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The world's longest suicide note

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression)

All opinions are my own


Are People Just Humouring Me?

5 min read

This is a story about sanity...

Clinical psychology department

Some days I feel like I have very good "insight" - that is to say I'm able to discern between the thoughts and feelings which are caused by mental illness, and those which would seem sane and rational to a "normal" person. Other days, I'm quite clearly as mad as a box of frogs - some days I make terrible decisions and I'm absolutely convinced of things which later prove to have been quite illogical and irrational, perhaps even psychotic, delusional and even hallucinatory.

In the months where I was living with a doctor - although I was working away for most of that time - the doctor seemed particularly intent on picking me apart psychologically; psychoanalysing me. I should note as a caveat that the doctor was not qualified in psychiatry or psychology, which is probably why their conclusions varied from a firmly held belief that I had no mental illness whatsoever, to some pretty wild and random diagnoses.

When you're living with a doctor and they can't decide whether your 100% sane or 100% insane, it's pretty hard to know yourself where you are on the spectrum. I'm pretty confused.

Certainly, when economic necessity imposes itself upon me, I can work for fairly lengthy periods with my colleagues completely unaware that I've been living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder for the best part of a decade. When the wolf is at the door, I seem to be able to keep a lid on the madness, even though I'm completely unmedicated.

Does this ability to "pick and choose" when I'm "well" and when I'm unwell provide strong evidence that I'm not mentally ill at all? My own father is on record as saying that he doesn't believe I have a mental illness, but instead that I use it as an excuse for my [mis]behaviour... but then he's not a doctor, and neither is he sympathetic towards people who suffer from mental illness either.

I don't know if I do "pick and choose" anyway. I work whenever I can, for as long as I can. Sometimes the timing works out OK, and the very worst of my symptoms can be kept hidden so that my colleagues remain none the wiser to my diagnosed condition. More commonly though, I eventually struggle to keep my mental illness a secret, because it either causes me to be off work sick, or I'm manic in the office, which is never a good situation to be in.

Perhaps the obvious tell-tale signs of something being wrong with me are there all the time, but people are too polite to say anything: they're just humouring me. Sometimes I can't keep my mouth shut and I'm over-enthusiastic. Sometimes I literally cannot drag myself into the office. We all have good days and bad days, but I must be atypical in my working patterns, which would be a giveaway that there's something strange about me.

I was reluctant to use the photo of me not wearing my cunning and infallible disguise, but I decided to use it anyway. A colleague Google'd me and found my blog at the last place I was working. He didn't say anything, but one day he asked if I wear contact lenses. I wonder if there's anything inherently wrong with having a candid, honest blog out on the public internet for all to see. Certainly it was used against me by one or maybe even two unscrupulous bosses, but on the whole I've found that most people read looking for the best rather than digging for the dirt and thinking the worst of me.

I was tempted to do some blog-sanitising, given that I've managed to survive a period when it looked as if all my hard work was going to be destroyed by a period of illness, but I've come out the other side and I'm working again. I really need to have a sustained period of regular income, so that I can sort out my finances and get back on an even keel. It would be quite catastrophic if I was hoisted by my own petard: that my own website was the reason why I lost a lucrative job.

I haven't really proven my worth yet at the latest organisation I'm working for, but I certainly did at all the previous places, which makes me wonder whether I'm just as "normal" as anybody else, or whether I really have a serious mental illness which I'm only just managing to cope with. It certainly feels more like the latter than the former, given the stress, anxiety and struggles I feel I'm going through, even though I'm doing the same kind of work that I've been doing for 20+ years... it should be a walk in the park; easy-peasy, but it's not.

It's hard to put into words the things I struggle with. If you've never experienced anxiety and depression, they're nonsensical to you; irrational. If you have no tendency for your moods to become unregulated and you've never experienced racing thoughts, flight of ideas, pressured speech and becoming completely obsessive about projects, then you'd probably struggle to relate to somebody who has to constantly monitor and alter their natural behaviour.

Sometimes I reflect on my actions and I can see that there are mental illness symptoms which are driving my behaviour, and I try harder to change how I behave in the office. Other times, my moods are just too extreme and I can't self-regulate.

The question always remains in my mind though... how obvious is it that I've "got problems" and how much to people humour me and ignore my weirdness out of politeness?

