new prescription from the doctor.  My GP’s practice seem to arrange their appointment system to prevent people from seeing the doctor (seriously, I think they told one of my parents that they deliberately make it almost impossible for you to get a quick appointment so that you will have to book one in two or three weeks, by which time you may not need it any more and cancel), but I have a note on my record to say I can book an emergency appointment within twenty-four hours if I need to (in case I’m suicidal).  I thought it was legitimate to use that here, as I need to sort this ASAP as I’m running out of meds and am away from Sunday, but it turns out the note is not on my file any more.  I guess it gets taken off automatically after a while.  Which is problematic as I was getting suicidal last week and nearly needed to use it.  Anyway, the receptionist booked me an appointment for tomorrow morning, but I did feel a bit like a liar, or that I was stuck in an Orwellian world where I was suddenly an unperson.

I suspect the clomipramine may be out of production, as I believe it’s rarely prescribed these days (it’s an old generation of drug), which is a problem for me, as it’s about the only antidepressant that has ever done much for me.  Plus now I may have to go cold turkey over my holiday, which will not be fun.  Maybe it’s just as well that it looks like most of the people I wanted to see while I’m in New York aren’t able to see me.

My OCD is still a bit worse, although not as bad as it was eighteen months ago.  I think I’ve got it under control, but it’s frightening that it can come out of nowhere, both the kosher food OCD and the pure O (obsession) OCD.  I’m trying to remember the CBT coping strategies that I learnt for dealing with the OCD.  I think can control it reasonably well these days (better than the depression or the social anxiety, anyway), but it is worrying whenever it returns, especially as some pure O thoughts never really go away completely.  It just makes me feel that I’ll be messed up forever.

I know the OCD comes partly from stress and upheaval, but partly from anxiety and guilt about my sexuality.  That I feel I have to completely suppress my sexual feelings, which is not easy and probably not healthy.  I guess that probably feels into the depression too.  Unlike some religions, Judaism is strongly opposed to celibacy, but has no answers for what to do about sexuality outside of marriage other than “Get married young (or remarry quickly if you find yourself divorced or widowed).”  It has no answers for someone like me, who is a weirdo freak who no one will marry and who in any case (as I said yesterday) has no contacts in the frum (religious) community to set me up on dates and no confidence for online dating or singles events and certainly not for meeting women casually and asking them out.  I’m just an communal outlier no one really cares about.

I’ve been feeling more lonely.  I feel that things are never going to work out romantically with E., but I can’t see them working with anyone else either.  I find it hard to believe anyone could be as understanding and gentle with me as E. was and even if someone was, I can’t imagine she would be more forgiving of my quirks, flaws and mental health issues (and consequent financial straits) than E.  This post I saw today spoke about the power of love to heal mental health issues, but it’s not really something I have experienced much of, or feel likely to in the future.  E. was supportive, but ultimately couldn’t cope with my issues (for legitimate reasons); my only other relationship ended partly because my girlfriend expected me to deal with her (undiagnosed) issues, but ignored me when my depression was bad.

It’s hard to know what I want from a relationship.  I can’t really imagine what it’s like to be in a stable, loving long-term relationship with someone or to live with someone other than my immediate family, as neither of my relationships reached that point (one lasted eight months or nine months, but was interrupted a couple of times by my girlfriend saying she wasn’t sure she really liked me and could I leave her life for a few weeks while she decided what she felt; my relationship with E. only lasted two months, long-distance the whole time).  Being a virgin, I can’t really imagine what a physical relationship would be like either, though it is perhaps a little easier to try to imagine, though what I imagine may bear no relation to what it would be like.  I suppose what I can imagine is little things, gentle touch, support, shared jokes, feeling comfortable together.  It’s hard to imagine that happening again though and certainly not long-term, as both times it began to happen in the past, the relationship broke down because my partner either got scared or took advantage of the situation.

I feel I’m not coping with living with my parents again either.  It’s partly that their behaviour can trigger the OCD, but also just their habits and interactions can be difficult for me to deal with, partly from depression or autism, but partly from just different personalities.  It’s mostly trivial things that I shouldn’t really complain about (I guess a lot of people develop annoying quirks as they get older), but (a) it’s hard to live with people who have annoying habits when I didn’t choose to live with them and (b) it makes me feel a bad son/person/Jew who would never be able to live with a wife and kids.  Though sometimes I wonder if I am justified in getting annoyed about some of these things.  It is hard to know, or to know what I can actually do about them.  I know I can’t change them, but at the moment, I’m pushing myself to my maximum and I don’t feel I can change myself to be more patient either.

I guess that struggle to imagine things getting better is how I feel about a lot of things right now.  I try to put a brave face on things and for a while I can even genuinely be positive, as I was with my therapist earlier.  But sooner or later, the pessimistic voices start again.  “Do you know how few people with treatment-resistant depression achieve sustained recovery?” (fewer than half, apparently).  “Do you really think you can fit in to any workplace with all your issues?”  “How could anyone ever care for a freak like you – and if she did, how would you actually meet her and talk to her in the first place?”  As I’ve said before, CBT didn’t work for me because it tries to get the depressed person to find evidence against their negative perceptions of themselves and the world, but the evidence seems to indicate that my perceptions of the world are all actually true (my self-perceptions perhaps less so).

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.

