Being Seen at Volunteering, Flat-Hunting and Jewish Pride

Yesterday I went to volunteering for the first time in over a month. I missed a lot of sessions due to having to work on Tuesdays as a result of bank holidays falling on Mondays as well as a result of the wedding. After the volunteering session, there was a lunch for volunteers as a thank you from the organisation that runs the food bank. The paid staff we work with came, which I expected, but also the CEO of the whole organisation, which I did not expect. It’s a very big organisation and the food bank is just a part of it; indeed, even all the volunteering taken together is just a part of it, albeit a big part.

The CEO asked us all to say how we ended up volunteering. I was interested to see that so many people started because they were made unemployed during COVID. It was a bit of a relief to see it wasn’t just me! Of course, as most of these people are twenty or more years older than me, they saw unemployment as early retirement, which obviously wasn’t an option for me, but it’s interesting that I needn’t have been so ashamed of being unemployed when I started volunteering.

I did find the lunch a bit nerve-wracking, as there were a number of people there I didn’t know, and I didn’t actually say much, but I did feel accepted, even more so when I stayed afterwards for Minchah (Afternoon Prayers) on site and a couple of the rabbis present spoke to me. I think the paid staff said that the volunteers are a core part of the team even though we aren’t paid and one of the volunteers said the paid staff do spend a lot of time helping us in a hands-on way; they don’t treat us as menial workers that to whom they are superior by virtue of being paid.

It’s strange that we speak so much nowadays about wanting to “be seen” in the fiction we consume. I could probably write an ssay about that outlook and the problems with it, but I did feel seen here. Interestingly, I do not find feeling seen to be a wholly pleasurable or satisfactory experience. It is good to have one’s good work acknowledged and be thanked and praised, but, perhaps from social anxiety and low self-esteem, I feel discomfort whenever this happens, perhaps a feeling of not deserving praise, but perhaps just a feeling of awkwardness at being the centre of attention, of wanting to be invisible (the opposite of being seen).

At Minchah I ran into an old Oxford peer of mine who works for the organisation. I run into him every couple of years. He’s a nice person, but usually I feel awkward at not being “good enough” since leaving Oxford, but this time I made myself have a proper chat with him, and enjoyed it. E asked me if I would like to renew the friendship with him properly and I think I would, if I ever get the opportunity.


Flat-hunting news: E and I are edging closer to making an offer for the flat we liked. We saw a couple more flats today and really did not like them. It made us more certain that the first flat we saw really was excellent, not just better than everything else we’ve seen, but extremely good in its own right. I spoke a little bit about it in therapy today. I didn’t really come to any new conclusions there, but I realised that I was talking enthusiastically about it, not reluctantly as a “least worst” option, but somewhere where I think E and I could be happy despite the building work. The slight worry is, having found the planning documents online, we fear that further building work may follow one day, but as E and I both said, you could move anywhere and end up living with building work, either in that block of flats or even next-door, where you have no control whatsoever.

Estate agents annoy me, though. One who phoned me yesterday kept using the first person plural: “Where do we want to live?” I’m sorry, you aren’t going to be living with us! Then he asked why we were limiting our search to two specific areas. As I didn’t want to tell him everything about our religious and financial situation, I shut that down quickly, but I thought it was rude of him. Then, of course, there are those who try the hard sell, which is just annoying, but which sadly covers most of them. I guess it’s their job, but it’s still annoying.


While hanging around between flat viewings today, E and I had time for some charity shop browsing. E found me two of the three James Bond novels I don’t own! (The Ian Fleming ones, not the later books written by other writers.) She seems to be getting good at plugging gaps in my various collections. The books were Casino Royale and Diamonds are Forever, for those interested. The one I’m still looking for is The Man with the Golden Gun.


Pride Month always sparks a lot of thoughts in my head every June. I could probably write an essay about this too, but one thing I always think about is what would it take for society/businesses/media/etc. to spend even one day saying how much Jews have contributed to the world, how much Jews enrich society, how glad they are to welcome us and accept us and so on. I’m not into competitive victimhood, but I think it’s fair to say that Jews have been at least as persecuted in the Western and Middle Eastern worlds as LGBT people, yet we have contributed a huge amount, from the religious and moral structure that still underpins much of the world to a vastly disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners and other scientific and cultural geniuses (the famous statistic is that Jews constitute about 0.2% of the world’s population, yet about 20% of all Nobel Prize winners. Even Richard Dawkins finds this weird).

It’s hard to imagine it happening, though. The reality is that most LGBT people are perfectly normal, from a secular Western point of view, and therefore “safe” to welcome, whereas welcoming Jews would raise hard questions about the counter-cultural nature of so much of Jewish life, religion, Israel and so on. But that does raise the question whether tolerance for people who are pretty much exactly like you is really tolerance? I think this about a lot of things in our society, but Pride Month makes it very obvious, at least in the UK, which is pretty tolerant of LGBT rights. I know it’s different in parts of the USA where people protest Pride Month and perhaps it is a more meaningful event there. Here it’s just an excuse for big business to portray itself as socially aware by putting some rainbow flags in the window without doing anything that might actually cost it money, like paying workers more or checking that supply chains are free from slavery.

More Flat-Hunting, Or Raising the Roof

This will be another truncated post as I’m overwhelmed again, feel a bit ill/autistic exhaustion, and am trying to get to bed earlier. I really shouldn’t write, but (a) it’s been a few days and (b) I need to write to process.

On Saturday I was exhausted. I didn’t go to shul (synagogue) at all because I was too exhausted and I thought going would make the exhaustion worse. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. E wants to know how to help me when I feel like this, when to push me and when to let me crash. It is hard to tell. I would like to ask the question on the autism forum, but haven’t had the time and energy.

E and I walked around a somewhat nature-ish area nearby. It helped a bit. People on the autism forum talk about being around nature to recover from burnout, but it’s not easy in the suburban London. I didn’t do much Torah study. Instead, I read more Terry Pratchett (the book is just about good enough to justify not giving up on it) and we (my parents, E and me) played the game E and I bought Mum for her birthday, Ticket to Ride Europe. We played an open game so that we could learn the rules. They seemed daunting initially, but we got the hang of it quickly and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Hopefully the long summer Shabbat afternoons/evenings will provide many more opportunities to play.

I didn’t sleep in the afternoon, which was good, but I still went to bed late and I then woke up an hour or two after going to bed with a migraine and stayed up late (or early) until I felt better.

Sunday was going to be mostly dedicated to flat-hunting. E and I took some time out by going to a nearby suburb that may be closer if we move to the flat we saw on Friday and wandered around the high street for a bit, investigating grocery shops and charity shops. Most of the charity shops had few books, except for one with quite a large book section where I bought three Doctor Who: The New Adventures novels for £2 each (the Cat’s Cradle trilogy: Time’s Crucible, Warhead and Witch Mark). The New Adventures were original Doctor Who spin-off novels in the years Doctor Who was off TV. They were pitched at people in their late teens/early twenties, rather than the family audience the TV series was pitched at, which caused some controversy around their somewhat more graphic violence, sex and swearing than the TV series and the BBC made the publishers reign things in after a while. To be honest, I think I bought the books from nostalgia for 1990s Doctor Who fandom and my youth as well as to express disenchantment with current Doctor Who as much as from a burning desire to read the books (or add to my vast To Read pile), although I do now feel excited to read them (at some point).

Afterwards, E and I looked at flats online and made tacos, but once again, I ran out of time and energy to write wedding present thank yous. Overall, I felt stressed and overwhelmed, but good.

Work was hard today. I went to bed a little earlier last night to try to be more alert at work, but then I woke up earlier this morning for no obvious reason. I had to phone a lot of people to ask for money again, which I hate doing, even though it’s money the organisation is owed and needs to function. I think I may be finished with this task for a few months, but I keep thinking that and then finding more people to phone. I left work feeling pretty exhausted again.

After work, I met with E and my parents to view the flat we saw on Friday again. E and I still like it and Mum and Dad were impressed. There were a few problems, but mostly fixable. The big drawback is that today the estate agent suddenly told us that a new floor is being built the flat we looked at. The flat is on the second floor (third floor to Americans) and they plan to build a new third floor. This will lead to a lot of noise and disruption for over a year, perhaps closer to two. The estate agent treated this as a done deal, but Dad tried to find the planning permission online and doesn’t think it’s been approved by the council yet. We need to investigate this further.

We definitely won’t find a better flat than this in our price range and meeting our other criteria (location, mainly). We’re not even sure we will find one equally good. But E works from home and I’m hoping to set up some work from home and am very sensitive to noise and disruption, so the building work isn’t something to take on lightly. Mum and Dad have said we can come and work in their house if necessary (the flat is about a twenty minute walk away), which is a possibility, if a slightly awkward one, given that we are moving out to get some space and independence.

We need some time to think about this. It’s hard to work out how to process it and decide. I think a lot of it boils down to how long we think we will be in this flat. If it’s five years or more, then the benefits of the wonderful flat outweigh the problems of the building period. Under four and it’s probably not worth it. The thing is, the length of time we spend there is dependent on whether we can improve our financial situation significantly as well as what happens regarding starting a family, so it’s hard to tell at this stage.

E and I sometimes feel like two children who have suddenly found themselves living as adults, but at least we’re together now.

I’m going to have some decompression time in front of Quatermass II (or more decompression time, as E and I watched Doctor Who earlier) and then try to get an earlyish night as I have volunteering tomorrow for the first time in a month or more followed by a thank you lunch for people who volunteer for the same organisation. I hope that the latter will be fun and not an energy drain, as I really want to write some wedding thank yous in the afternoon.

Exhausted and Overwhelmed

I’m not going to blog E and my minimoon. I wanted to, but there’s just too much going on right now and I need to move my focus on. I am exhausted, physically and possibly emotionally. Maybe the events of the last few weeks are catching up with me. I am possibly not sleeping well in the same bed as E, but I’m not sure about this. We both seem to have some kind of sleep disorder, so maybe we’re stopping each other sleeping well, or maybe I’m just not used to sleeping with someone after nearly forty years of sleeping alone. Or maybe it’s coincidence and I’m just going to bed too late. I mean, I am going to bed too late, I just wonder if there’s something else too.

I feel overwhelmed with house-hunting stuff. We’ve got four properties to view set up, three tomorrow and one next week, except one of the estate agents from tomorrow is probably switching us to next week, because customers are cattle with no lives of their own and can be moved around at whim he double-booked us. I feel overwhelmed with writing wedding thank yous, which I’ve hardly started on. And I have a list of other things to sort out, from small (sort out a new To Do list, believe it or not) to unrealistically massive (learn to drive, start writing my novel). I feel OK pushing off learning to drive, but my novel nags at me. I want to do it, I just don’t have the time/energy/brainpower.

To make things worse, I had to phone people to ask for outstanding payments at work again today. This kind of thing always makes me feel something between a bailiff and a loan shark’s enforcer. I dealt with some incoming phone calls too. I made mistakes and uncovered a big mistake I’d made weeks ago, thankfully before any harm was done (I hope). By the end of the day, I felt pretty awful, tired and burnt out, and faint. E and I were supposed to be meeting for a date night, but the restaurant didn’t have any tables. We went to a different restaurant, but it was too noisy for me. I just couldn’t cope. We ordered the food as takeaway and ate it at home. My vegetable curry was extremely good. Afterwards, I lay down on my bed by myself for fifteen minutes with no screens or noise and slowly felt a bit better. Then I had to plunge back into flat-hunting and I feel bad again, although not as bad. I’m hoping to watch Doctor Who with E soon; if not, I’ll watch Quatermass. I might eat ice cream; I certainly need to (whether I deserve to is another question). Whatever I do, I’ll try to get to bed earlier than usual.

E and I are good at caring for each other, because we have similar unusual (excessive) needs. This is good, as we have unusual (excessive) needs and need all the help we can get, which isn’t really anything from outside our family circle.

I spoke to the GP yesterday about reducing my medication (can’t get a psychiatrist appointment). I reduced the dose a little today and wonder if it was a good idea, although one day is hardly a fair test.


The Terry Pratchett novel I’m reading (I’ve stuck with it; it got a little better) said to “be yourself,” which is a pretty standard moral in 90% of novels, film and TV since the Romantic era, but I don’t know how to be myself, or who myself is. Or rather, I feel like I’m several different selves from totally different lives glued together in a weird metaphysical accident.


I have no idea what 90% of the memes and list articles I get on my Facebook feed are about. I don’t understand the cultural references or the slang. I’m not sure if this means I’ll never be a successful writer (in a postmodern age, where intertextuality and cultural references as well as an informal, slangy style, at least for dialogue, are in vogue), or that I’ll be a very successful writer (original), or that it won’t make any difference either way. Probably the latter.

Insecurities; Or No One Belongs Here Less Than You

I woke up feeling peopled out after yesterday, drained, a little anxious and somewhat irritable. It makes me a bit worried about the weekend, my family being here for Shabbat (I envy E being in West London for Shabbat a little) and then the wedding on Sunday. I do still want the party as we’re having it, but I’m very aware it’s not a no-cost situation for me. At least E and I have two nights in a hotel (in Hendon…) to decompress afterwards.

I got up at a not-totally-crazy time, but after helping take in the weekly Tesco order, I had to lie down in a dark, quiet room for forty-five minutes to get into some kind of working state of mind. I just felt burnt out after yesterday. I did some Torah study and had therapy (online, as always), but experienced some anxiety and kept getting interrupted by wedding stuff, so I didn’t get much else done, but also didn’t get to relax and recover before dinner with E, her parents, her best friend, and her best friend’s father.

E and her parents were in town today, so I went to the restaurant by myself. I got lost and when I found the right road, I ran into E and her parents. E asked me about the wedding cake that we have now ordered, even though it’s not really what she wanted. She is worried about getting a “tacky” cake that will make people judge her taste negatively, even though she didn’t order the cake in the first place. I feel like I don’t really know what would count as “tacky” and, in any case, the baker isn’t running designs past us at this short notice. I worry that the cake will indeed be tacky and E will be upset.

This started a negative thought spiral of thinking about people judging me. I feel that, given the spread of people coming to this wedding (even though it’s pretty small), some will judging aspects of the wedding as proof that I’m going off the derekh (stopping being religious) and others will be judging me to be some crazy religious maniac. This, I guess, is what happens if you try to have a diverse friend and family group and accept people as they are regardless of their religious or political beliefs. I’m not too worried about being judged tacky, but I maybe that just shows I value religious devotion (genuine religious devotion, not the fake kind that is much easier to find) more than aesthetic taste.