It's so hard to perceive yourself as others do. It's so hard to be objective about yourself and the thoughts and behaviour you exhibit.




Home Sweet

4 min read

This is a story about boredom...

Hotel room

As if living alone in a city where I only have 2 friends [who are completely unconnected with my work] wasn't boring enough, I at least had to stumble to the local corner shop to buy the various unhealthy snacks and bottles of wine, which were the main constituents of my diet for the last month. Now, I'm in a very bland hotel room and I imagine that boredom is going to drive me to drink... not that I take much persuasion.

Aspects of normal domestic life, such as cooking, cleaning, doing the washing up, taking the bins out, laundry, watering the plants and other things that would occupy a little of my time midweek, are now going to have to be done at the weekend. Perhaps you're envious of me, having my 3 meals a day cooked for me, and having my bedroom and bathroom cleaned and tidied by somebody else every day. I'd have my shirts ironed by somebody else too, but at £3.90 each it seems a little profligate.

As I write, the air conditioning unit squeals and whirrs to my left, while the traffic noise of the nearby motorway is clearly audible to my right. Whenever you change your sleeping arrangements, it always takes a while to get used to the new noises, bed, pillows, bedding: an unsettling change from the familiarity of home, no matter how much of a seasoned traveller you are.

I'm in the land of the industrial estate; the science park; the new enterprise development area - basically loads of offices and warehouses. I'm in the stomping ground of the sales rep, with the car park full of shiny new company cars and the hotel rooms full of men and women who travel all over the country for a living. There are no shops round here. There is no local life - I decided to book a hotel that was as close as possible to the office, until I've gotten to know the city a little bit better.

There's a pub next door to the hotel, which is presumably where I'm going to eat tonight. There's also a bar in the hotel. It's all a little too tempting to camp out with a book while tipping pint after pint of beer into my greedy face.

Back in the hotel room there's a TV and of course I can watch Netflix etc. I guess it's a comfortable enough existence, but it's going to get pretty boring and monotonous. Also, it's not like I'm going to be socialising and making local friends: everybody here is transient like me; just passing through.

I'm killing time even writing this. Of course I want to go to the pub and look at the menu; choose my food. Of course, I don't really need an excuse to start getting drunk... it'll occupy the time.

I do have a friend in the city who I've known for a long time, but he's always busy doing fit and active things: at the climbing wall or the canoeing centre. His life is filled with purpose, energy and enthusiasm, where all mine seemed to just seep away over the past few years. I used to be obsessed with extreme sports and I was a total adrenalin junkie, but now I seem to be just a sad, lonely, functional alcoholic.

It feels horribly wasteful to spend the best part of the next year simply treading water; concentrating on earning money and otherwise parking my life; being drunk all the time to minimise the amount of time I'm fully conscious. If life had a fast-forward button, I'd gladly press it down and hold it for at least 6 months; I'm wishing my life away.

There's an idiom that springs to mind:

The sun is over the yardarm

I'm trying to figure out what's a respectable time for me to abandon this bland hotel room and go to the pub and get drunk, armed with the excuse that I need to have my evening meal.

The boredom of my life seems to have asserted itself in my writing. I'm ashamed at how boring this blog post is, but I'm going to publish it anyway. I promise I'll write something more interesting tomorrow.





2 min read

This is a story about persistence...

Marathon rubbish

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time etc. etc. There are plenty of contrived platitudes about persistence, perseverance, dedication, determination, tenacity, doggedness, pertinacity and all of the many other synonyms that get lightly banded around, generally by people who've led lives of ease, comfort and contentment.

Tomorrow I have to prove myself all over again with a new team, a new boss, a new company, a new project; new challenges and lots of new things to learn.

In the last 12 months, I'll have moved home 4 times, worked for 4 different organisations and tried to string it all together into some form of continuity to allow myself to avoid death, destitution, bankruptcy, career failure, madness, being permanently committed to the loony bin and generally being consigned to the scrap-heap. The number of air miles I've clocked up probably doesn't set any records - not even a personal best - but the number of different beds I've slept in certainly must be some kind of world record; at least indicating just how little stability I've had in something most of us take for granted: where I lay my head to rest at night.

I need to pack a bag for the working week. Tomorrow I need to drive to a new office; a new city; a hotel I've never stayed in before.

One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. One day at a time. The platitudes rain down on my head and they feel like insults: easier said than done.

