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Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics on #WorldMentalHealthDay

7 min read

This is a story about data science...

Non bank threats

What the hell is big data anyway? Well, some companies - particularly well-known dot coms - have amassed huge data sets capturing the online behaviour of their millions of users: particularly the journeys those users took to discover products, discover and view media - and to see advertising of course - before eventually making purchases. If you like that, you'll love this.

Did you ever think that Google is kinda clairvoyant in being able to predict the question you're asking it before you even finished typing it - its suggested searches are almost always on the money. That's because Google has such a ridiculously huge dataset, while the range of dumb questions asked by idiots is quite narrow, such that Google 'knows' what you're asking it before you even finished typing "where do babie...?". Yes. So many other people asked that very same question before you.

With big datasets, there comes the temptation to believe that we can predict a person's future. If we see a high degree of correlation between rates of absenteeism at school and exam grades in our data, it might be tempting to assume that high absentee rates are a good predictor of poor exam grades. However, correlation is not causation, and it's entering dangerous territory to attempt to predit future outcomes, just because there are statistically significant findings in our historical data.

The financial services industry is particularly interested in your past behaviour as a debtor, as a predictor of your future likelihood of reliably making your loan repayments. Your credit score is - in essence - a number which tells loan sharks how much of a compliant and obedient slave you are.

You will spend the most healthy, energetic and productive years of your life, making student loan repayments, mortgage payments, car loan repayments, overdraft payments, credit card payments, store card payments, loan payments and other regular instalments, payable in return for the privilege of being alive. Try living your life without a mobile phone and some sort of internet connection for a few months, and you'll soon see that there's a high price to be paid for the oxygen you breathe.

The burden of debt is not trivial.

Debt is natural to us, whereas altruism is not. Every act of apparent altruism can be unmasked as a selfish act, when analysed using statistical methods across large datasets. Unfortunately, your momma's so-called unconditional love for children and your daddy's obsession with sex, are two sides of the same coin. Your poppa wanted to shoot his love snot and your dear mother wanted to receive it, with the genes of both individuals aiming for a pregnancy - neither asexual partner can claim that they were intent on giving the so-called "gift" of life. Your parents were simply obeying the will of their genes, in much the same way that any mould, slime, bacteria, worms, fleas etc. will multiply with impunity, given favourable environmental conditions. Sex is sold, not given freely.

We often think life conforms to some kind of natural order and mistakenly hold the belief that there is stability and equilibrium in the world, when in fact the very polar opposite is true: the world is an erratic and unpredictable place, with evidence of continuous events considered cataclysmically catastrophic for whole species, with or without human intervention. We are prone to succumb to the gullible belief in the divine right of kings, and law & order, such that the majority of us meekly comply with the oppression of the many by the few and our general exploitation. There is nothing natural at all about a handful of individuals tyrannising and enslaving so many.

The so-called miracle of the information age - often called the fourth industrial revolution - can perhaps be unmasked as nothing more than a fancy way to tell you what other products you might like to buy after making a purchase. It's unquestionably true that Amazon will make a very accurate prediction of something else you'd like to squander your dollars on, but to suggest that this advances the human condition in a positive direction is demonstrably ridiculous and downright wrong.

I can't really imagine a worse time to be alive.

While the threat of death from diahorrea or a bacterial infection - arising from the tiniest of skin punctures - has receded dramatically, we must be mindful that the single biggest cause of death amongst people like myself, is not road traffic accidents, drug overdoses, cancer, or any disease. Suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer of men like me. Suicide is preventable. What kind of advanced society are we living with, when the thing which kills most of its biggest economic contributors, is 100% preventable? Does that sound like an advanced society to you; a paradise?

Fundamentally, you've been reduced to a handful of numbers from the very moment you were ejected from your mother's womb, and your destiny was foretold.

Birth weight is the number one best predictor of your life outcome. Hands down. No argument.

Second, household income.

Right there, before you even got to suck on your mother's titty, are two things which have absolutely nothing to do with you or your life choices, or even your unique DNA. You could have the greatest genes given to a baby in the history of humanity, but because you were underweight and born into a poor family, you're destined to be used, abused, forgotten and discarded, as a minimum-wage McJob worker who can barely make your rent payments.

Statistically, we can predict whether you're going to get those all-important "A" grades, graduate university and enter a highly paid profession. Statistically, we can predict whether you're going to reliably repay a big mortgage, and hence be able to buy a big house to fill full of genetic clones of yourself. Before you've even sat down to take a single exam, big data has predicted that you're going to be a no-good washed-up good-for-nothing piece of worthless human trash.

Surely there's been a mistake.

Is it right that 98% of humanity will wake up each morning with a heavy heart, knowing that they are heavily in debt and they have been economically enslaved? Even those who did not directly incur the debt - by knowingly and willingly signing contracts - have incurred massive amounts of financial burden, because their governments borrowed against their predicted economic potential. We are sold into slavery before we're even born, because of our anticipated life-preservation instincts.

Economics, statistics and data science are indeed dismal sciences, which are corrupted by financial incentives to tease out the most efficient ways of exploiting humanity. We are ill-equipped to deal with the vast investment in the academic pursuit of knowledge, which equips the wealthiest elites with a suite of tools to push our buttons and make us dance to the beat of their drum.

If we are looking for a single cause of the epidemic of mental health problems which sweeps the globe, we should look no further than the vast quantities of data which have been gathered on us, and the treasure trove of insights which can be exploited by those who are so lacking in ethical contraint, that they're prepared to consign the majority of us to a living hell, in pursuit of material gain.

Yes, it's quite possible to use every bit of data available to predict the life outcome of an innocent child - a blank canvas - before they start school, and to consign them to the reject bin... but should we even look at that dangerous data? I say that the temptation to believe that we hold good predictors is too great, leading us to playing god, ruining countless lives.

Past performance is not a guide to the future.

 

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What Have I Got To Do To Get Sacked?

5 min read

This is a story about biting the hand that feeds me...

Water cooler

This colleague of mine was holding an object which looked so much like a sex toy that I was compelled to take a sly snapshot. Trying to be as subtle as possible and not arouse any suspicion, meant that I did not compose my photograph as well as I could have done, but I offer you the cropped image below so that you're better able to imagine what I saw.

Zoomed in

Is that any better? Attempting to photograph a colleague waving around a dildo-like object while filling a bottle from the water-cooler in my office, was somewhat hampered by the fact I spend my days on a secure campus with high fences and guards manning the gates, in a building which you can't gain entrance to until you've been through various in-depth background checks, to ensure you're the right sort of chap.

I'm sure there's something somewhere written in a contract or a code of conduct I've signed, which could be twisted and misinterpreted to mean that I shouldn't irreverently make light of my privileged position in the world.

People tell me I have a "good job".

People tell me to watch my step and button my lip, because "they" are monitoring my electronic communications and every word I speak and write.

We are well aware that GCHQ's mass-surveillance invades millions of law-abiding UK citizens' presumed automatic right to privacy, in the name of national security. We are all well aware that the police are using undercover officers to infiltrate groups of UK citizens who intend to exercise their right to unionise, strike and demand better pay and conditions. We are all well aware that the police share dossiers of intelligence with private companies, black-balling individuals, preventing them from being able to work in certain industries, because they are labelled as 'agitators' who are likely to attempt to turn the tide of worker exploitation by wealthy capitalists in favour of a fairer society. The oppression of the 98% by the 2% is state-sponsored, as proven by an overwhelming number documents compiled and paid for by the UK taxpayer.