Hieronimo is Mad Againe

I technically have treatment-resistant depression, which means, as the name implies, that it doesn’t go away whatever I do to try to shift it.  I feel like I’ve tried everything over the last fifteen years: medication, psychotherapy, CBT, occupational therapy/work, diet, vitamin supplements, meditation, exercise, light therapy (admittedly with a sunrise alarm clock rather than a light box), trying to get alternative/supplementary diagnoses (bipolar disorder, autism), creativity, prayer… apart from ECT, which my psychiatrist, when I was seeing her, wouldn’t allow me to have, I’m not sure what else I can do (I don’t believe in alternative medicine (despite my attempt at light therapy) or segulot).  But, of course, strangers don’t know that and everyone has their method that “must” work, which is one reason I shy away from telling people about my depress

Not having a job or a spouse is depressing, but it’s hard to get either when you are depressed, which makes getting better very difficult.  Likewise, although perhaps not to the same extent, with loneliness.  I don’t think people like me can maintain friendships long-term or hold down jobs long-term, let alone date and marry.  Only recovery would hold any hope for me, but I have long since given up hope of recovery.

I feel I have let everyone down again.  I think I’m probably incapable of feeling love.  I’m too selfish.  Maybe people intuit that and stay away from me.

One of my non-biological sisters (friends who are like older sisters to me) read my post last night and said my only priority should be getting better.  I guess it should be, but I don’t know how.  I spent a few minutes proof-reading and posting a post I wrote a week or two ago, but never got around to posting, on my Doctor Who blog, about the narrow sub-genre of TV science fiction I enjoy so much.  For a few minutes, I forgot how depressed I am.  I need to find a way to get paid for doing this, even if it isn’t my main career.  I don’t really know how to get started though and I fear my interests are too narrow and my lack of awareness of academic cultural studies jargon and theory would be a fatal handicap.

Every so often I seem to think of the story of Jeff in this article from Aish that I read years ago, although today I came across it again by chance.  It upsets me.  Apparently, God doesn’t answer my prayers because I’m not “sincere” enough.  This is apparently shown by the fact that I don’t expect good things from him and don’t think myself worthy of good things.  Sigh.  I’ve been bullied and emotionally neglected from a young age.  I’ve been depressed for fifteen or twenty years or more.  I have learnt from this to have zero self-esteem and to think that I’m wicked and worthless.  How am I supposed to expect things to get better when all the evidence shows that God hates me (as does almost everyone else) and only wants difficult things for me?  It’s hurtful to say it’s all my own fault when I have faulty brain chemistry and a difficult mental health history.

How am I supposed to change what I believe?  I believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God, which is hard enough at times.  Ignoring the question of whether I should in fact be rewarded for that belief rather than punished, the only way I can square this with my life-long experience and pain is to believe this is somehow what I deserve or at least need.  So how do I believe that things will change when I have no evidence that I am less wicked, or that God has changed what He thinks about me, or that He wants me to do anything in this world other than suffer, for whatever reason?  All the evidence of my life points that way.  Whenever things seem to go better for a moment, like when I started my last job or was dating E. and I become thankful to God and hopeful that things will change, I seem to be punished and have everything taken away from me again.  There’s a concept in Judaism that while we believe in  miracles, we aren’t allowed to pray for them, only for natural salvation.  If you lose your job, you can pray for a new one, but if you lose your legs, you can’t pray that you spontaneously grow a new pair, not because God can’t do it, but because the average person is not worthy of such a miracle.  I think it’s clear by this stage that my depression is not going away by anything less than miraculous intervention.  Unfortunately, the article is nearly twenty years old and the rabbi who wrote it  has passed away, so I can’t ask him what I should do.

I have twice in the last twenty-four hours, without really intending it, found myself shouting at God to “F*** off,” at least in my head.  I don’t even feel guilty, as I feel He’s been saying the same to me for thirty-five years.  I feel agitated again.  I suddenly had a burst of energy and went for a brisk walk and after ten minutes I ran out of energy and had to get home somehow.  I thought about throwing myself under a car and I wasn’t sure if that was a serious suicidal thought, a symptom of the agitation or just more pure O OCD.  It’s hard to tell when it’s so quick, like I can’t really tell if I really want to tell God to f*** off or if it’s just my depressed/agitated/who-knows-what thoughts.

This article from Aish was more helpful than the other one, although I’m not sure I know how to use the ideas.  I can’t do things that make me happy, because nothing much makes me happy right now (anhedonia).  I did mention writing above, but I feel whatever energy and brainpower I have for that should be going on job hunting and I’m not sure I really have the concentration and motivation to write right anything coherent now (this post is increasingly incoherent).  I will try to accept that resilience takes time, although I don’t think I’ve grown more resilient over the many years that I have been depressed.  And while I accept there are major lows, there don’t seem to be any countervailing highs.  And the ‘new normal’ has been my normal for so long that it’s the good times that seem like the aberrations and I don’t know how to adjust to this.

I also came across an old Hevria post from last year that I had forgotten about.  It’s about being an introvert in the frum (Orthodox Jewish) community.  I had written a long self-hating comment there about not fitting in and generally being a useless person.  Someone commented back but I didn’t receive the comment at the time because he replied to the comment below mine by mistake.  S/he said that my introversion is part of my life mission.  This may be true, but as I have no idea what my life mission is, except that it seems to involve an inordinate amount of psychological pain and that no one can help me find out what it is, this is not terribly helpful.

