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The world's longest suicide note

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

All opinions are my own

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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So Hungry

10 min read

This is a story about rushing...

Pub grub

My life doesn't have a lot of highlights. I'm struggling to get up in the morning. I'm bored at work a lot of the time. I'm trying to eat fewer calories, so I'm skipping breakfast and having a very light lunch. My writing has become a bit of a marathon slog as I attempt to write the final few thousands words and reach my 1-million target. The only thing I've got to look forward to is my evening meal.

Because I try to do my writing before I go to the gastropub to eat, I'm always in a bit of a rush. It's a challenge to write ~2,000 words in between a full day at my desk in the office, and the ideal time to arrive at the pub in order to get a table and eat. I write doubly quickly, because I know that the sooner I've finished my daily blog post, the sooner I can go and choose my meal. With that incentive, I have no difficulty pounding out the words very rapidly on the keyboard, before rushing off to enjoy the highlight of my day - pub grub.

You shouldn't do your supermarket food shopping when you're hungry, because you will strip the shelves of products and buy far more than you could ever hope to eat, before the expiry date of the perishable groceries which you've purchase. My eyes are always far bigger than my belly when I've been hungry for a while. I think that being hungry also affects the speed with which I do everything, and my attention to detail. I'm rushing everything and being sloppy, because I just want to get things done as quickly as possible.

I need to earn money, lose some weight and cut down my drinking, but I expect instant results. My writing target is within spitting distance now, but I'd have never reached this point if I tried to do it too quickly - I've had to pace myself. My finances are improving but I'll never get financial security if I don't keep turning up at the office every day - even though it's torturously boring - for many many more months. I'm really not enjoying my semi-sobriety, but I'm not going to feel the benefit unless I keep it up for a decent length of time.

It's been a month since I started my new job in a new and unfamiliar city. For a whole month I've been living in a hotel midweek and eating in the same pub every night. For a whole month I've been dividing my time between the city where I have my apartment and the city where the office is.

In the last month I've managed to quit the sleeping pills and painkillers I was using to cope with stress and anxiety. In the last month, I've managed to cut down my drinking drastically. In the last month, I've stopped being so antisocial and wasting the whole summer indoors drinking wine. I've earned some more money, which is slowly making a dent in my debts. It's reasonable progress.

I don't feel particularly good.

My working day is a struggle. My living arrangements are a struggle. My life lacks an adequate amount of things to look forward to; moments of joy. I keep losing hope that I'll be able to maintain the stability and keep up the routine, because there are so few moments when I'm happy and content. The struggle to get up in the morning is not just a phase - it's going to be a struggle every morning for months, if not years. The struggle to get through the working day is not just a temporary struggle... it'll be permanent while I remain trapped in a career which I outgrew very quickly when I was young.

There's no obvious reason why I shouldn't be able to keep up the routine. What's so bad about a well-rehearsed sequence of actions which starts with me washing and ironing my clothes for the week ahead, packing my bag, driving to the office, checking into the hotel, eating in the pub, driving home. What's so hard about that? The problem is the lack of all the other 'stuff' which makes a liveable life. Where's my social life? Where are the holidays? Where are the hobbies and interests? Where's any of the 'stuff' which gives my life any meaning?

Work is meaningless because it's the same old crap that I've been doing full-time for 21+ years, which was easy and boring when I was in my late teens, let alone now. Work cannot be the thing which defines me and is all-consuming, because that's unhealthy and I know I'm never going to find fulfilment as a member of a huge team in a gigantic organisation. I feel a lot better about the morality of what I'm doing since I quit investment banking and moved into the public sector, but the waste is pretty sickening. Of course the public sector was never going to be particularly dynamic and fast-paced, but it's not that much slower than most of the big private sector organisations I've worked for. I know that startups are too demanding and too much risk though, and they'll make me sick by using and abusing me.

