Skip to main content
 

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.

 

Tags:

 

Crumbs on the Keyboard

6 min read

This is a story about lunch breaks...

Pret a Manger sandwich

I'm struggling to get to work on time. I've suffered periods in the past which have felt like agonising torture, getting up early in the morning to go to the office, but I've also had periods where I managed to adjust my body clock to become more of a morning lark than a night owl. My body clock seems to be driven by my stomach.

I never used to eat breakfast - there simply wasn't enough time, because I was always late for work. However, I've found that breakfast is the best way to tell my body what time it needs to adjust itself to, so I can cope with "normal" office hours. Unfortunately, the breakfast trick hasn't been working for the last couple of weeks.

I spent a whole month drinking wine every night until 1am or 2am, and not getting out of bed until midday, so I guess it should be expected that my body and brain would complain loudly about the rude intrusion of the working day upon my pleasant slumbers.

I also had a very unsettled period where my delicate brain chemistry was sent haywire by a combination of drugs, insomnia, lack of food & drink, drug and sleep-deprivation induced mania, plus a breakup and some other madness, all of which completely destabilised me. I'm quite lucky that I managed to put the brakes on that particular period of instability and resume working without doing serious damage to myself, my finances, my home or my career... I've managed to pick up pretty much where I left off, minus the girlfriend of course.

I feel bad that I turn up late to work and I want to go home early. My working days are mostly excruciatingly boring - I don't have enough to do, to keep me busy and my mind occupied. There's no torture quite like having to get up early to go and sit at a desk, watching the clock until it's finally time to go home, bored out of my mind.

I'm trying to justify the fact that I'm not working as many hours as my colleagues, or being anywhere near as productive, because I'm new and also I only take a short lunch break. If there was work I could do, I would do it, but I always seem to tear through any tasks at breakneck pace and I'm left with nothing to do again. I need a really huge project to completely immerse myself in, but instead my paymasters are quite happy to have me sitting idle - they really don't seem to care that it's an enormous waste of my productive capacity. Of course, nobody knows just how awful it is for me to be bored too; just how terrible it is to feel alone with my thoughts for 7 or 8 hours a day, trapped at my desk with no distractions.

At home, I can read a book, write or watch TV/films. At home, I can distract myself from the constant noise of my brain. At home, I can easily waste time. At work, I'm simply getting paid to be present. At work, all there is to think about is how much I earn every day, every hour, every minute... every second even. Tick... that's 2 pence... tick... that's 2 pence... tick... that's 2 pence... tick... that's 2 pence... tick... another 2 pence...

Yes, if I saw a penny on the floor it wouldn't be worth my time to stop and pick it up. I would quite literally lose money if I watched the pennies. If my job was literally to pick up pennies that were covering every inch of the floor, and put them in my piggy bank, I would be earning less than I am now, assuming that I had to pick each one up individually. My job isn't to watch the pennies. My job is to sit at a desk doing nothing. It pays very handsomely to be bored doing nothing.

Things aren't as bad as they were back in February, when I didn't even have any colleagues to talk to. Things will get better as my colleagues start to get to know and trust me, and they ask me to do more and more stuff; bigger and bigger bits of work, hopefully. I want to be swamped with work, so that I don't have to sit at my desk bored with nothing to do.

My brain's a bit broken and I feel stressed and anxious; on edge. I'm acutely aware that I'm in a lot of discomfort during most of the working day, despite the fact that it seems quite enviable to be highly paid to sit around doing nothing. At the end of every month I submit an invoice, and each invoice makes a considerable dent in my debt. By all "normal" people's standards, I'm rocketing my way from poverty to wealth and the timescale seems like nothing... only a few more months and I'll be getting on top of things. There's got to be something wrong with me, because time is passing so painfully slowly.

That's all I've got to do: sit and do nothing, and everything gets sorted out in my life... at least financially.

I feel very anxious about the fact that I'm not being productive or working the expected number of hours in the office. I'm acutely aware that my colleagues might become resentful of the fact that they're at their desks for longer than I am. I go to bed and wake up with a horrible feeling of dread, knowing that I've got another working day tomorrow - and for months and months more - where I'll be bored, underworked and overpaid. It might sound like a nice problem to have, but I promise you that you'd have walked away already if you experienced what I'm going through.

What can I tell you? Maybe I'm a spoilt brat. I really don't think I am - I'm a mercenary who's figured out how to make a lot of money very quickly, but my task is not one that sits comfortably with my soul, although at least the work is not as immoral as it was when I was working for the investment banks.

I skip breakfast, eat my sandwich at my desk, and try to stay at the office for as long as I can possibly can, before the boredom becomes unbearable and I have to escape to somewhere where I can distract myself for a short while, until it's time to do it all over again, and again, and again... ad nauseam.

 

Tags:

 

Penblwydd Hapus i Mi

7 min read

This is a story about early retirement...

Birthday cake

I was pretty pleased with my life's achievements by the time I hit the age of 30. I'd earned a lot of money and been able to enjoy a lavish lifestyle, and I had plenty of material possessions as status symbols to attest to my accomplishments. My income vastly exceeded my expenditure and I'd amassed enough savings and assets to be able to support myself without a job for many years, without having to tighten my belt or live frugally.