I revised my CV, although there was not a lot to add to it from the last few months.  I really hate the personal interests section.  I don’t know why employers ask for it.  What they are basically asking is, “Please tell me that you have unusual and interesting hobbies, preferably ones that involve intelligence, extroversion and team work, but also imply that you rarely get a chance to pursue these hobbies because you’re so fanatically devoted to work.  Do not under any circumstances imply that you enjoy solitary, introvert things like reading, watching TV, blogging, going for walks (hiking in groups is acceptable) or just sitting idly with your thoughts.  Don’t even think about implying that you prefer your hobbies to your career and that in the ideal world, you would find a way of making your hobby into your job.”  Apparently, rather than just listing stuff I’ve been paid to do, I also need to highlight “Key Achievements”.  I have literally no idea what my key achievements are.  Sometimes (like this week) just getting through the day without hurting myself is an achievement, but that’s not really something to put there.

Stuff online reminds me that most people are having a lot more sex than I am.  Some people are even loved with it.  Mind you, the monks in The Name of the Rose were having more sex than I am, and they were supposed to be celibate.  I feel so lonely.  And, for all a a few people have said I’m a good writer, I find it hard to believe, given that I’ve had such little interest in my writing.  Nor does it seem better to me than the bulk of writing online and in the press, although to be fair it doesn’t seem much worse (and I use a lot less cliquey slang, although in these postmodern, anti-elitist times, that’s probably a criticism).  But I’m never going to be a literary novelist or even a literary essayist.  Even if my thoughts weren’t word soup.

Other stupid things I’ve done today: google my ex (not E., my first ex, from five years ago) even though I know she’s no longer religious and I would probably have very little in common with how her life has gone now, which makes me sad for reasons I can’t explain, and also because, as a bi-pride campaigner, she’s dealing with her sexuality issues in a rather more tangible way than I’ve ever managed to deal with mine.  Also: think about suicide, google to see how lethal my antidepressants are, and start counting up how many I had “just out of curiosity.”  Feeling very agitated and worried for myself again.

Trying to listen to calming classical music, but I don’t really know classical music, and what I do know is lively, so it was Pachelbel’s Canon again.  Music to go mad to, I suppose.  Dave Owen suggested years ago that one day the Doctor should regenerate because of insanity rather than physical injury.  I’d like to see that.  I suppose it would be considered unheroic nowadays.

So: agitation, can’t concentrate, racing thoughts, pacing, biting nails, wringing hands, hitting myself, thinking and reading about death and suicide… I should probably be on suicide watch, but I’m scared of telling my parents.  I was planning on being home from tomorrow afternoon to some time on Monday anyway for various reasons, so I guess that’s good, I can see what happens without telling anyone.

Corrosive

I am not, by nature, an angry person.  I am arguably one of those people who turns his anger inwards as depression and OCD.  At the moment, I feel the angriest I’ve ever been with HaShem (God).  Usually I cool off quickly and apologise (often without thinking I’m in the wrong.  I just can’t stand the tension and feel I have to apologise), but here I calm down and then I start up all over again a few hours later.  I get triggered by thoughts of loneliness and despair, thoughts that I am wasting my life and by feeling obliged to try to get the energy and motivation to study Torah or daven (pray).

The worst of it is that ultimately I know that He’s right.  I don’t just believe in God, I believe specifically in an immanent, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God, so that anything that happens to me has been deliberately allowed to occur by Him because it is the best possible thing that could happen to me right now.  And that just makes me furious, because why should the best possible thing to happen to me be my feeling lonely and despairing?  It’s like arguing with your parents when you know they’re right, but you can’t back down without losing face.  It’s even worse than losing an argument when you know you’re right, because at least you have a certain amount of dignity and self-esteem there.  Here I just feel like an idiot, complaining about something that I know I have no right to complain about.  No one ever told me that life was going to be easy and it’s stupid of me to want it to be.

I feel that I can’t go on much more.  I’m too lonely, depressed and hopeless to live like this forever.  I just want something to change, but I don’t know what to do.  Contrary to the magical thinking (segulot) that permeate much of contemporary Orthodoxy, I don’t think I can force God’s hand.  As for prayer… I once gave a fifteen minute drasha (religious talk) on prayer, setting forth three different perspectives on prayer and what it does.  1) Prayer is a mechanism by which we can change ourselves and become worthy of what we want (Rav Hirsch); 2) prayer is a method of creating community (Rav Soloveitchik); 3) prayer is a method of building a relationship with HaShem (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov).  The community aspect isn’t relevant here.  The idea of prayer as a vehicle for growth is problematic for me right now because I don’t have the energy or motivation to grow any more.  And as for building a relationship with God… well, at the moment I want to shout at Him or just sulk because I don’t know what to say.  I’ve hardly done any hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer over the last few days because I don’t have anything to say to Him any more.

I feel ridiculously silly, but I can’t calm down.  Every time I feel that I could be this lonely and depressed for the rest of my life, I get angry all over again.  It reminds me of my least favourite moment in one of my least favourite Doctor Who stories, The End of Time, where the Doctor, realising that he is going to have to give up his life (ish) to save his friend goes into a huge sulk and complains that it’s not fair.  It’s a horrible moment bereft of all heroism and dignity (I’m not a great fan of the tenth Doctor or David Tennant, but they deserved better).  That’s how I feel.  I know I’m posturing like an adolescent.  I know.  But I can’t help it, because I really feel on the brink.

