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The world's longest suicide note

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

All opinions are my own

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Discipline

4 min read

This is a story about routine...

Random image

I don't have my laptop with me at the moment, which means I've had to download a random image of mine from the cloud. I'm not really sure what the image is supposed to represent - perhaps that some people lack the discipline to piss in the toilet rather than on the floor, or perhaps that some people lack the discipline to clean up their own mess. Anyway, this is the image I've chosen. I'm not even sure what I'm going to write about. There's one thing that's been really bugging me, but I'm not going to write about it because I'm disciplined.

To be trapped into an unpleasant situation, but to impassively observe and endure; to keep your lip buttoned - that taked discipline. To see wrongdoing and hear unforgivable things uttered, but not respond. To be passive and impassive; to be an observer - that takes discipline.

To continue to grind my axe would push things too far. I need a period of reflection. I need to get back to writing what my readers want to read. I got derailed, and I haven't really known where I was going, except that a lot of what I was saying was falling on deaf ears. My intended audience were not getting the message, or if they were then they were resistent to it. I tried softly softly, then my patience ran out. I bottled stuff up for too long. I remained in an intolerable situation too long. I was trapped in close proximity to a person who was really winding me up, but I think the feeling was mutual - time to move on; time to bury the hatchet.

Of course, I'll never be able to just bury the hatchet on command. Of course, to say that I'm going to change and suddenly start writing about other stuff, would be to suggest that my emotions, thoughts and feelings can be changed to be whatever I want them to be, whenever I want.

I want to write shorter pieces. I want to write stand-alone pieces that are accessible to anybody. I hate having to self-censor. I hate having things which are off-limits. I hate talking in riddles and putting heaps of effort into making absolutely 100% certain that nobody could ever make any connection - no matter how vague or unlikely - to the people I'm writing about. I hate that contraint. I hate that it ruins my writing.

I want to write shorter pieces.

I want to write pieces that anybody can read, and understand perfectly well what I'm talking about; relate to.

I want to get back to good honest straightforward writing, for everybody.

I'd love it if this blog post was a clear demarkation between a phase that I've been stuck in, and a new period where I get back to the good old writing that I was enjoying so much, where I could breezily explore anything and everything that took my fancy. Maybe I'll get back to that good place eventually.

I'm disciplined. I write every day. If I'm not writing, then you should worry - it means I'm very sick, or something terrible is happening in my life. If I'm not writing, something is wrong.

I'm disciplined. I write. Every day.

I'm going to try to become more disciplined about writing less. I'm going to try to become more disciplined about keeping to topics that anybody could relate to - no more cryptic stuff; no more guessing games.

My routine got messed up by a thoroughly unpleasant set of events, but hopefully that phase is drawing to a close. There's still stuff that has to be done to close that particular chapter, but then it's done and dusted and the curtain can fall on that particular unfortunate period. Time for a fresh start. Time for a new beginning.

Things don't end neatly and cleanly. Breakups are messy. People and human relationships are complex. Emotions can run high.

I don't need that kind of drama. Time to get back to good honest simple writing. No censorship; nothing cryptic; no guesswork.

I enjoy being open and transparent. It's healthy to be open and transparent. I'm going to continue being open and transparent and writing about everything that goes on in my head, in a candid and unflinching manner.

Time to get my healthy routine back.

 

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PTSD Flashbacks

7 min read

This is a story about re-living a nightmare...

Walls closing in

Setting aside the when, how, who, what, why and any presumption of blame, guilt, morality, karma... I've been through a load of awful shit in the last few years. For longer than I care to remember, I've regularly had some very harrowing stuff happen to me. I don't care to recite the details because there are so many things - these things pop into my head randomly and they stab me like a knife in the guts. These flashbacks make me gasp aloud because the memories are so difficult to handle.

Periods of time that I've written about - like the Finsbury Park Fun Run - contain multiple distressing and traumatic events. For far too long, my life was a series of similar stressful and awful calamitous episodes, which contained everything from the mildly shameful, embarrassing and a bit surreal and ridiculous, to experiences that could pretty much destroy a person.

Of course, mental health problems and drug addiction have featured heavily, but my memory has functioned perfectly well and I've been fully conscious almost the whole time, experiencing the awful events and being affected by the trauma of it all.

Some of my experiences I've managed to integrate and cope with by telling the story, like I did with Finsbury Park Fun Run, and other experiences are bundled up into a great big ball of trauma, which I can sometimes laugh about, sometimes forget about, but memories are constantly surfacing and causing me to wince with pain, as if I was being physically stabbed with a sharp object. I screw up my face and I make an involuntary exclamation. I exhale and I mutter stuff under my breath to make it go away, which it usually does.

When I get an invasive thought, which is a memory of a traumatic moment that I'm struggling to cope with, I write down a little 1-line summary of what it is. If the thoughts keep popping up, then I write about them: I use my notes as a writing prompt, so that I can work through whatever trauma is bothering me the most. I'm writing as fast as I can, trying to stay on top of these negative memories that could easily drive me insane, or cause me to collapse under the sheer weight of them. I could easily kill myself, trying to escape the torment of these invasive awful flashbacks.

