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LGBTQQIP2SAA

9 min read

This is a story about individualism...

Disguise

It's fun to dress up. It's fun to put on a silly voice. It's fun to wear make-up. It's fun act camp; to mince around. It's fun to belong to a subculture; to be able to identify with your 'kind' - your clan or tribe. It's fun to think of yourself as special and different. It's fun to have a sense of belonging and a strong sense of identity.

Take a walk down Old Compton Street in London's Soho and you'll see lots of men with shaved heads and moustaches wearing white sleeveless T-shirts. They call them clones. The clones are kinda über-masculine - they're generally stocky, muscly men and their bald heads and moustaches accentuate their extreme masculinity. They're so masculine that they live in an all-male world. There's a kind of hyper-sexuality to the clones coupled with a general sense of aggression and strength. It's notable that the clones appeared on the scene before the acronym LGBT started to gain all the additional letters, and vast numbers of teenagers started to become non-binary and pansexual.

In a world of toxic masculinity the pressure on cisgender (i.e. straight) white middle-class men has become unbearable. Born with original sin which means that to whisper "me too" when entering the highly charged arena where everybody claims to be an oppressed victim, is to be aggressively abused by every identity group, from feminists to LGBTQQIP2SAA gender-queers. "Check your privilege" we are told, when it's blatantly obvious that only a very tiny minority of white straight men are the ones who wield any power and control. It's highly unpleasant to be blamed for a situation that I neither created nor supported and I have no power to change.

Viewed as a "success object" I'm regularly asked about my ability to provide, which is like having somebody lecherously staring at my breasts. "Do you own your own home? What car do you drive? Do you have a well-paid job? Do you have a prestigious job title?" I'm asked, with a complete lack of subtlety that I'm being probed to find out if I'm wealthy and conventionally successful or not. It's like having my bum pinched or squeezed. It's like having a lewd pervert mentally undressing me.

I cringe with embarrassment that I wrote a blog post [now deleted] entitled "Feminazi" once, with only a hint of irony. I was trying to annoy an ex because I was in a messed up state - very unwell - and I was suffering some rather strange thoughts and ideas. I'm making excuses where none can really be made, but that's what I did, and I'm ashamed of myself. In the blog post I listed all the many disadvantages of being a man, such as 97% of workplace deaths, 99% of combat deaths, 79% of suicides etc. etc. Those things are all very good evidence that modern man has a pretty tough gig, but I was flirting with misogyny at times and presenting my beliefs with an unhealthy amount of anger and bitterness driving what I was writing.

I wish I was gay.

I've wished I was gay for a very long time. I've tried my very hardest to be gay but it's just not for me, unfortunately.

The reason why I want to be gay is that I've found the homosexual world to be more to my liking than the world in general. I like the quick and easy casual sex of Grindr. I like the flamboyancy and femininity of acting camp. I like the 'scene' and the identity that being gay brings - they don't have "hetero pride" parades, do they? I mainly like the fact that I can be ogled as a sex object and be passive, with potential sexual suitors buttering me up and massaging my ego, and all I have to do is decide who I want to have sex with. In the hetero world as a cisgender man, it's stressful taking risks, making the first move, trying to impress and having horrible knock-backs; it's a lot of pressure to present yourself as eligible and successful, and having gone to all the effort of getting a girlfriend there can be power struggles, with sex and children used as pawns and men are the usually the ones who lose out.

Of course by now, you're probably screaming at the screen that it's harder being a women, gay, trans or whatever particular thing it is that you identify as. You're probably very offended. You probably believe that my opinion is somehow encroaching on your rights and that I'm stealing valuable airtime which needs to be used exclusively by oppressed minority groups.

Everything I write, I worry that I'm somehow veering dangerously towards opinions that would be more at home on Brietbart. I consider myself to be an open-minded lefty liberal who's been through bi-curious periods of life and is quite comfortable with my identity, insofar as I don't think I'm homophobic or transphobic. I really don't think I'm a misogynist, although I admit that I rather bristle with annoyance that men's issues cannot be openly discussed without aggressive hostility being directed towards men who are suffering some very real and extremely horrible issues, and simply want to share their opinion and experiences. Obviously, to be lumped together with the likes of Donald Trump because I'm also a wealthy white man, is quite offensively racist - I'm not part of the so-called patriarchy just because of my skin colour and socioeconomic circumstances.

All these things are unspeakable.

I'm quite well aware of experiments such as this one: Two groups of psychiatrists are given identical case notes on a fictitious person, but one group is told that the person is black, and the psychiatrists in that group will view the fictitious person as much more violent, suspicious and dangerous, even though the only difference in the available evidence is skin colour. Clearly, people of colour still experience dreadful prejudice and discrimination, but we should be able to discuss other instances of prejudice, discrimination, oppression and abuse without considering certain things to be 'off limits'. I know that anybody who said "all lives matter" in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, was heavily criticised for seemingly undermining the central point: that black people suffer a grossly disproportionate amount of police brutality, incarceration and general mistreatment by the criminal justice system. I don't write in reply to movements which seek to reduce rape, sexual assault, discrimination, racism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, hate crime, oppression, exploitation and all the other awful things that are going on in the world; I write in addition. Holding and expressing my opinion does not diminish, discredit or undermine anybody else's struggle.

I'm on extremely dodgy ground.

I feel vastly outnumbered. I can't count myself amongst the angry white working-class disadvantaged men who swill lager and spout racial hatred with a St. George's flag draped around their chubby shoulders. I can't count myself amongst the highly-educated metropolitan liberal middle-class elites, although this is the group I most closely identify with. I can't count myself amongst the homeless addicts and alcoholics, although this is the group I'm most socioeconomically closely related to, surprisingly. I've tried my very hardest to be gay but I'm clearly not able to join the LGBTQQIP2SAA club, despite my best efforts. I know that there are men like me - at least in terms of gender, sexual preference, skin colour, education and wealth - who have successfully infiltrated feminism and groups of Social Justice Warriors. Perhaps I could ally myself with a group of outraged individuals and add my angry and aggressive voice to the unified noise that they create. I would certainly like to feel that I safely belong to a group, rather than being an outlier who holds very untrendy opinions which could even be mistaken as similar to those held by horrible gangs of knuckle-dragging thugs.

Am I a racist, bigot, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic fully paid-up member of the patriarchy, responsible for the oppression of all the very many minority identity groups who'd gladly queue up for an opportunity to abuse me? I certainly lose a lot of sleep at night worrying that I've unwittingly wandered into the less extreme fringe territory of the groups that I detest: the right-wingers.

I'm somebody who's had a lefty liberal multicultural upbringing, and who has been open minded to the point of being almost a terrorist apologist, so desperate am I to distance myself from the Islamophobia sweeping the UK and US. I'm somebody who's always aspired towards equality in the workplace and at home, and has lived and worked in environments more diverse than any other place on the planet: 110 languages are spoken in London, which is twice as many as the next most multicultural city. Is it possible that I'm actually the enemy? Is it possible that I don't know myself at all, and I'm actually chomping at the bit to get swastikas tattooed all over my body and then go tell some women to get back in the kitchen, before kicking a transexual to death?

What has happened in the world where I feel like I've done something wrong and I'd better keep quiet for fear of causing offence and becoming a target for abuse? Why do I feel like I'm speaking the unspeakable? Why do I feel like I'm uttering heresies which no member of the lefty liberal metropolitan elite should ever utter? Why do I feel like I'm risking further isolation, loneliness, exclusion and being viewed as the enemy by people who I like and respect?