This is paternalism in action.

Don't be distracted by the "patriarchy" BS - that's a clumsy, flimsy, pathetically obvious attempt to divide and rule. If there's one thing that the Brits are good at - empire builders - it's dividing people up into groups using arbitrary and imaginary lines. The British civil servant who drew the borders of Iraq and Kuwait had never visited the Middle East in his life.

Civil servants have decided that you're not allowed to privately own a snowplough; they've decided that an ambulance is not allowed to have an electric engine. Why?

Why the fuck are civil servants making these rules?

The Great Game.

It's all a great big game for a highly educated bunch of toffs who've had their egos massaged their whole lives and been told they're destined for greatness, but ultimately what they're left doing is creating a massive and impenetrable rulebook of totally arbitrary made-up regulations, which exist for no other reason than justifying the existence of a bunch of paper-pushing desk-jockeys, meddling in the affairs of every citizen of the kingdom.

I actually think the civil service is somewhat of a benevolent dictator for life; mostly harmless and well-intentioned.

I'd be a bit gutted if I was kicked out.

[Please note, that this is not an admission of where I work, who I work for, what I do, or any other overt statement which might tie me to my employer or client]

Even though it's not a real job, making up rules for other people to follow, enforcing those rules and generally policing other people's behaviour - perhaps even on spying on private law-abiding citizens - it's a little bit hard to argue the contrary position, that we don't need the organisations and the huge number of people who keep the country running. I'm not as much of an anarchist as I claim to be. I live a very happy sheltered secure wealthy life because I'm the right sort of chap and they tend to see me as one of their own and assume I'm on their side. Everyone assumes I'm a well-behaved conformist patriotic stand-for-the-national-anthem Queen-saluting fully-indoctrinated and sufficiently economically incentivised member of the paternalistic guardian class, such that I'd never be so insane as to step out of line and bite the hand that feeds me.

Do I plan to make mischief? Do I plan to commit sabotage? Do I have treasonous intent?

No.

You got me there.

I am a humble servant of Her Maj.

To connect my name with search terms such as "civil service" and "government" is recklessly stupid, one might say, but on careful inspection - by reading what I've written more closely - you can see that I have not revealed for a single instant who I work for and what I do for a living, specifically.

Meanwhile, I promise you that every single day I give dedicated service, to the very best of my professional abilities. I care about what I do. I want to make a difference.

For Queen and country. Ich dien.

 

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Notes From My Disastrous Dating Experiences

9 min read

This is a story about romantic aspirations in the provinces...

Nick in pink

It would unforgivable of me to kiss and tell but I feel the urge to share with you - dear reader - the trials and tribulations of an urbane metrosexual man's attempts to find love outside the capital city, in places which might politely be described as: the arse-end of nowhere.

The first thing that becomes immediately apparent, when venturing onto the dating scene in the provinces. is the priority which young adults have placed upon having rampant quantities of unprotected sex and producing as many unfortunate single-parent children as possible, with no economic means to pay for them. Did these people never receive any sex education? Have they never heard of condoms, the pill, the rhythm method, anal sex, oral sex or simply pulling out and ejaculating in any direction away from the the birth canal? What the fuck were they thinking?

Accidents don't "happen". We aren't organisms with pea-sized brains. We have birth control, the morning-after pill AND abortions. Why the big hurry to bring an innocent child who didn't ask to be born, into a world where you can't afford to pay for its upbringing? Idiocy.

So, there needs to be a certain amount of sifting through all the cretinous idiots who are no more intelligent than a herd of humping beasts, spawning offspring without any restraint, planning or any semblance of rational thought.

Relationships can break down irreparably, I accept that. Despite 8 long hard years banging my head against a brick wall, my own longest relationship was broken beyond repair and I got divorced. My ex-wife and I didn't have any children, which was my choice because I wanted to stabilise my mental health before making an irreversible life-changing decision to procreate. However, I can imagine that some perfectly decent nice intelligent people have had children, only to later find out that they're met with irreconcilable differences and their relationship cannot be salvaged, even for the sake of the children.

I was unquestionably influenced by my parents' relationship, which was toxic and abusive. I use the word "abuse" with a little caution, because it means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but what I mean is that my parents were absolute assholes to each other and everyone around them. They were co-dependent alcoholic druggies; selfish cunts. They stayed together, perhaps correctly sensing that mean-spirited selfish self-centred people who drink and take drugs, and have failed at life, are not highly in-demand people. They clung together because they were the only people who'd support each others' lies and fantasies, justifying their obnoxious treatment of everyone around them.

I grew up believing that a person should be loyal and work at a relationship no matter how toxic it is; to put up with any amount of abuse.

I guess that's why I ended up in an abusive relationship myself.

This is how I remember things progressed:

  1. Date one: She liked me lots; I was full of confidence. She wanted more. I held back because I had serious feelings about her.
  2. Date two: She thought I was great. She 'accidentally' invited herself into my place.
  3. Date three: I treated her like a princess
  4. Date four: She left me waiting for 30 minutes outside her place. I told myself I was going to leave after an hour, because it was a shitty thing to stand me up. She turned up after 45 minutes. I said I was going to go because it was no way to treat somebody. She begged me to stay.
  5. Some dates later: she got in a strange mood when we were out with friends. When we got back home to her place she told me to leave. I asked her why. She wouldn't tell me. She threatened to call the police, which I said was unnecessary, I just didn't understand... could she explain? She flew into a rage, destroyed some curtains and slammed some doors. Then she calmed down and said she was glad I stayed. She thanked me for being loyal and patient We made love and everything seemed OK.
  6. We went on holiday together. I casually suggested living together and she was enthusiastic. She openly said she was swept off her feet by my open-hearted romanticism.
  7. I gave up my apartment paid for by JPMorgan to be closer to her workplace. She was angry and aggressive a lot. I cried a lot. One time when I was crying, she punched me in the face several times.
  8. When she got angry, I sliced my wrist open with a knife. She briefly got more angry, but it temporarily stopped her rage in its tracks.
  9. When she got angry, I smashed a mirror; a bed.
  10. I asked her dad permission to marry her. I bought her the engagement ring of her dreams.
  11. Two of my best friends came to visit. She flew into an inexplicable rage. I threw her engagement ring out of the window.
  12. She raged with anger about everything in my life I held dear: kitesurfing, my friends from London and all over the UK. Nothing I could do would make her happy. I isolated myself. I gave up everything. I became a prisoner of her unpredictable rage.
  13. We fought. She'd had her three strikes. She'd broken my nose, given me black eyes. I'd lied to my work colleagues about my black eyes. I'd lied to her parents about my black eyes. I'd lied to our friends about my black eyes. Now we fought. Two of us, fighting. We beat the shit out of each other.
  14. I went back to self-harming; smashing stuff. I was suicidal. She cheated on me.
  15. I caught her cheating. She was nice to me. I forgave her. It was nice that she was being nice to me.
  16. She was strong and I was weak. I needed to get out of that toxic relationship before I died. She said "I'd rather be a widow than divorced". She knew I had 2 grams of potassium cyanide. She knew she stood to gain a vast sum of money from my life insurance and the value of my house. She marked my suicide note in red pen and told me if I went to hospital she'd leave me.
  17. I went to hospital. We separated. We divorced.