If you imagine a heroin addict who's having to resort to a life of crime to fund their drug habit, they'll be forced to commit a lot of acquisitive crime: thefts, robberies, burglaries, muggings, stealing off friends and family. That addict will have their morals completely corrupted by the need to avoid getting junk-sick, which means they'll probably have a lot of stains on their conscience. Shoplifting could be seen as a relatively victimless crime, because shops have insurance against theft, but burglaries have a lasting impact on the victim, because of the violation of their home. It's not that the heroin addict doesn't care, because they're evil and immoral, it's that the need for their fix is a primal urge that's far greater than hunger, fear, pain, or anything else you've ever experienced in your sheltered little life.

I've never been a heroin addict.

I've never committed any crime to get money for drugs.

I haven't even particularly had my morality corrupted by addiction, but I came close. I understand what it's like when you're in the grips of addiction. I can see that morality is relative, not absolute.

My own traumatic experiences come from being desperately sick and vulnerable. When you're sick and vulnerable, broke and sleeping rough, trapped into a life of addiction and health problems... you're constantly traumatised. My life had so many episodes of trauma, because I was trapped into such a destructive cycle.

You'd think that if things were really bad, you'd do something about it - surely the trauma I was experiencing was there to bump me back onto the right track; to get me back on the straight and narrow. Well, no not really. When you're trapped and vulnerable, you're pretty fucked. It's very hard to escape from such a vicious cycle.

Getting yourself off the drugs and off the streets is only the tiniest part of any meaningful change. What about the pre-existing mental health problems? What about the trauma?

The longer I spend in a safe and stable environment, the more trauma seems to bubble up to the surface. When I was in the vicious horrible cycle, there was no time to stop and think about all the awful things that had happened. When I was right in the thick of things, and barely surviving, I was far too busy staying alive to be bothered by the traumatic flashbacks.

Which came first? The trauma or the unhealthy coping mechanisms?

Definitely the trauma came first.

But the unhealthy coping mechanisms led to more trauma.

I got out of the frying pan, but I ended up in the fire. I got out of a horrible abusive relationship, but the destruction to my life - at a time when I was already really vulnerable and traumatised - was too much to handle. Things got a lot worse before they started to improve.

Today, my life looks much improved. Today, my life looks sorted and peachy. Today, you might be mistaken for thinking that I'm hunky-dory and A-OK, but it's not true... I'm not out of the woods yet.

I have no idea how I'm going to deal with everything and come to terms with what I've been through, but my healthy coping mechanism is to write. I write down the particularly traumatic things that I keep getting flashbacks about, and then I write down these little stories, which attempt to explore my feelings. I'm attempting to deal with all the horrible traumatic stuff in a way that lays it to bed; gets rid of it out of my brain and down onto paper.

I feel like I should tell you about some of the stuff that I'm dealing with, so you can see that I really have been through some horribly traumatic experiences that would cause anybody significant psychological damage. I feel like I want to list off a whole load of experiences that were off-the-charts in terms of how awful they were. However, I only want to do that because I feel unworthy somehow. There are people out there who've been through unimaginable trauma - is it a competition? Should I shut up, because there's one person out there who's had it worse than every other human being on the entire planet?

I'm not even going to tell you what it is, because this process can't be rushed. I've written about plenty of traumatic stuff, and it doesn't fix it or make it all ok suddenly. Even stuff I've written about still bothers me, but every time I write I feel like I'm making some progress towards a time when I feel I can cope; a time when these PTSD flashbacks won't be so aggressively invasive and hit me so hard.

If you think I'm being hyperbolic and complaining about nothing, you probably haven't spent any time in relaxed company with me. These flashbacks regularly assault me. At work, I can barely conceal the fact that I'm hit with these awful memories, which cause me to gasp, groan and wince. At home, I can't conceal it... my close friends and girlfriend hear me yell like I'm in physical pain, and worriedly ask "what's wrong?".

The brain is a plastic organ and it will heal itself. It takes time though.

 

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#420

4 min read

This is a story about April 20th...

420 greenhouse

Cannabis seems harmless enough, but you're not in full possession of your faculties when you're stoned. You're not intoxicated, but it has an effect, otherwise why would you even bother to get stoned? Your internal experience does not correlate with others' perceptions of reality - you might feel fine and unimpaired, but there's definitely an effect otherwise you wouldn't bother getting stoned.

When you're a little kid and your parents drink and take drugs, you never know what kind of state you're going to find them in. Are they going to tell you to piss off because they're irritable and aggressive, because they're high on cocaine? Are they going to be excessively sleepy and monged out because they've been taking heroin or other opiates? Are they going to be dribbling messes spouting gibberish, because they're stoned out of their trees? Then, there's the comedowns and hangovers. Are you going to get your head bitten off, because the drugs have worn off and they're feeling shitty? Are you going to get an unjust telling off, because they're like a bear with a sore head, blaming you for everything?

Then there's the emotional unavailability.

When your parents are druggies and alkies, they're emotionally unavailable most of the time, because your parents are seeking drugs and trying to get high and intoxicated, instead of getting on with normal family life. Instead of having cuddles, they're getting high. Instead of having hugs, they're getting high. Instead of having all those myriad little moments of love and affection, they're completely absent in the family home, because those druggie alkie parents have checked out - they've left reality.