I decided to quit the rat race and be my own boss. I retrained as an electrician and set myself up in business as a one-man operation: just me and my van... and my customers. Turns out that you always have a boss, whether you're a salaried employee or the founder and CEO of your own company. There's always somebody who you're dependent on for your money, like investors and customers who have to be kept happy. Perhaps only trust fund brats are truly free from the tyranny of having to kowtow to anybody, but even they have to kiss the ass of the trustees if they want to get their hands on more cash than their already more-than-ample unearned lifelong income.

My subsequent attempt to use my software smarts to earn money while I slept didn't turn out much better than my attempt to become a traditional tradesman. Realising that customers were harder to extract money from than I'd anticipated, and that I was going to end up giving away a substantial amount of equity and control to investors, I burned out and became very depressed about life.

I tend to win more than I lose when software's involved and my most recent attempt at earning money in my sleep was quite successful, when I bought Bitcoin miners which I kept in my summer house. I also ploughed every pound and penny that I could beg, borrow or steal and I bought Bitcoins, which then appreciated in value a hundredfold or more. Sadly, I needed to liquidate my assets to settle an acrimonious divorce, hence why I'm not [yet] a multimillionaire... well, and also to be honest I didn't think the value of Bitcoin was going to go much beyond $5,000 but that's another story.

To be fully retired and spend my days wandering around National Trust stately homes - or whatever it is that retired folk do - I think would be quite torturous and tedious. I was dragged around enough stately homes as a child, with my pushy parents mistakenly believing that educational leisure experiences would be somehow beneficial to me and my future.

Software is the gift that keeps on giving and I've worked an average of 3 months per year, during the last 4 or 5 years. That's pretty close to semi-retired. The remaining 9 months of each year have been spent sleeping rough, living in hostel dorms, in and out of hospital, locked up on psych wards or otherwise generally living a life which most people would not consider to contain much rest and relaxation.

I'm pretty exhausted to be honest.

I'm 39 years old and I'm knackered.

During the last 9 years I've done all the things which my parents told me not to. I've followed my dreams and I've ended up in a few nightmares too, but I've finally been able to experience life. I was a very well-behaved boy and young man: I was the well-mannered sensible child who did all the right things and was achieving all the things that grannies and aunties like to hear about when your parents phone or write to brag. There's a lot of snobbery in my family and I felt duty-bound to comply with very boring, rigid and old-fashioned ideas of success. I'd spent my life up to the age of 30 living somebody else's idea of how I should live my life. Then, I rebelled.

I really rebelled.

It took me a while, but I caught up. At the age of 32 I had been a straight-laced boring conformist who'd never stepped out of line and had never experienced life, in all its its horror as well as its beauty. By the time I reached my 35th birthday I was pretty much ready to start gently pressing the brake pedal. Now I'm only a year away from turning 40 I've got both feet on the brakes and I've pulled the handbrake too.

I don't think you can really say you've lived until you've been arrested, thrown in the back of a paddy waggon, locked in a police cell, sectioned, locked up on a psych ward, been hospitalised, been in critical care / intensive care, been on a high dependency ward, had organ failure, had dialysis, had a horrific injury requiring general anaesthetic and major surgery, become homeless, slept rough, lived in a hostel dorm, run out of money, been physically addicted to drugs and all the other things which came about when I decided to abandon all caution and just do whatever the f**k I wanted for a few years.

I really made up for lost time, but I don't regret any of it. If I have any regrets, it's only that I listened to my parents and I behaved myself and I was sensible. I wish I followed my dreams earlier. I wish I did what I wanted sooner, rather than attempting to please my parents and gain their approval, which turned out to be impossible anyway.

To continue my life in the way I had been living it until a year ago would be quite disgraceful. There's no dignity in being 40+ years old and doing the kind of crazy s**t that I've been doing during a lot of my thirties... in fact I think it's a real shame to see people who haven't been able to stop the madness when they've reached an age where they should supposedly know better.

In light of the fact that I only have a year until my 40th birthday, I am now semi-retired. I have almost fully retired from my life of crime, drugs and insanity. Now, my life consists of a cushy government job which requires very little thought or effort and gives me a lot of disposable income and leisure time. Life is a lot less exhausting without the police cells and the hospital beds.

Over the coming months I'm going to complete my 1-million word writing project, pay off all my debts, replenish my savings and write a new chapter in my life: the comfortable semi-retired existence of a highly paid consultant doing government work; the return of some of the lavishness of the lifestyle I used to enjoy when I was a much younger man.

I am a little sad to say goodbye to the version of me who could say and do whatever he wanted, but the consequences almost killed me on numerous occasions and my luck was going to run out sooner rather than later.

39 isn't the usual age where people start a laid-back life of semi-retirement, but I think it's appropriate in my case to dial back the insanity from 11 to a much more reasonable 3 or 4.

I hope the previous 12 months I'm writing about this time next year are much more becoming of a gentleman celebrating his 40th birthday. I'm pleased that I've got a year to get things sorted in my life, so I don't feel like a total failure.

Happy birthday to me. 39 today.

 

Tags:

 

Swapping Addictions

5 min read

This is a story about changing habits...

Pill packets

A couple of months ago, I'd gotten myself to the point where I was off all the medications and I was even having some periods where I wasn't drinking. It's quite a remarkable achievement considering that a year ago I was physically addicted to a nasty cocktail of Xanax, Valium, zopiclone, zolpidem and pregabalin, all washed down with copious quantities of alcohol. Last year I had started drinking caffeinated drinks again in an effort to allow me to function at work, when I was so heavily medicated. It was a mess.

