“Now cracks a noble heart”

I feel the need to blog without having much to say.  Shabbat (the Sabbath) was awful.  It was a struggle to get through the day.  I got agitated late last night again and struggled to sleep even after I got to bed, which at least shows that the agitation is not directly linked to using the internet or TV as I don’t do either of those over Shabbat.  I slept through most of today and laid in bed much of the time when I wasn’t asleep because I was too tired or depressed to read.  I ran in to two people I was at school with who are now very religious (one at least is a rabbi) and who now have children – quite old children, so they must have been married for a while.  I run into these people quite frequently (I assume they live locally) and I’m not sure if they remember me (I have never said anything to them; I don’t think they bullied me, but I had nothing in common with them at school and don’t expect to have anything in common with them now), but it always makes me feel bad that I don’t have a wife and children like a good Jewish man should.  I suppose part of me wonders if I should have gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) and become a rabbi like they did, although I can’t imagine ever succeeding if I tried to do that.

Over Shabbat I realised that really I want to die, but I can’t because a few people (friends and family) care about me.  I should feel relieved, but I feel I’m being forced to live a life that can only ever make me miserable.  I genuinely can’t ever see any hope for things getting better and I wonder if my therapist is right that I should not have turned down that job offer, regardless of the fact that I don’t think I could have managed to do the job.  However, as I have said before, there isn’t a method of suicide that is both certain and painless and with my luck if I attempted suicide I would doubtless end up alive and in terrible, perhaps permanent, physical pain, so between that and the people who care about me, I suppose I’m stuck here for the duration.  I feel as if I have been given a life sentence.

Shabbat was the 9th of the Jewish month of Av (Tisha B’Av), the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, the day when we mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the many, many, many tragedies of Jewish history.  This is usually a fast day (as in no food or drink), but because we don’t mourn on Shabbat, it gets postponed to the 10th, which is my Hebrew birthday, which somehow seems appropriate.  On the Fast of Av, pretty much everything remotely fun or enjoyable is forbidden.  I’ve always taken it very seriously, but I’m not sure that I have the energy this year.  I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to get through the day.  I was just crying in shul (synagogue).  My brain was pretty scrambled and I was crying over stuff in my life, the sad events mourned on the Fast of Av and sad things in the world in general, all at once, without really knowing what I was crying about or why.  I just cried a lot.  I couldn’t really follow the reading of Eichah (Lamentations) or read the kinot (laments) with the congregation.  I just feel alternately despairing and exhausted, with occasional bursts of anxiety about the future and the holiday I’m still trying to avoid cancelling.

I feel there is no hope for me.  I don’t feel at all integrated into the Jewish community.  I struggle at times to communicate with my family.  My friends are all distant geographically and often emotionally too.  I have three good friends, which is more than I had a few years ago, but just knowing people care about me turns out not to magically improve my mood or self-esteem as I had hoped it might.  I can’t see myself ever having anything approaching a full-time or ‘real’ job again.  I feel I have met my bashert (soulmate) only for her to be unable to cope with my mental health issues and consequent low income.  I don’t blame her as those are big things to cope with, but I can’t see anyone else ever being able to look past them.  I really can’t see anything good on the horizon and I’m not sure how I’m going to get through the next fifty or sixty years.

The Infinitely Deferred Marshmallow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suicidal Thoughts

I probably shouldn’t blog for a third time in one day, especially when the first post was long and drifted into incoherence (as of 10.00pm it hasn’t had a single ‘like’ which I don’t  think happened for a while – I usually get one or two) and the second was probably drifting along a line between neurosis and psychosis.  But I’m still agitated and my mind is still racing and I’m trying to cope.

I feel quite suicidal again.  I went to shiur (Torah class), but struggled.  I lied and said I was fine when I should have been honest about how I feel.  But how do you say to people that you don’t know well that everything is not fine, that everything is pretty awful all things considered and that the things they take for granted on waking up every day – family, job, income, community, life, sanity – I have to get up and fight for.  Every.  Single.  Day.

I didn’t jump off the pedestrian walkway onto the dual carriageway even though part of me really wanted to.  (It would be a horrible way to go, though.  About the opposite of dying painlessly in your sleep.)

I thought a lot about suicide during shiur.  The assistant rabbi spoke in the shiur about concepts that can’t be explained in words, either due to their inherent depth or the speaker not really understanding them.  For me suicide is only partly from despair, although total despair and lack of hope for any improvement in my life at all is a necessary precondition for feeling suicidal.  I am not sure, however, that it is a sufficient condition.

For me suicide, as I fantasise about it, is in part a performance, an action done to communicate an emotional state to other people.  Suicide comes from loneliness, but probably not from being utterly alone.  It comes from having things that I want to say to other people that I can not say, either due to shyness, inarticulacy or the fact that I no longer have any contact with them.  Inherent in my suicidal fantasies is the concept of somehow knowing that other people will hear of my suicide, that they will know and that they will understand a particular message, the message that I am unable to cope with life and, as a subtext, that they are partially to blame for my inability to cope.  Hence the fact that suicidal thoughts are linked strongly for me with googling to try to find out what peers from school and Oxford are now doing, people who on some level I blame for my problems.  (This does not reflect well on me, I know.)

Having been ignored most of my life, the desire to be known, the desire for my pain and my struggle to be known is almost overwhelming.  I want to scream; dying would be the biggest scream I can imagine, the only scream I could make that might have the chance of pushing Trump, Brexit and Syria off the news for a few minutes, at least for the small number of people who have met me at some point in my life.  And they might think, “I didn’t know he felt so bad.”  And they might think, “Maybe I should have said something to him.”

I understand that these feelings are quite common, common enough for suicide prevention charities to ask the media to downplay reports of suicide and avoid romanticising them or attaching any kind of aura of glory or fame to the deceased (see here).

Of course the idea of killing myself to communicate my inarticulable feelings to other people is based on several false premises.  One, that I can actually survive long enough to see and get some satisfaction from the result (I do sometimes fantasise about making a failed suicide attempt, but that would most likely result in people being angry with me, the usual response of friends and family to a failed suicide attempt).  It also assumes that my suicide can and will be understood the way I want, whereas it is likely that many of the people I would like to know about my death would never hear (the global Jewish community is small and close-knit, but we don’t all hear about each other).  Many people I remember have probably long-forgotten about me and even if they have not and they hear, they might still not draw the conclusions I want.  They might think, “I always knew he was weird/screwed up/a failure.”  They might assume that the trigger for my suicide came long after they knew me, which would not be entirely inaccurate.  Or they might descend into permanent blame and depression themselves, which I don’t really want because I’m not a sadist or vengeful.  I want to be understood, not ruin everyone else’s lives the way mine was ruined.

The other side of suicide, about which there is not much to say, is the idea of a redemptive death.  Suicide can’t really be construed in that way.  Since adolescence I have fantasised about a heroic death that would somehow save others.  It’s not likely to happen, not least because I know I’m a coward and could never do anything brave.

There are a couple of reasons why I’ve never gone through with a suicide attempt, although there have been a few close calls.  The first is a fear of pain.  I don’t fear death very much, but I do fear pain and the thought of a long, lingering death or a failed attempt resulting in permanent, painful injury is not pleasant.  Few methods of suicide seem even remotely painless and certain of success.  Second is not wanting to upset my family and, now, my close friends (it’s probably only in the last year or so that I feel I have friends close enough to care).  Third is the flipside of what I said about wanting people to feel guilty: I’m not a cruel person and I don’t really want people to feel guilty about my death for the rest of their lives.  It’s a fantasy when I feel very angry and alone, but not one I really want to come true.  I have no desire to hurt anyone, just to be understood.

The problem is that I don’t know how to communicate these feelings healthily.  I suppose I have therapy and I have this blog, but both run into barriers of articulacy – I can not articulate all the things I feel, because I am overwhelmed by my feelings and lack the vocabulary to describe them.  Plus neither is much of an audience.  Therapy is with one person and my blog is with a handful of people, most of whom don’t know me in real life.

Somehow I wish a bit of my feelings could be known to the people around me without having to go to the extreme of hurting myself or trying to kill myself, but without my needing to find the words and the confidence to say them.  Of course, people probably wouldn’t know how to react if I did tell them, even assuming that there is a type of reaction that I am looking for that wouldn’t leave me feeling embarrassed or useless.

Hieronimo is Mad Againe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D-Day

Warning: this is a long post.  You might want to make yourself a cup of tea first.  It isn’t going to be pretty.  Don’t say you weren’t warned…

The big news today was my meeting with my boss about my contract.  It got off to a bad start when she told me that the college had picked up more stuff about suicide that I had apparently posted when blogging on my lunch break at work this week.  This surprised me, as I thought I had mainly been working on non-blogging writing this week and I haven’t felt suicidal for ages anyway.  It was perhaps this post and the statement that “I feel that I can’t go on much more.  I’m too lonely, depressed and hopeless to live like this forever.”  (Thanks to one of my friends for remembering that.)  I’m still slightly surprised their software got it, though as it seems pretty vague to me.  I don’t think I was thinking of suicide when I wrote, just being exhausted and worn down by work and my life.  It is a bit scary that I wrote that without thinking that it was particularly suicidal.  I still don’t feel it’s particularly suicidal.  That’s just how I am and how I’ve been for years.  Which I guess is sad.

Then my boss spoke about renewing my contract.  It was positive inasmuch as she said that there was still a strong chance that the college would renew my contract, but, because of the reorganisation and the transition from contract work to permanent work, the job would effectively be an entirely new job.  I’d work all year round (rather than having most of the school holidays off), but the hours and salary would be the same because I’d do a twenty-four hour week instead of a twenty-eight hour one, with one hour less per day, but one late night (probably midday to 8pm).  I will sometimes have to go to the other colleges in the super-college, but will probably be mainly based at our secondary campus.  I will be in a new role, being in charge of some of the day-to-day running of the library (I think, I’m not sure about this), interacting with librarians in the other colleges, starting and managing projects and seeing them to a conclusion.  I will give talks to students on things like information literacy (I think) and will try to develop strategies to ‘sell’ the library to them.  I will have responsibility for purchasing and weeding books in a particular area, possibly across all the colleges in the super-college.

I don’t mind losing my holidays, as I just got depressed in them, but gaining one hour a day seems a waste: not long enough to do anything productive with it when I come home tired.  The late night seems very disruptive to my sleep pattern and if it’s on a Thursday (it will be Tuesday or Thursday) I will have to miss shiur (religious class), which is my main social activity, plus, because of the length of my commute, I will get home from work half an hour after I’m supposed to start getting ready for bed, even without having dinner.  Our secondary campus makes me feel depressed, as it’s a horrible dingy old Victorian school that smells of school dinners, although the badly-lit library is being refurbished and will hopefully be airier.

Above all, I don’t think I can do the new job.  I don’t feel capable of running a library (although I don’t think my boss used the word ‘run’ – I stupidly didn’t take notes in the meeting because I thought it was going to be a much shorter and simpler thing, just, “We want to renew your contract doing the same thing as this year; what hours would you like to do?”).  I don’t feel capable of making up new plans to run a library out of thin air and I don’t feel capable of project managing them to positive conclusions.  I’ve done public speaking before, but I really don’t want to do classroom-type teaching or even extra one-to-one interactions with students and I can’t sell anything.  Even the interactions I already have with the students make me incredibly nervous: I start worrying that I’m going to start shaking and I sometimes make stupid mistakes and say the wrong things, which has caused problems in the past.  And I’ll be more isolated at our secondary campus, depending on how the college reorganisation develops, potentially without the team-mates that I rely on for support and advice.