I’ve been told that it’s OK to be angry with God, it’s even an argument I’ve used myself, but I still feel silly, especially as I suspect some of the anger is really directed at E., or at my situation in general, but I can’t express it to them, so it gets turned on God instead.

Here we segue from the very embarrassing part of the post to the incredibly embarrassing part.

I also feel (and this is not new) a lot of anxiety and guilt about sex, which probably feeds into the anger against God for keeping me single.  I feel guilty whenever I feel attracted to anyone, for feminist reasons as much as religious ones.   I have heard lately about involuntarily celibate men turning into women-hating monsters.  I remember after the Fort Hood shooting, an irresponsible newspaper article listed five signs of serial killers, and I had all five.  I’ve had a girlfriend now, so I guess I’m 20% less likely to become a misogynistic serial killer, but I worry about myself sometimes.  This is doubtless pure O OCD again, as I don’t think I’m realistically likely to turn into a a serial killer (misogynist or otherwise), but I do have a lot of hang ups about sex, questions and anxieties and also fear of being alone forever.

I’m not sure if my hang ups are the cause or the result of being a virgin at thirty-five (OK, strictly speaking I’m thirty-four for another couple of weeks, but unless my life changes in a series of radical ways, it will still stand).  It’s possible that they both feed each other and grow, which is a depressing thought.  It occurs to me that by this stage this is probably going to be another reason why I will end up single forever; any frum woman would be shocked by how jaded and impure I am, while any non-frum woman would doubtless find me laughably naive and inexperienced.  I’m beginning to suspect that sex is never going to be something I could be fully comfortable with, even if I get married.

It’s fairly safe to say that I have a lot of powerful emotions that I’m not allowed to express, either by circumstances, upbringing, religion or personality, and that these eat away inside me.  I’m not quite sure what I can do about this, except talk about it a lot in therapy and try to work through it that way.  I mostly feel too inhibited to blog about it.  I’m not even sure what I’m going to do with this post.  I can’t really express myself in fiction or poetry, let alone art or music, although I wish I could.

Last Temptation

I’ve been thinking about a couple of quotes or images from things today and how they reflect my current mood.  I vaguely remember a quote from somewhere to the extent that sex is like water; if you have it, you don’t think about it, but if you don’t have it, you can’t think of anything else.  You can take it from this thirty-five (nearly) year old virgin that the second part of this at least is very true.  I suspect the same applies to love as to sex, but here things get nebulous for me… I have strong feelings for E. and I know she has them for me but we’re struggling to work out how to deal with our differences.  It’s the geographical differences as much as the religious ones that are the problem, and the fact that neither of us is ever likely to be a high earner (isn’t money one of the biggest sources of relationship discontent?).  As we were both clear that we were dating seriously, with an eye to marriage in the relatively short-term, not just for ‘fun,’ we’ve decided to back off a bit for a while and try to work out how a long-term relationship could work, although we’re still in contact multiple times a day (which is a lot for an extreme introvert like me), just not so flirtatiously.  It’s hard, though, and worrying to think things might not work out, as I really like E., and I think she likes me, and in many ways I think we are well-matched, if we can find a way to get around the one or two big problems.  (She’s OK with me saying all this, by the way.)

 

The other quotes are inevitably Doctor Who-based, but really spiral out from here.  It doesn’t help that I’m doing a lot of extremely tedious work at the moment in my job which leaves me lots of spare brain capacity for thinking about E. and about my life in general.

“Being without becoming – an ontological absurdity!” is probably not the most pretentious line ever in an episode of Doctor Who, but it comes close.  I feel the reverse at the moment, that I am always becoming and never arriving or just being, whether it’s my romantic life, my job or my religious development.  My love life has only twice reached the stage of an actual relationship and never got any further than that, while I’m probably better at my job than I was a year ago, but still nowhere near as good as I should be.  As for my religious development, I still feel stagnant, but as I have related recently, it’s hard at the moment to want to grow, when so much of my religious life just seems to be painful and where I know I will never be a good Jew or a holy person.  It’s hard knowing that I could remove some of my problems with E. (not all, but some) by becoming less frum (religious) and not wanting to do that, but at the same time, finding fewer and fewer reasons not to do that.  I’ve already told myself I might or even would compromise on some things that a few months ago I would have thought were non-negotiable.  Some of this is just the reality of being in a real relationship as opposed to a thought-experiment (which is what most of my previous relationships were), seeing the sacrifices E. has made for me and wanting to reciprocate, but some of it is probably disillusion.  I do increasingly feel a fraud in shul (synagogue) and shiur (Bible class).  But I’m scared that if I become less frum now, five years down the line, when the infatuation has worn off, I might want to become more frum again, with worse results that staying frum now.

Which I suppose leads to the third image, “The Last Temptation of Doctor Who” scene from the story Human Nature/The Family of Blood*, whereby the Doctor, having wiped his own memory and hidden on Earth disguised as a human schoolteacher, John Smith, is suddenly confronted by the need to abandon his human life, and his girlfriend, and resume his life as a Time Lord for the greater good and sees images of the life he could lead, being married, having children and grandchildren and generally being happy, tempting him away from doing the right thing.  I suppose in the past I’ve consciously or unconsciously purloined those images for myself, telling myself that I’m giving up my happiness (not that I have a choice) out of a nebulous feeling that God wants me to be miserable, to convince myself there is some reason behind my depression, that some good will come out of it, but never has that happiness felt both nearer and further than right now.