Over the evening, I spiralled further into feeling that I was a FAILURE, that I vaguely thought about being an academic and FAILED at that, that I tried to be an academic librarian and FAILED at that too, that I FAILED at working full-time, FAILED at getting a vaguely decent job at all, FAILED at being religious, FAILED at fitting into the frum (religious Jewish) community, FAILED at writing and self-publishing, FAILED at proofreading…

I feel that E’s family are a lot more educated and sophisticated than mine, or than me. I like to think I’m well-read and know things about literature, history and a bit about politics, economics and philosophy (not that I share these thoughts much, because of social anxiety, but I know things). But E’s family seem to be on a whole other level of sophistication regarding things like food, music and art. I would not know about a tacky cake and I don’t know that anyone in my family would.

The irony is that I guess E’s parents are the type of people I would have wanted for parents when I was a child, when I was being silenced for being an “intellectual elitist” whenever I tried to talk about anything I saw as interesting, but now I know them, I’m too socially anxious and too afraid of seeming weird and meshugah frum (insanely religious) to say much.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I need to stop thinking of my life as a bedieved, rabbinic Hebrew for something valid only after the event, when the best option has failed (FAILED) to be done properly. It is hard to see that, sometimes (often). It is hard to see my job history as something meaningful and good, or my academic history as anything other than patchy, or my religious life as anything other than far from ideal (even if relying on genuine leniencies for disability). I’m holding on to the idea of my marriage to E being something that is valid for itself, in the first instance, not as Plan B after something else failed. And I suppose that entails that a lot of other things that happened that seemed like failures must have been necessary after all. But it’s a hard paradigm to shift. I’m just used to looking at myself as a failure, after so many years/decades of apparent failure not to mention the expectations of at least two different cultures.

Anyway, the evening was something of a FAILURE in itself, not through anyone’s fault. The music in the restaurant was incredibly loud. It felt more like a nightclub than a restaurant. I asked twice for it to be turned down and said both times that I had sensory issues and both the waiters I asked said they would turn it down, but it didn’t happen. Probably they went away wondering at my sense of privilege and entitlement in thinking I could demand something like that (more judging). I couldn’t hear what was being said and felt physically uncomfortable the whole time. I literally do not know what everyone was talking about, I could not hear more than occasional words, except for a historical anecdote E’s father tried to tell, but never finished because the food arrived. I felt the food was OK, but not really worth the high price tag, although other people thought more highly of it.

To be honest, if the idea was for me to get to know E’s best friend, inviting her father and both E’s parents was probably going to make it hard for me to join in anyway, as, like most autistics, I find conversation gets harder exponentially with the number of people added to a group. E’s friend seemed nice, though and it would be good to meet her again in a less fraught environment. Unfortunately, she’s only here until Tuesday and lives somewhere remote where we’re unlikely to go. The options are to see her on our two day “mini-moon” (which I’m not keen on because (a) I expect to be fairly burnt out after the wedding and (b) it’s our honeymoon, I don’t really want a gooseberry) or to organise a Zoom at some point, which I would have suggested before now if I’d thought of earlier.

E is working late tonight, so I’m going to read Lord Peter Wimsey and/or watch The Twilight Zone to try to decompress as I still don’t feel great. I’m off work tomorrow as I thought I would need a break before the weekend, but I still need to write my wedding speech (which I’m not 100% I’m going to deliver, but I want to have the option) and doubtless there will be wedding stuff I’m supposed to deal with. I also need to phone (dread word) the dentist to move my appointment next week as I’m working now and try to chase the psychiatrist appointment I was promised for June, which has not materialised (surprise surprise, NHS, etc.).

Fragile and Vulnerable

This week has been very stressful, mostly with wedding stuff and E’s immigration, but also with me making quite a big mistake at work. I’m not going to go into all the stress publicly. I do feel very exhausted and a bit fragile and vulnerable now. I do still feel like a driver in a snow storm, fighting through my emotions without being able to see them clearly. My rabbi mentor said it’s very, very normal to be experiencing a lot of emotions and some meltdowns this close to the wedding and I shouldn’t see them as red flags, but I do sometimes wonder how I, an autistic person who struggles with change, uncertainty, emotions and empathy (too much emotional empathy (soaking up other people’s emotions and being disregulated and confused by them) alongside too little cognitive empathy (putting myself in other people’s position to help them)) am going to cope with the biggest change and uncertainty of my life, alongside a lot of big emotions and a need for cognitive empathy alongside someone who is a strong sender of her own emotions. But that’s kind of why I want to get married, because I think it will lead to growth in these areas, and why I could only marry E, because this would only feel safe and doable with her. Sometimes there’s the feeling of, “Is this going to work, given our mutual neurodivergence, mental health issues and related low economic status?” but it certainly wouldn’t work with anyone else.

I’m looking forward to Shabbat with E. We are also now closer to our wedding than to first night seder just gone, which is exciting and scary all at once.


E’s BPR document, which basically authorises her to re-enter the country if she leaves it and allows her to access healthcare, was mistakenly returned to the Home Office by the Post Office, so she had to wait in to get it by courier. She was told to wait in for TEN DAYS, because apparently delivery companies and supermarkets can tell you the day or even the hour something will be delivered, but the Home Office can’t even tell you the week. She was, understandably, depressed and angry at the thought of being under house arrest for a week and a half. Fortunately, the BPR arrived today (day two), which was a great relief.


I got some chewable glucose tablets (raspberry flavour) for when I suddenly feel faint, exhausted and light-headed. The first one worked well, the second one not so much. I would like to work out the reason I seem to get these sudden drops in blood sugar (or whatever it is), but the doctor doesn’t seem that interested in working it out. I hope the glucose tablets can at least cut some unnecessary calories when I experience a blood sugar drop without being hungry.


E and I just baked brownies. We’re not sure if they’re too gooey. We’ll have to wait for dinner to find out.


I don’t have a lot else to say that I can say publicly. I’m coping, we’re moving forward, it’s hard, but we’re getting there. I guess there could be worse ways to finish a post.

Baby Snuggles, Headaches and Low Blood Sugar

I’ve been too busy to write for a few days again.

I didn’t go to shul (synagogue) again on Friday night. I probably had the energy, but I was just running late, trying to cram in a lot the day after Pesach (Passover) when I was already exhausted from Yom Tov (the festival). We had a quiet Shabbat (Sabbath): E and I went for a walk and got rained on a little, but not much and we read a bit and I dozed for forty minutes or so. E and I are both looking forward to an ordinary week without extra religious events and in a weird way, I was glad to be back at work, just to be back in a routine again.

I did listen to music briefly on Friday afternoon, just before Shabbat, despite it being the part of the omer (period between Pesach and Shavuot) when frum (religious) Jews observe an element of national mourning, including not listening to music. I did this because I felt I needed to do so to regulate my emotions, which were becoming depressed. I’ve decided I will continue to listen to music if I need to calm myself, even though I’m not sure if it’s technically allowed. (It is permitted to listen to music if suffering from clinical depression or autistic exhaustion, so it might be allowed anyway, I’m not sure.)

I had headache on Saturday night and again on Sunday night, but I did realise that I haven’t woken up with a headache since E has been here, which seems to indicate that she’s good for my stress levels. Despite the headache, I drew up a schedule for the next five weeks, until the wedding (FIVE WEEKS!!!!!!!), which made me a little less stressed, as we’ve mostly got it under control. The big things still to organise are the ring (we’re seeing a jeweller Dad knows through shul on Wednesday to discuss this) and E’s dress (which may not be a traditional wedding dress, for various reasons).

Yesterday afternoon E and I went out with Sister, Brother-in-law and Nephew on Hampstead Heath and then on for coffee at a cafe that was nice, but ridiculously expensive (it was in Hampstead, so what do you expect?). The walk on the Heath was good, but there were a ridiculous number of dogs, including many not on leads. We are all at least mildly dog-phobic (technically Nephew isn’t, but with this family it’s basically only a matter of time). Nephew seems a lot more interested in his surroundings than he was in the past, particularly lights and the abstract painting on the wall of the cafe. E and I both had some baby snuggles, which was good. I caught up a bit with Sister, although any conversation with her or BIL is likely to be interrupted after a minute or two by Nephew. E and I also checked out some charity shops that were surprisingly open on a Sunday, but we weren’t willing to pay Hampstead prices for anything.

When we got home, we opened the wedding presents that had arrived before Pesach. We had been so busy with Pesach stuff that we hadn’t opened them yet. They were what we wanted (obviously, because they were from our wedding list), but I guess crockery and a kettle are never going to seem that fun to me.

Late in the evening, I started feeling faint again. I don’t know if this is low blood sugar or low salt or something else. When I feel faint, I don’t really want to slowly do scientific tests to work it out, I just want to eat and feel better. I felt faint at work today too and again when I got home. I am worrying that I’m hypoglycaemic, but don’t really know what that would entail or have time to research right now. I want to mention it to the doctor, but I have other things to talk to him about and I can’t get an appointment anyway.

Work was incredibly noisy again this morning with workmen outside and inside the building, the former with a loud radio blaring TalkSport again (is there really so much to say about sport 24/7?). The carpet under my desk has now worn away to the underlay. I told J and asked if we could get a new carpet, but he made uncommitted noises and muttered something about needing to replace the whole carpet, not just under my desk, and some of the furniture not being easily movable, so I shelved my radical plan to suggest that the walls could do with a coat of paint too. I guess before COVID I’d have had a stronger argument, but now we get about two visitors a year who don’t work in the building, so the economic argument for not doing anything is strong. I do keep catching my foot on the rim of the circular hole in the carpet, though, so I might see if some health and safety rationale develops.

The afternoon was largely devoted to sticking erratum stickers in prayer books and sorting papers again. When I got home I did a few necessary chores and read a few pages of Children of Dune. It’s still heavy-going and I’m struggling to remember all the plot points, but I’m determined to see what happens and finish it before my wedding. I ate a lot because of low blood sugar/salt/whatever. E is away for work, so I had dinner with my parents, which was probably a mistake, as I was feeling very depleted and peopled out, but I couldn’t find a polite way to say no (and now I’ve just annoyed my Mum by saying this to her when trying to explain why I couldn’t help her with something). I am too exhausted to do anything, so will probably just watch TV. I’m too tired to read, even The Sandman graphic novel that I started recently.


There has been Drama on the autism forum again. It’s happening a lot lately. It’s probably not surprising that a community of people who are pretty much defined by having poor social skills, no tact, obsessive focus and logical minds would spend so much time pointing out the (real or perceived) flaws in each others’ religious and political beliefs and opinions, but it is frustrating to watch given that I can mostly stay out of that sort of behaviour. Of course, this sort of thing happens all over the internet every day without neurodivergence. It’s just a shame as there are some people there I like a lot, but it’s getting harder to focus on the signal, not the noise, and it seems that some people I like are around less. This is probably not due to the Drama, as looking at old posts, most people only seem to stay on the forum for a year or two as they get a sense of their autistic identity, then move on.

Pre-Pesach Shutdown

I had a fairly bad day yesterday, alone in the office with nothing to do except stick erratum stickers and re-shelve folders. I was bored and catastrophised a lot. I went to the bank, which normally raises my mood a little, but ended up with sensory and “peopling” overload, which brought my mood down further. The decorators outside were back, with a loud radio. I had to deal with an emotionally difficult series of phone calls which ended up with me going back and forth between three different people and eventually passing it to J, which I felt bad about. By the time I got to the station on the way home, I was feeling faint from low blood sugar, but had to go the GP’s surgery, as the NHS has screwed up again and for some reason not checked my lithium level when I had my last blood test, so I need another one. It took me some time to work this out, as between the COVID screens in front of the receptionist and people talking and a noisy blood pressure machine behind me, I couldn’t really hear the receptionist. E and I think I may be hypoglycaemic. By the end, I felt “defective,” physically (sleep, blood sugar), emotionally (catastrophising) and neurologically (autism).

Unfortunately, I then got in a really bad state (or an even worse one), probably from low blood sugar and especially lack of sleep. I felt incredibly physically ill and anxious. I probably had a major shutdown, maybe with meltdown elements. I didn’t realise this until today, although E and Mum recognised it before me. I left Dad to kasher the sink and search for chametz (leaven), went to bed at 9pm without turning off my computer, turning my TV off standby, brushing my teeth or even finishing dinner (unprecedented!), slept for twelve hours and woke up feeling better, but far from 100%, still somewhat tired and anxious. I didn’t go to shul for the siyum to get out of the Fast of the Firstborn, but I’m not fasting anyway.

I did some more pre-Pesach preparation, but had to go to my bedroom in the early afternoon to have some alone time, just lying in the dark by myself. That seemed to help, although I’m worried about getting through the next few days. I want to try to help my parents, but I’m worried about being overloaded and falling into shutdown again. E is very stressed by everything too and I feel a bit guilty about that. I have spent the last couple of hours helping, but I’m doing a lot less than usual. I probably won’t go to shul tonight. We will probably have a quiet, quick seder this evening, which I think will suit everyone.

I don’t know why the burnout/shutdown situation has been so bad this year. Maybe it’s doing the wedding as well as Pesach, or working two consecutive days (!), or being in the office alone all day yesterday, or maybe it’s that E mirrors some of my own feelings about living with my parents back to me, feelings that I didn’t know I had because of alexithymia. Nothing bad, just a realisation that I find this house too loud and chaotic, especially at this time of year and for years I’ve just been putting up with it and often feeling bad without knowing why. E is constantly surprised about how different I am to my parents, particularly in terms of levels of noise, conversation and chaos.

Pesach will be hard, but I will get through it. I have fiancée/wife who loves me a lot and I’m slowly making positive changes to my life. E says she worries she’s making me less religious, but I see it more as making me more grounded and short-circuiting the tendencies to asceticism that I have when I’m left to my own devices. I wish I could change faster, more consistently and more – “enthusiastically” isn’t quite the right word, but I wish I wasn’t so anxious about changing, particularly religiously. I wish I came with a user manual, for E’s sake as much as for mine, and I wish personal changes could happen faster than they do. It’s also frustrating that E and my parents see the one thing I freak out about, religiously (particularly regarding religious OCD) and not the nine that would have freaked out about a couple of years ago, but now take in my stride, more or less. But I am changing, and trying to find new sources of advice and support for the changes I still want/need to make. It’s just hard, hard being frum and neurodivergent, hard having lots of different reasons for being the way I am (frum, neurodivergent, mentally ill, me) and hard needing lots of different type of support from lots of different types of people and organisations, and hard doing all of this on the go.