Added to all this was the fact that my boss reiterated that while in theory I could take Jewish holidays off, in practice that was not an entitlement and I might not be allowed if there was some sort of schedule clash.  Jewish holidays aren’t negotiable for me.  It’s not, “I want to be with my family.”  It’s, “If I do this, it will be an incredibly serious sin.”  I’m trying to think of a secular or Christian parallel in seriousness, but it’s really hard.  There isn’t anything that’s not quite murder, but only just.  I guess it would be like being told to rob a bank.  It’s that serious.  I could lose all hope of having Olam HaBa (reward in the next world).  So that panicked me too.

My immediate reaction was that I was already barely keeping all the balls I’m currently juggling in the air and now I was being asked to carry on juggling those balls while also juggling some clubs too, and burning ones at that.

I think my boss saw how worried I was looking.  She said the work I had done on the catalogue this year was good (possibly the first time she’s really praised me since my end of probation report nine months ago) and the fact that I was being offered a new role is a sign of support.  But she also asked if I really wanted my contract renewed and if I really wanted to be a librarian, which is less positive.  She also made it quite clear that she doesn’t think I interact well with the students and that the new job will involve a lot more of that.

I spoke to my parents about this and tried to make clear that I don’t think I can do it, to their dismay.  They genuinely can’t understand why I don’t want to do this.  For one thing, it would give me money to allow me to continue living away from home, otherwise I have to move back in with them.  Beyond that, my Dad is impressed that I’ll be running the library at the secondary campus (I’m not sure that the word ‘running’ was used and if it was I find that even more terrifying).  They see the opportunity as a vote of confidence in my work, which wasn’t how I felt my boss spoke about interpersonal skills.  They are sanguine about my ability to cope with changed working hours and late nights.  They say I’ve done public speaking before and well, which is true, but I haven’t done it for years.  I can’t remember how depressed I was last time I did it, but it wasn’t to a hostile audience of teenagers and it was on a subject I knew and loved.  They didn’t really comment directly on my other fears, but seem to think I am turning down something that would be very positive for my career and finances in the vague hope that something else will come up or that I can find a way to make writing work for me.  I said to them what I said to my boss, that it wasn’t one particular fear that maybe I could resolve, but the cumulative effect of a load of problems that might not be deal-breakers by themselves, but when loaded together become insurmountable.

The discussion got quite heated and basically turned into an argument where I couldn’t understand why they didn’t empathise with my fears and they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t excited about this opportunity and was actively looking for ways to get out of it.  Then I had to try to calm down as I was having dinner with some old friends from Oxford days.

I had a good time, but I ended up speaking a lot about the job.  I also ran myself down quite a bit, I think, not just about the job, but about my upcoming holiday, saying I’ll probably get lost and fail to find the kosher restaurants (in New York!) and when one friend suggested putting me in touch with an old Oxford acquaintance who lives in New York, I said he wouldn’t remember me and wouldn’t want to meet me, when really I was scared that I he would remember and would want to meet and I wouldn’t know what to say and would feel bad that he’s now married with children while I’m struggling.  For what it’s worth, my friend did seem to think that old Oxford acquaintances would remember me and want to see me; she was quite insistent on this, actually.  I do find it hard to believe, though.  This week I’ve had several run-ins with old acquaintances who I either avoided from fear of not know what I should say or fear of what they would say or who apparently didn’t recognise me (but maybe would have if I had shown recognition of them), including one in the restaurant.

I got pretty morose on the way home which may have come from eating a rich dessert and then crashing (I’m not sure whether this is really something I susceptible to or not and don’t eat out often enough to really be sure – it could be that something else about eating out brings me down e.g. seeing friends and family, seeing couples).  I was noticing a lot of couples, frum (religious) and otherwise, in the restaurant and on the bus on the way home, which always makes me feel lonely.  The book I was reading on the bus didn’t help; a collection of stories by James Thurber, who is usually very funny, but I happened to be up to two stories in the book that weren’t funny.  One in particular was about a failed (ish) writer who is lonely and thinks society is made for couples and wonders if he could have married his ex-girlfriend if he didn’t over-analyse everything.  So that didn’t hit home at all, no way…

The thing is, I think the only thing I come anything close to actually enjoying in my life is writing and I don’t know how to do it in quantity (to get published) while working, but I don’t know how to support myself while writing.  I even enjoy writing little jokes and things for myself without telling them to anyone, mostly because not many people get my sense of humour and not all of those understand my references.  For example, today on my way home I was making up jokes about Donald Trump (I do this a lot) and for some reason (I know the reason, but it would take too long to explain) was thinking about what his coat of arms would look like.  I decided on a tweet rampant over an adult film star couchant (but not dormant), complete with his favoured use of the bar sinister*.  This amused me a lot, just thinking about it.  I get blocked with my writing sometimes, sometimes for long periods, but often I have a lot to say and just don’t have the time and energy to write it down, or the forum.  I have two blogs, but I also have a restless, curious mind and things I think about don’t always fit neatly into The (Jewish) Depression Blog and The Doctor Who Blog.  Just today at lunch I started writing something that could probably go in either, but I can’t cross-post as one blog is anonymous and the other isn’t.  I’m not sure when I’ll get around to finishing it, however.  I really wish I could find a way to make writing work for me or find a library/information job that involves reading and researching more than interpersonal interactions and physically maintaining a collection.

* This was a joke on the Muslim ban (ban = bar) and a pun on the two meanings of sinister, but on googling just now to check that bar sinister is a real term in heraldry and not something I half-remembered, I discovered that the real bar sinister is an indication of bastardy…

Mirror Image

I wasn’t planning on writing today.  A few things happened over Shabbat (the Sabbath), but I was going to leave them until tomorrow or later.  I slept through too much of the day again and am not tired now (it’s midnight as I begin to type), but that’s a minor thing.  But then I read a post on a blog I follow that upset me.

I won’t link to the blog as I comment there under my own name.  But it’s the blog of someone else Jewish very much like me: frum (religious) upbringing, but I think not currently frum, but severely depressed, lonely, social anxious, autistic and possibly also with OCD.  Also PTSD from being abused in hospital, which I don’t have.  She is currently very depressed and suicidal.  I have been praying for her for some months, since finding out how depressed she is, and hoping that things will improve for her because I know exactly what she is going through.  I comment on her blog when she posts, which is very irregularly, but she never responds and I worry that I am making things worse, although I’m not sure how I would be doing that.

It’s very frustrating seeing her like that and knowing that there is nothing I can do to help her.  I’m reluctant to give her my email address in case she misinterprets and given that she has never responded, I doubt she would want to email me anyway.  I just wish there was something I could do to help her.  I guess I know how my family and friends feel about me now.

Oh Well

Today was a somewhat stressful day.  I didn’t want to write about it, but I thought the way I left things yesterday meant that I should, especially as I might not get time to write tomorrow.

Yesterday I phoned the Samaritans (UK crisis line) after I found myself counting how many pills I had in the flat, just out of curiosity, I told myself, to see if I could overdose.  I actually tried to phone my sister first, but couldn’t get hold of her.  I spoke for about half an hour, which was good, but by the end I was exhausted and just wanted to crash, but then I needed a shower and to make my lunch and pack for today and do my meditation and hitbodedut and then I got hungry, so I was still late to bed.

Today I was exhausted, which is not surprising because (a) I have only had seven or so hours of sleep for the last few nights (I need at least eight if not nine) and (b) because being severely depressed and suicidal is more exhausting than you might think.   I struggled to get to work despite transport trouble, then I struggled to get through work despite exhaustion and difficult students.  I did less of the main part of my job than I would have liked (dealing with students is not supposed to be the main part), but at least I tried my best with the students.

Then a Christian guy tried to proselytise me when I was doing my shopping in the supermarket.  This always annoys me more than it should.  It annoys me that visible Jews (which basically means religiously-dressed ones) are singled out for this, even though we’re probably the least likely people to be convinced and even though Judaism is a non-proselytising religion.  I didn’t really need it after a stressful day.

Anyway, I’m writing mainly because I probably won’t get time to write tomorrow.  I’m hoping to get to my depression support group for the first time in months.  It depends on my parents being awake enough to give me a lift, though (they are flying back to the UK tonight), because if I go on public transport I won’t have time to have dinner before going out.  It’s a shame I have to miss shiur (Torah class) to go, as shiur is really my only social activity, but I think this is more important this time.  Then on Friday morning I’m seeing my doctor about increasing my medication and talking to my therapist about what we can do about my social anxiety.  Hopefully we can think of something to do that I haven’t tried so far.

Tu B’Av for Non-Jews

I don’t really have anything to say today, but I need to say something to someone and my parents are currently not around, so I blog instead.

I was very depressed on waking again.  I was going to enjoy being able to sleep a little later on a work day.  I was starting at 10.00am rather than 9.00am, but working on another campus so the commute was even longer than usual, but I should have been able to get up a little later, but I had missed one of my many alarms when resetting them last night, so I still got woken up at 6.05 (how it woke me today when I normally sleep through it is beyond me).

I was too depressed to do more than a cursory bit of Torah study on the train.  I had hoped that studying Mishnah would be easier than Gemarah, but it isn’t.  The Artscroll commentary doesn’t help, as rather than just explain the simple meaning of the text, it brings in every possible interpretation from the Gemarah and the Medieval and modern commentators, so that rather than understanding the Mishnah more, I understand it less, which surely can’t be right.  I read through literally pages of this stuff (admittedly not many pages) on the train every work day and understand almost nothing whatsoever of what I read.  I wonder if it’s a waste of time, but I feel I should be doing some kind of Torah study other than just the weekly sedra (without commentary) and that it ought to be something related to the Oral Torah, rather than just reading Jewish philosophy or Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) as I used to do.  Admittedly this is partly from feelings of guilt and inadequacy over never having gone to yeshiva and partly because I feel that a prospective frum wife is going to want a husband who knows at least some Gemarah.  Studying Mishnah seemed like a start (after attempts at going to Talmud shiurim (classes) that have never lasted longer than a year, due to factors out of my control), but it hasn’t worked.  I don’t know what else to do, and the Artscroll commentary is at least handily pocket-sized.  Sadly, Artscroll has cornered the market in Mishnayot; the more succinct Kehati is out of print, although I have the volume on Brachot (from one of my ex-dates, funnily enough.  One of the ones I still talk to).

I took the time on the train saved by not studying to finish something I started yesterday, doing a SWOT analysis of myself (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) as well as comparing the pros and cons of working as a college librarian with working as a research librarian/researcher and writing a list of my current anxieties.  None of these lists told me anything I didn’t already know, though, which made me doubt the point of the exercise or if I was doing it right.  I tend not to be good at these kind of things.  By “these kind of things” I meant ‘blue sky thinking-type planning’, but I’m not particularly good at ‘self-awareness’ either.

Work was OK, a lot of dull scanning of books and then a lot of unexpected cataloguing with the usual fears of going too slowly and not doing enough balanced by fears of going too fast and making mistakes.  I have no idea if I’ve achieved the right sort of balance.  There was some strange confusion at one point about where the keys to the room we were working in were when I was the only person back from lunch that I don’t understand well enough to relate and it’s probably not very interesting either.  I don’t know why these things happen to me, though: do I attract strange incidents or do I simply fail to understand normal events in the world around me (Asperger’s/high functioning autism?)?  My boss and I left at 4.30pm, but two of my colleagues stayed on.  This led to further anxiety,  which was probably bordering on ‘pure O’ (obsession) OCD, on the way home, as I worried that I should have told them where I left the keys, although they were in plain sight on the desk.

