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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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I'm a Lucky Guy

5 min read

This is a story about a charmed existence...

Lounge

Despite much whinging and complaining about the anxiety being caused by house-hunting and the difficulty of getting through all the vetting procedures, credit checks, references and suchlike, I have managed to secure myself a lovely big house to live in.

The house is unfurnished.

This isn't even my furniture.

I stole the photograph from the rental agent's website.

However.

Wherever I go in the world, I have friends. Even though I hardly know anybody in the city where I currently live, or the city where I'm moving to, or the city where I work, I will always have friends. Why? Because I have so many people who care about me in the world. I'm such a lucky guy that my lovely global friends write to me, leave me lovely comments on my blog, or even just leave a little 'heart' on something I've written.

I know that some people might feel like social media, blogging and the internet in general is a virtual reality. In their mind's eye, the internet is populated with shy introverts, who never speak to each other and never make meaningful lifelong friendships. They're wrong.

A huge percentage - the vast majority - of my friendships began online, and then progressed to meeting in person and staying in touch regularly. My best friends and those who've been there for me through thick and thin, in times of darkness and in times of light... those friends almost all originated from the internet.

Whether those friendships were made via dial-up internet bulletin boards (BBS), discussion forums, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social media is presently popular, is a complete irrelevance. Whether or not those friendships were first initiated using the communication medium of the internet, as opposed to a chance face-to-face meeting, is irrelevant.

I started making a list of all the people who've given me significant support during some very difficult years of my life, and the more I kept digging though the archives of the internet, the more amazed I was at how many names there were on the list.

I started trying to mention some of those people on Twitter, to thank them for being such great friends. As I sent out the Tweets I'd keep realising that there was somebody who'd perhaps gone quiet for a little while, and I hadn't been in touch with recently. Everybody I mentioned has been a hugely supportive, kind and caring friend.

I started to realise it was almost impossible for me catalogue and give thanks to everybody. How can I rank the contribution of my friends, to improving - and in some cases saving - my life? How can I even begin to comprehend just how many people I've been lucky enough to connect with, in a meaningful way, such that we could talk just like we'd known each other our whole lives?

How can I be sure I didn't miss anybody? For sure, I have more friends than my brain can cope with, which is an amazingly nice situation to be in.

The internet is an incredible thing, but it's the aggregate value of all those wonderful people that makes it so amazing. The global reach of the internet means I have friends on every continent. It feels like wherever I go in the world, I'll always have a friend.

I'm moving to a city I've never lived in before. I don't really have any friends there. I don't know my way around.

That's scary.

But, wherever I go, I have my connection to an entire world of wonderful friends, who will support me along the way. Sure, some of them live too far away to help me unload my moving truck and unpack my boxes. Sure, some of them live so far away that they're unlikely to be able to drop in for a housewarming party. However, it's an immense comfort, especially during unsettling and stressful times, to have the wonderful luck of having so many friends in the world.

I'm not sure why I put up that picture of a house which doesn't even contain any furniture.

I'm not sure if I'm insecure, and I want you to see that I'm at least going to be living somewhere nice, once I've bought some furniture and moved in.

I also wanted to share that picture, because you're all moving in there with me, because you move everywhere with me. You moved from London to Manchester with me, you moved from Manchester to Swansea with me, you moved from Swansea to Newport with me and now you're moving from Newport to Cardiff with me. You were with me when I was in all those new cities. You were with me when I was living all on my own in that hotel room, out of a suitcase, for so many months.

I'm lucky to have so many friends who go with me wherever I go. I'm lucky to have friends in every time zone, so I can speak to somebody at any hour of the day. I'm lucky to have turned so-called 'virtual' friendships into lifelong friendships, where we speak regularly on the phone, and we are intimately involved in each other's lives.

I'm grateful. Without your help, I wouldn't have made it this far. Without your help I'd have died in Manchester. Without your help, I'd have been too anxious and depressed to get through the difficult things I've been through: To move to strange new cities, start new jobs and find new places to live. Without your help, all those lonely nights living out of a suitcase in a hotel would have been unbearable.

Thank you, my far-flung friends.

 

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I'm Not a Rape Apologist But...

11 min read

This is a story about the violent rape of strangers by sexual predators in a public place...

Deeds not words

I was writing a comment in response to something that a friend shared about a convicted rapist in New Zealand, and I wrote the words "I'm not a rape apologist but...". That was a red flag. That set alarm bells ringing in my head. I decided that I must write about the violent rape of women by men, who drag their victims into alleyways or bushes, silence the victim's screams for help and overwhelm the victim's physical resistance, using the male rapist's superior strength. I decided I must write about those violent rapists who proceed to penetrate their victims with their penises, despite the protestations, struggles to fight off their attackers, attempts to escape and/or scream for help, by the women whose bodies are violated, physically injured and are whose minds are left psychologically scarred for life - traumatised by these horrendous rapes - perpetrated by complete strangers in public places.

Oh yeah. Also, trigger warning.

My response to the article was motivated because my interpretation of the article being shared was not "the victim was hardly mentioned". My actual interpretation of the article was that "rape culture is so ubiquitous and normalised that average men are sexual predators", which is barely a short step away from saying "all men are rapists".

I've decided to write about a few personal incidents, which might shed some light on what it's like being an average man. Or rather, what it's like being me at least - somebody who's been married, owned a house, has had a great career and has never been known by any of his friends, acquaintances, girlfriends, exes or co-workers as "a bit of a creep" or even "a lecherous sexual predator" unlike all the very many the celebrities we read about, accused of sexual harassment, indecent assault and rape.

If you're me - a man - then you're also part of "rape culture" whether you want to be or not. I'm not exactly sure what "rape culture" is, but I am aware that some UK university students were recently banned from Warwick University for 10 years for discussing rape in a private chat group. That ban was later reduced to 1 year. I presume this is an example of "rape culture" but I'm unsure.

What I am sure about are my own experiences, so I've decided to write about a few of them.

One time...

I travelled from my home city to another city for a date. The journey took roughly 1 hour. The date commenced at lunchtime, and we were drinking until about half-past midnight. She said I could stay overnight at her house. When we got to her house, we kissed on the sofa and then she said I could sleep in her bed. We were tired and drunk. She was wearing her underwear. We kissed some more. We fell asleep. In the morning, I told her that I wasn't sure if she wanted to have sex with me or not - I was getting unclear signals - so she grabbed my hand, stuffed it into her knickers and pressed my fingers against her wet vulva. We did not have sex. Consent was not given.

Another time...

A girl had invited me to her house for a date, but it was 1 hour 15 minutes drive away. I said that I would see her later in the week, after work, because my office was just 10 minutes from her house. She said that she would immediately drive to see me, and then drive home a few hours later: A round-trip of 2.5 hours for a very short date. When she arrived, she asked "you're not a sexual predator, are you?". She then proceeded to kiss me and suggested that we move to the bedroom, because the sofa was uncomfortable. She took off all her clothes and got into my bed. We kissed passionately and she said "make love to me" which was perhaps not consent, given that I had only known her in person for about 30 minutes, and I was not [yet] in love with her. We had sex anyway. She made some other 2.5 hour round-trips presumably for the purpose of having sex with me, although consent always seemed implied, by her leaping into my bed naked and her grabbing my cock when I joined her, also naked.

Another time...

I had been on a date to the Science Museum in London with a very attractive girl, but I didn't feel much of a spark between us. She asked us what we should do next and I said we should go to her apartment and have sex. She made some protestations that my suggestion was impolite and that we definitely were not going to have sex. However we proceeded to immediately travel her apartment - led by her because I had no idea where she lived - and then we had sex. I cannot recall her ever giving consent, but I can specifically remember her saying that we would not have sex, when I first suggested it at the Science Museum. We dated for a period of some months and I fell in love with her.

Another time...

I had been on a date with a girl. She kissed me and told me she found me very attractive. She asked what I wanted to do next, and I said I wanted to go back to her house and meet her cats. She agreed, but stipulated that we would not have sex. We undressed and she gave me fellatio, despite me telling her that it's a sex act I do not enjoy. I did not - cannot - orgasm by fellatio. Then, she searched her drawers for a condom, which had passed its expiry date. Consent was never explicitly given, but she did say at one point "I think you should put the condom on". We attempted to have sex, twice, but failed to achieve penetration. We dated for several months and I fell in love with her.

Another time...

I had been on a date with two girls, one of whom was visiting from Canada. I went back to the girl from London's apartment with both girls. In the taxi I mentioned that I do not like fellatio and I cannot orgasm from fellatio. They laughed at me and said I was a fibber. Later, when leaving, the girl from London suddenly pulled my trousers down and proceeded to attempt to give me a blowjob in the lobby of her apartment block, in full public view. People in passing double-decker busses could see me receiving a blowjob, which I didn't want. On a second date with the girl from London, we went back to her apartment and she told me that she wanted to have sex without a condom, which I did not consent to. She then attempted to give me blowjob again, for what felt like an eternity, despite my protestations that she'd never be able to make me climax from oral sex. Eventually she gave up. Interestingly, her job involved the medical examination of the victims of rape cases. We went on one more date, but the relationship was not successful. We never had penetrative sex.

