I didn’t have to go to the hospital with Mum today after all. My parents discovered that a hotel near the hospital is renting out car park places, so Dad could park and go in to the appointment with Mum as her extra person. That’s better for everyone, although I had a weird feeling of disappointment after having psyched myself up for it.
I woke up earlyish, but I’m not sure if that was due to thinking I had to be up early to go to the hospital or because our next door neighbour’s son was sitting in the garden listening to a Zoom shiur (religious class) really loudly, then was on a really loud chevruta (paired learning), far above my intellectual level and he’s only in his teens, so that probably brought my mood down early on. (Why do Jews get so overexcited when “learning” and start shouting? Or when talking, to be honest?)
Yesterday was burning agitation. Today is quiet and still, but the stillness of depression and the grave, the stillness of nothing happening inside. I didn’t do any real Torah study yesterday, because of depression and migraine, but I did spend forty minutes writing my devar Torah (Torah thought) which I hope should count for something. I didn’t do my hitbodedut meditation/unstructured prayer either, but that has been perfunctory for quite a while.
I’m just feeling awful today, hollow and empty and dead inside. I feel almost physically ill and struggle to do anything. I wish E. was here, but part of me is saying that it can’t last (our relationship, I mean) and that I’ll be hurt sooner or later. Yesterday we (E. and I) agreed to focus on the present and not to worry about the post-COVID world, which is too unpredictable, whether big things like the economy or personal things like our job prospects and our relationship. But it’s easy to believe that everything will go wrong, same as it always does for me. I feel I can’t do anything, that my life is not going anywhere.
I tried to work on my novel, but I struggled to write anything, either for the chapter I was working on or when I tried to jump ahead to the next chapter. I ended up giving up and watching TV (Ashes to Ashes then Doctor Who). I forced myself to go for a walk, although I didn’t really want to (because of the heat as well as the depression/exhaustion) and while I was walking my internal monologue/internal critic asked me, “Why don’t you just **** off and die?” and I didn’t have a good answer. Most people with high functioning autism don’t manage to do paid work (despite being defined by the wider world as “high functioning”) and anecdotal evidence (at least) suggests they don’t manage to maintain relationships either, so I don’t know why I think I can buck either trend.
I had my online Zoom shiur (class) this evening. I still feel I’m not going to learn a lot I don’t already know. I did manage to speak up though, once. It’s a shame I’m too socially anxious to share knowledge much that others might benefit from. Selfish even, if I want to blame myself (I usually do). I don’t know if it’s because I was on my Dad’s computer (the replacement webcam for my one still hasn’t arrived), but I just felt extra-awkward the whole time. I just sat through the shiur thinking, “I am such a **** up” and that no one could ever like me and that my life will never get sorted out. There was some fantasising about self-harm, which I haven’t done for a while.
I’m worried about a couple of blog friends who haven’t posted for a while, but I’m also worried that if I send them “Are you OK?” emails that will just put them in the awkward position of having to tell me that they’ve taken me off their friends lists. I worry I’m too weird and depressing for people to cope with, let alone relate to.
I just discovered that some nasty comments from someone I had to mute on the blog were sitting in my trash folder on WordPress. They had been there for several months unnoticed. I had assumed that blocking bounced them back into the ether, but apparently they go into the trash folder and sit there. I deleted them all, but it upset me even more, and the content of the comments reinforced my feeling of being useless and having no justification for being depressed. It also makes me worried, as one of these comments was a reblog notification – the person reblogged my post, apparently to criticise and mock it. It makes me wonder what other negative stuff this person has put out there about me. Naturally, I assume I deserve it.
The Midrash in Sifra on last week’s sedra, Behukotai, says there are seven stages of apostasy that lead on one to the other:
- Not studying Torah;
- Not performing commandments;
- Despising those who keep the commandments;
- Hating the sages who teach the commandments;
- Preventing others from observing the commandments;
- Denying that God gave the commandments;
- Denying the existence of God.
It’s hard to tell where I am. I’m not studying much Torah. I perform some commandments, but not others, some because of depression, some to compromise with E., some because I don’t have the strength any more. I don’t “despise” anyone, but there’s aspects of the Orthodox world I don’t like, I don’t have much respect for sages who preach full-time yeshiva study and denigration of the wider world. Sometimes I worry I’m heading for points six and seven. Is this catastrophising again? Possibly perfectionism too. I have kashas (difficulties, questions) on Judaism, but I also have big kashas on the secular world of humanism, Enlightenment and postmodernism too. Of course, my biggest kasha is on the world: how can I fit into it?
The last Shabbat (Sabbath) of the Jewish year 5779 turned out to be as difficult as many of the previous ones.
To be fair, Friday night was quite good. I coped with shul (synagogue) and even joined in the circle dancing after Lecha Dodi, albeit rather half-heartedly and more because I didn’t want to stand out than because I wanted to join in. Then I went for dinner. I was invited by one of the men I usually sit with in shul. He had also invited the other person I sit with as well as the latter’s wife. These are the people I feel most comfortable with in the shul, I guess I could call them friends, so it was a good evening. Part of the conversation was about where on the spectrum between “Modern Orthodox” and “Haredi” (ultra-Orthodox) the shul is and where we see ourselves. I probably had more I could have said than I felt confident saying, particularly when talking about placing figures like Rav Kook and Rabbi Lord Sacks on the frum (religious) spectrum, but I did join in and it was interesting to see that not everyone in the shul considers themselves Haredi. So it’s not just me. As an aside, I very much think it is a spectrum, not a binary distinction and someone can be Haredi in some ways and Modern in others and, in theory at least, there isn’t a huge need to pinpoint yourself at some precise spot on the spectrum.
I got home late, though. I spent some time with my parents and then read for a while as I needed my “introvert time” to unwind from five or six hours of “peopling.” I got to bed at 1.30am, which was very late, but then I could not sleep again. I don’t really understand why I have this highly specific insomnia on Friday nights. I think I eventually fell asleep around 4.00am, so unsurprisingly when I woke up at 8.00am for shul I didn’t have the energy to get up and go to shul, even though I wanted to. I kept thinking, “I’ll just lie here another minute and then I’ll get up” but of course eventually I fell asleep again and missed shul. I dozed for an hour after lunch too. I decided to read downstairs rather than on my bed as I usually do to avoid falling asleep, but I just fell asleep on the sofa.
It was at shul in the afternoon that things took a turn for the worse. Sitting in Gemarah shiur (Talmud class) I felt I didn’t really connect with the topic. I had this vision of the hierarchy of status in the frum world. At the top comes the great Torah (read: Talmud) scholars. My brain doesn’t work like that and my depression stops me concentrating or being able to study, so I’m never going to be one of those. Then come the people who organise the community. I don’t have the necessary organisational and people skills because of autism and my depression prevents me from giving up that amount of time (my Dad used to do it in our old shul, I know how long it takes), so I’m never going to be one of those. Then come people who regularly make up the minyan (prayer quorum); I used to do that in my old shul, but I can’t do it now because of social anxiety. Then comes the people who spend ages davening with great kavannah (praying with great concentration); again, nixed by depression. I’m not quite sure where I can find room to exist. Even if I manage to write “Jewish” novels, the type of novels I want to write will almost make me hope that no one in my community reads them or goodness knows what will happen. I want to write about people on the fringes of the community, survivors of domestic abuse, people who struggle to mix modernity and tradition (e.g. re: Creationism and evolution), false messiahs. Not Artscroll stuff.
Then came seudah shlishit (the third Sabbath meal), which today was a siyuum for Shas Mishnayot (celebration for finishing religious study, in this case the whole of the Mishnah, the oldest part of the Talmud). My shul has a thing where on Simchat Torah (Jewish festival at the end of the autumn new year festivals) people sign up to study a certain amount of Mishnah over the coming year, culminating in this siyuum before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). I never participate in this, for various reasons, the biggest being that I feel I can’t commit to studying that much Torah while I’m this depressed. So I felt out of place from the start and I forced myself to stay partly to be part of the community, partly to support my friend, who sponsored the siyuum in honour of his late mother. A guest rabbi spoke about the importance of Torah study. I suppose I should feel positive when he spoke about the reward for Torah study being for the effort rather than the amount “learnt” or level of comprehension, but I just felt inferior for not studying enough. Could I study more? I really don’t know, nor do I know how to find out. I also always feel uncomfortable with the Hadran (prayer at the end of studying a section of Torah), where it says “We give thanks before You, HaShem our God and God of our fathers, for you gave us a share among those who sit in the study hall, and not among those who sit on street corners. For we arise early, and they arise early; we arise for words of Torah, and they arise for words of emptiness. We work, and they work; we work and receive a reward, and they work and do not receive a reward. We run, and they run; we run towards eternal life, and they run to a pit of desolation.” I find the whole thing offensive to people who can’t study as well as to non-Jews, plus I imagine that I’m one of the ones running to the pit of desolation. This was reinforced when, after the seudah, while we were waiting for Ma’ariv (Evening Prayers), I read a dvar Torah which basically said that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (one of the most prominent Haredi rabbis of the twentieth century) said that someone who keeps Torah and mitzvot (commandments), but finds them hard is a “root that bears gall and wormwood” as he might become lax in his observance or his children will stop being religious because he won’t have passed true dedication on to them. One has to find find Torah and mitzvot a source of happiness. So obviously I’m a bad person.
The guest rabbi also spoke about the importance of being a teacher (he meant a Jewish studies teacher in a Jewish school). I did wonder if I was meant to hear this, as my parents and E. have been encouraging me to think about teaching primary school children or at least being a teaching assistant. I really don’t think I could do it, though, and wonder why so many people think otherwise. Still, it would be a job and potentially I could be in a Jewish school and not have to worry about taking off Jewish holidays.
After Ma’ariv I helped tidy up a bit. There was lots to do to get the ready for Rosh Hashanah, but I just couldn’t face it and fled, which was also bad. The whole way home I was having difficult thoughts, not about suicide per se, but feeling that I would be better off dead, even if I end up in Gehennom (the nearest thing to Hell in Judaism) as at least Gehennom only lasts a year and you can’t actually do anything else wrong while you’re there, while here I’m constantly doing the wrong thing and incurring more punishment. I thought about Rosh Hashanah being tomorrow and that I’m going to be written for a bad year again, I just know it, because I’ve had bad years almost every year I’ve been an adult, loneliness and depression, to the extent that I can’t imagine anything going right for me. I can’t imagine getting a career I enjoy and am successful at (as a writer or anything else), I can’t imagine getting married (perhaps only one person has ever really cared for me romantically and that seems unlikely to ever work out for a whole host of reasons), I can’t imagine ever fully fitting in to a community (it wouldn’t be so hard if everyone was like the people I spent Friday night with, though). I can’t ever see my life, or my religious life/Torah study and mitzvah performance being enjoyable or meaningful. It just all seems so hopeless.
I came home in such a state that my parents said I looked awful and excused me from helping to tidy up as I didn’t look capable. I suppose I should have something to eat. It has taken me over an hour to write this, as I keep getting distracted, which may be depressive poor concentration, but I suspect is more procrastination to avoid facing up to what I’m writing here. “Facing up” in two senses: the literal sense I’ve written here, that, rightly or wrongly, I feel that I’m in a no-win situation and I can’t fit in to the culture I want to be accepted in, nor can I live according to the values I want to live by; but also face up to the fact that deep down I know, or at least I suspect, that it’s not as obvious as I write, that I am trying to be a good Jew and that has to count for something with someone, but I can’t see how I can really be a good Jew when I seem to try so little and when I seem to get so little joy from it, when so many people say that having joy in it is the main thing. I mean, I could have tried harder to get up and go to shul this morning, I could have tried harder to study Torah instead of sleep and read other things this afternoon, I could have tried harder to understand the Talmud shiur, I could have tried harder to help getting the shul ready this evening. I feel somehow there is a trick that I could do to have joy at shul or studying Torah or at a religious social event like the siyuum, but I don’t know how to do it, so I will get punished.
OK, time out, time to eat a cheese bagel and watch The IT Crowd.
Trigger warning: suicide
On a previous post, Yolanda said I have “strong faith”. I don’t feel like that, certainly compared to other people in the frum (religious Jewish) community. Partly it’s that I avoid social markers of faith, like saying “Barukh HaShem!” when people ask how I am (literally “Bless God,” but idiomatically “Thank God”). But I feel that I don’t trust God. I know that faith and trust are different things in Judaism; faith is about thinking God exists while trust is about accepting that whatever happens is for the best; but it is hard to have the former without the latter. In a sense, on an intellectual level, I can accept that everything is for the best, but I can’t feel it. My life just seems so miserable, I feel that there has to be more to it than this. But I worry that if the “best possible outcome” for me for the last twenty years has apparently been (on the grounds that whatever God causes to happen is for the best) for me to be lonely and miserable, thinking of myself as a freak that no one could like, let alone love, how can I know that the next twenty years – or sixty years – won’t be the same? I don’t think I could bear that. This is when I start feeling suicidal. I think I could cope with suffering if I felt there was a purpose or end to it, but being lonely and miserable indefinitely for no obvious reason is just too much to bear. But I don’t know what the alternative is. I don’t seriously believe that stopping being frum (religious) would make me happier, although it might make life a little easier and would widen my dating pool, but I think the key limiting factors on my dating are my mental health issues and autism and my under/unemployment.
Speaking of dating, Ashley Leia said I should date women and let them decide if they want me rather than decide in advance that they won’t date me. That does make a kind of sense, and my parents and rabbi mentor have said similar things… but in my brain dating seriously without an income is disingenuous and futile. Maybe that’s not accurate. But I’m scared of the rejection I feel sure will follow dating in this state. And I worry about meeting the right person at the wrong time and her rejecting me because I’m unemployed or depressed and then I’ll never get a second chance with her because she has tagged me as not suitable.
Of course, the problem is that I want other people to make decisions for me but then I don’t cooperate with them. The other problem is that I’m terribly lonely, so I think endlessly about how things would have to change so that I could date, which just makes me feel more hopeless. So I procrastinate endlessly and feel lonely and depressed all the time. I find it doubtful that anyone could really make me happy, to be honest.
I could write an equally long, equally depressing rant about my career. I’m not sure how much I want to be a librarian any more; it turned out not to really be like my experience in the library where I first worked, first as a volunteer, then as a paid employee. I haven’t kept up with my CPD (and my training, at a not-very-good university because of depression, was arguably not good enough in the first place) and I feel pretty unemployable in my chosen career. It’s a struggle to wade through job adverts and try to reply, I’m so lacking in self-belief. Lots of jobs require work on Saturdays too, which I can’t do for religious reasons. Then there are all the jobs I’m over- or under-qualified for… I have to hope something will turn up, but as with dating, there’s no guarantee that it will, or that I will be good enough for the opportunity or psychologically ready to accept it.
Someone suggested A S Mentoring to me, but I’m not sure they are really offering anything that would be useful to me. I suppose I should contact them and find out… which is also scary.
I suppose what I really want is for someone to wave a magic wand and for me to wake up in a new life with the things I want. But real life doesn’t work like that. I don’t mind having to work for things, but it seems that no matter how hard I try, I never get the things I work for and I can’t go on much longer without getting some kind of result.
I went shopping for a very belated wedding present for my sister and brother-in-law (long story why it’s been so long). Out walking and seeing all the Purim stuff in the Jewish shops, I reflected that it is only a few days until Purim, the happiest festival in the Jewish calendar, and yet the one I struggle with the most (well, tied with Pesach). I feel like Judaism is built for mentally healthy neurotypicals (for all the autistic precision with which Jewish law is codified). There isn’t anywhere for someone who can’t join in with the festive crowd, who can’t drink, doesn’t have children or grandchildren and probably never will…
There’s a constant pressure to Do Things, whether from Judaism or work or family and friends. I just constantly feel that I have to do painful things so I don’t “let people down,” but no one is making sacrifices for me (except for my parents supporting me rent-free). I can’t cope with the constant pressure to be perfect. I’m not perfect, nowhere near it. Why can’t anyone understand that and leave me alone?
I honestly don’t know what I would do if someone said, “OK, you can choose the life you want. You can decide if you want to pray or study Torah and how much, what to do for work, what family and social life you want.” I can’t imagine would what actually feel good or how I can work that out. In reality, I probably couldn’t cope with a career or being married. Western society doesn’t really present me with an alternative to having a career and frum society doesn’t present me with an alternative to getting married. I think I could manage, and might benefit from (in terms of personal growth as well as support and happiness), a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, but that’s not really an option in frum society.
Related: I just shouted at my parents. My Mum eagerly told me that my sister and BIL have concrete under their shale patio. I neither knew nor cared about this, no one having told me that it was a concern and I can’t really bring myself to care. Then Dad insisted on showing me a photo and I didn’t know what to say and ended up saying, “I don’t know what you want from me – to say “MY GOD THAT’S THE BEST GARDEN I’VE EVER SEEN??!!!” They did at least see the funny side. I shouldn’t have done it, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to take any kind of interest in my sister’s house without becoming monumentally depressed, yet everyone else seems to be expecting me to be as fascinated as if I were going to be living there myself. At least if she had a baby, I could play with him or her.
I feel like I can’t take any more. I can’t stand being so lonely and miserable. I want to die, but killing myself… I can’t put it into words, but I do and don’t want to kill myself. I do because I want to escape, but I don’t because I couldn’t put my parents through that, and because, I suppose, some part of me still hopes I might one day have some small measure of joy, albeit probably not in this world, and that would never happen if I killed myself. Plus, I suppose I can’t help feeling that killing myself would just lead to more punishment somehow.
I don’t want people to worry about me. I’m not going to do anything. I wouldn’t dare, really. I just wish so much that this wasn’t happening to me. I just wish that I wasn’t here.
