Anxiety Central

Today is a bad day for anxiety and self-recrimination.  I discovered that the Oxford Doctor Who Society team did get to the quiz on Sunday.  I’m not sure how I missed them, although only one team member from Sunday was there when I went previously, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I didn’t recognise them.  And I had an acknowledgement email from one science fiction magazine (that I probably shouldn’t have mentioned by name – I have amended that) for my pitch, which is making me more anxious than any job interview.   I suppose it’s understandable that receiving a formal acknowledgement sets off anxiety, but I’m not sure why it sets off self-critical and self-loathing thoughts.  I feel that I just beat myself up for trying things even before I get rejected.  There is, I suppose, a hope that everything will work out this time – or that at least something will work out – coupled with a fear that, judging by past experience, it probably won’t work out.

I’m also struggling with irrational guilt.  I had a question about my job interview on Thursday and emailed the head of HR, but my Dad said I should have phoned.  He is right that it might have been quicker (assuming she was at her desk), but I hate using the phone.  Many autistic and socially anxious people feel the same.  The autistic time lag in processing and responding to conversations seems worse on the phone.  So I emailed, but felt guilty, which is the worst of both worlds.

One Jewish newspaper I wrote to for submission guidelines asked to see copies of my work.  As it’s a fairly religious newspaper, I didn’t want to send any Doctor Who/science fiction criticism.  However, this meant going even further back in time to when I had an article on antisemitism published on a site now absorbed into Tablet Magazine.  I feel awkward about this too, especially as, unlike yesterday, today I sent screenshots of the articles I had written on the sites as well as sending them as Word documents; then I realised afterwards that the sites might be considered inappropriate by a religious newspaper (nothing unsafe for work, just geeky stuff on one site and the fact that the other (a Jewish cultural site) had a “Sex & Love” column tab at the top of the screen).  Nor did I mention that one column was pseudonymous.  The newspaper said they’d keep my details on file and consider me on an ad hoc basis in the future, which I think was a polite brush-off.  Everything today seems to be triggering social anxiety and self-recrimination.

Also, it turns out that I have few copies of material I have had published online.  I guess a mixture of tidiness and low self-esteem regarding my writing have led me to delete much of my writing after posting it online or not to bother transferring it when I’ve upgraded computers.  This applies not just to material from my blog, but even stuff I’ve had published professionally or semi-professionally.  I just never thought I would want or need a copy of it ever again.  Silly of me.  I had to copy and paste stuff I’d written from the web.  There’s a lesson in there about self-esteem and confidence in my work.

I guess the outcome of all of this stuff in the last two paragraphs is a need for better curation of my work.  It probably doesn’t help that I have varied interests that I’ve written about in the past, while it’s only really in the last few months that I’ve been thinking seriously about a career as a writer, with the need to target consistent markets and build up a portfolio of work rather than just writing about anything I fancy and sending it wherever anyone will take it.

Other than that, the day was largely spent in interview preparation and a long phone call to some friends who are sitting shivah (Jewish mourning ritual).  I was glad I was able to phone them, but I find long phone calls draining at the best of times.  I did some Torah study for about forty-five minutes, but I felt quite tired and struggled to concentrate; then my mood plummeted in the late afternoon.  I went to shul (synagogue) in the evening despite these feelings.  I made sure to arrive exactly on time rather than early as the new rabbi has been making a point of speaking to everyone before the service and I didn’t feel like talking, but he wasn’t there (he only works part-time).

The optimism I felt a day or two ago is beginning to evaporate again as I feel lonely, unlovable and unemployable.  I keep thinking of ‘near-misses,’ women I have a lot in common with, but where there is one key difference that stops us turning the friendship into a relationship, or one key reason it wouldn’t work.  I ask myself if I should compromise, but I know that would not be a sensible idea for either of us.  And I worry that I’m not actually employable, that my mix of depression, social anxiety and autism makes it impossible for me to do a job, while not being severe enough for me to qualify for state benefits.  I’m not sure where I go from here.

This all sounds depressed and pessimistic again, when it shouldn’t be.  Nothing really bad has happened to me today.  My friends sitting shivah should be an example of how life can go badly wrong and how lucky I am in comparison.  But I just can’t feel any positive feelings.

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Celestial Intervention

I sent off four emails to get submissions guidelines for different publications (three Jewish newspapers and a science fiction magazine).  This was a way of testing the water for potentially submitting articles as a freelancer.  I’m scared that I’ve said the wrong thing or written to the wrong person and will stop them ever employing me, but obviously saying nothing wasn’t going to lead to them employing me either.  Later in the week I hope to buy some copies of some of the American Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) newspapers, which I don’t normally read, to see if I could write for them.  I’m not sure if I could write for them, or if I would really want to do so, as the culture shock is quite big.

***

I started to wish Dad a happy father’s day and to thank him for being “a good Dad,” but realised this was damning with faint praise and switched mid-sentence to “great Dad,” but the resulting confusion sounded worse than if I’d said nothing.  This is why I prefer writing to speaking.  Similarly, I had an awkward, but necessary, conversation with my sister, but I think I will have to talk to her again about this (something I don’t want to go into here).  I’m struggling with a halakhic (Jewish legal) matter arising from this, but can’t raise it with my rabbi mentor, as I sent him a couple of emails last week and he hasn’t responded, which usually means he’s very busy or has some kind of family crisis and I should leave him alone for a week or two.  I don’t want to take this matter to other rabbis, as they lack his understanding of my family background and they may lack his insight in dealing with families where some members are more religious than others.  So I feel a bit stuck.

***

I went to the Doctor Who pub quiz I went to a few months ago, with the Oxford University Doctor Who Society team… except that when I got to the pub, they weren’t there.  I knew my friend (who is the only real contact I have with them nowadays) wasn’t going, but I’d been in contact with someone else who said they were going.  But either a completely different group went to the one I was expecting from last time (possible, I suppose, as the society is much bigger and more active than it was in my day) or they changed their plans, perhaps because of traffic coming from Oxford.  You can’t join the quiz late and you need two for a team, so there didn’t seem much point in staying.  I did see a couple of other fans I knew from Oxford, but I was never close with them and wasn’t sure if they remembered me, so social anxiety won out and I came home.

On the way home I was feeling a mixture of anger and resignation.  I think more resignation than anger.  Why do things like this always happen to me?  I did what I have been told to do since I was a child, I went out of my comfort zone, I put myself out there, I tried to make friends… and yet again I was disappointed again (and ripped off – Tube and bus fairs across London aren’t cheap).  Am I cursed or something?  That everything I do goes wrong.  Am I being punished for something?  For not going to see the Famous Rabbi yesterday?  I try to accept that things can turn out well, that my suffering is a tikkun or a kapparah or something, but it just feels like God hates me and delights in making everything go wrong for me.  Aish.com, Chabad.org and Hevria.com have very different outlooks, but they all seem to have the same basic idea that if you trust in God, He will basically do what you want.  This is theologically immature, and they would probably deny it if you asked them, but it’s what posts like this and this seem to amount to, when I read them.  Do what God wants, trust in Him and expect Him to help, and everything will turn out fine.  But what if it doesn’t?  What if you can’t expect God to help because of a lifetime of misery and loneliness?  What if you don’t know if you’re doing what He wants?  If you don’t know what He wants you to do?

Yesterday I was feeling a bit confident about writing, but today I have a feeling of stumbling through life (work, writing, family, friendships), making big mistakes and needing other people’s help.  I doubt whether I could ever get anything published.  I wish I could just be normal.  I feel bad saying this, as I’ve got friends whose mother just died, so my problems seem insignificant in contrast… except they aren’t insignificant.  Someone said, “the worst thing that’s ever happened to you is the worst thing that ever happened to you, regardless of its place in the continuum of bad things ever to happen to people.”  Missing these people is not the worst thing that ever happened to me, but a life of misery and loneliness is and I don’t know how to change it.

The Return of Colonel Runaway

I slept for about twelve hours again.  It’s quite awful, sleeping so long and waking more tired than I went to sleep, too tired to get up, but in many ways the worst of it is not being able to tell people, because it sounds luxurious and lazy.  It’s terrible.  I don’t have refreshing sleep, although as far as I can tell it’s not particularly interrupted (I must wake up enough to turn off my alarm, but I don’t consciously notice it).  I eventually get the strength to get up and eat breakfast, but it takes an hour or more after that to get the energy and motivation to get dressed.

I feel lethargic and depressed, like Sherlock Holmes after solving a difficult case.  Except I haven’t caught a murderer or found a missing treaty.  I haven’t really done anything for about a week and a half, except a bit of work on my Doctor Who book.  Is this still exhaustion from breaking up with L. and having two job interviews in a week?

Today not only did I get up too late to daven Shacharit (say morning prayers), as often happens, I even postponed Mincha (the Afternoon Service) until after lunch because I didn’t have the energy – I actually felt physically faint and weak.  I did try to fill in a job application, but I struggled to get the energy and concentration, plus they asked some quite detailed questions about types of tasks I’ve never done (e.g. designing and delivering information skills workshops) or things that I’ve never really thought about (e.g. the single most pressing issue for higher education).  Not for the first time, I wonder how most people can have full-time jobs and do CPD and have homes and families and have social lives and have hobbies all at the same time.  I can’t manage any of them.

It’s just a struggle to get through the day.  I was determined to get to autism group tonight, as I haven’t been for six months or more.  That’s where all my energy went.  It was a waste of time, though.  It was supposed to start at 6pm, but my experience is that no one gets there then.  I was aiming for 6.15, but because I miscalculated and my train was delayed, I didn’t get there until 6.45.  By this time, everyone was deep in conversation.  I had only seen one person there previously.  None of the people I was hoping to see, people I’ve ‘clicked’ with and been able to talk to in the past were there.  I sat on the fringes of conversations for a bit, trying to get in, but I wasn’t able to do so.  I’m very bad at that sort of thing.  One or two people said hi, but no one really spoke to me.  So far as I could tell, most of the people were talking about computer games.  I don’t play computer games.  And I was spacing out from the noise and struggling to hear properly (I’ve often wondered why a group for autistic people meets in such a busy, noisy place).  After fifteen minutes, I was desperate to leave.  The final straw was when the man and woman to my left who were talking to someone who hadn’t been before mentioned in passing that they were in a relationship and met through the group.  This provoked an inevitable comparison of myself to them, and the way I just can’t meet women who are interested in me.  So, I pretended my phone went off and left.

I am not proud of myself, not least because I wasted the extortionate cost of a Tube fare into London, and really wasted the whole day, because I could have tried harder to fill in the job application if I hadn’t left around 5.10pm.  To be fair, I was practically in tears on the Tube going to the group, so maybe I wasn’t in the best state of mind to start with.

Inevitably, I’m thinking again what a mess my life is and how I have not made anything of it.  Thinking that I’ve never really managed to fit into any community, be it academic, religious or fandom-based.  I didn’t fit in to the Jewish Society in Oxford, nor did I fit in with the other historians in my college (who seemed to be quite drink-and-party orientated, or maybe they just seemed that way in comparison to me, someone who went to bed at 11.00pm and tried to get up early even though he was a humanities student).  I fitted in a bit better to the Doctor Who Society, but had to miss a lot of their events because of Judaism (meals in non-kosher restaurants, location visits on Saturdays).  I don’t fit in to my shul (synagogue).  I despair of ever getting married.  I just can’t see it happening.  No one likes me that much and my lack of income is a serious issue.  I can’t build a career, I can’t live the type of religious life of community, prayer, religious study and mitzvah performance that I want.  I just can’t.  I don’t know how to try any more or who to turn to for help.  No one – I mean friends and family – seems to think things are so hopeless, but they don’t have any constructive suggestions other than to keep applying for jobs I don’t want and to go to shadchanim (matchmakers) to try to get set up with women even though I’m unemployed and not what any frum woman would be looking for.

OK, going to stop now because I’m just making myself feel more depressed.  One last thing: today I got the results of a routine blood test I had a couple of weeks ago: my lithium level is rather low.  The doctor didn’t query it, but I think it’s below the therapeutic range (I’ve long had issues trying to get my lithium level right on lithium tablets).  So maybe that’s why I’m struggling at the moment, if there weren’t enough other reasons.  I will try to mention it to the psychiatrist when I see her next week.

OK, Blake’s 7 and/or Doctor Who now.  I feel too depressed to do anything, but I’m going to force myself to watch something and not sit with my thoughts or aimlessly browse online.

The Knot in My Stomach

I feel depressed and anxious, but there isn’t really much I can say right now.  There’s a lot I want to say, but it is going to have to wait a day.  However, I want to reach out, so I’m trying to find something to say.  This is the blogging equivalent of when I’m depressed and lonely and I go downstairs and hang around until my parents say something to me.

I had a knot of nausea in my stomach much of the day, struggling with anxiety, both dating anxiety and job interview anxiety.  It seems unfair to have both at the same time, but I guess life isn’t fair.  I don’t really want to talk about dating at the moment, but I looked again at the job description for my interview tomorrow and I wondered why they were even calling me to interview.  I only applied on the off chance, because I don’t have most of the experience they want.  I tried to prepare by imagining being asked “Tell me about a time you demonstrated attribute X”-type questions, but I really can’t imagine how I would do that for the things they want as I genuinely have not done them.  I suppose they have their reasons for calling me.  I’m trying to remember if I listed that I had a disability (depression and/or autism) which might have led to them calling me to tick the necessary diversity boxes rather than because they realistically think I could do the job.  I have mixed feelings about positive discrimination, but no one ever points out that it makes the candidates who succeed paranoid that they aren’t good enough and are just meeting a quota.  I do still worry that I wasn’t “really” Oxford material and I only got in to meet a quota of students from comprehensive schools.

I did manage to cook dinner for tonight and tomorrow.  I also went for a blood test (routine lithium level check which I need on my meds), which turned out to have been booked for tomorrow.  I’m not sure how I made that mistake.  Fortunately they squeezed me in today, although the receptionist gave me a stern talking to about the importance of checking appointment times carefully.  It was just one more thing going wrong.

I do wonder if I will ever get my life together, get a career and a home and a wife and children.  Be able to actually function as an independent adult and not be dependent on other people, their time and their money (and their patience).  Get some kind of religious life that seems meaningful to me, rather than flailing about trying to find meaning and purpose and not really finding them.  Everything seems so far away.  I try to tell myself that, viewed over the long-term, my life is definitely getting better.  My mood is better, my activity level is higher, my OCD largely under control.  I probably have more friends than ever before, albeit that I don’t really have much of a social life because most of my friends are long-distance and/or online friends.  It’s just that the improvements are glacially slow, occurring over a decade or more, so slow that it is hard to believe they are happening, and that it is hard to believe that they could continue to happen fast enough and for long enough for me to manage to marry young enough to have children (among other things).  I know I’ve said before that everyone laughs at me when I say I have a biological clock ticking, but (a) older men do have fertility issues, albeit not in the same ways as women and, more to the point, (b) I really can’t see a forty-something version of me dating twenty-something women to have a family.  Yes, I’ve heard all the stories of older men who marry younger women and produce happy families, I just can’t see it happening to me, not least because I expect the attraction of such men to young women is partly that they are rich and settled, and I can’t really imagine being either of those things.