Another time...

In the eyes of the law I was the victim of a statutory rape. I was 15 and she was 21.

Another time...

In the eyes of the law I was the victim of a statutory rape. I was 17 and he was 30. He was also my boss.

Another time...

I had been on a second date with a girl. Either I invited her into my apartment or she was so engrossed in conversation with me that she followed me willingly into my apartment - our memories are a little different on the matter. We kissed on the sofa and she said "can we do this somewhere more comfy?". I led her to my bedroom. She asked me if I had any condoms. We had sex. I do not remember consent being given. Afterwards, she told me that she had not intended on entering my apartment, entering my bedroom, or having sex with me. I got engaged to her 1 year later. I got married to her 8 years later. In all those years, I do not remember consent ever being explicitly given. Once, when I was in hospital and we had sex during a visit, she said "you don't need to do that" when I began foreplay, which I interpreted as meaning "put your penis inside me immediately" but I cannot be certain that's what she meant, however, she seemed to enjoy our hospital sex and I believe she climaxed. However, her version of events may differ from my own.

Another time...

The girl who was making multiple 2.5 hour round-trips to have sex with me, with assumed consent, later wrote to me to say that she regretted having sex with me. Given that consent was never explicitly given, does that mean I raped her?

There are probably other examples. Perhaps a helpful guide could be prepared that can womansplain to all the many would-be rapist men what is not rape because it's all rather ambiguous and quite scary. It's quite terrifying, not knowing whether your sexual advances are wanted and welcomed, or whether you're a fully paid-up subscribing lifelong member of "rape culture" and a would-be-rapist, given half a chance.

Mercifully, I seem to get signals which are positive enough for me to proceed with caution, but these signals are most definitely ambiguous. I have never had a woman say "put your penis into my vagina now" to me. I have never had a woman say "I consent to my vagina being penetrated by your penis" or other such clear and unambiguous words. I have been asked "would you like to have sex?" or "can we have sex?" and even been told "I want to have sex" on plenty of occasions, but there was always ambiguity. "I want to have sex" does not say with whom, nor contain any detail about what the sex act will consist of.

This whole piece is not about blaming rape victims for not being clear that their consent is not given. This whole piece makes no apology for rapists.

This piece is intended to tell the story of how - in my experience - consent is always a guessing game. I have even had the misfortune of being told that some sex acts that took place were regretted. I know that consent was only ever implied. Arguably, taking a 2.5 hour round-trip, jumping into my bed naked, grabbing my cock, pulling me on top: Those things all seem pretty 'consenty' but there are a worrying amount of times where I've had sex, and I've never heard the words "you have my consent to put your penis into my vagina now". In fact, almost every time I have sex I have to guess whether consent is given or not and very often there were contradictory statements made at other times, giving plausible deniability.

One last time...

I was spooning a girlfriend and we fell asleep. We woke up and she informed me that the tip of my erect penis was inside her vagina. I asked her "is that OK?" and she confirmed that it was. We then proceeded to have sex. If it had not been OK with her, what would your verdict be, assuming I then immediately pulled the tip of my penis out of her vagina? Did I rape her?

These are questions we need to answer, if we're going to get away from accusations that "all men are rapists" and talk of "rape culture" which is unhelpful in a culture which still predominantly expects men to make the first move, and where women almost never give clear and unambiguous verbal (or written) consent for penetrative vaginal sex, in my experience.

In closing, I must make it clear that I'm not a rape apologist, and I sympathise with the victims of rape, who have suffered horrendous traumatic experiences. I apologise to anybody who's been a victim of rape, sexual assault and/or sexual harassment, who might find what I've written triggering and upsetting to read.

 

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Victim Blaming

7 min read

This is a story about acting unconscionably...

Lime sofa

I'd like to tell you that I had an enjoyable evening picking out a sofa and a bed, which I need for the house I'm hoping to rent soon. Certainly, I visited IKEA and I did photograph a couple of items of furniture which I liked, and I lay upon two or three different mattresses, plus I sat down a couple of times to see how comfy some particular sofa cushions were. However, I was mainly visiting to purchase a chest of drawers, to replace one in my current rented home.

How the white IKEA chest-of-drawers came to be discoloured is something of a mystery to me, but there's a noticeable yellowish tinge which I'm certain was not there when I rented the place, roughly a year ago.

I'm not happy to hand the keys back to the landlord, and leave it up to him to replace the chest-of-drawers.

Technically, it's wear-and-tear. Technically, my landlord should expect to have to do a certain amount of property maintenance each year. Technically, it's not at all clear whether I'm at fault for the discolouration of the chest-of-drawers, or perhaps it was some manufacturing fault.

Whatever. I feel responsible. I feel like it's my responsibility to hand back the keys to the place in more-or-less exactly the same state that it was rented to me.

I've been a good tenant.

I always kept the place pristine.

I've always paid my rent on time.

I've always fixed any problems I found, not wanting to hassle the landlord.

I've hardly lived in the place, having spent most of last year in hotels and AirBnBs.

The manner in which I conduct myself brings people of different kinds into my life. One flatmate left owing me £7,000 in unpaid rent and bills, without a care in the world - he felt he was entitled to help himself to a vast amount of my money. One of my blog readers lent me some money, which allowed me to avoid bankruptcy and rescue my business, which is my livelihood and a source of stability.

I was ashamed to have to borrow money from a real person, rather than a faceless profit-making bank, but that shame serves as a litmus test, for me. Those who feel entitled to spend other people's money, and never repay it, despite having the financial means to do so, and who act without a conscience, are at one end of the spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum are the people who play by the rules - a debt is a debt, and a debt to a friend or a good samaritan is something that should be treated with respect - their conscience is troubled while that debt remains outstanding; they are anxious to pay back those who have been kind and generous.

It occurred to me that I might be asking for it.

I have a friend who regularly asks to "borrow" money. I have tried to employ this friend. I have offered to gift him money, instead of "lending" it to him. I have offered to purchase the things he needs as gifts, instead of "lending" him money. He knows I can often afford to lose the amounts of money he asks to "borrow" and I know he can't afford to pay me back. That's our arrangement, and I don't begrudge him, even though some might see him as taking advantage of me. Once I was briefly angry when he didn't show up to do the work I'd paid him in advance to do, but merely because of the inconvenience of having to find somebody else to do the work, when I was stressed and really didn't need the hassle.

The ex-flatmate who owes me £7,000 didn't ask to borrow that money. He simply didn't pay his bills or his rent. When I told him that he would have to leave, he accused me of intimidating him, harassing him and suggested that I might be in breach of some law, by refusing to let him get further into arrears. His mother is wealthy and owns a very large house, which he visits regularly. His lack of money was a symptom of his idleness; his sense of entitlement. In short: he's a spoiled brat.

I have a friend who I fell out with over money, a couple of times. I lent him £10,000 so that he could become a stock market trader. The loan was only supposed to be for a year, but after 4 or 5 years of not seeing a penny back, I decided to press him to repay what he owed. He acted as if I had done something wrong; as if it was my error, not his. Some years later I asked him for some help to find somewhere to live, and with the administration of my business. He saw that I was earning a lot of money at the time, and set about spending a very large amount of my cash on "us" which I later resented, because the division of labour didn't seem to justify the rewards he felt entitled to.

I also have a best friend, who gave up a very lucrative job and left his pregnant girlfriend behind on the other side of the country, to run a company with me. Then I was extremely unpleasant towards him for 3 months, during a startup accelerator program. I was a very driven man at the time - as CEO - and the way I spoke to my friend probably deserved a beating in return: I was asking for it, one might say. That friend must certainly have lost money versus his earning potential if he'd stayed in his well-paid job, but he knows I love him dearly and we both enjoyed the adventure, at times. He also knows how guilty and bad I feel about everything that didn't go so well; everything I did wrong.

The friend who's "borrowed" a couple of thousand pounds from me over the years thinks I'm asking for it because he considers himself a "have not" while also considering me a "have". I'm not sure whether he sees himself as Robin Hood, per se, but his justification is not entirely unfounded, hence why our friendship persists to this day. He is certainly a very disadvantaged young man, versus my own seemingly charmed existence.

People hear the way I speak - with a posh English accent and a wide vocabulary - and they assume that I had a privileged upbringing. They assume that I went to private school. They assume that my parents paid for me to go to university. They assume that my parents funded me through unpaid internships, so I could get into investment banking. They assume that I'm the person I sound a little bit like.

The problem with sounding a little bit like a privately-educated investment banker from a wealthy family, is that you're asking for it.

Maybe I should tone down my accent, wear jogging sweatpants and sneakers, use more slang. Maybe I should pretend to be ignorant of things which are generally the preserve of snobby elites, and narrow my field of interest to popular sports, soap operas, reality TV and celebrity gossip.