The money flows in but it must flow out too - I've got to speculate to accumulate. I don't feel well enough to be working, but work I must otherwise I'll fritter away the gains I've made: I've got to run just to stand still.

The needle creeps into the red "danger zone" on the anxiety meter. I'm not sure how I'm going to cope; I don't feel like I am coping.

The demands are relentless.




On The Road Again

4 min read

This is a story about a nomadic lifestyle...

Packed bags

In theory a digital nomad should be able to work from wherever they want, provided there's a decent WiFi signal and somewhere to charge your laptop battery. Why not work from the beach in a hot country? In practice, bosses want bums on seats. I suppose it'd be hard to justify the high income I've come to expect if I was living amongst equally intelligent and capable people, who just happen to have a less desirable nationality on their CV.

I'm washing and drying a whole bunch of shirts, ready for the working week ahead. I'm trying to prepare myself mentally for the Monday to Friday 9 to 5 routine. I'm trying to psych myself up for another period of kipping my mouth shut, my head down and generally trying not to let on that I'm crazy; I'm unwell.

Is it deceitful to pretend to my colleagues that I'm not sick and mentally unstable? Is it dishonest not to declare my mental illness up-front? I don't think it is.

It's my personal life that causes me most of my difficulties, which do unfortunately overspill into office hours sometimes, but I'm more than capable of doing everything that's asked of me and more, provided I have a little leeway on particularly bad days. I don't get paid for the time I take off sick and as long as the work's getting done, I don't see what the problem is.

If I can figure out how to get the support I need - some social fabric in my life - then I'm much more stable and reliable. Perhaps I need to get into the routine of phoning friends more often. I hardly ever speak to anybody except in a work capacity, and at work I'm always presenting a façade of cool, calm, controlled professionalism, no matter what inner turmoil I'm suffering.

Through economic necessity, I've made a choice that is a particularly bad one for my mental health. Living out of a suitcase and going to a place I've never been to and don't know anybody is going to have fairly predictable results: stress, suffering, loneliness, misery.

"You're doing so well" and "you've made such a lot of progress" and "keep going" are the kinds of things that friends say, and I guess they're not wrong. If I can keep going - even just for a few months more - then I'll be cementing a period of progress which has turned my life around, although not yet managed to put me in a financially secure position, yet. Call me impatient if you like, but the suffering I've endured on the journey is not to be taken lightly.

6 or 7 months ago my biggest worry was cashflow - I was so close to bankruptcy. Now my biggest worry is feeling lonely and isolated in a strange new town. It's progress, of a sort.

My lifestyle is a strange one. I can't particularly let my guard down at work. I really don't think my work colleagues could wrap their heads around the journey I've been on during the last 12 months... at least, not until they get to know me better in a work capacity and can see that I'm quite capable of doing a good job. It does however mean that I can never really get close to anybody and confide in them about how I'm really feeling: for that I must look to my friends and my blog.

The danger, of course, is that I try to cope independently. I often forget that I can pick up the phone and try to speak to a friend. Instead, I turn to alcohol, sedatives, tranquillisers and sleeping pills, as I attempt to blot out as much of my consciousness as I can... the less reality that seeps into my brain, because it's numbed by chemicals, the less the horrendous isolation and loneliness robs me of every bit of happiness and contentment.

Obviously, my choices look dangerous and unhealthy; the risks are massive. Economic necessity drives me to act out of desperation.

It would be good if I could find healthy coping mechanisms. Maybe I should stay in a hotel with a gym and a swimming pool, and exhaust myself physically each evening while getting fit, rather than squandering the time watching serious documentaries on TV. As I said before, it would be good if I could develop the habit of phoning a friend, as opposed to reaching for a glass of wine or a tablet.

We'll see what happens.




Hit Me Where It Hurts

7 min read

This is a story about failure...

3D Foot

How many times have I bounced back from a situation that looked dire? It was getting so repetitive - the cycle of boom & bust - that I decided to start documenting things, properly; I decided to commit to attempting to write every day for a year. If I could write every day for a year, that meant I had the discipline to be a writer; I could at least achieve something.

I didn't set out to write for 3 years when I started. I didn't set out to write a million words. I didn't set out to build a Twitter following, get likes on my Facebook page and crawl up the Google search rankings. I didn't know why I was really writing, except that it was a kind of heartbeat: if I was writing, then it meant I was alive.