Someone was playing music while we were working because most of the team were doing menial work while I was cataloguing.  Unfortunately, I can’t work with the radio on (Asperger’s again?), but I felt it was wrong to impose my views on everyone else, so I put up with it.  There were a lot of mushy Valentine’s dedications.  Up until that point I had somehow managed to remain largely in ignorance of Valentine’s Day this year, so it took me a bit by surprise.  I was cheered up a bit later when my non-biological sisters (friends who are like sisters) texted me with emoji flowers and teddy bears, which is the first time in thirty-four years that anyone has ever done anything for me on Valentine’s Day (although one year when I was at school I overheard a couple of girls planning to send me an anonymous card as a hilarious prank, but they didn’t do it).  I doubt I would do anything for Valentine’s Day even if I was in a relationship (it’s not very Jewish), but having every couple in the world advertise how blissfully happy they are to be in love (yeah, right) doesn’t do much for me right now.

Mind you, the radio news bulletins, which were full of children being murdered by their families, did not exactly cheer me up either.  To be honest, the news generally is depressing, either terrible things happening or the mundane lives of “celebrities” that I am supposed to care about.

Back to dating: my rabbi offered to talk to me about dating a few weeks ago and I still haven’t got back to him (this was after I asked if he knew a shadchan (matchmaker) who works with people with mental health issues; he didn’t just decide to offer me advice on  my private life).  To be honest, I’m not really sure what to say to him and have been procrastinating over it for some days now.  I’m not really sure what advice my rabbi can give me that would possibly apply in my unique situation.  On the other hand, I don’t want to be rude and I do want it to be known in the community that I’m looking to date as there’s an outside chance that someone will know someone right for me.  And there is still a lot I don’t know about dating in the frum (religious) community, which I have only really just started doing.

I feel despondent.  I’ve emailed ten shadchanim in the last couple of weeks.  Some didn’t respond or said they couldn’t help because they don’t deal with people with mental health issues or because they only work with people in the USA.  Two asked for my shidduch profile (dating profile), but didn’t respond after I sent it, all of which just reinforces my feeling that, between my mental health issues and my geeky interests, I’m just too weird for anyone to date.  I’m open to the idea that there are frum geeky women out there who could tolerate someone with mental health issues, but I don’t know how to meet them as they are surely being marginalised as much as I am.  I also feel lately that I’ve sunk deeply back into depression and anxiety and I shouldn’t even be thinking about dating, although my parents are still hopeful that finding the “right woman” will help me, if not recover, then at least feel a bit better and my rabbi mentor (not the shul rabbi mentioned above) seemed to think it was worth trying.  To be fair, do tend to feel better while dating, at least up until the point when I get told that my inamorata can’t cope with my depression/social anxiety/geekiness/etc.

I sank back into semi-suicidal thoughts on the way home.  I don’t particularly feel like killing myself, although this morning I was feeling bad enough to wonder if I should leave most of my meds at my parents’ house, a precaution I take when I feel very despairing.  I might do that soon, even though it will take a huge chunk out of my day to walk there and back and probably again on Sunday.  I don’t want to kill myself, I would rather find a way to be, if not happy, then at least content with my life, but I worry that I will sooner or later.  The main things stopping me are worries about my parents and fear of pain and of making a failed suicide attempt that leaves me in pain, but alive.  When I feel bad, it doesn’t usually occur to me that suicide is forbidden in Judaism.  I suppose I feel that I don’t have any share in Olam HaBa (the Next World) anyway and that things can’t get any worse, or perhaps I simply can’t think that abstractly when so depressed.  I worry that all it would take is one bad day or moment of weakness and I would just give up.

I don’t know how to deal with this long-term, as all the coping measures I have been told about are short-term (distract myself; stay alive for five minute increments; keep my meds elsewhere (although I can’t keep them all elsewhere, nor can I get rid of my kitchen knives); phone the Samaritans; go to my doctor, phone the NHS mental health crisis team or go to A&E (ha ha ha, anyone who has been suicidal in the UK can tell you how useless the NHS is at dealing with suicidal people.  Last time I phoned the crisis team, I was told that unless I was literally about to kill myself that very minute, they couldn’t do anything for me, no matter that I had been thinking of killing myself a few hours before and was worried I might do it again).  Other than that it’s just a case of sticking with therapy and medication, neither of which seems to do more in the long-term than maintain a level of barely tolerable despair, with occasional better periods lasting no more than six months.  I do at least have an appointment with my doctor for Friday week to talk about increasing the dosage of my clomipramine, although I expect that would make my weight gain even worse, which in turn just lowers my self-esteem.

For someone who didn’t have anything to write about, I seem to have written a lot, although I can’t imagine that any of it interests anyone.  It all seems fairly mundane, although I suppose I’m in a bad state when serious suicidal fears seem mundane.  I guess I should go and have dinner.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Day of Excruciating Brutality

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian Roulette

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

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

And today I felt He was punishing me again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appointment with the Doctor

Apologies for the boringly prosaic and descriptive title.  I was going to call this post ‘Post-Mortem’, but then I realised that yesterday I was writing about being suicidal, so it might be misinterpreted.  I guess ‘The Story of the Day I Went to the Doctor About My Depression (Again)’ is a bit wordy.

I was up late last night talking to my parents about my mental health and what to do about it.  My Mum was very keen on me going to see the doctor and I thought she was right.  Really I was just waiting for someone to tell me to go, as I always worry in these situations whether I’m bad enough to justify seeking help, bearing in mind that I’ve been very depressed for most of my adult life, so it’s hard to recognise the point where it’s bad enough to take action.  I spent some time last night working out what to say to the doctor and also to my boss, realising that I would have to explain why I was missing work (I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to get an appointment at such short notice, so I was potentially missing the whole day).  One of my parents, I can’t remember which, suggested emailing my boss last night so that she would have something as soon as she got in to explain my absence, in case I was held up in phoning; as an additional bonus, it meant I wouldn’t have to explain too much over the phone, as I can get nervous and semi-incoherent when talking to people over the phone (social anxiety and/or Asperger’s again).  All this took a lot of time and I don’t think I got to bed until around 1.00am, especially as, after my experiences on Sunday (when I went to bed early without relaxing and couldn’t sleep) I made sure to shower and relax a bit before bed after a rather traumatic day.

I managed to get a doctor’s appointment for late morning today.  Fortunately when I was suicidal a year ago, the doctor put a note on my file saying I’m an ‘at risk’ patient (depressed young male living alone) and in an emergency I’m to be given an appointment that day, otherwise I could have been waiting days to be seen.  I got to see my preferred doctor too, which was good.  He was very sympathetic as I explained that my condition has worsened in recent weeks, building up to intense thoughts of self-harm and suicide yesterday.  I explained about family stress (my sister’s wedding) and work stress (relatively new job, my worry over making mistakes and my boss finding out about my blog and self-harm) and how this has all felt like it had reached an unbearable point yesterday afternoon, probably compounded by disrupted sleep over my long weekend (from Friday to Sunday I dozed every afternoon/early evening and then ended up going to bed late and/or struggling to sleep at the right time).

The doctor felt there was no reason to change my medication, which I sort of agree with and sort of not.  I think it’s doing something as if we change the dose or I forget to take it, I go downhill rapidly, but I wouldn’t describe my condition as ‘good.’  I was feeling a lot better from being put on clomipramine last winter until the summer, but since then I have been very depressed, albeit functional and not in danger of hurting myself (until yesterday).  It seems that, as with all the medication I have taken, it either does nothing or produces some improvement until an external event pushes me back into the depression, at which point it at best keeps a degree of stability and functionality, but not positive mood.

Then again, I would agree with the psychiatrists I have seen in the past who say that medication can only help me so much; I need to make changes to my life.  This is the hard part, as I’m not sure what to change or how, particularly when obstructed by social anxiety and my borderline Asperger’s.  Hence all the recent posts musing idly about career changes, volunteering or emigration and more seriously about trying to find a romantic relationship while also struggling to integrate better into my religious community (which currently feels like one step forward and two backwards – I haven’t been to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat morning (Saturday) for a couple of months now, as I’ve been too exhausted, but I suspect that is covering depression and socially anxiety that I need to confront at some point).  The result is a feeling of ‘stuckness’ which I guess I should raise with my therapist this week (a shame I only just thought of it now, not during my appointment with the doctor).

The doctor did, however, think that the immediate trigger for my agitation was my disturbed sleep over the weekend.  This may be true, as I know I need seven to eight hours of sleep a night just to be functional and any kind of physical need (fatigue, hunger, dehydration) can trigger mental health issues very quickly in me (depression, anxiety, OCD).  Still, I think a more likely trigger is the issue with my blog being discovered by my boss and the college hierarchy last week, which is further in the past than the sleep disruption, but Monday was my first full day at work since it happened, which may have been triggering, particularly as I was doing some (non-blog) writing during my lunch break, right before the agitated and self-harming thoughts started, which may have reminded me of writing my blog during my lunch break and inadvertently being ‘caught.’  I did mention some of this to the doctor, but he didn’t change his mind.  He did prescribe sleeping tablets for a few nights, saying I don’t have to take them if I don’t want to.  I think I’ll probably wait until a night when I can’t sleep or my sleep pattern gets messed up (more likely to be during the weekend, as on weekdays I sleep, if not the sleep of the just, then at least the sleep of the exhausted).  I do wonder if they will give me more refreshing sleep, as for many years the depression has made me sleep for long periods, but not refreshing sleep – I wake up as tired or even more tired than I went to bed.

I felt that this was positive overall, especially as the doctor booked in a follow-up appointment (by phone, so I won’t have to miss more time off work) for next Monday.

This took me to lunchtime.  I phoned my boss to let her know what happened and got no answer, just as I had got no answer when phoning in this morning to explain my absence.  I left a message (as I had done earlier too) and a few minutes later she phoned back, saying she was out of the office and had only just got my message (at the time I assumed she meant the message of a few minutes earlier, but in retrospect, she might have meant the first phone message and even the email of the previous night).  She said that she would like to see me tomorrow, which I’m a bit nervous about, but probably shouldn’t be.  She also said there was no point in my going in this afternoon, as by the time I arrived it would be nearly time to come home again, but I said I think I would like the structure of going to work; the last thing I wanted was to be stuck home alone again with my thoughts as I was on Sunday and over the winter holidays.  So I went to work for two hours, spending more time commuting than actually at work, but I think it was the right decision for my health.  It also gave me the opportunity to open up to another of my colleagues about my depression (but not the suicidal thoughts), which was a positive thing as well.

So now I’m home, feeling vaguely anxious about my meeting tomorrow.  I feel I should have some kind of positive action plan to put in place and I don’t have a clue what that would be.  As I mentioned yesterday, employers are supposed to make “reasonable adjustment” to illness under UK diversity law, but it’s hard to tell what is reasonable; also what would be running away from my problems.  For example, I think that even if I could somehow escape from being on the issue desk, it would be a backwards step to do so.  I need to have those anxiety-provoking and mistake-making experiences for growth (something else the doctor said today, actually).  The only real adjustments I can think of are some leniency if I’m a few minutes late to work (which has only happened twice in nearly eight months) or if I need to stop work for a few minutes to calm myself or just to be able to ‘shift gears’ between two different tasks (as I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not sure how much this is a depressive problem or an Asperger’s one; I guess it doesn’t really matter what it comes from).