I'm sure my parents thought - in their heads - that they did a wonderful job. Through the druggie alkie haze, their version of reality has been corrupted. Their imagination is what they remember, not the day-to-day reality. I was the one who was clean and sober. I was the one who bore witness to everything that went on, without having my brain addled by mind-altering substances. My memory is perfect. My perceptions are as close to reality as it's possible to get. I saw and I remember.

I understand addiction, because I saw it from a young age. I not only witnessed my parents' addictions but also had to breathe their second-hand smoke in confined spaces, which meant that I suffered repeated exposure to nicotine and drug smoke, at high concentrations. No effort was made to shield me from the effects of passive smoking. No consideration was paid to the health risks to me. If you smoke, your child smokes too.

My parents boasted about not being addicts. I very distinctly remember my mum boasting about not being addicted to heroin. It was the usual "we can quit anytime we want" bullshit. It was the usual denial in the face of overwhelming evidence.

It might be tempting to say that their drug abuse was relatively harmless - they had things under control; they were functional. I don't think that's really true though, when you're spending vast sums of money on drink and drugs, while there's no money for other things. I don't think it's true that it was harmless, when there is undeniably health damage from drink and drugs, and you're passively inflicting that on your children, who have no choice in the matter. I don't think that it's fair to say it's harmless, when you're normalising drug-taking behaviour and teaching your children that it's fun to take drugs; that drugs are cool.

Taking drugs is not a counter-cultural statement. Taking drugs is not a ticket to alternative society. Taking drugs is not a political protest. Taking drugs is not cool. If you think you're more of a cool person because of the kind of drugs you take, you're an idiot. If you take drugs and you let that affect your children, you're a disgusting person.

Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but it's been responsible for so many people having mental health problems, who otherwise would have been OK. Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but so many years of people's lives have been lost, sitting on the sofa dribbling and talking complete gibberish. Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but so much youthful energy has been sapped; so many revolutions averted; so much time wasted, sitting around doing absolutely nothing that's useful or productive, because of being stoned.

Smoke cannabis if you want, but I'll think of you as a bit stupid for doing it. It's up to you - make yourself deliberately lazy, unimaginative and dumb on purpose... see if I care.

 

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A Cute Little Italian Thing

5 min read

This is a story about reading between the lines...

Splash

I don't really understand why it's necessary to guess and extrapolate. I don't really understand why somebody would want to reinterpret the scant available evidence, and reach outlandish and ridiculous conclusions. I don't really understand why somebody would want to pore over the pages of my blog and read all my tweets, looking for hidden meaning that doesn't exist. Why can't you just take things at face value?

I texted somebody who'd been quite an important figure in my life, and I asked them if I could take them out for dinner. In the last few weeks, I've gotten settled in a new job and moved into my own place - there's plenty to celebrate. This year has been very stressful, with cashflow problems, a boring job, commuting across the country and living out of a suitcase, dating, getting a new job, renting an apartment, security vetting, tenancy vetting, credit checks, buying a car, taxing & insuring the car, moving house... it's been stressful. Naturally, as I'd gotten through most of that stress, I wanted to celebrate with that person.

"No thank you" came the reply. Polite enough. Strange, but whatever. I'm not in the business of speculating.

Then came the accusation that I'm some sort of monster who people need protecting from. This followed relatively hot on the heels of an accusation that I'd identified that person, which I hadn't. There was the accusation that a load of my tweets were about specific identifiable people, which they weren't. I fail to see the evidence for any of it. I haven't deleted any of my tweets - they're there for all to see. I'd be very surprised if anybody except me knows who I'm talking about, because how would you know what's going on in my head unless you're telepathic? How would you know who's tormenting me and causing me untold stress?

I once mockingly used a turn of phrase that my friend Posh Will used to refer to an ex of mine as a "cute little Italian thing". This became a running gag. I'd have probably only said it once, but this person just kept on saying it and saying it. Whenever I talked about a girl, this person would ask "is she a cute little thing?". This person asked if my mum's cousin who lives in Chelsea is a "cute little thing" which I found very weird, but whatever. Whenever there was an opportunity, that person would refer to girls as "cute little things". It was our running gag... or rather theirs, because they kept using that phrase so much.

The phrase "cute little Italian thing" is now forbidden. In a rather melodramatic and completely unnecessary confrontational moment, it was confusingly and aggressively put to me that I use the phrase "all the time", which I don't. Further, it was put to me that I'm a sexist male chauvinist pig who has zero respect for women, hits women, rapes women, abuses women, sexually assaults women and generally attempts to marginalise and oppress women, as part of my patriarchal one-man crusade against women. Naturally, this was quite a surprise.

I'm using the forbidden phrase now, because I've been told so many times that this person doesn't read my blog, and now that person has told me in no uncertain terms that I'm a danger to them and the people they love; I'm a menace.