I haven't achieved my arbitrary goals yet, but I've had some major setbacks. The biggest setbacks have been self-inflicted, I expect.

The gaps where I haven't written tell their own story. When there have been periods when I haven't been writing every day, it's fair to assume that my life was being decimated, usually at my own hands.

It's not a simple case of self-sabotage, when things don't go well in my life and there are problems which appear - to those who don't look too carefully - to be problems of my own making.

I've lashed out. I've written things which, in a different state of mind, I'd have never written. I've written huge amounts which, with retrospect, is quite regrettable. However, I've always tried not to edit and censor. If I'm feeling a certain way at a certain time, I've continued to write in the same style and with the same unflinching honesty, and I've revealed hidden parts of my character - my personality - that have not been very flattering. Perhaps my character and personality are not always the same. Depending on how tired, hungry, scared, lonely and myriad other things I'm feeling will obviously affect my behaviour, and so my writing will contain periods where those strong feelings are expressing themselves through my writing. I'm an open book, and some of the pages - maybe even whole chapters - are not very nice at all.

We all know that families, far from being nonjudgemental places full of unconditional love, can be a battleground where long-held grudges, anger at perceived injustices, shame, regret, secrets, lies and a toxic mix of everything else that goes on behind closed doors, gets thrashed out in quite a violent way, even if the violence is not physical. You know that the way your mother can just look at you in a certain way and you know what she's thinking: she's judging you, and she's disapproving and you know that you're not the only one who's getting the message loud and clear. Malicious information circulates around the family. You can be the golden child or the black sheep. Your image is not yours to own, and nobody can decimate you like your own family.

Relationships - all relationships - have an element of conflict; adversarial negotiation. Each party is trying to best serve their own interests. Whether it's you trying to get a pay rise out of the boss, or whether it's you trying to seduce a lover, there's conflict as much as there's co-operation.

I've lost all my school-friends so often, because of being moved schools 8 times, that it's carried over into adult life and I've struggled to maintain any friends from city to city, from job to job... there's never any continuity. I'm always starting all over again, from nothing.

But, it's not nothing; I'm not starting from nothing. The internet has allowed me to keep a presence in the lives of those who want to stay in touch. The internet's 'social gathering place' has moved around. Websites have closed. Some groups of us migrated from one place to another. I've retained a little continuity.

Having this website - my own ego-domain if you want to be aggressively insulting about it - does at least mean I live somewhere consistent no matter where the wind has blown me. Consistency is important. That's why it upsets me when I get inconsistent. When I skip days. When there are gaps in my writing. If I'm not writing regularly, people think I'm flakey and unreliable: this ceases to be the best place to find out if I'm alive and well or not.

The reasons for losing whole chunks of my blog and whole blocks of followers are complex, but it really upsets me; it hurts me. The reasons why people drift away are more obvious: when I start lashing out and showing an unpleasant side to my character, or when I become inconsistent, it's only natural that people would be turned off by that; be unwilling to use their precious spare time to keep up with a pretty repetitive and grim story, which is extremely self-absorbed and self-pitying. I can only blame myself and cringe with embarrassment at what I've put people through; those who've stuck with me for any length of time.

When everything else in my life is shifting sands I take comfort in knowing that I've travelled a long way on this writing journey. It's been a useful exercise in terms of staying in contact with people who care, and making new friends. It's been a useful exercise in proving to myself that I can do something which takes time, patience, commitment and dedication to achieve.

When I've tried to use what I've built maliciously, it's always backfired spectacularly. In theory, I have leverage; influence. In practice, I'm simply exposed and vulnerable, and if I'm saying and doing bad things, I'm more exposed than you can possibly imagine; I'm more scrutinised; I'm subject to the wisdom of the crowd, which is kinda dangerous for somebody who's so isolated - I very rarely get to sanity-check what I'm thinking with another soul, before it pours out onto the pages of this website.

Perhaps my perceived setbacks are my comeuppance for the times I've lashed out, which have been far too frequent, especially of late. Every blow I seek to strike seems to glance off my target and land back upon me a hundredfold. Why should I expect anything else, when my whole soul - my whole psyche - is laid bare for all to see? Why wouldn't those who've already done me harm use this repository of my every weakness against me? I've loaded the gun and handed it to my enemies, haven't I? I've provided the weapons; the ammunition.