Appointments

I summoned up the courage to phone my parents.  When I said I was having suicidal thoughts, my Mum straight away said I should get an emergency appointment with the doctor tomorrow and see if I can get referred back to the psychiatrist or have my medication changed (although my experience of doctors on the NHS in the UK is that they tend to leave medication to the psychiatrist if possible). I should be able to get an appointment with the doctor tomorrow, even though there’s normally a huge waiting list, as when I was suicidal last winter, my doctor put a note on my file saying that I’m a priority and have to be given an appointment that day if I say it’s an emergency (young men living on their own are a massive suicide risk anyway, plus I have a long history of suicidal ideation).  I’ll have to phone my boss first thing in the morning to explain the situation, including mentioning the suicidal thoughts, otherwise it won’t seem bad enough for me to justify missing a day of work (or possibly a half-day if I can get  seen earlier).  I am dreading this.  I have just sent an email to explain the situation so that my phone call won’t be totally out of the blue, because I know I can get panicky and not completely coherent on the phone (not sure if that’s social anxiety or Asperger’s) and I don’t want it to sound as if I’m skiving.

I’m having self-critical thoughts saying I shouldn’t have gone from three days to four a week at work or even that I shouldn’t have left my old job, but I guess I did have to try to push myself and I was doing OK in the spring.  I made decisions based on the information available to me and although I knew there was a possibility of relapse, I didn’t know it would be this bad.  In some respects, I’m just glad it didn’t hit me until the winter break, after my sister’s wedding, as it would have been awful to miss that.  I just hope I can find a way to stick with this job.

I don’t know if there are still medication options.  There might be older tricyclic antidepressants I could try.  There’s MAOI antidepressants, which are a pain because of dietary restrictions, but they might help.  And there’s ECT although in my experience you have to be more or less totally non-functional before psychiatrists will prescribe that.  Still, my thinking – and my therapist agrees with me – is that medication can only keep me stable at best.  Beyond that, I need talking therapy and I need to somehow shift things in my life so I feel better about myself.  It’s hard to see where that could come from when I twist everything to fuel my self-loathing and where my efforts to deal with social anxiety and low self-esteem seem to continually hit the wall of depression and borderline Asperger’s symptoms.

So, I will try to remain positive and hope my appointment tomorrow is helpful.  I will just take some notes based on my previous blog post so that I’m not incoherent when I see the doctor and then get ready for bed.

“I am but mad north-north west”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Not Belonging to Clubs that Would Have Me as a Member

I feel exhausted, physically and emotionally.  The last two days have been difficult, and I have a stack of mostly boring chores to do during my thirteen days off (“holiday” if you like, but I’m not going away and probably not relaxing much, between depression and chores, although I intend to enjoy not having to get up around 6.30am).  I can’t go into all the details publicly, but here is what I can say.

I was over-stretched at work yesterday because three people were off sick out of a team of seven, so I spent five and a half hours (out of seven excluding lunch) on the issue desk to cover for them, which was very difficult.  I found it hard to concentrate on my other work: I tried to catalogue while on the issue desk, but it was difficult and cataloguing meant I was less aware of students coming up and asking questions or returning books, so I kept having to respond to coughs as they tried to attract my attention; eventually I gave up on cataloguing there.  I am still having difficulty with some requests and have to ask my colleagues for help or advice, which I feel bad about.  I feel I should be settled in the job by now.  I also tend to mis-hear requests or need to ask people to repeat what they said because I’m so socially anxious that I can’t concentrate on what they are asking at first, because I’m too busy thinking “Oh no, someone’s talking to me!  What should I do?”  I was upset by something unpleasant one student said (not about me, but it was still upsetting to hear), which I had better not repeat here.  One adult student said I’m friendly, though, which was nice and unexpected.

Yesterday was the last day of teaching, but I had a staff development day today before my holiday starts.  It was OK, not really worth talking about here.  We had an activity in the afternoon that has left me completely exhausted, not helped by disrupted sleep the last few nights.  I keep waking up in the middle of the night and when I look at the clock, no matter what time it is, I think I’ve overslept and then think maybe I haven’t overslept after all and can not remember what time I’m supposed to get up and what order the numbers come in.  This isn’t insomnia and it’s not exactly depressive ‘early waking’ either as I fall asleep afterwards.  I don’t know what it is, or if anyone else suffers from it.

I should probably cut this paragraph, because I don’t come out of it particularly well, but here goes: I just saw a post on Hevria that upset me, through no fault of its own.  They are really building up a community there and I feel excluded on multiple counts: because I don’t live in New York to take part in meetings, because I would be too socially anxious to go even if I did live in New York; because I’m not sure I can justify to myself donating the money they are asking for on my current income; and because I really wanted to write regularly for them at one point.  To be fair, Elad did say a while back that he would like me to write more regularly for them, but nowadays I don’t see myself as a Hevria writer.  I’m too depressed and depressing, not creative, radical, optimistic and spiritual.  Anyway, I’m a very bad writer.  And all my writing time (such as it is) goes on my Doctor Who book (which will never get published because it’s a saturated market and, as I said, I’m a very bad writer) or blogging, which is procrastination and venting, really, but necessary to get stuff out of my system and function, like sneezing (and about as literary).  Like this post, really, which is just a blatant attempt to fish for compliments (again).

Still, it upsets me to see this big club which I’ve never quite managed to join, even though I know a lot of the people involved are really nice and I would like to be friends with them, but they live on another continent and they wouldn’t want to know me if they met me in person, because I’m weird and boring and not creative, radical, spiritual, optimistic etc. etc. etc.  I do wish I had a community, though (I also wish someone would pay me for my writing, which is vulgar, but it’s about being valued as much as the money).  My shul is doing  a communal Friday night dinner in a few weeks and I know I should go, but I also know I will feel lonely and depressed because I will be practically the only single, childless person there (it’s billed as a family event) and will probably be too shy to talk all evening and maybe not even able to sit with anyone I like, so I’ve been procrastinating on paying for a space.  I feel such a freak sometimes always.

On a related note, various friends and relatives are trying to persuade me to go to a shadchan (matchmaker) after the one I contacted a few weeks ago did not get back to me.  I feel reluctant to, because the service it makes most sense for me to go to requires a monthly payment (it’s essentially a cross between the traditional shadchan and online dating) and because I’m a freak (I may have mentioned this before*) and not only do I feel unable to mention my Doctor Who geekery, yeshiva non-attendance, mental health issues (and their religious impact) and general religious struggles to a date, I don’t even feel I could mention them to the shadchan because I feel so ashamed of who I am and what I do.  But I don’t have any other way of meeting suitable women, so it’s either go or be single forever.  I do wonder if I’m too depressed to date, too lacking in energy, concentration and time.  I’ve been told energy and so on will come if I start dating, which doesn’t seem very likely.  I’ve also read that one shouldn’t date when very depressed, which would mean never dating in my case, as my non-depressed periods only last a couple of months;  just as I think I’ve “recovered” (whatever that means) and can think about moving on with my life, I start feeling depressed again.

I suppose I might as well admit that I’ve been having vague suicidal thoughts again.  I don’t want to kill myself, but sometimes I fantasise about doing so in an unrealistic way and a lot of the time I just wish that I wasn’t here.  There doesn’t seem to be very much going on in my life that makes me want to look forward to 2018, let alone 2020, 2030 or 2050 and, as I’ve said before, I don’t feel I have the usual religious get-out of reward in the next world, because I think I’ve sinned too much and that God just hates me.  I feel guilty about this as I know I have a few friends and family who would be upset and in any case, I don’t approve of suicide religiously, but I can’t really control where my mind goes (the reason CBT never worked for my depression) and trying to do so just provokes guilt for thinking of ‘forbidden’ thoughts.

This post sounds so adolescent, I can’t believe I’ll thirty-five next year.  I feel like a sixteen year old.  Actually, I wasn’t even this adolescent when I genuinely was a depressed sixteen year old.  Be that as it may, pizza and the start of Peter Davison’s time on Doctor Who beckons, if I can get the energy and motivation to daven Ma’ariv (say the evening prayers) and actually cook the pizza.

* Wasn’t I trying to stop the negative self-talk?  It’s very difficult, because it seems so true.

Too Much Too Much

I made some mistakes at work again.  They weren’t really awful, in the grand scheme of things, but I probably beat myself up about them more than I should.  One of the students said I had a bad attitude.  I suspect she was projecting her own anger and bad attitude onto me, but I felt guilty in case she was right and my tone of voice was harsher than I intended.  This does happen to me sometimes, probably a lot more when I was a child. I understand that it’s another Asperger’s/autism trait.  Poor executive function (another Asperger’s issue) has been a problem at work lately too.  I used to think that this wasn’t a problem for me, but now I increasingly suspect it is.  I know I’m indecisive, but I thought that was just my personality, but it could be the Asperger’s.  More pertinently, while I’m very self-motivated, I do find it hard to get down to things and to switch from one thing to another.  It’s another reason I hate being on the issue desk, because I will be doing some work and then a student will come up and ask a question or return a book and I have to go back and forth from one task to another, involving a multitude of windows and programs on my computer and I get lost.  I worry that I made a fool of myself to my boss today getting confused when switching windows and doing different tasks while we were working on something together on my computer.

Then WordPress recommended one far-right antisemitic blog and one far-left anti-Zionist/borderline antisemitic blog to me.  I think WordPress’ recommendation algorithm picked up the word ‘Jews’ and decided they must be like my blog.  This stuff upsets me more than it should.  I should be immune to antisemitism by now, having experienced so much of it, but it always gets to me.  I think it’s the injustice of it that hurts me, because unlike other unjustified criticism (e.g. that student who thought I had a bad attitude) I don’t really worry that it might be true (well, maybe some anti-Zionist criticism, but not the blog that argued that Donald Trump is a puppet of the international Jewish conspiracy and will convert to Judaism any day now).  Anyway, I don’t want to make this into a political blog, so I’ll stop there, but I can internal-monologue on this for hours (Asperger’s again).  Sigh.  As an aside, there don’t seem to be many Jewish blogs on WordPress, judging by the blogs I get recommended and the people who follow my blog, who seem to come mainly via recommendations on WordPress, so far as I can tell.  Few people seem to come here from my comments on Hevria.

I’ve had a few things I’ve wanted to blog about the last few days, but I haven’t really had the time with Chanukah and work.  I’ve been at my parents’ house for ‘candle’ lighting every night (candle in inverted commas because I actually use olive oil lamps).  This has been good but it takes a whole chunk out of my evening.  I’m desperately trying to get to the end of term in one piece.  I’ve just got to get through two ‘proper’ work days and one staff development day, then I have thirteen days off.  Thirteen days to sleep in and to work on my Doctor Who book and maybe do some of the exercising and cooking I have been neglecting lately, but also thirteen days to potentially be depressed and lonely – the depression, loneliness and self-loathing have been lurking in the background again lately.  I’ve been using very negative self-talk in my internal monologues again.  I don’t think I ever stopped really, but I think I might have done it less for a bit, but am doing more again.  I’m calling myself a “freak” a lot again, thinking I’ll never get married (the shadchan (matchmaker) I contacted never got back to me).  My parents were all excited that they have three weddings of friends’ children to go to next year and it was hard for me not to say something inappropriate about how depressed they were making me feel.  At least my sister’s marriage is out of the way, but I still need to deal with my friend’s wedding next year.  It’s a year (pretty much exactly) since I last felt suicidal, but I was feeling a bit that way today.  Not that I actually wanted to kill myself, but that I wished I wasn’t here.  The pure O (obsession/OCD) thoughts of throwing myself under a train, which is normally just a distraction that doesn’t bother me much somehow seem more worrying, less a fear that I will go crazy and impulsively jump for no reason and more a worry that one day I might really jump from real despair.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about tonight (this post has been a massive digression to vent so far) is something that happened at shiur tonight.  I realised that I knew quite a bit, Jewishly and secularly, but that I was too scared to share it.  Scared of being wrong (I did answer one question incorrectly, probably due to nerves/social anxiety as I did know the right answer), but also scared of being right and seeming ‘too clever’, like I was bullied and told off for being when I was growing up, especially if I say that someone else is wrong.  Also scared of knowing something I shouldn’t.  I’ll explain the last two points.