I guess it's over between me and that person, but I can't understand why. I never wrote about them online. I never identified them, or their loved ones. I'm really not sure what I did. Their accusations that I wrote about them, connected them, identified them, attacked them, repeatedly used the phrase "cute little Italian thing" and generally carried on like the world's biggest arsehole, are frankly complete and utter codswallop. What I write is there for all to see - I don't delete stuff. If any of this stuff was there, show me where the hell it is!

It's a nonsense. It's misplaced paranoia. It's more than misinterpretation - it's a complete warped perception of reality bordering on the insane.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend often worries about me posting images of previous girlfriends, which I haven't. My girlfriend will see the image above which IS of a previous girlfriend - the "cute little Italian thing" no less - and she'll see that her very worst fears have been realised.

Yes, I'm a monster. I did once say "cute little Italian thing" when I was aping the mannerisms of my investment banking chum for comedic effect. I have just posted a picture of my ex girlfriend, which I'm sure you'd be able to recognise her from if you saw her in the street now that I've disrespected her privacy. Damn me for revealing such personal identifying stuff that would allow any member of the public to immediately make the connection. Damn me for being so damn evil. Yes, lock up your daughters and hide your valuables... Nasty Nick is on the prowl.

On the final matter of sexist disrespectful language, perhaps it was wrong of me to even say something in jest. I'm always prepared to consider that I might be in the wrong. Just don't make a running gag out of it, and for god's sake don't start imagining stuff that's SIMPLY UNTRUE.

There's no need to read between the lines. What you see is what you get with me. If you're unsure, just ask.

 

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Self Pitying Poser

4 min read

This is a story about victim playing...

Skeleton face

Apparently the world is full of attention-seeking malingerers who aren't really sick, but who in fact choose to be depressed and miserable, and to self-harm and attempt suicide, because it's a lifestyle choice. Apparently everybody knows exactly what they're doing all the time and we all have complete free will - our hand is never forced, we're never coerced or pressured into doing things we don't want to do, and we can choose how we want to feel. If we want to be happy, we can just choose to be happy.

Those who are suffering aren't really suffering - they're victim-playing; they're attempting to get sympathy, so they can bunk off school or work. Thankfully though, there are some clever people out there who can see straight through you and understand everything about you in an instant. Thankfully there are clever people who are qualified to immediately judge you, and to declare you fit and well, except you're just too damn bloody minded to snap out of your silly pointless melancholy.

Those clever people who declare that you're so definitely faking it are so clever and infallible that they're prepared to risk your life. They'll call your bluff. They don't care if you die. It's more important that you're unmasked for what you really are - a self pitying attention seeking malingering poser - than you staying alive.

This situation, where those clever people call your bluff, is clearly working very well, because suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. If somebody commits suicide, clearly they were telling the truth, but if they don't immediately kill themselves that then proves that the clever person is really clever and can carry on killing people.

It's a bit like the witch-hunts. If a woman floats, she's a witch, and if she drowns she wasn't a witch. It's a flawless system.

I do often wonder - as I'm programmed to do by society - whether I'm feeling too sorry for myself; whether I whinge and moan too much. I'm certainly not wedded to depression as part of my identity and I wouldn't be sorry to see it go. I can see my part in my problems, in as much as I had ability to make other choices. You really don't understand the pressures and biases and other factors that influence a person's decision making, if you think that life is all about free will and making the right choices.

Yes, it is nice to have a reason for why life is shit. Yes, it's nice to have a diagnosis that says that there's a very good reason why life is harder than it should be. These things aren't excuses, they're explanations. Yes, it's comforting to know that there are very good reasons why I'm predisposed towards certain negative feelings and behaviours, and it's not because I'm lazy, stupid, immoral, bloody-minded, evil or of bad character. Yes, it's useful to think of myself as a victim of circumstances and a victim of disease, rather than some evil bastard who deliberately makes bad choices and is depressed and suicidal out of spite.

If I'm victim playing, fine, whatever - put me down as a victim player. If I'm self-pitying and saying "poor me" far too often, fine, whatever - put me down as an attention seeking poser.

I have some choice in the matter of what happens in my life, but mostly I don't. Most of what happens to all of us is dictated by fate - when we were born, where we were born, the socioeconomic circumstances we were born into, the people we came into contact with, the things that happened to us that were completely outside of our control. Even my choice of what to eat for dinner is heavily influenced by my upbringing and everything else that's going on in my life - I might crave salt or sugar, because my body needs it because of the activity I've been doing. How much do you want to blame the victims?

If you get your kicks from fat-shaming, then you're the kind of person who probably enjoys victim-blaming the suicidal too. You're the kind of person who'd rather see people die, than show them any sympathy. You're a bluff caller. You're a gambler with people's lives. You probably think of yourself as very clever.

Do you think it's worth it, to have suicide being the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, just so that you can feel big and clever?

 

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All Work and no Play Makes Nick a Dull Boy

7 min read

This is a story about relentless monotony...