I don't feel too sorry for myself. I feel like I've brought misfortune on myself, insofar as the setbacks I perceive with where I've wanted to take this writing project.

It still hurts though, to know that I've lost pieces of something that's so valuable to me, even if it only exists "virtually". If you want to hurt me, this is definitely the place to do it.

The challenge for me now is to try to turn things around. Can I redeem myself? Can I make sense of any of this and give it any meaning, beyond an angry bitter rant? Can I leave any kind of legacy other than the ravings of a lunatic?




Recovering Regularity

3 min read

This is a story about rhythm and routine...

No hands clock

I've had a shaky couple of months with a breakup and a work project finishing. My life of simple domestic bliss was smashed to smithereens. My routine was shattered and my life had become chaotic; it looked like I was on collision course with total disaster.

I wouldn't say that disaster is averted. I now need to get into a completely different and quite uncomfortable routine than the one that I was enjoying a couple of months ago. Already, I'm lacking any routine social contact, love, care or affection. Getting back to work will at least give me some social contact from Monday to Friday. As far as domestic bliss goes, that's gone out of the window: I shall be living out of a suitcase again, living in hotels and AirBnBs until I figure out how long I'm going to be working away from "home".

As I've written at length, I don't really know where to call home. Estranged from most of my family, having made perhaps only one or two local friends, having no other local connection other than the bizarre circumstances that brought me here, having had two unpleasant periods of conflict which have been distressing and upsetting, I'm left feeling generally unwelcome in the area... unwelcome anywhere perhaps. It's always me who's the odd one out; the weirdo; the freak; the outsider.

All I can do is try to force myself to comply with a very unpleasant routine, which will leave me feeling even more unsettled, but will at least keep the cash rolling in. I have this unshakeable belief that if I concentrate on achieving financial security and freedom, then I can dare to dream about where I really want to be, and what I really want to be doing. At the moment, there's no point tormenting myself with unattainable dreams.

Early Monday mornings and Friday evenings are going to be spent bumper-to-bumper on the motorway, along with every other poor soul who can't find a local job. I'll be hoping I have packed everything I need for the working week. I'll be throwing myself into the new job, immersing myself in the work, but what will I do in the evenings? Watching TV and movies in a hotel room on my own, I expect. What will I be looking forward to? The weekends? There's not a lot of excitement in returning to a place where you don't really have any friends or family. Think of the money and count down the days, weeks and months until I'm free: that's all I can really do.

It's an exercise in clock-watching, much more akin to serving a prison sentence than waiting for the end of your working day.

What is it you look forward to at the end of your working day? Seeing your loved ones? Seeing your pet(s)? Relaxing in the comfort of your own home? Eating a home-cooked meal?

What if you have none of those things to look forward to?

Watch the clock.

Count the money.

Count down the days.

Inch along at snail's pace.





No Culture Kid

2 min read

This is a story about national identity...

Passport place of birth

It's pretty clear from my passport what my national identity is: Welsh. Other people might ask "where were your parents born?". I only know where my dad was born, so what can we decide?

I moved around so much growing up I'm not sure where my home town is, my home county, the part of the country or even the nation to which I should pledge allegiance.

"Anyone but England" say the Welsh and the Scots. Certainly if it's rugby, there's no doubt that I'll be supporting Wales.

When I think of "The English" I immediately think of racists; I think of the St. George's flag, and the bigotry that it's emblematic of. When I think of "The English" I can't reconcile them with the cosmopolitan and multicultural people of London: the city where I've spent the majority of my adult life.

I'm having an identity crisis. Coming 'home' to Wales has been a challenging and confusing experience, which has ultimately left me feeling very isolated and lonely; rejected.

As we speak, England have just scored in the World Cup semi-final. Fewer than 6 minutes of the game have elapsed. I'm emotionally unmoved.

Perhaps I don't belong anywhere.

I don't feel like I belong anywhere.




The Tuesday that Didn't Happen

4 min read

This is a story about not going anywhere...

Unmade bed

The question of free will - whether we have it or not - is one that often troubles me. The problem with assuming that we have absolute freedom of choice at all times, is that it does not take reality into consideration. Often times when we see people who have been affected by a natural disaster - or even a man-made one - we might naïvely ask "why don't they just move?". It must seem fairly obvious that a low-lying country like Bangladesh is regularly going to suffer terrible flooding, and in the long run it's going to be underwater due to rising sea levels. Surely people - with their free will - should just do the rational thing and move somewhere better than Bangladesh?