I sometimes think that the worst thing in life is when we get what we want, and it turns out not to be good for us.  That’s what I’m brooding on now.  But it’s impossible not to want anything, unless you’re a complete tzadik (saint) or possibly a Buddhist.

Doc Soc-ing Again

I’m not quite sure how coherent this is going to be, so bear with me.  Perhaps I will come back tomorrow and add more.  I’m feeling exhausted from a massively draining day; it would have been draining for anyone, but even more so with autism and depression.  But I need to set things down so that I can sleep; as usual, I’m writing for myself as much as anyone else.

I struggled to sleep last night after helping with post-Pesach (Passover) tidying.  I think I fell asleep around 4.00am.  After five hours of sleep, I was up again to go to Oxford for the thirtieth anniversary party for the Doctor Who Society.  When I was there it was the Oxford University Doctor Who Society, but I think it lost the university bit a few years ago when the proportion of students in the society dropped below the critical threshold.  A lot of what happened to me at Oxford was fairly miserable and a previous trip back to the city a number of years ago left me upset, but the Doc Soc (as we called it then) was one of the few places I felt comfortable and accepted, so I wanted to make the effort to go and show my support.  Plus I am a former president.  I know I only did a term, but I still count!

When I arrived in Oxford I spiralled down quite quickly into depression.  It doesn’t help that the bus station is right by my old college.  My college was not the site of good times.  I actually spent much of the day trying to avoid being anywhere I could see it and only consented to have it in my sight (from a distance) at the end of the day when I was feeling better.  Wandering around the town, killing time before the party, I was just feeling that I didn’t belong in Oxford, that I messed up my time there, that the city was full of undergraduates having fun and I was lonely and miserable the whole time I was a student.  I think I even wondered vaguely if should just turn around and go home.

I killed time for a bit until 2pm, when the party was due to start and eventually found the confidence to go in.  The room was packed with people and, again, I started to wonder if I had made the right decision, immediately feeling rather overwhelmed and anxious.

I won’t give a blow by blow account of what happened, mainly because I can’t.  Everything blurs together.  I know I must have stayed feeling awkward and depressed for a bit, but gradually I loosened up and was able to speak to some friends from my Oxford days.  After a while, I was able to get the confidence to speak to one or two people who I recognised from blogs I follow, which led on to being introduced to people who I knew from commenting on those blogs, even though I didn’t know that they were Oxford people too.  I’m not quite sure how I managed to do that, but somehow I did.  I actually managed to speak to quite a few people over the afternoon and mostly didn’t shake, although I was careful when pouring drinks.  It helped that I was aware that this was an environment where people who are neurodivergent, eccentric or just plain different were more likely to be present and accepted than in other environments that I find myself in (work, shul (synagogue), dates).  Someone said she saw me in the street on the way there and thought that I looked that I might be the type of person who would be going to the Doctor Who Society which amused me.  I obviously look geeky even when not wearing my Doctor Who scarf (I decided that the ‘smart casual’ clothing instructions precluded both cosplay and Doctor Who t-shirts, although few other people felt the same way).

There were various events during the afternoon, including a talk on the history of the society by my friend M., a quiz (which my team did reasonably well at although I was inexplicably stricken by social anxiety when the time came to call out results and stayed silent) and various visual presentations that I should probably not go into too much detail about here.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon, but I was thoroughly exhausted by the end, especially as I stood for four hours as there weren’t enough chairs for the number of people.  I managed to get back to London where my Dad picked me up from the station, but I found the journey home painful, as he was making small talk, which I find challenging at the best of times, but I was too ‘peopled out’ to really deal with it.  I read the blog of a carer for a child with more severe autism than I have, and he (the child) apparently tries to stop people talking to him on the way home from school; I could see his point.  I don’t have extreme sensory sensitivities, but sometimes light or noise can be really irritating, and when I need to crash and have ‘alone time’ it is painful to be dragged into conversation, especially small talk.

Then, when I got home, there was some post-Pesach religious OCD anxiety.  I won’t go into details, but I still don’t know if I did the right thing about that.  I was caught (as I usually am with these things) between what I felt was right in the abstract and what I felt I should do to avoid upsetting my parents.  It does underline to me that even though my relationship with my parents is reasonably good at the moment (although it could/should be better and that it is at least partly my fault), there are just gulfs of understanding between us, usually neurotypical brain vs. autistic brain or mentally healthier brain vs. more mentally ill brain, but also sometimes religious gulfs.  My parents are fairly religious, but sometimes there are just gaps in understanding or attitude to Judaism and halakhah (Jewish law).  I don’t want to give examples and probably I shouldn’t really say any more.  I suppose most people are not clones of their parents, even if they have a lot in common.  It’s just hard to bridge the gaps sometimes.

So that was the most social day I’ve had in a very long time.  People are probably expecting me to say I came home and crashed in front of Doctor Who, but I actually watched Blake’s 7 (Blake’s 7, I should probably say for those who don’t know, was Doctor Who‘s unofficial sister show in the late 70s and early 80s.  There were no direct crossovers, but they shared a lot of actors, writers, directors, props, costumes etc.).

Tomorrow is my date with L. (arranged via the values-based dating agency), so I ought to go to bed and get some rest.

Night Before Oxford Nerves

This is an insomnia post, a rather rambling post written to try to empty my mind of thoughts and to tire myself out.  Apologies if it’s less focused that normal.  I don’t feel in the least bit tired, but I have to be up reasonably early tomorrow to go to Oxford for The Doctor Who Society’s thirtieth anniversary.  To be honest, I’m rather scared about going back to Oxford.  I’ve only been to Oxford once since graduating and that ended with me feeling rather depressed about my time there, thinking of all the times I was lonely and suicidal in the city of dreaming spires and lost causes.  And that’s just the city; I’m more nervous about seeing people I haven’t seen for over a decade (will they remember me?  Will I seem like a failure?) and being in a room of people I don’t know.  Plus, there will be one or two people there who are aware of my online persona, but who I have never met, so it’s scary to think of meeting them (I’ll be the guy in the skullcap).  I worry about being a disappointment if we meet in person or discovering that they aren’t actually following me any more.  But I have a fund of goodwill towards the Doc Soc (as we called it in my day; I think the current crop of undergrads call it Who Soc).  A vastly disproportionate amount of the good times I had at Oxford (there were some) were spent there.  I’m not sure I would go back for a JSoc (Jewish Society) event and I certainly don’t bother going back for college events.

It’s weird to think that my matriculation into Oxford was nearly eighteen years ago, half my lifetime.  I hope I’ve changed and grown since then, at least in a positive way.  It’s hard to tell.  I know myself better, and I think I can deal with my emotional issues better.  During my time at Oxford I was very depressed and almost certainly autistic, but I didn’t know how to cope with depression and I didn’t even think that I might be autistic.  Now I do have the awareness to understand and cope with those things better, although there is still a lot of room for improvement.  I do wish I had a clearer idea of where I’m going with my career and relationships, though.  I think I really do want to try to build a career as a writer, but it’s hard to take the plunge and I don’t think it would help that I want to write about very varied topics (Doctor Who, Judaism, mental health, autism).  As for relationships, I have a date with L. on Monday, but I’m trying not to think about it, as when I do I feel pessimistic.  Blind dates are scary anyway and with this one we have the added complexity of knowing each other when we were younger and trying to look past that at where we are now.

Backtracking somewhat, the last two days of Pesach (Passover) were OK.  No significant OCD, which was good, but I was quite depressed at times.  I went to shul (synagogue) in the evenings and also Friday morning, but not Saturday morning.  I wish I could get to shul more in the mornings, at least on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Yom Yov (festivals), but I’m trying not to beat myself up for not going.  Goodness knows what everyone else makes of my sporadic attendance.  I suppose they think I’m not very frum (religious) or that I daven (pray) elsewhere.  I know I shouldn’t care what other people think of me, but I do.  Still, I got through a whole Pesach without a major OCD anxiety incident or an argument with my parents, so maybe things are looking up after all.  Otherwise Yom Tov was the usual: davening, eating, sleeping, Torah study and reading a bit.

Yom Tov was overshadowed by scary events either side of it: the abduction and rape of a woman from my local area beforehand (she is Jewish, although not so far as I’m aware anyone I know or have a connection with although I may discover otherwise in the coming days – the Jewish community is small and interlinked) and then the shooting at a shul in California, which is scary and disturbing.

Well, I should probably have another go at sleeping, given that I need to be up in six and a half hours.

Things Fall Apart

Just feeling awful today, depressed and exhausted, and I’ve got so much to do.  I had anxiety dreams last night about Pesach and, bizarrely, my MA.  I feel exhausted, perhaps from the intense emotions and agitation yesterday.  The books on depression and anxiety don’t tell you just how tiring they can be.  Suicidal thoughts in particular can be utterly draining and I’m guessing that’s why I feel so exhausted today.  I can’t really face job-hunting at the moment, which will make things worse in the long-run.  I’m just glad I’m not working today.  I just wanted to watch TV, but I needed to go out and get a prescription and was supposed speak to someone from The Network (who run the group therapy/courses I did recently) and do various things for family, although the person from the Network never phoned (the public sector is so lousy at this sort of thing).  I’ve got a huge pile of emails too, mostly job alerts for jobs that are of no interest and which I don’t think I can do.  I’d like to work on my Doctor Who book, which is a more achievable task, because I enjoy it more and because at the moment I’m just tidying up the second draft by standardising spelling and layout, which I can do while feeling bad, but I feel bad about doing that when I ‘should’ be job-hunting.  I don’t know whether I will get any of these things done.  I fell asleep for an hour after lunch, which I guess is a sign I was tired, although I slept for nine hours last night.  I couldn’t really afford to lose the time, though.

***

I woke to find an email about the my university’s Doctor Who Society’s anniversary party.  I was hoping to go to this, but I realise now I’m probably not going to be able to do so, as it falls in the Jewish national mourning period after Pesach.  I thought I could justify going if it was just to socialise and watch Doctor Who, but I think it’s more of a party party, which doesn’t seem right for me to go to.  I was already missing the dinner, for kashrut reasons.  I enjoyed going there more than anything else at university, but even then I missed out on social trips to restaurants and location trips that were always on Saturdays for the sake of people who had early lectures on Monday morning.  I know Jewish law is supposed to reduce social and romantic involvements between Jews and non-Jews and even between frum (religious) and non-frum Jews, and up to a point, I accept that, but it’s hard when you have limited social and romantic possibilities, and people within the frum community aren’t always the most friendly or just aren’t on my wavelength.

I try not to perform mitzvot (commandments) in expectation of reward, but sometimes when I look at everything I’ve sacrificed to be frum, and what I may have to sacrifice to stay frum, it’s hard not to feel that I want something in return.  Worse, I feel that deserve something in return, which is very wrong of me.

***

Lately I’ve felt my religious observance slipping a little as I noted in yesterday’s post.  Nothing big, just little things.  Some of it might not even be bad, like beating myself up less for davening (praying) in a less ideal way or not at all and for studying less Torah.  Sometimes it’s hard to care when one feels so depressed.  If I’m thinking about suicide, which is virtually the biggest no-no in Judaism, then nothing else seems that important, doubly so if I don’t think I’ve got any reward coming to me.

At any rate, today it was hard to “learn” Torah (as the Orthodox say) and I didn’t really manage much.  As an Orthodox Jewish man, I’m supposed to think that I exist to “learn,” particularly Gemarah (the main part of the Talmud).  I’m supposed to do it day and night, at every free opportunity.  It’s supposed to give meaning to my life and be more important than all other mitzvot (commandments) and acts of chessed (kindness); as the saying goes, when we pray, we speak to God, but when we “learn,” God speaks to us, which is supposed to be more amazing – thinking God’s thoughts and in some sense joining with Him (this is why it is seen as meaningful even if you don’t understand what you are studying or if it is aspects of Jewish law no longer practised).  This may have been the case for me once.  I used to study for an hour or more a day, even though I was very depressed, but that was when I wasn’t working or was working less, and it gave some kind of meaning to my life, to my illness.  But nowadays I do at most twenty to thirty minutes, sometimes just five minutes, although I feel I should still study as much as I used to on days when I don’t work.  However, it’s hard to care from depressive lack of energy, concentration and motivation and because it doesn’t speak to me any more.  I know the Talmud says that that’s my fault (“If  it is empty, it is from you”).    I don’t like the atmosphere so much at parsha shiur (Torah class) either, too boisterous and masculine, but that’s a slightly different issue.

I’ve always struggled with learning halakhah (Jewish law) and Talmud, but I used to enjoy other aspects of Jewish study, Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish philosophy, but lately I don’t (to be honest, “lately” is probably for a year or more).  Some of it is depression making it hard to concentrate, engage with things and enjoy things, but I was “learning” more when I was more depressed than I am now.  Some of it is the feeling of rejection I have from God and from the Orthodox world.  It’s hard to engage with them.  Some of it is doubtless repressed guilt and wanting to isolate myself, not to mention envy of people who spend longer in study and get something out of it (e.g. the semi-retired person at my shiur who studies Talmud for something like four hours a day and loves it).

***

It’s not just hard to be a frum Jew without studying Torah, it’s hard to be a frum Jew without a spouse and children and that might be another reason I’m slipping.  There are push and pull factors with families that keep a person frum.  The push factor is that shuls are centred around families and if you have a family it’s much easier to fit in.  You have something to talk to other people about after shul (school, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, grandchildren, great-grandchildren) and you can go to family-centred social events without feeling out of place (I’ve mentioned in the past that I rarely see the few other single people at my shul attend social events).  The pull factor is that if you have a family, it’s harder to stop being religious, because it can lead to conflict with your spouse and because you don’t want to negatively affect your children’s marriage prospects by leaving the community, which would be seen as reflecting badly on them.  I have heard that unscrupulous kiruv professionals try to get new ba’alei teshuva (people who are ethnically Jewish, but raised non-religious) married as soon as possible to ‘lock them in’ to a frum lifestyle.