That's my long-term relationship experience.

My first girlfriend was the nicest person in the world - which was an on-off relationship spanning a couple of years. I remember my second girlfriend fondly - a relationship lasting about 18 months. Then, there was 8 years of hell, which I feel completely equally responsible for: I should have walked away. Subsequent girlfriends were all relatively short-lived, but they were all wonderful. My longest relationship since my wife was with the love of my life, which lasted 9 blissful months, ending in calamity when I was driven insane by sleep deprivation and a toxic cocktail of prescription medications and other things, such that I temporarily believed that she didn't care about me and I decided to break up with her in a very regrettably - and irreparably - public manner, given the fact we both have Twitter accounts with reasonably large numbers of followers (although, many work colleagues are followers of her, causing the unforgivable reputational damage).

"What the fuck are you doing with that madman?" her colleagues must have asked.

She would have defended me.

She was loyal.

I loved her. She loved me.

But I was stubbornly ridiculous. At the time, my brain said to me "I'll never end up in another abusive relationship" but my thoughts were horribly twisted and corrupted; unreliable. To say anything bad about my poor ex-girlfriend would do her a terrible disservice. My amazing ex-girlfriend was incredibly attentively and at my bedside constantly for weeks when my kidneys failed. She was faultless, always.

Presently I've been consigned to the provinces, where I'm punished; cursed to suffer for my foolishness. Wimmin, wimmin, everywhere, and if none of them seem to meet my exacting standards then it's only because of the awful way I've treated - particularly - my last serious girlfriend. My ex cared for me so much, loved me and and demonstrated the loyalty I so desperately craved, but I threw it away during a hyper-complex period of joblessness, debt, mental health issues and drug abuse relapse, when I felt like an complete-and-utter failure. Insecurity destroyed me, despite her making me feel great about myself and working really hard to make sure I was OK. She looked after me. She put so much effort into looking after me.

So, now, today, I'm a 39-year-old man who's gotten badly out of shape and carries a whole heap of baggage.

"What car do you drive?"

"What job do you do?"

"Do you own your own house?"

"Show me your bank balance"

"What's your net worth?"

"Do you think you could afford to provide a life of idle luxury for me and my fatherless children?"

These are the questions which I face in the provincial dating game.

When I'm not looking my wallet is slipped from my pocket and felt for its fatness.

I'm not-so-silently judged as the sucker who's gonna pick up the tab for all that badly thought through unprotected sex and all those irrational decisions to not terminate unaffordable pregnancies.

This is my penance for not walking away from an abusive relationship - and admittedly becoming a so-called consensual partner in co-dependency - and also for throwing away relationships with some amazing women. This is my penance for my wrongdoing: to be somewhat trapped in the provinces, where every woman's dating profile picture has a Snapchat filter applied to her face, sending barely-literate messages saying: "If you're ex-girlfriends we're so great then how come there no longer wiv U? Their a bunch of snooty bitches wot kno grammar innit. Your fucking up youself U posh twat. They're's the truth layed out for you bear."

They do not mean "bear" in a cute cuddly way.

 

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Life Is Better In Flip Flops

6 min read

This is a story about nerve damage...

Tied on flip flop

As you can see from the picture above, I had a very bad injury to my left leg. What you might not know is that the massive lesion to my leg healed perfectly. Some nerves were severed when a piece of mirror glass guillotined its way through my shin, but the nerves managed to regrow. The severed tendons and muscle was sewn back together and my leg had completely recovered.

Then I got DVT (deep-vein thrombosis).

The first I knew about the DVT was that my ankle looked a bit swollen and my foot went numb. It was the fact I hadn't needed to urinate for several days which prompted me to go to hospital. On the day I decided to go to hospital, my foot, ankle, leg and knee were swelling at an alarming rate. By the time I was examined in Accident & Emergency, my left leg was almost fully twice as large as the right leg.

My weight soared from around 80kg (176 pounds or 12½ stone) to 95kg (209 pounds or 15 stone) which is a heck of a lot of weight gain for 5 or 6 days. It took many many sessions of dialysis to get that fluid out of me, while the hospital anxiously waited for my kidneys to start working again.

Unfortunately, the blood clot/thrombosis and other complications caused nerve damage. Presumably the blood vessels which had been surgically repaired and the nerves which had managed to re-grow and re-attach themselves, were quite fragile versus normal physiology. My foot went numb.

To be more accurate, my foot was left numb after many months of excruciating pain.

I had a nerve condition study and an MRI scan, but there was still a lot of swelling and other damage, making it unclear whether a surgical intervention might ever return the feeling to my foot. My main concern at the time was pain management, because it was too painful to walk any great distance, and pain kept me awake at night very badly. I was taking the maximum dose of tramadol AND codeine, plus supplementing prescribed painkillers with dihyrocodiene and other opiate medications, which I bought on the black market. I was briefly a very heavily dependent opioid painkiller user.

Opiates have weird side-effects. I couldn't tell whether the nausea, itching, constipation, cramps, sweating, diarrhoea, and intense anxiousness about maintaining my supply of opiate painkilllers, was a result of their effects or the effect of withdrawal. All I knew was that I would have periods where I felt incredibly rubbish, and then periods where things were more bearable, despite dosing myself regularly throughout the day.

The thing which made the greatest difference - other than a loving, caring, attentive and wonderful girlfriend - was a topical ointment containing diclofenac, which is a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drug). Because of the earlier complications with my kidneys, many medications were contraindicated. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the diclofenac gel, because it's not very kidney-friendly, but it was the only thing which gave me any reliable relief.

It's possible that most of my pain was related to opiate withdrawal and strange interactions between the tramadol, codeine and dhydrocodeine, which I should not have been combining, but I did so out of desperation for pain relief. It's possible that in my desperation for pain relief, I actually made things worse. Perhaps tramadol alone would have been more effective.

Eventually, I decided that I hated all the effects of the opiates, so I decided to go cold turkey. I had been heavily opiate dependent, for a period of several months, so I was expecting to experience pure hell quitting the opiates. Certainly a lot of noise has been made about the addictiveness of OxyContin, Vicodin and other painkillers which have been implicated in the opiod addiction epidemic sweeping the United States, declared a nationwide public health emergency by President Obama on October 26th 2017.

Back in July 2017, I tried to walk from my apartment to my local Chinese takeaway in flip flops - a distance of about 500 metres. I could not walk more than ten paces without the flip flop coming off my left foot, because it was so numb and my toes were somewhat 'clawed' such that I couldn't hold the flip flop on my foot or tell when it was slipping off.

For almost all of 2017 I was taking a neuropathic painkiller called pregabalin - marketed as Lyrica - which I found to be quite effective. However, it occurred to me that this painkiller might have been preventing the natural nerve re-growth which had successfully healed my severed nerves once before. After 9 months with no improvement to the numbness in my foot, I was becoming quite depressed about the prospect of never regaining any feeling in my foot, and consequently never being able to wear flip-flops again, without tying them onto my foot as pictured above.

I like wearing flip flops. They're an important part of my beach bum seaside-dwelling kitesurfer identity.

I decided to stop taking pregabalin.

If anybody tells you that pregabalin is not addictive, they're just plain wrong.