Last week, I had a little bit of pregabalin and a little bit of diazepam to help me get over the new job nerves, and to help my body re-adjust its sleeping pattern to office hours.

This week, I've had a little bit of zopiclone to continue to help my body re-adjust to getting up early in the morning.

My coping mechanism; my crutch is alcohol. My portion control with alcohol is fairly hard to adjust. If I open a bottle of wine I'm definitely going to finish it. If alcohol is easily available I'm definitely going to drink. Eliminating all the medications which would tranquillise me, sedate me and ease me gently to sleep, and not replacing any of them with anything has meant that I've consciously or unconsciously sought to salve my anxiety; soothe my nerves. I've reached for the bottle.

Ideally, I'd swap unhealthy habits for healthy ones. I'd love it if my job was absorbing and I could become a workaholic. I'd love it if my lifestyle permitted fitness-related leisure pursuits, but it doesn't: I'm in an office job which bores the shit out of me, stuck at a desk all day long, then I'm in a hotel room near a motorway, and the thought of doing anything beyond simply surviving tips me into an outright panic attack.

In time, my debts will be repaid and my savings replenished. In time, I'll have re-established my working routine and proven my value at my workplace with my new colleagues. In time, my brain will have adjusted to life without all the medications.

My fear is that I'm going to get fat, unfit and develop a heavy dependence on alcohol.

I know that my personality is fixed a certain way, which means I can very easily become obsessive about work and leisure pursuits making me fit, fulfilled and rich, but things just aren't going my way at the moment. I'm struggling along with pretty intolerable living arrangements, working arrangements and paying a very high price for lengthy periods where I was using powerful psychoactive medications.

I have a deep longing for some tablets to make the next few months a bit more bearable. I'd consider almost any antidepressant at the moment, if it promised to reduce my anxiety, take away the dread I feel the night before a working day and soften the blow when my alarm goes off in the morning and it's time to go to work; if it could reduce the acute feelings of misery and hopelessness.

I've felt a lot less suicidal the past couple of weeks, but depression has manifested itself as feeling tired all the time and an incredible struggle to get up in the mornings. My energy, enthusiasm and motivation levels are all at rock bottom. My brain feels pretty sluggish and slow, and I'm disappointed with myself that I haven't been able to feel useful or productive in my new job yet.

All of these things place a huge amount of stress and strain on me. You'd be surprised how hard it is to make medication changes, let alone stop taking a whole host of powerful medications all at once, plus the other stressors in my life, such as an unsettled work and home life; lack of support network.

My bank balance steadily creeps in a positive direction, which is pretty much my main objective, but my responsibilities seem to mount while my enjoyment of life is at rock bottom. I need to go to the supermarket to buy cakes for my work colleagues because tomorrow is my birthday, but it's going to be one of the worst birthdays I've had for a long time, although it might be OK if I can meet a local friend for a beer, which would improve things immeasurably.

Perhaps I'm being a martyr; perhaps I'm not. I've gotten into the habit of going cold turkey with addictive drugs and medications, and white-knuckling through the dreadful withdrawal symptoms. I've desperately tried to avoid becoming dependent on anything new and muddying the psychiatric picture by pickling my brain in more chemicals.

I'd like to make things as easy as possible on myself for the next few months, but I don't think the answer lies in addictive tranquillisers, sedatives, sleeping pills and painkillers. Perhaps my mind has been too closed off to the idea of antidepressants. I desperately need this job and the money. I desperately need the next few months to go smoothly and without incident, so I can escape the shackles of my debt.

I'm sad that I'm so sad on the eve of my birthday. I'm sad that I'm so sad in the middle of summer. I'm sad that I'm so sad when I've worked so hard to do the right things: work hard and quit all the addictive drugs and medications. Isn't there supposed to be some reward for hard work?

I wonder when I'm going to feel the benefits from all the good choices I'm making?

 

Tags:

 

Eccentric Orbit

5 min read

This is a story about resonant frequencies...

Wet wheels

Little things can send me into an unexpected tailspin. Little things matter. Molehills get magnified into mountains and there are storms in teacups. My life appears to be quite normal, ordered, sensible and stable, but it's an illusion: everything is really quite fragile under the thin veneer.

Last week I spent several hours trying to get the sound working on my battered Macbook Pro, which had been recently repaired after some water/moisture damage. There had been a small puff of smoke and the smell of electrical burning at the weekend, which had been rather worrisome, but the laptop seemed to soldier on unaffected... I hadn't noticed that it had become mute.

Software is my job, so I threw all of my 21+ years of experience at solving the problem, plus all the other years of my youth which were mis-spent tinkering with computers... I should have been able to fix the problem. Alas, I decided that it must definitely be a hardware problem and therefore it was going to be expensive to fix and well beyond my very amateurish soldering abilities: I'm a software expert, not a hardware expert.

It's rare that a technical problem like that defeats me. Having already spent the best part of £600 having my Macbook repaired, I was pretty disappointed that something had gone bang inside it, leaving me with a partially-broken Macbook.

I knew that I could buy an adapter for my headphones for less than £10 which would be a cheap workaround for the problem, but every single thing that's a bit tatty and old and partially-broken in my life adds up to a bigger feeling of being overwhelmed by life; that everything's falling apart.

It seems like everything that's damaged tells the same story: stuff got messed up when I myself was in a messed up sick state.

I've replaced a lot of things like-for-like and that really helps. Rather than having constant daily reminders that I broke, damaged or lost things of importance, I've spent the money to get things back to how they should be. Fixing those little things has cost me a lot of money, but the benefit is greater than you might imagine. You probably think you could put up with all the annoying little things, and the things which seem to be superficial, but I can't; it upsets me.