I wonder what my right-thinking right-on friends would say if they read this. I fear that they think I've been driven into the arms of the Brietbart brigade and I've become a nasty horrible right-wing scumbag. Is that possible? Have I missed something? Am I sleepwalking into enemy territory?

 

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Forced to be Free

10 min read

This is a story about normality...

Psych ward garden

Most people want a secure job, secure housing and to feel prosperous. Most people don't care about freedom of speech and a free press. Given the choice between security and freedom, most people would choose security every time. It's only a handful of paternalistic elites who dictate that we the people care a very great deal about freedom, when in actual fact this is not true at all.

Freedom has a very narrow definition. When we talk about freedom of speech and a free press, we do not also acknowledge the freedom to be hungry, the freedom to be homeless, the freedom to be marginalised, excluded and abandoned by our "fit in or f**k off" culture. While we might enjoy freedom of speech and a free press, those luxuries are only useful to a privileged few; the wealthy elites; the rich and powerful. While you are theoretically free to run for political office or broadcast your opinions, you are not at all free in practice.

The only freedoms that ordinary people have are the choice between virtually identical minimum wage zero-hours contract McJobs; the choice between conformity or social exclusion. You can be a free tramp, if you choose: you can be homeless, penniless, destitute and free, or you can be enslaved to the capitalists... it's up to you; you're free to choose.

Further, for those who are not neurotypical you have to choose between social exclusion, stigma and poverty or the chemical straightjacket of powerful psychotropic medications. You're free to accept the diagnoses and swallow the pills, and allow yourself to be 'normalised' so that you fit the rigid static definition of how a 'normal' person should think and act, or you can choose to be excluded from most economic and social activity because you don't fit in.

Many of us willingly and indeed eagerly beat a path to the door of our doctors, demanding medications that will return us to 'normality' when we find that we are deviating from what we perceive to be the norm. We see millions of others around us getting up at dawn, commuting to bullshit office jobs and being uncomplaining, so when we're troubled by depression, anxiety and other disruptive changes which force us to confront the purposelessness of our absurd existence, we 'choose' to be made normal again by psychiatry.

Society should be constantly adapting to the changing needs of the people, such that the stress and exhaustion in our lives is reduced or at least kept constant, but instead we see that the people themselves believe that they are the ones at fault. Students take amphetamines, modafinil and methylphenidate in order to artificially increase their concentration spans and stay awake during marathon exam-cramming sessions. Workers drink tea, coffee and energy drinks in a desperate attempt to stimulate their brains and fend off tiredness. We take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications so that we can withstand the horrors of a society which places greater and greater demands upon us, while also giving us less and less security: our jobs are under threat, our homes are under threat, we and our children are under threat. Where has the feeling of prosperity and the sense of optimism gone? We presume that it must be us who have faulty brains, as opposed to seeing that it's society itself which is failing to deliver the things we need.

As is oft-quoted: "it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society"

When more than 50% of the population are categorised as suffering from some sort of mental disorder, we must surely accept that it's the minority group who are the sick ones. Why should society continue only to serve the ones who are not suffering? Why should our idea of what is 'normal' be based on something which is abnormal because it is less common? Why are we trying to conform to such unrealistic and impossible ideals, which do not serve the majority of people?

"I'm miserable, so you have to be miserable too"

I think the above quote accurately sums up the attitude of powerfully influential figures in our society, who are blocking any progress towards a better way of life for all our citizens. I had the misfortune of making the acquaintance of a doctor who hated their job, their commute, the daily grind and - seemingly - their patients. This doctor made it their mission in life to deny time off work to anybody they could. Their reasoning was simple: because they were miserable and hated their job, they were going to make everybody within their power suffer too. A doctor has the power to dispense medications which might temporarily mask the symptoms of a sick and broken society, or to sign a piece of paper which excuses a person from the charade of having to go to their bullshit McJob every day. A doctor has the power to inflict misery on potentially thousands of people every year, and we must presume that as many doctors are as miserable as the general population as a whole, which means that more than 50% of doctors are perpetrating this kind of awfulness on the people they have power over.

We worship medicine and medics as a force for good, but in the increasing absence of organised religion in wealthy western democratic countries, we are seeing doctors elevated to a social status beyond what is reasonable, creating demi-gods who abuse their power. Just as with organised religion, we have suspended rational thought, cynicism, curious inquiry and skepticism, and have placed blind faith in the medical establishment to cure the ills of society. We reject politics and politicians as corrupt self-serving liars and we have lost faith in the ability of our vote and other democratic instruments to be able to influence our lives for the better.

The only thing we believe we're able to change is ourselves, with the assistance of doctors who can give us "magic bullet" pills to alter our mood and perceptions, as well as keeping us youthful and protecting us from death. We have fake tits, white teeth, hair implants, botox and numerous other procedures to alter our appearance, because we're powerless over anything except our looks. We can be reasonably sure that our lives are protected by hospitals and medicines, but our power to influence anything else in life, such as our socioeconomic prospects, is precisely zero.

While a sharp-elbowed tranche of middle-class society obsesses about their children's exam grades, places at the most desirable schools and universities, internships, graduate training programmes and otherwise attempting to give their precious little darlings a head start in life, this blinkered myopia ignores the fact that the baby boomers are getting older and older but living longer and longer, while also amassing asset portfolios well beyond their means, and preventing those precious little darlings from having any hope of having secure jobs and secure housing. In order to pay grotesquely unjustified and disgustingly greedy defined-benefit pensions to the generation who've contributed the least - except to national debts, global warming and a decline in living standards - the pension funds demand that workers are paid pitiful wages for longer hours in terrible working conditions, so that profits, capital gains and dividends can keep sustaining the unsustainable, unrealistic and ridiculously greedy selfish demands of those who are taking out far more than they paid in.

A small segment of society is free to write, paint, photograph, travel and generally enjoy the freedoms that we would all love to have, but the very vast majority of us are too busy trying to survive in an ecomony which is built to benefit the few, not the many. Only the old and wealthy are free, and they did not work hard to earn their freedom: they have stolen that freedom from the young and from the future generations who will inherit all the problems of today and tomorrow.

If you're an artist and/or an academic and you enjoy your life and your job, you need to remember that the position of privilege you're in is very rare and a very high price is paid by a huge number of people, so that you can swan around having a lovely time. Your freedom ends where mine begins, so if your freedom is disproportionately large compared to the rest of society's then you're being greedy and antisocial; you're an enemy of society. While it's very trendy to talk about freedom being important, we must be mindful that most people want security, not freedom. Think about the price that's paid by the whole of society for your luxury privileges.

To be truly free and happy, we might have to re-evaluate our priorities. We can't demand cheap food and cheap goods if we want to be free, for example, because those things are only made possible by the exploitation of workers. We can't demand passive labour-free unearned income, for example, because that's only made possible by tyranny, economic slavery and exploitation of the vulnerable. Most importantly, we can't expect to feel contentment and security, when we need unhappy, insecure people in order to sell consumer products and to keep our entire workforce on the treadmill, by heavily indebting them and denying them social housing or the ability to buy/build their own home.

You might teach your children that a strong work ethic and academic excellence are the route to getting ahead in life, but it's not true. Being a compliant hard worker means you will be exploited, and obtaining academic qualifications incurs a substantial amount of debt. Servicing debts and paying rent is a form of tyranny which has encroached on personal freedom to the point where only a tiny fraction of society enjoys any kind of meaningful freedom at all. Your children will not be able to escape the trap; there's no hope. The depression and lack of optimism for the future is driven by a rational, reasonable and sound assessment of our younger generations' prospects.