* Probably the best story of David Tennant’s Doctorate.  That or Midnight.

Back to Reality

Things are mostly back to how they were before Pesach (Passover).  Unfortunately, this includes the weather (a dull, wet, depressing day) and my mood, which is still low.

I’m trying to work out if I should try dating again.  I suspect I’m not ready, but I also suspect that I will never be ‘ready.’  I also suspect that the only person who would be in a relationship with me is someone with similarly serious issues.  This isn’t necessarily a problem in itself, but my only previous relationship resulted in my having to take care of myself and my girlfriend, while she ignored my issues and was in denial about her own (her words, more or less, not mine) and I couldn’t cope with that any better now than I did five years ago (is it really five years ago more or less exactly that we broke up?).  I suspect I find it easy to fall for vulnerable women who (a) are less likely to reject me for being broken myself and (b) have mental health issues in common with me (because so few people have anything else in common with me).  I also probably feel that I don’t deserve, and couldn’t find, someone without major issues willing to go out with me for more than one or two dates.

I know logically I shouldn’t be dating, but I worry that I’ll never be ready, for all that my rabbi mentor suggested that I could be a lot better in six months.  I can’t see the self-administered CBT for social anxiety really going anywhere, although I’ve promised myself to have a proper go at it now that Pesach is over.  Nor do I know how to deal with the loneliness.  All the cures for loneliness I’ve heard of (talk to people, do a group activity, attend a place of worship) presume neurotypicality or at least an absence of social anxiety and depression.  For me, doing those things just increases my sense of being socially incompetent and alone forever, if I’m even able to do them in the first place (cf. my failed attempts to get to shul (synagogue) in the mornings recently).

Another reason I’m likely to struggle to maintain a romantic relationship is the problems I have maintaining a good relationship with my parents when I feel like this.  There’s a vicious circle that goes: someone shouts at me for something that is or isn’t my fault (it doesn’t matter which) –> I feel more depressed –> I snap at others –> other people shout at me –> I feel more depressed (etc.).  This is why I couldn’t cope with being paired up and it’s better that I live on my own.  I’m dreading having to move back in with my parents if my work contract isn’t renewed.  I could cope with getting married if my wife was particularly understanding, but I don’t deserve such a wife and couldn’t get one anyway (not least because of the loop noted above, although I have lots of other off-putting bad habits and vices too that I don’t generally blog about), so anyone I could marry would likely get into arguments with me a lot, which I couldn’t cope with.  Hence, I should/will be single forever.

I feel so alone today.  It’s not even loneliness in the usual sense of the word, because I’m not wishing someone was here with me.  It’s more feeling that no one can understand, accept or even tolerate me.  I feel like I’m walking on eggshells with my parents and I suspect that they feel the same about me, with good reason, which saddens me, but my attempts to be more sociable seem to make things worse.  I don’t even feel like I want anyone today, as a friend or girlfriend or wife.  I just feel so different to everyone else, that no one could understand me, and that I’m such a bad person and a bad Jew that no one could ever like or accept me.  I feel bad that I get no joy out of Judaism or Jewish festivals, for example (I didn’t enjoy Pesach at all, not even seder which I used to love), and telling myself that that’s because of my mental health and family situation doesn’t really help.  I know other people with mental health issues and families much less religious than mine who live joyous and meaningful Jewish lives.  Admittedly getting married and having kids seems to have been a big part of that, as does a period of sustained religious study in yeshiva or seminary.  Still, I feel that if they can manage it, I should too and God is angry with me for not doing so, and for acting out.

The quote of the day on the Jewish site Aish.com today says, “If you are not happy with what you have, you will not be happy with what you get.”  This just seems to tell me that I’m going to be miserable forever and there’s nothing I can do about it, because every attempt to move past the depression to get meaning and joy out of life ultimately fails.

There are a lot of disturbing thoughts in my head, and I don’t know how much is depression, how much is pure O OCD, how much is loneliness and how much is that I’m just a terrible, terrible, depraved person.  Or just someone who can’t cope with what’s going on in his head and as a result acts out in various bad ways, of which sniping at my parents is the least problematic.

More on neurotypicality, or otherwise: when I was young, I was sensitive to certain fabrics, particularly woolly ones.  Over time, this seemed to go away, but lately it seems to have come back somewhat.  I have a sweater that I’m finding it hard to wear suddenly because it feels too uncomfortable, even though I’ve been wearing it for years without a problem.  This is weird.  I haven’t heard of sensory sensitivity like that changing back and forth over time.  I suppose my sensitivity to noise varies with time, mood, activity and so forth too, but not in such a big way.

Canary in a Coal Mine

The OCD thoughts chase each other.  You resolve one and then another comes in its place.  I thought I was over this, but I seem to have unravelled through the progress I made in the past year.  Pesach (Passover) does that to me.  I feel terrible for bothering my rabbi, I feel terrible for giving in to the OCD, but it’s compulsive (hence ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’).  I just want Pesach to be over now.  I suppose I was lucky to get through four or five days before I got to this state.  (My rabbi just told me to listen to some relaxing music after I sent him a bizarre OCD question…)

Someone at Hevria commented on a post I wrote so long ago I had forgotten it, saying it was “well-written, courageous and honest”, that I am “Kind and sensitive” and should keep sharing my thoughts.  I should feel happy, but I just feel embarrassed, like I’ve stolen the praise someone else deserves.