To now talk about not being able to get out of bed because I felt depressed, when I've just been talking about some of the world's poorest people, whose whole country is under threat of being wiped out, is rather vomit-inducing, so I'm going to need to find a segue which doesn't imply that I consider my first-world-problems to be comparable.

Why this obsession with comparison anyway? Why should we compare ourselves to a starving African child but shouldn't we compare ourselves with a professional footballer? Who gets to choose who it's right to compare ourselves to, and who it's wrong to compare ourselves to? Who decides that?

I often think about that one person - the only man or woman on the whole planet - who can genuinely claim in all honesty that their life is worse than anybody else's. It's obvious that one single individual exists at any one time, who by all objective and subjective measures, everyone would agree is the only person in the world who can feel sorry for themselves, because they're the most wretched and unfortunate; they're suffering the most. Nobody can say to that one person "things could be worse" because they really couldn't be. For that one person, none of the oft-quoted platitudes are applicable.

Again, am I inducing vomit, talking about the world's most unfortunate human being - the one who's suffering the most - in the same piece of writing where at some point, presumably, I'm going to segue into talking about myself, which implies that I'm comparing my own suffering with that of the world's current #1 sufferer, who obviously must be suffering unimaginably, given the very great suffering that the bulk of humanity endures.

Let's return to the troubling question of free will. Given free will - absolute freedom of choice at all times - why choose to have children in war-torn and disaster affected countries that live in dire poverty? Why choose to carry on living, when your life is full of misery and suffering? Are these not two sides of the same coin? Who wants to watch their children suffer and die? Are we not certain indeed, that all life eventually leads to pain, suffering and death quite naturally anyway? Who wants to grow old and infirm? Who wants to be sick and senile? This isn't one of my antinatalistic rants, this is a genuine puzzle to me: in a world of free will, who would knowingly inflict this moral suffering onto their offspring, and indeed continue to suffer themselves, when it seems far more logical to just kill yourself - quickly and painlessly - at the first opportunity.

Given absolute freedom of choice, why did you choose your mediocre life, with all its suffering and stress? Why didn't you choose to be the world's most attractive quintillionaire and king/queen of the universe? It seems rather stupid of you to have used your free will to make all the choices that have led you to the point where you're just waiting for you and all the children you've created, to die in suffering and pain.

The fact that my Tuesday didn't happen seems quite irrelevant in the face of the question: "why don't I just kill myself?".




Vitamin D

4 min read

This is a story about agoraphobia...

London Balcony

This is how I used to get fresh air and sun-kissed skin a year ago. You might say that central London has terrible air quality, but the city where I now live has worse air quality.

My apartment in London cost me more than three times as much as my current apartment, but there were hundreds more opportunities for work, if not thousands more - all accessible by public transport.

I had to get my car roadworthy today. It looks like I'm going to be joining the commuting masses, all clogging up Britain's roads. After dropping my car at the garage, I opened the Uber app on my smartphone. There are no Uber drivers in the whole city. I rang the city's biggest cab firm and they said I'd have to wait 90 minutes or more. I walked home from the garage in the sunshine. I did need the fresh air, the vitamin D and the exercise, but remember... I now live in a city that's more polluted than London.

I think I'm taking a wrong turn. I think I should be going back to London, because I can guarantee a steady stream of work there within the space of a few square miles: The City of London - the Square Mile - and Canary Wharf are the gifts that keep on giving. Sure, London is overcrowded and overpriced, but at least it's somewhere I know and I have friends. I'm going to end up in places I've never visited before, temporarily, and feeling very unsettled. I think it's a mistake.

I didn't mind isolating myself in that apartment in London so much, because I could sit on the balcony and soak up the sun. I could sit on the sofa and watch the boats go past. I could open those big patio doors and have a lovely breeze blowing through my whole home. It blows my mind that I felt more connected to nature in the middle of a city with 10 million inhabitants, than I do in this small seaside place with lush green valleys and hills no more than a 20 minute car ride away.

I probably need a bit of both. I might as well be in London if I'm working full-time. But I need somewhere to call home - I need a base, and that base should be somewhere cheap. It's a lot of pressure to keep working all the time when you need to find £500/week just to pay the rent... plus you've got all the bills on top of that.