Pregabalin quite recently became a scheduled drug in the UK, making it illegal to possess without a prescription. Pregabalin affects the GABA system of the brain, just like alcohol, Valium, Xanax and GHB/GBL, which are all considered to have a high abuse potential, so naturally pregabalin is no different.

Of all the drugs I've quit and medications I've withdrawn from, pregabalin is one of the worst. Because of its tranquilising and sedating effects, the rebound when withdrawing creates a state of insomnia, anxiety and induces the general sensation that the world is about to end, which lasts for months.

I quit pregabalin under the supervision of doctors, tapering the dosage down gradually, but it was a pretty aggressive schedule, which was chosen by me. I wanted to quit pregabalin as quickly as possible, because I wanted to find out if it would help my nerves re-grow and allow me to wear flip flops again, or indeed be able to feel a kitesurf board underneath my feet.

Pleasingly, I can report that I put on a pair of newly-purchased flip flops tonight, and I was able to walk around without the left one falling off.

My left foot feels different from the right one, but I do have some sensation restored and I don't have the aches and pains which troubled me during a lot of 2017.

It might seem like a minor point, but it's actually something that has disproportionate imporance in my life: To be able to wear flip flops again is a big deal.

Life is better in flip flops.

 

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Vile Hateful Little Man

8 min read

This is a story about misanthropy...

Lift selfie

On this day 5 years ago, I tried to help a homeless alcoholic called Frank. I made a lot of notes. As my divorce disrputed my attempt to get my life back on track in London, dragging me back to Bournemouth to empty and sell my house, it destroyed my fragile new life and plunged me into the very world of homeless hell, which I had usefully compiled notes on. I did manage to help Frank, but ironically crosssed paths with him later on - as I was descending into hell, he was well on his way to recovery.

On this day 4 years ago, I got myself off the streets, out of the 14-bed hostel dorm, and back into banking. I went to Barclays, which quickly dug me out of debt and restored some long overdue health, wealth and prosperity to my life.

On this day 3 years ago, I went to HSBC and repeated the same magic trick of managing to get myself back off the streets, out of the hostel, into a lovely Thameside apartment, and out of debt. Feeling like my life was going well, I went to a hackathon to create technology solutions to the refugee crisis.

On this day 2 years ago, I was lying to my girlfriend and my guardian angel, because the project I'd been working on had ended prematurely and I hadn't bothered to get another contract. Instead, I had tried to treat my own depression with medication prescribed by an online pharmacy, destabilising my mental health - inducing hypomania - and causing a subsequent relapse.

On this day last year, I woke up as a resident of Wales for the first time since being born here. The day before, I had been discharged from a psych ward in Manchester, England, following a suicide attempt which was very nearly successful.

I'm pretty upset that divorce was such a destabilising distraction at a time when I desperately needed a clean break, and I'm struggling to forgive and forget my ex-wife and parents sabotaging all my hard work; destroying my chance to follow through with well thought out plans which were subsequenty proven to be correct and successful.

I can blame the Barclays thing not working out on a couple of idiots who got fired for trying to screw me over, but in all truth, I wasn't very stable. I was too outspoken. I didn't keep my mouth shut. I made mistakes in my personal life. I had lapses.

I can blame the HSBC thing not working out on the sheer pressure and workload of working on their number one project, while also dealing with homelessness and cripling debt. I can blame a friend who asked me to help him get a job. I can blame a few loafers who benefitted from my hard work. But, again, I was too outspoken. I wasn't at all stable. I was so exhausted and stressed that I was very strung out and very manic.

I can blame not wanting to immediately get another contract 2 years ago on the fact that the project had been so mind-numbingly spirit-crushingly boring, and I'd been so de-skilled, that I'd lost all self-confidence. I really couldn't face any more of the same awfulness without taking a break. However, it was still my so-called 'choice' to relapse and I knew the consequences were likely to be dire, although I kinda "got away with it" that one time.

I can blame attempting suicide and nearly dying on the fact that I knew instinctively that I was in deep trouble. The contract in Manchester didn't pay enough to get me out of debt. I knew I was going to get shafted by a very unpleasant and immoral wannabe Labour MP, who embodies none of the values of socialism. I was working too hard for too little reward, but I also made bad so-called 'choices' such as getting mixed up with a social group who mostly bonded over recreational drug abuse. There was no way I was going to be able to quit physically addictive sleeping pills, tranqulisers and neuropathic painkillers, as well as working a very demanding job which didn't even pay enough to make any kind of dent in my debts. Suicide was my choice, in the face of overwhelming odds stacked against me.

So, here I am in Wales.

What's going to be different this year?

I'm in approximately the same financial position that I've been in all those previous years. My mental health seems to be the same, swinging between suicidal depression and mania.

Just gotta keep my mouth shut.

Gotta make sure I don't go on any crusades, trying to save anybody.

Put on my own oxygen mask before helping others.

This year is different because I've been working for 10 consecutive months without a major fuck-up. Of course, there have been fuck-ups, but they haven't caused me to lose my contract or otherwise let my client down. I've delivered a couple of projects quite successfully, to the great satisfaction of my clients.

This year is different because I've had an affordable place to live of my own since March, and I don't have anybody mooching off me or otherwise trying to ride my coat tails. I don't have anybody pressurising me to subsidise their laziness and inability to make good on their financial commitments. I don't have anybody using my gas, electric, water, sewerage, council tax and broadband, and running up thousands of pounds worth of rent arrears.

This year is different because I've had contract extensions and managed to have consecutive contracts, such that I've hardly stopped working at all.

This year is different because I've been working on my skills and making myself more confident and employable. I've felt increasingly capable and good at my job, without getting too deep into the territory of delusions of grandeur.

This year is different because the pressure is markedly reduced and the stress levels are more manageable, despite crushing mountainous debts. There have been really awful times - such as renting a place to live - but I seem to be well established in a good routine now, such that I just need to keep turning the pedals.

I drink too much. I'm unfit.

However, in the space of 11 months I'll have managed to buy a car, rent an apartment, pay off £21,000 of debt, and save up enough money to pay a hefty tax bill. I don't enjoy living out of a suitcase, but I'm not slumming it anymore. I've been able to take a weekend break to see old friends in Prague and I have a week-long holiday to Turkey booked, which will be my first proper holiday for over 2 years. I stay in a nice hotel midweek and I eat in a gastropub. This is the self-care aspect, which didn't really get taken care of in previous years. There's no point working as hard as I do unless it's delivering some quality of life; I might as well just kill myself if life's going to be an unrewarding slog.

I sometimes can't believe what comes out of my mouth, in terms of the fucking rage which is somewhat pent-up inside me. This is a summary of the many false starts I've had, and nearly-but-not-quite moments, where it looked like I was going to make a breakthrough and get properly back on my feet. It's incredibly frustrating to repeatedly do the impossible - quitting addictive drugs, getting off the streets, out of the hostels and back into mainstream civilised society, while also dealing with a major mental health problem - and to see that there's nothing wrong with my approach per se. On paper, everything should go perfectly and quickly restore me to health, wealth and prosperity, but it does require a run of good luck, and that luck is very much dependent on the co-operation of other people.

Who do I want to blame? Capitalism? Banking? Bad bosses? Wimmin? Parents? Even friends?

I spend a lot of time writing very aggressive angry stuff.

I can't believe what I write.

Maybe this year won't be any different, because I'm a spoiled overprivileged vile bitter old man, who doesn't take any personal responsibility; I'm too quick to blame others.