Our heavily indebted and heavily medicated society is also controlled by draconian laws which were ostensibly introduced to counteract terrorism and industrial unrest, but have been abused to undermine the strength of trade unions and prevent the establishment of any counter-cultural movements which might challenge the status quo. While we should be living in an age of alternative lifestyles and people dropping out of a society which clearly no longer serves the majority of people's needs, we are instead witnessing a miserable dystopia, where we're all trapped on the treadmill because the only alternative is hunger, homelessness, persecution and social exclusion.

Yes, I'm free to write whatever I want, provided I do not defame the powerful figures who are responsible for maintaining this miserable state of existence for so many millions, but those in power are quite comfortable in the knowledge that my ranting is safely confined to an echo-chamber filled with so much noise that, as Aldous Huxley predicted, the truth is drowned in a sea of irrelevance - information overload.

We are somewhat hoisted by our own petard. Almost none of us of us demanded freedom, but we have collectively made freedom of speech into something useless; toothless. We are not free at all and we have no mechanism by which to affect any meaningful change. What is supposedly our most powerful tool to speak truth to power - the freedom to express ourselves - has in fact become the reason why our voices are not heard and our suffering goes ignored.

All that's left is the freedom to be hungry, homeless, persecuted and excluded.

 

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On My Own Terms

8 min read

This is a story about independence...

Deed

Why do I gotta do everything on my own terms? Why is it important to me that I do things when and how I choose, rather than when instructed by a meddlesome busybody, or otherwise forced to by circumstances beyond my control? What's so important about the choosing and agency and free will anyway? Surely there are people who know better than me, so I should just bow down to them and let them rule my life, because they know best.

Depressed? Just be happy. Tired? Just be fit and healthy. Drink too much? Just stop. Addicted to drugs? Don't take them any more. Bankrupt? Be rich instead. Hate your job? Be a multi-billionaire president of the universe instead. Anxious? Don't worry.

See? It's easy. Just do the blatantly obvious things that other people tell you to do and your life will be amazing. Of course if you don't do exactly what they tell you to do immediately then you're beyond hope of helping and you are stubbornly deciding to sabotage your own life. That's the only reasonable, rational and logical explanation for why anybody wouldn't immediately drop to their knees and say "oh my god thank you!" in praise of the giver of the most obvious answers to every problem that ever existed.

It's true that I'm somewhat bloody-minded and I'll deliberately do things my own way to prove I'm right, especially if an idiot tells me I'm doing something wrong and what I'm doing will never work. It's usually the case that there are a mountain of idiots who have oversimplified unworkable solutions to oversimplified versions of problems you don't have: "oh, you're bleeding to death? well, if you put some tin foil at the bottom of your grill pan, then it catches the fat and makes it easier to clean".

I guess people are only trying to be helpful, but don't ever let anybody tell you that their 'helpful' suggestions aren't rooted in the advice-giver's ego and their need to feel useful, as opposed to your need to solve a problem. You'll see that as soon as you start to explain that your problem is more complicated than their lazy appraisal had surmised, that they have no real interest in actually helping; they just wanted to feel smarter than you, that they were able to solve something where the solution was blatantly obvious to anybody with half a brain cell.

Thus, when it comes to hard problems, most people are just noise; irritating useless noise which needs to be filtered out so you can concentrate on solving the actual hard problem. If there were easy answers, the person who's been suffering and struggling with the problem would have figured out the solution long before some pseudo-helpful busybody came and suggested the very first thing that anybody would think of.

A problem shared is not just a problem that two people have, but it can also be a problem which will take twice as long to solve if the second person insists on making all the same mistakes as the first, by retracing every step, wrong turn and dead end that's already been exhausted by our long-suffering person with the problem. Reliving the experience of trying all the obvious things for a second time, knowing it's doomed to fail because those solutions have already been tried, is a painful and pointless exercise.

There are common problems which, if they were easy to solve, those easy solutions would already be exploited by vast swathes of people . Poverty, for example: if the solution to poverty is to simply get a better paid job and work hard, then we surely wouldn't see any more poverty. To suggest that poverty is due to laziness and stupidity is grossly insulting to the hard-working people who are trying as hard as they can to get themselves out of poverty, but the problem is that they already have the very best paid jobs which are available to them, and they already work as hard as they possibly can.

There are common problems which, if the de-facto solutions worked, we wouldn't consider to be problems at all. If abstinence, detox, rehab, 12-step programs and the like were a good solution to addiction and alcoholism, we wouldn't see alcoholics and addicts anymore, would we? The very existence of vast numbers of people who are dying from addiction and alcoholism is obvious evidence that unequivocally shows that the so-called 'solutions' on offer are not solutions at all: those things simply don't work.

"It works if you try hard"

No. No those solutions really don't work.

"But it worked for this person"

Yeah, maybe a little bit. But what about 99% of the others who it didn't work for? You're being an idiot. An exception does not prove the rule. You're blaming the victim. You're blaming people for their problems. You're undermining the hard work and effort and all the energy that's already been expended by that person in trying things that don't work.

We can't ignore the evidence and believe the charlatans who claim to have found solutions to problems, when the data shows that their claims are completely false.

Let's take mental health problems as an example. All the data was gathered from all the studies into the efficacy of antidepressant medication, and it's been shown conclusively that for at least 80% of patients, the medication made no difference whatsoever. What we also know about mental health is that it's an epidemic: things are getting worse, not better, and an ever-increasing number of people are suffering with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and a whole host of other mental health problems. Not only are our so-called 'solutions' not effective, but our incorrect belief that medications are effective, despite evidence to the contrary, is contributing to an epidemiological explosion in the number of people who are suffering. The biggest tragedy is that nobody is looking at any alternative treatments, because the charlatans claim that the available treatments are effective, despite overwhelming evidence that pharmacological treatments are not effective at all. Fewer than 1 in 5 patients would feel any benefit at all, and the benefits are marginal - at best - for that tiny minority.

Now let's look at addiction and alcoholism: 12-step abstinence based approaches are as ubiquitous as the booze and drugs themselves. Every church hall, community centre and other public space in your local area plays host to some flavour of X-Anonymous every night of the week, with every letter of the alphabet corresponding to a particular addiction or vice. If the 12-step abstinence approach was the right one, we wouldn't have an opioid epidemic exploding in the United States, claiming 70,000 or even 80,000 lives every year. If 12-steps and abstinence were solutions, we wouldn't have hospitals crammed full of people dying of alcoholism-related illnesses.

Charlatans present themselves as experts and saviours when the evidence quite clearly shows that the so-called 'solutions' they have to offer are not only a dismal failure, but are wasting time and money, diverting funding and research away from any real solutions which could have some meaningful impact on problems which affect a very great number of unfortunate people.

I find it deeply offensive that the 'solutions' on offer are clearly ineffective, and those who fail to succeed when they've been set up to fail are blamed for their lack of dedication, commitment, effort and blind faith in things which are demonstrably snake-oil and quackery, peddled by charlatans who should be stripped of any semblance of professional and ethical conduct.

The placebo effect is real and it's even effective when a person knows they're receiving a placebo treatment, so I don't see why we can't all get sugar pills and redirect all the money that's wasted on ineffective treatments - and those who dispense them - and plough those funds into scientific empirical research.

I hope it's now clear why I choose my own evidence-based path, instead of placing my fate in the hands of charlatans and fraudsters who are pedalling snake-oil quack cures which don't work. The age-old adage about following doctor's orders is pure idiocy when the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates the folly of such a course of action.