Seasonal Anxieties

I’m going to have to abandon my usual blow-by-blow account of my days for a bit due to lack of time (actually, I’ve wanted to get away from that for a while, I just stuck to it out of lack of imagination). This is really a quick update.

I’ve had weird anxiety and non-anxiety lately. I have plenty to feel anxious about, with Pesach (Passover) a little over a week away and my wedding less than two months away. I feel strangely not anxious about various things I thought I would feel anxious about (I won’t list them), yet I think there is some anxiety there. I noticed that I had various physical anxiety symptoms today (this is alexithymia, not understanding my own emotions, at work again) without being entirely sure why. I think there is a fear that something will go wrong with Pesach preparation or the wedding and also a strange fear that if I’m not anxious, that’s a sign of pride. I have for years struggled with the fact that we’re supposed to trust in God to help us in our difficulties, but it always seemed like pride to me to assume that I’m good enough for God to want to help me, even though I’ve been assured by rabbis that this is not the case.

I find it a time of year where it’s hard to find the time to relax anyway, with Pesach preparation eating up non-work time. This is a problem, given that I need to relax quite a bit to avoid burnout. I think I struggled to sleep last night as a result. It’s also a strange time of year seasonally, with longer days now the clocks have gone forward, but weather that it still often very bad.

I spent a fairly mind-numbing afternoon at work sticking error correction stickers on books. As well as being mind-numbingly boring, is rather humbling. I have two degrees, one from Oxford, and I am being paid to stick stickers in books. Thousands of stickers. Not hyperbole, literally thousands of stickers. And I know I’ve got to this point as a result of struggling so much in more “suitable” workplaces. I don’t mean this to sound entitled, although I know it does, it’s just that I feel I went wrong somewhere and wasted what gifts I have, but I don’t know how I did this.

I made an impulsive decision to go to the charity shop on the way home and ended up buying Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts. It’s an academic book on understanding classic Jewish texts: Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Talmud, Midrash, Medieval commentators, Kabbalistic texts and prayer-books. E and I both have a feeling sometimes with Jewish texts of thinking, “What is this trying to tell me? Why should this be relevant to me?” so hopefully this will help us.

Resentful of God?

You might recall that yesterday I went to a big family get-together, stayed longer than I intended (because I was enjoying it), then forced myself through wedding preparation and Torah study when I got home. This was probably not so wise as I was pretty exhausted today.

I got up on time, but I struggled to get going. I did get out on time, but was delayed by my oyster card (London public transport fare card) not working. Apparently if the card cracks even slightly, it’s completely broken. At work, my jumper ripped and I felt quite faint before lunch. I’m used to feeling exhausted and faint at home, but struggling to get through the last half hour before lunch is a new difficulty. I’m glad I’m speaking to the doctor tomorrow (half glad anyway – see below).

The afternoon was mostly spent sorting papers in the office, which I hadn’t done for months. It feels a bit like the children’s toy where you have to rearrange tiles to form a picture, except that I didn’t have a “missing” tile to allow me to move things around. I probably also need to get clearer instructions from J as to what I should keep or dispose of. I worried in the past that I was throwing away too much; now I worry that I won’t be able to throw away enough. It doesn’t help that I haven’t done this for months (it’s a job for the slow times at work and not the busy time at the beginning of the year) and couldn’t really remember where different papers were.

I spent most of the day feeling down, drained and bored and was exhausted to the point of feeling somewhat ill again when I got home. I feel better now for having had dinner and watched Yes Minister (the one where Hacker is made “Transport Supremo,” a job Sir Humphrey says he needs “like an aperture in the cranial cavity.”)


I said I was only half glad I am speaking to the doctor tomorrow. This is because I will miss volunteering because I don’t want to take a phone appointment with the doctor somewhere were reception is poor and there is no privacy. As a lot of other volunteers are away, this means that tomorrow there will be no non-perishable food packers (my usual job). I’m sure food will get packed; there are paid staff as well as other volunteers. But I feel a little bad that I’m missing the whole morning for a ten minute call, especially as I didn’t want to admit to the doctor’s appointment and so said I’m doing wedding stuff. Which is not a lie, as I will be, but I could have done that as well as volunteering, although I would have been exhausted (again).


During my twenties and early thirties, when I spent much of my time struggling with depression (which was probably at least in part autistic burnout), I was angry at God sometimes. I tried to express it in my hitbodedut (unstructured prayer), but I felt like I was being blasphemous so didn’t always vocalise it much.

I thought I was past that and grateful for the positive things in my life now (E, having some kind of job even if it is part-time and not ideal for an autistic person), but I have been wondering if I’m harbouring some anger or at least resentment against God for making me autistic. As I’ve said before, I experience my autism more as a disability than a difference, even though many of the autistic people I’ve come across advocate for the “difference” model. If I wasn’t autistic, I probably wouldn’t have met E, therefore it’s good that I’m autistic, but I feel that our financial troubles would be eased if I could hold down a full-time, nine to five job. I also feel that I would be serving God better if I could daven with a minyan (pray with a community) three times a day, study more Torah, be more involved in a community, focus on personal growth (etc.) than I’m able to do right now and not being autistic would make that service easier. This is despite the rabbi who said I should not be doing all those things right now (ever?). I guess it’s hard for me to believe that I shouldn’t be trying study Torah, grow, etc. even though a rabbi told me. The whole mindset of “Maybe I exaggerated how I feel so he gave the wrong answer?” kicks in.

I’m thankful to God, but maybe I’m resentful too. I stopped doing regular hitbodedut some months ago because I was “blocked” and couldn’t think of anything to say. Maybe I couldn’t vocalise my resentment OR my gratitude and just couldn’t say anything. (Lately I have restarted hitbodedut, but in a more structured way, trying to take ideas from a text to start a conversation.)

It doesn’t help that I have complex feelings towards the Orthodox community at the moment. I go back and forth blaming the community for my social isolation, then blaming myself (or my autism again) for not reaching out to them. Plus, there are a lot of wider negative societal issues in the Orthodox world right now that make connecting with it seem difficult. On some level, I ask if Torah can’t stop people being corrupt, racist or abusive, then what is the point of it? It’s easy for those negative feelings to carry over to God or alternatively to try to disconnect my feelings about God from those about the community in a very unJewish way.


OK, going to try to relax for the rest of the evening (probably Batman or more Yes Minister as I don’t think I should push myself to read something heavy like Children of Dune).


I mentioned in my previous post that I woke up in the early hours with a headache and couldn’t get back to sleep. I did eventually dose for a couple of hours during the late morning, so I’m not too sleep-deprived, but it wasn’t a great night.

I woke up the second time in time to go to my second-cousin’s house for lunch. As I said yesterday, I have lots of second-cousins, but only two I see regularly. We had a big family gathering of eleven adults, three children and one baby. I only intended to go for a while, as I thought I would be overwhelmed and I had wedding stuff to do at home. I didn’t say much and I did feel overwhelmed at times and struggled to join in conversations, but on the whole I had a good time and stayed for the whole afternoon. I had a cuddle with Nephew too, who drooled all over my jumper, but I didn’t care. When it was time to go, he did a weird sticking-out-tongue thing at me, which Dad thinks is his attempt at a kiss.

Afterwards, I intended to do wedding stuff, and I did, but not as much as I intended. I was probably too distracted after peopling to focus properly.

I had a slightly heavy Skype call with E dealing with our wedding, family and autism. I feel I still don’t know who I am now that I know I’m autistic, but I’m suddenly required to make decisions about the wedding, our marriage, relations with family, friends and community, decisions about work and career… It all feels overwhelming, but maybe it’s only by making those decisions that I can actually work out who I am.

I feel that I’ve gone through life on auto-pilot thinking things “had to be this way” from autistic rigidity, not noticing how bad I felt at times due to alexithymia (to be fair, years of depression and burnout felt very bad, but I couldn’t work out why exactly). I’m actually mostly OK with my religious decisions, even if I am trying to find ways to make it easier for those around me, and even if I’m now trying to acknowledge that my mental health, autism, and having less religious family and friends give me unique challenges here and that I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. However, other decisions possibly need to be challenged e.g. assuming that I need to aim towards one day working 9am-5pm in an office. I don’t believe this now, but it’s a recent change.

It’s kind of sad that so many of my life decisions are determined, at least in part, by my neurology and my tendency to certain mental illnesses, but I guess that’s life. We get to choose the decisions we make, but not the conditions under which we make them.


I’ve got a phone appointment with the doctor on Tuesday morning to discuss my missing sleep study results and a few other things. I find phone appointments very hard and would like to challenge them on inclusion grounds, but don’t currently have the time or energy. I’ll be skipping volunteering that day to take the call as I didn’t fancy taking it with other people around and, anyway, I need to have energy in the afternoon for wedding stuff and lately volunteering exhausts me.


Today was another slow day at work. I did make a number of difficult phone calls, requesting payment of invoices. I think I did OK. The other news is that I’m worried we’re about to have the first family broiges (argument, fall-out) of E and my wedding, but I’m unashamedly putting E and my needs first for our special day. I’m not going in to more detail here. Hopefully we can negotiate our way through it.

I went into the GPs surgery on the way home. I masked, but no one else did, staff or patients. I felt somewhat stupid. I’m not sure whether it’s still legally required. Masks are rare enough now in London for it to be notable when people are wearing them and I keep being jolted by seeing references to them as necessary on American blogs. I did some research the other day and, over the last year, only about six weeks saw excess deaths above the number before the pandemic in England and Wales i.e. most of the time no more people are dying than pre-COVID. The figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland were somewhat higher, but not enormously so. I don’t know why, though, especially as Scotland had stricter laws than England for most of the pandemic.

The reason I went into the surgery was to try to get the results of the sleep study I had done last year. Worryingly, there is no sign of it and the receptionist told me to phone the hospital that did the test. As I had it done at home, I need to find the paperwork that says which hospital was analysing the results. I’m worried that the sleep study equipment, which I had to send back in the post in a pre-paid package, has got lost in the post and I will have to do the study again.

Today was also the second anniversary of my autism diagnosis, but I’m not really sure what I make of that right now. By coincidence, someone on the autism forum asked today how we came to terms with diagnosis. I commented, “I’m two years from diagnosis (today, actually) and I think I still haven’t completely come to terms with it. I accept that I am autistic, I am glad I finally got an explanation for a lot of things in my life that made me feel weird and inadequate, but I still struggle with what it means for me and my life. I can’t really say that I see it as “a difference, not a disability” as many people here say. I do feel disabled, at least in some ways, and I don’t feel I have any of the “autistic superpowers” that some people describe. I want to see it as a difference, but I’m not there (yet?). I’m hoping things might get better in coming months as I get married, move out of my parents’ home and life with my wife (my fiancée is a lot more compatible with my autistic needs than my parents) and perhaps I’ll be able to improve things job-wise too, but at the moment autism still feels something I struggle with a lot of the time.”

[Reading the comment back, writing “my wife (my fiancée…” looks really awkward, but it does make sense if you read carefully: she will be my wife when I live with her, but right now she’s my fiancée, albeit only because I didn’t go into the whole between “two weddings” scenario.]


I read an annoying advice column originally from a Jewish newspaper. A full-time kollel student (advanced Talmudic student, but probably not training for the rabbinate), married, with a baby and a wife who works part-time, and getting a stipend from the kollel, was complaining that, while his parents lavished money, gifts and free babysitting on him and his family, his wife’s parents hardly gave them anything. He wanted them to help them buy a house! And yet his wife refused to raise the subject with them! So he was asking the therapist who writes the advice column how to get them to pull their weight. He wanted to ask a rabbi too (given the Yeshivish mentality, I am actually genuinely surprised he didn’t just ask a rabbi straight off). Fortunately, the therapist politely gave him a reality check.

I don’t agree with the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) full-time kollel for all men mentality, and this culture of entitlement is one of the reasons why (aside from it being innovative and totally against Jewish law and the Talmud). Sadly, E and I are going to be stuck in similar dependency when we marry, not due to religious or cultural norms, but due to our respective mental health and neurodivergence issues preventing both of us from working full-time, without having enough of a recognised disability to get any kind of state benefit. I know it’s not the same; we do both work even if we don’t work full-time and I am trying to increase my workload. And we do have genuine issues, even if the state doesn’t acknowledge them. Still, it saddens me a bit that we’re going to have to rely on parents to help us find somewhere to live and to help practically and financially with childcare.


Speaking of entitlement… I say I don’t talk about Harry and Megan, but then I end up making snide remarks, because they are just so funny. The front page story on The Evening Standard today was about their declaration of their children’s “birthright” to be called a prince and princess. I love the way they oscillate between super-woke “everyone is special, everyone has a right to be themselves” egalitarianism and aristocratic “of course we deserve privileges, it’s because we’re better than everyone else” hauteur, without the slightest trace of self-awareness. You can draw your own conclusions about any wider societal applications of this observation.

Incidentally, I think the only way I can cope with the news nowadays is by engaging my sense of dark humour and irony. Who says autistics don’t get irony?


Work was not good again. The morning was OK, but in the afternoon I was very bored. First I was going through a list of outstanding payments from the auditors trying to check which ones were genuinely outstanding, not helped by the auditors not making the timescale clear. I do this task once a quarter and I still haven’t figured out what “Current”, “Period 1”, “Period 2”, “Period 3” and “Older” refer to exactly. I assumed Periods 1, 2 and 3 are the same length, but this doesn’t always seem to be the case. After I got bored of that and fed up staring at my computer screen, I started on another task: adding stickers to correct typos in some books. I have to add stickers to three pages in each of five thousand books, totalling 15,000 stickers. I stuck about ninety stickers today, so about 0.6%. It was very boring and also very difficult, as the books had never been opened before and wouldn’t stay open, so I needed three or four hands to hold the book open, unpeel the backing from the sticker, align it correctly over the book, stick it down properly and smooth it flat. I only have two hands.