We shall see. The story continues.

 

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My Misogyny

8 min read

This is a story about the battle of the sexes...

Bookshelf

"Secretly, you'd love to know what it's like, wouldn't you? What it feels like for a girl" is a quote from Ian McEwan's 1978 book The Cement Garden which was released as a film in 1993, then sampled in a Madonna song released in 2001.

Right.

"You think that being a girl is degrading" is another quote from the same work of fiction.

Wrong.

Half right. Half wrong.

Why should we ever expect to be more than 50% correct on a binary matter?

I'll never know what it's like to carry a baby for 9 months and eject it from my body, but I do know what it feels like to be penetrated with a penis and have somebody ejaculate inside me. I'll never experience what it's like to live with the heavy burden of knowing that I carry the reproductive capability of bringing new life into this world - post-fertilisation - from the tiniest quantity of love snot squirted into a bodily orifice, to several pounds of blood and mucous covered incontinent midget incapable of supporting the weight of its freakishly large head, tearing its way out of the same hole the love snot went into. If you're a girl, you'll never know what it's like to be a member of the expendable sex, who account for 99% of all combat deaths, 97% of all workplace deaths and who die four whole years earlier just because of the dangly bits in-between our legs.

"It's a hard life being a beautiful girl and having horny men throwing themselves at you" I hear you say. "Passively fending off all these explicit offers from people who want to sexually satisfy me - to give me pleasure - is a real chore" you churlishly complain.

Of course, because I'm cursed with the so-called gift of empathy, I can see that shaving legs and armpits, putting on make-up, wearing high heels and a bra and other expectations of societal conformity are quite demanding on wimmin. Furthermore, I can see that while both sexes are expected to make themselves look as artificially young as possible, such as men removing their facial hair, wimmin definitely get a rough deal during the period when no amount of make-up can plaster over the obvious effects of ageing. I'm privileged to be able to wear my greying hair and slight beer-gut as a badge of honour, conveying my status as a cash machine. I'm honoured to be able to provide the cold hard capital to support a lifestyle that a woman has become accustomed to.

"I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings" goes a Destiny's Child song. Yes. Very good. Slow sarcastic clap. I refer you to earlier stats about 99% combat deaths and 97% workplace deaths. Call me when you dig your own ditches too.

Why are we at war like this?

In the past year fully 50% of the female computer programmers I've worked with have been transexual.

I can see the appeal.

50% of the female computer programmers I've worked with have received indisputably preferential treatment.

I'd quite like to play dressing-up games every day and have horny potential mates fawning all over me, while I passively decide who gets to pleasure me and who doesn't. That sounds like quite a nice life, doesn't it?

Would I have my testicles and Adam's apple surgically removed, my vocal chords adjusted, my breasts augmented, my hormones meddled with, and still suffer the taunts and jeers of insecure man-children, threatened by the fact that they'd really like to put their penis inside me, but they're too afraid of what other people would think? I'd fucking love it.

I've been comfortable enough with my sexuality and identity to experiment with homosexuality - or bisexuality to be more accurate - and I found many parts of the experience to be liberating and a boon for my self-confidence. I can see that the accumulated unwanted advances of horny men could become bothersome over a lifetime, but isn't that rather taking your good fortune for granted? While the so-called patriarchy is accused of not being aware of its own privilege, the same accusation could easily be levelled at wimmin.

I appreciate that the specialisation of the sexes each bring their own unique challenges. I'm well aware that the hashtag MeToo movement has hit upon a raw nerve of the unpleasant consequences of a system of mate selection which simultaneously demands men to be bold, confident, forthright, daring and to make the first moves, while also expecting telepathic mind-reading abilities in order to preserve a woman's birthright to unlimited offers of sex without ever having to make her own wants explicitly and overtly known.

Thus we arrive at the InCels' anger over Chads and Staceys.

I'm not an InCel.

I can have sex whenever I want.

I have literally hundreds of millions of wimmin who will have sex with me.

For money.

Oh yes, there's that rather unspeakable truth, isn't there? There are fucking loads of prostitutes, escorts, sugar babies and other wimmin out there who will have sex for material gains. Female chimpanzees will trade sex for tokens which can be spent on desirable products.

When we talk disparagingly about the patriarchy what I think we're really talking about is paternalism. We all hate to be patronised, but anybody can be patronising... not just men. In fact, men hate to be patronised so much that 79% of suicides are men, who often feel like they've failed and cannot face the indignity of being down on their luck. That's right - more than 3 times as many men kill themselves than wimmin.

You still wanna be a man?

You can be.

On the internet, nobody knows that you're a dog.

Computer says no.

I live in a binary world.

Computer programming is an almost almost exclusively male profession. Investment banking is an almost exclusively male profession. For most of my career I've been a computer programmer for investment banks.

Do you think we sit around plotting ways to thwart wimmin? Do you think I'm part of some big conspiracy to stop wimmin getting the super highly paid investment bank programmer jobs?

I married an investment banking computer programmer. I know they're a rare commodity.

They know they're a rare commodity.

Can't we all just admit that we're getting some kind of kicks out of our own special place in the universe?

I've spent more than 21 years in a full-time career which has essentially been spent wrangling with a cold unthinking and unwaveringly rational calculating machine, which doesn't give a fuck about your emotions. If your work is bad and wrong, it's fucking dog shit and the machine is not going to be nice about it to save your feelings.

Computer says no.

It doesn't matter how much you bat your eyelids and do a pouty Instagram sex duck-lip face at the computer, it's not going to roll over and let you get away with jack shit. There's no twisting an emotionless calculating machine around your little finger. If your work is wrong it's wrong and that's tough shit. Fix it.

This is my worldview and it's uncertainly corrupted by wealth and privilege, but I've also had the benefit of spending more than two whole decades working full-time for a boss who nobody could ever in their right mind accuse of having a gender bias. My computer quite literally does not know whether a girl or a boy wrote the code it's running, so fuck you.

If you want to hide within the shades of grey and obfuscate your obvious incompetence with your emotional intelligence, gained through your genetic predisposition towards maturing earlier than your brothers, so they didn't try to fuck you, while meanwhile twisting your daddy round your little finger because you were the apple of his eye and a spitting image of the woman he spurted his love snot into, perpetuating the whole miserable cycle of life, then be my guest. I'm afraid to say that it is you who is upholding the status quo, not the conspiracy of the so-called patriarchy. I'm sorry to say that there's a price to be paid for the considerable benefits which you enjoy, wimmin.

Am I a rape apologist? Do I condone overt sexism and sexual discrimination, where it obviously exists.

No.

 

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The Logistics Are Complicated

5 min read

This is a story about three consecutive weeks away from home...

My front door

Despite some pretty serious drug and alcohol issues, having reduced my supercrack addiction to just a couple of relapses in the last 16 months, my life is going considerably better. Before, things were too chaotic and messed-up to manage basic adulting, let alone making complex plans and following through with them.

Poly-substance abuse makes life particularly unmanageable. Stimulants produce excessively, obsessively focussed attention on tiny details, to the point of dismantling a television to see how it works, but forgetting why and not thinking about the consequences, such as not being able to put it back together again. Tranquillisers paper over the cracks temporarily, forestalling the inevitable crash and inducing amnesia, such that the brain doesn't have its natural corrective reaction: "fuck! I should never do that again! that was dumb!".