Of course I stay abreast of developments in the field of clinical research into promising pharmaceutical compounds which might be effective and offer the "magic bullet" that so many of us desperately yearn for: a pill which cures the depression, anxiety and the craving for those substances which do actually temporarily alleviate the unpleasantness of human existence.

As for poverty... yes, you're right that one or two people got rich playing the lottery, but that doesn't mean that it's a solution for the whole of humanity.

 

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The Day I Didn't Drink All the Alcohol

10 min read

This is a story about abstinence...

Alcoholz

I woke up this morning and started having a not-quite-fully-blown panic attack. Re-adjusting to life without the tranquillising and sedating effects of alcohol is hard. The first couple of alcohol-free days seem to pass easily enough, but day three brings something that a friend of mine calls "the fear" which is a gnawing anxiety.

Anxiety is by its very nature irrational.

Sometimes anxiety can be attributed to genuinely stressful things that are happening, but there's no benefit to feeling anxious - our self-preservation instincts could function just fine without anxiety. Anxiety might be irrational, but it can't be rationalised away, especially when its origin is biochemical. The sudden absence of soothing chemicals in the brain - withdrawing from alcohol - triggers rebound anxiety, which is most unpleasant.

I notice that I'm hungrier and thirstier than I would usually be when I'm semi-drunk. I notice that I'm craving sweet things. I notice that I gobble my food down faster than ever, as if I'm eating my final meal or I'm dying of starvation. On balance though, I'm eating more healthily and I've substantially cut my total daily calorie intake, which will be better for my waistline. My body is not having to work so hard to detoxify itself and get rid of the barely digestible combination of wine and fatty salty snacks.

I'd love to tell you that I feel better, but I don't. On balance, I miss the soothing effects of alcohol and the dulled senses more than I cherish the clear head and sharper perceptions. On balance, I hate the anxiety more than I hate the health damage that alcohol was inflicting.

Anything worth doing is hard when you start, so I'm aware that I might not feel the real benefits of sobriety unless I carry on for a few more weeks. I'm half-tempted to have a dry August, but I'm really not sure whether the timing is right and whether it's worth the risk of having some kind of breakdown, because I have no crutch to help me through a rather challenging period of my life.

Looking back through my photo-diary exactly one year ago, I'm reminded that I was in a big mess with substances. I was abusing a combination of Valium and Xanax, as well as the sleeping pills Imovane and Ambien, plus I was prescribed Lyrica as a painkiller. Two tranquillisers, two sleeping pills and a painkiller is quite a hefty combination of sedating medications, plus I was drinking like a fish too. I'm surprised I even knew what day of the week it was.

There was no way I was going to be able to stop all those physically addictive medications safely, without risking seizures. I was trapped.

Alcohol abuse has always slipped under the radar in my life. I've always been part of a work-hard play-hard culture where conspicuous consumption of vast quantities of alcohol has been near-ubiquitous. Boozy lunches and after-work drinking sessions somehow seemed to dovetail with the demanding work I've been involved in, and industries which are disproportionately staffed by young men, mostly unencumbered by the demands and responsibilities of family life. Somehow, arriving at work an hour and a half late with a terrific hangover doesn't seem to matter if everybody else is doing it too.

Spotting the alcoholics amongst a population of similar heavy drinkers seemed to me to be impossible. One colleague was apparently swigging vodka from a bottle of mineral water at his desk, but I could never smell the alcohol on his breath... probably because I was hungover most mornings and half-drunk most afternoons. Somehow the situation continued for many years without any problems - the work would always get done and the booze kept flowing.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that a number of my former colleagues have had to go through detox and rehab, and some have dropped dead from liver failure and other alcohol-related illnesses. I suppose it should come as no surprise that several of the former colleagues who I count amongst my very best friends are just as alcoholic as I am. Somehow, we stick together and look after each other, us band of drunks.

What might be more surprising to those who've never worked in such male-dominated and alcohol-tolerating environments, where I've spent most of my career, is the level of responsibility shouldered by the unfortunate alcoholic wretches such as myself. You'd think that handing over the 'keys' to the 'bank vault' of a massive investment bank to a bunch of alcoholics would be sheer insanity, but perhaps those of a more sober persuasion aren't suited to the role. When I think about all the quadrillions of dollars watched over by a gang of brilliant men who spend most of their time drunk, it beggars belief, but that's the way that the global financial system seems to be run: in the hands of functional alcoholics.

Those who are fully in possession of their faculties don't seem to find their way into the fantasy land where 6-figure sums of money are paid to anybody who will willingly forego a sense of meaningful purpose and enter the bewildering world of high-finance, where the amount of capital that flows around the globe is an order of magnitude greater than anything that an ordinary person could comprehend. The concept of money becomes a ridiculously absurd one and cash is just a rounding error.

Further, when dealing with computer software and data, any sane person would run screaming in the opposite direction as soon as they realise that they've entered yet another ridiculously absurd world, which is the extreme opposite from anything 'real' or tangible.

When I was making iPhone apps and selling them, there was clearly a product and the idea of selling that product for a profit is something we all understand. My life was less absurd. However, the vast majority of my career has been spent helping investment banks to play with numbers in ludicrously complex ways, to obfuscate the fact that there is no product... nothing of any value is being created!

I suppose it's only natural that I would look at my obscenely large monthly paycheque and be unable to reconcile that amount of remuneration with the 'value' that I'd delivered to humanity. It seems that the greater the absurdity, the greater the financial reward. Somehow, it's never sat easily with my conscience and perhaps that's why I've spent such a big chunk of my income on booze. It's hard to get up and go to work every day when you're only in it for the money, and you're pretty certain that what you're doing is actually harmful and immoral but you can't precisely say why... it's too complex to work out. There's a kind of 'golden handcuffs' situation that arises, where you don't want to question things too much because the money is so much better than you'd get building houses or catching fish.

Ultimately, I don't know why we need so much damn software and data. I don't know why we need so many offices and service industries. I don't know what the f**k 95% of people actually do for a living that's useful or productive, when only 5% of people are doing jobs which are obviously indispensable. I consider myself to be at the extreme end of the utility spectrum, where not only is what I do completely pointless, but it's also harmful to humanity as well as producing absolutely nothing that's tangible or 'real'.

I suppose that's why I drink.

Perhaps anybody who's glimpsed the absurdity of existence and understood their place in the universe, as well as any average human could ever hope to, is likely to be confronted with an existential crisis. Most people will busy themselves by acting like slime mold or bacteria, and reproducing with gay abandon until every inch of the surface of the planet is teeming with similarly brain-dead morons just like them. Most people will revert to animalistic bestial knuckle-dragging behaviours found in every lifeform on Earth - f**king, s**tting, fighting, feeding etc.

I suppose why I drink is that I'm not like 99.9% of the beasts and the bees and the bacteria.

Consciousness is a curse.

To be conscious means to be able to rationalise and to decide to override the bestial instinct to rut and reproduce, and instead to inhabit an intellectual world which the beasts do not partake in. However, now I envy those beasts' ignorant bliss. Oh, to be thick: that's what I really want, I think. I wish I was stupid. I wish I was dumb. I wish I was a dimwit.

It seems obvious now I say it, but getting drunk is like having the partial lobotomy I so desperately crave; to be free from the burden of the things that cannot be un-learned; to escape my own rational and reasonable inquiring and inquisitive mind.

Of course, I don't claim to be in possession of a brilliant mind, but I'm clever enough to be miserable and tormented. Not clever enough to be great, but not ordinary and average enough to fit in with the masses and their orgy of mindless procreation.