I heard of frum “older” singles (“older” in inverted commas because it means over the age of about twenty-five in the frum community) get criticised for being “picky” or being patronised or given unwanted advice.  I guess I’m lucky that I’m invisible enough in the frum world to mostly avoid that sort of thing, but that brings the drawback that no one is actually setting me up on dates, when being set up by a third party is the main way of dating in the frum world.  I would be terrified to go to singles events and there aren’t many of them advertised anyway (apparently it’s too dangerous to let large numbers of single men and women talk to each other, even with a view to getting married).  I’ve thought recently of trying internet dating sites again, but no one really responded to me on them, plus I have heard that, like job applications (something else I’m bad at), it’s a numbers game: you need to message hundreds of women to get a handful of responses and one date.  There simply aren’t enough women of anything approaching my particular level of frumkeit (religiosity) in the UK for that to work (even ignoring whether I’m in a strange place between Modern and ultra-Orthodoxy).

***

Sometimes I feel like I just want to be held, but I’m sufficiently self-aware to question that.  My first girlfriend thought I was frigid and I fear she was right.  I could ask my parents for hugs, but I usually don’t, but then again that relationship is difficult at the moment in some ways.  I worry that I wouldn’t cope with a relationship if I actually had one.

Thanatos

Trigger warning: suicide

Also, rather long and involved, if that needs a warning

Well, that was an awful, awful day.  The stupid thing is that nothing particularly bad even happened.  I made some stupid mistakes at work and looked like an idiot in front of my line manager and her line manager, but it wasn’t anything really terrible.  But it just sent me over the edge.

I woke up feeling depressed, which was not a good start.  Already by the time I was on the way to work I was feeling that “I don’t deserve to live.”  I felt I just couldn’t cope and wanted to die.  There was a feeling of wanting to attract attention.  People look down on people who hurt themselves as a cry for attention, but that seems to ignore the fact that sometimes there just aren’t the words to say how you feel.

At work I went very slowly, not deliberately, but I was just struggling to work and to feel that I could cope.  Already by lunchtime I messaged E. to say I was having a lousy day, even though I could see that nothing bad had happened.  By mid-afternoon I had embarrassed myself in front of my line manager and was locked in a vicious circle of feeling useless –> making mistakes –> feeling useless –> making mistakes.  I felt like an idiot, which, as my brain helpfully reminded me, is from the Greek idios meaning private or on one’s own.  I have been on my own for so long that I have turned into an idiot.

Also, my brain now sends me depressive self-hating thoughts in Greek…

Floundering, I felt that I should be doing menial work instead of my actual job, but then felt that I couldn’t actually do that either.  I’m not suited for menial labour.  I need intellectual work, but narrowly defined and without the need for special qualifications.  I don’t think this work exists, unless I can find a way to get paid for my writing.

Feeling that I was unemployable did not cheer me up, unsurprisingly, and I started thinking about hurting myself again and about suicide.  I felt that I wanted to die, more than anything.  I texted E. to say that I was only holding on for family and friends, but really that was a lie.  I was just holding on for my parents.  It pains me to say it, but I was so far gone that the thought of my friends or even my sister might not have been enough to keep me going by themselves.  Things just seemed so hopeless.  It seems so impossible that my career could improve or that anyone could ever love me, especially without a good career (note the way that I see a career as valuable primarily to make me more marryable).

This cycle carried on for the rest of the afternoon.  It’s hard now, hours later, now I’ve calmed down, to really describe how I felt.  I know I’ve tried to write these thoughts down and blog them in the past, but it’s hard, because at the time there’s a tension and an agitation and my thoughts start racing, but I think not being able to communicate the thoughts makes them worse; once I can start to write them down, I can begin to see logical flaws in them and even the act of writing them down or speaking them through with someone (if I can see a therapist or phone Samaritans) can help to calm me down.  But at work I was trying to plough on regardless with my job and that just increased the pressure and the agitation.

Eventually, the day finished and I could come home.  Or so I thought.  I was halfway to the station when I started having OCD thoughts about not having locked up the rare books store room properly.  I tried to stay with the thoughts and go home, but it was too much for me and I went back to check.  By that stage I could see that I was in a state.  My blood sugar was probably very low and I was thinking all kinds of self-loathing thoughts, thinking that I should stop being frum (religious) if I want to get married.  I thought that if I walked back to the station straight away I would end up in a terrible state, so after checking the rare books, I went to the staff room and ate all the food I had with me (an apple and a cereal bar), after which I felt somewhat better and went home.

I was still having difficult thoughts though.  I don’t use profanity as a rule, but I’m ashamed to relate some of the things I was thinking.  I was still thinking that I just wanted to die, that I would rather die than recover, because recovery seemed so impossible.  Because Gehennom (the ‘bad’ afterlife in Judaism, but more like Purgatory than Hell) couldn’t be worse than how I felt.  Because Gehennom lasts for only one year, and because at least in Gehennom I wouldn’t be humiliated in front of other people on a regular basis.  Feeling really angry with God.  Just furious.  I can’t even remember everything I thought, it was so terrible and strong.

And the final insult, I returned home to a letter from the taxman (or taxwoman, in this case) informing me that, no, they made a mistake previously, I do really owe them another £60 from the last tax year.  I don’t mind paying the money – well, I do, but it’s not the main irritant.  It’s having yet another thing to sort out because other people screwed up.  It’s not like our public services are doing much for me.  Maybe I ought to phone the crisis team and demand my money’s worth.

I usually blog my day when I get in to offload, but I was too worried about what I would write if I went straight into it, so I forced myself to daven Ma’ariv (say the evening prayers), eat dinner and watch TV for a bit to calm down.  I felt – I still feel – exhausted and somewhat in shock.  I usually avoid caffeine in the evenings, but I drank some tea because I really did feel in shock.  I watched some of The Quatermass Experiment (the live 2005 remake of the 1950s science fiction serial).  Part of it was set in my place of work; I think they might even have filmed some of the non-live cutaway shots in the street I was walking down two hours earlier when I was having OCD thoughts, which was a bit unnerving.

I still feel exhausted and a bit in shock and my shoulder muscles are really tense, but my mood is better.  I have a bit of a ‘coming down’ feel, except I’m coming down from something bad rather than good.  Coming up, maybe.  At least I’m home and safe in my room with my books and DVDs.  I guess for an autistic person quiet, space, familiarity and special interests (books and DVDs) are all important (perhaps even all-important).  I bought some chocolate (minstrels, one of my favourites) on the way home because I felt I needed to have some kind of reward for getting through the day in one piece, even if it won’t be help me lose weight.

***

When I’d calmed down a bit, I recalled the first time I was suicidal, in fact when I nearly took an overdose, when I was in my third year at Oxford.  I sat down to take an overdose, but at the last instant changed my mind and phoned someone (a friend who wasn’t talking to me because she couldn’t cope with my being suicidal, but that’s another story).  About a week later I casually mentioned this to the university counselling service counsellor I was seeing and she was astonished that I had neglected to mention this suicide attempt and that I didn’t think it was worth telling her.  She asked me what my parents would think if I killed myself and I said they would be upset; she said they would be devastated.

I wonder now, over fifteen years on, whether this was autism, not the suicidality, but not thinking it was important enough to mention to my counsellor and only being able to express my parents’ grief in a partial and limited way.  It’s like the way I downplayed my sister’s grief and my friends’ grief if I were to kill myself.  It’s hard for me to conceptualise it and I don’t know how much is self-loathing (no one cares about me) and how much is autistic ‘mindblindness’ (not being able to imagine how other people feel generally).

***

This morning, while my thought processes were getting out of control, I thought that knowing that I’m probably autistic, I need to find adaptive solutions to my problems, accepting the reality of autism and probably also of some kind of permanent level of depression, at least in the background, rather than technical ‘tweaks’ of the kind I have been trying to make for years.  The tweaks were sometimes successful (the occupational therapist I used to see probably made more positive changes to my life than anyone), but I really need to change the way I live to adapt to the reality of my situation, I just don’t know how.  It’s possible – probable, even – that adaptive changes have been suggested by therapists and psychiatrists before now, but that I couldn’t implement them, perhaps partly because I hadn’t been diagnosed as autistic (technically I still haven’t been diagnosed, of course).

I don’t know what changes I could make, though.   I’m already more or less accepting not going to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (Saturday) mornings without trying to guilt-trip myself, which may or may not be a good thing; today I was wondering if I would make it to shul for the morning Megillah reading on Purim next week or if I just feel too overwhelmed to do that too.  It seems to be easy to feel that I can’t do things with autism rather than that I can do things.  Maybe I should be accepting that I can make it to shul.  Should I just accept that I will never have a job I feel comfortable in, that I will never get married?  It’s hard to know what is realistic, much too easy to try to do too much or too little.

When the depression was feeling bad earlier I wondered if I would find it easier to get married if I wasn’t frum.  I couldn’t give up Shabbat and kashrut, but anything else would seem like fiddling at the margins.  Should I be looking for non-frum women who are willing to compromise (as E. was)?  I’m afraid of the tensions that might result and what sort of compromise I would have to make in return.  But a non-frum woman would not care about my not davening with a minyan (community) or learning (studying Torah/Talmud) enough.  I would date a frum woman with ‘issues’ although I would be nervous of how our issues would combine, particularly if she had mental health issues.  However, a lot of ‘issues’ in the frum world are not things that I would consider issues at all (ba’alat teshuva or geyoret, parents divorced, siblings stopped being frum etc.) and I would be happy to date such a person.

On the other hand, lately I’ve felt my frumkeit slipping in little ways.  Nothing big.  I still believe in God (even if I’m angry with Him some of the time), keep kosher, keep Shabbat and so on.  But I don’t beat myself up so much for missing davening or shul or Torah study and it’s getting harder and harder to avoid cultural stuff (books, TV, films, music) that feels treif and that I would previously have avoided.  I don’t know where this is going though.

Not Good Enough

I got very/even more depressed after posting last night, and very lonely.  There might have been anger in there too, I can’t remember.  I should probably have phoned Samaritans, but I didn’t think of it and I didn’t have the energy.  I eventually crawled into bed about 1.00am, slept for nine hours and had anxiety dreams I can only vaguely remember.  I managed to get up fairly soon after I woke up this morning, but I rather than get dressed, daven (pray) and start the day, I sat around in my pyjamas reading.  I feel bad about this, a bit, but not as much as I should.

***

It feels like I used to be clever and competent, at school and maybe even first year at university, but these days I’m just stupid.  That’s probably not true.  While depression probably does have an effect on my cognition, slowing me down and occasionally making me do stupid things, it’s more that I was high-functioning enough to cope at school, but as studying and later work became less about regurgitating information and more about thinking for myself, and as relationships (in the broadest sense) became less about structured play and more free-form, my autistic deficiencies in executive function and social interactions became more obvious.  My low-powered current job means I don’t have to do much of that kind of thinking, so it suits me, but I can feel that I’m overqualified and should be doing something more demanding and higher paying, not to mention something that continues past the end of the month.

***

On my last post, Ashley Leia commented, “It seems like the effort you put into practicing your religion in spite of the various illness obstacles you’re faced with should “count”, if there is such a thing, as much as someone who’s fulfilling more commitments but without having to climb over barriers each and every day.”  I responded, “I would hope so, and there are Jewish sources that would say so, but sometimes I wonder. Do I put “enough” effort in? Sometimes I feel I could do more. And sometimes it feels like good intentions are not enough, I have to actually do stuff.”

This was a slightly disingenuous answer.  The Talmud has a long discussion on suffering in Brachot (the volume I’m studying at shul (synagogue)), in which there’s a discussion (Brachot 5b) of Rabbi Elazar being sick and Rabbi Yochanan visiting him.  Rabbi Yochanan sees that Rabbi Elazar is crying and asks him why and rhetorically answers, “Why do you weep? Is it because you did not study enough Torah? Surely we learnt: The one who sacrifices much and the one who sacrifices little have the same merit, provided that the heart is directed to heaven.  Is it perhaps lack of sustenance? Not everybody has the privilege to enjoy two tables [spiritual and physical success].  Is it perhaps because of [the lack of] children? This is the bone of my tenth son! [Rabbi Yochanan had ten sons who all predeceased him and he would comfort those who lost children by telling them how he coped.]”  (Translation lazily copied from here, sorry, first and last square bracket comments by me.)

The interesting thing is that Rabbi Yochanan, in talking about not studying enough Torah, brings a proof-text about sacrifices; the sacrificial service is usually seen as having been replaced by prayer in the post-Temple era, not Torah study.  So this would seem to indicate that the principle of “the one who does much and the one who does little are the same, provided the heart is directed to Heaven” applies to both prayer and Torah study.

This should cheer me up, but it doesn’t.  I suppose I feel the little prayer and Torah study that I do, I do on autopilot, not with kavannah (mindfulness) and “directing my heart to Heaven”.  I don’t feel that I have the connection with HaShem (God) that I would need for that.  I also feel that, even if I can’t do as much as other people, I could do more than I currently do, if I just pushed myself harder, but somehow that never seems to work.  I do feel that I “should” do more, that I’m not suffering “enough” to do the little I do.  I still can’t accept that I do enough even if I accept that I can’t do as much as other people.

I suppose it comes back again to feeling that God hates me and that I can never be good enough for Him.

There is more to say about this, but my brain is in depressive shut-down today and just isn’t cooperating.  Perhaps more after Shabbat.

Stresses and Social Anxiety

My mental health group was a little better today.  I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t already know, but it did make me decide to try to be better at catching my negative thinking, although I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to do that in practical terms.  I think I just have a mismatched personality to get on with most of these people, which is unfortunate, but there isn’t much I can do about it.

One person said something she said she feels inferior to people she was at university with who are all now running the country, which made me wonder if she was at Oxford like me, as that’s something I feel a lot.  Usually I would have let that go, but I asked her afterwards and it turned out she went to Cambridge, so I was close.  I’m glad I’m not the only Oxbridge person who feels like a failure, though.

Someone at the group said I’m intelligent.  I get weirded out when people say that to me.  I’ve hardly said anything on this course, having been too socially anxious and overwhelmed by the noise; how can people think I’m clever?  Maybe I just give off ‘vibes.’  More prosaically, he probably overheard me tell the other person that I went to Oxford.  He did say that if you’re high functioning and mentally ill, you don’t do fewer “stupid” things, you just realise that you’re behaving in a stupid way, but don’t still know how to change it.  The course was supposed to help with that, but I’m not sure that it has…

***

Today’s bad news: my psychiatrist appointment at the end of the month has been moved to 6 June, despite the fact that I’ve already moved my work days around so that I could keep the appointment.  I think it’s appalling the way the NHS treats patients like cattle.  Yes, they’re short of money.  But the charity sector is even more short of money, and they don’t treat people like this.  Indeed, the private sector doesn’t have infinite funds and they also don’t treat people like this, despite the supposed “inhumanity” of treating people for “profit.”  It doesn’t cost anything to treat patients like human beings.  The NHS has messed me around like this so many times over the last seventeen years, costing me time, energy (which is precious to me) and, on occasion, money.  But they have a virtual monopoly over healthcare in this country so they’re isn’t much anyone can do about it unless you happen to be super-rich and able to be seen privately (to be honest, when I was in psychodynamic psychotherapy my parents were paying for me to be seen privately, but we were only able to do this because we were fortunate to find someone who charged means-adjusted fees, which isn’t always possible).  A lot of people don’t have health insurance because, in theory, you aren’t supposed to need it (or you pay it in your tax, depending how you want to look at it).  And monopolies, whether in the private sector or the public sector, don’t have to care about bad customer service, because where else can you go?