I sometimes imagine myself as a “normal” frum (religious Jewish) person, rather than the idiosyncratic frum person I am in reality, sitting on the margins of the frum community. Before I met E, I wondered why God didn’t make me an FFB (frum from birth), as it would have made my religious observance easier, with family who were equally frum and habituation to Jewish life and socialisation into the frum community from birth. However, I wonder if I would have stopped being frum, as I feel poised between two worlds. I want to escape the tension of the balancing act, but maybe the balancing act is the point. Or would I just have been a more conformist, less interesting person? I wouldn’t have met E, so I don’t see it as a better alternative any more, but I find myself still fascinated by the idea, wondering what sort of person I would have been. Maybe it’s a form of over-thinking.

I believe that God doesn’t make mistakes, therefore he wants me to be where I am, but where I am is a constant spiritual struggle, always becoming and never quite getting there, never just being. But becoming is probably more Jewish than being, even if frum Jews don’t always see it that way. The Kotzker Rebbe, as I’ve said before, said that the searching is the finding. However, it is much easier to believe this when I’m calm than when I’m depressed, stressed and anxious as I usually am at the moment, particularly at work.


One thing I realised today, which may be related to (not) finding my place in the frum world in a strange way: the novels I tried to write in the past needed an audience. I was trying to say something that I wanted people to hear, because I felt it was important and because I wanted it to justify my existence and place in the frum community. The current one makes me happy even with it just in my head. I’ve told E some of the jokes, but just “playing” with it in my mind and understanding the world differently through that play makes it worthwhile to me even if I never actually set it down on paper, let alone get published. This seems a breakthrough.


E and I have been watching season eighteen of Doctor Who, the 1980-81 season, Tom Baker’s last in the title role. We’ve just reached the final story of the season, Logopolis. I’ve never been sure what to make of it. I loved the novelisation as a child, but as an adult watching the episodes, I find it a bit of a mess.

It’s popular with fans, albeit mostly with those who complained that the stories of the late seventies were “silly” (I don’t think they are, and Logopolis certainly has its own moments of inadvertent silliness). It has a small cast, but is manifestly not a character piece; characterisation is limited and mostly provided by the actors not the script. The plot is atypical, which is good, but it’s not advanced in a clear or logical way and it’s hard to get a clear sense of why things happen. It’s epic, but not the normal Doctor Who epic of armies of Daleks or Cybermen or both. OK, armies is more the new series than the old, but even so, epics in the original series were usually about action, such as Destiny of the Daleks the previous season or Earthshock in the next. This is about silence and entropy, about the universe falling apart from old age. It’s atmospheric and ghostly, but the author is the most vocal rationalist to work on the show or at least the most vocal in his declarations that the programme should be fundamentally about rationalism and empiricism. And yet it somehow lives on in my mind through its imagery and dialogue when much better stories have faded into obscurity. It has a sort of poetry which might not be what author Christopher H. Bidmead intended, but is still there.

Not Secure in My Self and My Life

Last night, I blogged that I would do ten minutes of Torah study and relax. I actually did about twenty minutes, although it made sense to split the sedra (weekly Torah portion) where I did, as Tetzaveh falls into two very different chunks. I just spent too much of the evening doing “stuff,” but it was important stuff. The upshot was that I had little time to relax (just one episode of Yes Minister) and when I got to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I am not good at the whole balance thing, even though I only work two days a week and don’t take my work home with me.

I did eventually get about four hours of sleep and coped OK at work, but it was slow and boring and even a trip to the bank was hard as I got overloaded from the crowds in the streets. J asked me to cover for him on Purim next week if we need to do the Very Scary Task in the afternoon, as he wants to fulfil the commandment (“unhealthy custom” is probably a better description) of getting drunk at the celebratory festive meal. I agreed, as he’s so flexible and forgiving for me, but also because I didn’t have the courage or vocabulary to explain just how much I’m dreading Purim and how this could make it even worse. I just have to hope we don’t have to do the Very Scary Task. Between all this and worrying that alexithymia (difficulty experiencing and understanding my own emotions) means that I will never experience religious joy, I came home feeling pretty depressed.

I watched another episode of Yes Minister and some of Undermind and spoke to E and I feel a lot better now, but I still feel very drained and as I have volunteering tomorrow and more stuff to do, I will try to keep this briefer than might otherwise have been the case.


Reading some of this week’s sedra, combined with the family event yesterday, got me thinking about not being envious. Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) could, according to rabbinic tradition, have fulfilled each other’s roles as prophet and leader and as high priest, but each was happy for the other’s success in their roles. I suspect this is a lot easier if you are secure in knowing what your own role in life is and this is where I struggle as I just don’t know.

On the Intimate Judaism podcast they spoke about the Orthodox world’s tendency to exhort young people to “date for marriage” being counter-productive, as it encourages over-thinking and turning down dates for reasons that need not prevent a relationship developing. They said instead to date for the date, to see if there is something there. I’m glad my rabbi mentor said something similar to me, otherwise I would not have gone out with E. But I wonder if I need to think the same about my role in life, to stop over-thinking my role in my life as a whole and just focusing on being a good husband/son/brother/friend/online community member in the current moment. The problem is that I’m not sure how good I am at any of those…


A while back I watched a video on where an abuse survivor said he struggled with tefillin (the leather boxes Orthodox Jewish men and some non-Orthodox Jews strap to their arms and heads during weekday morning prayers) because wrapping them tightly around his arm gave him abuse flashbacks. He asked a rabbi, who said he could stop wearing them, but after a while he went back to wearing them again despite the flashbacks, as he felt that a Hasid should go further than the letter of the law.

I’ve been struggling with this. Aside from the negative social effects of the way this attitude of going beyond the letter of the law in everything has taken hold in many parts of the Orthodox world, it just reinforces my feeling that relying on so many legitimate leniencies myself (leniencies for mental illness, autism, low income, living with less religious parents) makes me somehow inadequate. That I should be able to get by without the leniencies, let alone the things I do that are against halakhah (Jewish law) without being permitted even by a genuine leniency. It’s a struggle and probably connected with the idea of not being secure in my sense of self and my own role in life.

Wedding Anxiety, Religious Anxiety

I feel quite stressed and anxious, partly about the wedding, partly aware that E is struggling with things at the moment and I can’t help her. I’ve contemplated jumping on a plane just to give her a hug, but she said not to, and, for reasons I won’t go into here, it might actually make her situation worse, in practical terms, if I did, so I just have to wait. It’s very frustrating. I guess now I know how my parents felt for years when I was struggling with depression/burnout and they couldn’t do anything for me.

Once I get to that point, my thoughts start to spiral out of control worrying about how two people with so many diagnosed and suspected neurodivergence/mental illness “issues” between them, and such an insecure income as a result, can actually be happy, particularly when my parents aren’t able to help any more, practically and financially. At least we’ll be together, that counts for a lot. It’s scary, though.

Other than wedding/marriage/future stuff, I’m worried about Purim, the minor Jewish festival coming up in about a week and a half. I’m actually more worried about Purim than Pesach at the moment. Pesach is a more major festival a month later that triggered my religious OCD much more than Purim in the past, but I think that’s under control now. Purim triggers a lot of things, like OCD, social anxiety, perhaps autistic sensory issues, social overwhelm and so on as well as feeling like a loser for having no (local) friends. Ugh.


In terms of the last few days… on Thursday I had to do the Very Scary Task at work. I think I’m getting better at it, but it’s still hard and I get flustered and confused on the phone, especially if J isn’t around. On the plus side, I did get to go out to the Post Office and do some shopping which at least broke the day up a bit. I spent the afternoon doing a very boring printing and scanning job that is not yet finished. After work I went to Sainsbury’s and was so distracted and confused that I nearly left my food behind. I also collected my glasses with new lenses and left my spare pair so the new lens prescription can be put in them. I have to remember to wear the spares on our wedding day otherwise my glasses will turn tinted from the sunlight/camera flash (the everyday glasses have reaction lenses, but the spares don’t).

I was exhausted again on Friday. I probably would have been OK if I could have had a mental health day (autism day?), but even minor Shabbat (Sabbath) preparation finishes me off on Fridays recently. I felt too exhausted to go to shul (synagogue) again, which upset me a bit. I feel as if I’m drifting away from the Jewish community, while still believing and practising Judaism privately, and the Purim anxiety is a part of this. I don’t want to do it, but it’s what my mental/autistic health seems to demand right now and I feel that if I go away, the community won’t come after me they way they would for someone more involved and connected. I’ve never really felt fully a part of the community, except maybe for two or three years in the shul I grew up in, before we moved. Three years out of nearly forty is not a good record.

My uncle is here for the weekend. We had a good time at dinner, but there are aspects of the family dynamic that I find uncomfortable. I mentioned the other day that E and Nephew joining the family has changed the family dynamic, which it has, but there’s been another, more subtle, shift for a decade or more that I don’t feel comfortable with, but it’s not really my place to do anything about it. The problem is that I get sucked in and say things that I later regret. Speaking of which, I said something completely different (unrelated to family stuff) that I immediately regretted for religious reasons. I am trying not to beat myself up about it and accept it was a slip of the tongue, but I expect myself to be perfect.

I had a headache that got bad enough that I took tablets for it on Shabbat (the rules about taking medication for minor ailments on Shabbat are complicated. In the past I was very strict with myself; now, as in other things, I’m trying to tell myself that sometimes it’s more religious to be more lenient. It’s hard, though). I lay on the bed for a bit after dinner because of the headache. Lying down made it worse, but I propped myself up by the headboard and covered myself with my weighted blanket and adjusted the Shabbat lamp so there was only a little light.

After a while the headache went and I wanted to do some Torah study before it got too late. Like last week, as it was late, I went for depth over length of time, studying some Talmud (reviewing the page I’m on) and a chapter of Shoftim (Judges). It took about forty minutes in total. After that, I read for fun for a bit, finishing Greenmantle and starting Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before going to bed.

Today was more of the same, really, until Shabbat ended and the anxieties I mentioned above kicked in.


I worry that I over-shared on the Orthodox Conundrum blog Facebook group on Friday. There was  a thread about Orthodox men not wanting to date women who study more Talmud than them, or better than them, and I asked if the reverse is also true, wondering if I got set up on so few dates in the Orthodox community because I didn’t go to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary). To be fair, there were plenty of other plausible explanations for my lack of dates, but, as you know, I’m paranoid that my failure to go to yeshivah or to study Talmud at a high level marks me as a “bad (frum/religious) Jew” even though I know that the idea of universal male yeshivah study or Talmud study for all but an elite is a product of not much more than the last century, not the entirety of Jewish history.

Perhaps relatedly, on Friday night/Saturday morning, I dreamt I was back in school. I had done my BA and MA, but, somehow, not my A-levels, so I had to come back to do them, but I was in the middle of burnout again and felt I couldn’t finish the course. Of course, I probably did have burnout when I did my A-levels, but it was mild compared with the burnouts during my BA and MA. I think the dream is about me trying to come to terms with not being the academic success that my achievements at school led me to think I would be, particularly in terms of secular academia, but also in terms of the frum community, where so many people seem to be able to study Talmud at a much higher level than me and where this seems to count more than other types of religious knowledge and perhaps even than being a good person in some circles.


It turned out that I did not copy all my music (or my non-classical music) to my phone. I need to delete some phone apps and try again…

Thief of Joy

It’s been a tough twenty-four hours. Last week I felt I was getting my life on track, but I worry that I’m too prone to autistic exhaustion to earn more or to cope with children. Last night I was looking at the last twenty years, dominated by depression and/or autistic burnout. Sometimes it feels that I have nothing to show for that period until E arrived (OK, two degrees that have not got me far). I have to believe that there is meaning in those years or that I can give them meaning. That I met E in the end and before then I grew resilience and empathy, but it’s hard to feel that sometimes, particularly as I feel I’ve suffered “autistic regression,” essentially losing skills as a result of burnout.

These thoughts were inspired by seeing the blog of someone autistic who I felt was doing a lot better than me at life. Looking at the post again today, that’s not necessarily the case, but either way I failed at not comparing myself to other people, even though I’m trying to work on that right now.  And, yes, there are autistic people worse off than me and not just severe autistic ones.  On the autism forum it seems that, of relationship, children and career, people rarely have two let alone all three and some don’t have any. I have a relationship and while I don’t have a career I at least have a part-time job. I still hope to have children (and maybe a career). Of course, many people join the forum because they’re struggling, so that probably creates a bias in favour of less successful people.

I do feel I struggle with Orthodox Judaism placing a lot of emphasis on doing things, learning, growing as a person. There is a whole concept of bittul zman (wasting time) or bittul Torah (wasting time that could specifically be dedicated to Torah study) to show that we should constantly be thinking about using our time productively.  It’s hard to feel that I can or maybe should take things slower. Maybe this is a question to ask the rabbi I emailed a while back (from the helpline of rabbis trained in mental health).


Today was stressful: train problems on the way in, a lot of noise at work, boring work (although I could at least listen to a podcast today) and an unexpected visit by our treasurer, which put me on edge at having someone else in the office, especially as he had no real reason to be there and was just killing time. I was still exhausted and stressed from yesterday and the noise, boredom and unexpected peopling made things worse and really put me on edge. I didn’t stay for Minchah (Afternoon Prayers), but felt bad leaving as people were coming in (fifteen minutes early!).

I also worry that, if I was wearing noise-cancelling headphones, as I would like, I would have missed an important announcement about the train problems this morning and could have ended up halfway to Bank before I realised I was on the wrong branch of the Northern Line (the train switched lines).

Emotionally, I have had some Purim anxiety today. Purim is the Jewish festival in two weeks’ time and it is not autism-friendly at all (as well as also being an OCD trigger risk for me). Maybe that’s something to ask the mental health rabbi too.

I do frequently feel stressed and overwhelmed at the moment from wedding planning. I feel like I’m struggling with alexithymia regarding it. I have depression from work and anxiety from the wedding as negative emotions always make themselves felt, but it’s hard to tune in to the excitement especially as it’s so hard being away from E. I need to try to push the anxiety and impatience to excitement, not depression, but I don’t really know how.