I've done some good work today. My concentration's been improved. I can see that life could be better if I could remain alcohol-free, but I also don't know how to cope with the 'spare brain capacity' which is unfortunately utilised to process all the facts at my disposal, leading to the inevitable non-stop existential crisis and general unhappiness about the absurdity of existence. I don't have a choice - it's not like I can ever stop thinking. Due to financial necessity, I'm forced to work a job which requires very little thought. My mind is rarely occupied by interesting distractions because I've had to prioritise income ahead of intellectual stimulation.

Drink might be a dratted demon, but in moderation it's helped me cope with 21+ years of unfulfilling full-time career and I don't have any healthy outlets at the moment; any purpose, hobby or interest which might better occupy my time.

I'm pleased I've had a 5-day break from drinking and I suppose I'll be able to manage at least another night without alcohol. I'm pleased that I'm able to stop drinking when I want to, but that should come as no surprise - I am after all, one of the very few who are cursed with consciousness, which means I'm able to curb my cravings. It's only beasts - the dimwits - who aren't able to make conscious choices.

I wish I could choose how I felt, but of course that's a ridiculous notion. Wouldn't we all choose to be blissfully happy and content if it was easy as just choosing? I feel anxious and overwhelmed by my own consciousness, and I know that alcohol would calm my nervous system and help me cope, but I choose not to drink temporarily because my liver needs a break.

I'm glad that I've made some progress versus where I was a year ago.

 

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1,243 Words Per Day for 37 Days

9 min read

This is a story about life goals...

Dusty keyboard

I seem to have a lot of competing priorities at the moment. The only thing I've got much control over is the day when I reach a million words on this website, which I would like to be on September 6th, precisely 3 years after my very first blog post. In order to achieve that objective I need to write 1,243 words every single day for the next 37 consecutive days. It sounds achievable considering I managed to write an average of 1,667 words per day during the month of November, for 2 years running. My daily average word count over the 1,058 days that I've been writing works out at just over 900 words, so I need to increase my output by 38%.

My other objectives are to pay off all my debts, rebuild my non-existent social life and get healthier.

In theory I can clear my important debts in 3 months, and I can clear some other less important ones in another 3 or 4 months, which frees me from the substantial burden of paying a huge amount of interest every month. Those don't sound like long timescales at all, but 3 months of sanity and stability in my life is a very rare thing, let alone 6 or 7 months.

My sums exclude the lost income from any holidays I take or time off sick. My sums assume that I'm working flat-out as hard as I can every day for months and months on end. It's been over 2 years since I had a proper holiday so it seems reasonable to assume that I'm going to burn out really soon.

A social life and my health don't really figure in the equation. In order to earn money I'm working in a city where I'm only staying temporarily. There doesn't seem to be much point in investing heavily in building a social network near my workplace, because I have no plans to stay here any longer than I have to. I'm just here for the cash. I have no idea how to pay any consideration to my health when my objectives are so diametrically opposed to my wellbeing. If I was able to prioritise my health I'd be working part-time or not working at all. Everything about my life is completely toxic for my mental and physical health.

I have a short-term objective of being sober for a few days. Today is day 4. It's hard but I'm sure my liver will be glad to have a break from the non-stop alcohol abuse. Ideally, I'd substantially reduce my drinking for the rest of my life, but I don't see how I'm going to be able to do that when I've got 6 or 7 months horrible miserable slog stretching out ahead of me, and I can't take a holiday or sort out my social life because of the insanely toxic work and money demands which are placed on me.

I don't know how I got into this situation where the numbers look favourable but the reality of my daily existence is such unbearable misery.

A seemingly small bad thing happened at work today, but it's totally destroyed my hope and optimism. It's shocked me how quickly suicidal thoughts flooded back into my head, having had a period of respite which has lasted quite a while. Every way I look at my life, I can only see stress and intolerable living conditions; unsustainable demands. I can't see any way to fix things.

Somehow, my costs have spiralled and my income has fallen slightly. Somehow, I've ended up in a position where I'm potentially going to be forced back into spending the majority of my time away from home, in a place where I really don't want to be, doing a job which appears to be too boring to distract me from my woes. Somehow, the path to my goal which had appeared easy and well understood, now appears to be impossible; unachievable.

Of course, if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I'm making progress. All progress is good progress. Every little step takes me a little bit closer to my goal, but I'm acutely aware of how long it's going to take me to reach the end.

Perhaps I have summit fever. I can see what I think is the peak of the mountain and I've become obsessed about reaching the summit. Psychologically, it's a terrible idea to fixate on the summit too much. The important thing is to just keep steadily moving up the mountain at a sustainable pace, and try not to think about getting to the top. The psychology of how to suffer and endure the hardships of climbing a difficult mountain are reasonable to apply to my situation, but I'm not fighting a war of attrition... I'm trying to get rich quick.

Frustratingly, I know that I was happier when I dropped out of mainstream society and I was a homeless bum. I know that I'd be much happier if I declare that the demands placed upon me are too excessive and unreasonable, and I only accept my fair share of responsibility. I'm being a bit of a martyr. I'm being stubborn and trying to prove a point.

I presume that suddenly stopping drinking, after spending the best part of a couple of months drinking excessively every single day, is probably going to be a shock to the system. My brain surely doesn't know what's hit it, having been pickled in alcohol and now suddenly left high and dry. My days have been structured around getting drunk. Every evening after work. Every weekend after a certain time of day that seems resonable and respectable to start getting drunk. Getting drunk has been the highlight of my day for far too long. What's the highlight of my day now? Nothing.

I'm sure that given enough time I could re-adjust but the show must go on. I've got to do all the things that I can't stop doing, as well as making the other changes. I still need to get up and go to work every day. I still need to write every day. I still need to commute, pack my bags, wash my clothes, iron my shirts, do my book-keeping and make sure that the cash flows as it's supposed to. I'm spinning lots plates, even though my life is drastically simplified and paired down in an attempt to make it manageable. I don't exactly feel overburdened by competing demands... the problem is more that I'm powerless to influence almost everything in my life, except for the number of words which I can write each day on this website.

The one goal that achieves absolutely nothing - there's no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow - is the only one which I'm able to steadily work at in a sustainable way, and I feel confident that I'll reach the finishing line. All the other goals, even though they have obvious benefits, look to be impossible. How am I ever going to get my health sorted out when I'm so depressed, miserable and anxious? How am I ever going to keep working for as long as I need to, in order to repay my crushing debts, when my working day is so unbearably awful? How am I going to reduce my alcohol intake to a much more sensible and moderate level, when I am in such desperate need of something to ease my daily suffering; something to look forward to at the end of the working day and the end of each working week?

Even my blog, which at times I feel quite proud of, is getting ruined. I know that people don't want to read the same moaning and complaining repetitive rant about how I'm bored at work, my life is unsustainable and all I'm doing is churning out a million miserable words. I can see from my analytics that my readers are disengaging. What the hell am I writing about? What the hell am I doing?

It seemed to make sense to me, that I could live in a hotel next door to a pub, and I could get drunk every evening after work, then I'd get drunk all weekend, and the time would pass... soon the debts would be repaid and I could start to think - for the first time in 3 years - about what I want to do with my life which would be compatible with my mental health; my needs. I've been driven by necessity for so long. I do what I have to in order to survive, but after a long while surviving I'd rather be dead if I'm never going to be thriving.

How long has it been since I felt happiness and contentment? How long has it been since I dared to dream?

I'm not sure if this is coming across, but I'm trying to moan and complain my way to the finish line. Like people who grunt and groan as if vocalising their pain and the strain of their exercions somehow makes the task easier, I'm doing the same thing: I'm trying to make the time pass more quickly by whinging and whining.