Sleepy Nick

I fell asleep at my desk today. I haven't had any time off since November. I spent November writing a novel, so I guess I haven't had any time off since October. I was in hospital in October and I moved house, so I guess I haven't had any time off since September. I was in hospital in September and I tried to commit suicide and I lost my job and I was evicted, so I guess I haven't had any time off since July. I moved house and started a new job in July, so I guess I haven't had any time off since June. I was selling loads of my stuff, trying not to go bankrupt, while also trying to get a job in June, so I guess I haven't had any time off since May. I was quitting supercrack, having an episode of medication-induced mania from California rocket fuel and breaking up with my girlfriend in May, so I guess I haven't had any time off since April. I was a drug addict in April. This is what I was doing back in April.

Dark Web

Here I am looking at the dark web a little over a year ago. I'm probably not buying anything that would be illegal because I already had enough supercrack to last me 2 years. The fact I'm wearing clothes and sitting in my lounge, taking recognisably normal-ish photographs suggests that a little over a year ago, things were going OK.

Night vision

Oh no I spoke to soon. This night-vision photograph indicates that I was going bat-shit insane while high on supercrack. I took this photograph only a couple of days after the one before, where I was sat in the lounge browsing the dark web. This photograph was taken about a year ago.

Barricaded door

What the hell is THAT? Well, it's pretty obvious that I've barricaded myself in my bedroom. This photograph was taken one year and one day ago. This photograph perfectly illustrates my subconscious fears of privacy invasion - that people are going to burst in on me, shame me and violently attack me. I don't come across as very paranoid in day-to-day life, but I'm very traumatised, and this is my reaction that that trauma: I barricade myself in to protect myself from my parents and ex-wife. It's bat-shit insane, of course, but this is my underlying psychology.

Tray of food

Looks like I was eating some food. I'd probably barricaded myself in my bedroom for days. I'd probably not slept for days. My life was a horrific mess a year ago. I had a virtually unlimited supply of supercrack and my addiction was raging out of control. Clearly I was paranoid because of drugs and sleep deprivation, but what was the seed of that paranoia? I wonder if it could have anything to do with having the rug pulled out from under my feet - being muscled out of my own home; being horrifically injured in my own home; being punched in the face or suffering a horrific injury to my leg, at the hands of my ex-wife and parents. I wonder if it could have anything to do with them. I was trapped in a corner for so very long, with no means of escaping my tormentors, who were demonstrably vile, violent and abusive. Fuck them. That kind of trauma has a lasting effect.

Bathroom barricade

My paranoia reached such ridiculous levels that I barricaded the door to my ensuite bathroom using my laundry bins and some clothes storage boxes. Clearly I just wanted to be left alone. Clearly I didn't feel safe. Yes, it's paranoia that's come about because of drug abuse and sleep deprivation, but there's got to be a seed too. Nobody gets this paranoid unless they have their ex-wife kicking doors in and screaming abuse at the top of her lungs. Nobody gets this paranoid unless they have their parents humiliating them and bursting in on them, and dragging them out of their own home. There's a seed for paranoia. There's always a seed.

Uppers and downers

Something to help me sleep (zopiclone) and something to help me cope and function (dexamfetamine). You can't end a horrific addiction instantly. There's no cold turkey when you're in as deep as I was. I was too dependent. To attempt to suddenly quit overnight would have caused me unbearable withdrawal symptoms and would have required me to be hospitalised. This is what I prescribed myself - two medications for harm reduction. Two medications that I used to wean myself off the dangerous and highly addictive supercrack.

I flushed that big bag of supercrack a year ago. There was enough to last me a couple of years, easily. I can't remember when exactly I flushed it, because my life was chaotic, but the evidence suggests that it was at this point I decided to get clean, using substitute prescribing.

Things didn't go smoothly, but it's very difficult to deal with a major addiction as well as mental health problems and all the practical problems that came about because my life had disintegrated. I needed to get money, get a job, get an apartment I could afford. I needed to move house, move city. I needed to get a new girlfriend and a new group of friends. I had a false start in Manchester, but I tried again in Wales... I'm trying again in Wales.

Maybe you think my life is easy and everything is sorted out, because I earned bit of money, which I spent renting an apartment and buying a car so that I can get to my new job. Maybe you think my life is easy because I get up and go to work every day, and I'm doing a good job and my bosses are impressed with me. Maybe you think my life is easy because I've 'bounced back' from losing two apartments, running out of money three times and being hospitalised twice. Maybe you think my life is easy, because I've made it look so easy, quitting supercrack, Valium, Xanax, tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodiene, pregabalin, zopiclone and zolpidem, which are all highly addictive. Maybe you think my life is easy, because I've gone 7 months unmedicated and I haven't had a single mental health episode that's caused me to commit suicide or do something else drastic to fuck up my life. Maybe you think my life is easy because my finances are improving and I've got a girlfriend. Maybe you think none of what I went through in the last year was very hard. Maybe you think none of what I've been through in the last year has caused any lasting damage.

I'm in my 5th consecutive month of full-time work without a holiday. I'm working my bollocks off. All I do is work work work, because I'm running as fast as I can to get myself into a position where my housing is secure - nobody can evict me - and I'm financially secure. I constantly have to ignore my physical and mental health, because I so desperately need to get myself into a position where I can collapse in a heap and have a minor nervous breakdown.

Yes, I can do stuff like this - I can save myself; I can come back to life; I can return from the brink of destitution and make it look very easy.