In the grips of drug-induced mania, I've made a lot of plans, contacted a lot of people, done a lot of hard work and generally laid some of the groundwork for grand schemes, only to let everything rot and wither on the vine because eventually I crash. My ideas are never dumb per se but as we say in the startup world: ideas are worthless; execution is everything.

This weekend I need to wash and pack 3 weeks worth of clothes; 3 wardrobes - work, UK autumn and holiday sun. I need to buy flip flops and sunscreen. I need to get a haircut.

I need to load up my car on Monday morning with everything I need for 3 weeks.

It sounds like an adventure, right?

I've had enough adventures to last me a thousand lifetimes.

My left arm is covered in scars where I've slit my wrists and cut my veins lengthways. My left shin has a humongous scar from when I was trying to escape from my sister's bedroom, where my dad had cornered me, and I picked up a mirror to defend myself - like a shield - which got smashed and a massive piece of glass dropped like a guillotine blade. My right thigh has a huge scar from when I fell through a glass roof, running away from voices in my head; admittedly more obviously a consequence of my so-called bad choices but easily understood in terms of the fucking abuse I had suffered at the hands of my ex-wife and my parents beforehand.

My life is remarkably improved since mostly quitting drugs, legal highs and black-market medications, but I'm loathe to become one of those "drugs ruined my life" idiots, because clearly there was a reason why I was driven to seek something in substances: I was denied a conventional happy contented life. This isn't a "poor me... poor me... pour me... another drink" whingefest. This is simply a statement of fact.

My needs are the same as anybody else's: food, shelter, companionship, intimacy, safety, security.

I'm a pretty basic guy.

Garbage in, garbage out.

If it sounds to you like I'm absenting myself from personal responsibility - distancing myself from my bad choices - then I've got a few questions for you. Where were you when I was lying on the floor dying of a suicide attempt overdose a couple of times? Where were you when I was in hospital all those many, many times? Where were you when I was sleeping rough? Where were you when I was arrested, locked in a cell and then released without charge? Where were you when I was voluntarily admitted to a psych ward, or sectioned? I've faced so much adversity alone. It's true that in the last couple of years I've had the assistance of my guardian angel, but that person is clearly the reason why I've recovered, obviously. I was floundering on my own, but at no point did I ever fully abandon the notion that I was personally responsible for influencing the outcome of my life, or death.

So you think life's complicated doing the school run? Wiping bums, making packed lunches, playgroup, after-school activities, grazed knees, tears, tantrums, sleepless nights, sore nipples and general procreation-related bullshit is a reason why your life is hard? I've got 7.6 billion living breathing walking talking reasons why you're a fucking idiot. I've got over a hundred billion skeletal remains of your failed attempts to clone yourself into immortality you fucking moron. You're at the top of the bell-curve you rutting simpleton.

Life's not a competition but I'm winning.

This is not what I intended to write tonight at all, but I've abandoned all attempts to avoid repetition and any misguided belief that I'm able to project an idealised image of myself, as opposed to baring my ugly soul for anybody who unfortunately happens to be looking in this direction at the time.

You might think that my life is an enviable adventure, but it's actually a fucking nightmare, without kisses, cuddles, hugs, spooning and the comfort of knowing that I'm safely embedded within the crowd; safety in numbers, like a school of fish.

I'm an outlier and it sucks.

 

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Controlling The Variables

8 min read

This is a story about self-experimentation...

Xanax tablets

It's very difficult to conduct a scientific study involving human beings. Our innate ability and inclination to adapt to our ever-changing environment means that we can't control the variables as we would be able to in vitro.

Sample sizes are always tiny - statistically impossible to gain any insight from - because of the difficulty of recruiting so-called ideal study candidates and being able to follow them for long enough to gather any meaningful data. Each individual will have wildly varying personal circumstances, which render any studies of hundreds or thousands of participants, complete and utter pseudoscience hogwash; nonsense; garbage.

Aggregating data from all the antidepressant controlled trials, as well as thousands of other studies into the efficacy of those medications, concludes to a high degree of statistical significance, that in more than 80% of cases the person's depression would have 'cured' itself on its own - medication makes no difference at all.

Clearly, psychoactive medications do have perceptible effects, just as you're able to tell if you've drunk 4 pints of beer or 4 pints of water. Thus, a double-blind placebo trial is not a placebo trial at all, because those who are in the placebo group know that they're unmedicated.

The question then arises: can we prove that some medications have positive effects?

Problematically, we are as superstitious as an animal with a bird-brain, quite literally. If a food pellet is randomly released to feed a pigeon kept in a cage, the pigeon begins to believe that whatever it was doing when the food pellet was released caused the food pellet to be released. If the pigeon was - for example - turning 360 degrees clockwise when the pellet was randomly released, it will continue to spin in circles, believing that its actions are causing the food pellets to be released. This is called magical thinking and humans are just as prone to it as a bird-brained pigeon.

Extrapolating, if we take up yoga, start eating kale, listen to whale music, start believing in imaginary sky monsters, wear lucky underwear, read self-help books, use homeopathic remedies or start doing any one of the many billions of similarly stupid and futile superstitious rituals, these are at least 80% likely to co-incide with a natural improvement in our mood which would have happened anyway. However, we will falsely attribute our better mood and more hopeful future, to something which actually had absolutely no effect whatsoever so far as good empirical evidence-based repeatable science is concerned.

To control the variables is extremely hard, in complex modern life.

I had a very good night's sleep last night, woke up early, ate a healthy breakfast, got to work early, had a productive day, and I felt like I had the energy and enthusiasm to do some exercise. My quality of life was manyfold better today than it has been for a very long time. My hope and optimism were sky high today.

Let us deconstruct the reason for my good day.

Last night I swallowed two 7.5mg zopiclone tablets, which are a sleeping pill. Perhaps it's high quality sleep, delivered with some help from medicine, that's the reason I had such a good day - I was well rested and refreshed.

No.

Earlier in the year - and in fact quite recently - I had completely quit all sleep aids and I was sleeping very well without them. I have no problems initiating sleep and remaining asleep. This variable is eliminated.

Last night I swallowed one 2mg Xanax tablet, which is a short-acting benzodiazepine hypnotic-sedative muscle relaxant, generically known as alprazolam. Perhaps it's relief from anxiety delivered with the help of medicine that is the reason why I had such a good day - my anxiety was subdued.

No.

Earlier in the year - and in fact quite recently - I had completely quit all sedatives, tranquillisers and tranquillising painkillers and I was coping very well with my anxiety without those medications. I am fully functional despite my very high-stress and demanding life. This variable is eliminated.

Last night was my 5th consecutive night without alcohol. Perhaps it's the healthy decision to quit booze and become teetotal which is the reason why I slept better, woke up refreshed, had improved concentration and felt more full of energy and enthusiasm for other healthy activities than I have done for a long time. I thought about catching up with a friend. I thought about doing some exercise.

Ah. We have a problem.

On the face of it, we have 3 significant changes, and those changes all concern mind-altering substances.

I can be fairly certain that I'm able to sleep and I'm able to cope with my anxiety without medication, but I combined two medications which should have helped with both, which is already complicating the clinical picture, but then I also quit heavy drinking quite abruptly and managed to get through 5 consecutive sober days. 3 changes is far too many changes to attribute my improved mood to any one of them, or even all 3 in combination.