The shiur was about ChanukahChanukah, for those who don’t know, commemorates when the Greeks who ruled the land of Israel (actually the Seleucid (Greek-descended) rulers of Syria, but their culture was Hellenic/Greek) tried to impose Hellenic culture on the Jews there and basically destroy Judaism as a religion, or at least turn it into something less monotheistic and distinctively Jewish and more pagan and universalist.  The Jews rebelled and won, purified the Temple and struggled to light the menorah (lamp) because the Greeks had defiled all the olive oil, but found a tiny jar of pure oil that miraculously burned for eight days, exactly the time needed for them to prepare more oil.

The rabbi who gave the shiur constructed a whole philosophical structure around this about Greek culture, what it was and how it compares with Jewish culture.  It was interesting, but I had two problems.  One was I had heard a different interpretation, probably a complementary one, I haven’t really thought it through, which I was too scared to share with people in case it looked like I was criticising the rabbi or showing off.  There was also some general discussion at the end that I could have joined in with, but was scared to for the same reason.  But there were also things I was scared to say for fear of showing off secular knowledge and privileging that over Torah.  I wasn’t 100% convinced that his analysis of Hellenic culture fitted with what I have read in secular sources and I certainly wasn’t convinced that his analysis of Sadducee religion, which he brought in, was at all correct.  The Sadducees were a Jewish sect in late antiquity.  He was correct that they were heavily influenced by Hellenism, unlike the Pharisees, the ancestors of rabbinic Judaism, but I’m not convinced that they didn’t want to serve God; rather they were textual literalists who rejected the oral tradition, which isn’t the same thing to my way of thinking, even if it did lead to major differences in belief and practice from Pharisaic/rabbinic Judaism.  I suppose it says something about me that I’m still thinking about this, trying to find a way to reconcile what the rabbi said with what I have read and learnt elsewhere rather than just saying he’s wrong.  But I’m scared to ask the question for fear of looking too ‘modern’ and secular-influenced and for fear of looking like I’m attacking him with my degree in history (not that I studied ancient history or Jewish history at university).

I do feel that I often have things to share with people (comments, jokes, even quotations that I feel are appropriate or amusing), but I hold back for fear of what people would think.  Too intellectual.  Too elitist.  Too geeky.   Too weird.  Too religious.  Too secular.  Too irritating.  Maybe this is wrong of me.  Maybe I hold too much of myself back for anyone to be able to get to know, and maybe even like, the real me, let alone to build up intimacy and friendship.  But I’m too scared of rejection, from my childhood experiences and from my experiences on dates where I have opened up to women and tried to show them a bit of the real me (not the intense things I share here, but just my knowledge and personality, plus sometimes the existence of my mental health issues), only to be rejected.  I know I share a lot of things here, but I think I don’t really believe that other people are going to read this when I write, at least on some level and I do hold some things back, actually in some ways more now that I know that I have more readers and I can try to predict what they want to read (so fewer irrelevant quotations from Doctor Who, for example).

It is hard to know how I can open up to more people in an appropriate way in the future.  I guess this is something that the book I bought on social anxiety might be able to help me with (I haven’t started using it yet because I’ve been too busy), but I worry that the Asperger’s prevents me from judging when it is appropriate to say something and so I err on the side of caution and say nothing.  I worry that this is impossible to change and so I will never fit in, make friends, find a community or get married.

Normal, Unfortunately

“The situation, Lavel, is normal and it doesn’t get much worse than that.” – Doctor Who: Battlefield by Ben Aaronovitch

A loosely timecoded account of my day.

13.54  Utterly exhausted.  I’ve been awake about two hours, after sleeping for about ten  hours (I went to bed late because I was watching Doctor Who).  I’m still in my pyjamas.  I had breakfast, which usually gives me some energy, but hasn’t today.  I’m just too tired to do anything.

15.01  Dressed now.  Somehow I managed to just daven Minchah (say afternoon prayers), even though I have zero energy and I feel really angry with God and disinclined to pray to Him.  I was reflecting on the hasgachah pratit (Divine providence) stories that you can find on Jewish sites like Hevria.com, Aish.com and Chabad.org, where people say, “Bad things happened to me, but I trusted in HaShem (God)” and everything turned out OK in the end” or even “I didn’t believe in God, but He did some amazing miracle for me and now I’m a frum (religious) Jew.”  I try really hard to see God’s hand in my life, but mostly it’s seeing His responsibility for my suffering and pain.  Every day I try to find five things to thank Him for, even if it’s tiny things in otherwise bleak situations, for example, “Thank you that, although I was too depressed [You made me too depressed] to get up for forty-five minutes after I should have done, thank you that you gave me a tiny bit of energy so I got to work on time, even though that meant I had to skip most of davening [for which I expect You will punish me at some point].”  But despite this, He seems to hate me.  Certainly whenever something good happens, it quickly turns bad (the opposite of all the hasgachah pratit stories on those websites).  My new job seemed good, but I feel I can’t handle the hours or the commute any more, nor the other stresses of the job.

I hate myself and feel that I’m worthless and other unmentionable words.  I’m pretty sure that God feels the same way about me, otherwise He would help me or at least show me why He hates me so much, what my sins are, so I could change and be worthy of His love.  I know what my worst sins are, but they are caused by my psychological issues rather than causing them, so I don’t know how to change unless He heals me first, something He has been refusing to do for twenty years or more.

I just want to know that I’m loved, really.  By God and preferably by a woman who will let me love her too.  I don’t know which I want more.   I guess that depends how pious or lonely I feel.

Whatever.  I’m supposed to do a load of things today: Torah study, cleaning the flat, cooking, proof-reading my Dad’s speech for the wedding, and I don’t have energy for any of them.  And I slept so late and took so long to get the energy to get dressed, that ludicrously, I have to get ready for bed again in just a few hours so that I might just get up in time for work tomorrow.  I just want to watch DVDs all afternoon, really, but the flat hasn’t been cleaned for about three weeks and I really ought to cook something so I’m not eating convenience food all week.

15.58  I’ve eaten lunch and watched an episode of Doctor Who, but I still have no energy or motivation.

16.27  Still exhausted.  I don’t think I’m going to get anything done today.  I would like to go for a walk, but I don’t have the energy; even the thought of putting my coat, gloves and scarf on is intimidating.

I didn’t find a mental health Torah reflection this week.   The nearest I could find was discomfort with Yitzchak (Isaac) getting married.  At forty, he was older than me, but then living to 180, he lived rather longer than I’m likely to live.

16.54  I just managed thirteen minutes of Torah study and feel exhausted.  Mostly it was reading over a bit of the Gemarah that we skipped in Talmud shiur (class) last week because it was too mathematical and complicated.  I couldn’t understand it at all by myself, even in translation.  Going over what we did study last week was only a little easier.  I tried to skim a religious article online, but couldn’t concentrate.  I hate it when I am too depressed to read, reading is so important to me.

17.19  Phoned my parents, trying very hard not to sound irritable and depressed.  When I’m depressed it’s very hard not to be irritable, especially when I feel people are patronising me.  This is another reason I have made a mistake looking into dating again.  I’m just not good enough.

17.36 Davened Ma’ariv (evening prayers) with zero kavannah (concentration).  I would feel lousy, if I could feel anything.

18.25 Went shopping.  It was a struggle to walk home, even though it’s only ten minutes away.  I don’t know how I am going to get to work tomorrow, but I’m scared to phone in sick, both because I don’t know how my boss will react and because if I miss one day, I know I will get out of the routine of going and it will be impossible to get back into it.  I’m like a cartoon character who can run off a cliff provided I don’t look down and see that I’ve run out of road (not my metaphor, sadly.  I wish I could write that well).  A bit of me wants to just watch DVDs, but mostly I just want not to exist, although I’m not actively suicidal.  People as messed up as me don’t deserve to be happy or loved, so I guess it’s just as well I’m not happy or loved romantically (I guess a couple of people care about me platonically or familially, though sometimes it’s hard to feel it).

I guess I should make some dinner, but I don’t really have the energy.  I should at least cook some plain pasta for tonight and tomorrow and boil some eggs for lunch tomorrow and Tuesday, otherwise I’ll be eating convenience food for dinner all week and cheese sandwiches every day for lunch.  I really need to clean the flat, but it isn’t going to happen now until next weekend at the earliest.

18.40  My sister phoned about wedding stuff.  I feel bad because she’s worried she’s upset me by talking too much about the wedding and with aspects of the party.  So of course I feel bad for signposting my boredom with the wedding too obviously and for being ill and not knowing what I’m going to be able to do about the wedding until the day and not really caring about the things she wants me to do.  And then I feel guilty that she picked up that I wasn’t in a state to have that conversation today, because I should hide my feelings better to avoid inconveniencing people.  The one good thing about thinking I’m never going to get married is not having to worry about having a wedding party.  I hate parties.  I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a party since I was a young child.

Right now I just can’t cope.  I hate myself for the things I do when I’m depressed, the person I become.  I hate myself for self-sabotaging every chance I have at happiness.  I hate myself for being generally stupid and useless and I hate myself for being depressed and socially anxious and Aspie (and undiagnosed) and still sometimes OCD.

19.26  I feel numb now.  I’m not really feeling anything except wanting to curl up and sleep.  I should make dinner, but I can’t really be bothered.  Incredibly, I need to start getting ready for bed in an hour or so, even though I feel like I’ve only just got up.  I achieved more or less nothing today and don’t know how I’m going to cope with the coming week.

That Was (Nearly) The Year That Was

I’m blogging in my lunch hour again (finishing, proof-reading and posting later) because in the evenings I lack the time and energy to blog.  I have a load of ideas for posts that are more in depth than these kinds of “what happened to me today” posts, but I simply don’t have the time to write them; what energy and time I have for more analytical writing goes on my Doctor Who book.

In a week and a few hours, it will be Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  According to the Talmud on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur ten days later, we get judged for life or death in the coming year.  I can’t remember how it goes exactly, but I think with regard to physical life (whether we live or die in the coming year) we get judged on Rosh Hashanah, but with regard to spiritual reward within this world (whether we get to enjoy living a religious life in the coming year so that we can continue with it more easily), the clearly righteous and the clearly wicked are judged for spiritual life and death respectively straight away and the rest of us have until Yom Kippur to sway the balance in favour of spiritual life and enjoyment.  This being the case, I feel I must be pretty bad, or have not prayed well enough in the past, as I don’t really get much enjoyment out of my religious life, or anything else really.  I don’t know how depressive anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) fits into this.  Still, apple dipped in honey is nice.