I forgot to wash, dry and pack a couple of T-shirts for my working week. At lunch I managed to drop some food onto my nice clean shirt that I was wearing, so I won't be able to wear that again this week. The nice hotel I was staying in near the office had a laundry service, but the one I was forced to book as an alternative doesn't have those facilities. Tomorrow I have to choose between wearing an unironed shirt, an unironed T-shirt or a smelly T-shirt. I already had to spend all afternoon sat at my desk with a stain on my shirt, because I knew there was no point in going to the car to swap my stained shirt for any of those unappealing options.

These little things - the laptop sound, the hotel, the shirt - they sound like nothing, but they have a far bigger impact my my sense of wellbeing than you would expect.

One might imagine that it's only catastrophic events which truly affect us, and everything else can be tolerated, but all the little things add up: it's death by a thousand cuts.

The things that bother me are quite mundane and boring, and some sound quite easy to fix if you don't actually have to do the fixing... for example a couple of bits of damage to the paint and plasterwork in my apartment. Any idiot knows that a bit of filler and a bit of paint will take care of the problem, but of course to repair anything properly is a lot easier said than done. Perhaps nobody notices the little blemishes and the bodge-jobs, but I do and it's me who has to see them morning, noon and night, every day of my miserable life.

It seems so petty to be whining about tiny blemishes, but the only way I can think to describe it with the analogy of a heavy flywheel which is rotating extremely fast. A tiny chip out of the flywheel's metal will cause vibration. The weight of the flywheel creates tremendously high energy from the centripetal force of its rotation, and the vibration puts a lot of stress on the axle. Before long, the whole machine which the flywheel is attached to will shake itself to pieces.

All of the disruption to my routine, my stability, my living, working, travelling, eating and other such arrangements... it's all highly stressful. Chuck in a few seemingly insignificant other things, and I worry that I'm going to fly off the handle unpredictably, or something apparently minor will trigger a major breakdown.

Why make things any harder than they need to be?

 

Tags:

 

Vicious Vile Vindictive Vendetta

7 min read

This is a story about axe grinding...

Graffiti

I tend to assume that nobody is going to rush to my aid if I'm in distress. I assume that nobody's going to stick up for me. I assume that I'm all alone; isolated. I assume that I'm the only person who's going to fight for justice. I assume that I'm going to have to defend myself. I assume that my enemies will close ranks and use their considerable advantages to pommel me into the ground; to destroy me. I assume that I have little hope of protecting myself: I'm an easy target.

When I opened myself up and made myself vulnerable in the past, it felt like people eagerly exploited the chinks in my armour. Where I had been honest, my disclosures were used against me. Things which had happened to me a long time ago were dredged up as ammunition to attack me with. My self-confidence and self-esteem were attacked and my happiness and contentment were replaced with insecurities which I thought I'd vanquished. The pride that I felt in my achievements was robbed from me and I was made to feel like a failure; worthless.

I tried to re-invent myself: to prove myself capable of leaving all the misery of my old life behind, re-asserting my value as a person. However, I was always afraid that my past might catch up with me: I was always looking over my shoulder and my insecurities remained.

At my lowest ebb I started to have a psychotic episode where I was hearing voices. The voices told me that all my friends, family, former work colleagues and other important people in my life, knew everything bad about me. "They know" said the voices.

At first, I was devastated by the idea that people who I liked and respected would know everything about me which I was ashamed of. This was my very worst fear: that my most shameful experiences were common knowledge.

Then, I shouted back at the voices: "do your worst, you cowardly bullies!" I yelled.

I refused to be blackmailed, threatened and coerced by those who sought to shame and embarrass me. I refused to hide in shame. I refused to give in to the bullies. I refused to let anybody have that power over me: to share my private secrets and be able to shame me.

A few months later, I started to write this blog.

At first, I felt like I was writing my own obituary. I felt like there wasn't a single person who could be trusted to speak about my achievements, and that it would be unfair if my tormenters were given an opportunity to tarnish my reputation because I was dead and not able to defend myself. I wrote about the things that showed me in the best possible light. I wrote about my proudest moments. I wrote about the positive things I wanted people to know about me.

Then, as I contemplated suicide, I realised that such an account would feel fake. It's natural that we tend to remember the good things about people after they're dead, and we don't talk about the bad stuff. It seems disrespectful to trash-talk somebody who's dead, but seeing as I was writing my own obituary, I started to think that I should write about everything: both good and bad.

As I admitted my faults, mistakes, misdemeanours, bad things I'd done, character flaws and numerous other things which painted me in a very unflattering light, I felt quite empowered by the process. Little by little I was taking away the power from the bullies; from those people who had betrayed my confidence and used my secrets against me. Little by little I was destroying the people who had robbed me of my self-esteem and self-confidence.

I used to be afraid about revealing unflattering things about myself, and I would feel regret and self-doubt about whether I'd made the right decision, for days after I made some new public revelation. I wondered whether I was doing the right thing, or whether I was making a foolish mistake that couldn't be reversed.

Then, it became a habit and an obsession to document every bad thing about myself - any secrets; anything which might bring me shame - and write everything down very publicly with unflinching candid honesty. I lost the fear and I lost the filter... I felt happy unburdening myself and there weren't any negative consequences.