Just feeling awful today, depressed and exhausted, and I’ve got so much to do. I had anxiety dreams last night about Pesach and, bizarrely, my MA. I feel exhausted, perhaps from the intense emotions and agitation yesterday. The books on depression and anxiety don’t tell you just how tiring they can be. Suicidal thoughts in particular can be utterly draining and I’m guessing that’s why I feel so exhausted today. I can’t really face job-hunting at the moment, which will make things worse in the long-run. I’m just glad I’m not working today. I just wanted to watch TV, but I needed to go out and get a prescription and was supposed speak to someone from The Network (who run the group therapy/courses I did recently) and do various things for family, although the person from the Network never phoned (the public sector is so lousy at this sort of thing). I’ve got a huge pile of emails too, mostly job alerts for jobs that are of no interest and which I don’t think I can do. I’d like to work on my Doctor Who book, which is a more achievable task, because I enjoy it more and because at the moment I’m just tidying up the second draft by standardising spelling and layout, which I can do while feeling bad, but I feel bad about doing that when I ‘should’ be job-hunting. I don’t know whether I will get any of these things done. I fell asleep for an hour after lunch, which I guess is a sign I was tired, although I slept for nine hours last night. I couldn’t really afford to lose the time, though.
I woke to find an email about the my university’s Doctor Who Society’s anniversary party. I was hoping to go to this, but I realise now I’m probably not going to be able to do so, as it falls in the Jewish national mourning period after Pesach. I thought I could justify going if it was just to socialise and watch Doctor Who, but I think it’s more of a party party, which doesn’t seem right for me to go to. I was already missing the dinner, for kashrut reasons. I enjoyed going there more than anything else at university, but even then I missed out on social trips to restaurants and location trips that were always on Saturdays for the sake of people who had early lectures on Monday morning. I know Jewish law is supposed to reduce social and romantic involvements between Jews and non-Jews and even between frum (religious) and non-frum Jews, and up to a point, I accept that, but it’s hard when you have limited social and romantic possibilities, and people within the frum community aren’t always the most friendly or just aren’t on my wavelength.
I try not to perform mitzvot (commandments) in expectation of reward, but sometimes when I look at everything I’ve sacrificed to be frum, and what I may have to sacrifice to stay frum, it’s hard not to feel that I want something in return. Worse, I feel that deserve something in return, which is very wrong of me.
Lately I’ve felt my religious observance slipping a little as I noted in yesterday’s post. Nothing big, just little things. Some of it might not even be bad, like beating myself up less for davening (praying) in a less ideal way or not at all and for studying less Torah. Sometimes it’s hard to care when one feels so depressed. If I’m thinking about suicide, which is virtually the biggest no-no in Judaism, then nothing else seems that important, doubly so if I don’t think I’ve got any reward coming to me.
At any rate, today it was hard to “learn” Torah (as the Orthodox say) and I didn’t really manage much. As an Orthodox Jewish man, I’m supposed to think that I exist to “learn,” particularly Gemarah (the main part of the Talmud). I’m supposed to do it day and night, at every free opportunity. It’s supposed to give meaning to my life and be more important than all other mitzvot (commandments) and acts of chessed (kindness); as the saying goes, when we pray, we speak to God, but when we “learn,” God speaks to us, which is supposed to be more amazing – thinking God’s thoughts and in some sense joining with Him (this is why it is seen as meaningful even if you don’t understand what you are studying or if it is aspects of Jewish law no longer practised). This may have been the case for me once. I used to study for an hour or more a day, even though I was very depressed, but that was when I wasn’t working or was working less, and it gave some kind of meaning to my life, to my illness. But nowadays I do at most twenty to thirty minutes, sometimes just five minutes, although I feel I should still study as much as I used to on days when I don’t work. However, it’s hard to care from depressive lack of energy, concentration and motivation and because it doesn’t speak to me any more. I know the Talmud says that that’s my fault (“If it is empty, it is from you”). I don’t like the atmosphere so much at parsha shiur (Torah class) either, too boisterous and masculine, but that’s a slightly different issue.
I’ve always struggled with learning halakhah (Jewish law) and Talmud, but I used to enjoy other aspects of Jewish study, Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish philosophy, but lately I don’t (to be honest, “lately” is probably for a year or more). Some of it is depression making it hard to concentrate, engage with things and enjoy things, but I was “learning” more when I was more depressed than I am now. Some of it is the feeling of rejection I have from God and from the Orthodox world. It’s hard to engage with them. Some of it is doubtless repressed guilt and wanting to isolate myself, not to mention envy of people who spend longer in study and get something out of it (e.g. the semi-retired person at my shiur who studies Talmud for something like four hours a day and loves it).
It’s not just hard to be a frum Jew without studying Torah, it’s hard to be a frum Jew without a spouse and children and that might be another reason I’m slipping. There are push and pull factors with families that keep a person frum. The push factor is that shuls are centred around families and if you have a family it’s much easier to fit in. You have something to talk to other people about after shul (school, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, grandchildren, great-grandchildren) and you can go to family-centred social events without feeling out of place (I’ve mentioned in the past that I rarely see the few other single people at my shul attend social events). The pull factor is that if you have a family, it’s harder to stop being religious, because it can lead to conflict with your spouse and because you don’t want to negatively affect your children’s marriage prospects by leaving the community, which would be seen as reflecting badly on them. I have heard that unscrupulous kiruv professionals try to get new ba’alei teshuva (people who are ethnically Jewish, but raised non-religious) married as soon as possible to ‘lock them in’ to a frum lifestyle.
I heard of frum “older” singles (“older” in inverted commas because it means over the age of about twenty-five in the frum community) get criticised for being “picky” or being patronised or given unwanted advice. I guess I’m lucky that I’m invisible enough in the frum world to mostly avoid that sort of thing, but that brings the drawback that no one is actually setting me up on dates, when being set up by a third party is the main way of dating in the frum world. I would be terrified to go to singles events and there aren’t many of them advertised anyway (apparently it’s too dangerous to let large numbers of single men and women talk to each other, even with a view to getting married). I’ve thought recently of trying internet dating sites again, but no one really responded to me on them, plus I have heard that, like job applications (something else I’m bad at), it’s a numbers game: you need to message hundreds of women to get a handful of responses and one date. There simply aren’t enough women of anything approaching my particular level of frumkeit (religiosity) in the UK for that to work (even ignoring whether I’m in a strange place between Modern and ultra-Orthodoxy).
Sometimes I feel like I just want to be held, but I’m sufficiently self-aware to question that. My first girlfriend thought I was frigid and I fear she was right. I could ask my parents for hugs, but I usually don’t, but then again that relationship is difficult at the moment in some ways. I worry that I wouldn’t cope with a relationship if I actually had one.
Trigger warning: suicide
Also, rather long and involved, if that needs a warning
Well, that was an awful, awful day. The stupid thing is that nothing particularly bad even happened. I made some stupid mistakes at work and looked like an idiot in front of my line manager and her line manager, but it wasn’t anything really terrible. But it just sent me over the edge.
I woke up feeling depressed, which was not a good start. Already by the time I was on the way to work I was feeling that “I don’t deserve to live.” I felt I just couldn’t cope and wanted to die. There was a feeling of wanting to attract attention. People look down on people who hurt themselves as a cry for attention, but that seems to ignore the fact that sometimes there just aren’t the words to say how you feel.
At work I went very slowly, not deliberately, but I was just struggling to work and to feel that I could cope. Already by lunchtime I messaged E. to say I was having a lousy day, even though I could see that nothing bad had happened. By mid-afternoon I had embarrassed myself in front of my line manager and was locked in a vicious circle of feeling useless –> making mistakes –> feeling useless –> making mistakes. I felt like an idiot, which, as my brain helpfully reminded me, is from the Greek idios meaning private or on one’s own. I have been on my own for so long that I have turned into an idiot.
Also, my brain now sends me depressive self-hating thoughts in Greek…
Floundering, I felt that I should be doing menial work instead of my actual job, but then felt that I couldn’t actually do that either. I’m not suited for menial labour. I need intellectual work, but narrowly defined and without the need for special qualifications. I don’t think this work exists, unless I can find a way to get paid for my writing.
Feeling that I was unemployable did not cheer me up, unsurprisingly, and I started thinking about hurting myself again and about suicide. I felt that I wanted to die, more than anything. I texted E. to say that I was only holding on for family and friends, but really that was a lie. I was just holding on for my parents. It pains me to say it, but I was so far gone that the thought of my friends or even my sister might not have been enough to keep me going by themselves. Things just seemed so hopeless. It seems so impossible that my career could improve or that anyone could ever love me, especially without a good career (note the way that I see a career as valuable primarily to make me more marryable).
This cycle carried on for the rest of the afternoon. It’s hard now, hours later, now I’ve calmed down, to really describe how I felt. I know I’ve tried to write these thoughts down and blog them in the past, but it’s hard, because at the time there’s a tension and an agitation and my thoughts start racing, but I think not being able to communicate the thoughts makes them worse; once I can start to write them down, I can begin to see logical flaws in them and even the act of writing them down or speaking them through with someone (if I can see a therapist or phone Samaritans) can help to calm me down. But at work I was trying to plough on regardless with my job and that just increased the pressure and the agitation.
Eventually, the day finished and I could come home. Or so I thought. I was halfway to the station when I started having OCD thoughts about not having locked up the rare books store room properly. I tried to stay with the thoughts and go home, but it was too much for me and I went back to check. By that stage I could see that I was in a state. My blood sugar was probably very low and I was thinking all kinds of self-loathing thoughts, thinking that I should stop being frum (religious) if I want to get married. I thought that if I walked back to the station straight away I would end up in a terrible state, so after checking the rare books, I went to the staff room and ate all the food I had with me (an apple and a cereal bar), after which I felt somewhat better and went home.
I was still having difficult thoughts though. I don’t use profanity as a rule, but I’m ashamed to relate some of the things I was thinking. I was still thinking that I just wanted to die, that I would rather die than recover, because recovery seemed so impossible. Because Gehennom (the ‘bad’ afterlife in Judaism, but more like Purgatory than Hell) couldn’t be worse than how I felt. Because Gehennom lasts for only one year, and because at least in Gehennom I wouldn’t be humiliated in front of other people on a regular basis. Feeling really angry with God. Just furious. I can’t even remember everything I thought, it was so terrible and strong.
And the final insult, I returned home to a letter from the taxman (or taxwoman, in this case) informing me that, no, they made a mistake previously, I do really owe them another £60 from the last tax year. I don’t mind paying the money – well, I do, but it’s not the main irritant. It’s having yet another thing to sort out because other people screwed up. It’s not like our public services are doing much for me. Maybe I ought to phone the crisis team and demand my money’s worth.
I usually blog my day when I get in to offload, but I was too worried about what I would write if I went straight into it, so I forced myself to daven Ma’ariv (say the evening prayers), eat dinner and watch TV for a bit to calm down. I felt – I still feel – exhausted and somewhat in shock. I usually avoid caffeine in the evenings, but I drank some tea because I really did feel in shock. I watched some of The Quatermass Experiment (the live 2005 remake of the 1950s science fiction serial). Part of it was set in my place of work; I think they might even have filmed some of the non-live cutaway shots in the street I was walking down two hours earlier when I was having OCD thoughts, which was a bit unnerving.
I still feel exhausted and a bit in shock and my shoulder muscles are really tense, but my mood is better. I have a bit of a ‘coming down’ feel, except I’m coming down from something bad rather than good. Coming up, maybe. At least I’m home and safe in my room with my books and DVDs. I guess for an autistic person quiet, space, familiarity and special interests (books and DVDs) are all important (perhaps even all-important). I bought some chocolate (minstrels, one of my favourites) on the way home because I felt I needed to have some kind of reward for getting through the day in one piece, even if it won’t be help me lose weight.
When I’d calmed down a bit, I recalled the first time I was suicidal, in fact when I nearly took an overdose, when I was in my third year at Oxford. I sat down to take an overdose, but at the last instant changed my mind and phoned someone (a friend who wasn’t talking to me because she couldn’t cope with my being suicidal, but that’s another story). About a week later I casually mentioned this to the university counselling service counsellor I was seeing and she was astonished that I had neglected to mention this suicide attempt and that I didn’t think it was worth telling her. She asked me what my parents would think if I killed myself and I said they would be upset; she said they would be devastated.
I wonder now, over fifteen years on, whether this was autism, not the suicidality, but not thinking it was important enough to mention to my counsellor and only being able to express my parents’ grief in a partial and limited way. It’s like the way I downplayed my sister’s grief and my friends’ grief if I were to kill myself. It’s hard for me to conceptualise it and I don’t know how much is self-loathing (no one cares about me) and how much is autistic ‘mindblindness’ (not being able to imagine how other people feel generally).
This morning, while my thought processes were getting out of control, I thought that knowing that I’m probably autistic, I need to find adaptive solutions to my problems, accepting the reality of autism and probably also of some kind of permanent level of depression, at least in the background, rather than technical ‘tweaks’ of the kind I have been trying to make for years. The tweaks were sometimes successful (the occupational therapist I used to see probably made more positive changes to my life than anyone), but I really need to change the way I live to adapt to the reality of my situation, I just don’t know how. It’s possible – probable, even – that adaptive changes have been suggested by therapists and psychiatrists before now, but that I couldn’t implement them, perhaps partly because I hadn’t been diagnosed as autistic (technically I still haven’t been diagnosed, of course).
I don’t know what changes I could make, though. I’m already more or less accepting not going to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (Saturday) mornings without trying to guilt-trip myself, which may or may not be a good thing; today I was wondering if I would make it to shul for the morning Megillah reading on Purim next week or if I just feel too overwhelmed to do that too. It seems to be easy to feel that I can’t do things with autism rather than that I can do things. Maybe I should be accepting that I can make it to shul. Should I just accept that I will never have a job I feel comfortable in, that I will never get married? It’s hard to know what is realistic, much too easy to try to do too much or too little.
When the depression was feeling bad earlier I wondered if I would find it easier to get married if I wasn’t frum. I couldn’t give up Shabbat and kashrut, but anything else would seem like fiddling at the margins. Should I be looking for non-frum women who are willing to compromise (as E. was)? I’m afraid of the tensions that might result and what sort of compromise I would have to make in return. But a non-frum woman would not care about my not davening with a minyan (community) or learning (studying Torah/Talmud) enough. I would date a frum woman with ‘issues’ although I would be nervous of how our issues would combine, particularly if she had mental health issues. However, a lot of ‘issues’ in the frum world are not things that I would consider issues at all (ba’alat teshuva or geyoret, parents divorced, siblings stopped being frum etc.) and I would be happy to date such a person.
On the other hand, lately I’ve felt my frumkeit slipping in little ways. Nothing big. I still believe in God (even if I’m angry with Him some of the time), keep kosher, keep Shabbat and so on. But I don’t beat myself up so much for missing davening or shul or Torah study and it’s getting harder and harder to avoid cultural stuff (books, TV, films, music) that feels treif and that I would previously have avoided. I don’t know where this is going though.
Trigger warning: suicide
Feeling incredibly depressed today. I got to bed really late last night. I’m not sure when exactly. I wasn’t surprised, given how much I slept during the day. Somehow I woke up when my alarm went off at 10.00am and knew I wouldn’t get back to sleep (I don’t know why this doesn’t happen to me on Shabbat), so I got up, ate breakfast, glanced at the newspaper, felt depressed. Or more depressed, as I was already feeling depressed.
I feel alone, but I’m supposed to see my sister and brother-in-law today and I want to cancel because I can’t face socialising. I suppose I felt that my sister was pushing me to see her and I wasn’t quite sure why, except that she always sees me when our parents are away. It feels a bit like she’s checking I’m still alive.
I went back to bed after breakfast. Buried myself under the duvet. Try to shut out the world, but it’s still there. No matter how vividly I try to imagine someone who loves me, she doesn’t exist. She can’t exist, I suspect. I just want someone to hold me and tell me I’m OK. I’m such a screw up.
Just feeling awful today. My parents are back tonight (they land about 1.00am so I probably won’t see them until tomorrow). I’m not sure if that’s good or bad or both or neither.
I tried a bit to use CBT to challenge my thoughts, but it’s hard, partly because they (the thoughts) started as something inchoate at the moment, emotions and impressions rather than clear thoughts (I know CBT therapists would say that can’t happen, but I often wake up feeling depressed). Trying to accept that things can get better. Five years ago, I had just finished my MA, which took three and a half years rather than the single year it should have taken. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be able to work, but after a month or two of ‘recovering’ (sitting around feeling depressed), I started volunteering at a library again, turned that into a paid part-time job within a year (just), then went on to other jobs, which is all positive so maybe in another five years I could be somewhere else, much more positive than where I am now… but at the same time, I’ve never had a full-time job, most of my jobs have left me feeling useless and a burden on society and I’ve only had one real relationship since then (one and a half, maybe) and I can’t imagine any of this changing. I’ve never been well enough to work full-time or rarely felt that I’m doing good work in a job. Everything just seems so hopeless, I can see myself being in exactly the same situation in five years time, struggling through part-time, short-term jobs, depending financially on my parents, no romantic relationships, loneliness, self-loathing and depression.
I want to love and be loved so much, and it’s just been impossible for me for so much of my life. I made a couple of good friends, which is something. I can see that things have got better, or at least different, in some respects, but IF my life is improving (and I’m not sure that it is), it’s moving slowly. Geologically slowly. I can’t see it getting good enough any time soon, and probably not in time for me to ever have children.
I feel frail and mortal. I’m not suicidal, but I just wish I wasn’t here. I wish I’d never been born. I wonder if I should try to go back to my psychodynamic therapist, as I don’t think CBT on the NHS is likely to happen any time soon and I’ve got sceptical again about whether CBT is able to help me; I can’t ‘prove’ to myself that my problems are just from thinking about things “wrongly” when my problems are objectively real and hard to tackle. I have autism. I have few friends. I did not go to yeshiva, which is an important part of my religious community. These are objective facts. I suppose a CBT therapist would say that what matters is the interpretation I put on them, that I catastrophise my autism when some autistic people live happy lives, I devalue my existing friends and say they can’t satisfy my emotional needs and I catastrophise my yeshiva-non-attendance when there are plenty of ba’alei teshuva (Jews who became religious late in life) who didn’t go and thrive in the community.
I’m worried about seeing my sister and brother-in-law later. I don’t feel able to ‘people’ today. I want to work on my books. I feel I should (that word again) be applying for jobs, and cooking dinner, and doing chores. I’m not sure why she wants to see me, intellectually I can see she’s probably worried about me, but I can’t feel that.