I feel bad for undervaluing my friendships.  I talk all the time about wanting to be married and forget that I have friends who are there for me, like when my non-biological sister emailed me last night after seeing my last post.  I suppose some of it is wanting to have a proper sexual/romantic relationship, but some of it is probably just fantasy, hoping things would be easier with a mythical ‘someone’ to care for me.  No one should  have to “care” for me, I should be able to care for myself.  Another reason not to start dating again.

I suppose I do have legitimate sexual needs that can’t be catered for with other family/friend relationships.  I can admit that.  It’s harder to admit that I have emotional needs for intimacy that can’t be catered for with family or friends, because it feels like I’m blaming people for not being there for me.  I’m not blaming anyone, just acknowledging that there are different types of relationship.  But it’s hard.  I want to be loved, I want to be held, I want to be forgiven (although I’m not sure of what).  And I am, but not the way I need.

I am, more broadly, fed up of being a spectator of other people’s lives.  I want a life of my own.  But I don’t know how to get it and I’m scared of trying.

I feel I should send Hevria one of the posts sitting on my computer, to try and jump-start some creativity, but I’m scared of that too.  I write too much and do too little.

I’m just trying to do my best, but even that is really hard at the moment.

Fragmented Thoughts

I’m off work for the end of term holidays.  I don’t feel particularly depressed or anxious (despite waiting to hear back from my rabbi mentor about a couple of Pesach (Passover) anxieties – I suspect he is going to be out of email contact until after Pesach now), but I do feel exhausted.  I behaved a bit in a way that I wish I hadn’t done, which was probably a delayed reaction to the stresses of the last few weeks and especially the last few days.  Then I had to ask my rabbi a technical (non-OCD) question and felt like a fraud for making myself appear frum (religious) after behaving in a less than ideal way.  The reality is that I have spiritual ascents and descents, same as most people who aren’t either tzadikim (saints) or completely wicked, but I feel like a fraud whenever I do things that I consider wrong.

I did some creative writing for the first time in ages, forcing myself to spend half an hour writing something I’ve been thinking about for a while, a sort of fact/fiction fantasy/memoir hybrid.  I don’t think it’s going to work, but I thought I would pursue it for a while, especially as I decided not to work on my Doctor Who book this week (it felt wrong to write it on Chol HaMoed as I intend to write it for profit).  I kept stopping to look at my emails or things online.  I don’t have this problem with my Doctor Who book or blogging.  I don’t know if this was because I feel so exhausted or because fiction (or “fiction”) is much harder for me to write than non-fiction.  I don’t know where I’m going with the fiction and I don’t trust myself to get there, which is not really a problem I have with non-fiction.  I hope to write for half an hour every day except Shabbat and Yom Tov (the Sabbath) for the two weeks of my holiday.  If I can do that, I should end up with about 5000 words by the end of my holiday, if I write at the same rate as today (which is a big assumption) which might give me an idea of whether to continue with this.  I’m still trying to work out if God really wants me to write, and if so what He wants me to write.  I remember what David Bowie said, that the worst joke God can play on you is to make you an artist, but a mediocre artist.  That seems to apply to me a lot.  Although I’m not quite sure that I see that as the worst thing in my life.  I could cope with being a mediocre writer if I was happier and more fulfilled in other areas e.g. my religious life, my social life.

Today was full of other frustrations.  I wanted to go to shul for Mincha and Ma’ariv (afternoon and evening services), but felt too tired.  I wanted to watch some of A for Andromeda, the 1960s British TV science fiction serial, but I feel too tired for half-reconstructed, half-audio only sixties science fiction and opted for something less challenging.  Still, I haven’t felt this calm at Pesach for many years, so I probably shouldn’t complain.  The day does feel a bit of a waste, though, and I wonder if I should make plans to Do Something on a couple of days over the next two weeks.

I feel lonely again.  It probably didn’t help that I watched Superbob, a film I bought on DVD to watch at Pesach last year, but was too anxious to watch, a low-budget British comedy about a lonely superhero going on his first date in six years, quite funny, in a very British way, but also about loneliness and geeky people who can’t get dates even if they have superpowers (“I just got to be myself, right?”  “Not if you want her to like you.”).  And I also read an essay by Rabbi Lord Sacks about Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs/Song of Solomon) and romantic love in Judaism from the introduction to his Pesach Mahzor (festival prayer book).  However, I was pretty lonely before I did either of these things, so something else must have triggered it, not that it takes much to make me feel lonely.

I think I’ve written before that I think there are different types of loneliness e.g. loneliness for friends, loneliness for community.  I feel the loneliness for a spouse most often and particularly today.  I don’t know why I feel it today.  It’s not as bad as many times in the past, but it’s there.  I don’t know if it’s being around my sister and her new husband the last few days or just coincidence.  One of my non-biological sisters sent me some links about introversion, which confirmed what I already knew, which is that you can be an introvert and lonely because introverts aren’t misanthropists, they just need intimate relationships and deep conversations, not superficial relationships and banal small talk.  Even being around a loved one without talking is good for an introvert.