It's not easy.

 

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My Mask Slipped

6 min read

This is a story about keeping up appearances...

Semicolon tattoo

I have a tattoo that I can't cover up, which tells the world that I've had problems with suicide attempts, self-harm, depression, bipolar, alcoholism and substance abuse. I have a blog which puts me on page 2 of Google if you search for my name. I have a Twitter account that has the most followers out of anybody who shares my name. I'm hardly being shy and retiring about my dark past. I'm hardly keeping my skeletons in the cupboard.

One of my work colleagues has already found my blog - by Google'ing me - and has visited a few times. I can see that he uses the WiFi at work and I can see that he uses his Apple iPhone Plus. That's happened waaaay too soon.

An old friend who I know from the kitesurfing community recommended me for the job. He's friends with another colleague on Facebook. I don't use Facebook much, but when I do, it's usually because I'm having suicidal thoughts and it's a cry for help. If my friend commented on something I put on Facebook, my other work colleague might see it.

It's a small world, so that's why it's a good idea to be open and transparent. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

Of course, people who suffer from mental health problems - including addiction - are heavily stigmatised. If I didn't think I was able to do my job highly effectively, with an excellent level of professionalism and reliability, then I'd be slightly more reluctant to publish the inner-workings of my mind, and make my struggles a matter of public record.

I take my readers on a journey on me, and some of them will become sympathetic towards me and my story. Generally, if you read forwards and follow along with me, you'll gain a positive view, but if you read backwards then you'll dislike me and imagine that I enjoy the benefit of hindsight, which I don't.

It was particularly telling, the difference in reactions to my attempted suicide last September. My colleague who had followed my progress on my blog was sympathetic and caring. My colleague who read back through my blog, starting from the point where I believed I was going to die, was so unsympathetic that he sacked me and evicted me from my home, because I was on a life-support system and therefore unable to phone and say that I was going to be out of the office for a couple of days. He literally didn't care that I was in a coma with a tube down my throat and a machine breathing for me. That's the difference that it makes, reading my blog backwards versus reading it forwards - it can make a person not care that I'm dying, or it can elicit a sympathetic response to my plight.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I'm through the worst of my suicidal moments, now that the stress levels in my life are subsiding. Naturally, being homeless, close to bankruptcy, jobless, friendless, single, new to an area and generally having nothing and nobody is pretty damn awful for a person's mental health. In the space of 6 months I've made some friends, got a girlfriend, earned some money, bought a car, rented an apartment, got a local job and gotten myself a bit more settled, although I'm still a long way off having security and stability.

What might annoy my colleagues is thinking they've got a bargain - that I'm an expert in my field and I've got talent and experience - when in actual fact they've got a homeless bankrupt junkie alcoholic with mental health problems who never even knew how to switch a computer on until yesterday. Surely I could have been bought for minimum wage, because I'm desperate and vulnerable? This was certainly the case with the guy who didn't care that I was on life support - he felt ripped off, when he discovered the truth about me, even though I had nearly completed the first phase of the project I'd been working on, and the results had been fantastic.

I think really horrible people are few and far between. I think unethical exploitative bosses are few and far between. I really don't think it's going to be a problem that my real identity doesn't quite marry up with corporate expectations. I'm always well presented at work. Nobody would be any the wiser about my dark past, except for the aforementioned tattoo, of course.

I'm mentioning the tattoo and putting up a picture of myself without my infallible disguise quite deliberately, of course. Of course I know what I'm doing. I'm not exactly unhappy about anybody knowing about who I am, because I find it too exhausting to wear the corporate mask and pretend I'm perfect. It's not nice to have to live a lie and cover up any struggles I might have in my personal life.

It's been nearly 8 months since I had any problems with my mental health. I don't take any drugs or medications. I drink in moderation. I'm not suicidal. I'm not self-harming. I'm delivering high-quality work to the satisfaction of my bosses. My finances are improving. I've got my own place. I've got my little car. I've got my girlfriend. I've got my friends. Things aren't perfect, but they're improving and they'll continue to improve as long as I'm allowed to keep working and earning money.

It's a big gamble to keep this big digital presence alive. I obviously can't write about anything that would be unprofessional, breach my code-of-conduct, bring my profession into disrepute, breach confidentiality or any any way shape or form be considered unacceptable behaviour, but to delete my blog and my Twitter and Facebook account and expunge myself from the internet would be a considerable loss to me, and would be likely to negatively affect my ability to cope and function.

I hope that if my colleague(s) continue to read this, they can see it for what it is - my healthy coping mechanism, and something I need, because it brings me great comfort and a lot of care and support.

So far, I only know for definite that one work colleague is reading my blog. I hope to make friends at work. I need friends. I don't see it as a bad thing that somebody's reading.

I don't want the secret identity thing. I don't want the double-life thing. I've got nothing to hide; nothing to be ashamed of.

 

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Sorry Not Sorry

6 min read

This is a story about crossing a line...

Blurry pic

To say I'm not sorry, I'm unremorseful, I don't live with regrets and I've never made a mistake, would be completely untrue. My life is fairly simple - work, eat, sleep - so I have a lot of time to think about things. I'm always prepared to consider the possibility that I've overstepped the mark; that I've gone too far.