I feel agitated and angry and despairing and I’m not good at reading people when I feel like that. I can’t intuit that anyone cares about me, I can only know it intellectually. Maybe that’s why I feel so alone, because it doesn’t feel like anyone cares about me, it’s just something I know, like the Ten Commandments or lists of Doctor Who actors and stories. Maybe that’s why I’m so desperate to be held, to make love, because maybe then I will feel loved instead of just knowing it.
Maybe that’s why I don’t feel like God loves me.
For reasons I can’t say here, I feel that I was never good enough for my ex-girlfriends, that I was a rebound relationship or someone to go out with because there was no one better. That’s probably also partly paranoia, but also partly rooted in things that were said or done to me over the years. It just reinforces the feeling I’ve had for a while that only someone who was previously in really bad, abusive relationships would want to be with me, because only if someone was really hurtful would I seem better in comparison. That I can only be second choice. That I can only be with someone who is ‘settling’ for me.
So despairing. Last night and today watched World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls, which I consider Peter Capaldi’s last ‘real’ Doctor Who story (I tagged on the last five minutes of Twice Upon a Time, which I otherwise can’t stand). I’ve mentioned that my grip on reality is not the always strongest, sometimes, particularly when feeling bad, I escape into fantasy, but often masochistic, self-hurting fantasy. Imagining myself in the ‘deaths’ of all the Doctors. Imagining dying and then turning into someone else, someone alive and potent and different and not me. Better than me. Anyone else would be better than me.
I want to die, but I haven’t got the guts. I’m living for other people. I’m living because I don’t want to upset my parents, and maybe my sister and friends, and because I’m scared of pain and hurting myself permanently, but non-fatally. I don’t think good things will ever happen to me and I probably don’t believe that they should.
I finished the second draft of my Doctor Who book. Which is good. But I’m not going to have the time to do much else today, which is a pain, not least because of going out to eat.
I also went for a brisk half-hour walk. I feel calmer, probably because I tired myself out (I have little stamina these days), but still struggling with thoughts and fantasies. Apparently women with high-functioning autism are less likely to have special interests in mechanical objects (e.g. trains) and more likely to immerse themselves in fantasy worlds and to have trouble distinguishing fantasy and reality. In this, as in some other things, I come across more like an autistic woman than a typical autistic man. I fear that my grip on reality is not strong and one day I will flip over into psychosis (which I think is also more common in autistic people, although I’m not sure about that). My fantasy life is vivid, but unimaginative and alternates between narcissism and masochism associated with my suicidal thoughts, although working out which triggers which is a chicken and egg situation.
(A stupid, pointless title, but I’m feeling awful.)
Last night after I blogged my mood went down quite rapidly. I felt like I had been going flat out all week with networking workshop, Jewish Book Week, work two consecutive days and my parents away. I just fell back into despair and lethargy and crawled into bed at midnight hoping I would wake feeling better or at least more alert.
However, I had strange dreams in the night. First I was on the Tube and ended up helping a doctor who was helping a pregnant woman who I thought was a nun, but looked, in retrospect, like she was wearing a hijab. I was aware that she had cut herself off from her community by getting pregnant, but I felt sorry for her. I was worried about not getting home in time for Shabbat (the Sabbath), but was assured by the doctor that it didn’t start until 7.30pm (in reality, that won’t happen until the clocks go forward). Then things shifted and I was in some sort of classroom (although I think I and the friends/other people with me were all adults). A huge and intimidating man, about twice my height, stocky and with a long, thick beard was trying to test me on reading Hebrew aloud; I stumbled on this, but couldn’t convince him that this was due to social anxiety stopping me reading confidently rather than poor Hebrew literacy. We started to daven (pray) the Friday evening service, but the intimidating teacher told us to skip Kabbalat Shabbat as it was too late. At which point I woke up, I think.
I am not entirely sure what any of this means, although I can see that it was an anxiety dream (which may be why my sleep was not restful) with some obvious allusions: the pregnant “Muslim nun” rejected by her community represents my fears of being rejected by the frum (religious) world for being too worldly, but also by Doctor Who fandom for being too religious (she was still a nun even after presumably breaking her vow of chastity); more prosaically, the motif of being late for Shabbat reflects my fears that I’ll run late tomorrow getting ready for Shabbat by myself, plus I do still get occasional anxiety dreams about breaking Shabbat even though I’ve been shomer Shabbat, at least at a basic level, for half my life.
It was fortunate that I woke up when I did, as I had slept for eleven hours, dramatically oversleeping and having to rush out and skip both shaving and davening (praying) to get to my psychiatrist appointment on time, both of which I hate missing. The radio was on in the waiting room and I found it irritating. I don’t know why all NHS and social services waiting rooms seem to have TV or radio on these days. I find it really annoying and it’s not terribly autistic-friendly. It was a new psychiatrist as the one I saw last time is ill. The appointment was OK, but I felt that I was just a statistic on the waiting list being processed. She didn’t ask about my case history or the causes of my problems and didn’t seem terribly aware that I’ve been depressed without cure for most of the last sixteen years or more. Maybe she didn’t know. I didn’t say anything about autism, because the last psychiatrist was dismissive of it, saying I’d already been assessed and told I was not autistic. My GP has sent my autism referral through and I’m on the (very long) waiting list, so there didn’t seem any point talking to this psychiatrist about it at this stage, although I did get vaguely upset when she said that social contact will get easier the more I practise it. For a neurotypical person, maybe, not for someone whose brain isn’t wired to understand people. The psychiatrist was also a bit blasé about my work issues, saying I would find part-time work easily. I didn’t ask for a medication change, as the clomipramine seems to work a bit, sometimes, even though it still leaves me quite depressed and has led to a lot of weight gain. I don’t think it’s particularly sensible to mess around with medication while I’m working if I can help it anyway. I have another appointment for three months time, so I’ll see what happens and maybe ask to change things then.
In the afternoon I did not do much, but was busy with my job application spreadsheet, which I keep up to date, even though I have not actually applied for anything for weeks and have missed a lot of deadlines, alongside a few other chores. I was hoping to work on one or both of my books too, but I didn’t get the chance again. I’m so busy just surviving from day to day that I don’t have time for anything more future-orientated, whether writing books or job hunting. I didn’t actually achieve much today, but I didn’t really relax and get the rest I need either. Maybe I will be able to rest over Shabbat, but who knows?
Looking at job adverts again today brings back my work worries. I know I’m over-qualified for my job, which is not too difficult, and although there are harder elements (choosing appropriate material for exhibitions is difficult but interesting, although it would help if I knew the collection better, but my background in history has been very useful here and won me praise from my line manager). But the whole reason I like my job is because it’s not pushing me too hard right now, when I am struggling with self-esteem and energy and motivation issues as well as confusion about whether I’m autistic and how I should live my life if I am, as well as how to manage my mental health (with or without autism). I don’t know what to do.
The work worries bleed into relationship worries, because I don’t think anyone will date me until I’m working much closer to full-time. I know that I could still get married at some point, but it seems a long way off, which in turn makes having children (which I really want to do and think about a lot) less likely. But it’s the loneliness that is so hard, and difficult to survive. It’s probably loneliness more than anything that has triggered my suicidal times, even if it gets mixed up with despair and hard to isolate. I don’t know how to survive the ten or twenty (or thirty or forty) years that I might have to wait until I’m functional enough to look for love and to meet someone who can see past my considerable dysfunctionality and all the baggage and drawbacks I come with.
I just wish I had people to talk to who understood me. It’s been hard to talk to my parents lately, which is probably my fault. I get irritable and sarcastic when I’m depressed, not to mention focused on catastrophising. But my parents don’t entirely understand depression or autism entirely, although their understanding is greater than some people’s. That’s not their fault, but it makes it hard.
I have friends who understand depression and autism and care about me, but they don’t live locally and I can only communicate via text and email, which is better than nothing, but also lacks something somehow, even to a socially anxious and avoidant person like me. My local friends don’t really know so much about my issues, for various reasons, again, largely my fault.
I just wish there was someone in my life who cared about me and understood me and I could see regularly (and feel comfortable seeing regularly). I know I depend too much on other people for my self-esteem, but I don’t know how to change that and I get annoyed by people who aren’t lonely telling me I have to love myself before anyone else can love me. I could just as easily state that other people have to show me I’m worthy of love before I can love myself, because I don’t see myself as worthy.
On a related note, my sister phoned tonight to see how I’m getting on without my parents. I struggled a bit to deal with the call. I find that usually happens when she phones me. I thought it was because she usually interrupts dinner/Doctor Who, but I wonder if it’s an autistic predictability thing and I would cope better if she told me in advance that she was planning to phone at a particular time on a particular day. Still, I think she takes better care of me than I would be able to do if our roles were reversed. Maybe I couldn’t cope with someone in my life who cared about me and understood me.
About 8pm, I was watching Doctor Who and noticed that I was crying. I thought it was odd, as I didn’t consciously feel depressed. Then about twenty minutes later, I realised I was depressed, painfully depressed and sad. It’s strange how out of touch I am with my emotions.
I read a davar Torah (Torah insight) sent out by my shul (synagogue) for Rosh Chodesh Adar II (New Moon) upset me. I felt I was being attacked and to some extent deserved to be attacked. I don’t really know what ‘spirituality’ or ‘Jewish spirituality’ means any more, if I ever did. I try to study some Torah every day and pray at least a bit of the three daily prayer services (although I often miss Shacharit on non-work days like today). I want to be a good Jew, but I don’t really connect with HaShem (God) or Torah much these days emotionally. I certainly can’t find “authentic spiritual joy” for Purim. It’s just a struggle to get through Purim in one piece. I want to be a good Jew, but it’s hard enough trying to perform the mitzvot (commandments) in my situation without worrying about kavannah (mindfulness), spirituality, meaning or connection to HaShem.
Then shiur (religious class) tonight was about genuine joy being connecting to HaShem via Torah, but we get distracted by false pleasures. This might reinforce my feeling that I’m depressed because I’m a bad person and God hates me, which I hadn’t felt quite so much recently. I think I might have missed the point of the shiur, though, or wilfully misinterpreted it to make myself feel bad.
Whether I misinterpreted things or not, I feel that I’m a bad person and a bad Jew who doesn’t connect with HaShem through davening, mitzvot and especially not through Torah and who is wasting his life on meaningless transitory pleasures like Doctor Who and writing (despite this I am still thinking of cosplaying (dressing up as a fictional character) the fourth Doctor for Purim, but I might not have the guts to do it).
So much of Jewish religiosity is tied up with community, which is problematic for me because of social anxiety and low self-esteem (it’s feeling that people would reject me if they knew the real me that keeps me away more than actual experience of rejection), and with family, which is difficult for me because my parents don’t connect with Judaism in the same way as me and because when Jews say “family” they primarily mean spouse and children (maybe most non-Jews think like that too).
The silly thing is that I really believe intellectually, I just can’t connect emotionally with my religion, perhaps through depression (or autism?).
I can’t believe anyone reads this rubbish I write. I shouldn’t write it, but I need to vent and here you go. I suppose it’s better than hurting myself, at least assuming it isn’t just a very clever and complicated way of hurting myself, which might in fact be the case.
I was very depressed on the way in to work today. I was too depressed to do my usual Torah study on the train. I had thoughts like “I can’t do this. I can’t go into work. I just want a normal life. I just want someone to share my life with. I want to die. I’m useless and weak.” Just feeling that my life is a mess and that I can’t sort it out. I was worried by how quickly my thoughts go from “I feel depressed” to “I want to die,” which may be an autistic and/or alexithymic inability to really distinguish between emotional states except for the most extreme.
It was a boring day at work. I felt that I made some mistakes, although my line manager seemed supportive. She also let me change my workdays so that I can see the psychiatrist after being messed around by the NHS (not entirely their fault, but it’s happened too many times for me to feel forgiving). But a lot of the time I was doing fairly boring, menial work which let my mind wander, which is never good.
I try not to be political here, but I was thinking a lot about antisemitism today. The catalyst was the seven MPs who left the Labour Party yesterday. The media and social media have mostly focused on the Brexit aspect, but I was glad that they publicly called out Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party on the antisemitism that has consumed the party in the last few years. There has been an antisemitic element on the hard-left long before Israel (the usual “excuse” for left-wing antisemitism) was created, back through the antisemitic oppression of the USSR to the origins of the organised left in the nineteenth century, the assumption that ‘capitalist’ and ‘Jew’ are synonyms and if there is a shadowy group of people controlling the world’s economies, they are Jewish as well as rich and powerful (see the antisemitic mural Corbyn supported on Facebook), but it has only received a fraction of the coverage that the antisemitism of the far-right receives, on both a popular and academic level. So far as I can tell, most historians writing academically about the history of far-left antisemitism are Jewish, which is not the case with people writing about Nazi antisemitism.
It was difficult to have all these thoughts (and more) in my head all day, although to be honest, there are probably few days when I don’t think about antisemitism at all and this has been the case for nearly twenty years. I’m constantly obsessing and worrying about it, less about whether I will be attacked or have to leave the country and more what Jews as a group can do when we are defamed and attacked. How we can stop people hating us. The answer, of course, is that we can’t. We can be the best people we can possibly be, but even that won’t stop people hating us. The problem lies with them, not us. It was thinking that the problem lies with us that led to unprecedented numbers of Jews abandoning Jewish life in the last two hundred years as a burden or a curse.
Whenever I hear or think about Corbyn and his coterie, I feel angry, anxious and depressed at once, but when Jews voice our fears of growing antisemitism (antisemitic attacks in the UK reached a new high in every one of the last three years) we are smeared as “racists” and “Trumpers” and, yes, part of a shadowy international Zionist conspiracy (one Labour MP and Corbyn ally is claiming the seven breakaway MPs are funded by the Israeli government…), rather than receiving the support that progressives usually give to persecuted minority groups who try to speak out against hatred and abuse. Unfortunately, these thoughts get triggered in my head a lot and it is likely to get worse before it gets better.
Then, after writing this, I went downstairs and my Dad told me about nearly one hundred Jewish graves desecrated in France. This time it was the far-right. It’s unbelievable. Struggling with low self-esteem, I’m supposed to dismiss thoughts that everyone hates me as irrational, but since I was a young child, I’ve been aware that, as a publicly-identifying Jew, lots of people hate me for “reasons” that have nothing to do with anything I’ve ever said or done. That’s hard to cope with even if you aren’t suffering from mental illness.
The thought I hold on to is that I honestly believe that most British people are not antisemitic (which might not be the case in some other countries). They may be ignorant, but I think most Brits have a ‘live and let live’ attitude. It’s just three groups of extremists who are very antisemitic: the far-right, the far-left and the Islamists (not all Muslims). They basically blame the Jews for all the troubles of the world.
This is one of the posts I’ve been most scared to write. I’ve confessed to some pretty ‘out there’ mental health experiences here and elsewhere on the web (religious OCD; suicidal ideation; fear of sex, but obsession with it), but I’m scared how people will react to this. Will I lose readers? Will anyone start a fight? Sadly, I’ve had to deal with antisemites many times before, both online (which is upsetting) and in the real world (which is a thousand times scarier). But I had to speak my truth.
I feel exhausted and frail now. It’s probably not so much the effort of writing this post as the result of work today, which was tiring, even if I was glad just to get through it and get a reasonable amount done.
I am OK. I know I was talking about feeling suicidal at the end of my last post. I didn’t do anything silly. I texted a friend and watched Doctor Who until I felt a bit better. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I had calmed down a bit that I realised that I should have phoned Samaritans to offload. Unfortunately, I often don’t think to do that until after the event, like today. Then it seemed that it would just rake up bad thoughts by repeating everything that happened on the phone to Samaritans after I had calmed down.
The trouble is, there are ongoing issues in my life that I can’t easily resolve. Obviously my career and my desire for an autism diagnosis and fear that I won’t get one can’t be solved quickly and easily, but there are other things that I feel that I can’t talk about here that are never going to go away. I spent years in therapy trying to come to terms with them, without success. I have always been told that if you want to fix a relationship, you can only fix your side; you can hope that your changes will cause the other person to change, but ultimately you have to accept the other person’s actions or walk away. I don’t feel that I should walk away from the difficult relationships in my life, but I also have tried to change things and have got sucked down into the black hole of dependency again because of depression and autism. The only real solution (becoming independent and building a new life) is nixed by the depression and autism stopping me working anything approaching full time and stopping me from finding even finding a new job easily.
I don’t know what the solution is to this. It’s frightening to realise that my inner emotional regulation thermostat goes almost immediately from frozen (too depressed to do anything) to scorching (self-harm and suicidal thoughts) without any ‘comfortable’ range. (I’m not sure how good a metaphor that is, but you get the idea as suicidality isn’t the opposite of depression, far from it, but you get the idea.) I don’t really have any resilience to even minor troubles (and today’s problems were fairly minor, objectively).
I’m calmer now, but still somewhat tense and worried about a lot of things: asking for rearranged hours at work for my psychiatrist appointment and Purim; finding a job after March; finding some kind of meaningful way to resolve the problems I can’t talk about, which sadly seem tied up in a way, at least emotionally, with my inability to forge close friendships and a romantic relationship. I feel the post-trauma paralysis, not wanting or being able to really do anything, but I need to get ready for work tomorrow, somehow, and to shower and go to bed.
Thanks for reading. It helps me understand myself to write things down (there was a lot in the last post that I didn’t really understand until I wrote it down) and I can only write things down if I think that someone might read it (don’t ask me why). I would say that I hope other people find this meaningful, but I wouldn’t wish what I’m experiencing on anyone else.
(And, yes, again the thought of pets comes to my mind as a method of emotional regulation, but, again, I feel that my Mum doesn’t really want me to have them and I don’t have the courage to go against that.)