Anyway, I calmed down and phoned to ask why my appointment had been changed.  The psychiatrist is ill and they were assuming she won’t be back for months.  They offered me an appointment with a different psychiatrist a week after the cancelled appointment.  As I didn’t feel the previous one really listened to me, I was not upset about this, but the appointment they offered was on a day when I work, right in the middle of the day so I would have to take the whole day off and this was after having already changed one work day because of the cancelled appointment.

I decided to take the appointment for now and see what my line manager says next work; if the worst comes to the worst, I’ll cancel the new appointment and go in June.  But it does reinforce my current feelings of fatalism over recovery and work.  I have fallen back into pessimism after feeling better for a few days.

***

I have also booked for the networking class that is on the same day as the Jewish Book Week talk I’m going to.  I suppose this is work-centric, but I’m terrified that I simply won’t be able to network even in practice settings (role-play).  I hope I can relax enough in the afternoon to get to work the next day.  I would really like to see a careers advisor who understands about autism and mental illness, but I’m not sure how to find one.  I was told at the class today that I could raise work issues with my key worker, which I may try to do.  To be honest, I’m only vaguely aware of what my key worker’s job description is and what things I can talk to her about, but I think she’s a social worker who is supposed to direct me to courses like the class and other mental health and social services in the area, so perhaps that will help.  Reading this back, there are some positives in it, but I’m still in one of those depressive moods where everything just feels awful.  I’ve given up on ‘recovering’ (whatever that means), but I want to achieve some degree of day-to-day functionality (work, family etc.).  I just don’t know how.

Self-Acceptance

I’m not sure why I’m so obsessed with writing about how much sleep I get.  I’m not obsessed with chronicling other aspects of my life tangentially related to my mental health, such as exercise or diet.  Maybe because it’s an index of normality: eight or nine hours good quality sleep = good, anything more or less or bad quality = depression.  Sleep is always the first thing to go wrong when an episode of depression starts and the last thing to improve.

Be that as it may, I went to bed too late last night (I had a burst of energy after dinner and stayed up blogging and writing emails), slept too much, but had poor quality sleep with strange dreams again (not sure why I’m having so many lately; I don’t usually remember my dreams) and woke up with a slight headache to discover the gas man was just arriving to service our boiler.  Which is in the kitchen.  So I had to be visible while getting breakfast ready while in pyjamas and dressing gown, which makes me feel self-conscious, but I was feeling too tired and depressed to get dressed before eating, as is usually the case (according to strict halakhah (Jewish law) one should always get dressed and pray before eating, but I almost never feel well enough to do that).

Dad and the gas engineer were having a very neurotypical small talk conversation.  Part of me wonders why I can’t manage to do that and another part thinks I would go out of my mind with boredom if I could do it.

***

I went back to bed after breakfast.  Normally that’s something I would try to avoid, usually by being online, but I’ve now blocked most of my procrastination/distraction sites as triggering in one way or another, so in the absence of energy to do anything productive, I ended up going back to bed.  It was good to just lie in the semi-darkness, not being stimulated by anything other than birdsong and the ticking of the clock, even if I did feel guilty (and lonely.  Being in bed by myself makes me feel lonely, even though I’ve never actually shared a bed with anyone; even as a child although my parents would let me fall asleep in their bed if I was upset by a nightmare or thunderstorm, they would carry me out once I fell asleep.  But I can imagine what it must feel like).

Staying too long in bed, it occurs to me, might not just be about exhaustion, laziness, running away from the world or any of the other labels I rightly or wrongly ascribe to it.  My world divides into concentric circles of safety and danger.  Some are probably in flux depending on my experiences (e.g. shul (synagogue), which sometimes feels safe and sometimes feels very dangerous), but my home is safe, my bedroom is very safe and my bed is safest of all.

***

My job search has become very cursory.  I really want to stay in my current job, even though a job that only employs me two days a week is, on a purely financial level, not very satisfactory, even if they do extend my contract past March.  But I feel comfortable in the role demanded of me, which was not the case in my last two jobs, and I get on well with my boss (again, unlike the last two jobs) and the time off to recover, go on mental health courses and work on my writing is useful, even if recently I have been too exhausted and depressed to make much use of the writing time.  But I feel I should still be job hunting for my parents’ sake.  After all, they are supporting me financially.

***

New insights continue to come from my autism identification.  I thought that I don’t have the problems some autistic people have with executive function (planning and decision making).  I acknowledge that I’ve always been indecisive and prefer to have limited choices or even to have someone else make decisions for me.  Sometimes I completely seize up when someone offers me a choice and I don’t know what to say or how to decide, to the point where this is visible to other people (one date got really annoyed with me for this, fuelling my ‘no one could ever love me’ thoughts).  It has taken a long time for me to realise that this could be autism.

More surprising is to realise that I’m not that good at planning.  I make lots of lists and plans, but, since my mid-teens (before severe depression), I’ve had a habit of drifting away from plans once I’ve made them, sometimes within minutes.  I regularly and dramatically underestimate how long it will take me to complete tasks and the amount of energy and concentration that will be expended by them and I let myself procrastinate and get distracted by things if I am not that interested in what I should be doing.  I guess it’s one of those things that is hard to judge, though, because lots of people aren’t good at plans or are easily distracted without being autistic and some of it is that on some level I still assume I have non-depressed reserves of energy even though I’ve been depressed for seventeen-plus years.

Similarly, I always thought that I didn’t have autistic meltdowns, but reading up on them, I think I might, but that they don’t manifest primarily as screaming or physically lashing out, but as crying, catastrophising and asking excessively for reassurance from other people.  I think I tended to interpret these as panic attacks or worsening of depression rather than as meltdowns, but perhaps I have been mistaken.  I probably have also got in the habit of avoiding situations that I find triggering or leaving when things become difficult, which is good, but makes it hard to know how I would react if pushed further.

I think I may have had more explosive meltdowns when I was younger, but I learnt pretty early on that there were other people around me who could shout a lot louder and longer than I could and that explosive anger is just too dangerous, so over time I had fewer angry-type meltdowns and more anxious ones, or just repressed my feelings so that they turned into depression and OCD, what this site calls “implosive” rather than “explosive” meltdowns (“Visible symptoms of this may include withdrawing from communication, hiding, self-harming, curling up in a ball, rocking intensely and may make random sounds and noises to drown out the world around them” – withdrawal, self-harm, crying, curling up in a ball all sound familiar, perhaps also acting out in other ways that would only be obvious to myself).

Past examples might be the crying and catastrophising that I assumed were panic attacks  (again, this site calls meltdowns a form of panic attack) when I went to stay with my first girlfriend’s family for the first time and the occasions when I stood outside social events at shul crying because I felt too overwhelmed to go inside.  Perhaps also the strange feeling, that I assumed at the time was a straightforward panic attack, that I had on the London Underground a few months ago when, after having to suddenly change my usual travel route to work because of a station closure, and while in a big, stimulating crowd of commuters, I felt emotionally overwhelmed while trying to walk up a stationary escalator at Kings Cross Tube station and for a few moments was worried I was going to be so overwhelmed with anxiety and despair that I would not be able to move any further up or get back down to the bottom either.  A similar situation occurred a few minutes later in a very uncomfortable crowd on the platform where I started worrying that I was going to fall under the train and felt a similar unbearable rush of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.

This might even explain the unexpressed anger and agitation that appears as racing thoughts, often slightly paranoid, self-loathing, or furious at other people, that can appear after social overload, including in positive situations but particularly in negative ones.  This used to happen to me a lot at the Jewish Society when I was at university, where I wanted to fit in and make friends, but found it painfully hard to do so; once depression was added to the mix, I would often leave Shabbat meals early and walk very briskly around Oxford for an hour thinking how angry I was at myself and everyone else, sometimes even mentally composing aggressive suicide notes, until I would finally arrive back home and collapse exhausted onto the bed.

At any rate, it is worth looking out for similar behaviour in the future.

(I would welcome feedback on meltdowns from other people on the spectrum, as it’s the part of autism I understand the least and have greatest difficulty identifying with.)

***

I think I’m learning slowly – very slowly – that I’m autistic and that’s OK.  It was one thing to think I was autistic, but quite a different thing to be able to accept and make allowances for myself.  This is the case even though I still don’t have a diagnosis and I worry what would happen to my self-image if I was told yet again that I’m not on the spectrum.  I’m even being more accepting of some of my religious ‘failings’ (not davening (praying) with a minyan (community) or with kavannah (mindfulness); not liking Purim and Simchat Torah, etc.), even the ones that are due to depression and social anxiety as much as autism.

It’s funny that I never felt that depression or social anxiety were valid reasons for being ‘this way’ but that autism is valid.   I suppose autism explains oddities of my personality that aren’t explicable by depression or social anxiety or were present even when everything else is OK, from the indecisiveness mentioned above to difficulties with eye contact, body language and reading emotions (in other people and myself) to the fact that when I was a child I used to like making Lego models as per the instructions rather than experimenting with my own designs (although I did make Lego Daleks of my own design because my Doctor Who special interest trumps everything).

***

I wrote a not-quite-angry letter written to HMRC querying why they are now pressing me for money they told me I didn’t have to pay months ago.  I also found directions to my course on Friday and emailed the matchmaker from the values dating service.  I have mixed thoughts about how sensible dating is for me right now, although it’s hard to imagine a time when it would ever be substantially easier.  I also read this week’s Talmud page in advance of Shabbat’s shiur (and failed to understand it).  i didn’t have time for much work on my books, but spending a long time writing my thoughts on poor executive function and meltdowns here was really helpful in understanding myself and could be useful for my mental health/misery memoir book, which is all good.  Even so, I didn’t do everything I wanted or planned, and not just because I had a headache, which is frustrating, albeit another demonstration of impaired executive function.

***

I try not to be political here, but I have to say this or my head will explode: every time I see or hear the words “Donald Tusk” on the news, I have a vision of a Babar-type elephant with big tusks, dressed in a suit, standing on his hind legs and carrying a briefcase.  This has bothered me for years.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

I had dreams last night about being autistic and whether that was ‘really’ a disability, although my unconscious mind got the terms wrong.  Perhaps unsurprisingly after that I woke up really depressed this morning and I was fighting back the tears as I had breakfast and got dressed, although the thought of being at work without my boss on what is only my fourth working day would probably have done that even without the dreams.  Yet again I couldn’t read on the Tube into work as I was too anxious and depressed.  I was worried that I was about to have a panic attack walking through the rush hour crowd at the station, but managed to stay calm with deep breathing.

Work, once I got there, was pretty good, though.  I coped with my line manager being out of the office and did a lot of the work she left for me even though she had forgotten that I had a meeting that I needed to go to another building outside the main campus.  She wasn’t expecting me to do all the work today anyway; she left too much in case I got stuck and couldn’t finish something.  I actually felt that I was enjoying work a bit today, which isn’t something I’ve felt for a while.  Higher education seems to be calmer than further education.  It’s frustrating to handle rare books without being able to peek at them (the books in the store are wrapped in paper); I feel a bit like an intellectual eunuch.  I’m sitting in on a class next week, though, so I should be able to see some of them then.  (When the books go out of the library, there have to be two people with them so that in case of emergency one stays with the books while the other goes for help, so I get to be the second person next week.)  I even started having ideas for things to show in the exhibition I’m supposed to be helping to plan.

I had some OCD worries about whether I had locked up the rare books store properly, but I fought it and resisted going down to check.  Slightly worse was a wobble I had when my line manager’s line manager was talking to a new library volunteer in the office.  She’s a librarianship student at the university and I was a bit envious of her and her clear career plan, given the improvised and only sporadically successful nature of mine (if I can really be said to have a career plan at all), doubly so as the university where I now work is the one that was first choice for my librarianship MA, but they weren’t accommodating of my mental health issues so I went to a much worse university where various things went wrong for me.

I also had an awkward moment when I went to the off-site meeting, as I wasn’t sure if the woman who looked like she was waiting to meet me was the person I was meeting or not.  She looked similarly unsure if I was the person she was meeting.  Very awkward.  Then I went into autism overload and was unable to say anything other than “Yes” “Right” and “Thank you” while she spoke to me.

Shiur (religious class) this evening was more difficult.  It is harder for me when there are a lot of people there, especially now the rabbi has new, wider, arm chairs in his dining room, which are comfortable, but made me feel a little as if the people next to me were invading my space a bit.  Some people made some jokes at the beginning that I thought were a bit rude and tasteless and show how, if you are secure in the community, you can take liberties, but I would never feel so secure (not that I would tell rude or sexist jokes, but I hide my hobbies, interests and beliefs for fear of being considered unacceptable).  Before the shiur started people were talking about their wives and the shiur concluded with the assistant rabbi talking about the Gemarah that says that matching husband and wife is like splitting the sea which underlined my single state.

The assistant rabbi also said that we should have a clear plan of where we want to go this year and in coming years spiritually and we should be planning on a week-by-week basis to get to that goal, which made me feel bad, because I don’t have spiritual goals any more.  My spiritual goal for this year is to get to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) without trying to kill myself, or at least to try to improve my mental health a little.  I don’t have any wider goals.  I’d say I have a goal to get a full-time job and get married (both of which I think are spiritual goals), but I don’t think either is feasible any time in the next few years.  As for davening (praying) more with a minyan (prayer quorum) or with more kavannah (mindfulness) or studying more Torah, I don’t think these would be feasible goals even if I cared that much about them, but I’ve been so worn down by my illness that I don’t really care any more.  I’m such a rasha (wicked person), but there you go, I have no energy left even to beat myself up about being a rasha.  This train of thought makes me lose the desire to write that book about Judaism, because who wants to read (or should read) what a rasha says about Judaism?

Plus the assistant rabbi’s baby started crying near the end and he didn’t hear and his wife didn’t hear.  It felt wrong to interrupt to say something, but I really can’t bear hearing children crying, so I felt helpless, upset and confused.  Eventually the rabbi’s wife heard and calmed the baby.