But.

Oh no.

There are other changes too.

I got paid on Monday. Getting paid is always a good day. Sure, Monday I was off work sick, but it wasn't until yesterday that I started doing some sums and I realised that I can pay off half my debts at the end of the month. It's something worth considering.

I went back to work on Tuesday. Not losing my job is always a big relief when I get sick. Sure, it'd be pretty bad luck to lose my job after just one day off sick, but it's always a relief somehow to go back to work and find everything's fine and people are cool with me. It's something worth considering.

I have 8 working days - less than two weeks - until I go away on holiday. I haven't had a week-long holiday since July 2016, over two years ago, so that's a massive relief to know that I'm going to get a relaxing break soon. It's something worth considering.

I spent the weekend in the company of old friends. I took a flight to Prague. Socialising and travel are exciting and stimulating. I played with my friends' children. We did activities, like sightseeing and mushroom picking in the woods. All of those things are very nice and normal and pleasant. Sure, it was exhausting, but now that I've gotten over the travel I have some really nice memories of that trip. It's something worth considering.

At work I'm starting to feel like I'm really making a difference and I'm a valued member of the team. My colleagues were glad to have me back and people are keen to work with me. I feel cherished and a little bit more secure every day. I feel increasingly confident in my own skills, knowledge and experience. It's something worth considering.

My sister picked up my mountain bike from my parents, so that I can collect it from her. I'm looking forward to seeing her and maybe my niece too. I'm looking forward to having my bike back. I'm looking forward to getting my bike repaired, upgraded, and being able to use it to get a bit more fit and active. It's something worth considering.

Lives are complicated.

Life is complicated.

It's impossible to control the variables.

If you were looking for the perfect test subject - a guinea pig - you would fail to find a better one than me, because so many things in my life are constant. I stay in the same hotel, I eat in the same gastropub, I do the same job I've done for 21+ years. I'm a creature of habit and I'm not destabilised by anybody else, such as family, a partner or children. I've cut every variable out of my life that's possible to do, short of locking myself in a laboratory cage. I'm the perfect test specimen.

I can't tell you why I had a good day today, but I have very good reason to believe that it was a combination of a multitude of factors, including the sleeping tablets to help me get back into a good sleep pattern, the anxiety tablets to help me cope with intolerable stress levels, the sobriety, the travel, the socialising, the money, the job satisfaction and a million and one other little things, all of which are very positive. For example, my Apple Macbook was repaired under warranty, saving me the cost of a £1,500 replacement or a hefty repair bill, which is a big relief. Who could have predicted any of this and why would we attribute my life improvements to any one particular thing, such as the favourable mood of an imaginary sky monster? Stuff was just going to get better on its own.

As you can tell, I'm not the superstitious type.

I will, however, be taking a zopiclone and a Xanax again tonight.

 

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Sorry For Not Replying

8 min read

This is a story about having a miniature nervous breakdown...

Blurry phone

I know it's offensive to say "I'm a bit OCD" just like you can't be "a bit in a wheelchair". However, I'm a bit of an authority on life implosions. It's not hyperbole to describe myself as on the brink of a breakdown and/or a suicide attempt. If anybody could know just how close I am to breaking point, I would be me, given that I've lived far too much of my life on the limit; I've had far too many breakdowns and brushes with death.

What do I mean by a breakdown?

There's the fairly tame stuff, like not going to work, not answering the phone, not answering the door, not opening the curtains, not getting out of bed, not washing, not eating, not socialising, not paying the bills, not opening the mail, not doing any kind of activities, sleeping all the time, unpredictable random bouts of uncontrollable crying, suicidal thoughts and plans... that kind of stuff. That's your common-or-garden depression tame breakdown stuff, which destroys your job, your finances and your relationships with friends and family.

I can pretty much manage to stay functional and not lose my job, even when I'm spending 40 hours a week at my desk plotting to kill myself. I can quite literally spend a whole day in the office thinking about what poison I'm going to buy, where I'm going to get it from, how I'm going to use it, which tall buildings I can access the balconies of, what pavement or other area there is beneath the balcony, how I would gain access, how I would get there... all the little details.

Nowadays, I plod along like it's ordinary to have those thoughts and feelings. That sort of stuff is just ordinary background noise to me.

There's other tame stuff like spending vast sums of money on expensive consumer electronics and plane tickets. Casual sex, alcohol and drug abuse; extreme sports, bad driving and other excessive risk taking. All of that stuff is part of my day-to-day existence.

I'm able to quell both my impulse to stay in bed and my impulse to run away, to such a great extent that I've given an excellent false impression of a highly functional adult human being, for 10 or more consecutive months. A large number of people have been fooled.

I've dragged myself to work after drinking 3 bottles of wine. I've dragged myself to work after a multiple-day drug binge without any sleep. I've kept the receipts for thousands of pounds worth of consumer electronics and mostly resisted the urge to walk out of the office and jet off to an exotic location with a fat wad of £50 notes in my pocket, yelling "SEE YOU IN HELL" and flicking V-signs at my colleagues as I exit.

It's the last part that's been my biggest success.

My brain mostly tells me I'm brilliant and other people are slow and dimwitted. I work with very smart people, and the less I say about my colleagues the better. Let's just focus on the me part, because it's a confusing issue. My thinking goes a little bit like this...

"I was a drug addict sleeping rough in a bush in a park, nearly bankrupt, and now I'm putting together this massive software system for a gigantic organisation, even though I'm as mad as a box of frogs, and yet everybody seems to respect my opinion, trust me and follow my leadership; they pay me an obscene amount of money"

So then I start thinking...

"Who else in my organisation is a nearly-bankrupt severely mentally ill person who was sleeping rough in a bush in a park and physically addicted to multiple dangerous drugs?"

When I arrive at the conclusion that my colleagues have not faced the same adversity, it fuels delusions of grandeur. Why would it not? It seems only logical that the reason I'm not destitute or dead and instead I'm earning big bucks and doing important work, must be because I'm special and different. I write this paragraph dripping with sarcasm, the reader should note.

On the matter of the success part: turns out that it's a good idea to keep your mouth shut most of the time, if you want to get along well with the literally hundreds of thousands of employees who work with you in some of the world's biggest organisations. It turns out that it's an even better idea to keep your mouth shut and not say what you think, if you're plagued with delusions of grandeur, brought on by the sheer ridiculousness of seemingly being able to drag yourself out of the gutter and reach the stars at the drop of a hat.

It's quite mind-fracturing to believe at the same time that you're worthless and that the world would be better off without you, while also believing the hard evidence that no matter how hard you try to destroy your life, you still remain eminently employable and in-demand; no matter how many times you walk out the office shouting "GO TO HELL FUCKTARDS" somebody somewhere still will offer you a great big suitcase filled with £50 notes to sit at a desk and think about killing yourself.

It should be noted that I like my colleagues and I think they're very smart people.

It should be noted that there hasn't been a "GO TO HELL..." moment for quite a while.

Like, there probably hasn't ever been a "GO TO HELL..." moment.

Not ever.

I get very worked up about the systems, the organisations, the politics, the structural problems, the inherent unfairness and absurdity of it all. I get very worked up about perfection, utopia and engineering elegance. I get very worked up about management incompetency. I get very worked up about the speed with which things get done, which feels painfully slow.

