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10 min read

This is a story about a sick man...

Psychiatrist letter

I didn't drink last night or tonight. I've stopped taking sleeping pills. I've stopped taking anxiety medication. I've stopped taking tranquillisers. I've stopped taking sedatives. I don't take antidepressants. I feel very unwell.

I woke up and I thought about getting some rope and going to find a tree to hang myself from. I've not really thought about hanging much, but it's been on my mind. I think about a last minute change of heart, where I might try to take the weight off the noose, but it would be futile - I would try and I would fail. I think about the uncomfortable final couple of minutes, where I'd be panicking as the hypercapnic alarm response would make me thrash around, trying to get air into my lungs. Hanging would be a brutal way to die, because I imagine that I'd be conscious for quite a lot of it, then I'd lose control of my bowels and some poor sod would find me strung up with soiled underwear. Somebody would have to cut down my lifeless body. Anyway, that seemed like one of the options this morning.

This should be a happy period of my life. I'm not homeless, I have friends, a girlfriend, money and a car. I'm not a drug addict. I'm highly employable. I have my physical health, mostly. I've got a local job which is very well paid.

What's going on? Why am I so depressed?

I'm trapped. I can't go backwards. I can't stay still. I can't go forwards. I need to keep moving forwards, but I've run out of rope; I'm at my wits end.

I should have taken some time off in-between the last job and the new one, but that's not the way things worked out. Make hay while the sun shines, they say. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, they say. Somebody opened a briefcase of money, tempting me with it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It is a good idea. It's a really good idea to have a really well paid job that's a short distance away from where you live. The problem is, I've got nothing left to give.

I can't fail. I can't falter. I have to succeed. I can't go back. I can't stand still.

I'm so desperate to feel better, but I know that the answer doesn't lie in pills. I know that to take antidepressants would send me manic. I know that pills aren't the answer. I'd love to feel a bit better though. My bank balance would love me to feel a bit better. It'd be nice if I didn't keep writing things that worry and upset my friends and girlfriend. Such is life. These are the cards I've been dealt.

What's important to me? It seems like it's all about work and money, but that's a good place to start. Without work and money there can be no future. Without a future there's nothing to hope for - I might as well just give up. This is the strange situation, where work is making me unwell, but without work I'll get unwell because I'll get into financial difficulties and I'll have nothing to look forward to except bankruptcy.

Just a little bit longer... if I can just work for a little bit longer...

How much money did I lose in January and February to ill health? Was it £10,000? What does it matter? I worked as hard as I could.

I've managed to buy a car. I've managed to get a local job. I've got a girlfriend. I've got some money in the bank. These are major milestones; major achievements. Things are looking up in my life.

I need to impress some new people; prove myself. I've got a new routine to get into. I've got a load of new stuff to learn, and not the fun kind of learning - this is stuff I'm expected to know already. I've got to give a good first impression - I can't turn up to work hours late every day; I can't let on that I'm not very well.

I'm sick but I can't afford to be. I'm sick but there's too much at stake. I'm sick but I don't want to lose the amazing opportunity that's fallen in my lap. I'm sick but my life looks perfect in a lot of ways - why am I sick?

I don't want to accept that I'm sick but the anxiety and depression are unbearable. It's enough to drive me to drink, drugs and/or suicide. I want to run away from the source of stress. I want to hide under the duvet for a couple of months. I need to recover but I can't - there's too much work to do. I need time off but I can't afford to lose everything.

I'm the epitome of functional. I'm getting up and doing the things I need to do, even though it's destroying me. Somehow I keep putting one foot in front of the other. Somehow the things that need to happen keep happening. I'm keeping the plates spinning even though I'm sick. At times, I'm quite happy and contented. At times I'm a picture of good health and carefree joy.

I've worked hard - even if you don't think I have - to give myself some easier times. I've put up with horrible situations because I knew they'd pay off in the end. There has to be some reward, otherwise it wouldn't have been worth the stress and aggravation at all. It would be a lie to say that my life is purely miserable. Misery kind of stalks me though - I know it lurks just around the corner at all times.

"Cheer up... it might never happen!" somebody might say, but I really wish it would happen, because I can't stand the constant anxiety. I can't stand the fact that it is happening, and I know exactly how long it's going to keep on happening for because it's not very difficult to work out such things. I know exactly what to expect. I know exactly the way things are going to go. I know exactly what has to be done. I know exactly how awful it's going to be.

My mood would be a lot better if I could abandon all responsibilities and follow my mood. I know that time passes incredibly slowly when I'm having to kill time and suffer horrible periods with nothing to do at work. I know that it's incredibly toxic to my mental health to be solving the same problems I've done a million times before, but with a load of constraints that artificially limit me from being able to work and occupy myself - to keep myself busy. I know that isolation - working alone - is really unbearable. The last place on earth I should be right now is twiddling my thumbs, bored but chained to a desk with nothing to do and nobody to talk to.

I'm going through a difficult transitionary period. I should have taken some time off. I'm emotionally exhausted. I'm trying to switch mindset, from the isolation of the last job to the possibilities of a new opportunity. I know that I need to give it a few days, or a couple of weeks, to get settled.

Everything's so stressful and unsettled. I've got a new commute to get used to. Somehow, I've got even less of a home than I did when I was living in AirBnBs. I can't get changed. I can't have a shower. I can't take a shit. I can't make myself something to eat. How did I end up like this, with a stressful job and no place to call my own... no bedroom; no privacy. It sounds ungrateful, but it's just a description of my current situation, at times. It could be worse, perhaps - I could be homeless; destitute. I could be additionally isolated and lonely, living alone. It could be worse... it could be worse... it could be worse. There is gratitude, but there is also a heap of stress and anxiety that's beyond what I can cope with. I am grateful, but I'm also struggling.

What do I want? Do I want everything to be perfect right now? Do I want easy solutions, like swallowing pills? Do I think somebody should gift me everything I need, all wrapped up with a bow? Do I expect somebody to just give me the keys to a place of my own and wave a magic wand to move all my stuff? What about friends? Should I just snap my fingers whenever I need them, and snap them again when I don't want them around?

I don't know about any of this stuff. All I know is that I woke up and I thought about finding some rope and a tree to hang myself. I thought about walking out of the perfect opportunity that's fallen in my lap. I thought about letting everything go to hell in a handcart, because I've reached the end of my tether. I don't know why I think this stuff. Maybe I'm a bad person. Maybe I'm an ungrateful little shit. Maybe I should just fuck off and die.

I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to have another alcohol and sleeping-pill free night and hope that these awful feelings subside. I'm going to hope for a better day tomorrow. I'm going to grab my black holdall and take the show on the road.

I'm sick, but do I have to be? I think I know where the problems are. I think I know the solutions. I know that nothing's going to be perfect. I know that life is full of compromises. All I can think to do is to keep trying to set things up so that the very least number of things are causing me distress. I keep reducing the number of things that are unpleasant and broken, in the hope that at some point things start becoming a bit easier, because at the moment there are too many times when life's unbearable.

Maybe I need to quit drinking. Maybe I need a drink. I don't know. Too much change and too much that's unsettling. I've lived out of a suitcase for far too long.

Yes, underlying mental health problems are the obvious thing to point to, but what's the solution? Of course the little bit of me that's got some survival instinct left thinks that being medicated up to the eyeballs, living in a council house, supported living or institution is preferable to death. Is being alive without dignity or hope preferable to this life that's a fate worse than death? Isn't it all the same anyway? If the rewards aren't there and the suffering is unbearable, why bother?

I managed half a day in my new local job, and I felt sick, sick, sick.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. If it's not, I don't know if I can carry on.