I have no idea if I’m out to dinner tomorrow night, which is also scary.  You might recall that at shul (synagogue) last week I was invited to someone’s for dinner, but the person said he would phone me to confirm.  I still haven’t heard anything.  I think I’m probably still invited (assuming he hasn’t forgotten to tell his wife, which is possible) because frum culture is very laid back like that about times and invitations, which drives me crazy because I’m autistic and need to plan and can’t make last minute changes (and I’m also one eighth Yekkish – the Yekkes (German Jews) are the exception and are stereotypically pedantic and obsessive about punctuality) .

Anyway, now I’ve brought my self down after having a good day, so I’m going to meditate (breathing meditation and hitbodedut spontaneous prayer/meditation) and shower, watch Star Trek and go to bed, trying to focus on the good parts of the day and not the anxieties and failures.

Brief Update and Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below Zero Utility

K9: The accuracy of this unit has deteriorated below zero utility.

Adric: You mean you’re worse than useless?

– Doctor Who: Warriors Gate by Steve Gallagher

I have indeed got a bit of a cold, but not much.  I feel very depressed though.  I felt too ill, physically and emotionally, to do anything other than watch TV yesterday.  I feel bad about that.  It didn’t help that most of what I was watching wasn’t very good.  I just feel useless and depressed today.  It takes me so long to get up, get dressed and daven (pray) on non-work days.  I just feel so depressed and unmotivated.

I managed to go out in the afternoon and help Dad deliver some stuff to a charity shop and went to Boots to find out if they have any clomipramine (they weren’t answering the phone).  I felt like Mr Super-Useless-Autistic-Depressive-Socially-Anxious.  I did at least manage to do a couple of things today, albeit fewer than I wanted, but even after a week and a bit off, I’m running on empty.

I forced myself to email my oldest friend (the one  who was my “mentor friend” as a child – the one who was my role model in neurotypical behaviour) who I haven’t seen in years.  I mentioned about my new job, but not about the trouble I had with the previous two jobs.  I did mention autism.  I hope that’s not a mistake.  To be honest, I’ve probably been avoiding him these last few years and I’m not sure why.  Maybe because we were so similar growing up that the differences between us now (in terms of career, family, social networks, perhaps even spiritual fulfilment, everything) are too painful.

Today seems to have been a day of anxiety and miscommunications.  I struggle to communicate well with my parents.  I don’t think they know how to talk to an autistic person.  I’m only learning myself, to be fair.  My Dad changes subjects abruptly, starts pointless small talk conversations that confuse me and overwhelms me with irrelevant details.  My Mum today tried to get me to choose between umpteen different types of shirt over the phone when I don’t really have the executive function to decide, nor do I care that much (she likes to shop around for the best item at the best price; I prefer to just find something suitable at a reasonable price because of lack of executive function and patience).  Then I argued with them because they say I cook pizza too low (we always have pizza on Wednesdays… I’m not the only person obsessed with routine here), so I cooked it higher and burnt it, probably because I was cooking pizza from room temperature rather than frozen.  My Dad said he would eat it and I was torn between feeling I should punish myself by eating the burnt pizza and knowing that he considers burnt food palatable or even tasty, whereas I don’t.

I concede that my problems communicating with my parents are largely my fault: I have not told them much about autism nor am I particularly calm and pleasant when talking to them, although that’s as much from depression as autism.  I don’t mean to sound so grumpy, but depression and autism can both lead to curt replies in a flat tone of voice that sounds grumpy, even without depression making me more irritable than usual.

I left them a leaflet about autism a few weeks ago that I thought was useful, but I don’t think they’ve looked at it.  They don’t like written communication much and I don’t like talking, which is problematic.  They’re going to a workshop for family of people on the spectrum which might help, but it’s not until late February.

Other miscommunications: looking at Twitter, I don’t connect with other Doctor Who fans, who seem to enjoy different things about the programme/different episodes to me – which is fine, but makes me feel lonely.  And online fandom’s obsession with diversity and identity politics annoys me, partly because I’m not into identity politics, but also because the awful representation of Jews, especially religious Jews, on TV gets ignored.  (According to identity politics rules, Jews aren’t allowed to have an identity, or have to have one only on lines prescribed by non-Jews.)  I’m hoping to go to a Doctor Who pub quiz thing in week or two where I only know one person and I’m terrified that no one will like me.

I’m still anxious about my new job next week.  The only real progress I’ve made in the last ten or fifteen years, is finishing two degrees and moving in to work… except that I don’t seem to be able to actually do a job properly.  I just make stupid mistakes.  I can’t work full-time either.  I worry about not being able to support myself without my parents.  If my parents weren’t around, I’d have to try to qualify for state benefits, which would be hard (I’d have to use up all my savings first, for one thing, and it’s very hard to get assessed as needing benefits these days).

Regarding job hunting, I’ve been advised to “Write down a vision of what you want your life to look like (realistically) in three or five or even fifteen years’ time – money, work-life balance, type of work etc.”  I have no idea.  I do not know even vaguely how much I should be earning – and what does “should” even mean?  Based on my age?  Or my experience, which is much lower than most people my age?  “Should” for a mentally healthy neurotypical person or a depressed autistic person?  I don’t know what a realistic work-life balance would look like, what type of work I should be looking for and would enjoy/cope with/get through the day without wanting to hurt myself…  I can see why E. found this aspect of my personality too off-putting.  I’m not proud of it (I’m not proud of pretty much anything in this post).  But it’s hard to know how I can change it, just to function in the world without my parents, let alone to find a spouse.

If I hadn’t got depressed perhaps I could have drifted into academia as I vaguely intended and become one of those people who go to Oxbridge and never leave.  It’s not like there’s a shortage of intelligent, but somewhat eccentric people at Oxford or Cambridge.  Or if I had been better at studying Talmud and had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), perhaps I could have ended up staying there.  I suspect the yeshiva world is also home to a disproportionate number of very clever, but somewhat unusual people, or at least people who know what to do to function in society purely because it says what to do in the Shulchan Aruch (the primary Jewish law code) and through imitating others in a conformist sub-culture, rather than through innate social intuition.

It’s not that there are just a few things wrong with my life that I need to sort out; my whole life is broken and I don’t know how to get it working (not working again, because it hasn’t ever worked, at least not since I left school).

I don’t like asking for adjustments, although I have done it in the past (for depression).  Sometimes I’ve got them and sometimes I haven’t, but I hate asking for them.  I hate telling people I’m different (where ‘different’ feels like ‘defective’) and I hate showing weakness (probably because of being bullied as a child).  I suppose as a child when I tried to get out of things because of what I would now identify as social anxiety or autism, I was usually told to suck it up, albeit not in so many words, which probably doesn’t help.  There probably is an Aristotlean golden mean (or Maimonidean middle path) between forcing myself to pass as an extrovert on the one hand and hiding in my bed with the duvet over my head on the other, but it’s very hard to find it sometimes.

I’ve gone back to thinking about pets, but I’m procrastinating over it because of the social anxiety in buying them and my Mum’s obvious discomfort with the whole concept.  I wish I didn’t procrastinate so much.  It’s one of my worst character traits, along with self-loathing and fantasising too much about dying.  I do new year’s resolutions for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) not 1 January, but I ought to try to beat myself up less, somehow.  And realise that when I say my blog is awful, I’m implicitly insulting everyone who spends the time to read it (sorry).

Anyway, I should be thinking about bed, although I don’t feel tired and feel I should be Doing Things…

Wind Up Where You Started From

I feel exhausted today and rather depressed, which isn’t really a surprise, considering that yesterday was a busy day with a lot of social interactions and then I stayed up late writing a blog post that was supposed to help me process the events of the day, but actually made me feel more stressed.  I suspect despite ten hours of sleep, I am still running a deficit of energy spoons.  I went for a twenty minute walk that exhausted me, which definitely makes me feel out of spoons.  I wanted to do my weekly Talmud study today and work on my Doctor Who book, but I don’t feel like doing either at the moment, although I might try again after dinner, when my mood might be a bit better.  Everything is just an effort at the moment, I feel so exhausted and depressed.  I’m just sitting in front of my laptop and vegetating, which is bad, as sooner or later I hit something that upsets me even more.

***

I wonder if I should have posted what I did yesterday.  In trying to process my feelings, I said more than I would normally say in public about my political views.  I tend to hide most of my opinions (about anything) from other people as much as possible to avoid confrontation and rejection.  This is probably not particularly helpful or conducive to making friends.

***

Despite writing a post that was twice as long as usual last night, I realised this morning that I forgot things I should have mentioned, such as being my being upset by my friend’s defence of Jeremy Corbyn against alleged [real] antisemitism accusations, but hiding my feelings to avoid causing offence; discussion of my nihilistic despair about the state of the world; and thoughts about the Jewish educational conference Limmud that my other friend was just back from.

Limmud is one of the few positive innovations to come out of Anglo-Jewry in the last few decades, a non-denominational religious educational conference aimed at all Jews which has now spread globally.  It’s very popular, albeit controversial among some Orthodox Jews, who refuse to attend events where non-Orthodox rabbis and educators speak.  That doesn’t bother me, but it would bother me a bit that my community would probably not be so happy with me going.

However, the real reason I’ve never gone is social anxiety and autism: literally thousands of people go to Limmud and attend talks, communal meals and entertainment together and the idea frankly terrifies me.  This despite the fact that I’ve been told it’s a good way to meet a partner who is serious about Judaism (as if I would have the confidence to talk to strangers there…).  I really ought to go, as a number of my friends have gone in the past, as have my sister and brother-in-law and they all enjoyed it (but then, they aren’t autistic and socially anxious).   I just haven’t worked up the courage to go yet.  I guess I feel that I do have a reason not to go now that I understand my social anxiety and autism a bit more.  I wish I could have told that to people who questioned my social withdrawal years ago at Oxford.  It’s funny that I accept my social anxiety more as a ‘real’ thing now it’s linked to autism than I did when it was just something free floating.

***

On a positive note, here are the Doctor Who miniatures I painted last week (left to right: first Doctor, fourth Doctor, K9, fifth Doctor, tenth Doctor, eleventh Doctor, twelfth Doctor).

DSC00758

Miniatures 2

***

The last few days I’ve been wondering if maybe I could write that book about Orthodox Judaism after all.  I think I should avoid apologetics, but maybe it’s not a bad thing to write a personal account if it’s honest about being personal and non-generalising.  It’s still a scary thing to contemplate writing, though, both from the effort required in research and writing and the backlash I might get from things I write from people whose opinions I care about.  In the worst case scenario, my book ends up in cherem (banned).  That’s not likely to happen, as I’m not important enough in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world for it to be worth banning anything I write, but people might regard things I write as incorrect, heretical or (more nebulously), true, but not something one should tell non-Jews and non-frum Jews about.

***

I’ve never really celebrated secular New Year’s Eve, less from religious reasons than social anxiety.  My plan for tonight involves DVDs (probably Sherlock: His Last Vow) and perhaps a book (Mythago Wood) if I have enough energy spoons to read, which does not seem so likely at the moment.

My parents have got ten friends over for dinner tonight.  I will be expected to come down and say hi, something I hate doing.  I can feel everyone staring at me and asking small talk questions that I can’t answer easily, like “How are you?” (“Really depressed” isn’t an acceptable answer) and “What are you doing?” (“About to start a job I’m terrified I’m going to mess up”).

It’s difficult reading people reflecting on happy and successful years, when I don’t feel that mine was like that.  It’s difficult in another reading about sad things that happened to people in 2018 (because I’m not a sadist).  Jews greet the new year with a mixture of awe and trepidation, which seems to fit better with the types of years I experience than alcohol-induced levity and blind optimism. According to the Jewish calendar, we’re nearly a third of the way through the current year (5779) already and it hasn’t been great, so I don’t think things are going to go much differently via the Gregorian calendar.

Anyway, felicitations and what-not.

Always Have, Always Will

I struggled last night, but I can’t say why, because of lashon hara (malicious speech) issues.  Basically, there is someone in my life who periodically upsets me to a very great extent for no good reason and who for a variety of reasons I have to keep in my life.  I think this person has undiagnosed issues of their own, but they won’t seek help.  It’s very difficult.  The upshot was that it ruined my Shabbat evening.  I was very upset and couldn’t even read very much.

The other thing that upset me a bit last night was reading this paragraph in the book Sparks from Berditchov by Yaakov Klein:

Every Jew who is serious about his avodas Hashem [service of God] knows how many benefits this lifestyle yields, not only in the next world, but in this world as well… A life lived per the Torah’s Divine guidance is one of utmost vitality.  Every moment is packed with meaning and every circumstance inundated with the possibility of earning a piece of eternity.  There is hardly a situation that an oveid Hashem [servant of God] can’t handle; the raging rapids of life’s ups and downs may toss him about but he remains safe, ever protected by the lifejacket of “Gam zu letovah – This too is for the good,” and “Whatever the Merciful one does is for the best.”

I hardly know where to begin with this, so remote is it from my experience of Judaism.  Vitality?  Meaning and the possibility of earning eternity?   Handling difficult situations?  None of these reflect my religious reality.  I feel such a bad Jew reading this.  I don’t think I’m earning much reward and I don’t feel vitality or meaning, nor am I able to handle difficult situations through my trust in HaShem (God).  I do what I have to do because that’s what God says, because I happen to believe that the Torah is true and that I should follow it.  It looks like I am following because I have an autistic adherence to rules as much as anything more spiritual.  I don’t have the personal connection with God that my rabbis and teachers say is necessary to have reward in the Next World (not having a share in Olam HaBa (the Next World) is not a punishment as such, but a reflection of the fact that one has not built a connection with God in the spiritual world through good actions in this world).

I had some strange dreams at night after all this.  I had a work anxiety dream.  I don’t remember the details, but it was a mash-up of my first two jobs, and I had to go back to work there, except I think I was a volunteer again, rather than a paid employee (I had been a volunteer in the first library I worked in before being paid).  I also dreamt about the first woman I asked out, who turned me down and eventually stopped talking to me because of my depression (she was worried she would say the wrong thing and make me suicidal, but her stopping talking to me actually made me suicidal).  I stop thinking about her for long periods, particularly when I’m dating, but then she comes back to my mind.  In some ways she matters as much to me as the two women I was actually in proper relationships with.  At any rate, we were friends for quite a long time.  I do periodically google her, so I know she’s married with children and living in Israel.  Sometimes I wish I could just tell her that, yes, I’m still depressed, but there’s a reason I’m so messed up (autism) and I don’t blame her for what happened, and please would she at least feel pity for me.

I’ve been thinking about her all day and, after Shabbat, playing music that makes me think wistfully about lost love.  I wonder if anyone could ever care about me this much?  But it’s just fantasy, not real love.  I suppose I don’t really care about her, I care about her as she was fifteen years ago, when I last saw her, and she would say I care about an image of her in my mind, not the real her.  She said if I liked myself more, I would fall in love with someone more like myself; I still think she was a lot like me, more so than the two women I have actually dated (both of whom I thought at times that I was almost certain to marry), but obviously not enough.   It’s never enough, really.  I’m never enough for anyone.