Getting Better All the Time

I got up about 10.30am today, which was earlier than I expected, as I thought I would be exhausted after yesterday. However, I wasted what I had of the morning as I was too exhausted for anything other than internet stuff. I’m not sure if I’m going to go to shul (synagogue). I want to and I don’t feel exhausted to the point of illness, as I have on recent Fridays, but I do still feel exhausted, am getting the “headrush”-type feeling I associate with autistic exhaustion and I am at least trying to notice the signals my body is sending me and not try to push through them in the belief that “doing something” is always better than “doing nothing” (relaxing/reading/watching TV or literally just lying still and recuperating from the noise and busyness of the world).

I had a Pesach anxiety dream last night, but it was a “can we make Pesach in time?” dream, not a Pesach OCD dream, which was good.

It feels like my life is getting better lately, but not uniformly. I don’t think any of it is getting worse.

Good Things

Getting fully married soon is good. Wedding planning is eating up a lot of energy, with less for cooking and housework and none for writing, but I can live with that for a few more months.

Volunteering has become my main social activity. I don’t say much, but do occasionally make a funny remark and people laugh. It’s good being around people. It’s slightly awkward that they’re all twenty years or more older than me and retired (hence time for volunteering), but it means I’m not comparing myself to them. I don’t expect people of my parents’ generation to be living lives like mine. I often get on better with older people anyway.

Work is difficult, but bearable and at least my boss seems to tolerate my mistakes. I do worry that he secretly thinks I’m an idiot, but I’m trying not to care.

I’m trying to give myself more breaks and more relaxation time (at home, not yet at work), as indicated by my remarks about possibly missing shul today. It’s hard. As I said in a comment today on Paula’s blog, since my teenage years, I’ve found it hard to set aside more than half an hour or so at a time for reading fiction or TV; it feels too much like “wasting” time that should be spent on something “productive.” Yet not relaxing means I can sucked into hours of internet procrastination instead (much of it designed to make me feel angry and threatened), because of the addictive “junk food” nature of internet links (“Just one more”).

Getting There

I have a lot to do still regarding proofreading. I want to set up profiles on more sites and chase the person I worked for to get a review, although I think it’s probably too late (I’ve been focused on the wedding). I know I have a lot to do to build my brand before this becomes a significant revenue stream and it does seem that it will take a long time to do, maybe never.

I am accepting that my novel(s) may not ever get published. I would like to write more despite this, even if it’s just for E. I still need to type up notes for my new novel, plus research and actually write the thing. Unfortunately, this all takes time, time I don’t currently have. However, I enjoy just thinking about it, so that’s good!

I feel like I fit in a bit better on the autism forum and am connecting with some people, although it can be hard, especially when I try not spend too long on there. I do wonder how some people can say that they feel an affinity with all autistics and no allistics, which seems very strange and stereotyping (and possibly an example of autistic black and white thinking). I find autistics, even high-functioning ones, to be as varied in personality and interests as any other cross-section of the population, albeit with certain traits or interests that come up perhaps a bit more than in general society.

There is sometimes drama on the forum, but I try to stay out of it. It can be hard to work out what I should post there and what on my blog. I definitely feel that the Jewish aspect of my autism is not really recognised there and there is still some Impostor Syndrome regarding traits that others have that I don’t, whether it’s the fact that I have some ability to make small talk (even though I don’t like it and it’s draining) or the fact that I increasingly think I like reasonably bright light and strong contrasts rather than preferring muted lights as most autistics prefer. Again, the fact that many people on the forum assume their experience is universal for autistics is probably not surprising when you consider that difficulty with perspective-taking is a classic autistic trait.

Still Struggling

Religious life is still hard. Going to shul is draining and I don’t always have kavannah (concentrate) well there. Davening (praying) at home can actually be much better on that score. Shacharit (Morning Prayers) are a lost cause, but the other services can be better, although I’ve got a long way still to go.

I am doing quite a bit of Torah study most days, and fairly difficult stuff at the moment, not fluff (Talmud, The Guide for the Perplexed, Aviva Gottleib Zornberg’s Torah essays which combine traditional Jewish thought with contemporary literary criticism, philosophy and psychology). Even so, I feel like I should do more, although maybe I don’t need to.

I am also aware that I’m going to have to compromise religiously with E when we get married, but I’m trying to keep in perspective the fact that the compromises will largely be on chumrot (stringencies) or, if not, will be for the purpose of shalom bayit (domestic harmony), which is a legitimate halakhic (Jewish legal) concern that can counter-balance some laws, even some biblical ones. I also think that E and I will grow together religiously in ways that I can’t manage alone e.g. I think she will help me get back to going to shul on Shabbat mornings and take more of a role in the community. I am also trying to stay aware that I can legitimately make compromises with myself over religious engagement because of my autism e.g. less shul attendance, pressuring myself less to daven, or daven with kavannah or study Torah when exhausted. I find it hard not to strictly “follow the rules,” (which may not always be actual halakhah, but the customs or even whims of the community) which may be another autistic thing and not halakhically necessary.

I do worry a bit about how E and I will cope if we have children, as we would like, given our respective “issues,” but I think first we need to see how we cope as a couple!

I do still have some Impostor Syndrome in different areas, particularly with my Judaism, but also feeling I’m not autistic “enough” or not coping with life “enough,” but I guess things are getting better overall.

Online Vigil

I was in the office alone today. Work was mostly boring. I dealt with a couple of phone calls, including one call with an elderly, somewhat hard of hearing woman. Between her hearing and my autistic phone issues, we struggled to communicate. I think she became a bit annoyed with me, but I was doing my best.

I spent the afternoon looking through invoices, trying to find old invoices of particular amounts for the bookkeepers. It was made more difficult as I only had a total amount paid; it could be for several smaller invoices. I desperately needed music or a podcast, but my iPod had died. It looks OK now I’ve recharged it, but I was surprised it died in the first place. I don’t usually let the battery get too low and one charge lasts a long time, which makes me worry that the battery is dying. I was planning on having another go at transferring music from my computer to my phone, which so far I have failed to do, at the weekend, but it’s become more urgent. Also, if I start listening on my phone, I could potentially get noise-cancelling headphones for the Tube.

At one point, I was in the toilet when I could hear a bunch of visiting teenage boys coming down the stairs outside. As there is nothing else down in the basement that they would have access to, I knew they must be coming to use the toilets. I confess I just hid in a cubicle until they were gone. My social anxiety does seem to have got worse post-COVID.


Having had a quick look at some of my old blog posts, there does seem some evidence that the headaches I sometimes get are caused by autistic exhaustion or at least that they occur a day or so after doing something autistically exhausting, although as I feel exhausted quite a lot, that may not mean much.


Last night someone started a thread on the autism forum for queer members to hold an online vigil for Brianna Ghey, the trans teenager who was murdered in a transphobic attack. I said that I wasn’t queer, but that people shouldn’t be murdered for being who they are, which I didn’t think was a controversial point to make. The person who started the thread then described me as an “ally” which I found didn’t quite fit me, although it was meant well. I guess “ally” seems like a political statement. I didn’t see myself as making a political statement about trans rights, which I find a complicated area to talk about. To me, all people are made in the image of God, and I try to respond to them in that light. I feel that’s a religious statement rather than a political one. I didn’t say any of this, but I guess it makes me feel again that I think about things differently to other people on the autism forum, and elsewhere. I’m also very aware that some people in the Orthodox Jewish community would be critical in the opposite direction, of making a statement that could be seen as an affirmation of trans identity, although I’m sure many others would share my sentiments.

Wedding Thoughts Part 3

Also, Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3, with thanks to Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

This is one of those days when I don’t have much to say today, but I’m going to say it anyway, as I need to process.

I went to volunteering in the morning. Someone brought rugelach pastries and florentine biscuits because it’s her birthday this week. I’m not crazy about florentines, and, unusually, we actually have some at home at the moment, but I had a rugelach as I felt exhausted from the morning’s exertions. Then watching everyone else eat got too much for me and I had a digestive biscuit too. I much prefer them to florentines. (Note for Americans: digestive biscuits are what you call graham crackers. They were originally advertised as preventing flatulence (!) and so were called digestive biscuits. However, they have no medically-proven digestive benefits, so they aren’t allowed to use that name in the US. I don’t know how Graham comes into it.) So much for dieting. Actually, I’m not dieting, and I’m not even trying too hard to avoid treats (although maybe I should try a little harder). Just as going on clomipramine suddenly sent my weight up, so reducing the dosage has reduced my weight, although not as much. Once you know that your weight loss/gain is largely not driven by what you eat, it becomes hard to stay motivated not to eat the odd bit of junk.

I left a bit early, as there were more people than we needed and I wanted to go to Sister’s early enough that I could get home before the Zoom calls E and I had planned with wedding photographers. This was not brilliantly successful, as I found the area around North Finchley Bus Station confusing and the TfL directions unhelpful. I wandered around the area for quarter of an hour before finding a bus stop for the bus I wanted, but I don’t think it was the nearest one. Then I had to wait ten or fifteen minutes for a bus.

I stayed at Sister’s for a bit over an hour. I wanted to spend some time with Nephew, who I hadn’t seen for a while, and it made sense to do it while I was in the area and Mum and Dad were there watching him. He’s grown a lot since I last saw him and is focusing his eyes much better now and generally looks more alert and interested in his surroundings. He’s too big to cradle now, so I carried him on my shoulder for a while. I think he liked the fact that I was “bouncing” a bit on my feet when standing still. Sister has bought him some flashcards to help his focusing, with black and white pictures of animals or patterns/shapes (black and white because young babies can only see strong contrasts, apparently). We showed him some of these and he seemed to be interested in them.

I got home in time for the Zoom calls with wedding photographers, but not in time to do much. I wanted to do some more Torah study (I had done a little on the bus), but was too tired. Both calls were good and it is hard to choose between the two photographers, even without taking into account that we have another two more calls tomorrow. One has done more Jewish weddings and would allow us to print the photo album directly; the other seemed slightly more professional (although this is hard to tell and probably not significantly different), but we would have to get a third party to print the album. Both seemed to react well when I said I have autism and social anxiety and am worried about how this will affect the photos. I worry about looking rigid and unemotional. I didn’t mention the tremor, as it doesn’t seem to show in photos and I worry a bit that speaking about it makes it more likely to happen by making me worry about it more.

I was exhausted even before the calls. Volunteering seems very tiring lately. I was even more exhausted afterwards. I spent too long procrastinating online, but then felt not tired briefly and managed to spend fifteen minutes reading The Guide for the Perplexed by Rambam (Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, generally known in the non-Jewish world as Maimonides). It says something about the internet that reading a twelfth century philosophy/theology book seems so much calmer and more intelligent than browsing online. However, I still struggle to follow many of the arguments and those I do understand often seem based on a faulty pre-scientific Aristotlean worldview. The book makes me want to take a history of philosophy course to learn which arguments were debunked and how and what still has validity. When I finish it (which won’t be for months, I’m not yet halfway through), I hope to read Rabbi Dr Samuel Lebens’ A Guide for the Jewish Undecided with more contemporary arguments for God and Judaism. Maybe I’ll read some of Menachem Kellner’s books on Rambam too, and re-read The Guide, which really demands multiple readings, with this context in mind.


I realised today that I was feeling calm and happy. It seems that work is a big source of my stress and low mood, as well as environmental factors at home. Someone on the autism forum said the other day that the environment is the main cause of anxiety in autistics and I can believe it. However, it is hard to achieve an autism-friendly environment, especially if you have to work and doubly so if you can’t work from home. At least moving out of my parents’ home should give me some more control over my home environment even if there is nothing I can do about my work environment for now.


Lately I’ve been having itchy eyes. I wondered a bit if it was hay fever already (it started in January). I took anti-histamines on a couple of days without results, but they may be out of date (do they stop working?). I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, but it’s uncomfortable.


For euphemism watchers: I saw a blogger post a trigger warning today about an “unaliving incident”. It took me a while to realise that this was a reference to suicide. Google tells me that “death” is censored on the TikTok algorithm, so “unalive” was used instead and has taken off elsewhere. Ashley used to talk about the “euphemism treadmill” (the term is Stephen Pinker’s) whereby a word gains negative connotations and so is changed to something less offensive, which quickly gains the same connotations, so the word is changed again, and again, and I think that that’s similar to what’s going on here. I guess it shows that the euphemisms are not just imposed by those wanting trigger warnings and the like, but also by those trying to subvert those warnings. It also makes me think of the Doctor Who story Paradise Towers, where gangs of feral teenage girls have their own argot including “made unalive” for “killed.”

More Overwhelm and More Wedding Thoughts

It’s late and I’m tired and I have volunteering in the morning, but I need to offload some thoughts.

I feel overwhelmed at the moment, particularly at work, but also generally. We are now closer to E and my wedding than to last Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Even so, it seems too far away still, but also scarily close when I consider what still has to be done.

I mentioned that I sent a “Save the Date” email yesterday. I checked my email at work and found I had a number of responses. Strangely, my immediate response was anxiety. I am not sure why. I guess it was a feeling of expectation, that people expect certain things now (the wedding, I mean). But when I got home and steeled myself to read the responses, I was pleased that so many people seem to be happy for us, particularly people that I am not so close to (my Dad’s cousin; my sister’s parents-in-law). I was particularly pleased that one friend who I haven’t seen since before COVID said he intends to come, as not only he is the other side of the country, but he and his sister are basically full-time carers for their parents and I wasn’t sure he would be able to get away. Despite this, there’s a part of my mind that says something regarding the wedding will go wrong. I’m trying not to think about it, but it’s there.

I was still feeling overwhelmed at work today, even though there was less to do than last week and I didn’t have to use the phone at all. J asked me to proofread a very important letter. I felt proud at spotting various errors and proving my worth (so to speak), but then I felt anxious that he might feel bad. It feels like a lose-lose situation sometimes.

I stayed for Mincah and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Prayers) in the shul (synagogue). Someone who had come to say Kaddish (a prayer said by mourners and on the anniversary of a death, not actually a prayer for the dead, but people think it is) said he wouldn’t be back until next year. My initial reaction was annoyance that he expected there to be a minyan (prayer quorum) so he could say Kaddish, but he doesn’t care about making a minyan for other people or even because (gasp!) Jews are supposed to pray communally and a community should have three daily prayer services. But then I felt guilty because I used to be a regular “minyan man,” going to shul for two or even all three of the daily services every day, but social anxiety, autistic issues and COVID have meant that I haven’t done that for the better part of a decade. I wonder if I will ever get back to it.


I seem to be connecting with people better on the autism forum, but I get scared of saying the wrong thing. Some people are struggling and I want to help, but I don’t always know how. Likewise, blog friends are struggling, people on Facebook and above all E is really struggling at the moment with wedding and moving stress. I’ve offered to jump on a plane to see her, but she says there’s no point at the moment. E and I speak daily (except Friday and Saturday because of Shabbat) and text all the time (except Shabbat) and she knows she can say what she wants and I’ll listen. It’s harder to gauge how much to try to help other people, how much just seems weird or intrusive, or what I can even realistically do that is helpful and not patronising. I worry in particular about people (I was going to say women, but really nowadays it’s people) thinking I’m coming on to them or something awful like that. And I also need to look after my health and my own feelings of overwhelm! But I worry about people. It’s not true that autistics are not empathetic.


A comment I left on one of those “trying to help” posts that I need to internalise myself:

In terms of “roles,” I’m increasingly of the view that the individualistic Western view of an atomised self is wrong, or at least over-stressed. We are ourselves *in our relationships with others* as much as by ourselves. If you’re a good brother, husband, shul member (etc.) please give yourself credit for it! Our selves are a complex balance between individuality and relationships. And, yes, I’m talking to myself here as much as to you, as I’m bad at remembering this.

Overwhelm and Incompetence

Today was a bad day really from before I actually woke up. I awoke from a bad dream. I can’t remember it now, but I was feeling quite disturbed for a while. I remember thinking that my unconscious seems to have a better imagination than my conscious mind and that I need to find a way to tap into it. Then again, most of the dreams I remember are completely incoherent, so maybe not. I did feel quite anxious, although I felt better after eating breakfast.

I had to do the Very Scary Task again at work. I realised that the difficulty with this is only partly social anxiety. A lot is struggling to process what is said to me on phone and to deal with questions on the spot, as well as the fact that I still struggle to remember all the procedure, for reasons that I am unsure of (possibly some kind of psychological block on something I find frightening).

I also had to deal with other phone calls, a LOT of noise (building works in our building and one nearby, plus a group of schoolchildren visiting the building – not our office, but we could hear them) and various other issues I won’t go into here. At one point, I lost Wi-Fi and it took me a while to realise it had spontaneously switched to flight mode (or I had accidentally switched it somehow). I went to the bank, but was too overwhelmed by the people on one of the busiest streets in London. By the afternoon, the phone ringing was making me jump and even the printer was too loud. I felt overwhelmed and wanted to hide in the toilet, although I didn’t.

I did manage to go to the opticians after work and try to get new lenses in my spare glasses (I’ll get my main pair done afterwards). There was noise and it was very busy. I felt didn’t cope, but I got through it, so I guess I did cope.

I did manage to spend a lot of time decompressing when I got home without screens and that really seemed to help me feel better.


I spent some time today thinking that J must think I’m incompetent. It’s not just the mistakes I make (although there are a lot), but the hesitations, uncertainty and checking. If he asks me something, I answer positively, but then I worry if that was right and start to sound uncertain, so I then go and double-check, which looks unprofessional, even if I had answered correctly first time.  Work today just felt impossible and I remembered my boss in my further education library job who more or less told me that I wasn’t good enough.

This then spilled into wondering how I can get married when I feel I won’t contribute enough to the household. I don’t mind that E earns more than me, but I wish I earned more than I do. I really need to get some more proofreading work (which reminds me that I need to check I’ve been paid for the work I did, and to try to get a review for it). I know E loves me and wants to marry me anyway, but I still wish we were more financially secure.

This all led on to wondering if I should tell J that I struggle at work or ask for adjustments. J knows I’m autistic. If you recall, I had an article about being autistic in the Orthodox Jewish community published on a Jewish website, under my own name and with photos of me. I wasn’t so keen on the photos bit, but it is standard on that site for those kind of personal story essays. I didn’t think anything more of it, but about a day later J texted me to say he’d seen it. I had stupidly forgotten something that I say a lot, which is that the Jewish community is very small and we all know each other (J wasn’t the only person I knew to see it, but I still think it was the right decision).

The problem is that I don’t know what reasonable adjustments I could ask for. I don’t think it would be reasonable to ask to be excused from speaking to people on the phone or doing the Very Scary Task. They are too important for me not to do and the Very Scary Task only comes around infrequently (and I am slowly getting more adjusted to it). I’m not sure what exactly my problem is, just that often everything feels very overwhelming. I am still thinking about asking to work later in exchange for a mid-afternoon break.


The other thing I kept thinking about today is that I want help people, but I’m not very good at it. I don’t really want to go into detail about this here, though. Years ago a psychiatrist told me that I want to help, but I can’t because I don’t understand people and I think she said I never will and I just need to accept it (I wasn’t even known to be autistic at that stage). That feels very true, sadly. I guess E is the right person for me because I can understand her enough to give her what she needs.


I listened again to Burt Bacharach’s upbeat theme tune to Casino Royale – not the Daniel Craig film, but the largely forgotten 1967 spoof. I did this because I saw that he had died, and this is the only song of his I really know. Casino Royale is mostly awful, but I really like the theme, corny 60s tune though it is. If I was the kind of person who knew how to edit video and had a flagrant disregard for copyright, I would set the grim violence of the Daniel Craig Casino Royale to the jaunty 1967 Casino Royale theme. “He’s gonna save the world at Casino Royale!”

Sainthood Is Not In Your Future

I woke up at 5am with a headache. I took some tablets and watched James Bond for a bit. This probably wasn’t ideal headache viewing, even with the volume low (although it wasn’t a very bad headache, just an annoying one), but the DVD was in the machine still and I didn’t want to lose where I was up to. After fifteen minutes or so (OK, after the speedboat chase finished), the headache had gone so I went back to bed. I couldn’t sleep, but I stayed in bed resting until it was time to get up, about 6.15am.

Despite this, the morning at work was OK. J was supposed to have a meeting elsewhere in the building at lunchtime, but the chairman had asked to switch to Zoom as he was unwell. This had several knock-on effects, the most significant being that J had to be in our office for the meeting. As the meeting was confidential, that meant I had to be out of the office. I needed to go to the bank anyway, but when I returned, I ended up sitting around reading and messing around on my phone upstairs, waiting for J to text me that the meeting was over and I could come back.

I don’t know if this disturbed my workflow or mindset, but I seemed to make a lot of mistakes in the afternoon. I got into a mistake-self-doubt vicious circle, with mistakes leading to self-doubt leading to more mistakes and so on.

After work, I davened (prayed) in the shul (synagogue) where I work and I got annoyed by a lot of things that really I shouldn’t have been annoyed about, such as the shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) reading much too fast (what I call Nusach Turkey, when what comes out is not words, but gobble gobble gobble gobble), people messing about on their phones during the service, mourners saying the Sephardi Kaddish (you should use the nusach (liturgy) of the shul where you are davening, not your own nusach, but few people seem to be aware of this law) and a devar Torah (Torah thought) that went on far too long to bear the rather trite moral it concluded with (if we’re going in the right direction, God will remove all obstacles in our path, apparently).I felt bad for being annoyed and distracted by all of these. Not all of them are even against halakhah (Jewish Law) and I can only blame my autism for my annoyance inasmuch as it makes me rule-obsessed. Nevertheless, I felt that I hadn’t connected with God. Whether I should blame other people or my own sensibilities, I don’t know, but I felt frustrated rather than spiritually connected.


Lately I’ve been using a phrase from the Kotzker Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk) as a sort of affirmation/meditation: “Don’t look furtively outside yourself, don’t look furtively into others, don’t keep yourself in mind.” I understand this to mean (1) focus on what your inner self is calling on you to do, not what other people tell you or expect of you; (2) don’t judge others or compare yourself to them; (3) if this sounds narcissistic, remember that the motive for action is to help others, not yourself. I have had a little bit of success with this in reducing comparison thoughts.

Today in A Fire Burns in Kotsk [sic], I read, “’a pious person doesn’t have God in mind because he’s always full of doubts. Perhaps he didn’t pronounce a word properly, perhaps he didn’t wash his hands, his skullcap isn’t back far enough on his head… Meanwhile, he forgets the larger truth; he forgets about the final redemption.’” A Fire Burns in Kotsk is fiction, but many of the aphorisms quoted are genuine. I am not sure how genuine this is.

It makes me think that I should have read this when I was struggling with religious OCD, because that’s what it seems to describe. But it’s relevant now as I struggle to find a way to balance the level of halakhic observance I would like with the level E is comfortable with. More than that, we want to balance the level of observance we would like with a degree of spirituality and connection to God rather than rote ritual. (Lately I have had better kavannah (mindfulness) in davening (prayer), but I am not sure how.)


On one of the Jewish autism Facebook groups I’m on, someone asked why he’s always beating himself up. I wasn’t sure that I understood him correctly (he posted a whole long thing that I didn’t follow), but I posted the following response:

I don’t know if this is what you mean, but I can only work part-time. I’m in a job I’m over-qualified for, but which I routinely mess up. My peers are in better jobs and actual *careers*. I constantly beat myself up for this perceived failure as well as for not doing what I could/should/would like to be doing both religiously and regarding everything else (exercise, housework, writing etc.). As for *why* I’m like this, I think it’s mostly childhood stuff, some of which has nothing to do with autism and some of it is somewhat related to autism, particularly being bullied a lot for being “weird” and a geek, which left me thinking that if I could find the “perfect” way to behave, I would be accepted, or at the very least I would merge into the background and be invisible. So, I beat myself up in the belief that this will cause me to improve myself and become my best possible self, which is the only ethically/religiously/socially acceptable outcome, except that this strategy doesn’t actually work and not only do I fail, I feel miserable for failing too.

It occurred to me afterwards that maybe the inspirational stories told in the frum (religious Jewish) community about great rabbis and tzaddikim (saintly people) are counter-productive. Maybe allistics (non-autistics) hear, “Wow, what a great story, that inspires me to want to be better,” whereas autistics, who tend to lack nuance and can be overly literal, think, “Wow, what a great story, I have to be on that saintly level!” But sainthood is not attainable for most people, and striving for it can end in disaster.

There were actually some positive responses to this in the form of conversation, which was nice, as often on Facebook I just get likes, which I like, but which are not really the kind of social interaction I wanted to get when I rejoined FB.

Only Simchas

The last couple of days have been hard and tomorrow will probably be worse. On Friday, I got an email saying the proofreading work I thought I had to complete by Sunday evening was due on Friday. I’m not sure how I got that wrong, but I might need to say I have a longer turnaround time on the site, because of my regular job, not to mention wedding, Shabbat (the Sabbath) and so on. I did get the last piece of proofreading done on time. Fortunately, it was written fairly well so that, even though it was about twice as long as each of the other pieces, I finished it about as quickly as one of the previous pieces and quicker than the other.

I somehow managed to go to shul (synagogue), even though I didn’t think I would manage it. I guess the work situation gave me an adrenaline burst. I was tired afterwards. Dinner was OK, but I found myself communicating silently, by hand movements, at times again. I’m not sure where this has come from, if it’s new or if I always did it when exhausted and I’ve only just noticed. I know sometimes I come home from work exhausted and just go to my room and avoiding speaking for a while (not so much in my current job, but in previous ones), but this is in a social situation where I suddenly can’t speak any more or don’t want to do so. Afterwards, I did a little Torah study, but not as much as I would have liked, as I was exhausted. I read Dune Messiah (the second Dune book) for a bit and went to bed early.

Despite this, I got up very late again. I found lunch hard. Mum and Dad wanted to talk about the wedding. I was taken by surprise by the discussion, which makes me anxious and then verbally aggressive, and I felt torn between my parents and E (who wasn’t there). I don’t have very strong views about the wedding and party. E and my parents do, but they don’t want the same things. I find myself caught in the middle. E knows more about weddings in the abstract, for reasons I won’t go into here, but my parent have actually been to a lot more of them. E wants a very small wedding and I concur. I think my parents have come around to this now, but they are still worried that our wedding is too small for practical reasons, that we won’t have a minyan  (prayer quorum) for the wedding blessings or that the number of guests who can come will be so small that the caterers will refuse to cater for the party.

Mum and Dad also pressed me to make decisions about a best man and ushers, which I don’t really want, not least because I don’t have any really close friends to offer these too. I had more or less decided in my head that I would give Brother-in-law a pseudo-best man role (e.g. holding the ring), but I didn’t really want to do more than that. I feel that offering a role to any of my other friends will feel forced as we’re not that close. I don’t know who will be able to come either, as it’s going to be fairly short notice. Being confronted with sudden questions I had not planned for and didn’t really want to talk about on Shabbat (when technically you shouldn’t talk about things happening after Shabbat, although even very frum people don’t observe this rule strictly), I confess that I became bad-tempered and snapped at them. I did apologise afterwards and suggested we have a scheduled meeting one evening this week, when we can actually write things down.

After this I felt overwhelmed and went to bed and wrapped myself in my duvet and weighted blanket for a while. I did eventually get up and do various Shabbat things (Minchah, seudah) and did some Torah study (half an hour of The Guide for the Perplexed, although this only amounted to a few pages again). By the end of Shabbat, I was feeling totally drained, struggling to think straight, and feeling depressed and overwhelmed, aware that wedding planning will get worse and that tomorrow will be another busy and social day with Dad’s seventieth birthday party. Thankfully, this is to be a relatively small affair, but will still involve talking to some extended family and a couple of Dad’s friends who I haven’t seen for ages and who I find somewhat overwhelming at the best of times. I don’t know if I will be able to go to my room if it all becomes too much. I don’t know how many people who are coming know I’m autistic.

After Shabbat, I watched an episode of The Avengers (1960s John Steed Avengers, not Marvel) and felt a bit better. After that, I booked an eye test, which I’ve been meaning to do for a month as it’s overdue (no problems/headaches, though). I bought one of the Daleks I was looking at on eBay and bid for another. I still don’t know if that was the right thing to do. Possibly I over-think things. I did a little bit of novel planning, but i was struggling with low mood again and it was difficult. I’m going to shower and go to bed soon and hope tomorrow is better.

Renaissance Man

Today was a fairly quiet day, busy enough at work to stop me getting bored, but not so busy that I was rushing the whole time. Plus, I had to go to the bank and the shops for work reasons, albeit in the rain, which is good.

Yesterday, however, was very busy, so busy that I didn’t have time to blog. So this is yesterday’s blog post today.

I started my proofreading job. I worry that I am too formal and pedantic for the professional blog posts I was proofreading. I feel my writing style is slightly formal (or stuffy, if you prefer). I know that a more informal style is considered acceptable even for some professional materials and try to adapt, but it’s hard sometimes. I let contractions go through, but struggle with “But” at the start of a sentence (twice). I know it’s done, it just seems wrong to me. I want to put “However” or “Nevertheless”. I can’t remember how I left it. I left “paycheck to paycheck” in as there isn’t really a British English equivalent without significantly re-writing the sentence. I think it probably makes sense to most English people, but I might add a note when I return it. I proofread two posts of about 500 words each and have one of 1,000 left to do, but one of the 500 word posts took twice as long as the other, so it’s hard to estimate how long it will take to finish.

In the evening we had a family Zoom call for my father’s seventieth birthday. This was a semi-surprise. We couldn’t think how to get Dad on the call without telling him it was happening, but he thought it would just be my parents, me and my uncle and aunt (Mum’s brother and sister-in-law; Dad is an only child). Instead, as well as all of us, there was E, Sister, Brother-in-law, Nephew and some of my first cousins (Cousins 1, 4 and 5). This was the first time Uncle, Aunt and Cousins had “met” E as well as the first time all of them bar Uncle had met Nephew. It was a good call, but E and I found it draining. My extended family are very boisterous.

In between these two things, I had therapy. It was a successful session. We spoke a lot about masking and trying to fit in to the frum world. I feel like I have two identities, a frum (religious Jewish) one and a worldly one. These don’t feel like they go together and I feel bifurcated. My therapist suggested I could see myself as a Renaissance man, one engaged with the world, but also deeply religious. This appeals to me as I studied the Renaissance at university. Figures like Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon and Johannes Kepler invented the scientific method while being deeply religious. Similarly Sir Thomas More was a courtier and writer (humanist in the sixteenth century sense of a student of the humanities) as well as devout Catholic, at least until it cost him his head for resisting Henry VIII’s break with Rome. My therapist said that even if the frum world doesn’t share my interests, I can still feel part of both the frum world and the wider world in this way.

This reminded me of a couple of things. One was a letter Rabbi Sacks  z”tzl referred to in one of his books. It was written by Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner z”tzl, a prominent twentieth century thinker and halakhicist (jurist). A young man who had studied in yeshivah (rabbinical seminary) for several years and was about to go to medical school wrote to him saying that he worried he was living a double life, religious and secular (career). Rav Hutner wrote to him to say that to own an apartment, but live in a hotel is to live a double life, but to own an apartment with two rooms is not to live a double life, but a broad one. Similarly, to have a secular career, particularly a socially useful one like medicine, is not a contradiction to a religious life, but simply a broadening of it. This is a letter that I have taken some comfort from for a long time, even if it is not really about engaging with Western culture (I’ve never had any qualms about having a career).

I was also reminded of a story (I have no idea if it’s true) about a famous nineteenth century rabbi (I can’t remember who) who was quite cultured. One day he was walking around depressed, having heard that the poet Johann Goethe had died. Some people asked why he was depressed and he said “Goethe has died.” None of the people knew who Goethe was, but they guessed he must be a great rabbi if their rabbi was mourning his death, so the community went into mourning for “Rabbi Goethe.” The story suggests that frum people may not understand me, but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily dislike me or oppose me; they might even support me, in their way.

We also spoke a bit about whether I underestimate other frum people and whether they might be more open to the outside world than I think. I remembered when a friend of mine from the more Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) shul (synagogue) I used to go to asked if I liked music. I said I didn’t, because I was worried he would find my musical taste (a lot of rock and pop) too modern. However, he listed some of his favourite musicians, who turned out to be people I like listening to, like Sting and Billy Joel (I haven’t listened to Sting so much recently, but I still listen to Billy Joel quite a bit). I had definitely underestimated him (this is someone who doesn’t own a TV, by the way).


I have lost a little weight, despite having largely given up on even token dieting. I’ve seen a couple of blog posts in the last few days from people who say diets don’t work and are dangerous, although they are both in recovery from eating disorders. I think the weight loss is probably due to cold weather and using more “fuel” staying warm, so I don’t know if it will stay off. I also ate ice cream yesterday as I felt I needed a reward for my busy day.


Novel-writing is on hold for now, which is frustrating, but I have other priorities: work, proofreading work (including setting up profiles on more sites) and especially wedding preparation. We hope to confirm the date in the next week or so.


For reasons that I don’t want to go into now beyond saying “wedding preparation,” I am looking to buy two toy Daleks, preferably one black and one white. I have been looking on eBay. The problem is that E and I are trying to avoid buying from China if possible (because of ongoing genocides and slavery), but 90% of toys seem to come from there. We’re not sure what to do about this. We are not fully consistent on this, as both of us do sometimes buy from China or from other unethical sources (like cheap clothes from Primark which is made in Third World sweatshops – ignoring for now the question of whether it’s better to patronise these and let people earn some money or avoid them and probably force them out of business rather than raising wages). It is a very difficult question. But we don’t feel that toy Daleks are sufficiently necessary to justify buying them. E feels that buying second-hand isn’t the same as buying new and she may be right. I’m not sure what to do and am procrastinating, as I always do when confused. It’s hard to be an ethical shopper.

It’s All Here Tonight: Wedding, Baby, Work, Social Interactions, Judaism

Today was busy, so busy that it feels more like a couple of days than just one.

I went to volunteering in the morning. I tried to make myself speak to people a bit more. I’m not sure how well I did, but I did try to sit with them when we had coffee. Initially I had ended up at the other end of the table to everyone else, but after a while I moved to sit with the others. I also asked to be put on the WhatsApp group. And we were given nice thick, warm fleeces with the organisation’s logo on it. They’re bright purple (the organisation’s colour) which is a bit more vibrant than my usual taste, but they look nice and were very warm.

Afterwards, I went with my parents to a potential wedding venue nearby. It was more or less ideal.  Nothing is ever perfect, but this was 99% perfect. As well as having the features we want, it’s relatively local, in an area I’m familiar with (I used to work down the road) which is probably good from an autistic point of view (dislike of the unknown), plus Sister and Brother-in-law live nearby, which will make it easier for them to bring Nephew. There are other venues that may be as good, but as E and I want to get married quickly, there doesn’t seem to be much point in looking at them, particularly as they would probably be not quite as good overall. So now the next step is to find a caterer that can do one of the dates we would like, then confirm with the rabbi and book the wedding!

A few emotional/autistic things that came out of this: I felt Mum and Dad drowned me out a bit when we were talking the site manager (I don’t know what her real title is, but that will do for here). I don’t mean that in a critical way, but they are quite loud personalities and I struggled to be heard, both literally and metaphorically. I needed their moral support there or I would have just frozen up, but it is my wedding and I felt that I wasn’t saying much. It doesn’t help that I notice they have a way of switching from “serious” to “joking” and back again in conversations of this kind that I just can’t do. I can do that with people I know well and trust, but not with a total stranger I only met ten minutes previously. I get stuck in “serious” then feel awkward when everyone else starts joking.

I am excited about the wedding, but I don’t think it shows much. When I was with my parents, I did feel a little excited, but it was only when I discussed it over Skype with E that I really felt it, although it probably still didn’t show much. I don’t know how much of that is just my personality and how much is alexithymia (difficulty feeling and understanding my own emotions). When we had the civil wedding last August, E’s mother filmed us when we were pronounced married. E starts bouncing up and down with a big smile on her face, whereas I look a bit confused and then hug her. When my cousin saw the video, she said I looked like I was happy, but didn’t know what to do, which is basically true. I don’t really know what to do with my emotions sometimes and it’s mostly the positive ones I struggle with, perhaps because I experience them less frequently or maybe because I feel there’s more social expectation around them.

After that we went to Sister and Brother-in-law’s house nearby. BIL was at work. We ate lunch and chatted to Sister for a bit, then she went to do work elsewhere in the house while we looked after Nephew. I held him a couple of times and helped feed and wind him (E thought it was funny when I said I winded him, so I guess it’s not an American usage. I mean to I tried to get him to burp). I ducked out of changing him this time. I am still a somewhat nervous uncle not used to babies, but I am becoming a bit more confident with him. I shook slightly while holding him, but not much, which is probably a sign of growing confidence. Nephew often has a somewhat startled expression, like he’s surprised to see the world’s still there, and is not entirely happy about it. Sister says at his age (not yet two months), he can’t focus on things that aren’t near his face. He did seem to make intense eye contact with me for a while, though.

Sister showed us the book she bought him. It’s made of fabric and is about farm animals. It reads, “Dog. Sheep. Cow,” with relevant pictures. I said I was impressed by the unexpected twist ending…

As if that wasn’t enough for one day, I have some paid proofreading work! It’s not much, and my rate is artificially low at the moment (well below minimum wage), but I hope that will generate reviews. It’s a slightly strange request for reasons that I don’t want to go into here, but it seems to be legitimate, but it’s left me with vague unease. I hope it really is legitimate.


A few days ago I emailed a rabbinic email helpline for people in the Orthodox Jewish community who have mental health issues. You can email a rabbi for advice on halakhah (Jewish law) as it pertains to mental health. The rabbis on the helpline have mental health training, unlike most communal rabbis. I asked about the way my autism leads to frequent exhaustion and difficulty in religious situations that are also social situations, and also how to cope with any religious obligations when feeling autistically exhausted. Autism isn’t a mental illness, but I felt out of other options for the kind of halakhic support I wanted.

I heard back from the helpline yesterday. The rabbi said that as autism is a spectrum and manifests in different people in different ways, so too halakhic adjustments can vary. From what I described, he felt I should not push myself to go to shul (synagogue) when exhausted or push myself to any social interaction related to a mitzvah (commandment) when I feel incapable and not to feel pressure regarding mitzvot generally. He said I could email him with more details of my situation for a more specific response. He also suggested davening (praying) at the same time as my shul even if I don’t feel able to go there, which is an idea I have heard before and tried to do during the first COVID lockdown, but drifted out of the habit of doing. I might try to go back to it, at least some times. The idea is that if you pray at the same time as the community, your prayer is still with them, even if you aren’t in the same building.

I’m not sure what I think of reply. It’s good that the rabbi told me that I shouldn’t force myself to do things that are just making me exhausted or burnt out. It’s not very specific, but I don’t really have very specific questions at the moment, just a general feeling of overwhelm at everything that’s expected of me religiously. I guess I feel that there’s a lot of grey area there inasmuch as it boils down to “Do what you feel able to do and don’t worry about the rest.” That’s probably my fault (“fault” isn’t the right word, but you know what I mean) because I didn’t ask very specific questions, but I worry it will just shift my worries from “Do I need to do more religiously?” to “Am I exhausted enough that I don’t need to do more religiously?” which might not be much of an improvement. I’m going to think about what they wrote and maybe write back if I can think of a more specific question.

Comparison and Fitting In

The last couple of days have been busy, but without a lot of concrete achievements as yet. I’m not going to go over everything as it’s too much and not interesting enough. I will say I got quite depressed at work today (the type of feeling that would be clinical depression if it persisted for two weeks), but I felt a lot better once I had come home, had some non-screen time, and Skyped E. I also have some potential interest in a proofreading job, which is good. Unfortunately, my computer seems to be dying, right when I’m trying to start paid proofreading. I need to check what was wrong with my old computer, which I still have. I think it’s very slow and the battery doesn’t work, so it has to be plugged in, but it does actually work, whereas this one has periods where it keeps freezing every five seconds (although it seems to be OK at the moment).

When I was feeling depressed, I was comparing myself and E negatively to other people, in the sense of thinking that we will always be earning less than my sister and our peers. I don’t mind so much for myself, as I don’t have particularly extravagant needs (food, shelter, WiFi and second-hand books and DVDs covers most of it. I wish I could buy more time and energy, though), but I feel E is sacrificing a lot to be with me and I don’t want her to be miserable, and I definitely don’t want our children to be the poor kids who can’t have good toys or holidays. There isn’t really a lot I can do about this right now, but it upsets me that I drifted so rapidly and deeply into comparison when I’m working on not comparing myself. I’ve been doing this more often recently, particularly with money, which didn’t bother me much in the past. To be fair, work today was difficult anyway, as I spent much of the day moving from task to task or from spreadsheet to spreadsheet which is never easy for someone with autism.

I also find myself wondering about fitting in. I worry that I don’t fit in to the frum (religious Jewish) community because I’m too non-conformist and struggle with communal prayer and religious study. I wonder if I don’t fit in on the autism forum and the only reason I can find is that people find my mentioning of my Judaism off-putting. Or it could all be my paranoia. But I wonder why I can’t just say, “If they like me, good; if they don’t like me, and particularly if they don’t like me because of prejudice and conformity rather than because of who I am, then I wouldn’t want to be friends with them anyway.” It’s like part of me sees acceptance as a need regardless of whether I’m being accepted for myself or not. It’s probably better I don’t get private messages from the autism forum anyway, as I would probably end up giving out my blog url, and I do spend quite a bit of time here venting about the forum (there was DRAMA yesterday, but it seems to have resolved itself. Two people left owing to a misunderstanding, although one has now come back).

Tomorrow I have volunteering, am going to see a potential wedding venue and hope to spend some time with Nephew (who got taken on his first art gallery trip today, to celebrate Sister’s birthday). I also need some time to mull over a response I got from the rabbinic mental health email helpline about my autism and how far I need to push myself to meet various communal halakhic (Jewish law) requirements.


Today was difficult in some ways, albeit mostly fairly minor ones. I spent most of the day wrestling with some thoughts that I’m not willing to share here yet, triggered (not in the trauma sense) by an Intimate Judaism podcast I am in the middle of listening to. Both the Intimate Judaism and Orthodox Conundrum podcasts and associated Facebook page seem to be talking a lot about the links between sex, relationships and identity in the Orthodox world (LGBT, older singles etc.). Both podcasts are run by Rabbi Scott Kahn, the former along with Dr Talli Rosenbaum. It’s interesting, and I have things to say, but I worry about saying too much, or the wrong thing for a public forum. I am vaguely thinking about messaging Rabbi Kahn, but part of me feels I share too much with strangers online, and that people don’t really want to hear my thoughts and I shouldn’t look for other people to validate my life choices.


I sent a question about autism to the email helpline for people who want to ask mental health-related questions to a rabbi/religious expert trained in mental health. Autism isn’t strictly a mental illness, but I feel I need some specialist help and don’t know where to turn, even if they just send me a different email address to write to. I just want to discuss how much I can “realistically” force myself to conform or, alternatively, allow myself to depart from communal standards in things like communal prayer, amount of religious study and so on, given the things I deal with on a daily basis (more on that below).


The psychiatrist has reduced my clomipramine, but she isn’t sure whether the dosage she prescribed is actually manufactured. She gave me an alternative in case I can’t get 25mg tablets, but it’s annoying to be put in the situation of having to check this out when the reason I waited a week to hear from her was because she wanted to check this!


The main struggle today was with mistakes at work. I made quite a few, just when I was hoping I was getting the hang of things again (you may remember I periodically feel like this, then make a load more mistakes).

Yesterday, when I was doing proofreading at home, I spotted and corrected a number of very minor mistakes immediately (in text I hadn’t written). Today, in the office, I made loads of mistakes, both in written text and in terms of entering data wrongly. I’m struggling to understand why. I have a couple of suggestions:

  • The office is quiet (just me and my line manager, with only a few more people in the building), but I get over-stimulated and sensorily overloaded on the commute in on the Tube before I arrive. It’s not as crowded as it was at rush before COVID, but it’s still quite a lot of people to deal with first thing in the morning, and the announcements go right through me (particularly the super-annoying “See it, say it, sorted” anti-terrorism announcement that they make every couple of minutes, which could probably drive someone to committing an act of terrorism just to stop it).  This puts me in the wrong mindset from the start.
  • The lighting in the office is very bad, with minimal natural light and dull light bulbs (possibly LEDs, I’m not sure). I know autistics are supposed to prefer soft, muted lighting, but I find clear, bright light often more helpful for being in a work state. Dull light just makes me feel tired and struggle to focus (literally).
  • The work I was doing at home yesterday was one, focused task. At work I have to switch between different documents and programs as well as between tasks, which raises the likelihood of executive function issues.
  • Related to this, I don’t really take any breaks during the day except a forty-five minute lunch break (aside from toilet breaks). This is because I work somewhat shorter days and it feels wrong to take breaks if I’m finishing early. I’m beginning to wonder if this is a false economy and I should finish later so I can take longer lunches and maybe a mid-afternoon break to try to adjust between tasks better. I’m not sure if my line manager would want this.
  • I’m probably too tired most of the time, which is partly my fault for going to bed late, albeit that my sleep pattern is largely fixed by things outside my control at the moment (e.g. being in a long-distance marriage with someone in a different time zone, so I’m online late at night Skyping). Hopefully this will change soon, although if I have a sleep disorder (the NHS hasn’t decided yet), there may be a limit to how much things can change.
  • I’m distracted. There isn’t really a way around the fact that my job is boring and I only survive it by thinking of other things at the same time.
  • Masking. I’m not sure if this is an issue. There is only one other person in the office with me, but I feel like I’m masking from the moment I step out the front door in the morning until the moment I get back in the evening (if not later, as I mask with my parents too, just not as much). It’s very draining even if there aren’t many people around at any given time and if anyone else does walk in, I feel even more tense.
  • Not autism-related, but it is easier to spot mistakes in someone else’s writing than your own. With text you have written, your brain tends to read what you want to be there rather than what’s actually there.


Because I saw the psychiatrist yesterday, I went in to work today instead. This meant that I was there without J, who usually works from home on Tuesdays. It wasn’t as lonely as it can be when I’m there by myself as it was very busy. I struggled with a number of autistic issues: getting distracted when the phone rang or people came into the office and forgetting what I was doing; mishearing people on the phone and sounding, I fear, incoherent myself (I planned what I was going to say, but then got confused when the other person didn’t say the “right” thing, so I ended up asking for someone’s name after she had given it to me); and jumping with shock whenever the phone rang (is that a sensory thing?). I didn’t get time to do anything else, so I didn’t try switching J’s phone with mine, but I was listening to a text sent to J’s phone (you can do this on some phones) when my line started ringing. It took me a few minutes to realise and get there, but when I picked up the receiver, it was dead, so either the person rang off exactly as I got there, or there’s a problem with my phone.


The psychiatrist phoned while I was on the Tube home. She left a message, but didn’t say what I should do to reduce my medication. I suppose she wants to make sure I can understand. She only works on Mondays and Tuesdays (many NHS doctors have a private practice some days), so I will have to wait until next week to hear. I hope she doesn’t phone when I’m on the Tube again. I also need to remember to leave the volume up on my phone, as I usually have it on silent in the office. I can see this going on for weeks. She called from a private line so I can’t phone back or text back to explain any of this. I can’t even phone the main switchboard and leave a message for her (not that I would expect it to be passed on…) as I can’t actually make out what her name is.


After I mentioned Rabbi Yoni Rosensweig, who is trying to promote mental health awareness among the rabbinate, E suggested I emailed him about my questions about Jewish practice with autism, even if autism isn’t strictly a mental illness. I had coincidentally been having similar thoughts. I couldn’t find any contact details for him online, but I did discover that the organisation he set up has an “ask a rabbi a mental health-related question” email service. I intend to send an email, although I need to work out what exactly I want to ask.


The latest in Nephew’s baby blessing saga: Mum and Dad contacted the only hotel in the area that has vacancies for the Shabbat (Sabbath) of the baby blessing. They asked if we could come in without using electric key cards as we don’t use electricity on Shabbat and the hotel said that we should just ring the electric buzzer. Not very helpful. And we can’t try to attract someone’s attention as the reception is on the sixth floor (the hotel is above a shop and some offices). I’m a bit surprised this hasn’t come up before as an issue because it is quite a Jewish area.


I got upset by something on the Orthodox Conundrum group. There was a post asking for questions for Rabbi Kahn’s other podcast, Intimate Judaism (about Judaism and sexuality), which is going to be about “older singles” (which in the Orthodox world is anyone over the age of twenty-five), divorcees and widows. Two people immediately said that this was a terrible idea as it would be promoting extra-marital sex and that “older singles” have the choice of “pathetic celibacy or transgressive intimacy”. This annoyed me, as celibacy has been my avodah (religious work) for decades. While I felt myself to be “pathetic” at times, I don’t think my celibacy was pathetic. I recognise that heterosexual marriage is the cornerstone of Judaism and millennia of persecution has led to disparagement of clerical celibacy, but I feel my celibacy was (is, as E and I aren’t being intimate until our religious wedding) somewhat noble, albeit in a very unconventional way for a frum person. (I think it’s obvious by this stage that I am not conventionally frum.)

(There is probably also an argument to be made about the religious priorities of someone who insists on saying “intimacy” to avoid saying “sex,” but is willing to publicly brand a whole bunch of Jews as either “pathetic” or “transgressive,” but I’ll leave that for now.)

I was going to give an angry response, but I feared getting into an argument with one of the most argumentative people on the group. Then I was going to make a general “thank you” post to Rabbi Kahn and Dr Rosenbaum, but I decided it made more sense to wait for the podcast to drop. I do still feel angry, and hopeful that E’s visa comes soon so we can get married (again) and start our life together properly.


Looking for an anniversary card for my parents, it seems that “six month anniversary” cards are now a thing, because presumably the card manufacturers haven’t made up enough fake holidays so far. Although E thinks it’s weird that my sister and I get Mum and Dad anniversary cards, so obviously my resistance to Big Stationery could go further.


I’ve been trying to avoid Prince Harry. For someone who says he just wants to live a quiet life in obscurity, he is in the news a lot. Possibly someone should tell him that not saying controversial things about his family might be a better way of avoiding press attention. I’m hoping the success of his book will lead to republication [1] of other books supposedly written by royals, such as Charles I’s Eikon Basilike (published ten days after he was beheaded, so Harry got off lucky) and King Alfred’s Old English translation of Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy (definitely bestseller material). I can’t remember the title of the book Henry VIII supposedly wrote. I think it was arguing that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon should be annulled. Extracts from Queen Victoria’s diary were published during her lifetime. They sold well, but Harry would probably find them dull. You could probably put together, if not a library, then at least a little bookshelf of them.

[1] I think Harry wants it to lead to republic-ation.

Failures on the Road to Developing Character and World Domination

I had an appointment with the psychiatrist today to review my medication, as I want to reduce the clomipramine a bit. I had to wait well over an hour to be seen. All the receptionist would tell me was that the psychiatrist I was supposed to see had not come in. In the end, a different psychiatrist, who had not prepared, had to see me. The NHS sends out letters in envelopes that say each missed appointment costs £140 (I think that’s the figure, although it must be an average as I can’t imagine a five minute blood test costs as much as a long appointment with a specialist). I once estimated that, by that standard, the NHS owes me £1,000 or more for appointments they’ve missed.

At least I did eventually get to see a psychiatrist this time. I went over some of my case history. This stretches back over twenty years now, so I simplified parts of it. I explained that I’ve been feeling better and want to reduce the medication to try to lose weight and sleep better. I mentioned the sleep study and that I might have a sleep disorder, but I haven’t got the results yet. They might not come for another month or more. I said I’ve had a couple of not so good days lately, but said that I think that’s from the lack of sunlight and being separated from E and she agreed, although we didn’t really discuss it at length. Because she saw me at short notice, the psychiatrist has to check some details about reducing clomipramine. She only works on Mondays and Tuesdays and said she would probably phone me tomorrow or next week, but it looks like I might be able to reduce the dose a bit. Hopefully that won’t negatively impact my mood.

Weirdly, she asked if I’d always been autistic. I would have thought a psychiatrist would know that you can’t suddenly become autistic, it’s always there even if not diagnosed. It doesn’t make me feel that confident about her.


I tried not to spend so long on the autism forum or on Facebook today, but it’s hard. Aside from the addictive quality of social media, I reach out for social contact, especially with E in the US and my parents both at work today. I should probably find something else to look at when in “bored, procrastinate” mode while sitting at my computer.

I did spend some time on FB for work reasons. I managed to send a promotional post for my FB page for my proofreading profile. I sent one to LinkedIn too, although so few people follow me in either setting that it probably won’t do much, and I’m not sure how to get more (and more relevant) followers. I don’t even know if it’s a sensible thing to try to get more FB friends. I don’t think I know enough people for that strategy to work and I doubt that many of them even remember me.

There are a LOT of people advertising proofreading services on the site I’m using, some for less than £5 for one thousand words or even two thousand words (minimum wage in the UK for adults is £9.50 an hour). I’m not sure how to undercut them or get noticed. Some people have very professional images on their profile pages (logos, headers, photos). I’ve just got a photo and not a brilliant one (not professional and the lighting is not great). I’m wondering how I even get started. E offered to let me edit some of her writing so she could write me a review and give me a rating, but I’m not sure how ethical that would be. I don’t know how else to do this.

I guess one thing to do would be to use PowerPoint to make a somewhat fancier page. I don’t have Photoshop or anything like that to make something really impressive. And then I guess work for below minimum wage for a while. I just slashed my asking price from $15 per thousand words to $5 (it’s an American site so you need to price in dollars and you can only charge increments of $5, but that’s just under £5). By the time you take the site’s cut out, that’s going to work out to just over £3 per thousand words, which is nothing! But if it gets me some positive reviews, it will (hopefully) be worth it.

I do also find it slightly sinister that, if you look on your stats page on the site, there’s a world map that shows where your orders are coming from marked “World Domination”. I’m sure it’s someone’s idea of a joke, but it sounds like something from a James Bond film.


The autism forum allows you to “friend” people. The main purpose of this, so far as I can tell, is to send direct messages. There was a thread about this in the past where people explained what they use it for. Only two people have ever friended me, both people who didn’t stick around on the site for long. I tried friending someone a few weeks ago, but he never responded. The friending functioning has not been working well, so I told myself that was the reason, but I doubt it. I feel that other people seem to connect on the site and talk about having friends there and I don’t. I wonder what people think about me. I can get paranoid, wondering if they avoid me because I talk about being a religious Jew, not that they don’t like Jews per se, but that they don’t like religious people or think all Orthodox Jews are intolerant or fundamentalist. We don’t have the best PR, which is sometimes our own fault, but not always. There are maybe two million Orthodox Jews in the world out of eight billion people so it’s not always easy to control our own narrative. Many people with strong views on Orthodox Jews have never really met one (actually, that really applies to all Jews).

The next bit isn’t really anything new, but I think I’ve expressed it in a clearer way: I feel that being autistic and frum (religious Jewish) means I have extra challenges, whether it’s the expectation of communal prayer multiple times a day, an ideal of religious study in group settings (paired or Beit Midrash/study hall), the expectation of having been to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary), which is not a healthy environment for autistics and so on. Mitzvot (commandments) and frum life are meaningful to me, but also hard and I struggle not having anyone to compare notes with. I worry that people on the forum wouldn’t understand or would encourage me to leave observance.

I also would like rabbinic guidance on exemptions. There are a number of exemptions from religious obligations for mental illness sufferers that I wish I had known about earlier, when my mental health was very bad. I wonder if there are exemptions I might use now, even if just to avoid beating myself up about not managing to do what I “should.” I have mentioned Rabbi Yoni Rosensweig who is trying to improve knowledge of mental health among rabbis, but I don’t know if he is doing much for the neurodivergent.


I feel an obligation to do something with my life. I won’t just let myself be. It is partly (at least) a religious impulse. I believe that people have a purpose in life. I struggle to believe (as some Orthodox Jews would) that “just” fulfilling the mitzvot (commandments) and studying Torah is enough to fulfil that purpose. I feel I need to do something more. When people talk about having a purpose or mission in life, it’s probably meant in a positive way, to suggest possibilities for fulfilment, but for me it becomes another rule that my autistic, rule-obsessed brain has to obey.

I read an article today by Lionel Shriver where she that argued that nowadays identity is seen as something innate that you discover and which other people should affirm, whereas when she was younger, identity (or “character”) was something you developed by reading and by doing things (sometimes badly), and what other people thought about it wasn’t terribly relevant. I feel that the “develop character” approach is more realistic than the “innate identity” model, but it just reinforces my “I need to do things” mindset.