I feel this year has overstayed its welcome.  It was a crazy year, full of ups and downs.  At one stage I was so depressed I thought I would have to be hospitalized to stop me from trying to kill myself; at another stage I thought I had finally got over the depression and now I’m somewhere in between the two, functional, but still quite depressed.  I have got my OCD more under control, but I have become more aware of how much my social anxieties are holding me back.  I started I started a new job much closer to full time, but find myself asking if it was the right decision.  I feel I can’t think on my feet quickly enough to deal with users on a regular basis, especially teenagers, I feel I’m learning the procedures of the new job too slowly and I don’t yet feel comfortable in the working environment.  I worry that I’m not doing a good enough job.  I wonder if have over-extended myself by working so many hours.  Moving back to this year, I did try some dating again, but just ended up more lonely and depressed, although I have made some friends.  And my little sister got engaged, something that I think I’m only just beginning to process, while the thought of the party hits me with dread (including the interaction with work – my family say to ask for time off the day after the wedding, but I’m wary of asking for more TOIL given the problems I have had with it for Yom Tov (festivals) so I may end up going to work like a zombie on three hours sleep the next day).

This morning was another struggle to get up.  I actually overslept slightly, which is worrying as usually I do at least wake up on time even if I don’t get up.  I wanted to just stay in bed which is bad as it’s always a sign of depression with me.  I cried on the Tube into work, actual tears rolling down my face.  I don’t know if anyone saw (it is a point of etiquette on the Tube to take no notice whatsoever of the other passengers no matter what they do).  I cried at work yesterday too, I think.  I’m coming to think that I cry more often than I realized.  It’s hard to tell because, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I have two ways of crying, either just trying to carry on as normal with tears rolling down my face or giving in to intense sobbing without tears, but I can’t get tears and sobs together, which is what I associate with crying.  I think the “tears rolling down my face” crying happens quite a bit, but most of the time I just assume I’ve got something in my eye, as I’m not consciously more depressed than normal, although this may just be an indication of how depressed my ‘normal’ is.

Work was OK today, but slow.  Cataloguing was particularly slow because not only was I finding it hard to concentrate, but I wanted to read the books I was cataloguing.  I guess there aren’t many people who would be equally interested in books on politics, child development and neurodiversity (dyslexia in this case), but there you go.  Incidentally, I may have been self-harming a bit at work these last few days, but it may be normal ‘stimming’ behaviour for someone on the borderline of Asperger’s Syndrome (pulling hair, putting pressure on my fingers etc. as well as general fidgeting).  I really must get around to writing about that at some point as I still wonder about my non-diagnosis.

I spent a while at lunchtime agonizing about the potential date I thought I had, but it was a waste of time.  It turns out she thinks she knows me (I have no idea how, as I don’t know her, but people do sometimes know me when I don’t know them; I guess they say, “Who’s that weird guy who never talks or makes eye contact?”) and thinks our religious differences are too great.  So that’s that.  It does at least spare me a decision.  I might go to the specialist shadchan (matchmaker) at some point in the new year, if I think I’m coping with my mental health and with work (ha ha).

Roads Taken and Not Taken

Another miscellaneous post:

Today was probably the best work day this week, in terms of mood, energy, concentration and not making mistakes (although I still made a few), but even then on the way home I found myself reflecting that I’ll probably kill myself one day.  It’s frightening how a despairing and self-hating thought (if it was self-hating – it came more from resignation and despair than self-loathing) can spring from nowhere and make me assume that I will always be sad and lonely until eventually I won’t be able to take it any more.  On the way home I also found myself reflecting that my lapse back into depression means that I still haven’t managed to go more than six months or so without clinical depression since the start of 2003.  That’s almost the entire lifetime of some of the students I’m dealing with!  (Registering people to use the library today I reflected that many of them were born in the twenty-first century, whereas I can remember when the twenty-first century seemed a distant and unobtainable science fictional future to me).

My CBT therapist suggested a while back that my mental health is worsened by a lack of intellectual stimulation.  At the time I thought that my work was intellectual stimulation enough, but now I’m not sure.  I don’t think blogging or writing my book help either.  I don’t know what to do about this.

I have an appointment set up with the rabbi of the shul (synagogue) I am hoping to join.  I’m terrified that I’ll somehow be caught out, embarrassed and forbidden to join.  I’m sure it’s just a friendly meeting to get to know me better, but I can’t stop catastrophizing and feeling that this will be yet another situation where I don’t fit in.  I have also booked to go to the shul‘s siyum Mishnayot next week (a siyum is a big party to celebrate finishing some Jewish study, typically Mishnah or Talmud).  I’m a bit nervous and worried about who I will talk to, if I will embarrass myself, if I was supposed to do some study to be allowed to attend…

I mentioned volunteering yesterday as something that I should consider doing instead of dating.  I had a quick look on the Jewish Volunteering Network website, but there was very little that was suitable for me, although my lack of confidence in my abilities probably didn’t help; I used the site’s filters to rule out a whole load of areas assuming that I couldn’t do those things.  I’d like to do something interpersonal, maybe with children or the elderly, but I doubt that my social skills are good enough and expect that I would probably be a mess of social anxiety the whole time and be a liability rather than an asset.

So dating seems like more of an option, if I get through the chaggim (Jewish festivals) without collapsing under the strain of depression, social anxiety and OCD (I already feel anxious just thinking about them!).  But I still can’t see myself finding someone who both likes me and is compatible with me, even if I go to the shadchan (matchmaker) who specializes in dealing with people with health issues.  The better option would seem to be accepting being single and find other ways to give (but see my comments about volunteering) and receive love and companionship (unfortunately, people are not queueing up to be my friend).   I’d be tempted to get a pet, but I don’t have room in my flat and anyway I’m not really an animal person.

A thought that has bothered me for the last twenty-four hours or so: one Valentine’s Day I was on a crowded Tube train going to school.  There were some girls from my class in the same carriage.  I could hear them talking, but they couldn’t see me through the crowd and I could hear them saying that they had a Valentine’s Day card and were going to write a fake message to one of the geeky boys as a practical joke.  My name was one of the ones mentioned, I think.  At another time, I was sitting in French class working when I could here the girls behind me writing a frankly obscene “romantic” note supposedly from one of the geeky girls to me, as another practical joke.  My friend intercepted the note, not realizing that I had heard what they were saying as much as he had.  (This was the same friend who got production of our yearbook when we finished GCSEs aged 16 stopped because the writers were so rude about the geeky crowd I was friendly with.  I never found out what they said, although sometimes I wonder what they said about me.  Maybe it is better not to know.)

I don’t know why I keep thinking of these two incidents.  Maybe it’s another way of beating myself up, of saying that everyone has known for years that I am weird and unlovable, laughably so, and I should just stop trying to be happy and loved.  Maybe it’s because I wonder what would have happened if I had asked one of the geeky girls out (they were geeky in terms of being clever and academic rather than being interested in science fiction and the like, but still).  My oldest friend did that and they got married and have two children.  Most of the geeky girls were not frum, so far as I was aware, but I wasn’t frum then either.  I doubt I would have married any of them, but perhaps if I had dated a bit when I was sixteen or seventeen I would have had a better self-image.  I know, I’m frum now and supposed to disapprove of casual dating and focus on dating for marriage.  But I still wonder.  I guess my life could have gone very differently, but there is no end to self-recrimination if one goes down this route.

Buried Alive

I wanted to write something more discursive than I’ve written previously today, but I feel terrible and don’t have the brainpower to write anything other than what is going through my head right now.

I obviously spoke too soon about the OCD being under control, as I’m suffering with it at the moment.  I’m really worried I made my parents’ kettle milchig, and, as my Mum doesn’t believe me that there might be a problem, I’m worried she’s going to make the parev stuff milchig too, and the fleshig stuff treif.  I tried emailing first one rabbi then another, but I think both are away; certainly neither has yet got back to me.  I don’t know what to do.

The only things I’ve done today is to have a therapy session and go shopping.  Therapy was hard, as we focused on my break-up of three weeks ago, which may have been a mistake.  I think my therapist wanted me to stop repressing my feelings and express them, but I think it’s just brought everything back, although I’m not consciously thinking about the break-up.  I do feel pretty broken, though.

I nearly had some kind of breakdown in the supermarket.  I wanted to buy some vegetables to make vegetarian curry tomorrow, but I stood in front of the cauliflowers thinking that I wouldn’t have the energy to cook and especially to check the cauliflower for insects (not sure how much that is OCD or genuine worry) and I nearly just left it and decided not to cook or at least to come back later in the week when I was more sure of what I wanted to do.  I got a bit worried about being seen buying food that people from shul might see as insufficiently kosher (cauliflower, because of the difficulty of checking for insects, and also milk, because I rely on the leniency for drinking ordinary cows’ milk in the UK (chalav stam), but I suspect most people at my shul don’t, so I’m always worried about being caught with ordinary milk).  I did buy the food in the end, but I’m not sure I’m going to use it.

I have come back from the shops feeling very depressed and despairing.  I had vaguely suicidal thoughts.  I’m not going to hurt myself (please don’t worry or phone, those of you who know my number), but it is hard to keep going today.  I worry how I’m going to be able to go back to work next week, while also hoping that I do manage it, because I think the structure and social environment will help me.  But right now it’s hard to do anything.  I actually feel a bit light-headed and faint since coming home, which probably means my blood sugar has dropped and I should eat something, as low blood sugar makes me physically and makes the depression and OCD worse.

My Dad wanted me to open a new bank account with a better interest rate now I’m earning more money, but I need to ask him some questions about the account he recommended, but I don’t feel up to it.  I’m scared to phone my parents because I feel guilty about feeling so depressed today, because I feel I’ve let them down.  On the other hand, I was saying too much on Hevria again.  My poem there didn’t make much of an impression, although I did get two positive comments and a couple of likes.  Nothing negative, thankfully.  So that was good.  But it’s hard to hold onto the good today, when it feels like the world is just collapsing and I’m stuck under the rubble unable to get out.

Heaven Sent, Hell Bent; Or, Doctor Who is my Spirit Guide (Maybe)

(No wise mind today, this is too weird and it’s too late at night after Shabbat.)

I had a weird Shabbat.  At shul (synagogue) this morning, someone asked me to lunch.  I panicked and said I had to go home because my parents were expecting me, which was true, but it was early enough that I could have gone home, told Mum I was going out to lunch and gone back out again.  Really, I panicked.  It happened so fast that I’m not even sure why I panicked.  I think I was worried about not having anything to say or saying something stupid, but it might even have been more fundamental than that, just worrying that someone wants to see me socially worrying me in itself, feeling I will disappoint in someway or that some ill-defined bad thing will happen.  I felt guilty for not going, particularly as this person was going to be eating alone because I wasn’t going but also relieved.  I don’t know what I’ll do if I get asked again, by this person or someone else.  I say I want to have friends, but when I’m presented with the possibility, usually I panic and run away.

On a more positive note, I did speak a little at seudah shlishit (the third meal) at shul.  I made some suggestions about interpreting some Torah passages we were discussing and made a (very slight) attempt at humour.  So that was something positive.  It’s taken nearly eighteen months to get to this stage…

I slept a lot over Shabbat again.  I nearly dozed off during the leining (Torah reading) in shul, which was very bad.  I had a weird dream this afternoon.  I don’t normally relate my dreams, partly because I usually can’t remember them (either coherently or at all), partly because other people’s dreams are usually not terribly interesting, but I thought this one says something about me, although what it says is open to interpretation.

At the start of the dream my parents were annoyed with me.  They thought I was being short-tempered when I wasn’t intending to seem like that.  This happens to me a lot and has happened since childhood.  I think it might be one of my borderline Asperger’s symptoms, that I’m not always as expressive as I would like to be in my tone of voice and facial expressions and so I seem angry when I’m not.