I feel exhausted today. Also, I’m quoting Hamlet for my title again, so I must be depressed. I’m not sure why. The meeting with the matchmaker yesterday was stressful, but I thought I had got over it. I did some work on my books (the Doctor Who one and the mental health one) yesterday evening which I usually find restoring, although I procrastinated quite a bit over the mental health one, which might indicate that I should have just gone to bed. Some of it was probably realising that the mental health book isn’t going to be a case of just stitching together old blog posts; it’s probably going to require significant new material. Which is OK, aside from my usual lack of confidence in my own abilities, it just means it’s a bigger undertaking than I thought/hoped it might be.
Still, I slept for about nine hours and didn’t wake up too late today, but somehow I just can’t get going or focus today. Some of it is that I feel a bit physically ill as if I’m coming down with a cold (although I spend a lot of time feeling like that without ever actually having a cold. It’s true that depression can mimic the ‘coming down with something’ feeling indefinitely). But I think the main issue is that I have some anxiety about rearranging work days for the moved psychiatrist appointment and for Purim. If I give in, I’ll start to have the annual anxiety about Purim and Pesach too (tonight is Purim Katan, which means a month to Purim and two months and a day to Pesach, yikes – given how much winter depresses me, I think I’d welcome spring a lot more if it didn’t mean getting through Purim and Pesach again).
Meanwhile, I need to start serious job hunting again, as my contract expires in six weeks. My sister told me that statistically men will apply for jobs that they only meet 60% of the criteria for, whereas most women will only apply if they meet 100% of the criteria. I seem to be statistically female here, as I do the same thing. I also struggle to apply for jobs where I would have to ask to work different hours, either because they want someone who will work on Saturdays or because I want to work part-time and they want someone full-time. My parents and my sister say that I don’t lose anything by applying, but I guess I feel that I’m being ‘difficult’ again. I’m not convinced that the perfect job, or anything approaching it, is actually out there, at least not for me. I have so many, um, issues at the moment (need to work part-time, need to be in an autism-friendly environment, need to be able to take Shabbat and Yom Tov off, don’t cope well with pressure, and some of my professional work skills have gone rather rusty) that I struggle to imagine any employer wanting me. Or me wanting any of the jobs: of the three job descriptions I was just looking at, one was in a law firm’s library (boring) and required working late on Fridays, into Shabbat, as well as a host of law library experience that I simply don’t have; one was so strangely worded that I’m not entirely sure what the job involves except that it, too, requires working on Friday nights and Saturdays; and the third requires a lot of precise skills for a short-term job and turned out to have been filled despite the job advert still being up.
Just looking at the job description and desired attributes on adverts makes me feel anxious and useless; I can’t really imagine being able to do anything. My cataloguing skills have gone very rusty through disuse, as my job interview a few months ago showed. I don’t keep up with CPD; it’s an effort just to work part-time, let alone to do unpaid “work” in my free time. I quiver at the thought being required to show “problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, teamwork, and ability to deliver work under pressure” and the like. Strangely, I do actually seem to interview well, surprisingly given my autism and social anxiety, which is possibly an unexpected extra benefit of the Oxbridge interview training my school provided (it was a state school, but had a good record of getting students to Oxbridge, at least for a comprehensive school). Half the time I don’t even understand what a job description wants, with silly bureaucratic-ese like “You will enjoy working to effect positive change” (I wanted a job where I could effect negative change, maybe in the oil industry or local government). I wish they could write in plain English (maybe this is autism again).
You might tell from all this that I’m still lacking in self-esteem, with no sign of the CBT to help with it that I’ve been on the waiting list for since early December. I struggle to think of anything I can do well. I’m told I can write quite well, but I struggle to believe it, or to find a way of earning a living through it. Some of my friends say I’m a good friend, but one can’t really live off that (the world would probably be a better place if we could).
The World of an Autistic, Dyslexic, with Depression and Spinal Problems wrote recently about the need to have something to look forward to. I’m struggling with that at the moment. I mentioned about my growing anxieties at this time of year. Plus so many of the things in my life at the moment I’m just trying to “get through”. Watching Doctor Who, which is usually one of my favourite things, is a chore at the moment as I’m just doing it for research for my book without necessarily wanting to watch the episodes for themselves; I really want to just get it over with, so I can focus on redrafting, and watch other things on TV. Likewise, reading The Dispossessed is just something I’m trying to do, even though I can see it’s a good novel; it’s just taken me too long and I’ve lost track of the characters, not helped by everyone having made-up science fiction names. There’s some hopefully-good-but-stressful things later in the year, which inspire hope and anxiety in equal measure, but nothing purely good or in the short to medium term.
Another classic autistic moment today when my Dad said that I could withdraw cash in the post office. I thought he meant there was a cashpoint in there, but he meant for me to go to the counter with my debit card and withdraw that way. I flatly refused to do this because I got so confused and panicked (I’m ashamed to say) until my Dad told me what to say. Then there was another autistic moment as my Dad asked the attendant if it was true that the branch was being shut down soon; the actual meaningful part of the conversation lasted just a few seconds, but they carried on talking about the evils of management for a couple more minutes even though no new information was added and I wasn’t entirely sure they were really listening to each other. This is neurotypical conversing and I can’t do it, and it’s really hard to network or make friends not being able to do it.
Really upset. I can’t explain why. I’m not sure how much of that is depression (I’m too depressed to introspect and speak) and how much is autism (I don’t understand my emotions and can’t articulate them, at least not in person). I spent a while trying to write a job application for a job I probably am not qualified for and definitely could not accept without negotiating different terms (unlikely to happen) because it is full-time and requires working evenings and Saturdays. After a while, I thought I might be better off looking at the Remploy website and seeing what help they could offer me. They have online advisors, but I don’t know what I want to ask. My mind froze up and I was catastrophising and assuming nothing can help me. I tried to ask my parents for help, but it all went horribly wrong for reasons I don’t understand, as it often does, and ended up with Mum apparently accusing me of wanting to do no work for the next year before I get an autism diagnosis when I just meant that legally I can’t legally claim support for autism yet, only depression. I worry that I’m in the wrong career, but I don’t know who I can talk to about finding a more autism-friendly career or about improving my work skills and CPD.
I can write this down; why can’t I say it? Is it autism again? Or what? I guess I want people to make choices for me, because I find decisions so hard. That is autism. My parents are going to a workshop for families of people with autism on Wednesday; I hope they might understand me better afterwards.
The other scary thing is that I go really quickly from “I have a problem” to “I want to kill myself.” Just now having job difficulties made me feel depressed, and then when my Mum accused me of not wanting to work, I ran off to my room and just wanted to kill myself. I have heard that this is a common autistic problem too, a lack of nuance in emotional responses, so you go from nothing to the most extreme reaction really quickly.
In Iyov (Job), Iyov has a repeated fantasy of suing God in a court of law, feeling if only he could do this, he would be vindicated as suffering unfairly. I wonder if wanting to write my mental health book isn’t just an attempt at bring the world to account for being beastly to me. That doesn’t reflect well on me, but more to the point, it isn’t going to happen. There isn’t going to be a day when my family, friends, colleagues, line managers and peers apologise to me, even if they have really hurt me unfairly.
Today I crashed.
I suppose it started yesterday, when I got into a very agitated state in the evening when my parents were out. I went to bed trying to count the number of people I thought would be upset if I killed myself, which was not an encouraging sign although it was good that I did at least acknowledge that some people would be upset, whereas in the past I might have assumed that no one would really care.
I woke up feeling much the same this morning. I wanted to try positive self-affirmations again (don’t ask me why, as they haven’t worked in the past), but for every time I can tell myself I’m a good person, I tell myself several hundred times more that I’m a wicked, defective freak.
At work I felt terrible, really despairing and sure I couldn’t do my work properly. I felt like I was going to fall asleep and had a powerful urge to hurt myself, because I felt so unable to cope. I struggled to work because I was thinking about death so much, fantasising about overdosing and calling myself a defective freak who can’t do anything right. I was feeling that I hate myself so much that there are no words for it and that I don’t hate anyone else this much, not even those who made me like this.
I somehow got through the morning, but was not restored very much by lunch. I’m struggling more than I expected to with a forty-five minute lunch and wonder if I should ask to switch to one hour lunches and leave at 5.15pm instead of 5.00pm. It didn’t help that there were two people in the staff room watching different programmes on their phones without headphones, which I felt was rude and antisocial.
Things came to a head when I went to prepare some books in the book store and virtually had a panic attack, terrified that I was going to damage one of the rare books. I got into a complete state and phoned my Mum to ask what she felt I should do as I wasn’t being particularly rational. She said to come home as I sounded too agitated to do any work.
I obviously needed to tell my line manager that I was not well, but I decided to tell her about the depression in some detail. She was really supportive and said I should think about whether there are any changes I could make at work that would help me. She also said that she’s really pleased with my work so far and that I’ve picked up a lot in a very short space of time; also that there isn’t much that I can do disastrously wrong in my job and that I’m very careful with the rare books. I mentioned going too slowly in previous jobs because of my fear of mistakes and she didn’t think that that would be an issue here. She was so supportive I went for broke and mentioned the autism as well. I’m not quite sure why I did that, but it seemed appropriate to mention it as context and it turns out just as well that I did as she said she had already wondered if I’m on the spectrum (it seems that everyone thinks I’m autistic except the psychiatrists making the assessment…).
On the way home I had a telephone appointment with the duty GP at my doctor’s surgery. It was slightly awkward as I had a couple of ‘autistic misunderstanding’ moments, which I guess is not surprising when I’m agitated and taking a serious private call in the street. He felt that I should see my regular doctor, but unfortunately the regular doctor is off tomorrow, so I’m booked in for Thursday morning, which will make me late for work. I did get a bit annoyed that he said that, if I’m suicidal, I should phone the crisis team, not the surgery. I’ve done this in the past, only for the crisis team to say if I’m not actually about to try to kill myself, I should go to the GP. Seriously, when I phoned the crisis team to report suicidal thoughts within twenty-four hours, I was told only to phone if I was actually having them at that moment. As I know the GP will speak to me if I’m in crisis, even if he says I should phone the crisis team, whereas I know the crisis team will not speak to me, it’s a bit of a no-brainer as to which one I phone, regardless of what the proper protocol is supposed to be. (More NHS fun and games.)
It was awkward telling my parents all this. I suppose there isn’t an easy way to tell anyone you’re having suicidal thoughts. My Mum got very emotional when I told her; perhaps because of this, I couldn’t tell my Dad that at all, just saying I was having “difficult” thoughts. It’s awkward because most people don’t realise that (in my case, at any rate) there are a spectrum of thoughts that I would describe as “suicidal” from suicidal ideation (thinking or fantasising about suicide and dying) to vaguely noting how you could kill yourself to actively working out how you would kill yourself. I don’t always find it easy to tell the difference between them, to be honest, so maybe I shouldn’t expect others to do so.
Mum burst into tears when I spoke to her. Dad… I just struggle to talk to Dad at all these days. We literally don’t speak each other’s language any more and I don’t know why. His speech has become more garrulous and rambling, full of unnecessary detail, diversions and repetitions as well malapropisms and vague pronoun use (using pronouns without making it clear what objects they refer to) which are not easy for my autistic brain to understand. He, on the other hand, has always found my vocabulary difficult to understand and I probably do some of the things I complain about him doing, like not sticking to the point or throwing in unnecessary detail. Things are not helped by the fact that I think that both my parents are beginning to go a bit deaf and I can’t always tell if they’ve not heard something, heard it and are processing it or are just choosing to ignore it. My Dad and I seem to bicker a lot more than we used to because of this and I’m not sure why it’s happened. It upsets me, not least because I think it’s at least in part my fault, but I don’t know what I can do about it, especially as I can’t seem to explain to them about autistic thought patterns and how difficult Dad can be for me to understand. Any suggestions would be welcome.
So that was my day. I’m still feeling elements of post-trauma shock. I know it sounds silly to say ‘trauma,’ but I guess that was how I felt telling my line manager about my issues. I’m still feeling rather shaky and in shock. I’m about to watch some Doctor Who for distraction and to make progress with the research for my book, which hopefully will make me feel a bit better.
There was more to say after my second post yesterday, but I decided not to inflict a third post on you in one day. I missed my meeting at shul (synagogue) because I felt too depressed. I was having a lot of suicidal ideation and although I didn’t think I was seriously at risk of hurting myself, I just couldn’t face going to a meeting and pretending to be normal and interested for three hours. I hope this decision doesn’t come back to haunt me. I phoned the Samaritans helpline, essentially as a the price I made myself pay for not going to the meeting, but once I got through to someone, I realised that I didn’t actually know what I wanted to say and found the ‘encouraging’ noises the volunteer was making really off-putting and after seven minutes I apologised and quickly hung up. I felt bad about that, but I wasn’t sure what else I could do.
At well-being class today we were speaking about long-term goals in love, work, play and exercise. I felt lazy, because I probably play too much (admittedly it’s more procrastination than play) and I was vaguely upset that religious goals were not on there because they are really important to me (or were, before I lost all motivation to be a good Jew) and obviously are not important to most other people. But I was really stuck on work and love. I know my long-term work goal is to work full-time, or nearly, and permanently rather than on short-term contracts. But I don’t know what short-term goals to set to work to that. I asked the facilitators for help, but the stuff they said (join agencies, sign up for job alerts) were mostly stuff I’m already doing without success, although I did agree to do an online personality test to see if I’m in the right career.
As for love, I know my long-term goal is to get married, but I’ve no idea how to get there and I suspect it is not a feasible goal while I’m this depressed and on such a low income. I probably should have asked for help here too, but I couldn’t face explaining about frum dating (dating for marriage only; shadchans (matchmakers); almost all events in my community being gender-segregated; non-gender-segregated events at Modern Orthodox places mostly attracting an older crowd; why I don’t think going to young professionals kiruv events to try to meet women my age who might be interested in becoming more religious is a particularly good idea (it’s depressing that, writing this, I can see it is better than nothing, painful as it would doubtless be); etc.).
I can’t face going to a shadchan on my current income level and with my current levels of depression, because I think I would get thrown out, but I have zero chance of meeting someone frum without meeting a shadchan, so I think the realistic thing is to learn to live without love, somehow. I know my parents can’t meet my emotional needs, partly because of personality differences and autism/neurotypical differences, partly because no one’s parents can’t meet all their adult emotional needs. So I don’t know how to feel loved and worthwhile. I’m not sure how much I ever have felt loved and worthwhile; very little I suspect. (I don’t know at this stage if having pets would make me feel more loved or just used to dispense food.)
There was a touching article in The Jewish Chronicle last week about a charity in Israel that helps people with learning disabilities to marry (I did just try to find the article to link to, but I couldn’t find it on the website and the other news there was too depressing for words). They provide practical, emotional and possibly financial support for people with learning disabilities to marry and live independently as a couple. I feel if people with autism who are not high functioning can have full-time jobs and get married, I should be able to too, but somehow it’s all too difficult juggling depression alongside autism (even high-functioning). There isn’t really any help in the community for more functional people with depression or autism; regardless of how we’re feeling, it’s assumed we can cope with things. I feel like I’m stuck in the emotional equivalent of the benefits trap, where moving off benefits into work entails a reduction of income. I’m too functional for anyone to believe there is anything wrong with me.
It just feels really scary living in my head all the time. All day I’ve been seeing Sherlock Holmes jumping apparently to his death in Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall and I know my mind is telling me that that’s how I feel right now, falling so far and no one can help me (except he was faking his own death and had half of British Intelligence on hand to help him, we later discover). I think so much about being a wicked person, being useless and defective, not being able to put things right, about God and everyone else hating me… it’s scary. More than that, it’s tiring.
There was a problem with my medication again. This time somehow my lithium was removed from the repeat prescription area as if I wasn’t on it any more. My Mum (who I had asked to pop in to the surgery on the way home from work to pick it up for me) managed to sort it in the end, but I think she ended up arguing with the receptionists and I ended up arguing with her because she said I was being angry (when I was being assertive) and shouting (I was speaking loudly because I had her on speakerphone).
Why is it that whenever I try to be assertive, I get accused of being aggressive, and whenever I try to talk clearly (e.g. when I’m on speakerphone), I get accused of shouting? I know it is possible for autistic people to be accused of being aggressive when they’re not trying to be aggressive. I’ve spent half my life being told off by my parents for giving people “dirty black looks” when I thought I was just looking normally. I suppose this is a similar thing, combined with the fact that shy people are often accused of being aggressive when they become more confident and assertive. I think people prefer me as a doormat to someone who can take charge of a situation, and they prefer it when I listen politely to their (boring) conversations more than when I want to say something.
The whole experience has left me feeling tense, angry and self-critical.
I just did a personality test for my well-being course. The outcome was not laid out particularly helpfully and what I could understand of it was not terribly surprising: I’m restrained, structured and sympathetic. I’m bad at relaxing, being calm or keeping my composure. I’m not daring, a thrill-seeker or a natural leader. I like to reflect and to daydream. I am, perhaps a little paradoxically, quite trusting and quite questioning. This is all very predictable. I did another test that suggested specific careers, which was a little surprising, because it gave me a 89% aptitude for archival work and only a 71% per cent aptitude for librarianship, despite no obvious questions that differentiated between the two, so far as I can tell. The other jobs were typical Jewish jobs (and indeed typical autistic jobs) that would nevertheless bore me (IT, accountancy, actuarial work, financial analyst). I do feel my life as an autistic person would be easier if I liked, and was good with, numbers.
Speaking of numbers, I haven’t sorted out my gift aid form for the shul yet. I can’t summon up the courage to go through two years’ worth of payslips to see what I was earning and how much tax I was paying (not just a result of my vagueness about money; I had a couple of jobs and a couple of periods of unemployment in that time, so I think not knowing exactly what I was earning is more understandable for once). I think the real reason has nothing to do with money or figures, though, and everything to do with the mixed feelings I currently have about my shul, and about Judaism. I don’t think I would be happier as an atheist, though, although I might feel under less pressure (but not necessarily so). It’s hard to think of myself being happy at all, to be honest.
E. said yesterday that she doesn’t think I’m ever going to fit into my shul community, which is probably true. She says that she thinks I do push myself really hard to do social things and communal things, but I don’t enjoy them when I do them, not because of social anxiety, but because I’m not on the same wavelength as other people to be able to talk to them, which I guess is true. I feel I “ought” to push myself to do these things, because I can hear my parents pushing me to do them when I was younger, but I don’t really enjoy them much. She said I’m not a screw-up, I’m just dealing with some “really hard things” which is reassuring in a way, but I can’t see a way out.