My fear of the past catching up with me was replaced by a newfound pride in my identity. I became proud of my achievements again, and I even started to feel proud of things which I had previously kept secret. Telling the world about the adversity which I'd faced made me see that there was something to be proud of, even during my darkest moments. Yes, I was putting myself at huge risk of prejudice, but the more I wrote the more I knew that I was protecting myself from anybody who wanted to label me.

Yes, if you want to call me a homeless alcoholic junkie bankrupt with mental health problems, go ahead, be my guest. If you think you can shame me to the point where I'll allow myself to be marginalised and excluded from society, you simply haven't bothered to do the reading.

My reaction to anybody who patronises and insults me; who sells me short and can't see my full potential; who thinks the worst of me... my reaction to people who treat me like that is pretty strong and forceful. I'm fiercely protective over the pride, self-esteem and self-confidence which have taken such a substantial amount of effort to rebuild. I'm never going to let anybody bully and abuse me again.

I can react in a way that seems disproportionate. I can act in ways that seem very vindictive. I can become quite obsessed about my perceived mistreatment. In actual fact, the way I act is completely to be expected given how long people have been shitting on me and trying to destroy me, and how hard it has been to escape the bullying and abuse of those people and rebuild my life.

When I've gone on the offensive, because I've felt threatened, I've definitely acted in way which could be considered an over-reaction; I've gone too far. I've swiftly and brutally dumped people out of my life at the first hint of trouble, which may have been unnecessary and was done with a level of aggression which I'm not proud of, but it's a defensive reaction. Life's too short for me to get mixed up with any more bullies and abusers: if I decide you're doing me harm, it's goodbye and good riddance and it won't be pretty.

There's a question mark about whether I should hit back or not. I'm certainly asking myself whether it was the right thing to do, to make the bullies and abusers pay for what they did to me. I'd like to be the bigger person, and to just move on and forget the past; move forward positively. I think it's an unfortunate feature of my illness, that when I'm unwell I can get pretty vicious and weaponise my blog to hurt the people who've hurt me. I don't think I should do that.

I'm not claiming to be a saint... that's the whole point about my writing: I'm writing about my flaws and mistakes as much as I'm writing about anything. I'm trying to figure out how to get myself into a comfortable situation where I'm happy and confident enough to let any mean, unkind words just bounce harmlessly off me; rise above all the shit.

However, be warned: if you pick on the bullied kid thinking they're a soft target, one of these days you're going to get an explosive reaction; you're going to unleash hell.

 

Tags:

 

One Year in Pictures - a Photo Story

7 min read

This is a story about the last 12 months...

London sunset

The story begins in London, looking out at the skyline of the capital from my balcony. This is the last photo I took from my apartment in London before I had to leave to go chasing cash... I was practically bankrupt.

Self storage

That's everything I own all boxed up and put into self storage. That's all the stuff I've managed to hang onto through the past few years. I'm amazed I even managed to accumulate and retain this much stuff, considering that a few years ago I was homeless and even sleeping rough. In a way, it's liberating that my life can be boxed up and moved so easily.

Packed suitcase

That's all I could manage to carry on the train to Manchester, leaving my beloved home city of London. I'll always think of London as home first and foremost, because I've spent more time there than anywhere else. Yes, I got my ass kicked, but the place was relatively kind to me. I've still got plenty of friends there, at least.

Manchester apartment block

Here's the apartment block where I was moving to. I'd never set foot in Manchester before in my life. I'd never been inside the apartment. I didn't know anybody in the city. In fact, I hardly know anybody in the North of England. In retrospect it was insane to move to Manchester, but I was desperate - I was bankrupt and I couldn't afford to pay the rent in London anymore, so homelessness and destitution were imminent. I did what I had to do.

Ironing board

I was lonely but there were girls. I was so busy with my work that there wasn't a lot of time for making new friends. I was really gutted about a breakup a couple of months earlier - she was such an amazing girlfriend - and it seemed to make sense at the time to meet somebody new. It made things more bearable, having a partner.

Tramadol capsules

Things were fragile; delicate. I was under so much pressure and I'd been through such emotional upheaval leaving my home and moving to a new city, as well as the exhaustion and the stress of it all. I often thought about killing myself. I even took this photo of one of the boxes of capsules I used as part of my massive overdose suicide attempt.

Psych ward

Psych ward. Not just any psych ward - this was a PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) and my fellow patients were very sick. I arrived here after my suicide attempt, having spent days in a coma on life support.

Nettles

Wales. What the hell was I doing in Wales? I might've been born in Wales but I've never lived here. The hospital were going to discharge me into some kind of supported housing, but I had no idea where in the country I was going to be housed. I've got no local connections anywhere. I could have stayed in hospital and taken a gamble on social services finding me somewhere tolerable to live, but instead I accepted the kind offer from a doctor who read my blog - I moved into their converted garage. I was homeless and it was the state's responsibility to house me because I was vulnerable, but there was too much danger I'd end up housed somewhere where I didn't know anybody. It turned out the doctor was married to somebody my friend was friends with... there was a connection.

Warsaw snow

Warsaw. What the hell was I doing in Warsaw? I needed money and I needed it fast. An old friend put in a good word for me with his boss and the next thing I knew I was packing my bags for a business trip to Poland.