After Shabbat I spent some time starting to paint my Doctor Who miniatures.  I like having a hobby that isn’t just reading or writing (as I seem to have stopped jogging), but I can tell that I don’t paint miniatures as well as I did in my teens.  I’m not sure how much is patience or skill – it’s just another thing I seem to be less good at than I was years ago.  I feel that I’m becoming useless.  The fact that my hand shakes when I’m trying to paint the fine detail doesn’t really help.  I painted for about an hour, excluding preparation and tidying time, but then my attention began to wane and I started getting a headache, probably not from paint fumes (they are very small pots of paint), but I thought it was a good idea to stop.  I basically finished K9 (because he’s easy), but the Doctors will require a lot more work.  I hope to spend some time on it in the next fortnight, before I have to start work.

Pavlovian Responses

I overslept a bit this morning.  Despite having had nearly eight hours sleep, I woke up depressed, thinking morbid thoughts about wanting to die.  I still believe that Judaism, lived properly, is a joyous and meaningful way of life, maybe the most joyous and meaningful way of life, but I feel that I’m prevented from living it properly by depression and social anxiety: I don’t daven (pray) as I should, study Torah as I should, do acts of kindness or have the right kind of family and community to live a Jewish life properly.

Today I also felt a lot of what I suppose you could call anxiety or perhaps even obsession, but of a peculiar kind that afflicts me every so often, worrying about all the books and DVDs I want to own and read or watch, or re-read and re-watch.  I realised today that it’s about completism rather than enjoyment or materialism.  I get anxious about not ticking these things off my ‘to read/watch’ list as much as anything else.  There’s also autistic obsession/special interests in there too, the desire to collect something and feeling that things are wrong if the collection is incomplete.  It’s why I get annoyed when series of books or TV programmes I like extend indefinitely, when I should want that to happen.  I want to contemplate the series in its entirety and (less positively) know I own all of it, which isn’t possible with ongoing series.  It doesn’t help that I basically see my favourite books and DVDs as my friends and want to spend more time with them, going back to favourite stories multiple times if I can justify the time.  Books and DVDs are at least always there for me, whereas friends have a tendency to disappear, or at least to live far away.  People are harder to understand than books and DVDs too, and less amenable to being repeated until I do understand them.

At work I processed about 130 records (good), but also discovered that the other temp has been processing about 200 records a day for weeks, which made me feel more depressed.  I feel sure that my boss regrets hiring me, although I have no objective proof of this.  The temp is going on to a permanent job elsewhere from next week.  I have ten work days left until unemployment.   I will be glad to get out of the office, though.  Today the people next to me spent an hour or more chatting, which was both distracting and depressing, depressing because I realised that other people can afford to waste time, whereas I’m working flat out just to do the bare minimum of work, and that with mistakes.

I think my OCD is trying to come back.  There has been some worry about kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), which was the main focus in the past, but also worrying about pronouncing words properly in davening (prayer).  I’m currently trying to cope with some kashrut anxiety and attendant guilt over some omega-3 supplements that may not be kosher because I misunderstood the London Beit Din’s guidelines.  I don’t think that this could treif up any of our crockery, but I’m not sure.  I emailed the Beit Din about it, but they haven’t got back to me yet.

Today I was reminded of someone I used to have a terrible crush on (all my crushes are terrible) when I was at university.  I realise now that we are not remotely suitable for each other (actually, it would be hard to think of someone less suitable).  We’re still friends, but I’m quite happy to go a year at a time without seeing her, something that would have seemed unbearable seventeen years ago.  Perhaps – perhaps – one day all my crushes will seem so irrelevant and I’ll be glad that nothing came of them.  Perhaps one day I’ll even understand why God thinks I have to be so lonely and miserable, and be glad of it.  Perhaps.  On which note, I managed to comment on this post without the usual Pavlovian response of wallowing in lonely self-pity whenever anyone says the word ‘marriage,’ although I couldn’t shake the “I’m-never-going-to-get-married” thoughts.

“Well, blimey, look at him. He ain’t normal, is he?”

The title quote is from The Underwater Menace, one of the less accomplished Doctor Who serials of the sixties.  Ripped out of context, it somehow sums up how I feel everyone else must think about me today.

On the way into work I read a few pages of The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome.  It looks like I was wrong about the diagnostic criteria for autism having changed.  They have changed, but it’s now harder to get a diagnosis rather than easier.  I’m not sure why this has been done, considering popular awareness of autism is greater than ever before and there are surely more people trying to get diagnosed.  Maybe that was the point.  Maybe they only want people with severe impairments being diagnosed.  I’m not really severely impaired directly by the autism, it’s just that I struggle to understand and communicate with people.  Which reminds me, I found this link about high functioning autism not being the same as mild autism the other day.  I think it’s very useful for understanding how I feel, especially numbers 2, 3 and 5.

On the other hand, there is a new possible diagnosis of “social communication disorder”, which takes some of the social impairments from autism without the restricted interests (and apparently also without the sensory sensitivity, although the book does not explicitly state that).  That might be a possible path for me to take, given that my social impairments are much more severe than my other symptoms, which was part of the reason why I had such a confusing “yes, but no” diagnosis in the first place.

Work today was hard as I got told to redo some work that my boss said was done wrongly.   I had made one mistake, but one other mistake I just could not see on the spreadsheet and two other “mistakes” were not mistakes at all, but judgement calls that I had made, perhaps incorrectly.  Nevertheless, my boss was asking for me to double-check a load of work I did yesterday.  It brought my mood down, though, even before everyone else on the team went out for lunch together and I couldn’t go because there are no kosher restaurants around here.

Then, after lunch, I was told that I had corrected the genuine mistake incorrectly.  Perhaps because I was annoyed about having my judgement calls questioned or perhaps out of plain absent mindedness, I had corrected some columns, but had forgotten others.  My boss was rightly annoyed, but I wasn’t sure whether she still wanted me to double-check the other work or not.  I thought I would quickly do it, except it took nearly an hour in the end and I left work at nearly 6.00pm.  I’ve come home to a pile of emails I should deal with (shiur has been cancelled this week as the assistant rabbi is away), but I just want to eat pizza and watch Doctor Who.

I feel like I can’t actually succeed at anything I do.  I was good at school work, but university put paid to any notion I had of being academically-gifted.  I might have managed a first if I hadn’t been depressed (I was two marks short of a first in my first year exams), but finished up with a low 2.1 after a three years seriously disrupted by depression.  I’m told I can write well, which I tend to doubt, but even if I do, I’m not sure how to do anything beneficial to myself or others with it.  The only things I’ve had success writing about are Doctor Who, depression and antisemitism.  I’m working on my Doctor Who non-fiction book still, but am quietly doubting whether I can write what fans want to read, either in terms of style or content.  Anyway, part of me thinks I’m wasting my time with middle-brow family television.  A couple of people have encouraged me to write a misery memoir or some similar depression-themed work, but I can’t find enough positivity to write something uplifting and any accurate account of my childhood would upset a lot of people whose private details could not be changed enough to make them unrecognisable.  As for writing about antisemitism, it is more socially worthwhile, but also very depressing and unlikely to make much of an impact and would embroil me in a lot of arguments that I would rather avoid, although the idea for a antisemitism-themed PhD thesis continues to bubble away in the background without my ever intending to leave it there.

Well, I have an appointment on the moon with Patrick Troughton and a pizza…

University Challenged

I saw a careers advisor today.  He had some helpful advice about CV layout and content and some less helpful advice about career direction.  I felt he didn’t really know that much about librarianship, which I guess is the problem with my having a minority career.  I was annoyed he hadn’t looked at my CV in advance even though I had been asked to send a copy and had done so.  I had the usual social anxiety thing of thinking he hated me and thought I was an idiot every time he suggested I do something differently, particularly when I said I’ve applied for six jobs and he said if I’ve been looking for work for a month, I should have applied for more jobs, one a day.  The thing is, I thought I had been applying for almost one a day and even given that I have been on holiday for nearly two weeks (counting days lost due to moving flat as well as being in New York) that should be more than six jobs.  Now, six jobs was to some extent a number pulled out of the air in desperation when asked on the spot about how many jobs I have applied for, as I honestly didn’t know, but I thought it was a ballpark figure, so I have no idea why I have applied for so few.  Maybe I have applied for more and can’t remember?

The really interesting/scary thing he said was that if I want to work in research, I should do a PhD.  This was even without my telling him my pipe dream of writing about science fiction TV because it seemed too silly and impossible.  The thing is, I don’t know how I would go about doing that.  My initial reservation was that, having been very depressed while doing my BA and my MA and in both cases taking significantly longer to finish than I should have done, a PhD would also make me depressed, but I’m sufficiently depressed now to wonder what difference it would make.

The second issue is that my MA was not at a good university and I wonder whether a good university would accept me for a PhD.  I am not sure if this is a valid concern or how to find out.  I guess I could try writing to admissions tutors.

The third issue is what to study.  I don’t want to work on Library and Information Management (my MA field).  History (my BA) is a possibility, but I don’t know what to specialise in.  My BA curriculum was broad.  I don’t really want to work on historiography (the subject of my BA extended essay, Oxford-speak for my dissertation).  The English Civil Wars and Interregnum, the subject of my special subject (a historical period of a decade or so in length, studied in detail and with primary sources, a specialism of sorts) is more promising, but I don’t feel either interested or capable in engaging with distant historical sources in a detailed way again after so long and I don’t really feel greatly interested in the seventeenth century any more.

Working on the problem from the other direction, my interests these days are interdisciplinary, particularly in the area where history, cultural studies and politics meet.  I’m interested in Jewish history and particularly in the causes and manifestations of antisemitism  and especially in the place where legitimate criticism of the State of Israel mutates into actual antisemitism and support for the Palestinian cause turns into support for anti-Jewish violence (*cough* Jeremy Corbyn *cough* the Labour Party).  I might just go mad if I studied this all the time, though, and given the political climate in much of academia (increasingly very anti-Zionist to the extent of sometimes being in my opinion antisemitic), finding a supervisor I was on the same wavelength with about what constituted legitimate anti-Zionism and what antisemitism could prove difficult.

I’m also – and this would be much more enjoyable to study – very interested in British television science fiction of the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties, particularly for what it tells us about the values, politics and worldview of writers and audiences of the time.  This is the most exciting area for me to think about working on, but it also has the most challenges.

First, I have no experience of working on cultural history, bar one term at Oxford on eighteenth century British popular culture, although I did do a piece of coursework for my MA on how Doctor Who fans make use of information resources.  Second, I don’t know what exactly it could lead on to (although I’d be interested to find out).  Third, as a librarian I’ve catalogued a bit of cultural studies material and both sixth form and degree level and I’ve found a lot of it does not interest me because it’s very postmodern theory-driven (I find postmodern theory confusing and not as obviously correct and useful as many humanities academics do) and also very driven by left-wing identity politics, which again is not my political viewpoint and has the additional problem that my identity (religious Jewish and Zionist) is marginalised or even demonised by academics working in this field, whereas I feel i have very little meaningful to say about race, gender and sexuality perspectives which are what dominate.

I feel there is nothing really to say about a Jewish perspective on TV science fiction in this period, unless it is to ask why there are no Jews in it despite the presence of some Jewish creators (although I’m not sure how many or how to find out; I can think of a couple off the top of my head); even then the answer is probably that religion as a whole was avoided as too controversial rather than a specifically Jewish response.  That said, some (including me, years ago in a blog post as well as a more serious (if flawed, IMHO) academic article in the journal European Judaism) have suggested that the Doctor could be considered coded as Jewish in some sense.  There was an article I read the other day in the latest Jewish Review of Books that may help here, arguing that Jewish film director Stanley Kubrick consistently took books with Jewish characters or themes, denuded them of obviously Jewish content, but then filmed them with Jewish actors or thematic elements that could be seen as coded for Jewish; one could perhaps see something similar going on with Doctor Who.

Crunch time: if someone gave me a sizeable research grant and the opportunity to work on anything I like, with the proviso that I had to produce a decent thesis at the end of it, my inclination would be to do something on the British television science fiction (TV SF for ease) of the fifties, sixties and seventies.  My current ideas for topics (and this is just from a couple of hours of thought) would be either looking at the presentation of technocratic scientific projects in the TV SF of the era as a way of looking at the breakdown of the “Butskellite” consensus on economic policy in post-war era (Quatermass II, A for Andromeda, late sixties/early seventies Doctor Who, The Avengers and maybe The Prisoner would be key here) OR looking at the presentation of Jews in British television of the time, particularly looking at whether the Doctor (co-created by assimilated Jew Sydney Newman and originally produced by the Jewish Verity Lambert, but originally portrayed by the somewhat antisemitic William Hartnell) can be seen as a symbolic grappling with mid-century Jewish identity[1].

I can actually see myself enjoying writing either of those theses, but whether I could get accepted on a PhD course to write them, and where I would do so, is another question.  I would definitely welcome any feedback from readers in academia or with experience of ‘aca fandom’ (academics who are also Doctor Who fans, writing professionally and academically about Doctor Who, science fiction or fandom), either about whether my ideas are worth pursuing or general hints about picking universities/supervisors/topics, whether having gone to a not-so-good university for my MA (after Oxford for my BA) will count against me and so forth.  EDIT: ideally I would stay in London for my PhD, although I could just about move to somewhere with a Jewish community e.g. which would basically be Manchester or maybe possibly Leeds or Glasgow.

 

[1] For those interested, the short reason why the Doctor is seen as coded Jewish is his consistent presentation as a wander and exile, as per Jewish history and stereotype (the wandering Jew and historic Jewish migrations over the last 2,500 years), but also per many Jewish refugees from Nazism and Communism, many of whom turned up in pre- or post-war London with Doctorates from foreign universities and a suspicion of authority, very like the presentation of the Doctor himself in the very first episode of the series.  Like many Jewish figures (again, Holocaust and Soviet refugees, but also back into the nineteenth century), he espouses progressive values of empiricism and social justice and provides a unique outsider’s perspective on society’s problems.  Like many Jews, he can ‘pass’ as a member of the societies he visits, but, again like many Jews, is often ‘outed’ as different either by enemies who dub him ‘impure’ or by his own principled refusal to approve behaviour he finds unethical.  The first and eleventh Doctors in particular are visually ‘coded’ by their dress, not specifically ‘Jewish’, but certainly visually redolent of mid-century academic refugees from Nazism and the USSR and it’s certainly not hard to imagine the Doctor having tea with Jewish refugees like Albert Einstein (mentioned in The Stones of Blood and glimpsed in Time and the Rani), Sigmund Freud (mentioned as having a comfortable couch in The Curse of  the Black Spot), Karl Popper or Sir Isaiah Berlin (we also know he was friends with Jewish escapologist Harry Houdini (Planet of the Spiders and a recent Doctor Who Magazine comic strip), a less obvious connection, but another Jewish immigrant who debunked spiritualism in the name of science.)