Of course, I bore myself almost as much as I bore you. I cringe with embarrassment at what I've become, and the complete crap I'm churning out, but I just need to reach my arbitrary goal so I can at least say that I did one really hard thing, because it was within my power to influence the outcome, unlike the rest of my life which simply has to be endured.

Patience, patience. Perhaps all I need is patience.

 

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Blur

4 min read

This is a story about mental clarity...

Shoreline

Day three without booze. I woke up feeling surprisingly fuzzy-headed, but I guess that's because I'm still using sleeping tablets in an attempt to be able to fall asleep despite overwhelming feelings of anxiousness and hopelessness. My brain is waking up, having been pickled in alcohol, and now I'm sober my thoughts are somewhat racing. I can sense that my tendency towards mania has been kept at bay by the demon drink; now that I've stopped drinking the brakes are off and my mood can fluctuate dangerously.

I feel like I've regained a lot of the sharpness of my mind, but with the clearing fog comes an overconfidence: I'm far too outspoken at work; I'm shooting my mouth off. I'm going to get myself into trouble.

It's a horrible situation to be in, having to self-medicate just to be able to cope with so-called 'ordinary' life, but the medications and the alcohol only temporarily put a lid on things, and there's a price to be paid for artificially constraining me and my mood - there's a backlash as soon as my brain gets a little freedom from the chemical straightjacket. I can't be artificially constrained forever, and the longer I am constricted and constrained then the worse it is in the end.

I'm treading an extremely fine line between what I need to do to keep my job, earn money, pay rent, bills and generally take part in civilised society like an ordinary regular person, and what I need to do to be able to fake it; to keep a lid on my problems. I have to pretend like everything is A-OK in my life and I'm having no problem at all dealing with depression, anxiety, crushing levels of debt and incredible insecurity about my housing, income and other things which are essential for everyday life. I have to intoxicate myself just the right amount to be able to appear functional.

I want to do all the right things, but there's only so much change I can manage all at once, and each change requires a lot of unpleasantness in the short term before I feel the benefits. Every change carries a certain amount of risk. I run the risk of swinging into mania and becoming a pain in the ass in the office. I run the risk of reaching the limit of the stress I can endure, and having a breakdown. I run the risk of becoming exhausted and depressed, and being unable to work. I run the risk of giving up on the daily unpleasantness; abandoning everything and running away because it's just so damn bloody awful. Obviously, I run a huge risk of simply deciding to kill myself.

Just because it's healthier to be sober and I'm gaining mental clarity, doesn't mean it's better. Seeing the world exactly the way it is isn't a comfortable thing. The world is full of awfulness and it's better if we're somewhat blinkered, otherwise we'd all just curl up in a ball and await our inevitable painful demise. In a godless universe with no afterlife, where science and rational thought has removed all the wonder and magic from everyday existence, what is life except suffering and death?

It's clear that I somewhat prefer being half-cut; semi-intoxicated. It's obvious that I like a little something to "take the edge off". Perhaps what I'm writing here is a love-letter to my alcohol addiction, given my self-imposed temporary sobriety. Perhaps I'm trying to justify my drunkenness.

Anyway, whatever, I'm off to the pub [where I'm going to drink a non-alcoholic beverage, probably].

 

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Word Count

10 min read

This is a story about carelessness...

Grazed knuckles

I'm a regular at my local corner shop. During the month when I wasn't working, I think I visited the shop every single day to buy a bottle of red wine. The weekend before last I was buying some unhealthy snacks and my usual bottle of red, when I decided at the last minute to grab a bottle of white from the fridge, which was near the counter. My usual bottle of red was balanced precariously on top of the snacks I was buying, which then plummeted towards the shop floor where mercifully it bounced off the linoleum; the glass didn't break. Last Friday I grabbed both a bottle of white and a bottle of red. As I walked up the steep hill back to my apartment, I wasn't paying attention to my footing and I tripped over. I grazed my knuckles as I attempted to save my precious cargo of wine from being smashed on the tarmac.

I've definitely become a functional alcoholic.

I woke up on Saturday morning and I had a slight tremor. I don't get hangovers because I think my alcohol tolerance is so high. I can drink two bottles of wine and I feel fine. Obviously I'm not fine.

I've started to skip meals because I'm getting enough calories from all the wine. I could drink 5 bottles of wine over the course of a weekend, and the only 'food' that I would eat would be some salty snacks - crisps and suchlike.

I examine my eyes for any sign of yellowing. I prod and probe my abdomen for tenderness, firmness or any subcutaneous fluid. Surely my liver is taking a battering from a month and a half of extreme alcohol abuse?

Over the weekends I show no restraint at all. I'm making no attempt whatsoever to be the slightest bit healthy. The crap I'm putting into my body - unhealthy snacks and copious quantities of alcohol - combined with my sedentary lifestyle must be lethal. I'm either sat down or lying down. According to my step counter I've dropped from a peak of 15,000 steps per day to a paltry 2,000.

I need to figure out which broken part of the vicious cycle to fix. Stress leads to feelings of tiredness; depression leads to demotivation; anxiety paralyses me - I could start with fixing my mental health. Self-medicating with vast quantities of alcohol seems like the solution to anxiety, stress, boredom, loneliness and isolation, but it's pretty clear that alcohol is affecting my physical health and probably my mental health too. Exercise seems like a ridiculous suggestion, given how badly I'm coping with the basic demands of everyday life. I can't figure out if I'm too tired and stressed to exercise, or if exercise will bring a net benefit once I get fitter - which I know it will - but it seems unthinkable to get fitter when I'm so dependent on alcohol as a crutch.

I'm changing far too many things at once. I've only just started my 3rd week in a new job and I'm still finding my feet in the new organisation and ingratiating myself with my new colleagues. My memory is shot to pieces. I can't even remember how long I was taking sleeping pills for before I ran out. I had some leftover painkillers, which helped to reduce my anxiety enough to be able to sleep, but then I switched back to sleeping pills last week. All I know is that the second half of May was a big mess, June was a near-disaster and I only started getting myself sorted out a week before starting the new job in the middle of July.

The surprising thing is that I keep moving forward. I didn't lose my job despite a few really shaky weeks when I was really sick. I've managed to start this job and things are going OK. Well, when I say that "things are going OK" of course I don't include my mental health, mood stability, brain chemistry or any of those other things which I pretend are OK during office hours. It's a miracle that I've been able to cover up a major relapse, alcohol abuse, abuse of prescription medications and of course my rather worrisome mental health problems.

How long did my writing go erratic for? I know that I had to delete a lot of blog posts in the period between my relapse and the day I finally regained enough of my rational mind to see that I was picking fights which couldn't be won and saying things which shouldn't be said. I don't usually delete blog posts, but I'd lost my mind and I was meandering up dead-ends; I was unhealthily obsessing over things and acting carelessly.

My carelessness has manifested itself at weekends recently. I get super drunk and I write with a lack of care for coherence and storytelling. I've written at weekends in the knowledge that I have fewer readers on Saturdays and Sundays, which has made me feel like I can just ramble, complain, moan and write complete and utter crap. I've considered deleting or rewriting my daily blog posts which I've published at weekends, because I've wondered what the hell am I going on about? I've written and written and when the word count goes over 1,000 words then I decide that I'd better not write any more, but I haven't considered whether what I've written is any good.