Busy underground

London again. This time I was commuting from Wales and living in AirBnBs. I stayed in 12 different AirBnBs. It was a horrible existence, spent on trains and in really crappy accommodation. I nearly ran out of money. It was unbelievably stressful, having to pretend like everything was OK and normal, when in actual fact I'd already been through 6 months of hell and things were worse than ever. I was no fixed abode, living off the charity of a doctor who read my blog and emailed me, and I was almost out of cash but I still had to get to work every day and pretend like everything was normal.

Train cancelled

Dating again. I decided that there was no point in dating in London because I didn't plan on staying in London for any more than another couple of months... I couldn't stand the commuting and the AirBnBs. I was dating, but I still didn't have any money, or a car, or an apartment - I was still virtually bankrupt and no fixed abode. What the hell was I doing dating?

Garage

I got a local job. That meant I needed a car so I could get to work. I had a horrendous chest infection, but I needed a car and I needed one fast. I barely had enough money for the car, the road tax and the insurance. In fact, I didn't have enough money - I had to go into even more debt in order to get myself back on the road.

Apartment keys

I managed to rent an apartment. That was stressful. They were asking for the whole 12 months rent up-front at one point. I was struggling to prove that I was able to pay the rent, of course... I'd spent the past 9 months on the brink of bankruptcy so of course I was worried that my credit score was destroyed and I wouldn't be able to rent an apartment. Once again, I spent every penny I could lay my hands on and went deeper into debt, but I desperately wanted some security... a place to call home with a legally binding tenancy agreement... no longer dependent on the charity of the kind people who'd let me live in their converted garage.

Cod and chips

A brief moment of domestic bliss. I had a car, an apartment, a local job and a local girlfriend. We were a "dinky" couple - dual income, no kids. We ate out or had takeaway nearly every night, or cooked luxury ready meals. We were planning a holiday together.

Baked beans

Easy come, easy go. I broke up with my girlfriend. The work project had been completed and the local company were letting me go. My windows were covered with paper so nobody could see in and I was eating cold baked beans out of a can with a business card as an improvised spoon.

Holiday

Instead of a week lying on a sun lounger by the swimming pool, on holiday, I managed to snatch a weekend mini-break to a European city with an old friend. It was exhausting, but of course great to see my friend. My week-long holiday was cancelled. I haven't had a proper holiday for 2 years.

Leaving gift

A leaving gift from my local job. They got me a card and everything. The gift was alcohol. It was a nice gesture. I like alcohol.

Time to talk

Another day another dollar. I got another job. It's still in Wales but it's 90 minutes drive away in rush hour traffic. My mental health is destroyed and I find it ironic that there are posters everywhere in the office saying "it's OK to talk about mental health" but there's an unwritten rule that says I'm supposed to be a reliable, steady, dependable worker who never complains and just gets on with the project... I'm not allowed to take sick days. I'm back living out of a suitcase again. I'm still a long way away from where I need to be.

Pint in the pub

This is my life now. Drinking in the pub next to the hotel, which is near my new office. My new colleagues are nice - and super smart - and the project is interesting, I guess, but I really need a bunch of local friends, a local girlfriend etc. etc. and I could really do without the loneliness and the boredom and the isolation and the pressure and the stress, which are all as present as ever.

A pretty crazy 12-month rollercoaster ride. I'm very surprised that I'm still alive.

 

Tags:

 

Rain in My Heart

5 min read

This is a story about commuting...

Stormy beach

A week ago I was binging on Netflix in an attempt to distract myself from my mounting anxiety levels. I knew that I only had the weekend to prepare for a week living in a hotel and starting a new job. I knew that I had a mountain of chores that I had been putting off, and that I would be spending all weekend feeding washing into the machine and taking it out to dry, plus packing my bag. I had spent a month with the curtains drawn, not going outside at all, despite the fact that the UK has been experiencing some glorious summer weather.

It seems apt that as soon as I finished my working week, jumped in my car and drove home, it started to rain. Instead of feeling regret that I wasted so many opportunities to be outside in the sunshine, I felt happy that the weather had changed to reflect my mood. No amount of good weather was going to lift my mood, so the only thing that could happen was the weather to turn bad. Ironically, this made me kinda happy... happy not to be wasting good weather; happy to have an excuse to stay indoors.

At 5:30pm I was laying on my couch drinking wine in my apartment... I'm drained, but my working arrangements are pretty enviable. The week has been tough; tougher even than I had expected. Living out of a suitcase was every bit as bad as I knew it would be. I expected to be entertained by the novelty of the new organisation, new colleagues and new project, but I was unexpectedly bored. Strategically, it'd be better if I deliberately work slowly and use the "I'm new here" excuse for as long as possible, but it does mean a lot of boredom. Anyway, week one is done and I'm back in my apartment, looking for something on Netflix to binge-watch.

A week ago I ran out of sleeping pills. A week ago I decided that I needed to cut down my drinking. A week ago I knew that I had to get my sleep pattern to change to something more compatible with a 9 to 5 office job. All of these things were causing me a great deal of anxiety and sleepless nights.

I've not done brilliantly with the drinking, but I got through the working week with only a couple of days where I was falling asleep at my desk in the afternoon. It doesn't help that the air-conditioning is pretty ineffective in the office.

I know I've got a drinking problem and that I need to stay off the tablets. It's too easy to get into the habit of popping sleeping pills, tranquillisers and sedatives like they're candy. It's too easy to get so deep into a medicated state that you are unaware of how heavily drugged you are. It's only when you stop the things which have become habituated, that you realise how much of a crutch they are.