My memory of the next bit is fairly incoherent (something about superheroes loosely based on the graphic novel Superman: Red Son?!).  The next bit I can sort of remember is being with characters from Doctor Who (second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, I think).  I think there was some sort of void between universes (as in The Mind Robber) and then we were in another universe, which I somehow knew was Heaven.  I think.  This is the clearest bit of the dream for me, but I still don’t remember it coherently.  I think I felt intense pleasure in this other universe/Heaven, like nothing I had experienced before.  It made all my suffering worthwhile.  And then I was fighting against myself: part of me wanted to stay there, part of me was trying to wake up.  I felt I had to wake myself up (I have had this experience before when finishing a dream).  Eventually I woke up and it was much later than I intended and I only had a little bit of time to study Torah before going back to shul.

On waking, I wondered if this was a prophetic dream and I had really been shown that I do have a share in the next world (see my comments about feeling I don’t have a share in the next world here) and that it is worth suffering in this world to get it.  Even if I never get any joy or pleasure in this world, it would still be worth it to have the next world.  The void between universes would be Gehennom.  The longer I’ve been awake, though, the more I doubt it.  In Judaism dreams can have prophetic meaning (e.g. Yosef’s/Joseph’s dreams) but even prophetic dreams have a nonsensical element (again, even Yosef’s dreams had this) and some dreams are completely nonsensical.  Why would I be shown that I have a share in the next world?  (My only possible explanation is because I was thinking about death and suicide recently, especially after what happened regarding lunch.)  Especially when I was not even in a state of ritual purity?  And if I was shown the next world, how could I even understand it?  It makes much more sense to see this as a fantasy dream – I wrote during the week about thinking I have no share in the next world, and now my unconscious produces a wish-fulfillment dream about it.  But I can’t shake the feeling that maybe I have been shown something important, if I could just put aside my scepticism.  (Interesting article on dreams in Judaism here.)

The final distressing thing that happened to me was looking through a booklet of Torah thoughts in shul this evening.  There was an essay on prayer.  I brought the booklet home after Shabbat so I can quote it:

Being real about tefilla [prayer] means we realize we are praying to our Father in Heaven Who wants only our good and has the power to do anything.  Therefore, we should anticipate that Hashem [God] wants to help us…

If we do not expect that Hashem will answer our tefilla, Hashem will not invade our space and shock us with success.  He wants us to earn the realization that He is our Father in Heaven and that we can always count on Him.

This worries me greatly.  I suppose it could explain why I don’t get the “miracles” that other frum Jews claim to have received (you can read a million of these stories on Hevria.com, Aish.com, Chabad.org etc.).  I admit I get a few things (I’ve been fortunate with my career), but I have spent all my adult life, if not more, struggling with mental illness, loneliness and misery.  I just don’t expect things to change.  I think God wants me to be this miserable, for some reason.

I feel I have just experienced so much misery in my life, so much bullying, emotional neglect and occasionally behaviour bordering on abuse, that it is hard to believe that God only wants good things for me.  I believe that God is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent… to everyone else.  My experience is simply that he doesn’t want me to have a happy life, for whatever reason, because I have not experienced that kind of positive experience in life generally.

And even if I can get past my own experiences, I am haunted by the Holocaust, especially by the one million babies and children who were murdered by the Nazis.  When I try and pray for good things, for myself and others, I often see the Holocaust victims, particularly the children, and I think, if God didn’t help them, what guarantee do I have that He will help me?  I can’t adopt the simplistic attitude that so many religious people seem to have that God will always step in at the last minute to stop anything terrible from happening.  I even wrote a poem about seeing the Holocaust children years ago, although I don’t really remember what I wrote and don’t intend to dig it out now.

I suppose this ties in with everything else I have written about tonight, about being asked to lunch and panicking and turning it down (running away from a potentially good thing) and then having a dream that might have a positive interpretation and insisting on giving it a negative one, even though in Judaism one can ‘force’ a dream to have a good interpretation by believing in that good interpretation.  I just can’t open myself up to the possibility of goodness, if only because of the depression and despair in which I am mired.  This seems really unfair, as it seems to guarantee that narcissists and other unpleasant people will have a good time while good people who have been made self-critical by suffering and abuse will not receive anything good.

Signals from Fred

(Signals from Fred explained.)

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus said that the Persians would consider every great decision twice, once while sober, so they would not be lacking wisdom and once while drunk, so they would not be lacking courage.  I don’t know whether this is really true or not, but it reminded me a bit of my CBT therapist trying to get me to favour my “wise mind” over my “OCD mind.”  I thought I would try to write this post twice, once with my depressed mind (in black) and once with my wise mind, trying to think more positively (in red).  It turned into autoanalysis.

I felt a bit better on waking than I had done for the past few days, albeit achey (I probably didn’t warm up properly before exercising yesterday), but again procrastinated, eating breakfast slowly, reading online (about social anxiety and about antisemitism, probably not the best thing to be reading) and avoiding getting dressed and davening (praying), although I did at least shave (eventually).  I finally said a tiny bit of Shacharit (morning prayers) mere seconds before it was too late to do so and while I was davening I started crying, I’m not sure why.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It can be a release, although this didn’t feel much like one.  I had zero kavannah (concentration in prayer).  The rabbi in my shul (synagogue) spoke recently of praying rapidly without kavannah being like asking for a favour in a hurried and inattentive way, insulting to the person you are talking to, but I am incapable of doing otherwise at the moment.  True, but at least I was davening.  Someone once told me that a rabbi had told her that davening at all when depressed is a great thing.  I don’t know how true that is.

I just heard that a friend of mine from Oxford got engaged.  I’m trying to feel happy for him, but it’s hard.  What I mostly feel is a sense of loneliness and isolation, as well as social anxiety about having more parties to go to and to feel awkard, bored and out of place at, as well as wondering when he got engaged and if this is another announcement I missed through not being on Facebook (his telling me was in response to my emailing him out of the blue to ask if he wanted to meet, as we haven’t seen each other for some months, maybe more than a year).  I did wonder how he met his fiancée and I suppose I could have asked him, but it’s doubtful the answer would have been any help to me anyway.

Even before this, I was thinking that if I had to sum myself up in two words, they would be “lonely” and “tormented.”  I meant that as a general comment, not one limited to how I feel today.  I’ve felt for some time that I am fundamentally a lonely person and today I added in the tormented part.  I’m not sure how to move on from them.  There is probably a lot of negative self-definition here.  Like I want to have problems.  I wonder what my therapist would make of this.  She used to talk of the “mantra” I had, telling her how bad my week had been.  Most of my peers from school and university (I’m thinking mainly of Oxford, for various reasons) have long since dropped off my radar, but the Jewish community is small and I do hear from time to time what people are doing, and it’s usually very positive: high-powered careers (going to Oxford means I know a lot of over-achievers;  also know quite a few who became rabbis as well as a couple of academics), marriage, children etc.  I think there may have been one or two divorces, I don’t know.  I just googled a few names which was very stupid of me and saw that someone who used to bully me at secondary school now has a business, a pretty wife, a baby and a dodgy beard.  I don’t wish him ill, but I wonder where I went wrong.  Interesting I said “where I went wrong”, not “where my life went wrong”, like I did something stupid, incorrect or immoral.  Like this is all  my fault.

I sometimes wish that my suffering could be some kind of kapparah (atonement) for other people, but Judaism doesn’t believe in vicarious punishment (actually, the historical reality is more complex than that, but certainly contemporary Judaism downplays it almost to non-existence and with good reason).  I used to want to be a lamed-vavnik, one of the thirty-six supremely righteous people on whose existence the world depends, but I have given up on the chances of achieving that particular ambition.  Ego, much? I was just thinking I’d rather be Mashiach ben Yosef than Mashiach ben David, because Mashiach ben Yosef gets killed before the messianic era begins.  That’s even worse!  I should probably add here I add a couple of borderline psychotic episodes at Oxford where I thought I was Mashiach, albeit only for a second or so.  When I told my therapist, years later, she pretty much freaked out about it.

I have long had an intuition that I have no share in Olam HaBa, the World to Come (essentially the Hebrew idiom for Heaven).  I can’t prove this to anyone, obviously.  Then why do I believe it?  Usually I’m reluctant to believe things without proof, purely on the basis of intuition.  Why is this different to ghosts, reincarnation, near death experiences and other things I’m sceptical of?  I’ve done some pretty bad things, but I don’t know that they will cost me my share in Olam HaBa.  Right.  But conversely,  no one can reassure me that I do have a share.  At school I was taught that almost everyone has a share in the next world and there is a famous teaching that all Jews have a share in the world to come, yet the Talmud lists a load of biblical characters who don’t have a share in Olam HaBa and with one exception they are all Jews.  At any rate, sometimes I feel I have done the three cardinal sins of murder, sexual immorality and idolatry.  ?!  Obviously I haven’t literally done those things.  I haven’t literally killed anyone or slept with a married woman.  But I feel I’ve done things equivalent to that e.g. the rabbis say that gossip and embarrassing someone in public are equivalent to murder and I’ve done those.  But regardless of what the rabbis say, there isn’t a literal equivalence.  You are supposed to die rather than murder, but you aren’t supposed to die rather than gossip.  I suspect I’ve also experienced baseless hatred, which is considered as bad as the three cardinal sins put together.  I said “suspect” because I can’t actually think of an instance of really hating someone, even someone who hurt me.  Dislike, yes, but not hate.  I can’t really think of very much positive that I’ve done.  I can think of two good things I did, which is not much, but more than nothing.  I don’t always keep Shabbat properly and I worry I don’t keep kashrut and Pesach properly.  Translation: sometimes I have accidentally broken Shabbat and my OCD tells me that I don’t keep kosher or Pesach properly, not my rational mind.  I don’t daven with kavannah, I skip a lot of Shacharit and I don’t do enough Torah study.  True, but as I said above, doing any Torah study or davening while depressed is impressive.  I did a lot of bad stuff before I became frum.  No, I did some fairly tame stuff that happens to be against halakhah before becoming frum, like eating vegetarian food in treif restaurants and watching TV on Shabbat.  I was a tinok shenishba and can’t be held responsible for it.  True, but it took me a long time to become frum and I made some mistakes.  I also had serious personal reasons for not becoming frummer sooner.  But there are still big things I still do that are against halakhah that I can’t mention here.  I have no reply to this, except that my mental health pushes me to do things I would rather not do e.g. being irritable and sarcastic to my parents.

Other people seem to have managed to do a lot more good than I have.  I just feel too paralyzed by my mental health, which isn’t really an excuse, as I know people who also have mental health issues who have triumphed over them, whether individuals I know (at least online) like Elad and Rivka Nehorai and Matthe Roth of Hevria or famous people like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill (and possibly various eighteenth and nineteenth century Hasidic rebbes, although it’s hard to diagnose people in retrospect).  Sometimes I daydream about being murdered by terrorists to have some kind of redemptive death al kiddush HaShem.  The irritating thing is, you would think if I have no Olam HaBa, I would at least have some Olam HaZeh (this world).  I suppose I have food, water and shelter, so maybe that’s all I deserve.  And at least I’m doing a job that feels socially useful.

I guess the last few paragraphs are a fairly transparent attempt at getting people to disagree with me and say I’m a good person.  I doubt it will work, but I shouldn’t even be manipulating people (my friends!) like this.