Maybe I shouldn't wear make-up, a short skirt and a low-cut top, with high-heels, and go to a place where people frequently hook-up for sex, because those things are avoidable, right? It's my fault that people feel entitled to greedily grab my money, because I'm asking for it. I'm asking to get ripped off. I'm asking to get used. I'm asking to get raped.

The comparison I'm making is unpalatable; perhaps unspeakable.

There it is. I said it.

 

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Invasion of Privacy

5 min read

This is a story about the trust paradox...

Keys

If you decide to permit personal privacy, then you must also accept that there will be a point at which you simply have to trust somebody. There is nobody who can say without a shadow of a doubt that I'm not keeping any terrible secret(s) and there is nobody who can predict the future. Even with perfect knowledge of the position every atom in the observable universe, there is no machine capable of predicting the future. Even with vast amounts of data collected about a person's past behaviour, it's not capable of making an accurate prediction about their future behaviour, without prejudicing those who are unfairly punished by whatever guesstimation algorithm is used.

There's a joke I used to enjoy which goes like this: If you have some goldfish, you probably have a pond. If you have a pond, you probably have a garden. If you have a garden, you probably have a house. If you have a house, you probably have a family. If you have a family, you probably fuck your wife. Therefore, if you don't have any goldfish, you're probably a wanker.

This is the problem with making predictions from incomplete data. Even with nearly complete data, we're still not very good at making predictions. Weather forecasts are pretty accurate for a few days into the future, but hopelessly inaccurate beyond a week or longer, except to say that summers are hot and winters are cold (or vice-versa for the Southern Hemisphere).

I wrote this earlier, to express my frustration regarding renting a house. It's a questions-and-answers thing I had to endure, in order to satisfy a landlord that I'm able to pay rent each month.

Q: What's your employment status?

A: Full-time employment

 

Q: What's your salary?

A: £8,424

 

Q: Who can we contact at your company to verify your employment?

A: The board of directors, or better still, why not just check at Companies House, because it's a matter of public record

 

Q: Can we see 3 months of payslips to prove your income?

A: My £702 monthly salary? Yeah sure. No problem.

 

Q: Are you self-employed?

A: No. See above.

 

Q: Are you sure you're not self employed?

A: I'm sure that I'm employed full-time as a company director, for which I receive a salary. I'm also a shareholder, which entitles me to a share of any dividends that the board of directors decides to pay. It's exactly the same as being the CEO of a public company, except the shareholders cannot trade their shares via the stock market.

 

Q: If you're like a CEO why do you need to rent a house?

A: Have you ever heard of a startup? It's a bit like that, only without the rich parents.

 

Q: So you don't have any money?

A: No, you're getting me confused with startup founders. I have enough income to pay my rent.

 

Q: Where does the money come from if you don't earn it as a salary?

A: Dividends are paid to me from the companies which I'm a shareholder of.

 

Q: How much do you get paid per month, in dividends?

A: It depends on the company profits, and what the board of directors decide. It could be zero. It could be zero for months.

 

Q: This is too complicated for me to understand. Would you mind if we took a look at all of your personal bank accounts, for the last 3 years?

A: No problem. Would you also like to perform a rectal exam and fondle my testicles too?

So, despite the fact that my position as company director is a matter of public record, as well as the accounts of my company - anybody who wants to is able to view those records online - I'm still expected to share my personal bank statements with complete strangers.

A friend and I who both own and operate our own companies, joked that we should maintain an account specifically for the purposes of pranking the organisations who ask to invade our privacy. We would make regular purchases of items from retailers and service providers, where the name shown on the bank statements would be considerably embarrassing, for most members of the public. Thus, we could troll these organisations and perhaps change the culture from secrecy and shame, to something more open. I applaud the Swedes, for example, for making every citizen's tax declarations public... essentially meaning that you can find out how much anybody earns.

As regular readers will know, I'm quite the opposite of a secret-keeper. I've published every bit of 'dirt' which somebody hope to 'dig' on me, onto this public website.

Meanwhile, my hopes of renting a place to live hang in the balance, while the minutiae of how I spend every single penny are pored over by a bunch of strangers, who will ultimately decide whether I'm worthy of having a roof over my head, or whether I should be cast onto the streets.

 

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Don't Dare Dream

5 min read

This is a story about expectation management...

Floorplan

One year ago, I was homeless, I didn't have a car and I was roughly £52,000 in debt. I lived in AirBnBs midweek and in the converted garage of a friend at weekends. My job was over 4 hours away by train and a ticket cost £137. To get to work, the earliest train I could take left at 6:21am, and I would arrive at my desk well over an hour late. 8 hours of travelling for 8 hours of work... hence living in the AirBnBs.

In order to purchase a car, I had to go deeper into debt. The car only cost me £875 but I didn't have any money, so I had to borrow some more. The car needed taxing, which cost me an additional £125. The car needed insurance, which cost me another £500.

My debt peaked at approximately £54,000, roughly 1 year ago.

An alternative title for this blog post I was considering was "Debt Destroys Dreams" but it seemed disingenuous, because the story of the past year has been a remarkable one, with the potential to resurrect long-abandoned dreams.

The reason why I put up the picture of the floor-plan above is as a metaphor. I often choose metaphorical photographs to accompany my blog posts. All the photos I use I took myself, or are from family photo albums. This photo of a floor-plan was taken approximately one year ago, in one of the AirBnBs I was staying in.

The metaphor, if you're wondering, is the dream of escaping the maze. How do you escape from a [debt] trap? Let's imagine that your dream is to escape this maze, go outside to see the sunshine and breathe some fresh air. Seems like a pretty nice dream, doesn't it?

As you can see from the floor-plan, there are many, many doors. If the only fact you know is that one of the doors is the one that leads outside, but you don't have the floor-plan, then how are you going to know which of the doors leads outside?

It seems pretty obvious from the floor-plan that there's a main corridor running through the middle of the building. It seems pretty obvious from the floor-plan that nearly every door off the corridor leads to a dead-end. However, even with the floor-plan, it's not immediately obvious how the hell to get ouf of the building.

Now, let's assume you don't even have a floor-plan. Life doesn't come with a floor-plan. You just have to keep trying doors until you find the right one. You know that eventually, you'll open the door to the outside - thus fulfilling your dream - but you have to keep trying doors and trying to learn from your mistakes. Life has plenty of dead ends, and we often end up repeating past mistakes.

Without the floor-plan, it's not possible to know how many doors there are, so it's not possible to know how much progress you've made. If there are a thousand doors and you've tried fifty, then you're not doing very well... you'd better prepare yourself for a lot more door opening and a lot more disappointment. If there are a hundred doors and you've tried fifty, then every door you open after the 51st has a greater than 50% probability of being the one that allows you to escape, achieving your dream of seeing the sky and the sun.

But, remember, you don't have the floor-plan.

So, I live my life with a rather strange philosophy. I know the things that are most likely to improve my life, but I don't know whether they'll work or not, or when I'll achieve my goals... I just have to keep trying stuff that wiil pay off eventually. That's what I've done for a whole year.

My debt probably totals about £38,000 at the moment.

Paying off £16,000 of debt is pretty impressive, for a single year.

But it doesn't end there.

I also own a car and I've rented an apartment. I went on two very extravagant holidays. I took two trips to Europe to see one of my very best friends and his family.

I also have money in both my personal and business bank accounts, plus I'm owed some money, which I'm expecting to be paid to me in the next two months.

I also have a job which continues to bring in a fairly hefty amount of money each month.

If we do the simple arithmetic of subtracting all the money I have plus the money I'm owed, from my total debt, then we arrive at a very nice simple number: Zero.

Having zero pounds, zero dollars, zero Euros, zero yen - zero cash - sounds like a pretty dreadful state of affairs, but in actual fact I think it's like putting my hand on the correct door knob, which will open the door leading outside into the fresh air and sunshine.

I can't see the blue sky yet. I can't feel the wind in my hair.

I don't want to believe that I've found the right door.

I refuse to believe I've found the right door until I've actually stepped outside and I'm looking at the sky.

It might seem tempting to extrapolate and declare myself a winner: I'm so close to being back in the black (sic.) that it surely seems impossible for me to fail. Surely I'm going to pay off all my debt and begin to live a life without that horrible ball and chain anymore. Surely I'm going to have some financial security, very soon.

I'll believe it when I see it.

 

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I Want To Have Nice Things

6 min read

This is a story about losing your home...

Tackley cottage

That little blonde boy in the pedal car is me. That thatched cottage is where I used to live, briefly. I loved that thatched cottage, because it was exactly what a house is supposed to be: It had a roof, chimney, windows with panes of glass criss-crossed, a front door in the middle, flowers growing in the garden. All it needed was a blue sky, some smoke coming out of the chimney, a couple of soaring birds, some white fluffy clouds and a big yellow sun with a smiling face, and it would be the picture that every child would draw, if you asked them to draw a picture of a house.

My time in the "proper house" was very limited.

When I briefly lived this proper life, there was a village green, a village shop, a village post office, a church and graveyard, a railway train station, a bus stop, a pub and a school.