(Massive trigger warnings for suicide)
I feel awful. Just totally inadequate and defective. I bought a present for the people who invited me for Shabbat dinner and was relieved when no one answered the door (although I thought I could hear people indoors) and I had an excuse just to write a note and leave the present on the doorstep without speaking to anyone. I don’t feel up to going to this big shul (synagogue) meeting tonight. I don’t really feel fully part of the community anyway and I hardly ever make it to shul. I wouldn’t know what to look for in a rabbi or be able to explain a vision for the kehilla (community).
I feel that I can’t find a role in the world. Some people with autism can find a role, sooner or later, and I think that helps them to function and to feel they don’t have to succeed at things neurotypicals succeed at if they don’t want to. A lot of people at my autism group seem to have jobs in IT, particularly programming, which probably isn’t a surprise to anyone. I don’t have a role. I thought librarianship might be it, but it looks like it isn’t, at least not without doing a considerable of remedial training. I don’t have a role in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world, which has a very narrow selection of roles largely determined by gender. I don’t fit frum male roles. I’m not a great Torah scholar, I didn’t go to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), I can’t really study much Talmud, in fact I don’t have the energy, concentration and motivation to study much Torah at all. In a previous community, I was involved with the shul, I was a regular attendee at minyan (prayer services) and often led services, but I’m too scared and ashamed of myself to do that in this, more religious, community and again, I don’t have the energy, concentration and motivation to get to minyan every day, let alone three times a day. I’m never going to earn enough money to be a big philanthropist, I don’t have a home of my own to invite Shabbat guests to (and single men inviting people to meals would be considered weird; cooking is definitely gendered female (so my culinary abilities are a liability more than an asset in dating, sadly)) and it looks increasingly likely that I’m not even going to have children to get nachas (pride, reflected glory) off them.
That pretty much rules out all the frum roles open to me. I don’t know what I do with the rest of my life now, especially as I’m not well enough to work full-time.
I’m having suicidal fantasies again too. I guess the thought of spending two and a half discussing how to pick a new rabbi would make a lot of people contemplate death, but I really do feel a lot of the time that life has no promise for me. Who would really want to live without love? And not only does it seem certain that no one will be able to really love me the way I would want or let me love her, it seems unlikely that I will ever be financially secure, confident, well-liked or happy either. I can’t see anything in my life that makes it worth living, but I can’t talk to anyone about this. If I had cancer and missed the meeting tonight because I was too ill from chemotherapy, everyone there would understand and be concerned about me, but with depression it’s a completely different question. I’ve hardly even told anyone about my depression because I’m so scared of the response I might get. I guess stigma affects a person even if, like me, people have rarely said anything directly to me that could be considered stigmatising; it’s the fear of stigma that terrifies me.
It’s actually scary that suicidal thoughts have been such a part of my life for so long that they don’t even scare me any more. I know I’m unlikely to act on them while my parents are alive, so they’re just more mental noise, like all the other static between my ears. I’m such a drama queen that I would probably want to kill myself in some big, operatic way, like Sherlock Holmes faking his death by jumping off a tall building in public in the Sherlock episode The Reichenbach Fall. That said, I think I’m more likely to kill myself with an overdose than anything else as the thought of doing anything that gets blood everywhere is not appealing to me. To be honest, the two main things keeping me alive are (1) knowing, on some level, that my parents care about me and would be upset by my death and (2) the fear of making a bungled suicide attempt and ending up with permanent physical injury as well as depression.
I feel that anyone else having regular suicidal thoughts would be signed off work and focusing on recovery, whereas I’m so used to it that I just try to function, go to work, go to shul, go to this meeting, try to daven (pray) and study Torah and so on, feeling terrible all the while and no one (outside this blog, where I play the drama queen) knows anything about what is happening in my head, how much pain I’m in and how hard it is to keep going. Sometimes I wish people did know. That’s an attraction of suicide to me, actually. Sometimes I want to make a failed suicide attempt, so I could let people know how I feel, because I don’t know how to tell them; I guess jumping off a building is a way of showing people that you have a problem. I guess people would call that a cry for attention, I just don’t see that as a negative thing, I feel I’ve had very little attention in my life and it’s only fair that I get some when I need it.
It’s just horrible to spend the whole time feeling like a defective, inadequate freak. Not feeling loved. Not feeling worthwhile or useful. I know I need to love myself and feel happy in myself before anyone can love me, but I don’t know how I can do that. It’s not something you can just suddenly do. I’ve tried positive mantras, but I just don’t believe them, just as I don’t believe that God loves me (and no one frum has been able to prove to me that He does love me). The problem with the CBT approach of thought control is that I have too much evidence of not being good, lovable or worthwhile for me to easily accept that I am any of those things. So I end up just fantasising endlessly about death and dying as a release.
After posting last night, I became very agitated and morbid. I wrote the following paragraphs, but didn’t post them, partly because I didn’t want people to think I was about to kill myself, partly because I try to avoid posting more than once in a day (trigger warning for suicide):
I can’t stop thinking about suicide. I don’t even want to kill myself, I just think I will one day, maybe in a week, maybe in fifty years. More likely in fifty years, to be honest, when my parents are dead and I’ve lost touch with most of my friends. I was just looking at suicide prevention stuff online and it was all about “If you kill yourself, your wife and kids will remember you as a corpse, they’ll have to move house because the resonances of the room where they found your body is [sic] too strong, they’ll be questioned by the police.” Nothing about what if you want to kill yourself because you’re never going to have a wife and kids.
I have to hold on to the belief that my parents care about me, but sometimes it’s hard. They don’t understand me at all and I don’t understand them at all. It’s partly neurotypical vs autistic brains, but also different personalities, values and intensities of religious belief…
I’ve been told that God loves me, but I find it hard to believe, unless God on some level loved Hitler too.
I’m not in any danger of killing myself tonight, but I know I can never be sure I’m safe forever.
The ellipsis in the second paragraph covers some stuff I’m angry with my parents about, very trivial, but I had second thoughts about putting it in the public domain again. In hindsight, it’s clearly an exaggeration to say that my parents don’t understand me at all and vice versa. They probably do understand me to some extent, but not completely or anywhere near completely (I don’t know if anyone understands anyone else completely, even people who have lived together for decades). But they don’t understand a lot about my mental health issues and autism and it’s hard to explain it to them. Likewise, we’re on different religious levels with very different outlooks on life. I don’t know how much I understand them. Our brains are wired very differently is all I can say, but that’s not terribly helpful even to me, let alone to them.
I hear a lot regarding autism that autistic brains are “wired differently”. I’ve taken to wondering what that actually means. Maybe I’m being, well, autistic about this, but brains don’t have actual wires in them. Does it mean the synapses don’t function properly or the connections between areas of the brain aren’t there?
At my well-being group today (what I was referring to as “resilience class”, but this is a more accurate name) I opened up a bit about autism, mostly because someone else there was being open about being on the spectrum and another person was talking about having brain damage from being in a car crash. I hope I opened up for the right reasons, though, as I’m not always sure that I do. It felt fairly safe, not least because there were little more than half the number of people who attended the first session. I guess that’s how these things go. I started the session very depressed and tense, but finished somewhat better, but my mood went down again on the way home; I’ve probably been up and down all day.
I do think that the group is really for people with minor depression though. The facilitators were talking about triggers and saying if something triggers you and you still feel depressed after after a couple of days, it might be an episode of depression. Someone spoke about being depressed for months on end, but I’m just permanently depressed. Out of the last sixteen years, I’ve probably been ‘not depressed’ for about two years in total, split into chunks of up to six months. So that made me feel a bit hopeless.
Someone did say something helpful about “You can’t control the first thought, but you can control the second one.” I thought that was interesting.
I looked over the notes I took at my new job last week, but I’m still worried there is so much for me still to know, even though officially I’m only contracted for another six days (over three weeks). I really worry I’m going to mess it all up, but I’d like to stay working there if I can, as a higher education library with few client-facing interactions seems to be the best working environment for me so far.
One of the papers, detailing the handling of rare books and papers, cautioned me to be careful when handling things that are “fragile with tears”. It meant “tears” as in “rips”, but I keep reading it as “crying.” I think I’m “fragile with tears”.
I’m still lonely. My experience of dating E. has taught me that there’s no point in dating anyone until I’m more financially secure, though, which could take years. I’ve decided I need to wait until I have a permanent job, even if it’s part-time. At least that shows I’m serious about my career and supporting a family, even if I can’t do it alone. If something drops from the sky, I might reconsider, but I don’t think it’s likely. Things like that rarely happen to me, although twice I’ve ended up dating or nearly dating someone who contacted me through my blog. “Did you wish really hard?” to quote Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife. Obviously I can’t wish hard enough.
A discussion on another blog makes me realise that, for all I talk about the frum (Orthodox Jewish) community, I’m too much on the fringes to really talk about it. I was brought up going to an Orthodox shul (synagogue), but we were traditional rather than fully observant and I didn’t become fully shomer mitzvot (keeping the commandments) until around university age. I still don’t really have many friends in the frum community, which marks me out as unusual for a frum person as they usually socialise within the community and often express the opinion that they would struggle to find common ground with non-observant Jews or non-Jews. For me, I suspect I gravitate towards non-frum people not for the reasons I would have told myself in the past (I hate false piety; the frum world doesn’t accept my interests) and more because, in terms of the mental algorithms I use to function in a neurotypical world, it’s a relief not to have to run the “don’t say anything heretical/socially unacceptable” algorithm when I’m already using a lot of energy running the “how to interact with neurotypicals” algorithm, the “how to talk about my special interests to people who don’t share them” algorithm and the “how to share appropriately about mental health” algorithm.
I was going to do a whole big thing about this article, but it would be wrong and pointless of me to do so. I just wish I knew how to have the kind of joy and purpose in my life, and in my Judaism, that the author speaks of and the belief that God loves me and believes in me. As for “committing suicide in installments”… it’s an effort not to commit suicide in one literal go, just surviving is good even if I die a little more inside each day. It’s a shame that the author of the original seven questions has died and so I can’t email him and ask.
An aside: when I started this blog, I used both ‘autism’ and ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ in posts and as tags, as I know both are used online. A few months ago I became aware that ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ has been dropped as a separate condition in the DSM-5 psychiatric guidelines and also that it now appears that Hans Asperger, the doctor after whom the condition is named, collaborated with the Nazis in his native Austria. I feel very uncomfortable calling myself someone with ‘Asperger’s’ now or ‘an Aspie’ but I wonder if calling myself ‘autistic’ or ‘on the autism spectrum’ to people who don’t know much about autism is a good idea. I suppose it summons up images of the severely autistic and non-functional (e.g. Rain Man, although I’ve never seen that film) which can lead to stereotyping or disbelief that someone as outwardly functional as I am could actually be on the spectrum, especially as I don’t have a firm diagnosis yet.
Does anyone else have any ideas? This comes up mainly at my well-being and depression support groups, which is the main place I would be open about my difficulties. I have only opened up to one or two friends who don’t read my blog about this so far and am wary of saying anything at the moment, although part of me would like to do so. I generally don’t even discuss my depression with friends who don’t read my blog, let alone the autism.
I had a silly Doctor Who dream last night, but for some reason I woke up very anxious about work, really worried that I don’t know what I’m doing and that I’m going to make a terrible mistake. I’ve been thinking again that I wish I was dead just to be away from these worries and this loneliness. I can’t see things ever get better in a substantial way. Things seem so hopeless at the moment, although “at the moment” has really been for most of the last sixteen years, give or take the occasional six months of remission. I’m trying to stay open to the idea that I might have a full-time job “one day” and manage to get married “one day” but “one day” is probably years if not decades down the line, which means I probably won’t be able to have children. I worry what will happen to me when my parents are gone, given I rely on them for financial, practical and, to a lesser extent, emotional, support.
On the Mental Health at Home blog, Ashley Leia posted about being “over-educated and under-functioning” and having to revise career goals because of mental illness, all of which seems familiar to me. I don’t know how to make more feasible goals, though. I still want to have some kind of full-time/nearly full-time job that will make me financially independent, able to have place of my own and a wife and kids, but none of those things seem at all likely to happen any time in the short or medium term and would require some major unexpected changes to happen in the longer term.
I went out today for about an hour and a quarter to do some shopping, but came back feeling exhausted and depressed, really just wanting to go back to bed. I felt strong feelings of self-loathing and a feeling of not wanting to be alive while not being suicidal as such. I messed around online for a while, which I shouldn’t have done, but then laid in the dark for a while, first listening to music, then silently, which seemed to help a little; I was still depressed and tired, but felt less exhausted and totally drained. Perhaps I get autistic sensory overload when out shopping; it seems likely even if I’m not always good at recognising the signs because “I’m always like this” or “everyone gets tired.” I should probably factor in more recovery time in the future, and after work, and do so in quiet and darkness rather than in front of the computer or TV.
I have mentioned before that my presumed autism went undetected for a very long time, even through psychiatric assessments, because I’ve learnt a lot of workarounds and algorithms (for want of a better word) for dealing with certain situations, especially social situations. I suppose I have a different algorithm for interacting with non-depressed people, one for interacting with neurotypical people, one for frum (religious Jewish) people, one for non-frum people… The reason I like to find people who are a lot like me, I suspect, is that I have to run fewer algorithms to interact with them or more simply, I don’t have to hide as much of myself. To interact with non-depressed, neurotypical frum people takes up a lot of ‘processing power’ to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing, even before you factor in the fact that for many autistic people, the amount ‘processing power’ needed in a social situation or interaction increases exponentially with the number of people present. Like running a lot of apps at once, using so many algorithms, so much processing power, is very draining. So, at a social event, like the Shabbat (Sabbath) meal I’ve been invited to on Friday, I use a lot of energy just being in the room regardless of what I’m actually doing. And, of course, work also requires a lot of processing power both for autism and depression. This is why having a more client-facing role or being in a large noisy office was so difficult for me, because they were so draining. So, I finish work or social situations incredibly drained, which triggers depression, and I can take hours or even days to recover (in which time I may have to go to work or into social situations again).
My Mum thinks I was at kindergarten with the person who invited me for Shabbat dinner this week. The Jewish world is very small. The flipside of this is that you can’t escape, or at least that it’s very hard to, which I find a bit depressing. Sometimes I think I want to be forgotten.
I wish I could find the key to unlock the potential and joy hidden in my life, assuming such potential and joy could even exist for me, which I doubt. I certainly can’t imagine anyone finding enough potential in me to date me for long. I do really want to love someone though, which I guess brings me back to pets as an object of doting again, despite my Mum’s objections.
There was another engagement announced from children of members of my shul again. It was also announced last Friday – engagement and birth announcements seem to be made twice, as soon as the rabbi hears, he posts something on the shul What’sApp group and then later there’s an email from the administrator. There is a certain logic to this so that no one misses the news, but it feels like rubbing salt in an open wound. I don’t really want to opt out of communal announcements, but I do feel like someone trapped outside in the cold, looking at a fun party happening indoors through the window. I do feel bad for getting so upset and envious when this happens, though. I don’t want other people to be miserable and lonely, I just wish I wasn’t so miserable and lonely.
Listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits while cooking dinner (red bean chilli, a familiar recipe because, once again, I feel too depressed to try something new – I’ve only once used the Jewish cookery book my parents bought me for my birthday in the summer), listening to the loud and angry chords for some reflection of my own inner turmoil. By the time dinner is ready, I’m very agitated and wanting to hurt myself and am not sure if it’s from my thoughts (which have been going on all day), the music or looking out of curiosity on Only Simchas (not a site I usually frequent) and googling old friends and crushes to see what they’re doing. Some of the men on Only Simchas are… less attractive than I am, or was, before clomipramine made me put on weight, but I guess they don’t have autism or depression and low incomes. At any rate, not everyone looks younger than me, but the trend is definitely that the frummer-looking people do look younger than me, and the people I know (yes, it’s a small Jewish world) are significantly younger than me (like ten or fifteen years younger). I shouldn’t look there again…
I keep thinking that I could bear my suffering if I knew it had a purpose, to help someone else somehow, but thinking that it’s just so I can reap more reward in the next world, or worse, to punish me for something, is not enough to be able bear it. There’s a parable in the Talmud (somewhere early on in Brachot, can’t remember the exact page and I’m not going to look it up now) which in context isn’t relevant to me, but out of context sums up how a feel. A man is in prison (presumably wrongfully… the Talmud was written when people, especially Jews, could be locked up by the monarch without having done anything wrong) and everyone says to him, “Hold on, tomorrow they’re going to release you and give you an expensive treasure to repay you for your experience” and he responds, “I don’t want the treasure, just get me out of here now!”
I feel that I can’t bear this any more, but somehow I have to. Vicarious suffering is a complicated area in Judaism, but it doesn’t seem likely that my suffering could help anyone else, which is the only thing that I feel could keep me going. I feel that I would gladly give up my life to help people, but I can’t live like this, so miserable and lonely, indefinitely without knowing why. Maybe that’s just a reflection of how little I value my life, how little joy or meaning it gives me, that dying would be a release and potentially more invested with meaning than living. I’m not suicidal, but it’s hard not to think about being hurt or killed right now.
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.
I’m still here. I feel less suicidal, but still not good. I’m thinking of phoning the Samaritans helpline, but I don’t know what to say. I’m also somewhat congested from the cold I have, so I’m not sure I could do much talking anyway.
I went for a walk for twenty-five minutes, as I did the last few days and, as with the last few days, it’s pretty much the only effort I’ve been able to make. OK, not quite true, as I’ve davened (prayed) a bit every day and done a bit of Torah study (from five to thirty minutes) every day. And today I cooked plain pasta (badly – I forgot to add salt, then accidentally poured in far too much and nearly let the whole thing boil over. I feel very incompetent in my life) and did some online shopping, which I hate and which went badly. But it is hard to do anything and I worry about starting my new job next week. I wonder if I will have to resign before I even arrive.