The only good thing about having done more-or-less the same job for 21+ years is that I know that I can get into the rhythm and routine of the 9 to 5 Monday to Friday office grind, and when it becomes habituated then it's a lot easier to keep plodding along... you just have to keep up the momentum and never ever stop pedalling!

I know that my lifestyle is desperately unhealthy - both physically and mentally - but I've done some rough calculations and I'll be a lot closer to financial freedom by Christmas time, which is at least something to aim for.

Given that I'm completely cut loose from friends, family and I'm presently single, I've started to think about where I want to spend Christmas. Preferably somewhere hot and sunny. I'll catch up on all that sunshine I've missed in a hot country, while most "normal" people are having their family Christmas. I'll go to a non-Christian country where they don't even celebrate Christmas. Altering my thinking in this way changed my feelings from those of dread - worrying about feeling isolated and lonely - to really positive feelings where I'm quite looking forward to having some time off during the traditional Western festive season.

The commuting and the dreary 9 to 5 and living out of a suitcase is going to be hell, but I'm starting to get to the position where I can at least dare to dream about holidays and suchlike. My immediate cashflow crisis is over and I now at least have enough cash to significantly improve my leisure time as well as allowing me to not worry so much about any unexpected expenditure, or simply running out of money due to the cost of living. Dare I say there's light at the end of the tunnel?

Next Friday and every Friday for the next year, I'm going to shirk from home, so that shortens the working week, although technically I'll still be working on Fridays... but probably in much the same position as I am now: reclining on the couch in my apartment.

As a friend says: I always land on my feet.

It doesn't feel like I've landed on my feet, because I hate commuting, I hate living out of a suitcase, I hate being bored and I hate that I'm still trapped by debts and the need to earn as much as I possibly can, as fast as I possibly can, doing work that's not particularly challenging and certainly isn't novel and exciting. However, considering the ups and downs of the last few years, it certainly looks like I've landed on my feet.

For the first time in a month my curtains are open and I can see the sea. The trouble is, it's always raining inside; it's always raining in my heart.

 

Tags:

 

Airbrushing History

5 min read

This is a story about the right to be forgotten...

Twitter 404

If you're transgender, you might want all records expunged which could link you to the gender you had previously identified as. Similarly, if you're recovering from an illness or being otherwise rehabilitated, you don't really want the whole world to know you were sick. We have specific laws which stop people from revealing a person's old name or other identity details, after they have changed gender. We have specific laws which allow criminals to be fully rehabilitated after their convictions are 'spent' - nobody is allowed to know that they were in prison after a certain number of years have elapsed since they "served their time". Our medical histories are private and confidential, and to reveal details of somebody's medical records would be a criminal act.

We work very hard to ensure that people's entire future isn't jeopardised and prejudiced by things that happened in the past. We have laws that specifically forbid discrimination and other laws which prevent questions being asked; e.g. requests for information which would be an invasion of privacy and would likely be used against a person in a discriminatory manner.

Things get a bit harder when we start to talk about things that we ourselves have somehow made public. If you decided to put your full name, date of birth, place of birth, where you work and what you ate for breakfast onto Facebook or Twitter, should you suffer the consequences for your naïvety when sharing such things on the internet?

Sometimes the internet doesn't forget.

Google has quietly dropped access to its caches - you used to be able to see copies of a webpage that Google had stored, so you could see things that had been deleted or changed - you can't do that anymore.

In theory, if you put something up on the internet which you later regretted, removing it should eventually mean that it's digitally deleted and therefore it's as if it never existed - it's not like a newspaper or a book, where ink and paper were combined to create a permanent physical record. If some of the 1s and 0s of binary data get changed on the internet, it's virtually impossible to prove that any data has been deleted or amended at all. I could forge a copy of any webpage I wanted, saying whatever I wanted it to say - how is it possible to prove that a copy of a webpage is a bona fide snapshot of what it looked like at a certain point in time? It's impossible.

There are parts of the internet that have been copied so many times onto so many different computers that the archives will probably never be lost. "Blockchain" is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot at the moment, which is just another word for a load of data which is held on loads of computers, all connected together on the internet. This is what we understand to be an "immutable" record of how a piece of data looked at a certain point in time, because there's consensus amongst multiple sources, such that it's highly likely that a person did write something on a certain date, back in the early days of the internet, preserved in the archives... or that a certain transaction took place, preserved in the blockchain. However, the internet is now far too large for there to be any kind of archive of everything, let alone multiple copies which could prove conclusively what a webpage looked like on a certain date.

Thus it's almost but not quite possible to airbrush history on the internet. The internet is somewhat amnesic.

I've tried to avoid deleting anything from my website or editing stuff that I've published, but occasionally I think that discretion is the better part of valour, and I modify or delete things. Often times I regret deleting and modifying things... there always seems to be a consequence for removing information which could hold people accountable... better to hold your ground and simply take a position of truth and honesty, I think.

We have laws which protect people who are honest and truthful. Journalism would not be able to survive the libel lawsuits if we didn't enshrine the right to speak truthfully into law. In the UK we don't have absolute freedom of speech like in the United States, but we do have the right to speak and write provided we speak truthfully and our opinions are the fair and reasonable ones that any person would be likely to share, given the same set of facts.

My strange crusade of the past few years has been to write with candid unflinching honesty, everything about myself, both good and bad. Sometimes however, I've had to write about things that are upsetting me, which has involved writing about other people and sometimes about organisations. It's difficult to know where to draw a line. If I've learned anything in the last few years, it's that 99% of people have completely different feelings about risk and privacy from me. I'm sacrificing my privacy and taking a huge risk, which most people don't want to do, so I need to be careful I don't accidentally co-opt anybody into my personal crusade. It should be noted that I take extreme care not to identify anybody or share anything private which could be linked to any individual.