During my all-too-brief proper life, I went to the local school, played with the local children, bought sweets from the village shop, attended events on the village green - when people would literally dance around a maypole with coloured ribbons - and went to church.

My life exemplified everything that is great and good about English countryside living. Former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, lives barely a few miles away from the idyllic Cotswold village where I had my proper life. Prince Charles and other royalty play polo on fields, barely a few miles away from this most quintessentially picturesque English village that you could ever imagine. The TV show Downton Abbey was filmed on location, a few miles away from this beautiful place, where I thought I would live forever.

Life seemed to make sense to me - this was a proper life, and it all made perfect sense, even though I was just a child.

The funny thing is that it still makes sense to me.

All I want is to live in a little house, with a little garden, in a little village and do the things that normal people do: go to work, come home, watch TV, cook food, eat, do gardening, have a pet, feed the birds. All I want is an ordinary life.

Presently, the only piece of furniture I own is a coffee table, which I repurposed as a TV stand. One of the few possessions I own which isn't designed to be carried around easily, is the TV, which sits atop the TV stand. Other than that, everything else can be thrown into a bag... and there isn't very much "everything else" left. Most of my possessions have been discarded, because my life was too chaotic and I was too unwell to cope with safeguarding my material things, when my life and my sanity were at risk and all too often nearly lost forever.

Every time I was forced to move as a child - 8 different schools - it was nonsensical and disruptive; it was traumatic and damaging. Every time I found myself packing my bags, yet again, a pattern was being established: I was being psychologically programmed. The message my parents were sending me was loud and clear: "Don't get attached to anything, anywhere or anybody".

I gave up on the idea of having a settled, secure, normal life.

When I separated from my wife and an acrimonious divorce began, it really didn't bother me as much as it should have done, to lose my house, lose my precious things and to end up sleeping rough - homeless and destitute. I camped in bushes, where I could hide my tent. I slept in a bivouac on heathland. I was invisible in a city with a daytime population of 10 million inhabitants. My home and my bed shrank and shrank, until it was simply the tiny patch of ground on which I stood or lay. My personal space shrank to be no bigger than the volume occupied by the extremities of my body.

When I saw the chance to move from being homeless to living in a very luxurious apartment with amazing views of the capital city, the idea was too attractive for me to resist.

I had two years bursting with pride about how I'd pulled myself up by the bootstraps, and was no longer sleeping rough; no longer homeless. I had to pinch myself every time I stepped inside my home, and was greeted by breathtaking panoramic views over London. That feeling never wore off... the whole time I lived there.

I want that again. I want to live somewhere special. I want that special feeling that I'm living in a proper place, after the awfulness I've been through in life.

Yes, I'm sympathetic towards those who are sleeping rough, and those who are living in a very dire situation. No, it doesn't make me happy just to have a roof over my head.

I've lived anywhere. I've slept rough all over London. I've slept in 14-bed hostel dorms. I've slept in psychiatric wards, hospitals and police cells.

I do NOT want to live anywhere.

It was a big deal when I got the keys to a gorgeous home with sea views, roughly ten and a half months ago. I still feel a great buzz when I visit that place, and I stand at the window admiring the views over the bay. I love that home, but unfortunately, it's not my home... although technically I can sleep there whenever I want, for another month and a half.

I shouldn't be getting stressed out about moving. My life will be much better when I have a home again. Hopefully I can have a beautiful home which I can fill with lovely things. Hopefully I can stay there. Hopefully I won't have to leave. Hopefully my world won't be destroyed again.

Currently, I have no idea where, when or how I'm going to get myself a home, let alone whether I'll have the opportunity to fill it up with lovely things.

My upbringing taught me one clear lesson, again and again: Expect nothing, except to lose everything that you get attached to.

 

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My Sex Problem - Part Two

7 min read

This is a story about overcompensation...

Weymouth harbour yacht

I wrote yesterday about having a sex problem. Not a sex addiction, or anything kinky, but that I have too much sex because my fragile self-esteem depends upon it. I use sex as a form of reassurance, that I've banished my unhappy adolescent and late teen years, as well as my early twenties, safely into the past. I use sex as a form of proof that those bad times are never going to come back to bite me. I can never go back to those unhappy times.

There's something I need to talk about.

There's something I need to mention.

I'm not a fool.

I'm not so stupid and gullible that I believe every boast and every lie that was told, at school and at college, about how much sex everyone was getting. I'm not swayed by the common misconception that everybody else was at it [fucking] like rabbits. I'm not convinced by the gossip and the bragging and the boasts of sexual conquests, which circulated widely in the pressure-cooker of the school and college environment.

What I know are the facts.

I only care about the facts.

I don't really give a shit how much sex, how many blowjobs and how many hand-jobs were being had by my peer group. I don't really care how many sexual acts were actually carried out. These are facts that I'll never truly know.

What I DO know, without a shadow of a doubt, is that the vast majority of people's adolescent schooldays included having boyfriends/girlfriends, and all the associated relationship learning and development that's associated with that. The vast majority had crushes, thought they'd fallen in love, sent love notes, asked each other out, declared themselves to be couples, were known to be couples, called each other boyfriend and girlfriend, and had at least kisses and cuddles... intimacy and a relationship status.

What I DO know for a fact is that the vast majority of my peers learned about jealousy, cheating, breakups, reconciliations, relationship arguments and all the other things which turned them all into well-rounded average people: One giant homogenous mass of people who've all had a more-or-less identical experience of teenage love.

What I DO know for a fact is that my parents blocked my opportunity to go to university, where I might then have had the opportunity to start playing catch up. At school, there were too many thick-skulled knuckle-draggers, but at university I would have been amongst my own kind: The academic high-achievers; the bookworms; the geeks and the ones who were bullied outcasts, because our brains were highly developed, but something about us painted a target on our backs, making our lives a living hell, when mixed in with a vast number of no-hopers, with no aspirations.

School was simply a holding pen, before prison for the guys, or pram-pushing for the girls. Those savages needed to be left behind, and university would have been my opportunity to heal some of the trauma, but my parents blocked and sabotaged my attempts to go, despite the ease with which I obtained generous offers from very highly regarded academic institutions.

I'm incredibly bitter that I was separated from my dear friends in Oxford - a hyper-intelligent bunch who have achieved great things - and I was dumped into a school in the middle of fucking nowhere, where the best career opportunity was some kind of unskilled minimum-wage seasonal employment. The place we moved to from Oxford was a backwater dead end, because my parents are selfish dead-end loser alcoholic junkies, who never gave a shit about the consequences they were inflicting on my life; the opportunities they were actively denying me.

The picture of me is of me aboard my yacht, age 21, with my girlfriend.

Yeah, that's right, I bought a yacht when I was 21 years old.

I worked for a bank in Canary Wharf, London, earning £470 a day. I was 21 years old and I was earning £2,350 a week, and I owned a yacht, and I had a girlfriend. I was earning over £10,000 a month and I had a red sports car, a yacht... and most importantly, I had a girlfriend.

Can you see how insecure I was?

Can you see how materialistic I was?

For Christmas presents I used to buy people Fortnum & Mason luxury hampers. I flew business class and stayed in 5-star hotels. I was 21 years old.

I was a massively insecure, damaged, insecure person. I overcompensated by spending vast amounts of money on status symbols and living a making vulgar demonstrations of my wealth, because I was still a bullied kid... I was still a lonely bullied kid. I was still the kid who didn't have those kisses behind the bike sheds at school. I was still the kid who didn't ever have a girlfriend at school. I never asked anyone out, got asked out, fell in love, cheated, broke up.... I never had any of that, unlike almost everybody else in the whole entire world.

I used my brain to get a good job. Then I used by brain to get a better job. Then I used my brain to get an even better job, until the point where I was earning six-figures annually and I got all the status symbols to pro-up my fragile self-esteem. I got a "penis extension" red sportscar. I got a yacht. I ate in fancy restaurants and went on luxury holidays. All of it was a massive "FUCK YOU" to those awful years when I felt so unlovable; so unwanted... so rejected.

I don't even care about the sex, but it's symbolic for me. I have sex when I'm not horny - not in the mood - because it's a test... I want to know I can always have it, because it proves that I'm sexually attractive. It proves that without the sportscar, the yacht, the luxury holidays and the other status symbols, that somebody loves me. I need proof beyond all reasonable doubt that I'm now a person who people want in their lives, as a lover, as a boyfriend... as a husband.

Becoming a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic, drug addict with mental health problems was a bit of a problem, but do you know what happened? I had some great relationships. I was homeless and living in a 14-bed hotel dormitory when I got together with an extremely attractive Italian girl, and we had a passionate romance. I was sleeping rough in a park when a wealthy Parisian woman fell in love with me and took me back to her fancy home in Notting Hill and nursed me back to health, despite my chronic drug addiction and incredibly unstable mental health.

I present myself now as exactly what I am: a penniless, mentally ill, recovering alcoholic, recovering drug addict, who lives a very precarious existence. I'm never far away from becoming homeless again, or being consumed by drug or alcohol abuse. I have no wealth anymore. I have nothing to offer. I'm not a 'catch'.