After my last two jobs, I worry about doing something so disastrously wrong that I get fired. I think I could cope even with being fired; it’s getting told off in person and realising how much I have disappointed everyone that upsets me.
I’m also not sure what it says about me that, in thirty-five years, only two people have cared for me romantically, of whom one was on the rebound from a boyfriend she still cares about and the other was essentially… I was going to say “using me” but that would be unfair. But she expected me to drop everything to run halfway across London when she needed me, but ignored my texts for help when my depression was bad (I thought I was being paranoid in thinking this, but then she admitted that she was doing this deliberately) and kept telling me she needed me to drop out of her life for a couple of weeks while she decided if she actually cared about me at all (something she did to me two or three times) and who repeatedly pressured me into doing stuff physically that I wasn’t ready for (not ready for both religious, and I now realise, autistic/touch-sensitive reasons). So, I don’t know what you would call that, but I haven’t had an actual “normal” relationship of caring for someone who cares about me and both investing similar amounts of effort and emotional energy in the relationship and the other person not trampling all over my boundaries.
(I don’t want to sound critical of E. because she didn’t make me feel that she was still pining over her ex while we were together, it’s just that as we’re still friends I can see that she still misses her time with him and not her time with me, which makes me wonder about our relationship. Plus it makes me wonder if the reason she ended the relationship, which other people in my life thought was slightly strange, because she didn’t think we would be able to support ourselves financially together, would have been so important to her if she had cared for me as much as she cared for her ex.)
I read two short articles just now, aimed at parents of autistic children (by implication, high functioning autistic children), telling them to have realistic ambitions for their autistic children and that they (the autistic children) may not want to have successful careers (or will define “successful” differently), have relationships, have children and so on. To be honest, I don’t really care about my career and, as the articles stated is normal for autistic people, I find it hard to think abstractly about what I want from the future in that way at all, although perhaps I would care more if I could find the right field. I think I do genuinely want to marry and have children. How much of that is simply a product of childhood emotional starvation and/or peer pressure in a community where family is the norm and single people between the ages of thirty and sixty are few in number and virtually invisible socially is hard to tell. The latter (social pressure), perhaps not so much, the former (childhood emotional starvation), probably quite a bit, and I feel that’s a ‘wrong’ reason to want to have a family, but it doesn’t do anything to resolve my need to give and receive love. Then there is also the religious obligation to marry and have children which isn’t so prominent in my consciousness, but is there. I guess this is all pushing me back towards having pets as a way of giving love and receiving… gratitude for food, at any rate.
I just feel I’ve really let my parents down just by being me, instead of someone else, someone good. Someone not defective. Someone more like my sister. I should say that my parents don’t say this to me. But I still feel that it would be better for everyone if I was more ‘normal’ like my sister.
I’m reading The Complete Peanuts: 1953 to 1954 and two cartoons I saw today resonated (both on page 237). In the first, Schroeder can remember Beethoven’s birthday and death anniversary, but can’t remember his own father’s age. This is me with my knowledge of my special interests (Doctor Who and perhaps also Judaism) versus my knowledge of my family and friends. In the second, Charlie Brown laments, “Sometimes I think I must be a misfit… I just don’t seem to fit in any place.” When Schroeder suggests that he joins “a group of misfits”, Charlie Brown remarks that, “I probably wouldn’t even fit in there” which is me with depression, autism and especially social anxiety and my forays into socialising in support groups and the like.
I downloaded an app thingy to Google Chrome to block websites, to try to keep me off Twitter. I may block other things if it works. To be honest, it may not work, as when I’ve tried this in the past, it fails because I can always turn it off for a bit. I’m blocking it not from a productivity point of view (which I think is what it’s primarily intend for, and for policing children’s internet use), but because it’s too triggering (I hate that word too), not just, or not even, the content, just the sheer level of anger and vitriol being sprayed in all directions at the slightest provocation. I wish it were possible to participate in laid back discussions of Doctor Who and the like on Twitter and see whimsical humorous posts, but even these get politicised half the time and even when they don’t it’s hard to filter effectively. So, total abstinence seems to be the answer. I may delete my Twitter account, as I only set it up to promote my Doctor Who blog which (a) I’ve been doing very badly and (b) I’m not writing much on my Doctor Who blog at the moment anyway.
I came across this poem by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. It’s not very relevant to the post, but it reminds me of me so I wanted to share it.
Poem Without End
Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
Inside my heart
Inside the museum
inside my heart
(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.
Another night of strange, disturbing dreams. I should probably be glad that I usually don’t remember my dreams if they’re going to upset me.
I don’t really pay much attention to this time of year. Not my festivals. I do my introspection for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). But 2018 has been crazy. I had two jobs and got a third, but I messed the first two up and I’m worried I’m going to mess the new one up too. I don’t know if I’m actually capable of holding down a job. I did go on holiday by myself this year, for the first time, which was an achievement. But otherwise the year was just depression and anxiety, and confusion about whether I’m autistic (still not conclusively resolved).
I guess if I take a longer-term view things are a bit better. Five years ago I was limping to the end of an MA that should have taken one year, but actually took three and a half. I was pleased about being nearly finished, but then the university started saying that because I had taken so long, they might give me a diploma instead of an MA, which would not have made me a qualified librarian (I got the MA in the end). I had broken up with my first girlfriend earlier in the year after being sure that (a) we would get married and (b) I would never find another girlfriend if we broke up (the second of these wasn’t quite true, but nearly, at least so far). I had never had a paying job, not even part-time (I don’t count coming in on occasional afternoons to do the filing at the office where my Mum worked when I was sixteen).
Since then I’ve got my MA, had three jobs and won a fourth and briefly been in another relationship. This doesn’t make me feel much better, though, as the jobs were mostly disastrous and the relationship just got my hopes up only to dash them again; jobs and relationship alike both make me feel like an incompetent failure.
I probably have more friends than in 2013, but my social life is still largely based on the internet, despite moving to a different community with different shuls (synagogues) and starting going to support groups.
I feel so depressed today that it’s impossible to do anything. Earlier I had Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon stuck in my head for some reason (I don’t think I’ve actually heard it yet this year), which is officially my least favourite song ever. Not only is it a saccharin-sickly, sentimental (a choir of children!) and miserable dirge (and inaccurate – war is not over, however much you want it), it is indelibly associated in my mind with the winter of 2003/04, which was the worst time of my life, when I very nearly attempted suicide.
I was stuck in Oxford, first during term and then during the holiday, too depressed to work, but encouraged by my tutors to stay around in case my anti-depressants kicked in and I could catch up on the term. I was regularly being visiting by psychiatric nurses, or irregularly visited, I should say, as I would have to wait in for them, but they would usually be very late, which messed up my plans and made me more depressed (although my plans were basically, “Try to get the energy to go out and buy food”) – this was long before autism was suggested, so I didn’t know just how bad I am at adjusting to changes. My best friend (the woman I mentioned the other day) had stopped talking to me and I didn’t feel like opening up to anyone else in case they rejected me too, or perhaps just because I always find it hard to open up about depression (the woman who wasn’t talking to me had spotted the depression in me and asked me about it, which is pretty much a unique occurrence and one reason she was so special to me).
Happy Xmas (War is Over) was playing in a lot shops and getting a lot of airtime on the radio. I don’t usually listen to music radio, but I also had terrible insomnia and was awake half the night in bed, listening to the BBC World Service, which has (or had) some music programmes late at night GMT. I think as well as the Lennon original, someone had just released a cover that year. Anyway, I heard it a lot and hearing it again just reminds me of that miserable winter and everything that happened in it.
The other thing in my head, weirdly enough, is Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech, not because of Brexit or splits in the Conservative Party that might bring it to mine, but for the famous quote about “It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease, only for them to find, as the first balls are being bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain.” I feel like that in my life, that my bat was broken before I even got onto the field. I feel that whatever chance I might have had of love, family, friendship, community, happiness, anything I might want really, was taken away from me before I even had a chance to live in the world, first by autism and then by the difficult, perhaps even traumatic, things that happened to me as a child. I know a lot of people with autism don’t consider it a disability, but a difference, even a positive difference. However, I feel that I have gone so long without a diagnosis or help and have been on the receiving end of so much anger, hatred and incomprehension from other people that I simply can’t function in the world and would gladly get rid of this difference if I could, if I could just have a normal life.
I just want to have a normal life, with the normal amounts of love, friendship and happiness that normal people have. Apparently this is too much to ask. I think even then I could cope if I knew why I have to live like this. I believe in God, so I believe there is a reason for my life being like this, being so miserable; ironically, it might be easier to cope with if I didn’t believe and just assumed there was no reason beyond blind chance. It’s the not knowing the reason that makes coping with misery and loneliness extra hard, just as I can’t stand not knowing if I’ll ever find love and happiness.
I don’t know where I go from here. I’ve been having thoughts of death all day, but I’m not really suicidal. I went for a walk for half an hour and did some grocery shopping, but the effort of it exhausted me as if I had run a couple of miles. I was supposed to sort out papers and emails today, but I’m not sure that I will be able to do so. I also need to cook dinner as my parents are out tonight (a wedding, again, of someone rather younger than me – I am on the shelf). All I want to do, all I feel capable of doing today, is sitting in my room and watching Doctor Who.
I just want to be loved. Is that too much to ask? My family do love me, they just don’t understand me, or always express affection in a way I can understand. And I do have a couple of friends who care about me, but they’re so far away. Knowing that doesn’t really make it any easier. And still, I want to have a romantic relationship, which is a different kind of love.
I feel that I’m a really tightly wound-up person. I worry that eventually I will explode or, more likely, implode, and I wonder what kind of damage that would do, and to whom.
I fear that this post has degenerated in incomprehensibility. I wonder sometimes what the people reading this blog think of me. I get some likes, so I guess some people must find this interesting or moving, but I find it hard to believe that.
I desperately feel like I need a break after my last job for the sake of my mental health, but I’m not sure that I’m going to get one. I was woken up at 9.30am today (I wanted to lie in) by someone from an agency who wants to register me tomorrow so that I can apply for a short-term job. So I had volunteering yesterday, my therapy assessment today and now registering tomorrow. After that I’ll need to get to work on my presentation for the job interview on 5 December and if I don’t get that job, it’s back to job applications (realistically I’ll continue with the applications in case I don’t get the job). I just feel exhausted and burnt out; goodness knows how I’ll feel by the end of the year (hard to believe that’s about a month away now). Now I’m feeling sulky and miserable about the whole situation. I suppose it’s probably good to keep busy, as once I stop the depression takes over and it’s hard to start again, but I feel miserable about it.
I feel bad that I got so annoyed about yesterday’s Doctor Who. I told myself I wasn’t going to write long critical reviews any more, but it annoyed me. I probably also over-reacted to the line about “Love your neighbour” being from the New Testament (it’s not. It’s Tanakh/”Old Testament”). I know they weren’t being intentionally antisemitic, but it is a classic antisemitic line. I feel that identity politics and Twitter create a situation where everyone is shouting about being REALLY OFFENDED so you have to over-react to everything just to get heard and taken seriously. I wish I didn’t get caught up in it all though.
Tonight I’m off to the London School of Jewish Studies to hear Rabbi Rafi Zarum speak about Chanukah (from their website: “This timely lecture will look at the clash between Athens and Jerusalem as it plays out today in the assimilation of Jews into modern culture. Can traditional Jewish faith survive in the face of Western secularity?
What are the rules of engagement?”). He’s a very good speaker and the topic is interesting, if potentially somewhat triggering for me, so it should be good, and I’m looking forward to hearing a more Modern Orthodox speaker after spending so much time lately in the more Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world.
I’ve spoken quite a bit about Modern Orthodox vs. Charedi without really explaining the difference. It may surprise you to know that there aren’t really any major differences in belief or practice between the communities. The Charedi world accepts extra stringencies and is more literalist in its approach to sacred texts, but the essence of the commandments and beliefs are the same, unlike the differences between the Orthodox and Progressive communities. And, in a sense, the Modern Orthodox and Charedi worlds aren’t really different communities. It’s more a spectrum with very Modern at one end and very religiously conservative at the other and most people on a point somewhere in between with a fair bit of mingling between people who are somewhat more or less modern. The difference is about approaches to modernity and it plays out in a number of ways. For instance, attitudes to secular education, attitudes to Torah/science conflicts, attitudes to mainstream culture, attitudes to Israel and Zionism, gender roles, and so on. Someone may be quite modern in some areas and more conservative in others, but usually are at a similar place on most or all areas.
However, in this country at least (I think things are different in the USA and Israel) more modern communities tend to have a membership comprised largely of people who are ‘traditional’ but not fully observant of the mitzvot (commandments) and who don’t take prayer and Torah study particularly seriously. There is a lot of talking in the services, difficulty getting a minyan (prayer quorum) during the week, poor attendance at educational events and so on. So, if one is (like me) quite Modern philosophically, but also very serious about Judaism, it can be hard to find a community that fits. The choice is between a community that fits ideologically, but doesn’t offer the kind of vibrant Jewish life one wants or between a more active community that doesn’t fit philosophically. It’s a difficult choice. In my case the choice was made easier by the fact that the nearest Modern Orthodox shul (synagogue) was just too big and unfriendly for me and also by the fact that it’s my parents’ shul and I had no independent identity there, I was just my father’s son.
For me another problem is finding a wife at a similar place on the religious spectrum. If I go to a professional shadchan (matchmaker) I suspect (perhaps wrongly) that I will be matched with people on the more Charedi end of the spectrum and certainly if people from my shul try to match me up that is where they will be coming from. That’s not necessarily a problem if she doesn’t have a problem with my own outlook; however, I feel she might well have such a problem.
Sigh. I’m OK when I’m thinking or writing about Judaism or Doctor Who or history, but then I stop and think about the Real World again and reality seeps back in. I’m not sure what I’m more afraid of at the moment: a long period of unemployment or another job I can’t do well. I wish I could get some sense of what is different about me and why, and what I could do to function better in the world. I don’t even know where to look. I’ve just typed up a ‘to do’ list, which makes me feel a little better. At any rate, a printed list will look better than scraps of paper, and saves me continually copying things from one day to the next in my diary when, inevitably, I only get a couple of things done every day before being overwhelmed with depression (or procrastination). There are sixteen things on the list (albeit that one is “Peanuts exhibition” because I’m worried if I don’t write it somewhere I’ll forget until it’s over. But fifteen unpleasant tasks). The list ranges from the minor (polish my shoes) to the major (open a new bank account that my Dad thinks would be good for me; do serious clothes shopping as many of my clothes have worn out or no longer fit because of all the weight I’ve put on with clomipramine – I hate clothes shopping). Then there are the small, but tricky tasks, like writing for the umpteenth time for the £70 refund of money I’m owed by my shul, this time threatening to stop paying my fees unless they at least tell me why they won’t even respond to my emails (the treasurer is the wife of an old friend of my father and I know they have had a number of major life-cycle events, good and bad, in recent months, so I would be understanding if she’s busy, but she should at least respond to my emails to say she is aware of the situation). And, of course, there’s job applications that I should be working on daily.
And then it goes from feeling I can’t cope to feeling that I’m a terrible person and that I want to die. It’s quite frightening how fast it can change and with no obvious reason.
I just had an hour long telephone assessment for CBT on the NHS. I feel very drained. Assessments are draining anyway, and I find speaking on the phone even harder than in person. I had a lot of thoughts about whether I was describing my symptoms accurately and comprehensibly, whether I’ve been on therapy too much to qualify for more NHS therapy, whether the fact that CBT didn’t help in the past for my depression means that they will assume it won’t work now for my self-esteem, whether I’m wrong to feel that helping my self-esteem will have a knock-on effect on my depression rather than the other way around… I had to talk about the behaviour I am not proud of and why it makes me hate myself, which is difficult to talk about to someone I don’t know, over the phone. I was also asked a lot of questions about suicide and self-harm that were hard to answer. I think about death and suicide a lot, but it’s hard to put a figure on what I think the probability is of my trying to kill myself. How does one even put a number on that? Pressed to give a probability out of ten, I said three, which seemed small, but the psychiatrist seemed incredulous or just worried that I was saying there was a 30% chance I would try to kill myself and put that way it did seem large and worrying. I honestly don’t know what the correct answer is as there are so many factors involved.
Apparently I should find out whether I’m on the waiting list for CBT either later today or next Monday (I assume the psychiatrist only works on Mondays), but the waiting list itself is three to five months at the moment.
I feel I need to stop to relax for a bit before I go out to my shiur later, so I’m not going to try to do anything else today except finish off the laundry I started earlier. I feel somewhat tearful and depressed. Also alone; I’m glad my parents are home this evening, as I doubt I will talk to anyone at the shiur later.
I’ve had some difficult thoughts today. I had a vague feeling today that I should stop writing this blog, because I don’t think I present Judaism well. Not compared with sites like Aish.com or Chabad.org or even Hevria.com. I make it sound like it’s all sin and impossible rituals and guilt, when really it isn’t.
I hate myself and have thoughts of suicide. The main things stopping me are thinking of what it would do to my parents (I don’t think about my friends, which makes me feel guilty) and the fear of making a failed suicide attempt and ending up with terrible, permanent injuries. It did occur to me that it’s more or less exactly fifteen years since I nearly attempted suicide (it was in Michaelmas Term of 2003 at Oxford, so any time from October to early December, but I think more towards the start or middle than the end). I find it hard to think of tangible things that would be worse if I had killed myself then. I’ve done some extra mitzvot (commandments) in the meantime, but also some extra averot (transgressions), so I’m not sure how that balances out. I haven’t really done anything worthwhile with my life. Or is that just the depression talking? It’s hard to be sure.
The pharmacist had a big bag of clomipramine for me as some of the tablets have finally come in. With my parents away next week, I’m a bit scared to have them in the house with me feeling like this, but I don’t know what to do with them. There isn’t anyone I could give them to.
I’m fairly sure I’m not actively suicidal at the moment, but I do wish I had never been born and I would like to die (I guess that’s one ambition I’m sure to fulfil eventually). I can’t see things improving. Life is an endurance test for me; I can accept that HaShem (God) has His reasons for this, but I wish I had a clue of what they are, just to give me some chizuk (strength, inspiration).