The level of isolation I live with is something that 99% of people would find intolerable. Humans are sociable creatures. I'm quite a sociable guy, but my life completely collapsed and I haven't rebuilt it yet. I started a new job a little over a month ago and I'm starting to build a good relationship with my colleagues, but it's early days and I have to tread carefully because I really need the job and I don't really want everyone to know that I've been really unwell. I only moved to the area a little over 6 months ago, and I've spent half that time working in London, so I've not had much opportunity to make new friends yet.

I wake up, I drive to work and I think about what I'm going to write. My job's pretty easy, so I spent lots of time at work thinking about what I'm going to write. I get home and I write. I then spend a lot of time thinking about what I've just written. I often think that what I've just written doesn't accurately reflect how I'm feeling because I feel differently after writing. On reflection, I often feel like I've gone too far - I've been too passive-aggressive and critical; I've been a little negative and cynical. However, if I let my frustrations build up I'd explode or be driven mad.

You probably don't realise just how much you use your support network every day, because you take those people for granted. If you're feeling upset about something, you can pick up the phone or talk to somebody face-to-face. I often don't have that. At work I put on my corporate mask and pretend like everything's perfect in my personal life. With people who I rely upon for my money and my accommodation, I have to present a fake front, because my life depends on it. I'm very rarely able to be myself, and when I am able to finally talk with people who I can be honest and open with, they tend to be my social media contacts, because of my isolated life.

I have a girlfriend and she's great, but I can't have a dependency on one single person - that's too much pressure. My girlfriend suggests seeing a therapist, but that's expensive and you can only talk to them for an hour a week... provided you even like and respect them, of course. Finding a good therapist is a hard enough challenge in and of itself.

If you imagine the amount of traumatic experiences I've had in the past few years - a horrendous leg injury, suicide attempt, kidney failure, police, sleeping rough, crisis house, hostel, police, lost job, evicted, hostel, police, psych ward, DVT, kidney failure, dialysis, homeless and virtually bankrupt, suicide attempt, police, psych ward - then I hope you realise that an hour of week of speaking to a therapist isn't really going to cut the mustard... hence the blog.

I arrive at the point I'm at today, heavily traumatised.

You can't see the trauma, but I know it's there because I keep getting invasive thoughts that stab me like a knife in the guts.

The shit I've been through doesn't give me an excuse to be shitty to people and not be sorry when I upset people. The shit I've been through doesn't give me an excuse to say and do whatever the fuck I want. But, I've only got a limited amount of patience for anybody who makes my life any harder than it needs to be. I've only got a limited amount of patience for anybody who thinks they've got quick fixes and easy solutions. I can only humour people for so long.

Dealing with this post-traumatic stress is taking a long time. There's a lot of shit to work through. There's a lot of stuff I'm getting over. I only just managed to get myself into secure housing and start a job that I can tolerate. My finances are still shitty and I'm only just getting to the point where I'm a couple of weeks away from a cash injection I desperately need. There's been a mountain of practical stuff to sort out, on top of the psychological damage; the trauma.

Frankly, I'm surprised that I'm not more vindictive and nasty, because I've been through a right load of shit and I'm still deeply traumatised. It's true that people have been hurt who don't deserve it, but it's not true that I'm not sorry... in 99% of the cases, I'm sorry when somebody got hurt by me lashing out.

I don't really have anybody who regularly provides some kind of checks & balance on my behaviour. Most of us talk to our friends and family and then our initial anger and indignation dissipates... we feel like we're being unreasonable, when we voice our frustrations to our trusted confidantes. My blog is my trusted confidante, because my life collapsed and I'm dealing with a clusterfuck of post-traumatic stress.

Yes, my blog is public, but I also avoid using names or other things that might identify people. Yes, my blog is public, but how else am I supposed to get the support that I need, when I'm in such a dangerously low and precarious situation? Yes you might feel personally attacked, but are you absolutely certain that it's you I'm talking about? If you think it's you, is that because you've got a guilty conscience?

So, sorry I'm not sorry. But I also am sorry too, in those cases where I overstepped the mark; where I was unnecessarily unkind.

 

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The Arrogance of the Guardian Class

4 min read

This is a story about the end of democracy...

Don't bomb Syria

There's a widely held belief that our governments know what's best for us, because they're privy to information that the general public aren't. In the case of foreign affairs, our military intelligence gathering agencies will prepare briefings for those in power, which will persuade our government to act in the interests of national security. However, this runs contrary to the principles of civilised society, where information is presented transparently and we the people decide what's best for us - that's called justice, and that's called democracy.

Would you want to be imprisoned or sentenced to death at the whim of a powerful ruler, on the basis of a flimsy allegation? Would you do away with jury trials and the burden of proof? Would you prefer to hand all the power to a ruling elite who 'know better' than the rest of us, as opposed to having a democratic system?

The idea that there are a group of people who are smarter than all of us, and more capable of making an informed decision that's the best for everyone, has eroded the power of democracy and our own individual agency. Instead of being able to make our own informed decisions, the decisions are taken for us by people who think that they know best.