Because I feel so insecure about being 39 years old and not owning a luxury home, full of expensive furniture, with a sportscar parked on the driveway and a speedboat moored in the marina, all I'm left with is some kind of physical proof that I'm loved: does somebody want to fuck me, even though I'm a loser. I'm not even young and hot anymore. My hair is going grey and I'm carrying a few extra pounds of weight. I feel like I'm every woman's idea of a worst nightmare date: No cash, no assets, no flash car, no house... nothing to show for my 39 years on this planet. Why would anybody fall in love with me?

Sex is the only thing that gives me any certainty at the moment. Sex is the only thing that props up my fragile self-esteem, because my life has fallen to pieces.

I don't care that I missed out on sex as a teenager. I care that I missed out on love.

 

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My Sex Problem

3 min read

This is a story about feeling deprived...

Pink light

I have a hangup about sex. My hangup is this: How do I know if I'm getting enough sex, unless I'm having more sex than I actually want?

The logic is actually fairly simple to explain. If I ever wanted sex and couldn't have it, then that would be proof that I'm not getting enough sex, right? Do you follow me? So, by making sure I always have more sex than I want, I guarantee that I'm not missing out. I guess it's a FOMO thing (Fear Of Missing Out).

Where my sex problem stems from is my adolescence, which was rather ruined by selfish and downright disgusting decisions made by my parents. My parents were fully aware that their wholly selfish decisions would have disastrous consequences on me and my life, but they just didn't give a fuck about me. They didn't have to suffer the consequences, so they didn't care.

Ultimately, I did not go through the learning and development phase that most adolescents do, where they start having boyfriends/girlfriends and figuring out how relationships work. I did not have the same experience as almost every teenager. My own teenaged years were quite ruined by my parents, and as such, I now have trauma: I have a hangup.

In order to know that I'm never again going to have to re-live those traumatic childhood years, I act in a way which is a reaction to the damage that was done to me.

Never again shall I feel so singled out, bullied, alone, isolated, shunned and a pariah. Never again shall I be the odd one out. Never again shall I be the one who misses out. Never again shall I be the only one who was deprived of large chunks of normal, healthy life, growing up.

Because of my hangup, I overcompensate.

My sex problem is not a kink. It's simply that I want more than I really want, just to reassure myself that I'm getting the maximum amount I can possibly get. I need to know I'm not going to feel as bad as I did, back in those dreadful years which traumatised me.

It's fairly simple really, and I suppose I could think my way around the problem. I suppose I could 'cure' myself of my trauma, now that I've identified the source of it. However, when I feel vulnerable and afraid, the damage is still there, and my compensatory behaviour is always the same.

I'm proud I outgrew my identity as the bullied outcast; the undesirable kid that nobody wanted to be anywhere near, lest they find themselves subject to the bullying too.

Of course, I had friends. A few of us outcasts were thrust together, to suffer our awful fate together: perhaps 3 or 4 of us outnumbered by 1,200 bullies, quite literally. I'm sure I'm writing with some hyperbole, given how traumatic the memories seem when I poke at them and re-live them, but the point still stands: It's fucking awful being the subject of so much bullying; so outnumbered... especially when your own parents have played a very big role in creating and maintaining that intolerable situation.

It's a strange sex problem to have, but at least it's not something totally weird, like wanting to get urine or faeces on me... not that I'm gonna judge you if that's your particular kink.

So, that's me.

 

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Not Drinking Alcohol

6 min read

This is a story about life on the wagon...

Leftover booze

At more-or-less the same time as one of my best friends drank himself to death, I stopped drinking. I'd like to say that I decided to stop drinking because it seemed like the right thing to do, given how alcoholism had destroyed the health of my friend and pretty much killed him, but it was actually due to more complicated, and much less noble reasons.

Alcohol comes in 'portions' more or less: Beer comes in cans or bottles and wine comes in a bottle. Portion control with beer seems like it should be easy enough, because one or two beers don't contain very much alcohol. Portion control with wine is a little harder, because a bottle of wine contains the same amount of alcohol as six and a half cans, as pictured.

The calculations, if you're interested, are based on the 750ml bottle of red wine, which has 14.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and the 330ml cans of beer, which have 5% ABV.

I bought all this alcohol, even though I don't drink.

I bought the red wine, because it's an ingredient in a dish I make with red cabbage. The alcohol is evaporated during the cooking process.

I bought the beers, because I needed to replace some that I had 'borrowed' from somebody, back when I was drinking. The reason why the carton is open and some of the cans have gone is because my girlfriend also 'borrowed' some cans - she drinks whenever she wants, unlike me.

I want to drink.

I get home and I see this bottle of wine and these cans of beer, and it's very difficult not to allow myself a single glass or a single can, at the end of a long working day, or perhaps as a weekend treat. It's very difficult to justify my sobriety to myself.

I must remind myself of why I stopped drinking.

I stopped drinking because I couldn't stop drinking. One evening I drank all the beer I had bought for myself, then I drank all the beer I had bought for my girlfriend, then I drank some of the beer that didn't even belong to either of us. Then I smashed some stuff up and passed out. Apparently I did other stuff too, but I don't remember many of the details. I was blackout drunk. My memory has holes in it, although I do remember that it was enough for me to decide that I shouldn't drink anymore.

I didn't drink at all, except Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, and then I went on an outing to the beautiful Georgian spa town of Bath. In this picturesque setting, a group of us proceeded to embark upon an all-day drinking session. I was careful to only have one alcoholic drink for every three that they had, but later on in the evening they stopped drinking, while I carried on. I didn't drink much, but I was a little hung-over.

It's probably no co-incidence that I had little patience and a short temper following that drinking session, and while I was nursing my hangover I lost my cool and broke up with my girlfriend. I struggled to emotionally regulate and stay calm, while being somewhat provoked. I completely failed to defuse and de-escalate the situation, and instead I found myself packing my bags and storming off into the night.

I'd like to say that I've felt the benefits of sobriety, but I don't think I have. I've lost weight and I feel better about my appearance because of that weight loss, but I don't feel much healthier or that I have more energy and enthusiasm to be fit and active. I don't feel like my mood is improved. I don't feel like my sleep is improved. However, if I had continued to drink heavily every day, I expect that I would have continued to put on a lot of weight, and that my health would have slowly deteriorated.

It's the middle of winter, so it's hard to measure the benefit of being sober. Perhaps come the summertime, I will feel my mood lift and my energy levels will be elevated, such that I feel like getting out and about. Certainly, if I was drinking heavily, I would be in no mood to make any travel plans or spend any time doing anything except watching TV and films, with a steady supply of alcoholic drinks.

Another thing to consider is that I heavily sedate myself with Xanax and use sleeping pills, so that I can remain functional and cope with the demands of my job, while also dealing with a mood disorder and a hatred for my profession which dates back as far as the very beginning of my life in corporate hell, over 20 years ago.

Perhaps when my debts are paid off, my housing is more secure, I'm more financially comfortable and I feel more settled at work and in the place where I'm living, then I'll be able to give up my chemical crutches and feel a lot healthier and happier. However, for the time being, I am getting what I need to cope in the form of a handful of calorie-free pills, which do far less health damage than the gallons of toxic alcoholic liquid which I used to guzzle.

Temptation is less of a problem than you'd think it would be, having realised that my body's natural thirst could be quenched with non-alcoholic fluids. I had programmed myself to associate wanting a drink, with wanting an alcoholic drink.

I successfully de-programmed my brain, so that I no longer craved hot drinks, which was surprisingly difficult but I managed it.

I suppose if I was very strict and disciplined I could completely de-program my craving for alcoholic beverages, but I know that it was a very long and hard process to eliminate tea and coffee from my life, as well as energy drinks and even coca-cola, which all contain caffeine.

I've even been slightly tempted to try fasting, allowing myself only water to drink for a period of a few days, because I often eat when I'm not really hungry, and I'd like to lose even more weight.

Ultimately, it might be vanity which provides the motivation for healthy living. I don't want to be fat with red-wine stained teeth and lips. I don't want to have a beer belly.

I'm happy knowing that I've "stopped the rot" to some extent, but I must admit that it's very hard to resist allowing myself to have a glass of red wine or a can of beer, after a long hard working week, on a Friday night. Would I be able to stop after just one though? Historically, I've never been able to drink in moderation.

As an epilogue, it should be noted that at my friend's funeral, a group of us, who used to drink heavily with the deceased, all got absolutely blind drunk until the hotel we were staying in refused to serve us any more alcohol. It's what my friend would have wanted.

 

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Bipolar Medications

8 min read

This is a story about tailored medicine...

Different tablets

It's a subject I've written about at length before, but I was writing about my experiences with different mood stabilisers earlier today and I thought I would re-purpose that content for my blog, because I'm tired and I'm stressed, and it seems like a logical thing to do: To take something I wrote earlier and re-use it.