My parents have been encouraging me to do teacher training again. It seems to have become an idée fixe for them, a panacea that will cure all my problems (Dad seems to think being a teacher will make it easier to get married, possibly because I might meet a single female Jewish frum (religious) teacher at a Jewish school, although I doubt I could talk to her much if I did). I can’t really blame them, as I have my own idées fixes. Getting married or getting a girlfriend was one for a long time and still is, to some extent. Getting an autism diagnosis has probably taken the first place now, although I don’t know what good it would do me. I thought of emailing Dr Tony Attwood, who wrote The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome to ask what he thinks I should do, but it seemed chutzpahdik (someone or something having chutzpah – is that accepted enough in English now to not need translation? Audacity is the nearest word). I would basically be asking for a free consultation (via email – he lives in Australia). In any case, the email address on his website probably goes to a secretary.
I’ve cooled off on the thought of buying guinea pigs. I guess what my Mum said about my not being able to look after them, or to look for jobs if I use my energy up looking after them, has worried me. Plus the thought of going into a pet shop and asking to hold the guinea pigs (as Dad said, to check I can do it) and of asking for help choosing a cage etc. has triggered my social anxiety to a great extent. I don’t know how much I want them any more. Maybe they were just another idée fixe.
I do feel lonely though. I nearly wrote “I want to get laid,” but that’s not exactly true (and vulgar). I do want physical affection and in-person support from someone who loves me. I guess long-distance support from my friends isn’t enough. My parents are sources of support and physical affection, but… I don’t know, it’s difficult with them sometimes, because of how they are and how I am and because of things in the past, but I can’t talk about that here, which is frustrating. I feel guilty because of this. If my parents aren’t good enough and my friends aren’t good enough, it could be that the problem is ME and I’m not good enough at accepting love. In which case getting married or having a girlfriend wouldn’t make any difference.
I feel that my role in life is to suffer and endure. At least, that’s what I’ve been doing more than anything else in my adult life.
I don’t want anyone to read this and worry about me. I think the chances of my hurting myself are slim. I’m pretty sure I would phone Samaritans if it got that bad, and I don’t think it will. I’m tired more than suicidal. I’ve just spent fifteen years or more struggling to survive, and I don’t know what else I can do.
I’ve been having morbid thoughts all day. I basically write my blog posts over the day. If I’m at home, I have a blog window open on my computer and add to it across the day. If I’m out, I send myself texts with notes of what I want to say. The stuff I wanted to say today, particularly the stuff I was thinking about when I was walking home just now, was morbid in the extreme, stuff about wanting to die and everyone being better off without me and my not having done anything even vaguely good with my life and the unlikelihood of things ever changing. I feel a bit better now I’m home. I guess I still feel I do want to die, just not so urgently. I don’t know whether I’ve done anything good or whether everyone would be better off without me. It’s hard to tell, which is pretty damning in itself.
It is hard for me to believe that things could get better. I don’t even believe my life will be better in Olam HaBa (The Next World). I have said this a number of times, but I’ve never explained it. It probably started when my religious OCD was bad. I was fixated on the laws of Pesach (Passover), when the dietary laws are even more intense and complex than usual. Certainly when I was growing up we did not keep these laws properly. The punishment for not obeying them properly is karet, which is an ambiguous term, but probably means not having a share in Olam HaBa. I had been told that no one gets karet these days because we’re on such a low spiritual level that we don’t have the level of conscious, knowledgeable hatred of God and Torah needed to incur it (I’ve never seen a source for that belief, but it seems to be widespread among Orthodox Jews). I had likewise been told that you get karet for deliberately breaking the Pesach laws, not for not knowing the correct laws or making a mistake with them. Nevertheless, I was sure I had incurred karet (although not my family, which also makes little sense).
Even though the OCD is less intense now and even though we probably do keep Pesach properly now, the feeling of being hated and punished by HaShem (God) persists. I guess my life has been so awful for so long that I can’t believe that anything good could ever happen to me, and the only way that could be the case is if HaShem does not exist or desires to make me miserable. As I strongly believe that He does exist, it is easy to feel He wants to make me miserable forever. I know there are reasons why a good person might suffer, but I find them hard to internalise when the depression (and maybe pure O OCD) are going full-strength. Even so, if my mission in life is to endure in misery, it is hard to see that as a positive thing, even if it is “only” for another fifty or sixty years before my eternal reward. Fifty years of misery is not long compared to eternal reward, but fifty years is long compared to the fifteen or twenty years of depression I have already endured and I don’t know how I could get through another fifty years like the last fifteen.
That said, I doubt I would believe myself to be a good person even if HaShem told me I was. I had disgusting thoughts on the way home and while I know on some level that they are OCD, it is hard not to think that I have corrupted myself over the years with bad behaviour and thoughts to the point where I can no longer control my thoughts. I just hope I don’t lose control of my actions.
I avoid the news at the moment, but I saw a report last night that triggered conflicting emotions. It was about disruptive children being placed in solitary confinement in schools so they can’t disrupt other children’s lessons. The reporter made it quite clear that he thought that this was wrong. Skipping over the fact that the solitary confinement booths looked a lot like the workspaces at my college library at Oxford, this left me conflicted. The opponents of this disciplinary procedure argued that many of the disruptive students have mental health or developmental disorders such as autism/Asperger’s (the only condition named). Obviously I felt sympathy to people with autism, but at the same time, I was conscious that the type of students being disciplined were basically the ones who made my life hell when I was at school and I would dearly have loved some of them to be shut up far away from me so I could work. In particular, they interviewed one student about the treatment he received and the mental health issues that developed from prolonged solitary confinement, but they didn’t ask him what he did that was so disruptive that he was disciplined in this way. This is the trouble I have when thinking about people who hurt me when I was younger. As an adult, I know they most likely had “issues” of some kind of their own, but the fact is that I am dealing with decades-worth of misery and mental illness because of the behaviour of other people, people who have never asked for my forgiveness or perhaps even realised that they hurt me. This is difficult. At the same time, I know I have probably hurt other people, maybe as much as I was hurt. This is also difficult.
I cried at work again. I’m in constant emotional pain, at least at work, but I can’t describe it to people, so I don’t get taken seriously. (EDIT: not “taken seriously” is a bit harsh. But I can’t tell even my parents how I feel, how I spend my whole time at work struggling just to keep my head above the water, let alone actually do my work. See the quote below about autistic people being in a constant state of alertness and anxiety.) Things aren’t so bad at home, but work is unbearable. I feel trapped in my life. At times I really don’t want to live, but I won’t commit suicide either, so I’m stalemated. One of the Renaissance writers, someone like Sir Thomas More, said that the worst test God can give a person is to make him think that God wants him to kill himself. I don’t think God wants me to kill myself, but I don’t know what he does want me to do.
I don’t want to think of myself as a victim, but the alternative seems to be thinking of myself as a failure, because I seem to fail at everything I try.
I wanted to go to a shiur (religious) class tonight, but I feel too exhausted, even a little faint (even after dinner), which might possibly be psychosomatic from the depression or, more likely, social anxiety. I should fight it, but I don’t think now is the time. I’m too tired and depressed at the moment and I worry that if I stay out late tonight, work tomorrow will be impossible. The shiur was on sadness in Jewish thought, which might have been helpful, but might have been problematic, as ‘sadness’ isn’t the same as ‘depression’ and I could have ended up guilt-tripping myself into feeling that I am a bad person for being depressed, or for being depressed in the ‘wrong’ way.
More autism stuff that could be written about me from The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome:
“One of the problems faced by children with Asperger’s Syndrome who use their intellect rather than intuition to succeed in some social situations is that they may be in an almost constant state of alertness and anxiety, leading to a risk of mental and physical exhaustion.” (p. 29)
“Blame [for social difficulties] is directed at oneself: ‘I am stupid’; or others: ‘It’s your fault.'” (p. 30)
“”The child, sometimes as young as seven years old, may develop a clinical depression as a result of insight into being different and perceiving him- or herself as socially defective.” (p. 35)
The book also states that autistic children can use fantasy as an escape. I think Doctor Who and Star Trek were for me escapes into a world where intelligence, difference and even eccentricity were prized, very different to my school. I had a couple of geeky-but-non-autistic friends at school (primary and secondary), which probably kept me sane, although even there I kept somewhat distant from some of them and I think I was a bit nervous about going to other people’s houses if I didn’t know them well. I did fantasise a lot, though. Strangely (or perhaps not), I think my Walter Mitty life started in my teens, when most people are moving away from fantasy. My friends were getting into things I had no interest in (wargaming, RPGing) and was sometimes scared by (girls, soft drugs), so I retreated into fantasy scenarios of saving the school from Daleks. As I got older, aliens turned into terrorists and wish-fulfilment fantasies of escaping without a scratch like James Bond turned into masochistic fantasies of being hurt and on to suicidal fantasies of redemptive death, or just death.
My romantic life has largely been fantasy too, necessarily so, but problematically so. Having such little real experience of relationships makes it harder that I ever will manage to adjust my expectations, and meet someone else’s expectations of me.
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome also says that people with sub-diagnostic autism symptoms (which realistically is what I probably have and what I’m currently diagnosed with) can benefit from the same help that people with a diagnosis get, which is good, if I can find a way of getting help. It’s also interesting that my sister and my Dad have some sub-diagnostic symptoms, which again is supposed to be common in families of people on the spectrum. Although no one is going to mistake someone who likes small talk and hates silence as much as my Dad for someone on the autistic spectrum. I guess that’s another reason why I want a diagnosis. Growing up my parents told me that they were shy as children and I should just ‘push myself’ to talk to other people and that it would get easier with practise. It never did, and I suppose if I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum, that would be a kind of justification for failing to master small talk and social skills. Maybe that’s not a good thing, maybe it will just encourage me to isolate myself. I don’t know. I don’t really know about a lot of things right now.
Today was a struggle at work. The usual story: do I go slowly to be thorough, but not get enough done or speed up and make mistakes, but process more? I’ve probably been going too fast, or maybe I’m just not used to the work yet. And at any rate, I’ve been making mistakes, but also feeling that I’m too slowly. My boss has sent work back to me to be repeated, but hasn’t commented on speed, so I should probably slow down a bit. It frustrates me that I can mess up such a superficially easy task. I don’t know how much of that is laziness, depression, anxiety or boredom.
I went to autism group in the evening instead of shiur (religious class) and also instead of an early night. This might have been another mistake, given how tired I was this morning and how drained I was feeling even before socialising at autism group drained me some more. I feel a bit of an impostor at autism group. There are other self-diagnosed people there, but as far as I know, I’m the only one to have been told alternately that I both am and am not on the spectrum. I just feel a mess there, as most of the other people seem more socially able. Someone there said I shouldn’t compare myself with other people. I know this, but it proves impossible not to, and the comparison is always negative. I’ve noticed that quite a few people at autism group work in computing, specifically software programming. I don’t know of a humanities-style equivalent, although cataloguing might be it. Pity I could never find a pure cataloguing job with the right hours and salary, or anything near it.
I just feel like the whole time my mind is a hurricane of depression, loneliness, anxiety, self-hatred, agitation and despair. Sometimes also suicidal thoughts, anger, bitterness and lust, although the latter is probably just a form of loneliness (actually, the anger and bitterness are probably loneliness half the time too). Different elements dominate at different times, but one of them is usually there. However, finding the right diagnosis (treatment-resistant depression/social anxiety/autism/C-PTSD/all of the above/none of the above) is like nailing the proverbial jelly to the wall. I hope to see a psychiatrist soon and I will try to ask about reassessment.
It’s a bit silly to post again today, but I want to get this down before I forget, as it’s a sudden realisation I just had and as it’s not very long it’s probably OK. And maybe this is something to sneak out when people aren’t looking anyway.
When the depression is bad, I act out sometimes. Nothing illegal or anything that hurts anyone, but something that the person I want to be would not do. Imagine I responded to the depression by eating ice cream. Then, imagine a limit in my ice cream eating that I have never gone beyond: say, eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting. Then imagine that I console myself when very depressed saying, if it gets very bad, at least I could eat a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one go, because I’ve never done that, but I know it’s there, as a concept. And then I realise that, regardless of the healthiness (or otherwise) of eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one go, I will never do it. I will never go through with it, no matter how depressed I am. I just can’t cross that line. Which should feel good, but instead I just feel envy for all those people who do eat a whole tub of ice cream when depressed. They as miserable as I am, but at least they get to enjoy that ice cream that I never will.
It’s the same with suicide. Suicidality can be calming (not always, but sometimes), because I can think that I have a way out if things get unbearable. But now I think I’ll never have the guts (or whatever) to go through with suicide. So I envy… not people who have committed suicide, but I do wish that I was dead. I want to be out of the world, and deep down I think I know that I could never bring myself to hasten that (not even by eating whole tubs of ice cream). So I feel trapped.
I don’t know how to get out of this, how to find a way to feel glad for not eating the ice cream, even to feel glad for being alive. I’m not sure that I’ve ever really felt glad for being alive. I either took it for granted or I felt that I wanted to die.
I was the first person to get to shiur (religious class) last night. The assistant rabbi, who takes the class, made the usual small talk gambit of asking how I am and if I had any news. I didn’t really want to get into talking about myself, but I don’t like to lie and I’m a bad liar, so I started to tell him about my job situation. I felt really stupid telling him about leaving my old job, as if it was a stupid thing for me to do, which perhaps it was. Fortunately we got interrupted by other people arriving.
I found it hard to concentrate at shiur. I kept thinking about dying and being dead. When I got home I flicked through a book on complex PTSD (which I’m still not convinced I have) which said that “passive suicidality” (fantasising about death without actively planning suicide) is common among people with complex PTSD. That is probably the case with me, regardless of whether I have complex PTSD, as I think about death and dying a lot when depressed, but don’t usually make plans to kill myself, although I do sometimes take precautions in case I do impulsively try to hurt myself. The author of the book felt that passive suicidality is a form of childish fantasy, of wanting to remove oneself from the situation one finds oneself in, which fits the way I experience it (“childish” in the sense of its something a child without power to alter his/her environment would fantasise as an escape, not making a value judgement about it).
The shiur was about seeing HaShem’s (God’s) sovereignty everywhere. The assistant rabbi said that we don’t really experience this in our lives. I felt that I do see it a bit, but because I don’t experience HaShem as benevolent, it is hard to be glad about it or trust that things will turn out well. So, I can acknowledge that HaShem gave me a job really quickly after leaving my old job, within a week but it’s hard to hold on to that, partly because it is not really a career-enhancing job, nor is it likely to last more than three or four months, but mostly because when something good happens to me, I assume that something bad is going to come out of it sooner or later, even if the bad is only the loss of the good (which is more frustrating in some ways than never having the good in the first place). I feel when something goes well, I’m just waiting for it to go disastrously wrong. This is how my life seems to have gone: every good thing being short-term and leading to bad things that are long-term and painful enough to outweigh the short-term good things.
I came across this article on identifying your life’s mission that I’ve read in the past again. It reminds me of something the assistant rabbi was saying yesterday about needing to know what you want out of life at this time of year so you can pray for it. I still have no idea how to answer the article’s questions that are supposed to help find your mission in life: what are the five or ten most pleasurable moments of your life? (I don’t know. I can’t think of many overwhelmingly positive moments.) And what would you do with a billion dollars and six hours a day of discretionary time? (I have absolutely no idea.) Mostly I want to be dead, inasmuch as my fantasy is just not to have to engage with the world any more, because I can’t face it and I don’t feel I do very well at living in it. The thought of actually doing something just triggers anxiety as I’m sure I can’t do it. I’m certainly struggling with career choices. As my new job is short-term, I’m still looking at career emails from agencies and websites, but I don’t know what I want to do. I was reminded today of my boss in my old job asking me if I really wanted to be a librarian when she told me that she didn’t think I was able to meet the revised job specification. I do feel that I don’t seem to be as suited to librarianship as I thought I would be, but I don’t have a clue what to do instead.
I just looked at the cheshbon nafesh (self-assessment) I did this time last year. I was stressed, but feeling positive: I felt I had brought the OCD under control with CBT and I was making significant improvements with my depression on clomipramine and was trying to see myself as ‘someone with depression’ rather than a ‘depressive’ i.e. not to be defined by my illness. I was positive about my job and living away from home. I felt that I was making friends at shul (synagogue). I had read or re-read quite a few religious books over the previous year, although I felt I had missed most of the (far too long) list of targets from the year before. It feels like almost all these things have disappeared now, except controlling the OCD. Even the clomipramine doesn’t seem to be doing much.
I just bought the complex PTSD book that I was looking at last night. It may have been a stupid thing to do given that (a) it is far from clear that I have complex PTSD; (b) I have a huge pile of books to read already; and (c) I do not have such a good record with self-help books (e.g. the social anxiety book I bought that was useful for understanding social anxiety, but which I could not follow through with the practical steps to recovery). I bought it because, regardless of whether I have PTSD, it looks like it has some useful stuff about self-love. Anyway, that’s my salary for my first hour and a quarter of work next week gone.
I have a somewhat strange relationship with anxiety. On the one hand, I have had a number of psychological assessments over the years and I often surprised the psychologists at how little anxiety I registered on their questionnaires, considering how strongly depression registered (the two usually go hand-in-hand). On the other hand, I am no stranger to the gnawing feeling of dread about the future. When I was at school and university, I used to feel particularly nauseous on Sunday evenings, dreading the coming week, and first thing in the mornings. It was the latter that brought my mental health problems to light for the first time. I went to the doctor complaining of disrupted sleep and inexplicable nausea during the day, especially on the way to school. It turned out, after a number of physical tests had drawn a blank, to probably be my first major depressive episode with anxiety explaining the nausea, although this was not diagnosed at the time.
One therapist suggested that the depression was so strong that it ‘drowned out’ the anxiety except at certain points when the anxiety was very strong. That may be true, although I think it may also be the case that the anxiety had been present for so long that I stopped noticing it, at least the morning/Sunday evening type of anxiety, and/or that as far as possible I dealt with the anxiety by avoidance, particularly in the years 2005-2008 or so, when I simply stopped functioning and spent all my time in my bedroom, reading and blogging online and watching Doctor Who, only going out for meetings with psychiatrists or therapists, being too depressed to work.