It was a mistake to put myself into the situation where I had sole responsibility for paying all that rent, and no way to get out of the contract when I was too sick to work. If I went back to London, I'd have my company rent a place on a month-by-month basis, so I could leave whenever I stopped working.

I don't know what's keeping me indoors. There's some kind of force-field. I haven't reached the point where I feel I can relax, take my foot off the gas pedal and just coast a bit. I should be enjoying the summer, but I'm not; I'm really not at all. My summer has been ruined.

I think I need to plan to go away when the days are getting shorter, it's getting cold, wet and miserable, and the clocks go back. I need to get an autumn/winter sun boost. That's the next thing I can start to pin my hopes on.

If I can get through the next 3 or 4 months relatively uneventfully, keeping the cash rolling in, maybe I'll be in a position to sit in the sunshine and actually relax and enjoy myself. At the moment, I don't feel like I deserve to enjoy the summer... there's still so much work to do; there's still so much stress ahead, and uncertainty.




One Week to Get Fit to Work

4 min read

This is a story about being ready to roll...

Living out of a suitcase

My car's not road legal, the hotel isn't booked, my shirts and other work clothes aren't washed and ironed. I managed a few days without tranquillisers, but I still guzzled 2/3rds of a bottle of red wine and used a sleeping pill to get to sleep last night. My hair's grown long and I need a shave. I spend more time thinking about setting my affairs in order and killing myself, than I do about the practical steps necessary to prolong my suffering: another town; another job and yet more isolation and loneliness.

There's a huge gap between where I am in my mental state and where I need to be, if I'm going to go and make a good first impression, and keep up the charade until the work is done; until I can finally collapse in a crumpled heap.

There are important pieces of a liveable sustainable pleasant life which are simply missing; absent. Family, friends, community, social support network; a partner or best buddy. Can you imagine spending 28 days in complete isolation, except for a few messages exchanged via social media? Can you imagine spending a couple of years working your arse off trying to get to the point where you felt financially secure -- no longer on the brink of bankruptcy and destitution -- but seemingly never making any progress?

Yes, we've all experienced moving house, breakups, making new friends, starting new jobs, going to new unfamiliar places, having to somewhat re-establish ourselves. So what? You did it, it was stressful, and now you're relaxed and all settled in nicely. The bad memories fade quickly and the good ones dont: you can almost look back and laugh at all those unsettled times you've been through. For me, the unsettled times are so frequent that the bad memories never fade. I'm caught up in a never-ending series of very stressful events.

Out of economic necessity, I need to ready myself to re-enter the workplace one week from now. I need to look well presented, I need to be on the ball and I need to sustain a certain degree of professionalism until the work is done... I'll need to be able to get through week after week of hiding the fact I'm sick and struggling. I'll need to be able to cling on and hopefully make it through to the other side, before I hit the wall.

One day I'll wake up and say "I just can't do it anymore" and I won't be faking it; I won't be making a fuss about nothing - I really will have nothing left to give. Whether that's day 1 or day 101, or whether it's sufficiently far into the future that it doesn't affect the charade, I can't say. Obviously I worry that my health will fail me too soon; my energy will be used up and I'll be of no use to anybody, which means letting people down; no more pretending to be OK.

Having a week to prepare yourself for a period of effort that you don't feel in any fit state to face is not a nice prospect. Even if I could just sleep for the next week, I don't think that would be enough. There are practical preparations. There are things that are really toxic to my mental health - like living out of a suitcase - that look pretty unavoidable. There's the futility of going to a place where I have no intention of staying, beyond a few months, so why make friends there? Why put down roots? Why make myself comfortable; settled?

So, I continue to be unsettled. I continue to live without anywhere I really call 'home'.

It's a week to get myself into some kind of bare minimum state so I can go and get some more money, but no matter how much I earn, it all seems to just disappear... an exercise in futility; exhausting futility... except maybe for the banks and the landlords, who profit handsomely from my efforts, while not labouring at all themselves.

That the only reason for any of this stress is purely to service loans, pay rent and pay bills, hardly has me jumping for joy; it's hardly a big motivator. There's seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

So, as I try to sort my practical matters, rest, live healthily, and generally prepare myself for another stint at the coal face, I'm struggling to find much meaning in it; much reason to live.