Of couse, the end is in sight. I'm so close to a million words now. In fact, if we included the word count of all the deleted blog posts, then I'm well over a million words. The current total word count that's actually published on the public internet on this website is now in excess of 950,000. I'm repeating myself, but only because it's important in the context of my alcoholism. The last few months have been a blur. In my mind, the relapse, the breakup and the period of insanity that followed was over in the blink of an eye. In reality, I've been an intoxicated mess; I've either been doped up on pills or drunk.

Sometimes I hear myself speak and my voice buzzes in my ears and the sound vibrates my head. It feels like somebody else is speaking and they're using a megaphone directed at my head, which is so loud that the sound hurts and I can feel the vibrations. It's a dreamlike state. It's akin to an out-of-body experience. I feel like this when I think I'm completely sober but I think it's actually due to the fact that there isn't much blood in my alcohol-stream. God knows what other crap is still circulating in my body. I've abused a mixture of diazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam, pregabalin and zopiclone during the last couple of months, as I attempted to wrestle back control of my life before my supercrack addiction destroys everything I've worked so hard to rebuild.

Yes, that's right. The dreaded supercrack was back. I had relapsed.

To put things in context, I've worked a full-time job for 9 months out of the last 12. I've moved house 4 times. I've been hospitalised twice. I've been sectioned. I spent the best part of a month locked up on a psych ward. The main headline that most people would pay attention to is that I've earned a lot of money and done a lot of work. To all intents and purposes I've been a thoroughly productive worker and a valued member of the teams and projects I've been part of. This does not reconcile.

In my head, I'm brushing off serious problems with mental health, addiction and alcoholism like they're nothing. In my head, I'm as invincible as I ever was. In my head, I'm immortal and the evidence very much backs up that ludicrous idea.

I really don't want to have a reality check one day, where I find out that I've done irreparable damage to my physical health. I really don't want to keep testing my mortality to breaking point.

Yes, the numbers look incredibly good. Despite the insanity of my life during the last 12 months, I still managed to work 9 months out of 12 and my gross income has probably been well in excess of 3 times the national average. Somehow, I've managed to write more-or-less every day and churn out over 300,000 words since this time last year. How the hell did I manage to earn so much and how did I manage to write so much? How do the numbers look so good when my life has been a complete shambolic mess?

The numbers don't tell the complete story.

Yes, without good numbers my story wouldn't be very interesting. The world's full of junkies who went bankrupt. The world's full of alcoholics who drank all their profits. The world's full of people who have fascinating stories but they never write them down. I'm gunning for the convergence point where one million words meets one million pounds. I'm aiming to be an outlier: the guy who beat drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, homelessness and - most importantly - bankruptcy. I've got the archives; I've collected the data. Plenty of people lost their house, their car, their wife, their cash and everything else, but how did they get it back? The game; the sport, if you like, is to have kept this narrative going through a 3-year period which accurately captures the false starts, the setbacks and the struggles... and at no point did I wipe the slate clean; at no point did I run away; at no point did I switch to a different tack.

Why would I change my approach? The numbers look good.

I'm going to reach a million words on my blog because I'm in control of my destiny and I can work as hard as I want; I can write as much as I want. I can choose when my project is complete, because I know the word count I need to achieve every day to make sure I hit the target.

Whether or not I clear all my debts and reach a thoroughly impressive gross income for the 3-year period covered by my blog, I'm not so sure. There's no way that hard work will bring the finish line any closer - it's simply a waiting game. All I have to do is sit and look pretty and the money flows in. I just need to be patient. It's an agonising wait, but it's profitable.

Being drunk all the time seemed like a solution to the waiting game; to make the time pass quicker. However, I need to be clean and sober when I reach the finish line otherwise it was all a waste of time.

I'm going to see if I can resist the temptation to get drunk. I'm going to sober up for a few days, to try to clear my head and get some perspective. I've been intoxicated for far too long.

 

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An Austere Life

5 min read

This is a story about simplicity...

Glass roof

"Work sets you free" according to the tyrants; the capitalists; the elites who never have to lift a finger; those who earn their money without labouring themselves. Our lives are controlled by those who were born destined for greatness: privately educated, public schoolboys, trust fund recipients and the sons & daughters of political, industrial and commercial dynastic families. Somebody who'll never work a day in their life has decided that work is good for you, so you'll have to work until the day you die.

My life is pretty basic at the moment. On a Monday morning I drive for 90 minutes to get to the office, I spend 3 nights in a hotel, eating my dinner in the pub next door, then I drive home on Thursday evenings and work from home on Fridays. Each evening I drink too much and try to keep my mind distracted with Netflix. Each morning it takes a huge effort to motivate myself to get up and go to my desk. Each weekend, I wonder if I'm going to be motivated to do something with my free time, but I never am: the boredom and the monotony and the prospect of months and years more misery seems to sap every bit of energy from me. I'm either at work, hating it, or I'm dreading having to go back.

Most people would seek social contact. Most people would quit jobs which caused them significant anguish. You'll find plenty of night owls who work in restaurants or bars, because they simply couldn't tolerate an office job. You'll find plenty of people who work outdoors because they couldn't tolerate being chained to a desk. You'll find plenty of people who create real and tangible things because they couldn't stand to be pushing paper for a so-called living.

It feels like I'm committing an act of self-harm by persevering with choices which are incompatible with my sense of wellbeing, contentment and happiness, but I've swallowed the propaganda that work will set me free. It seems - on paper at least - as though I only have to suffer in the short-term and I will then reap the long-term rewards.

I could pay off all my important debts today, but then I wouldn't have the working capital to be able to get to work, pay for accommodation & food, pay my bills. I could liberate myself from the tyranny of capitalism, but the alternative is homelessness and destitution. The road out of civilised society is a one-way street. Everything in mainstream society is set up to deny access to anybody who's taken an alternative path: with a bad credit score, no fixed abode, bankruptcy and other 'black marks' against your name, you'll never be able to rent a place to live or get a good job; you'll be trapped into poverty forever.

I'm trying as much as I can to shut off my brain, getting through the next few months in an intoxicated state as much as possible. I try to be drunk or unconscious whenever I can, desperately trying to make the time go quicker.

I'm repeating a life I've lived a thousand times before. I'm doing things I can do in my sleep; muscle memory. There's nothing novel, new or interesting in my life.

I was homeless again from September last year through to March. I rented another apartment, which briefly made me happy, but it's something I've done so many times before: moving house, renting or buying a place to live. Shelter is a basic human need.

I wasn't working from September through to November last year. I got another job, which briefly made me feel relieved to have an income again, but I've had so many jobs before. There's nothing new, novel or interesting about doing the same kind of job that I've done for 21+ years full-time.

I expect I could re-do any of the many things that I've done thousands of times before in my life, and cumulatively all those things will add up to a complete and functional life, but I'm pretty exhausted by the destructive cycle of losing jobs, losing my home, losing my friends, losing money and being on the brink of exclusion from society the whole time; living on the margins. It's exhausting, constantly having the threat of a 'black mark' against your name, which will ruin your chance of ever re-entering civilised society.

Sometimes I feel happy about the progress I've been making, but other times I feel depressed about the time & effort still required to reach the point where I feel free. All I'm trying to do is get back to zero; to get square; to make things even.

I'm attempting to travel the shortest distance between where I am and where I want to be. I'm attempting to travel via the fastest route possible. In my desperation to reach my goal as quickly as possible, I'm jettisoning almost everything which seems superfluous. My life is basically unliveable; intolerable... but I keep telling myself that it's just for another few months... another few months.

What will I do when I get my freedom? I don't dare to dream at the moment. There's too much suffering in the short-term to waste time dreaming about the future.

 

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Binging on TV

7 min read

This is a story about edutainment...