Oh well, I did at least manage to finish my painting of the bathroom woodwork today, to go for a walk and do some shopping as well as managing forty minutes of Torah study (which is all good!), again mostly Horeb which I have to say I am anxious to finish as I’m not getting much from it (I have about eighty pages left), which is probably not the right attitude (but at least I’m reading it and I’m doing it so I can move on to other things).  On the downside, I got involved in writing this post and making myself depressed googling people I knew and forgot to sort through my work papers, which was supposed to be one of my tasks for today.  I did manage to do a few things, though.  It wasn’t a totally wasted day and I did this experiment of trying to argue with my negative thoughts here.

“I have of late – but wherefore I know not – lost all my mirth”

I wrote most of this post earlier today (in fact, one paragraph was written last night), but at 6pm I had a short Skype call with my rabbi mentor which made me feel a lot better.  I didn’t want to delete the post I had written, because it was true this morning and may be true tomorrow, but I didn’t want to ignore how I feel now either.  So I decided to make a sort of mosaic: the bits in black ink are from earlier, the red bits have been added after 6.15.

I feel lethargic and depressed again.  I couldn’t be bothered to shave today, always a bad sign.  I had enough energy and motivation to shave by the evening, but it seemed a bit pointless that late in the day.  This really does look like another full-blown episode of depression.  I really thought I was over it (again).  I’m very worried about working four days a week from September now.  Maybe it will help me feel better… or maybe I won’t make it at all.  Ugh.

I’ve been feeling tired of life a bit again recently.  I didn’t think very much of this as I’m not actively suicidal, but this article says I should be concerned.  Also that I should be taking care of myself and of others and I’m not sure that I’m doing either of those.  Looking again, it also says I should be doing the things I love and which make me feel alive and excited and I’m not really doing that either.  I don’t know what I love, really, and nothing really makes me feel alive and excited (writing about Doctor Who?  Maybe, but that’s problematic on multiple levels).  Ugh.  Similarly, this second article states:

“Most people who don’t feel good about themselves want frequent reassurance that they are loveable and worthwhile, and become upset if it is missing. They expect a partner always to be warm, happy, and uncritical. That is hard for most partners, and unrealistic to expect of a mate. Instead, insecure people should do whatever is necessary to feel less dependent on others’ positive feedback. That may require psychotherapy, a job change, or appreciating aspects of themselves that they now denigrate.”

I know that this is true, but I don’t know how to change.  Years and years of therapy have not made me like myself more (although perhaps I did like myself a bit more a few months ago, before the depression started again) or less dependent on the praise of others.  It sometimes seems to me that the people who need praise and reassurance most are the ones who get it the least.  The article goes on to say, “Nothing external can undo years of emotional deprivation. If we can’t make ourselves happy, no one else will be able to do so.”  I don’t think this leaves me much hope, as so far I have not been able to change myself.

I feel these posts are getting repetitive and just voicing my self-loathing.  Ugh again.  And I’ve put on weight eating too much and not exercising while on “holiday” (and, to be fair, being on medication that causes weight gain as a side effect) and my work trousers are now tight.  Everyone puts on weight on holiday, though.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.

I didn’t have the energy to do any exercise again today.  I was at least going to try to go for a walk, but it was raining too heavily.  It was too wet outside to jog, but I did twenty-five minutes of aerobics and got quite tired in a good way.

I did manage to paint the woodwork in the bathroom.  It only took about twenty minutes, admittedly excluding preparation and cleaning up and it will probably need a second coat tomorrow.  So that is something achieved, even if it doesn’t seem like very much.  I managed half an hour of Torah study too, although I don’t think I managed to take anything in.  I also managed to do some work on my Doctor Who book for fifteen minutes.  I’m still a bit worried about wasting my time on it, but my rabbi mentor said that if I enjoy writing it and think other people might enjoy reading it, it’s enough reason to write it.

As mentioned, I also had a fifteen minute Skype call with my rabbi mentor, which was positive, partly just from talking to someone about how I’ve been (he’s a trained counsellor, so I feel comfortable sharing things with him that I’m reluctant to tell my parents; my therapist has been on holiday for a month, which always leaves me feeling depressed).  He suggested that I try gardening, which my non-biological “twin sister” also suggested.  I don’t have a garden, but I will see if my parents need anything done in theirs, even if it’s just harvesting the apples and pears from the trees.  I also felt good for not asking some of the questions I had that I thought were probably coming from OCD (asking questions seems a positive way to deal with OCD doubts, but it is actually a form of compulsion that perpetuates the obsession).  I did ask him a non-OCD question and he gave me a much more lenient answer than I expected, which was nice.

I am experiencing a lot of loneliness at the moment (another reason to look forward to going back to work).  I wander aimlessly around the internet looking for something I can relate to or someone I can communicate with.  I look for things written by people I know (at least online) so I can comment.  I’m sure my drama queening on Hevria is just trying to get a response because I’m lonely.  Is it trolling if I’m just trying to get a reaction if I don’t say anything rude and just want to be told I’m a good person?  Or alternatively, that I’m just a bad person.  As long as people interact with me, treat me like I exist.  I googled a couple of old loves, which I really shouldn’t have done.  No, I really shouldn’t.  I didn’t really learn anything new, but it just makes me feel depressed that other people are happy and moving on with their lives and I’m stuck here alone and miserable.

I saw this article about making friends yesterday, but I didn’t want to post a third time in one day.  My response was that it’s very hard to “just be myself.”  At shul and shiur I fear that just being myself will lead to me being ostracized for having weird or even forbidden interests and for not being a straightforward conservative (in all senses of the word) Orthodox Jew.  Among Doctor Who fans I fear that just being myself will lead to my being ostracized for being religious and not being a straightforward liberal.  At work I fear that just being myself will lead to me being ostracized for being too clever or for being a Zionist.  On Hevria I fear that just being myself will lead to me being ostracized for drama queening, for not being a mystic/Chabadnik and for fairly deliberately repressing my creative urges (especially as it was rejection from Hevria that led to that repression).  Everywhere I fear that just being myself will lead to me being ostracized for being mentally ill – even if people aren’t prejudiced against mental illness per se, it’s almost impossible to ‘casually’ bring up an ongoing history of serious illness of any kind without seeming like a drama queen, especially after not having mentioned it previously.  It’s no wonder I mostly hang out online where the few other people also in that tiny overlap on the Venn diagram of my life (frum, geeky, cultured, mentally ill) can say “Hi” (I admit it happens occasionally) and the rest can just ignore me rather than having actual negative interactions.  Actually, it’s worse than that, as usually I don’t say anything at all, even online.  But I’ve had so many rejections over my life and especially over the last few months that it’s hard to keep hoping and not to give up.  At times it’s tempting just to retreat to my flat and focus on my books and DVDs and forget about having friends or getting married.

The thing that strikes me about all this is how disproportionate the fears are compared to what I have actually experienced as an adult.  Yes, as a child I was bullied mercilessly by the other kids and even adult authority figures were dismissive of my interests and attempts at conversation.  But as an adult, outside of dating (where I have been rejected for my interests and my mental health), I have rarely experienced real rejection for these things, mostly because I haven’t flagged them up enough to even find out how people will react.  At Oxford I did get laughed at by one or two people at the Jewish Society when it came out that I was a Doctor Who fan, but that’s twelve years ago.  I’m assuming that people will react to my political and cultural views in a particular way, based on my fears and on the experiences of other people (e.g. Orthodox Jews who have been verbally abused by other Orthodox Jews for being anti-Trump) rather than based on my own experiences, which probably isn’t sensible.

I wish I hadn’t started Daniel Deronda, it’s become just another thing to beat myself up about.  Well, that’s silly.  What’s really annoying is that I was actually enjoying it, before I stopped reading because of the depression, so I don’t want to give up on it completely.

Inspirational Article

I don’t usually post links, and I know nothing about American football, so many of the references in this piece confused me, but I thought this was a really powerful article about self-esteem, addiction, suicide, kindness and repentance/personal redemption (teshuva as we would say in Hebrew).  Worth reading.  Oh, and there’s a library in it, which always makes me happy.

“That will be your one big regret, Ryan. It won’t be your failure to make it as an NFL quarterback. It won’t be your addiction to painkillers. It won’t even be your attempt to kill yourself.

When all’s said and done, your biggest regret will be that you didn’t treat people well.”

Humpty Dumpty

Today was a stressful day.  I feel I should be more settled in my new job, although I have only been there for three weeks.  I made some stupid mistakes at work.  The biggest was beginning to walk away from the library issue desk at lunchtime before being relieved, until called back by my boss.  The stupid thing is that I do normally know that the library issue desk should not be left unmanned.  I was even thinking about it previously.  I don’t know what caused my momentary lapse, but I spent the afternoon feeling ill (I feel as if I’m coming down with a bad cold: runny nose and eyes, muscle aches, blowing hot and cold, tired; I’ve probably run my immune system down as I only get about six hours of sleep before work days at the moment) and I was already feeling bad then, so it’s possible that I wasn’t thinking straight and there was just an instinctive impulse to get out in the fresh air and eat something to feel less ill.  I soldiered on all afternoon, but felt too ill to accomplish much after about 3.30pm.

As a result of childhood experiences, I tend to assume that if I am not perfect I will not be accepted and if people get momentarily annoyed with me (or if I even suspect they are annoyed, when they might really be tired, irritable or distracted), I tend to assume that they are still annoyed with me unless and until they explicitly tell me that they aren’t annoyed with me, which can result in my giving a wide berth to people for long periods for no good reason.  It is also worrying how quickly my mind moves from “I made a mistake” to “I’m a failure” to “I deserve to die” to “I want to kill myself” (I wasn’t actually suicidal per se, I just wanted the ground to swallow me up).

The other thing that happened today was that I texted my date from last week to see what was happening.  My mother told me not to do this, but I decided I needed closure (I hate all these arcane incomprehensible rules for dating, which only seem to exist to trip up people like me).  My date sent me a vague text that seemed to be telling me that she can’t cope with my mental health issues (although it took a second reading to be sure of this) and she seemed surprised that I was contacting her, even though when we last met she had said she wanted to think about things, not that she was definitely not interested.  I suspect she was too scared to dump me outright, which I sort of understand, but it is still upsetting to be left hanging on for days on end and then to be sent a vague text which is still not 100% clear about what is actually going on.

Once again, I feel that I am too broken to get married, but too honest to try to hide my issues.  I would in theory be open to holding them back until a relationship begins to develop, but they tend to come out earlier, probably because they have defined the whole of my adult life and I am too honest and too bad a liar to cover that up effectively.  My only relationship was with someone who had issues of her own, but that didn’t work because she didn’t help me with my issues, nor did she take care of herself, so I ended up dealing with two sets of issues (mine and hers) without any help from her.  If I date someone with issues (which I am open to doing – most people have them, particularly by their thirties) I think she has to be dealing with them at least as well as I am dealing with mine.  I do not think that that is an unreasonable request.  But if she was dealing with her issues, why would she want to date a screw up like me?  And this is without taking into account my weirdness, my poor social skills (see the first paragraph), my non-attendance of yeshiva and uncertain place on the frum spectrum, my looks, the sins and guilty conscience I wrote about yesterday… all the other reasons that count against me finding someone.  When I wrote about this previously a friend emailed to say that finding a partner is not about not being broken, but I that is what my experience has been until now.

The plan is to rest from dating for a couple of weeks to get settled into the new job and then go to a matchmaker, but I am not very hopeful, both because I feel like a screw up and because I’m sceptical about how successful matchmakers actually are, even though they are the norm in the frum world, which is, after all, where I am looking for a partner.

Still, while there’s life, there’s Doctor Who, so I’m having vegetarian chicken soup, pizza and more of The Invasion this evening to try to cheer myself up.