Thankfully, most people don't give a shit about anybody other than themselves, so I've been able to write pretty much whatever the hell I want and nobody gives a damn.

 

Tags:

 

Surviving Suicide

6 min read

This is a story about psychological impact...

Canulas

I don't have a photo to capture the moment I regained consciousness in the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) of a hospital, but it was a bit like the photo above, but scaled up.

I'm no stranger to canulas, having spent far too many weeks in hospital receiving intravenous fluids, but I came round with about 6 different tubes all pumping stuff into my bloodstream through various canulas on both arms/wrists. I instinctively knew not to panic and start grabbing at stuff - there were a couple of ITU staff who were present when I came out of my coma to make sure I was OK and keep me calm. I noticed a canula coming out of a strange place in my arm with a thin red line of my blood within the plastic walls of the tubing... blood isn't supposed to flow in that direction. "It's an arterial canula" one of the ITU staff explained. "It's monitoring your blood pressure very accurately" they said. I could look up at a screen where, sure enough, all my vital statistics - blood pressure, blood oxygenation, respiration rate, heart rate etc. etc. - were all displayed.

I was put back to sleep.

When I came round again, I'd been lain flat on my back and I was looking at the ceiling. Somebody poked their face into my field of view. They seemed to be asking me a question. I tried to reply but I couldn't. I was confused and a little alarmed. They disappeared. When they reappeared I tried again to speak to tell them that I was mute for some reason. My breathing stopped when I tried to speak, then when I relaxed my breathing started again after a couple of seconds delay. It was a strange sensation but it didn't alarm me. I felt snot running down my face and reached to touch it - there was a rubber tube going up my nose. I fumbled gently across my face with my fingers and felt the tube going down my throat for the first time. Of course! I was on a ventilator - a machine was breathing for me - and I hadn't realised. I was relieved that I hadn't lost my voice. The tube must've been blocking my vocal chords, I reasoned.

I lost consciousness again.

I came round and I had been sat up a little bit. A nurse was asking if I wanted the tubes out. I nodded. He pulled the tube out of my nose, warning me that it might tickle a little bit. There was a sponge lollipop I needed to suck on after they pulled the tube out of my windpipe and out of my mouth, he explained - having been intubated for days was going to have irritated the delicate flesh. The big tube came out, I sucked on the liquid and my throat felt fine... I made a small noise and was relieved to feel the vibration of my vocal chords, reassuring me that I hadn't permanently lost my voice, which had been the most distressing part of the experience.

There was a bag of piss next to me. I was wearing a gown which was completely open at the back. I hadn't been wearing a gown when I'd arrived in hospital. It dawned on me that I'd been undressed and somebody had inserted a catheter while I was unconscious. I was glad that the first and only time I've been catheterised I was unconscious. It did feel very strange knowing that somebody had put a tube into my penis while I was unconscious, and I felt more tethered to the medical apparatus than I've ever felt before - I still had about 7 tubes attached to me, along with 8 cables which were monitoring my heart... 15 connections to machines that were pumping stuff in, taking stuff out, or monitoring my vitals. At its peak when I first regained consciousness, there had been 18+ tubes and cables attached to me.

I closed my eyes.

A doctor was telling me that my organs had started working again and I was going to pull through... I was going to live and wasn't that good news? "Honestly?" I asked. I had failed: It wasn't a cry for help; I hadn't expected to live; I had wanted to die. What had changed?

The arterial canula was removed and I had to shuffle across from the ITU bed onto another bed so I could be wheeled into the High Dependency ward. My bag of piss sloshed and the catheter tube tugged on my penis. I still had a bunch of other tubes attached to various canulas which threatened to snag on things, but I was starting to feel a bit more comfortable - I'd wheeled trolleys with drips and drip pumps around enough times, taking care not to get my tubes in a tangle.

On the High Dependency ward I had a little more time to contemplate what had just happened, but it had been surprisingly physically exhausting considering that most of the time I'd been unconscious in a coma.

A psychiatrist was telling me I could come back to A&E any time if I was feeling suicidal. They gave me a piece of paper with a number to phone if I was having another crisis. Hospital discharge was arriving swiftly.

The catheter was pulled out and I was incredibly grateful that I was unconscious when it went in. I had a shower. In the blink of an eye I was discharged... still struggling to process quite what had just happened to me. What day was it?

I guess I'm still processing what happened to me.

They say that the victims of accidental poisonings very often suffer severe psychological issues for at least a year after they're discharged from hospital. What about deliberate suicidal poisonings?

I knew with certainty that I wanted to die and I never felt a bit of regret or fear or self-doubt. When I got the news I was going to live I felt like I'd failed... I wasn't flooded with relief or any kind of feeling that I was glad to be alive. How do you move from the feeling you want to be dead to the feeling you want to be alive? There's a considerable gap between those two extremes.

In the months following this suicide attempt, I've repeatedly wished that I'd succeeded - I wasn't supposed to go through all the stress and awfulness that I've experienced subsequently... it was all supposed to be over; I was supposed to be dead.

I don't really know what else to say... this is just my raw honest reflection on the 10+ months since I tried to kill myself, and what I can remember during those moments when I regained consciousness.

 

Tags: