Scenes from a Depressed Day
In no particular order…
I managed to get up at 11am, but somehow the morning depression, exhaustion, apathy, or whatever it is didn’t go away after breakfast or even after lunch. I just felt heavy and unable to do anything all day. Possibly I did too much yesterday, which upsets me, as it reinforces my feeling that I will never have a full-time job and a real life, or even a job as a writer and a real life.
After lunch I spent half an hour aimlessly browsing online and then went back to bed for forty-five minutes, some of the time listening to music, some not. I just felt too exhausted to do anything. Really burnt out, overloaded, shutdown, whatever you want to call it.
Eventually I forced myself to get up again and sort out the emails in my inbox (I don’t like it to get too full, preferring to file stuff in endless folders or delete). It was a mundane and boring task, but necessary, and I felt a bit better for having done it.
I tried to work on my novel, but I just got overwhelmed. I’m not sure how long I spent on it. I was procrastinating online a lot. I think I did write a three or four hundred words, but I’m not sure. It was frustrating. I feel like by working on it a lot yesterday, I paid a price today. This is what always happens to me: even if I can achieve something one day, I pay a price for it in depression and exhaustion the next, so I can never achieve very much of anything. I didn’t manage to do much else at all today. I just gave up and watched a two-part Star Trek Voyager story (Scorpion). I did literally five minutes of Torah study, just so I had done some today and that was it. I didn’t go for a run or a walk because I didn’t feel up to and it rained most of the day anyway.
Whenever I have a day like this, the scary thing is not knowing how long it will last. Not knowing if it will be just a day or if it will be a new episode of depression or a new depth of an existing depression. I don’t have an answer to that yet.
I found the money I received from my Doctor Who book. It was sitting in my paypal account. I’m having trouble transferring it to my bank account, because nothing is ever simple for me.
The other day I finished the Doctor Who short story collection I was reading. Then I started re-reading Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick. Dick is one of my all-time favourite authors, but when I first read Martian Time-Slip I was nonplussed by it. It’s considered one of his best novels, so I thought I should give it another go now it’s a decade or so since I read it, but after ten pages I realised I didn’t actually care about it and gave up. This is a big thing for me, because I never give up on books, and E. thinks I waste my time reading stuff I’m not enjoying as a result.
Instead I started re-reading Decalog 2, another Doctor Who short story collection. When I was reading lots of Doctor Who books, in the nineties, I felt that Doctor Who short story collections had less cachet than full-length novels among fans and I was never sure why. It’s true that some short stories attempt to compress a hundred minute TV story into thirty pages, but then some novels try to expand one into 350 pages. At least short story collections can have a diversity of styles and genres; Doctor Who‘s variety and experimental nature is one of the things I like most about it, and that’s reflected more in short story collections than novels.
I posted this comment on Rivki Silver’s blog: “Lockdown hasn’t been so different for me, now Pesach’s over… I’ve been unemployed for most of the last year, so sitting at home all day isn’t unusual. I live with my parents, so I’m not by myself. Mum is having chemotherapy, so I’ve been doing more cooking. But lockdown has been noticeable more in food shortages than anything else. I feel a bit like I’ve avoided the problems other people have… and a bit like I’ve been living with them for years already.” I hadn’t put that thought into words before, but I think that’s been at the back of my mind for a while, the feeling that, on the one hand, I’ve got off lucky, but on the other, I’ve been coping with loneliness, anxiety, depression and isolation for years longer than most people.
Elsewhere on the net, I mentioned the short story I wrote to Rebecca Klempner on her blog and she said I should submit it for publication. That thought had not occurred to me. My gut instinct is that it isn’t good enough, it’s not clear where I could even think of getting it published and I haven’t got a head for the practicalities of publication at the moment. Maybe I’m being too negative. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know where I could even think of submitting it.
Regarding the therapy question, the fourth therapist got back to me. She’s only working on Fridays at the moment. That’s not so good for me in the summer and very difficult if I’m still in therapy in the winter. Having checked how easy it is to get to the therapists post-lockdown if I want to see them in person and having my parents say that my gut instinct about the pushy-seeming therapist is not something to be dismissed and that trying a new therapist might be a good idea, it looks like I’ll be going with the first therapist who got back to me. She does integrative, gestalt and existential therapies. I don’t know very much about those approaches, but I thought it might be worth trying something other than psychodynamic. I’m still nervous about choosing. I don’t know why this seems a huge and final decision when the reality is that if I don’t connect with the therapist I choose, it won’t be hard to cancel and find another.
Tonight is the start of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. Different communities act differently on this day, depending on whether they’re Zionist, non-Zionist or anti-Zionist. There’s a lot of different permutations in terms of celebratory prayers added in or sombre prayers omitted (I know an amusing joke about this, but it would take too long to explain). My shul (synagogue) usually does nothing, but is having a shiur (religious class) this year; I assume the change is due to the new rabbi. Normally I would go to my parents’ shul which does celebrate, but not this year. I can’t remember what extra prayers they would add in to Ma’ariv (the Evening Service). I did what I could remember and felt able to do in my very depressed and exhausted state.
Unusually, I woke early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up. I didn’t get much of an early start on the day, as I frittered away some time listening to podcasts on politics and antisemitism as well as trying to get rid of emails. I use a free email site for Oxford graduates, but really they intend you to move quickly from the free site to a paid upgrade. I’m reluctant to do this, but I am fast running out of free space now my email folders are filling up with work- and job hunting-related emails, sometimes with huge attachments. (It’s telling that it’s taken me fourteen years to get to this stage, whereas their business model presumably expects most people to get to it within a year or so of graduation.) I am not quite sure what to do about this. I have a free gmail account with a lot of free space which is associated with my other (non-anonymous) blog, but I know if I switch accounts, some of my friends will miss the email telling them to update their address books. Then there is the hassle of changing my details on internet shopping sites and the like (I could lose some spam, though).
This was all procrastination as I knew I had to set up some online accounts to try to get some freelance proofreading/copy editing work. I started to do that, but then I started getting anxious, worrying that I didn’t know the proper procedures for proofreading and would mess it up, not being sure what to put on my profile, worrying I wouldn’t get any work because I have no experience or positive reviews… I wasn’t hugely anxious, but it was a struggle to work on my profile page. It turned into a struggle between hope and anxiety/procrastination. I did email a friend who proofreads to ask for help, although I felt very stupid. Suddenly I felt like I didn’t have a clue what proofreaders and copy editors do, beyond the most general outline.
I could feel the worries spiralling out like fractals in a way that I am familiar with from my OCD, where each answer leads to another three questions. Being autistic and fearing the unknown probably didn’t help either; I wanted to know and prepare for every eventuality. Soon I was drifting into self-critical thoughts, thinking that I’m not good at anything, I’m not going to be able to get a job, even that no one really likes me, feeling incompetent and unskilled compared to other people advertising proofreading and copy editing… I ended up feeling really depressed again and not sure what to do.
I did complete a profile for one site in the end. I might go on a couple of others too. My friend was also really helpful. So that is all positive. In other news, however, I got two job rejections, for the job I was interviewed for recently and for another one that I quite wanted.
This evening I went to my parents’ shul (synagogue) for a Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) event. I enjoyed it to some extent, but not hugely. There was a good magician, but I was terrified he would pick on me to come up on to the stage to help with his act. I also felt swamped by the number of people, most of whom I didn’t know, and by the noise. I slipped out during the raffle to get away from it all. But I think the real reason I was subdued was that, with a small war in Israel over the weekend, the festivities seemed a bit hollow. They just seemed to show how far we still have to go. I thought a bit about this story about my hero, the Kotzker Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, nineteenth century Hasidic rabbi). I found the story here some time ago. I edited it and tidied it up a little to read at the seder this year, although I didn’t have time to rewrite it totally into my “voice”:
One year, the Kotzker Rebbe failed to pass out Maror [bitter herb, eaten at the seder in memory of the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery] to his family and those at the Seder. The people around the table whispered to the Sochatchover Rebbe, the Kotzker Rebbe’s son in law, that he should remind the Kotzker to pass out Maror. The Sochatchover in a light-hearted comment to the Kotzker Rebbe mentioned a disagreement in the Talmud whether Marror today is Rabbinic or Biblical. The Sochatchover said to his father-in-law that I have a proof from the Rebbe that Maror is Rabbinic, because the Rebbe has not passed out the Maror.
The Kotzker responded to his son-in-law, you are correct and gave Maror to everyone. Suddenly, the Kotzker declared in a loud voice, “Maror Fressers”, Maror Fressers translates into, People who indulge in Maror. Due to the fear of the Rebbe everyone around the table scattered and only the Sochatchover remained.
After a while Reb Hersh Tomashover [the Rebbe’s gabbai, essentially his PA], came in the room and the Kotzker asked him, where is everyone. Reb Hersh answered that the Rebbe chased them out of the house when the Rebbe screamed out, Maror Fressers. The Kotzker replied that he did not mean the people around the table.
When the Kotzker screamed out Maror Fressers, he was praying to God. Maror is bitterness and slavery and persecution. Enough already. It is time for Moshaich [the Messiah]. The Jews have suffered and suffered and suffered. The Jews are constantly eating Maror and it is time for salvation.
I don’t really have time or energy to blog today, so I can’t talk about the Yom HaZikaron (remembrance day for Israelis killed in war or by terrorism) service I went to (moving, but inevitably very upsetting) or the Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebration that followed (good food and entertainment, but too loud and noisy for me at times, too many people I didn’t know, too much conversation that didn’t interest me and just too long – I left early because I was tired and knew I had to be up early the next day. Also, the comedian who entertained us had some scary stories about antisemitic audiences. Apparently just mentioning having been to Israel can prompt hecklers these days), nor the insomnia that followed that or the latest struggles at work. No time either for the essay that suggested that gossiping is the way to join a community, even a community that officially disapproves of gossip, and the implication that this is one reason I have so few friends. Or the events of the shiur (Torah class) that might lead to rethinking of where I stand in my community (in a good way, I hope, at least a bit, even though the process was somewhat uncomfortable), although I wouldn’t say a lot of that in public anyway.
The unseasonably good weather does at least seem to have improved my mood, even as I worry about global warming.