What I've written is in the style of advice given to somebody who's perhaps newly diagnosed as bipolar, or perhaps suspects that they have bipolar disorder. What I've written is from my own personal experiences. What I've written is not meant to be completely authoritative and factually correct, but I'm aware that it's my general writing style to present my opinions in a persuasive manner.

So, without further ado, let's get onto the list of bipolar mood stabilising medications I have known and loved (or hated, more like).

Quetiapine (Seroquel)

Horrible side effects, including weight gain, daytime sleepiness, dry mouth and constipation. When it takes effect, it's so strong that it's very hard to get to bed, or use the toilet in the middle of the night. Cannot be mixed with alcohol - the alcohol makes you feel very unwell.

Overall, this medication feels like being "heavily sedated" and it would be very difficult to carry on a normal life at dosages above 200mg. At dosages of 300mg or more, you'll be sleepy and dopey all the time. At dosages over 400mg, you'll be a shuffling zombie, good for nothing except dribbling in front of daytime TV.

Not compatible with having a job.

Aripiprazole (Abilify)

This medication had a strange side effect, where I lost fine motor control of my lips and seemed to produce excessive amounts of saliva. It was impossible to have a conversation with somebody without spraying them with spit, which was a horribly degrading experience for me.

Aripiprazole is very long-lived in the body, so it can take a week or more to wear off and get back to normal, even after taking this medication for only a couple of days (i.e. if you try it and you get bad side effects immediately, you'll have those side effects for a whole week at least).

Because of its very long half-life, I would have serious reservations about trying this one, except as a last resort.

Lamotrigine (Lamactil)

No side effects at first, but the dosage has to be increased very slowly with this one. Migrane headaches are a very common side effect, which I got, so I decided to stop taking it. The headaches are tolerable, I guess, because this is the medication with the fewest side effects.

Some psychiatrists might not consider lamotrigine to be a mood stabiliser, but in fact more of an antidepressant which is safe for bipolar people to take. It improves sleep quality so I think it's a good choice from amongst the fairly bleak options.

Also a good choice if you plan on attempting to have a normal job and work.

Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

Side effects include weight gain, daytime sleepiness and a general feeling of being drugged, but nowhere near as bad as quetiapine.

Very good at quickly stopping a manic episode, so it could arguably be used only when entering a manic phase, and then stopped a short while later, but this would require discipline.

Not recommended to take on a long-term basis.

Not compatible with having a normal job.

Sodium valproate (Depakote)

Dreadful side effects. Will turn you into a total shuffling, dribbling zombie and eventually you will get an irreversible kind of brain damage, which will cause you to make involuntary facial movements (a bit like a tic).

This is an awful drug, given to paranoid schizophrenics who are very severely sick (paranoia, hearing voices, hallucinations etc).

If you're on this, it's probably forcibly injected into you in a psychiatric institution. The injections last for 3 months. Don't ever let yourself get so unwell that this becomes necessary. Exhaust all the other options first.

Lithium

Very hard to get the dose right, and requires regular blood testing, which is annoying and inconvenient. Very effective and side effects are tolerable if you can get the dose perfect but it might take many years to find exactly the right dose, and it will be very destabilising if you start going too low with your dose - i.e. you might end up triggering manic episodes when you're simply trying to avoid side effects.

Lithium causes irreversible health damage when used long term, and is therefore "life limiting" in a way - it might reduce your lifespan by 5 years or more, which is obviously a high price to pay.

General Comments

Psychiatrists will tell you that you need to commit to a medication for at least 3 months, in order to feel the therapeutic effects and for the side effects to wear off. I have tried all the medications listed above for 3 months or more, and the side effects never wore off. The side effects were intolerable for all the medications, except lamotrigine.

If you take these medications for longer than a few weeks (with the exception of lamotrigine) then you cannot stop taking them abruptly. If you suddenly stop taking these medications, you will have horrible rebound mania and possibly psychosis too (hearing voices etc). However, I have successfully 'weaned' (i.e. tapered) myself off all these medications, without too many problems.

The worst manic episodes I've had have been when stopping quetiapine and olanzapine abruptly. When I've tapered off the medications slowly, my mood has been fine and I've not had any problems. In fact, every time I've stopped taking a medication, I've felt much better, because the side effects are so awful.

I would advise you to consider olanzapine as a treatment for acute episodes of mania... i.e. you should have some ready to take, and when you start to go manic then start taking it to make sure your mania doesn't spiral out of control.

I would also advise you to consider lamotrigine as first or second choice. I believe many busy working professionals with bipolar disorder find lamotrigine to be a good medication, because it has few side effects.

Psychiatrists will probably pressure you to be on a stronger medication, which is likely to be an atypical antipsychotic (quetiapine, aripiprazole, olanzapine, sodium valproate, risperidone, clozapine) but all of these will have very profound side effects, most notably making you feel tired and sleepy, lethargic, foggy-headed, confused, increasing your appetite and reducing your sex drive. It's personal choice, but I find those side effects unacceptable.

Alternatives to Medication

Alternatively, you can use good lifestyle choices to manage bipolar: no alcohol, no caffeine, strict bedtimes, strict work:life balance, exercise, good diet. You will probably need some trusted people around you who can let you know when your speech is becoming more pressured, you're getting irritable, perhaps you're getting a little obsessive about projects, becoming more impulsive and taking more risks... essentially, when you're heading into a manic episode, which could escalate. I find that getting 8 to 10 hours sleep each night, no more and no less, helps me to keep my mood stable. I also find that my manic episodes are much less of a problem since I quit caffeine. Recreational drugs are a terrible terrible idea, and completely incompatible with bipolar, unfortunately, especially the stimulants: legal high powders, speed, coke, crystal meth, meow meow, M-CAT, mephedrone, monkey dust etc. etc.

Stressful life events can be very triggering for mania, as well as the temptation to work hard because of a job change, promotion or exciting project. It takes a lot of careful planning to ensure that stress is kept to a minimum and work:life balance is preserved. If you want to get obsessed with anything, make it exercise and the great outdoors.

In Conclusion

I'm living a functional and complete life, with a full-time job, managing to have good relationships, managing my money, not engaging in risky behaviours or otherwise suffering many problems with my bipolar disorder. I have depressions, which are sometimes bad enough to cause me to take some time off work, but only a few days here and there. I have hypomanic episodes, where I can spend a lot of money and make impulsive decisions. However, considering that I don't take any mood stabilising medications for my bipolar disorder, my mood is remarkably stable and almost everybody would consider me to be successfully managing my condition, without having any particularly adverse effects on my quality of life.

I can highly recommend trying to go medication free, or spending a lot of time trying different medications and tweaking the dosage, because life is so much better when you're not drugged up to the eyeballs with powerful psychiatric chemicals, which radically alter you and your personality, with horrible side effects.

I'm not antipsychiatry per se, but I would advise people to make very well informed decisions and remind your clinicians that it's your body, so it's your rules, and like with every profession, there are people who are brilliant at their jobs and there are people who are not so great. You need to educate yourself so that you know whether you're getting good advice or not. You can't just trust everybody who calls themselves a doctor.

Mental health is complex. Bipolar disorder is complex. People are complex. We are all individuals and we have individual needs and individual unique circumstances. Tailor your solution to meet your needs.

 

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Minimum Effort

2 min read

This is a story about the path of least resistance...

Messy desk

What's wrong with putting in the minimum amount of effort? What's wrong with cramming for a test the night before, instead of working hard every single day? What's wrong with only working when your boss is around to see what you're doing? What's wrong with cutting corners? What's wrong with any of it, provided the end result is the same?

Are the top grades I got in my exams any less valuable than the top grades achieved by the "good" students who always put in lots of effort the whole time?

Are the pay rises and promotions I get in the workplace any less valuable than the career achievements of the hard workers, who put in a great deal of effort that goes unnoticed and unrecognised?

The things that I didn't bother to do, that nobody really cared about anyway, so nobody even noticed that I didn't do... does it matter that I didn't do those things?

At the end of the day, the end results are the same. When I'm reduced to a piece of paper with my qualifications written on it, nobody has any idea how hard I worked - or didn't work - to achieve my qualifications. When I'm reduced to a job title, a salary and a few performance objectives, nobody has any idea whether I'm a productive, energetic, conscientious and diligent employee, or whether I'm a professional slacker.

In fact, isn't it better if I'm getting maximum pay for minimum effort? Haven't I somehow won at the game of life, if I've avoided all that pointless unnecessary work, and yet I get all the rewards which were supposed to be reserved for the hard workers? The ones who put in the effort should be proportionately rewarded, right?

Life doesn't seem to work like that.

 

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How I Became a Drug Addict Again

6 min read

This is a story about re-relapse...

Syringe

The title of this blog post, the hyphenated nonsensical word "re-relapse" and the image of an oral syringe which I happened to spot lying on the floor of a hospital, are all intended to set the tone of this piece: Everything you think you know about drug addicts is probably wrong, especially when referring to "drug addicts" as a collective group of mostly identical people.

I could easily wander into the territory of blathering on about "we're not all the same, you know" and other such clichés, but instead I thought I'd simply tell you the story of my re-relapse.