I feel I am no closer to finding my other half.  To be honest, over the last few days I have been thinking that I should deliberately avoid dating for a while, until I at least try to work on my social anxiety some more.  The problem is that if I do that, it could easily be a year or more until I start dating again, dependent on my success (or otherwise) at working on the social anxiety and my employment situation in the coming months.  I don’t know if I could bear that and certainly it would make it even less likely that I will be able to have children, assuming I marry a woman around my own age.  Plus I feel I should date in the spring and summer, because my mood then is likely to be better than the autumn and winter, so if I miss the coming window of opportunity, it could be another six months before one comes around again.  Even if I’m sceptical of my rabbi mentor’s theory that if I become more sociable, people in my community will automatically start setting me up on dates with women like me, I guess it makes sense not to do an intensely social thing until I have improved my social anxiety.  But there is also the fear of procrastination and of waiting until things are perfect, which they never will be.

I guess that in my head there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reasons for wanting to be in a relationship or get married.  For example, wanting to be in a relationship simply to have sex isn’t likely to lead to a successful relationship, nor is wanting to get married just because it’s a mitzvah (religious commandment) whereas wanting to be in a relationship to give to someone else or to grow as a person or to have a deep and intimate relationship with someone are more likely to lead to a lasting marriage (although still a scary number of marriages end in divorce, even in the frum community, where divorce is less common).  The problem is, all the reasons are jumbled up and confused in my head.  There are some where I’m not sure if they’re good or bad reasons (e.g. wanting to have children), but more often the good and bad reasons are mixed together.  I know that I want to have a deep and intimate relationship with someone.  I also know that I want to have sex and that probably I wouldn’t be a normal heterosexual young male if I didn’t.  But does the latter wipe out the validity of the former?  It’s hard to unscramble these things in my head, especially as sex is such a primal driving force.  I also find it hard to believe that frum people who get married in their early twenties or even late teens (which seems ridiculously young to me) are motivated entirely by love and the desire to give and grow, rather than, at least in part, things like peer pressure, social conformity, libido, lack of other options and the assumption that this is what you do (I suspect that the supposed “shidduch crisis,” if it really exists, is caused at least in part by people marrying later because, consciously or unconsciously, they aren’t ready or willing to get married at nineteen or twenty).

I also find myself wondering about people who used to read this blog who I haven’t heard from for a while.  I wonder if I have said something to offend them and chase them away or if they just got bored of my negativity.  It feels sometimes like people drift in and out of my life and it’s hard to find a way to get people I like to stay.

Oh well.  It feels like the words are chasing themselves round and round on the page today without actually making any sense.  I’ve been cutting and editing, but it’s hard to say what I feel today, not least because I’m not really sure what I feel and I want to talk about publicly and what I want to hold on to by myself for now.  So, I suppose, bed now.

Obsessive? Psychotic? Criminal?

I had a fairly bad Shabbat.  At shul I wanted to speak openly to a friend (if I can call him that… he’s the closest person I have to a friend there, anyway) after the service about having struggled with my depression this week, but when it came to it, I panicked and said everything was fine.  Then I got too anxious and depressed to speak to the rabbi and just went home quickly to avoid talking to anyone else.  I had a difficult dinner with my parents.  They didn’t really agree with my therapist that I shouldn’t be looking to get married because I only want to get married because I’m lonely and I want someone to “fix” me, but they thought my main (only?) reason for wanting to get married is that it’s a mitzvah (religious commandment).  It seems that no one thinks I’m capable of wanting to give to someone and to share my life with her.  This just confuses me and brings me down.  (Ironically, my ex used to say that I did take care of her and her issues well, better than she took care of me, which was more or less true.)  It didn’t help that my father said that he can’t talk to me at the moment, which my Mum thinks is because of my borderline Asperger’s.  My father has a roundabout way of talking, going off at tangents which is confusing to someone who likes communication to be clear and direct, while he misinterprets my bluntness and confusion as anger.  Still, I probably could understand him if I tried harder.

I don’t know what time I went to bed or how long I slept, but I think it must have been for ten or eleven hours, with a two hour plus nap this afternoon.  This will probably mess up my weekend sleep pattern, as it usually does (it’s 10.00pm and I haven’t had dinner and have things to do before bed).  I had a really disturbing dream on Friday night/early Saturday morning.  I don’t want to relate it, but it was very upsetting.  I don’t know whether that dream or the therapy session and conversation with my parents yesterday triggered the thoughts I had this afternoon, but they may have done.  To be blunt, I started wondering if I was the reincarnation of someone completely evil, a rapist or murderer.

Reincarnation is not an idea non-Jews or non-religious Jews typically associate with Judaism, but actually it has been part of Jewish mysticism for a thousand years or more.  However, usually I have a more rationalist approach to religion, which sees reincarnation as an idea extrinsic to Judaism, borrowed from other religions and not part of Judaism’s understanding of the soul and life after death.  Still, Ramban (Moses Nachmanides), one of the most important Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages, saw the reincarnation of the wicked as the big solution to the problem of theodicy.

This idea of being a reincarnation of someone evil to explain my suffering is not new for me.  Still, in the afternoon I became fixated on the idea of being a reincarnated rapist as it seemed to explain so much: my suffering; my terror of my sexuality; why sex and self-loathing seem to be so mixed up for me; my desire for a violent, redemptive death; my violent thoughts (usually directed against my self, but sometimes pure O/OCD fears about hurting others) and horror of violence; my self-hatred out of all proportion of what I might have done; my feeling that HaShem (God) hates me, letting me suffer even as a child and not doing the ‘miracles’ that other frum (religious) people report; feeling sure that I won’t have a share in Olam HaBa (the Next World)*; my susceptibility to sexual temptation; and especially the reason it looks like I will never manage to get married or have another relationship.  I guess it would explain why the one relationship I did have turned out to be a situation where my girlfriend didn’t respect my boundaries and why I feel so confused about my boundaries and how I would like them to be respected.