TV

I set myself the objective of writing 1 million words in 3 years on this website. To date, I've written over 950,000 words. Of course, some of it is complete garbage. I've written during periods of extreme sleep deprivation, paranoia, stimulant psychosis, mania, hypomania. I've written from psych wards. I've written while losing my home, losing jobs, losing my mind. I've kept writing through it all, and my task is nearly done.

I wrote a whole novel that I'm quite proud of, and 42,000 words of another novel which I'm not so proud of, but I learned a lot. My first novel came relatively easily; I wrote about what I know. The first year that I was blogging seemed to go relatively easily, but the second and third years have been... eventful.

I've lost friends because of my blog, but I've also gained new friends all over the world. My words have been used against me by ex-employers and ex-girlfriends, but more fool them: I think it's the most cowardly and pathetic thing in the world to hit somebody when they're vulnerable; kick a man when he's down.

I've made myself incredibly vulnerable. My whole psyche is on display to the entire world; public property. In the last week alone I've had readers in over 50 countries, speaking nearly 40 different languages as their mother tongue.

I'm not so arrogant, deluded and hubristic to believe that I have any influence, of course, but nobody can deny that I exist... out there in cyberspace. Very few people have gathered their thoughts so exhaustively and presented them at such length.

The internet is littered with abandoned blogs. Twitter is awash with billions - if not trillions - of throwaway garbage 140-character tweets. Even now with 280 characters, what can people really say that's profound or interesting, with such a constraint? Creativity does not love constraints: when was the last time you read a book which could be tweeted? The various competing messaging platforms - SMS, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter DM, Instagram DM - all store huge archives of chat between their users, but it's all throwaway garbage; transient tosh.

Of course what I'm writing is not profound or perhaps even interesting. Of course what I'm doing is not original; it's not a novel idea. Of course I'm not special or different in any way. Of course I'll never achieve anything except my arbitrary target of writing 1 million words in 3 years. What was the point?

I could sit around and be a consumer. I could sit around and consume content. I could read other people's books and blogs and never write another thing. I could watch films and TV and never create a single thing in my whole life. I don't have to write. There are plenty of people who write already. Why does the world need another writer? What have I got to say which is going to add anything of value to the literature?

Writing and creating art became an urgent need which could not be ignored any longer. Writing is a healthier addiction than slouching on the couch, having soap operas and celebrity reality TV shows projected into my living room for all my waking hours. Writing has become a habit, and I've become habituated into the ritual of writing down my stream of consciousness and making it public. Writing my innermost thoughts and feelings publicly has become part of me, because I always existed but I didn't have anywhere to exist... I was trapped in my own mind and I needed to escape that prison and go live in a place that was less isolated. I live in cyberspace. I live through my writing and those who it connects with. Anybody can connect. I'm publicly accessible. I'm common property.

I've interrupted a weekend spent binging on Netflix and Amazon streaming videos. I've deliberately paused the endless stream of nonstop entertainment to write. Why would I do that? Why would I deny myself the pleasure of sitting and doing nothing - being entertained - and spend my precious time writing this? Most people find writing to be a real chore. Most people would struggle to write a thousand words, let alone 950,000. Even your average university-educated person will consider their 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation, 40,000 word masters dissertation or 100,000 word thesis to be a lifetime achievement. If you want to level the accusation at me that it's easy to write complete crap, I remind you that in amongst the 950,000 words I've written are the best part of 2 completed novels, which had to have coherent plots and credible characters, and be written well enough to deserve to be read... although I admit, my unfinished second novel is pretty crappy.

It's hard to create something. It's easy to pick things apart. It's easy to be a consumer. It's hard to finish a project. It's a lot harder than you think to write a whole novel. It's ridiculously hard to commit to a 3-year 1-million-word writing project and see it through to the end.

There's something kinda tragic about broadcasting when nobody's listening. Why do people keep public video diaries when they've got no audience? Why do people keep blogging when nobody reads or comments on their blog? Why do people keep tweeting when they've got no followers?

The answer to the riddle of why people speak to an empty room is something that you might never know, because you're not prepared to publicly ridicule yourself to find out. You think you already know the answer: that it's stupid and pointless. However, how does anybody learn how to be a good writer in the first place? How does anybody get followers and readers? How does anybody go from nothing to something; somebody?

Nothing happens if you just sit around watching TV. You're not going to win the lottery if you don't even play the game. All that's gonna happen is that you'll get fat and old and wonder what you did with your life, if you don't ever create anything. That's fine; that's what most people do: they just get fat, old and then they die, and nobody knows a damn thing about them except for their nearest and dearest. They take their secrets to the grave.

This might be seen as a vanity project; egotistical, but you've got to remember that at the funeral of people who've committed suicide, everyone always says "if only we knew" and "what could we have done differently?" and they're ultimately left with more questions than answers. The only antidote to that I can see is to begin to change the way we live: instead of lives of quiet desperation, we can now express ourselves fully. We have all these amazing communication tools which we can use to connect with one another. There should be no monopoly on who's allowed to communicate; broadcast; publish.

Yes, there's a snobbery around self-publishing, but it's the quickest and easiest way to get yourself out there; to be heard.

I've been racing against time to make myself heard; to get all of this down on the page so it can be read by anybody who's interested. It's been a race against time to communicate enough of myself, that I feel like I'm not going to be one of those suicides where people are left wondering about anything: it's all written down.

I'm not saying I'm actively suicidal at the moment, but I know how quickly my circumstances can change; how rapidly my mood can blacken.

It feels like a good use of my time to write every day, even if nobody is reading.

It feels good to write, when I would otherwise just be binging on TV shows during my leisure time.

It feels good to create, not just consume.

 

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Shirking from Home

3 min read

This is a story about office work...

Coffee table laptops

My life often sways wildly between the sublime and the ridiculous. I'm working from home today and I've got enough laptops to pretty much cover the entire surface of my coffee table. Clearly, I don't have enough hands to operate all these machines simultaneously, but when my main work machine is busy doing something - like now - I can pick up one of my personal laptops and keep myself constantly entertained.

It's a real treat to be able to write during office hours. It was a real treat to be able to walk no further than the distance between my bed and my sofa, this morning when I started work. It was a real treat to be able to flatten down my bed hair and join a morning conference call in a less-than-presentable state. It's been a real treat to not have to pretend to be busy and otherwise gainfully employed the whole working day.

I've had a really productive day. I think the stress and anxiety of being presentable and on best behaviour in the office is exhausting, and I've been able to focus my time and energy on doing my job, instead of looking like I'm doing my job.

Of course, if I worked from home all the time, there's no reason why my job couldn't be done by somebody in India for 1/700th of what I charge. "I bet you could work from the beach if you wanted to" people say to me. No. No I can't, because what the client pays for is to have a miserable person chained to their desk in the UK. The client pays to have an office chair kept warm by a human butt. That's what the client wants: bums on seats.

Spending 4 out of 7 nights a week sleeping in my own bed and working from home every Friday seems sustainable. It was nice to get back in my apartment yesterday evening. Working from home today has been awesome. I'm starting to feel a little bit more hopeful that I'll be able to manage to get through the next few months.

It's also raining today, which always makes me feel better about missing out on enjoying nice hot sunny summer weather. Tomorrow there's a storm coming, bringing high winds, which I always find exciting. I could even go kitesurfing if I wanted to, although there are probably thousands of tourists who'll all be trying to pretend like it's a good day to go to the beach, even though the wind will be gusting well over 50mph.

This week has been better than last week, which is a good omen. Hopefully I'll get settled and comfortable with the routine.

Things are looking up.

 

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