 

Lost Love

I dreamt about someone last night.  I’m not quite sure how to describe her relationship to me.  I have described her as the first person I really loved, but I’m sure lots of people would take issue with that and say it was just infatuation, that as we were never in a real relationship, I could never have loved her.  At any rate, she was the first woman I asked out, when I was nineteen and at Oxford.  She turned me down.  She just wanted to be friends, except eventually she couldn’t cope with my mental health issues, particularly my suicidality and broke off the friendship, going so far as to cut me dead in the street and at Jewish Society meetings.  Which made me angry at the time, but I can understand it now.  I worry that all my relationships and friendships will end up like this eventually.

I dream about my first love a lot and rarely, if ever, about any of my other lost loves, so I think my subconscious tends to use her as a shorthand for all of them.  Which is a bit lazy of my subconscious, when you think about it.  It’s not like it would take much effort to whip up the dream form of anyone else.  Maybe it’s been long enough that I can cope with her better than with the others, although given that when I get depressed and lonely, I tend to google her (as I did the other day), I still may not be entirely over her, fifteen years on.

Apparently she now works for a charity that provides counselling and mentoring to teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds.  I wonder whether her experience with me influenced that job decision.

I dreamt that I met her again and she was divorced (in the real world, I believe she is married with a couple of children) and basically hinted that she was interested in me.  I think she touched me in a U-rated, but interested way.  Despite the fact that we had both clearly moved on from Oxford, we were back there, although I think the Jewish Society from my Oxford days merged with my current shiur (religious class) crowd.

The romantic side of the dream petered out into an anxiety dream about exams.  I don’t know why I was dreaming about exams; again, it was probably standing in for general anxiety.  I was worried I was going to fail my finals, because I hadn’t really looked at the work for years.  (This may have been triggered by finding an A4 ringbinder full of my old tutorial essays from Oxford and not knowing whether to throw it out or not.  It’s currently sitting on my floor, awaiting a decision.)  I think I must have woken up at this point.  My dreams tend not to have clear plots anyway, but to just flow from one thing to another in a way that makes them hard to recall on waking.

The fact that I googled her recently, along with find the Oxford work probably explains the dream, that and the fact that even fifteen years on, when I have dated (a little bit) and had two relationships, I still don’t really have my love life sorted out, at a time when most of my peers, even many of the non-frum ones, are settled.  As I’ve said, I can’t really ever see myself matched off and happy.  I don’t think anyone could be happy with me.  In the last eighteen months or so, I’ve dated someone who was OK with my mental health, but not with my geeky interests, someone who was OK with my geeky interests, but not my mental health and someone who was OK with neither (probably – it wasn’t clear) and someone who was OK with my interests and, broadly speaking, with my mental health, but needed me to have a full-time job because she also wasn’t well enough, emotionally, to be the main breadwinner.  Not to mention the super-frum woman who I was supposed to be set up with who spent a month trying to investigate me to see if I was suitable to even go out on a date with her (I eventually gave up waiting) and a couple of women who sent mixed signals, but things never went anywhere.  All of which convinced me that frum women who might be a match for me religiously aren’t interested in me because of my geekiness and religious non-conformity; that only women with emotional issues of their own will be able to see past mine, but that would not make for a good match; and no one is going to be interested in me unless I can get a full-time job and support a family, which may never happen and certainly isn’t going to happen any time soon, probably not soon enough for me to be able to have children.  Which is sad, but I’m not sure what I can do.  In Judaism, we believe in miracles, but we’re forbidden to pray for them.

I feel there ought to be some concluding paragraph here, but maybe it’s appropriate that it just tails off, unfinished, because that’s how so many of my relationships tend to feel, unfinished, things unsaid and undone, not least that non-relationship from Oxford.

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.

I don’t have the words

I don’t have the words to describe what I feel.  Am I dissociating?  First I was googling ex-crushes and university peers, feeling angry in an inchoate way for things that really weren’t their fault, blaming them for how I feel.  Then doing the thing I do that I don’t have words for where I focus on a phrase or image, usually from fiction (nine times out of ten Doctor Who, which is where it is now) and play it over and over in my head, even putting myself into it as a vivid daydream.

This is where I am now:

The Master: It nearly beat me. Such a simple, brutal power. Just the power of tooth and claw. It nearly destroyed me, a Time Lord. But I won. I control that force, Doctor. And now, at last, I have the power to destroy you.

(Doctor Who: Survival by Rona Munro)

Over and over.  And snarling silently.  And hurting myself a bit and wanting to die, or to just explode, to act somehow, to do something to relieve this tension and agitation.

I Coulda Been a Contender

Today was a day of mild incompetence (not always my own), punctuated by occasional moments of sheer despair.  In one of my despairing moments at work, I thought that I have everything in life except the things that make it worth living: love, joy, companionship.  But then I thought, actually, I don’t even have that.  I don’t have financial security (my parents still help me out and if my contract is not renewed I will probably have to move back in with them); I don’t have a job I enjoy, let alone a career that I’m progressing with; I have a couple of friends, but mostly long-distance, which is hard; and while I have my physical health up to a point, I’m not sure how easy it is to separate physical and mental/emotional health.  Depression leads to a general sense of being worn out and under the weather much of the time, as well as a greater likelihood of infection.  I do have the love of my parents and sister, difficult though we find it sometimes to understand each other (mentally ill autistic vs. healthier allistic) and a couple of long-distance friends, which is something, but I want more.  Is that selfish of me?   Maybe it is, but I don’t think so.  I could accept my friendships being long-distance (in some ways communicating by text and email is better for me), but I want to love and be loved.

I also reflected that in another life I might have stayed at Oxford (or gone on to Cambridge, I suppose, although my sister would have killed me if I was there when she was) and fitted in a bit better around academics.  At least there are a lot of Aspies there, diagnosed and otherwise.  But on getting to Oxford as an undergraduate, I rapidly felt out of my depth and although I did pretty well in my first year exams (missing a first by two marks), a few months later the depression set in (or became more obvious and intrusive) and my grades in my finals were acceptable at best.  I never felt like a really first class intellect and I don’t think I could really have been a professional historian.  Plus, Oxford and Cambridge are not good places to be Jewishly.  The Jewish communities are small, there are no kosher shops, let alone restaurants, and the Oxford Jewish community is pluralistic rather than Orthodox.  No mikvah or Jewish schools either, so not good for families.  I suppose if I wasn’t frum and had been more academically confident and less depressed, I might have stayed at Oxford as a post-graduate student and met some similarly shy and gauche female post-grad (perhaps in the sciences rather than the humanities so we wouldn’t feel in competition with each other) and been happy.  But I don’t think my life is built for happiness.

To be honest, I’m not sure if anyone other than my two exes was ever remotely interested in me romantically (although I know one other woman who says I’m cute), although I find it sufficiently difficult to read body language to be sure.  I know a woman recently was really invading my personal space and I couldn’t work out what was going on there.  At Oxford I thought someone was attracted to me and made a fool of myself confronting her about it.  She now lives two or three doors down the road.  I don’t think she remembers me, but maybe she’s just being polite and pretending not to know/see me.

I do remember a weird evening at Oxford.  There was a quiz between the Doctor Who Society and the Star Trek Society (this was in my penultimate term, when I was Doctor Who Society president).  After the quiz the Doc Soc (as we called ourselves then) went to the pub; we invited Trek Soc, but only their (female) president came.  I thought she was looking at me strangely all evening, but thought I was being silly (probably reflecting on my previous embarrassment).  When I started walking home afterwards she was suddenly beside me.  It turned out we were going in the same direction.  When we got to the house she lived in, there was an awkward scene on the doorstep where I wondered if she expected me to kiss her or ask for her phone number or something.  Of course, it would have been an unlikely intermarriage: a Whovian and a Trekker.  She was almost certainly not Jewish either!  Even if I hadn’t been frum (religious), it would probably have been very silly to start anything at that stage, as was approaching exams with my mental health in a terrible state (I was only managing about an hour of work a day).  But I do sometimes wonder what on Earth happened/could have happened/was supposed to have happened there.

I find myself thinking sometimes about girls/women I knew in my teens and twenties who I could have asked out but didn’t and how my life might have gone differently if I had, particularly with girls I knew at school, before the depression was really affecting me.  I suppose one shouldn’t really think like that, but sometimes I wonder if I had a chance for happiness and lost it already and that my misery is my fault and, more than that, I will get punished (here or in Olam HaBa (the Next World)) for messing up.  I sometimes think God should make situations a bit easier to read, at least for the autistic among us.

Mediocrity

Most things are average, by definition, but it is hard to accept one’s own mediocrity.  As a lonely and bullied child, I comforted myself, at least on some level, with the thought that I was somehow different to the children who rejected and hurt me, that I was more intelligent and a better person morally and that one day I would get my reward.  I thought that when I got to university I would come into my own among like-minded people, but in Oxford I was distinctly average compared to some of the geniuses there and it became clear that I lacked the social skills to make friends and that even in a community that might be expected to have an above-average amount of geeks, I didn’t fit in.  I did well in my first year exams, but as the depression took hold in my second year, I achieved less and my final grade at the end of the BA was distinctly average.

This struggle over my identity has never really gone away and lately I have been thinking a lot about what I want out of life.  Some of it comes from dating E. and discussing what kind of a life we might build together, but I was thinking along these lines even before we started dating.  A lot of the things that I told myself were important to me have come to seem unattainable, at least for me and in some cases I am losing interest in them, particularly regarding religious activities.

I feel I can’t do as much Torah study as I would like or focus on the subjects I would or ‘should’ want to study (Talmud, mainly).  I feel I can’t daven (pray) with the right kavannah (mindfulness), the right number of times a day and with a minyan (prayer quorum).  I feel my life lacks meaning and spirituality.  I’m only vaguely aware, and by repute, of what ‘spirituality’ even is or what it means to experience God as being close.  I’ve been very religious about half my life, over a decade and was moderately religious even before then, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a “spiritual experience.”  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve heard conflicting things from rabbis about whether it’s even possible for me to get simcha shel mitzvah, joy in Judaism, while still depressed, which makes me feel hopeless as I can’t see a time when I’m ever not at least vaguely depressed, in the background.  While I know that not everyone in the Jewish community or even the frum (religious) community is living on a permanent spiritual high, the conversations  I’ve had or heard and the fact that people persist in living a frum life, with all it’s costs (financial costs, psychological costs, opportunity costs) indicate that they are getting something out of it.

Even aside from joy, I’m living a fairly hand-to-mouth existence at the moment.  My depression is less prominent, but it is there and even when my mood is low, my energy and concentration are affected and I can’t do what I would like.  Most of my energy goes on work, some on trying to nurture my relationship with E. so it isn’t stillborn, most of the rest goes on basic chores (shopping, cleaning).  Only a small amount is available for Jewish stuff, so I don’t have much time or energy for religious study or prayer.  I’m trying to make some time at least for studying Jewish topics that interest me rather than just Mishnah and a bit of Gemarah, but, again, it’s hard, and results in my taking several big books in my rucksack to work (I will have back issues one day).  I tried to take on a volunteering opportunity, but they never got back to me.  As for other things that are important to me: cooking, exercise, writing… forget it.  These things have largely faded away lately.  I haven’t even been reading much, concentrating on watching Doctor Who as research for my book.

It is very clear now, if it was ever in doubt, that I am not a tzaddik (saintly person) Jewishly, nor am I ever going to be a great a writer, based on the quality of what I write and my failure to fight for it… a real writer would give up religious ritual, or find a way to combine the two (the Hevrian way, but Hevrians wouldn’t understand my lack of spiritual experiences, given that they all seem to experience miracles every five minutes).  And I guess that’s OK.  I have plans for low-key writing and at some point I’m going to have to decide whether to take time out from contracted work to pursue serious, but non-literary, writing as a career or not.  But a real writer wouldn’t be sitting here feeling exhausted and stressed and depressed and hot and hungry and frustrated that this post isn’t saying what I want it to say, he would make it sing!

And I guess it was silly of me to even hope that I could aspire to being a good Jew.  I didn’t even go to yeshiva!  I can’t even make it to shul more than twice a week!  I do half an hour or less of very basic Torah study a day (sometimes only five minutes, when I’m very stressed or busy or the depression is bad).  I can’t concentrate on my prayers at all and I find it impossible to get any positive emotions from my ritual observance, even if I can write long essays justifying halakhic (Jewish law) observance and ritual as a key part of the religious life.  I can engage intellectually, at least when I’m not too exhausted and depressed, but not emotionally.  I can’t live my Judaism, I just go through the motions and observe myself and others from a distance.

I’ve tried to be OK with all of this lately and I thought I was getting there.  I thought I was learning to accept that other Jews will look down on me and that on some level they are right to look down on me.  I thought I was learning to accept that while I might be able to make some kind of basic career as a jobbing writer, true literature (and acclaim) will always escape me.  But today I just feel depressed and unable to accept anything.  Part of that is work stress and part of it is probably hunger and exhaustion.  But those aren’t going away; well, the hunger hopefully will, for a few hours, but work stress and exhaustion and new relationship anxiety (worth a post in itself) and the intense heaviness of living an ordinary life: working, shopping, cleaning, cooking, showering – the heartache and the thousand chores that flesh is heir to – they aren’t going away.  So I need to find some other way to accept my mediocrity.

See-Saw

I sometimes wonder what happened to the people I was at school and university with, the people who were indifferent to me, the people who might have been my friends if I had had more confidence and social skills and the people who bullied me.  (I don’t know why they bullied me.  Because I was clever?   Because I was awkward and Aspie?  Because I was a Doctor Who fan?  Because it was easy?  All of the above?  I don’t know.)  I think sometimes about the girls I could have asked out who might have said yes, but who probably would have said no.  I can’t remember all the names or even all the faces, just a sense of not fitting in, of not being accepted.

I assume they are all happy, successful and loved, no matter how unpleasant and socially maladjusted they seemed twenty years occur.  It occurs to me that this might not be true.  Yet it seems pretty impossible for them to be miserable if I am miserable.  Like Yaakov and Esav (Jacob and Esau), Jerusalem and Rome, if one goes up the other must surely see-saw down.  If I’m miserable, they must be happy.

Sometimes I tell myself that my suffering is a kapparah (atonement) for the world.  This is a lie, but it helps me to get through the nights.