Life-or-death decisions are taken by people behind closed doors, who arrogantly believe that they are doing the right thing, because they surround themselves with other members of the guardian class. By talking privately amongst themselves in their bubble, they arrogantly believe that their intellect is superior to that of others, and that they will be able to reach a decision that's best for everyone, without consulting any mere mortals. This self-appointed elite believe they're smarter and make better decisions than the general populace, and have a right to hand down judgements as well as to keep their process and decision making opaque. By sticking together in a tiny clique, this arrogant group convince themselves that they're following a process that legitimises their tyranny.

There simply aren't a group of people who are better than the rest of us. There aren't a group of people who know better than the rest of us. The elites are self-appointed, and they mistakenly believe they are superior, because of exam grades, job titles and other social status symbols. The jury system delivers a consensus from a cross-section of society, which is a safeguard against arrogant people who believe their own bullshit and think they know it all.

Under communism, the belief that the greater good was more important than any individual's suffering or death, led to an end-justifies-the-means culture that killed millions. Today, we have a culture that worships the great and the good who believe they are infallible elites capable of deciding what's best for all of us, because they're better than the rest of us.

This is not anti-intellectualism. This is anti-elitism. You can be an intellectual without being an elitist. You can care about people and the fate of humanity without being a tyrant. You can be caring and compassionate without installing yourself in a position of ultimate power in people's lives. Nobody should have the power to rule over their peers, in a minority group - that erodes democracy and creates misery, suffering and death.

I abhor those committee sitters who are so hungry for power that they have abandoned public service, in pursuit of positions which afford them godlike powers over ordinary people's lives. I have a deep hatred for anybody who thinks that they alone can make a decision, when presented with some information which they guard and horde, lest it become an open and transparent decision making process and their power base is eroded.

I've witnessed first-hand the scramble to censor, cover-up and cover arses after a death, where the committee sitter was culpable. Instead of inviting transparency and admitting that the elitist arrogance was the cause of death, the committee sitters close ranks and become thick as thieves - skulking around in the shadows. The arrogance, when this behaviour is causing lives to be lost, is the reason that so many lives continue to be lost. Instead of relinquishing their power, admitting their mistakes, becoming open and transparent, those who are culpable for deaths continue to believe that they know best.

It sickens me that there are a group of people who think they have a license to kill; some kind of moral justification for their tyranny and the misery and deaths they cause.

 

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Social Media Arbitration

4 min read

This is a story about justice...

Grand building

If you're a self-righteous twat and you're a privileged and entitled member of the guardian class, then you snobbily and sneeringly believe that you're in the right on every matter. Surrounded by sycophants and a society that worships you because of your social status; your kindly-call-me-God job title, you expect people to drop to their knees and kiss your arse.

Most ordinary people have the support of their families. Most ordinary people are well established in their careers and at their place of work, with their colleagues. Most people have a group of friends who they see and communicate with regularly. Most ordinary people are well established in the real world.

When you get tarred with the 'mad' brush, people who don't even know you can start being dreadfully patronising. "Have you taken your medication?" and "do you think you should up the dose?" and "are you having an episode?" people will ask, instead of talking to you like a normal human being.

Example:

Me: "Ugh! This cup of tea tastes disgusting! You've put two spoonfuls of salt in it instead of sugar"

Patronising twat: "<aside> awww bless, he's having an episode. Better get him to the doctor and get his medication increased"

You can't argue with a twat like that. If you tell the twat to taste the tea, which obviously contains two spoonfuls of salt, then they'll be evasive and blame the victim. It's a horrible way to treat people.

Thus, social media is needed to arbitrate in instances where a vulnerable person is being mistreated. By calmly presenting the facts on social media, a jury of my peers can decide, instead of some smug arrogant guardian-class twat, who thinks they're right about everything, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Social media is the best place to go when you're alone and isolated, because you can crowdsource support. Instead of getting would up by those who hold themselves to be immune from criticism, and incapable of making a mistake, engaging the power of social media can hold a twat to account.

I'm really pleased that there's an immutable permanent record of everything I've had to put in front of a jury of my peers. I'm glad to have the record of what the crowd thought. I'm glad that everything is stored for posterity. I'm really grateful to have this antidote to the patronising smug twat who thinks they know best.

I've made mistakes in the past, putting stuff in emails and on Facebook restricted to my close friends. I've made mistakes when I've been extremely unwell. However, on balance, using social media and public scrutiny as a means of holding a twat to account has been a staggering successful strategy for returning myself to health, wealth and prosperity.

Very few people could have survived the destitution and stress that I've been through, with only a few people fighting my corner. I'm lucky enough to have some very loyal friends who I love dearly, but they're spread all over the country and the world. I've almost exclusively turned to social media when I've needed support the most, and social media has delivered.

I've been feeling pretty lonely and isolated and low over the last few weeks, but I've had a great response on Twitter, which has really boosted my spirits. I'm glad to have connected with so many lovely people via social media. I really depend on my social media friends, when I'm having a bad time.

So, in the case of the Twat vs. Social Media, very clearly the online crowd are the winners.

 

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