These opposing forces within me - the depression and the mania - seem to express themselves quite suddenly as an exhaustion which confines me to bed for many weeks, jetting off around the world or getting very angry with one particular situation. The anger one is probably the most destructive; the other two are recoverably destructive.

I'm particularly fearful of waking up one day and being unable to go to work, which is strange because that would probably be the least damaging of all outcomes. Yes, it doesn't look great to disappear and not answer your phone for weeks, but understood within the context of a major episode of depression, most people's reaction is sympathetic.

Past experience has taught me that becoming arrogant, cocky and full of myself leads to saying and doing stupid things in the office, which is far more damaging than being off work sick. As hypomania boils over into all-out mania, I know that I can be prone to say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time; patience and tolerance wear thin.

Somehow, I manage to navigate a path through both extremes, so long as I'm not too depressed or too manic. I build up some goodwill which carries me through difficult periods. I prove my worth and make myself useful, such that I get second and third chances.

Knowing myself very well, I feel like I've been skating on thin ice for far too long. I feel like I'm well overdue a meltdown; a major catastrophe.

I don't have any spare energy left to maintain my mask of sanity; I can no longer keep up my "game face".

The mask is slipping.

My main preoccupation should be remaining civil.

So long as I can remain civil, I'll probably be forgiven for having a breakdown.

I'm too outspoken, as usual. People are getting to know me. I'm super exposed.

Some poor bastard usually feels the sharp end of my tongue and I desperately attempt to apologise and take back the things I said in the heat of the moment. My regret and remorse are heartfelt, but it's usually too late. Gotta keep things civil, no matter how much pressure and stress I feel I'm under.

Perhaps worst of all are the lies and the boasts, which come at the very end of a long period of fake it until you make it when I actually no longer need to fake it anymore. Lolz. Irony.

The fear of being exposed as an imposter - having my secrets revealed - has followed me around for an incredibly long time, but now I'm almost-but-not-quite back on my feet. This is the very worst period.

I need to consolidate my gains.

But.

I'm so close to having a breakdown.

 

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The Dread

6 min read

This is a story about when the alarm clock goes off...

GMT

I'm routinely late for work but I think I've figured out why. I was very tired when my alarm went off this morning, but I think I could've gotten out of bed and gone to work. I was tired but I felt OK. I needed more sleep but I'd have been alright if I immediately got out of bed.

Unfortunately I let the dread set in.

My thoughts and feelings changed from "I need more sleep" to "I'm going to be late" to "I don't want to go to work at all". From initially planning to get up, iron a shirt, iron a jumper, take a shower, get dressed and drive to work, I then started planning how best to tell my team that I wasn't going to make it to our morning meeting. As lunchtime approached I dreaded having to finally get up and the ridiculousness of "I'm going to be late" meaning not turning up until the afternoon.

I did not get up.

As the afternoon wore on I was dreading having to tell my team that I was actually going to be a no-show. I dreaded the loss of earnings. I dreaded the damaging impression that I'm unreliable. I dread the day that I'm finally unable to keep going any longer, and I stop turning up for work altogether. I dread the day that I hit the wall.

I did not tell my team that I was going to take the day off sick.

It might seem like I'm my own worst enemy. It might seem like I'm making things harder for myself. It might seem like there's a long string of decisions here, and I'm making bad choices, but it doesn't feel like it at all. The whole process is quite agonising.

A couple of times in the past fortnight I've woken up at around the time when my alarm goes off. I've gotten up, dressed, had breakfast, driven to work and arrived on time or even early. "This must be what life's like for a normal person" I've thought to myself. It's been blissful on those days. Life has felt sustainable and pleasant and I've even envisaged being able to keep working for the foreseeable future, on those good days.

Most days are not good days.

I've only found a few solutions for the dread.

Short-acting hypnotic-sedatives work very well in the short term. Xanax and zopiclone last just long enough to get a good night's sleep a bit more tranquillising effect in the morning, when the dread would normally set in. Without a sleep aid, the dread sets in the night before: "I'm never going to get enough sleep and I'll be exhausted in the morning" I think as I lie awake until the wee hours of the morning.

Alcohol works a little bit as a sleep initiator but the liver metabolises alcohol so efficiently that it's mostly eliminated from your bloodstream after 4 or 5 hours. Alcohol-induced sleep is not high quality and it's followed by dehydration and a full bladder, which I usually try to ignore because I'm warm and comfortable in bed. By the time the alarm goes off alcohol withdrawal and bad sleep combine to make the dread doubly bad.

Getting absolutely smashed drunk works surprisingly well as a mechanism for getting me to the office more-or-less on time. Waking up half-pissed from the night before does offer an intoxicated tranquillisation which allows me to overcome the dread.

Driving to work drunk and/or tranquillised and being in the office while reeking of alcohol and/or slurring due to tablets, is a pretty undesirable state of affairs. Public transport, heavy lunchtime and after-work drinking were the norm in the City, so my heavy alcohol dependency was not conspicuous until I was banished to the provinces.

Everything's catching up with me now.

The heavy boozing has led to sudden weight gain this year, which depresses me. Drinking heavily no longer seems like a sustainable strategy to get through the working weeks.

The solution is a total detox, exercise, sensible bedtime, healthy breakfast and good sleep hygiene; routine. The solution is to live the most boring life imaginable, dedicating myself purely to the pursuit of being able to get up in the morning. The solution is to completely change the way I live - the way I act - in order to fit in with early-bird culture.

In many ways I am still going through an extended benzodiazepine withdrawal, neuropathic painkiller withdrawal and sleeping tablet withdrawal. My alcohol use has prolonged and worsened the excruciating withdrawal from the physically addictive medications. My body and brain's instinctive reaction to drink more and eat more to compensate, has been a very poor coping mechanism and has instead lengthened and exacerbated the negative symptoms, instead of providing the mild relief I so desperately crave.

Having used Xanax a couple of times in the last fortnight, it was remarkable how my brain responded: "THIS is the stuff which I've been screaming for" it seemed to say, as I gained some long-overdue respite from round-the-clock anxiety and the dread.

Obviously it's not desirable to use pills or booze long-term. Obviously, it'd be good to suffer the short-term pain and get healthy, before things get any worse. I've done a substantial part of the hard work, in breaking my physical dependence to a multitude of addictive medications.

I desperately craved alcohol all weekend but remained sober because my friends who I was visiting are not big drinkers. I was really craving alcohol tonight, but I managed to resist, although I'm comfort-eating to compensate for the craving.

I hate the situation, where I'm not where I want to be with anything. I'm not teetotal. I'm not medication-free. I'm not doing the healthy stuff. I'm gaining weight not losing it.

To eat less, eat healthy, go to the gym, be teetotal, stop taking sleeping pills and stop taking the occasional tranquilliser, but yet maintain my miserable single hotel-dwelling living-out-of-a-suitcase life, seems completely ridiculous. However, using my misery as a justification for drinking as much as I want, whenever I want, is also ridiculous and has led to appearance change and health degradation, which I don't find acceptable.

Tonight I've comfort-eaten and not done any exercise. Tonight I will take one or maybe even two sleeping pills. However, I won't have any alcohol or tranquillisers. I'll try to go to sleep at a sensible time. I'll try to get up early, have a healthy breakfast and get to work on time. If I can do all that, it's still a reasonable achievement considering the circumstances.

I'm not reliable. I am struggling. Hopefully nobody will hold it against me though.

 

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