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

I shouldn’t be blogging.  It’s Shabbat in two hours, I need to pack and go to my parents’ house, I’ve been up less than an hour and I’m still more than half asleep, I should be in the shower.  But I feel exhausted and very depressed and need to vent.  I guess seeing my sister yesterday was more draining than I thought, even before I stayed up late working on my shidduch (dating) profile.

All kinds of thoughts are going through my head, just slowly, because I’m so lethargic.  I had another anxiety dream, this time about my sister’s wedding, which is silly as it was nearly a month ago and I didn’t have to make a speech like I did in the dream.  I guess it was difficult for me and I’m still working it through.

I was thinking about my childhood best friend, probably because my sister asked about him yesterday.   We’re still friends, but haven’t seen each other for a couple of years, between my depression and his busy job.  We drifted apart in secondary school, though.  My Mum always wanted to split us up; he wasn’t a bad influence (far from it), but she felt I just hung around with him and didn’t make any new friends.  I think if she had sent me to a different school, I would just have made no friends, which is sort of what happened at Oxford.  OK, I made a couple of friends, but I didn’t really recognise them as friends until we left and they wanted to stay in touch, to my surprise, plus one or two who I lost contact with, but who then found me online and resumed the friendship.  I probably should have been separated from him though.  I was in his shadow, Ernie Wise to his Eric Morecambe, and it probably fuelled my low self-esteem, on an unconscious level.  He’s an intensely charismatic, intelligent, active, positive person and I’ve never been able to compete with him.  All the teachers knew him, even the ones who didn’t teach him, whereas even the teachers who had taught me tended not to forget me.  He’s had his share of problems, but he always seems to push through them and sort them out relatively quickly (within a year or so, compared to me struggling for half my lifetime or more with mental health issues).  He’s married to his school sweetheart, the only girl he ever dated, they have two children, he has a great job… his life is sort of the one I thought I would get, being married with children and a fulfilling job.  He’s a great person too, much better than me, kind, thoughtful and empathetic.  I shouldn’t compare myself, but it’s hard not to sometimes.

I sometimes wonder what happened to my friends and peers (including the ones who bullied me).  I drifted away from my other friends when they got interested in girls, alcohol and, in some cases, drugs.  Or when they went to the other extreme and went off to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary).  I was scared of all those things.  I wonder what they are doing,  how many are married, how many have children, how many are happy… I know some are married, some in relationships, some with children.  I’m guessing most are working, although you can’t tell these days.  I think I came across a book by one of my old friends in my previous library job.  It was hard to be sure as his name is fairly common and the author picture on the inside flap looked different to how he looked at thirteen (bald and with a beard).  I certainly heard that he was a professional historian at Oxford.  My subject, my university.  Sigh.

This is when I start feeling solipsistic.  It’s easier to tell myself that everyone else is a figment of my imagination than to confront the fact that everyone is doing better than I am.  I can’t even say, “Well, at least I’m happy.”  Because I’m not.

I wonder if they ever think about me, and what they think when they do.  Do the bullies still mock me?

I’m sorry, I’m too morose today.  Thinking about school reminds me that my friends at school use to tease me about being a Doctor Who fan (except the friend above, he would never do that, in fact he got me into the programme), saying I would marry a Dalek.  To be honest, marrying a Dalek seems more likely today than marrying a sweet, frum, geeky girl.  If I had been more into Star Trek, maybe they would have said I would marry a Klingon, which would be kind of sexy.  Although a boring Vulcan would probably be more my level.

Apology

It’s always questionable whether one should return to a blog post one regrets after finishing it, or if one becomes a fool returning to his folly (like a dog returning to its vomit, according to Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible).  I sort of regret the last post, but I’m leaving it up because I don’t fully regret it.  I regret ending on such a pessimistic and self-loathing note, but I do genuinely think I will be alone forever, and jumping through shidduch (matchmaking) hoops becomes harder when I can’t see a positive outcome.

I don’t know why I got into such a dark place this evening.  It may be that going to the cinema was a mistake.  I always seem to come away from the theatre or the cinema feeling a bit melancholy, but I always assumed it was to do with the content of the play or film or envy of seeing the performers applauded on stage in the case of the theatre and wishing someone would applaud me and my work/life.  But maybe it is an autistic thing about noise and sensory overload or a social anxiety thing about crowds.  I don’t want to cut yet another thing out of my life, though, especially as I only go to the cinema once or twice a year, the theatre probably even less frequently.

Despite this, today I’m thinking that I’m probably not really on the autistic spectrum at all.  I just finished reading another book on Asperger’s (Aspertools) and felt that the advice in there was either obvious things I’ve been doing for years and don’t associate with my possible Asperger’s (break tasks into little steps; write lists) or things that are clearly written for people with much more serious issues than I have which just makes me feel guilty about poor functionality when I might not even be on the spectrum.

Anyway, something overwhelmed me today, whether it was just depression or noise or crowds and I sunk into the usual pit of despair.  I shouldn’t have broadcast it all here though.  When I’m very depressed, I suppose I just look to provoke a response from people, either to tell me that things will improve, or, better, to agree that they are hopeless (better because I don’t believe they will improve).  I shouldn’t play games like this, but I do and have done for years.  I was reflecting today that I have long since forgiven the people who hurt me as a child, but I can’t move on from the feelings of being worthless and hopeless that they created.  I do worry that if I got married, not only would I not be able to feel any better, I would discount the relationship in the way that, when the depression is bad, I find it hard to remember that my parents love me and that I do have a few friends who seem to like me at least a bit.  To be fair, I don’t think I really did that when I was in a relationship or when I was in a semi-relationship this summer.  Also, I find it harder to discount relationships when someone is actually there being friendly or loving to me.  This is why it’s so problematic that most of my friends live away from London.

I ate dinner and watched Doctor Who (which I wouldn’t normally do after spending three hours in the cinema, but I was desperate) and felt a bit better.  I have started to write my shidduch profile.  So far I’ve just done the personal details, which took long enough.  The actual who-I-am-and-what-I’m-looking-for bit will have to wait, although I can just edit from previous online dating profiles.  In the end I decided to leave out a lot of information about my family.  If I’m asked for it, I will give it, but it was intrusive enough having to give my parents’ names and shul affiliation.  I wasn’t going to list their educational background just to feel even more of a useless ba’al teshuva (penitent, but in this context someone raised non-religious who became religious later in life).  I already feel bad that I haven’t got a yeshiva on there and that my secondary school, although Jewish and Orthodox, was not at all religious.   Even going to Oxford seems like a bad thing in this context.  A frum person would have gone to a London university so he could stay with his parents in a frum community – or not gone to university at all, of course.  I do at least have rabbis for references, but it probably looks suspicious that I don’t have any references who are “friends, roommates, chavrusas (study partners)”.  I don’t have many friends, almost none I could ask to give me a reference and almost all my friends are problematic in frum terms, being not frum, not Jewish or not male (I’m not sure which of these would be worst).

On the plus side, I have discovered that I have the contact details for eight rabbis plus one rabbinic trainee.  Nearly a minyan.  If I ever get arrested, I’m going to have so many character witnesses!  Of course, shidduch dating also requires character references, for much the same reason.

Anyway, this was supposed to be an apology post, but it has mutated into another general post, even though I was trying to stop posting twice a day.  Also, it’s twenty past eleven and I was originally planning to get an early night, ha ha.

Feeling like a Depressive Autistic Freak

I’m mildly snowed in, but I’ve got to go out soon to see some friends and do urgent food shopping.  It has at least stopped snowing now.  I haven’t really done anything all day except sleep and eat.  I feel depressed and lacking in motivation.  I did email the shadchanit for people with health issues.  I will have to wait and see how that turns out.

I did manage to clean the flat.  This doesn’t take very long in a flat this tiny, but it takes a lot of effort to get going, which could be depressive lack of motivation and energy, or autistic poor executive function or plain procrastination/laziness.

I texted my boss to check that college will be open tomorrow despite the snow.  I had to ask, or else risk a long trip across London for no purpose, but I’m worried she will think I’m hoping to skive (again).

Added 8.45pm: I’m just back from dinner with some friends.  I feel the Asperger’s and the social anxiety won out over me.  My friends asked about my sister’s wedding and I was unable to answer the way they wanted.  Things like the food, the decor and my sister’s dress don’t matter much to me and I didn’t really notice much or have the vocabulary to describe what I did notice.  I was surprised that one (female) friend who has never shown much interest in fashion or the like before was suddenly desperate to find out what my sister’s dress looked like (it was white and had a long train and beyond that I neither know nor really care).

One of my other friends who was there recently got engaged and his fiancée came.  I had not known of her existence until I heard they were engaged a few weeks ago, but apparently they have been together for three years.  You may guess from this that most (all?) of my friendships are not close.  I can’t go to the wedding because it’s in another city in term time and I won’t be able to get the time off work, but I didn’t say anything because I’m too embarrassed and ashamed, although I don’t know why.  Maybe because part of me is secretly glad not to have to go to another party.

I tried to make a good impression on his fiancée, but found myself unable to say much; when she tried to engage me in conversation directly, I was unable to say anything other than “yes” and “no,” although I wanted to be more communicative.  My friend pointed out that I was wearing my college scarf (we were at the same Oxford college) and she asked if I’ve ever been back.  I said yes and she asked if I enjoyed going back; I didn’t like to say that I felt terrible when I went back because all I could think of were the places where I was lonely, the places where I was despairing, the places where I was suicidal…  Then I had to run off to catch my bus to avoid waiting in the cold for twenty minutes, which was probably rude.  So she probably thinks I’m a freak (she would be correct).

I’m glad that my friend has got engaged, but I feel secretly envious that he has a pretty, friendly and intelligent fiancée and I’m a freak who will be lonely forever.  I also felt envious that everyone at the table had a good job, whereas I’m a “poor devil of a sub-sub-librarian”.  That said, I wouldn’t want to be a property or tax lawyer, but I did envy the doctor and the academic.  I don’t even work full-time.

The score from the weekend: Luftmentsch 1, depression 1, social anxiety 1, Asperger’s 1.  So Luftmentsch 1, mental health and developmental disorders 3.  And that’s probably being generous to myself.

(I wonder if this bad mood is entirely from feeling I did badly from a socialising point of view or whether the rich chocolate mousse-meringue-cake I had for dessert has led me to have a blood sugar crash?  I always crash when I eat out with friends or family and I always assumed it was from feeling lonely and incompetent (I worry about saying the wrong thing at the meal, eating with people reminds me how rarely I see friends, and seeing couples out makes me feel painfully single), but maybe it’s a blood sugar thing.  In which case I will have to cut back on one of my few pleasant luxuries, the occasional piggy chocolate dessert.  Blast.)

Reunion

I didn’t want to write another post today (the previous one, which was supposed to take five minutes, took well over an hour and completely messed up my plan for the evening), but I slept over twelve hours last night (completely missing shul (synagogue) this morning) and dozed for another forty-five minutes this afternoon and unsurprisingly am not at all tired now.  What I am is agitated and introspective, pacing my room agitatedly like Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner (I’m a pacer when I’m agitated or even just thoughtful, much to the annoyance of my parents when I lived with them and they could hear me downstairs.  Solvitur ambulando, it is solved by walking (except it isn’t).  Also, when am I not introspective?  Maybe that’s why the depression makes me sleep so much, because it’s the only way to turn my brain off).

I was chatting to one of my sort-of-friends from shul last night.  I suppose I should stop calling them sort-of-friends and just call them friends.  I think they would want to be my friend, despite being quite a bit older than me, if I would let my defences down.  He was asking about work and it came out that I don’t work on Fridays.  So he asked what I do instead and I was too scared to say it’s my psychotherapy day, so I just muttered something about getting ready for Shabbat (the Sabbath).  And afterwards I thought that this was a prime opportunity to open up a bit about my issues and I fudged it, as usual, because I didn’t know what to say and was too frightened of how he would respond; I also don’t know how to casually drop something that big into the conversation (there is only one friend from my new shul who I have told about my issues and I carefully chose my moment for that and planned in advance what to say).

Then today I missed shul in the morning, as I said, and when I went back for Ma’ariv (the evening service) I felt people wanted to know where I had been.  Not in an intrusive way, but in a worried-about-me way.  But, again, I was too shy to say anything, I just said I was OK and avoided conversation because I was too scared how people would react.

I’m trying to work out if, on the whole, people are OK about hearing about my mental health.  Some people have been, some have not.  It’s hard to tell, because I don’t really open up to people about my depression away from the blog and depression group.  If I ever have to say something, I say it quickly and try to move on.  I don’t really tell people what it’s like to be depressed.  I have had a couple of bad experiences, although they mostly centre on dating and depression and it’s probably not reasonable to extrapolate from them to other cases.  There was the woman who seemed to be interested in seeing me until I mentioned I was depressed at which point she just ran a mile and cut off all contact with me, saying she would get back to me and not doing so, but the big one is the friend I had at university who was really supportive, but got worried that I would commit suicide because of something she would say or do because I was in love with her and she just wanted to be friends.  Eventually she broke off contact with me too, to the point of cutting me dead in the street or not looking at me at the Jewish Society, which was just embarrassing.  I do sometimes wonder what happened to her (she was basically the first and almost the only person I may have been really in love with as opposed to just crushing on and I wonder if I will ever feel like that about anyone else, and whether it will be reciprocated).  I know she moved to Israel and got married; I think she has children, but I don’t know for sure.

This train of thought got me thinking about people I have known in my life, people I have loved or crushed on, people I wanted to be friends with, but was too shy to talk to or too afraid I would run out of things to say or would otherwise seem boring and weird, people who bullied me… Sometimes I wish I could see the people from my life and tell them who I am, who I really am, with the depression and the OCD (which was worse today, don’t know why, mostly pure O thoughts about idolatry) and the social anxiety and the possible Asperger’s and see what they think of me, and how they treated me (for good or for ill).  If I could be known.  I think that’s what lies behind my desire for love and intimacy (which, as I’ve said before, is the main thing I want/need).  To be known and accepted for who I am.  Except, a few lines up I defined myself entirely by my mental health issues and neurology.  Not my personality.  Not my interests.  Perhaps because I just want to make excuses for myself.  Or perhaps because even in a fantasy scenario constructed in my head, I’m still too scared to open up about my interests or personality because that seems even more likely to lead to rejection than being depressed or neurodivergent.  Because I fear I come across as a geeky freak who ‘normal’ people and frum (religious) people could never understand.

I think writing this has made me feel more agitated rather than less.  I guess I should try to go to bed.

Anyway, good news: I finished Daniel Deronda after over four months!  It took so long because there was a month where I don’t think I read any of it at all because I was so depressed, and many other days when I read little or nothing because of the depression.  Off to read some lighter books, both in terms of physical weight (taking Daniel Deronda to work every day has not been fun, especially as I take Torah books too) and ease of reading/subject matter.