Sometimes the anxiety shades into pure O OCD, where I go from worrying that I’ll be fired to obsessing that I’m going to do something that would get me fired even though I know it to be wrong and have no conscious intention of doing it. OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder (although apparently this has recently changed in DSM-V, but not ICD 10), so I guess that isn’t surprising. At other times the anxiety would catastrophise into despair, where I would stop worrying that something bad would happen and just assume it would happen and feel depressed as if it already had happened, particularly regarding careers, dating and recovery.
I was a drama queen on someone’s blog again yesterday. I wish I didn’t do this. It was about the coming Yom Tovim (Jewish festivals) and setting targets for growth over them and in the Jewish new year. I just feel that I can’t cope with any of that right now, that I’ve got a lot of anger and resentment issues with God and I can’t cope with the idea of making him my King (which is what Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) is all about) or asking for forgiveness (Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)). I feel, if anything, that He should be asking me to forgive Him for everything that He’s done to me over the last twenty years, but then I feel bad for feeling that. I’m hopefully speaking to my rabbi mentor on Sunday, but I’m not sure how much of this I will be able to bring up.
I just feel tired a lot of the time. Physically tired and tired of life. I’ve felt like this on and off for many years. I just feel that my life is not good, that I don’t enjoy it or have meaning or purpose, or feel that I’m doing anything useful with it. I feel I have no reason to want to stay alive.
I feel confused too. I don’t know where my life is going. I have ideas for what I could do, but I don’t know how feasible they are or whether I would actually enjoy them. The world frightens me, both on a personal level and, increasingly, on a social/political level. This doesn’t feel like my world, but I don’t think it ever was. I don’t know what’s going to happen with me and E. and I’m not sure I really know what I want to happen or what would be sensible. To be honest, I don’t know what I feel about HaShem (God) either. It’s easy to say that I hate Him and am angry with Him, but I’m not sure that that’s an accurate picture of what I feel, at least not all the time. I don’t know if this is alexithymia (difficulty feeling and understanding emotions) again. It’s hard to know what I feel about HaShem. I feel strongly that He exists and is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent. I’m not doubting in that sense (and I have had times of doubt in the past, so I know what I’m talking about). But I find it hard to believe that He cares about me and even think that He hates me, which I guess means that I think that I deserve to be hated.
I just wish I could sort out my life somehow, but I’m not sure what a ‘sorted out’ life would look like.
Just further to what I wrote here over the last few days, I did a tiny bit of reading on complex PTSD. I did seem to have quite a few of the symptoms and certainly there was an ongoing situation in my childhood that seems to my unprofessional mind to be potentially traumatic, but in my mind I would not feel confident at all to say I’m a sufferer. I suppose I feel that I have so many issues that have not been ‘officially’ diagnosed (autism being the big one, as I have had repeated and conflicting diagnoses, but also I was never officially diagnosed with OCD or social anxiety, even though both seem very likely) that I am wary of adding any others, especially as my therapist feels I have a tendency to want to be The Most Mentally Ill Person in the World. So, I’ll probably shelve that for now, but it is at the back of my mind.
I just got back from shopping. This led to several bad things: the realisation that even walking briskly for five or ten minutes exhausts me; the discovery that there is a supply problem with my antidepressants again, leading me to suspect that they are no longer being produced; and suicidal thoughts. In just over a week, Jews all over the world are going to be literally praying for their lives, hoping for a good new year, a year of life, and part of me just wants to die. I do not want to be here any more. I feel that I’m a disappointment to everyone and that it would be no different if I was never born. I’m just holding on because a few people care about me, which I don’t understand, but I don’t want to upset them, and because I’m a coward and scared of making a failed suicide attempt and ending up physically damaged, but still alive and depressed. I don’t feel I have any real hope for the future. I’ve been depressed for so long now, it’s impossible to believe things can get better. In fact, I think things will probably get worse. I just screw everything up.
People tell me I have to stop comparing myself to other people and to learn self-love, but no one tells me how to achieve these things. I don’t feel I deserve to love myself, I don’t understand how other people could love me, I don’t believe that HaShem loves me and I don’t know how to love myself without becoming even more wicked than I already am, because I’ll just end up ignoring or justifying all the bad things I do. I don’t know what the way forward from this is.
(I’m not sure how much of the last two paragraphs is true. It feels true, but it also feels true that there’s part of me that doesn’t want to die, although it’s pretty confused about why, as it’s not much more hopeful for the future.)
I was expecting to be burnt out and oversleep after volunteering yesterday, so I was surprised to wake up and get up before 9.30am. However, I turned out to be exhausted in a more subtle way. I was OK doing basic tasks, but tasks requiring brainpower or needing to force my way through poor motivation (such as applying for jobs I don’t want and don’t think I could get e.g. today’s application for a law librarian post that said that experience of a law firm was essential, which I don’t have) were much harder and I even went back to bed for a bit after lunch. It’s hard to sound enthusiastic about such jobs. I did manage to fill in a job application, but as I had to do little for this one other than make slight changes to my CV and template cover letter (I wish all applications were so easy), it doesn’t feel a great achievement – it probably only took me about an hour when I’m aiming to do three hours of ‘work’ on job hunting a day. Still, I had to save some energy for shopping and cooking as my parents are away.
I was going to post this as a comment on this blog post, but I decided I was drama queening again and only posted a shorter comment, so here is the longer version: I haven’t done a cheshbon nafesh (self-appraisal) yet this year and it’s looking like I might not do one for the first time in twelve years or more. I failed miserably at last year’s targets. I’m dreading Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) and I’m not sure how much time I’m going to be in shul (synagogue) for due to depression, social anxiety.
More to the point, I feel really angry with HaShem (God) for the way my life has gone. I acknowledge that I’ve made some bad choices, but mostly I feel I was set up to fail and even a highly competent person (which I am not) would not succeed with the mental health and other issues I’ve been given from childhood onwards. I have no simcha shel mitzvah (joy in performing the commandments) and have realised I never really have had any. I’ve asked rabbis about this and been told that I won’t have any until I’m not depressed (which is scary as I don’t think I’m ever not going to be depressed) or that I should be able to get a bit (which just makes me feel a terrible person for not having any as if I’m deliberately stopping myself enjoying my religious life). I feel like I can’t actually do this any more without getting something back from it, selfish and wicked though that is i.e. I know I should be frum (religious) lishmah (for its own sake), but I’m just not that good a Jew. I don’t think that most frum people are doing what they do 100% lishmah and not because they enjoy or get satisfaction from Shabbat, Torah study, davening (prayer) etc. at least a bit of the time. Halakhically, there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s religious life, quite the reverse.
I don’t feel particularly accepted in the frum world and part of me wonders if I really do want to be accepted there. So, at the moment I’m basically sulking in my room (having left my job recently) and I worry that I’m going to do that over Yom Tov as well and just not go to shul. I ask myself why should I apologise to HaShem when surely He has plenty to apologise to me for (making me depressed and lonely all my adult life for starters). I feel like He hates me and spends all His time trying to make me miserable and I don’t know why. I feel bad just thinking that let alone typing it, and I wasn’t really conscious of it until I wrote it just now, but I think it’s true (I mean, it’s true that I feel He should apologise, not that I think that an objective observer would say He should apologise. I haven’t gone that far yet). It’s hard to do a realistic cheshbon nafesh coming from this place, where at least part of me feels unable to take responsibility for my actions, rightly or wrongly. I know I recently quoted Rabbi Lord Sacks as saying that we can see ourselves as victims or we can take responsibility for our lives and he made it very clear that the latter is better, but I genuinely do not know how I can honestly take responsibility for things that seem to have been largely out of my control. Nor do I feel able to make positive changes to my life. I feel zero motivation to actually do mitzvot, except that I know I’ll be hit by guilt if I skip anything or do sins.
An analogy: I’ve put on a lot of weight since being put on clomipramine and it doesn’t seem to bear much relation to what I’m eating. I’ve tried cutting back, but when I’m this anhedonic (unable to feel pleasure) it’s difficult to stop doing one of the few things I enjoy, to the point where it’s hard to care about my weight or health sometimes. I haven’t gone completely over-the-top in eating, but I just ate a load of corn chips as a mid-afternoon snack more because it was too hard to resist rather than from real desire and that isn’t something I would have done in the past. Likewise with my religious life, it’s getting harder and harder to motivate myself to follow those 613 dos and don’ts. Concentrating on reward and punishment or the meaning of life and Jewish history or what HaShem wants from me is difficult when concentrating on anything is hard and it feels like HaShem is trying to hurt me. It just seems so pointless to expend so much effort on a religion that I’m not good at and which gives me no satisfaction, joy, sense of community, meaning or purpose.
Rationally, cognitively, intellectually, theologically – whatever you want to call it – when I’m using my intellect, I don’t think that HaShem really hates me. I’m not sure that He really hates anyone. But I feel emotionally that He hates me, because He hurts me so much. I know I’m supposed to assume it will be for the best in the end, but it’s hard to accept that anything good can come of this, particularly as my low self-esteem means I don’t think I’m getting any reward in the next world for everything I’ve suffered here. Even when I say HaShem doesn’t hate anyone, part of me feels I should make an exception for very evil people like Hitler and then I’m off wondering if maybe I’m that evil.
Coming up to Rosh Hashanah without having done that cheshbon nafesh, I do feel that my life lacks focus and drive. I’ve never really found my mission in life, the thing that is uniquely me, that I can do indefinitely without becoming depleted and that would make a positive difference to the world. I thought it might be librarianship for a while, but now that looks unlikely. Perhaps because of that lack of focus and joy, my relationships (in the broadest sense) and my everyday Jewish practice have to bear a huge burden of providing meaning and satisfaction which perhaps they could never realistically bear.
Well, it took just eight hours for me to start having suicidal thoughts after my parents left on holiday. I don’t feel seriously suicidal, inasmuch as it’s possible to have non-serious suicidal thoughts. I just feel that I don’t want to be here and no one would be worse off if I wasn’t here. The people from my Thursday night shiur (religious class) are having a collection for the assistant rabbi, who gives the shiur, as his wife just had a baby daughter. This just reinforces my feeling that only people with spouses and children really count in the frum community, even though that isn’t the intention. Also the suggested donation seemed quite a lot to me, given that I’m unemployed, but I don’t like to ask for special treatment or for financial help from my parents, although I’m sure I would get either if I asked. I have got an invitation for dinner on second day Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) today, so I’m not feeling totally unwanted, but I do feel on the fringes of the frum community right now.
I feel that there must be some secret to being frum that I’m missing. I’ve seen people I was at school with who were perhaps not the cleverest or the most academic or the most well-behaved students suddenly become super-frum and, in some cases, get smichah (rabbinic ordination) and I wish I knew what the secret was. It seems like I was academic and well-behaved enough for me to get on well in the frum world, but somehow it hasn’t worked out like that. My inability to study Talmud, or even to really want to study it, is a massive liability in a community built around Talmudic study (at least for men) and my social anxiety makes community life in general and daily communal prayer difficult. And then of course there’s the way that my mental health issues and my ‘weirdness’/geekiness/possible autism make me feel alone and uncomfortable around most frum people and make it hard for me to date, even though marriage is, if not the passport into the frum community, then at least the proof that you are a mature and responsible adult (even if you’re only nineteen).
“Rule one of dying: don’t. Rule two: slow down. You’ve got the rest of your life. The faster you think, the slower it will pass. Concentrate. Assume you’re going to survive. Always assume that. Imagine you’ve already survived. There’s a storeroom in your mind. Lock the door and think. This is my storeroom. I always imagine that I’m back in my TARDIS, showing off. Telling you how I escaped—making you laugh. That’s what I’m doing right now. I am falling, Clara. I’m dying. And I’m going to explain to you how I survived. Can’t wait to hear what I say. I’m nothing without an audience.” – Doctor Who: Heaven Sent by Steven Moffat
So, there’s this time traveller. And on the worst day of his life, when he’s lost everything he cares about, he finds himself in a clockwork castle inhabited by his worst nightmare, his own bespoke prison, designed to extract his deepest secrets. And the only way out is to get through a twenty foot thick wall four hundred times harder than diamond. And the only way to do that is to punch it repeatedly – billions and billions of times – until it cracks open, each time effectively reincarnating himself whenever he gets killed, horribly and in agony, killed by his nightmare. Only he comes back without his memory of what’s going on and has to go through the whole process of discovery again to realise that he has to punch the wall again for a bit and die and come back again and punch it some more and die and come back and punch it even more, until eventually after four and half billion years (4,500,000,000 years) he punches through it and out (and then his problems have only just begun, but that’s a story for another time).
Doctor Who: Heaven Sent is supposed to be about grief, but I’ve found it a metaphor for depression, particularly treatment-resistant depression. By the end of each loop of the story, at the point where he’s in emotional and physical agony, when he can suddenly remember all the times he’s been through this already and knows how much he’s going to have to go through it again, the Doctor wants to give up. He just wants to die. But he doesn’t. Because that’s the most basic fact about the Doctor. He is never cruel or cowardly, he never gives up and he never gives in.
“I can’t keep doing this, Clara. I can’t! Why’s it always me? Why is it never anybody else’s turn? Can’t I just lose? Just this once? “
I don’t know how he doesn’t give up. I feel like I’m running round my own clockwork castle, alone, chased by my own worst nightmare. And it always catches up with me sooner or later and it always kills me, but somehow I get the strength to send myself through that teleporter again and reincarnate myself for another day. Just one more day. But I don’t know how to get through to the other side. Maybe it will take billions of years? But I’m not a Time Lord and I can’t live forever. It’s just a constant struggle getting through the day without hurting myself (I’m having thoughts of suicide and self-harm again). It’s exhausting, but it’s hard to get people to understand that. People think I can push myself so much harder, but the reality is that I face a constant battle just to stand in the same place.
I didn’t intend to apply for a job after my surgery yesterday, but I ended up doing so, except that the process was so long (and, to be fair, I procrastinated so much over it initially), that I didn’t get it finished, especially as I needed to cook dinner (and walk to the shops for ingredients which it turned out were in a cupboard and not the fridge as I thought – I haven’t got used to my mother’s kitchen again). I only did five minutes of Torah study too. At least I made a good start on the application. I stayed up late working on it and doing essential (and inessential) shopping, mainly shoes, which I hate buying (I can’t think of any other item of clothing which you buy knowing it won’t quite fit and hoping it will be OK once you’re “worn it in” and softened it up). Of course, today I feel depressed and can’t get going again.
I’ve finished that job application today, although I worry that I’m unconsciously self-sabotaging, telling myself I don’t have the relevant skills and not answering the questions as well as I might. I certainly find it hard to tailor my CV, cover letter or application form to the job in question, rather than just handing in a standard CV.
I found out today that I didn’t get called to interview for the job I applied for a couple of weeks ago at a London university library, for a position similar to my last job, even though I was over-qualified for, at least in terms of job title (library assistant instead of assistant librarian – the difference sounds trivial, but it masks very big differences in training and responsibility). That was the only job so far that I really wanted (the one I applied for today is a tentative second, although I think I’m under-qualified for that one).
My parents want me to apply for this job, researching kosher food products for the London Bet Din (rabbinical court). I’m reluctant to do so. Apart from the fact that I’m probably overqualified and would get bored, which may have been part of the problem with my old job, and that I suspect the pay won’t be great, I fear it would trigger my religious OCD even worse than before: not only would I risk treifing up my kitchen, I would risk treifing up thousands of kitchens! I don’t need that kind of responsibility. The fact that they want someone who has studied at yeshiva or seminary doesn’t help either.
It often happens that my parents want me to do something and I feel it would be a really bad idea and then I end up doubting myself because I can’t work out if they don’t understand me or I’m being influenced by my mental health issues. Sometimes I do what they say and it goes wrong as I predicted, not that that has led to anyone trusting me in the future. My parents don’t always get my mental health issues and underestimate how much they affect me, but then sometimes I genuinely am blinded to reality by them.
E. messaged me late at night saying I’m a good person and shouldn’t beat myself up (I assume that was based on yesterday’s post). I don’t feel like a good person, though. I don’t feel like a competent person either.
I had the weird idea to email the agony aunt who writes the Teen Q&A section on Aish.com (Jewish website). I’m hardly a teen, but my problems did start when I was a teen, but the main reason is she seems to give good advice. I wanted to ask not so much about practical things (like changing my therapist), but whether God loves me, what should I do about having no simcha shel mitzvah (joy in performing the commandments) and how I can fit into the frum (religious) community? It might be helpful to have a perspective from someone who hasn’t known me for years and isn’t so close to things. But then I think this is just drama queening again, like when I comment on Hevria.com, and why would a complete stranger understand me better than my family, friends, rabbi mentor, therapist I’ve been seeing for six years etc.? I often think about reaching out to people I don’t know personally to try to talk through things. It’s rarely a good idea, as it usually just leads to me drama queening on their blogs in the hope of getting sympathy, which I don’t usually get and which I feel bad for asking for when I do get it.
The saga of trying to get a doctor’s appointment continues: last week I was told to phone back at 6.30pm today. I did that, only to find that the surgery had shut (I was sure they had a late night opening on Mondays, so maybe they just switch off the phones). The automated system didn’t have any appointments at all with my usual doctor, nor were there any on the online booking system. I could try to get an appointment with a different doctor, but it’s so hard to find a doctor who understands me that I’m reluctant to do so at this stage. I will try to get up early tomorrow morning and make an appointment, and tell them I’m suicidal if they refuse. The problem with playing the suicide card (aside from them getting tired of it, as it’s not the first time it’s happened – it’s not my fault that suicidality is something I live with on an ongoing basis) is that they can then respond that if I’m suicidal I should phone the crisis team or go to A&E. In the past I’ve been pushed back and forth between the GP’s surgery and the crisis team (who are literally worse than useless – they actually make me want to kill myself even more. They won’t help you unless you are literally about to kill yourself; when I told them I had wanted to kill myself the previous day, they said they couldn’t help me).