I guess how I became a drug addict again is far less interesting and important than why, so I'm actually going to explain some of the who and the what which means my story makes sense, I hope.

Back in November 2018 - less than 3 months ago - I was a drug addict. I also booked some flights to Mexico for my girlfriend and I, so that we could spend Christmas and New Year on the beach. This presented a problem: How does a drug addict go on holiday?

When I went on holiday to Turkey for a week in October 2018, I literally went cold turkey, which I thought was really funny because I had travelled to Turkey for a hot holiday during the cold UK autumn. The irony of it had a kind of poetic deliciousness, which I couldn't resist. Besides, I wasn't that much of a drug addict at the time.

During that week in Turkey, I struggled to sleep at first, without the drugs which I had become addicted to. Then I became incredibly tired and lethargic due to lack of sleep, and I didn't leave my hotel room for 3 days. However, by the end of the holiday I was able to enjoy some sunshine and I was also 'clean' - I was no longer a drug addict.

Now we must ask: If I had managed to get 'clean' and beat my drug addiction, why would I relapse? The answer is quite simple and straightforward really: Because I am using drugs as a coping mechanism for my ordinary day-to-day circumstances.

What about Mexico?

I had planned a 2-week holiday with my girlfriend, to Mexico, which would have been far more enjoyable than the holiday to Turkey, except for the fact that my drug addiction had escalated. I'm not sure what was so particularly awful about November, except that the UK weather was getting even colder and more miserable, but I found it necessary to augment my existing drug addiction with additional substances.

I did not want to travel through two international airports carrying controlled substances, for which I did not have a prescription. In the UK, it's a criminal offence to be in possession of certain medicines, unless you have a prescription. I did not have a prescription. One of the medicines which I needed to transport with me to Mexico via transatlantic flight, in order to maintain my drug addiction, was unfortunately illegal to possess in the UK without a prescription.

What was I going to do?

I procrastinated for a long while, and then with 3 weeks until the scheduled departure of our flight to Mexico, I decided to start reducing my dose a little bit every day. I tapered myself off one of the medications I was addicted to - Xanax - until I was no longer addicted to it, so I was then able to travel without being at risk of prosecution for trafficking narcotics across international borders.

Essentially, I got 'clean' again. Yet again. I've gotten 'clean' so many times.

Oh, did I mention that I also quit drinking?

Yeah. Don't try to quit Xanax in the space of 3 weeks if you're addicted to it. If you're addicted to Xanax, you need to taper down your dose really slowly or else you'll have problems.

I had problems.

I drank 9 pints (5 litres) of very strong beer and I don't remember many of the details, except that I went bat shit crazy and smashed some stuff up. I was pretty much blackout drunk, so my memory is very patchy. I was out of control. I was a mess. The worrying thing is how little of it I remember.

So, I quit drinking soon after I started trying to quit Xanax. Mixing alcohol and Xanax is a bad idea, but drinking alcohol while quitting Xanax is a disastrous idea.

However, quitting alcohol and Xanax, when you're addicted to both... that's hell.

I had 3 weeks where I felt like the world was about to end and life was not worth living. I had 3 weeks where I was absolutely convinced that every conceivable disaster was lurking just around the corner. I had 3 weeks of the most unbearably awful anxiety.

Then I went to Mexico.

Turns out you can just buy Xanax over-the-counter in a pharmacy in Mexico if you smile nicely and pay in cash. Obviously, I was well aware that it's illegal to sell Xanax in Mexico, but I was also well aware that it wasn't illegal for me to buy it or possess it. So, I bought a bottle of Xanax from a Mexican pharmacy, and I resumed my drug addiction. Xanax is branded Tafil in Mexico by the way... if you ever need to get some.

Then, at the end of my holiday in Mexico, which was awesome by the way, I threw the leftover tablets in the bottle into the trash, at the airport.

Since my holiday, my life has continued pretty much as normal. I don't drink - I've managed to remain almost completely sober since I quit alcohol back in December. My life is also normal, insofar as I'm a drug addict.

Every night I take a sleeping pill and a tranquilliser, and I do so because I need sleep and I need to be tranquil. My life circumstances dictate my need for the substances I use.

I imagine that I will become completely 'clean' and 'sober' again one day, but for the time being, I need to endure some pretty horrible life circumstances, and I find that the drugs I'm addicted to are helping me to cope, even though it's commonly thought that all drug addiction is automatically a bad thing.

What I wish for is not to be 'clean' and 'sober' but for the circumstances of my life to be more pleasant and favourable to a life without the 'crutches' of drugs, but what I wish for seems mostly impossible, at the moment. I can't achieve the impossible. I have to work within the limits which I'm constrained by. I have no control over most things in my life, which cause me a great deal of discomfort and unhappiness, but I've found my coping mechanisms which work.

The end.

 

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The Banality of Existence

4 min read

This is a story about the less glamorous jobs...

Car tyre

Some very simple things in my life are surprisingly difficult to organise and cause a great deal of anxiety. The accumulation of things which most people would consider trivial, is a consequence of a phase of my life which I should not probably be living through.

Those who have stuck together with their peer group, going through school, further education, higher eduction, university and forays into academic realms beyond, have had a well-trodden path to follow, which has made it extremely easy to go along with the herd.

Society corrals us through life, into jobs, relationships, and the process of "settling" somewhere. We become attached to a place, either because it's where close family live, where we spent the bulk of our time studying, or perhaps because it was where we spent the bulk of our career.

The weight of expectation placed upon us by our families, friends and the media, pushes us towards marriage and children.

We're carried along by a rapidly flowing river, with the currents too strong for us to swim against. The bulk of our destiny is inevitable, not free will or choice, like we would like to believe.

My car needs servicing, I need a haircut, I need a new belt, there is administrative paperwork which must be submitted to a government agency, there are numerous annual insurance policies which require renewal. I am continually harried and harassed for my time and money, by an unending queue of people who won't leave me in peace.

I try to comply with the demands of so-called 'normal' society but I find that there are gatekeepers everywhere, intent on frustrating me, delaying me, or thwarting me altogether.

I attempt to do my job to the best of my abilities, and I feel guilty about doing non-work tasks during my working day. I attempt to invest time each day in relationships outside my workplace: friends and family. Once commuting time, meal preparation time, housework time, washing time, hygiene time and all the other mandatory deductions from my leisure time have been made, there are then the other tasks: The letters to open, which no doubt demand money with menaces, or require me to fill in some ridiculous form and mail it, so that a bureaucrat somewhere can justify their job.

My photo album contains a depressing number of photographs which are not of pleasant things I've observed, but do in fact contain details I need for the operation of a fairly simple and humble life. The picture above is of one of my tyres, so that I could find a place to fit my car with the correct ones.

My photo album contains numerous pictures of my passport, driving license, bank statements, utility bills, council tax bills and other official documents, which are regularly demanded as proof of my identity. I spend my life perpetually proving that I exist and satisfying other demands of gatekeepers, who would prefer to see me homeless, penniless and destitute.

I suppose I'm not alone in this farcical existence, but it gives me little comfort to know that many of us - those who don't have the security of a permanent job and the ownership of our home - are constantly asked to jump through so many hoops.

My perceptions might be warped, but I feel like I'm more time poor than ever, which isn't supposed to be the case for a childless man who has been working a full-time career for over two decades.

I'll stop moaning now and get back to my administrative tasks.

 

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I Hate Renting Houses

7 min read

This is a story about the rentier class...

Assured shorthold tenancy

I spend a lot of time dealing with brain-dead individuals who think they should get paid a lot of money for jobs they're thoroughly incompetent at, as well as being so utterly unbelievably stupid that they would put a Terms of Service contract onto their website, which was stolen from a fast-food restaurant.

Unfortunately I have to deal with lettings agents who think it's OK to charge the best part of £400 or more, for putting a document in a photocopier and then filling in a couple of blanks, such as the name of the tenant and the amount of rent payable.

Like, I mean, how much do you actually think you should get paid for filling in 5 pieces of information onto a document you don't understand, and doing a bit of photocopying.

The UK government has helpfully provided a very nice model contract, for anybody who is looking to rent out their home. This document includes all kinds of useful guidance, such as "it's not OK to demand sex in lieu of rent" for f**kwits who think they can write whatever the hell they want into a contract, and it somehow supersedes the laws of the country.

You cannot, for example, draw up a contract that allows you to punch me, stab me and/or kill me, and avoid punishment for the crime, because I signed a so-called waiver. I cannot waive my rights using civil law. The criminal laws of the country will always take precedence over any contract law. That is to say that my statutory rights are not affected by any bullshit piece of paper that I sign.

When you buy a pair of shoes, you'll sometimes sign a piece of paper that says you can't return them and get a refund. However, that doesn't affect your statutory rights, and you're quite within your legal rights to return the shoes if they're faulty or defective in some way.

The law defends us from all sorts of unscrupulous unethical chancers who want our money but don't want to work for it - in short, they want our money, but they're not going to do any work to get it. Those people are called the rentier class who believe they're entitled to money for nothing.