I don’t think that I really believe that I am a reincarnation of someone evil, but it would seem to explain so much that I became pretty focused on it for a couple of hours, becoming even more depressed and unable even to read a novel to distract myself.  I know that OCD can make people feel that they have committed crimes that they have not done and wonder if this is something like that.  I’ve had that a bit in the past, usually in the form of OCD worries that I might have opened a webpage that had illegal content on it without knowing that I had done so.  But it really did seem to explain so much of my life, I think I almost wanted it to be real, because then at least it would explain why I suffer, why I hate myself, why I will never get married.  I often feel I could cope better if I was told for sure that I will never get married than to live with the constant hope and feeling that I ought to be trying to build a relationship and that if I don’t do the right thing (whatever that might be), I will sabotage my chances of love and happiness – I will never be happy and it will all be my fault (I suppose by extension I will be making my would-be wife unhappy too, although I don’t usually follow through to that extent).

* Actually, it seems to me that these things more or less cancel out, although that’s not how they have always been seen.  As I understand it, the whole idea of reincarnation is so that you have an opportunity of earning a reward in the Olam HaBa by suffering in this world.  One might spend hundreds of years here rectifying everything you’ve done wrong, but eventually you will earn Olam HaBa.  Although I suppose in an extreme case one might be denied reincarnation deliberately in order to prevent you getting Olam HaBa.
It has to be said that compared to many (most?) other religions, Judaism is really vague about the soul, the afterlife, reincarnation and the like with such issues either being ignored completely or generating so many contradictory interpretations that it’s hard to know what “the Jewish view” of reincarnation or Heavenly punishment is.  There’s almost nothing on life after death or the soul in Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and very little in the Talmud.  Many people see this as a feature rather than a bug, that Judaism wants us to focus on the here and now and not worry about the afterlife.

So Lonely

“Such a lonely little boy. Lonely then and lonelier now. How can you bear it?” Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace by Steven Moffat

My therapist thinks I don’t know the difference between excited, stressed and scared.  This is probably true (alexithymia, Asperger’s).

My therapist also thinks that it’s a bad idea to date purely because I feel lonely and that I just want someone to fix me.  This is what I have suspected for a while, but I don’t know what to do, particularly as my parents have been encouraging me to date.  Part of the problem is that (as my therapist also said), I feel a lot safer with women than with men (just don’t ask me why, as women on the whole have hurt me a lot more than men in the past; maybe that’s it, maybe I want to retroactively vindicate past relationships, although it’s probably more that I have some stereotypically ‘female’ character traits, doubly so now there are a lot more women (or a lot more visible women) in Doctor Who fandom).  This means that I form friendships with women more easily than with men.  This is problematic as (a) sex/love does get in the way sometimes, at least unconsciously, even if I say it shouldn’t and (b) in the Orthodox Jewish community male-female platonic friendships are more or less prohibited.  So the only way I’m allowed to talk to like-minded women in my community is to ask them to date me.

I do also wonder how I’m supposed to cope with my feelings of loneliness and my sexual desires without even the hope of dating.  I don’t know how to make new friends, or to turn my existing friendships (most of which are fairly formal and distant (emotionally and often geographically too) into closer friendships.  And I don’t know how to cope with my sexual desires, which both my religious beliefs and my personal character restrict to marriage (I know I couldn’t cope emotionally with being promiscuous).  I don’t even feel comfortable having crushes on people.  I wanted to write a jokey thing on my Doctor Who blog about having a crush on a character in Remembrance of the Daleks (a crush on the actual fictional character, not (just) the actress who plays her), but I was scared to, ostensibly because I felt a frum (religious) guy shouldn’t write about having a crush even (or especially) jokingly, but also because I was scared to open up about my feelings like that.  To be honest, if I feel desire for a woman (and I do, a lot, I have strong emotions and sex, love, loneliness, despair and self-loathing are all mixed up in me (alexithymia again)), I feel guilty, partly from religious reasons, partly from feminist reasons, both of which in different ways tell me that male sexuality is dangerous.  I feel it to be dangerous.  My worst mistakes come from loneliness and social anxiety rather than from sex per se, but sex is obviously part of the loneliness and my biggest sins (from both a Jewish and feminist viewpoint) have all been sex-related, even though, rather pathetically, despite all this I’m still a virgin (despite being headed towards thirty-five!).

The worrying thing is that if my therapist is right, and I think she is (and my rabbi mentor was saying something not entirely dissimilar), I have to deal with my loneliness and social anxiety before I can date.  This might mean I will never be able to date, as my loneliness and social anxiety have been intractable for even longer than the depression (the depression has lasted eighteen or twenty years, maybe more, but the social anxiety at least goes back ten years further; the loneliness is harder to judge, but at least twenty years like the depression).  Which means I might never know romantic love, and sex, and – even if I assume some middle aged romance – I will probably never have children.  And I really want to have children.  I see it as one of  my main missions in life.  I ended two promising relationships at least in part because of wanting to have children.

I feel pretty awful.  I know I’ve said too much here and it will probably come back to haunt me, but I don’t care right now.  Maybe I’ll edit later.