The rentier class piss me off.

I just want to have a place to live. I want to have a secure home. That's all I want.

Here is an email, which I took the time to research and write on my goddam Sunday afternoon, when I'm supposed to be relaxing:

Dear XXX XXXX,

Many thanks for showing me around XXXXXXX on Saturday afternoon, and your prompt reply to my queries was greatly appreciated. I am interested in renting the property as it adequately met my requirements, but I felt I should write to you with regards to keeping a pet cat. The answer you supplied is not satisfactory I'm afraid.

I must draw you, your agency and the landlord's attention to the matter of UK law, when it comes to the keeping of pets. The Consumer Rights Act (2015) stipulates that the keeping of a pet cannot be reasonably refused, unless the pet would cause a nuisance to the occupiers of neighbouring properties or significantly increase wear and tear to the property. According to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999) The Office of Fair Trading deems a “No Pets” clause unlawful.

The law is very clear: "[a] landlord cannot exercise a blanket ban on pets". Your quote "the Landlord has stipulated No Pets at the property" which is an incontrovertible piece of written evidence of unlawful behaviour on the part of the landlord, you and your agency.

The property is unfurnished and has hard floors throughout, such that the keeping of a cat would clearly not increase wear and tear to the property. A cat would certainly not cause a nuisance to the occupiers of neighbouring properties. I noticed several neighbourhood cats during my visit to the property.

Given that the landlord has unreasonably refused for me to keep a cat at the property, which is an unlawful contravention of The Consumer Rights Act (2015) as a goodwill gesture I am prepared to offer a modest increase to the deposit and an additional contract clause whereby the tenant accepts any responsibility for pet damage to the property. This would give the landlord an exceptionally high level of protection, for the incredibly unlikely event that an ordinary domestic cat might cause damage or additional wear and tear. This extra money would be held in the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) in addition to the substantial deposit already proposed by your agency.

Naturally, the Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement would be amended, so that it is contractually stipulated that the keeping of one single cat was permitted. Any additional pets would require consent from the landlord, which is standard practice.

It is not my intention to turn the landlord's property into a zoo. It would be perfectly reasonable - for example - for the landlord to refuse the keeping of a large dog, which would be likely to bark loudly and thus cause annoyance to the neighbours.

My request is most reasonable and the UK courts will robustly defend my legal right to keep a pet cat. I hope you will forgive me for reminding you again that it is not lawful for a landlord to "exercise a blanket ban on pets and should not turn a request down without good reason". 

I humbly suggest you and your agency thoroughly familiarise yourself with the laws of England and Wales pertaining to landlords, tenants and letting agents, such that your future business is conducted lawfully. The necessary statutes which you and your agency should familiarise yourself with are: The Landlord and Tenant Act (1985), Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999) and Consumer Rights Act (2015).

I advise you to inform your client of any laws which he or she might not have been aware of, such that any more unlawful behaviour might be avoided in future. Perhaps you might then be so kind as to respond again to my question about keeping a pet cat, when you are next able to speak to your client.

It disappoints me that your agency who charge fees of £311.54 for the simple preparation of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement, should be so woefully ill-informed of the laws of the United Kingdom. Ignorance of the law is no defence in court. I am especially disappointed that you are charging a substantial professional fees for your services, when you are conspiring with your clients to break the law.

My advice is offered at the cost of a leisurely Sunday I could have spent spent relaxing, so I hope you appreciate the effort I have made in providing you with a comprehensive summary of how to conduct your business and advise your clients, without breaking the laws of England and Wales, which would be financially costly and reputationally damaging. Consider my free advice to be a goodwill gift.

I assure you that my only intention is to rent a property, with the statutory protections afforded to me by UK law, such that my right to live in peaceful enjoyment of the property as my home is not legally infringed. It seems like a reasonable request to me. Would you agree?

I trust this message finds you well and I hope to receive a reply at your earliest convenience.

I hope you had a good weekend.

Kind regards,

Nick

That's my politest possible way of saying you can't fuck with me, you rentier class c**t. And demanding to enjoy the same freedom in life that those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth get. We should not have a two-tier society, where the rentier class don't have to work, and the rentier class should not make unreasonable demands, such as disallowing the proletariat the comfort of having a pet.

Rant over.

 

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I Lost 5 Years of my Life

6 min read

This is a story about the wilderness...

Endless desks

Why am I not more rich and comfortable? Why don't I have financial security and a home which nobody can evict me from? Why do all my years of experience and all the massive multinational corporations on my CV assure me a comfortable standard of living?

Conversely, why haven't I ended up with a criminal record? Why haven't I ended up in jail? Why am I not dead?

Why am I not bankrupt? Why am I not sleeping rough? Why am I not an alcoholic or a drug addict?

Why is my physical health OK? Why is my mental health OK?

I've picked up my life and carried on as if nothing happened, but something very major did happen.

Luckily I had a head-start of 3 or 4 years on my peer group, at least in terms of career progression and the accumulation of wealth. When we do the math, it seems I'm no more than 1 or 2 years behind where I should be, and I'm rapidly catching up again.

I get frustrated that it's going to take a couple of years before I'm back in the position - in material terms - which matches my skillset and experience. I get frustrated that there's no way that I can accelerate the process of clawing my way back to the position in society which I used to occupy.

I could have arrived back at a position of health, wealth and prosperity much sooner, but my experiences during my wilderness years have altered me for life. Most people live in terror of loss: Losing money, losing assets, losing relationships and damaging their reputation. I learned during the difficult wilderness years that the world is a big enough place that even the most madcap escapades go entirely unnoticed.

It is with great pleasure and pride that I am returning myself to a position of status which gradually begins to approach the status I held before my fall from grace.

Is it shallow and vain and pretentious, to wish to maintain our status in society?

Bullshit.

At first, it was an adventure to sell my house, sell my car, give away all my possessions, sleep rough and truly start my life all over again. I felt a great sense of relief that I was unburdened by the constant worry that what I had worked so hard to get and to achieve, would be stolen or damaged. It was liberating and I had the time of my life, truly free from any sense of responsibilities or duties. I entrusted my fate to good fortune, and a healthy dollop of my own wit and ingenuity.

Then, I realised that my wide-eyed innocence and trust in people laid me wide open to exploitation. I'm sure I hardly had any money stolen off me by other homeless people, but as I began to get my life back on track, I found that there are an entitled, spoiled, brattish, immoral group of people who've never known suffering or deprivation, and they see it as their birthright to dip their hand into my wallet, instead of paying their own way. I attracted a lot of freeloaders, who had no guilt or conscience, when it came to stealing from me - these were people who've never slept rough; these were people who've never known what it's like to lose everything, and they never will, because they're spoiled brats who can telephone their mothers and fathers and receive massive cash handouts. Those freeloaders will never have setbacks in their lifetimes, because they're from wealthy, generous, loving families.

It's a source of great shame and damage to my self-esteem that I drive a very battered and rusty old car, and that I live in rented home in one of the poorest areas of the country. It's a source of great shame and embarrassment that I have indebted myself in order to pay my rent and bills, simply to house myself and feed myself. It's a source of constant worry and anxiety that my work colleagues might wonder why one of their "superstar" consultants dresses in worn-out clothes and gives away other clues which hint that the wealth they would expect me to have, is not present: I'm poor.

It's shit being poor. It's shit being poor when you work in a world where everybody who does my job as well as I do is not poor. The loss of status should not be underestimated.

When a man loses status, he is highly likely to lose his life.

It's one of the hardest things to do, to recover from a major setback, which has ruined your finances, your secure housing, your material possessions, like your new car and your nice clothes. The hard thing is knowing that everybody can see that you fucked up and it takes years and years and years to put things right. Some people will never be able to recover.

My recovery is not about mental health. My recovery is not about alcohol. My recovery is not about drugs. My recovery is about self-esteem, which is damaged so drastically, and is so hard to repair, that for most people they will just give up and kill themselves. It's a fatal blow.

One of the reasons I keep trying and I keep writing, is because I want to be one of the few people who's lived to tell the tale of coming back from such a major setback. Plenty of people have survived, but few have gone on to thrive. I want to tell the story of regaining my pride and my dignity, and of being indistinguishable from a person who didn't spend 5 lost years in the wilderness.

This is our little secret. Every day I pay off a little bit more of my debt and I fix up a little bit more of my life. Every day I become a little bit more like the person I would've been, if it hadn't been for my missing 5 years. This is our secret, because the joke is on those people who have absolutely no idea what I've been through.

At work, I feel so proud that I'm doing valuable work and I'm almost back to being as good as I always thought I was going to be, by the time I reached the age I am. I'm so proud of the work I do. I'm so pleased that my brain and my natural aptitudes and the talents I was fortuitously given, are being put to good use and I feel as competent and capable as anybody. I don't feel damaged, and that's so important for my self-esteem.

This isn't about pride. This isn't about regret. This is about the damaging effect that loss of status can have on a man, with fatal consequences.

 

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