I need to get to the point where I've served my time and been thoroughly miserable for enough years that I have a substantial sum of money saved up, such that I can dare to dream. Perhaps things will be better when I'm financially secure enough to be able to spend my boring days in the office planning my next holiday. The misery of the unchallenging office job was much more tolerable when I spent my weekends kitesurfing, and I was jetting all over the globe looking for the best kitesurfing locations in all kinds of exotic locations. Perhaps my misery is largely due to the fact that all I do is work work work - I'm on a very tight budget.

There's no rushing my finances, unfortunately. There's no way I could earn money any quicker than I am doing. Money floods in at a fairly obscene rate, but I was very very deep in the hole, so it also costs a lot of money just to stand still. I can't believe how much money I'm earning, but yet it's still taking agonisingly long to get ahead.

Playing the waiting game is awful. I'm clock watching all the time. My alarm clock is the most dreadful intrusion on my day - the worst moment. Sometimes I'm not even tired, but knowing that I have to go and sit at a desk and be bored out of my mind is thoroughly depressing in a way which is soul-destroyingly exhausting. Mid-morning I panic about how slowly the day is dragging. Lunchtime is over in the blink of an eye, especially since I started having a super-light lunch which always leaves me still feeling hungry. The period from 2pm to 3:45pm is the very worst - at 2pm I can't believe how much of the day there still is to go, with nothing to occupy or entertain me. I often think I'm going to have to walk out, because I can't stand it. It doesn't matter how much I'm earning - it's not enough. Finally, it's a respectable time to leave the office - even though I'm frequently late for work - but all I have to look forward to is another long wait until it's a respectable time to eat my dinner. It's 6:23pm right now, which is very early for an adult with no children to eat.

My evenings were also unpleasant, and especially so since I've drastically reduced my alcohol intake. My cravings for booze were pretty incessant and it was hard to read or watch TV when all I could think about was how much I wanted to get a glass of wine. However, I've found some stuff that I'm enjoying watching and I'm starting to find it easier to relax and enjoy my solitary leisure time in my hotel room, without getting drunk.

I had planned to get drunk every single night until I'd regained financial security. Getting drunk was going to be my reward for doing a job I hate in a place where I don't want to be, all alone living in a hotel. I was prepared to put my entire life on hold so I could earn as much cash as possible as quickly as possible, and I'd have virtually unlimited quantities of alcohol to help me white-knuckle my way through to the end. The problem is that my health was being destroyed surprisingly rapidly - I was putting on weight and feeling very unfit and unwell. If I'd kept drinking as much as I was until the end of my contract in just over a year's time, I wouldn't be able to enjoy my hard-won wealth because I'd be fat and quite possibly have some very serious health issues to deal with as a consequence.

Comfort-eating is my only pleasure at the moment, as I'm single, living away from home, trying not to drink, not socialising and generally in a temporary state of suspended animation. I can fulfil the very few demands of my day job with less than 1% of my brain and I'm just waiting for enough paydays to restore my financial security. I've stopped everything except for the few core things which keep the hamster-wheel turning.

It's not particularly as if it's worthwhile making friends and getting a local girlfriend. It's not particularly worth investing in life in a place where I have no intention of staying beyond the maximum I absolutely have to in order to achieve my purely financial objective.

I pound out the words on the keyboard every evening after work, in groundhog day repetitive scenario. I pound out the words because it's a fleeting distraction from the endless waiting. Waiting for the money. Waiting for the end. Wishing my life away.

Some people would imagine that I'm impatient and impulsive, because of my mental health problems and my struggles with addiction. Stimulant abuse is particularly bad for damaging the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for executive decision-making, and importantly the ability to curtail stupid impulses. In fact, I spend my whole day suppressing the nearly-overpowering instinct to get up and walk out; to walk away from the torturous bullshit boring job. In fact, I'm one of the most patient people you know. Why do you think I get paid so much? If my job was pleasant and easy, everybody would be doing it.

I spend all working day in front of the keyboard and screen, then I flip open my laptop lid and spend some more time in front of the same type of keyboard and the same type of screen. The clock is in exactly the same position in the top-right hand corner of the screen, which my eyes instinctively flick up to, constantly aware of the slow passage of time.

Since I wrote what time it was, nearly 20 minutes have elapsed. I'm 20 minutes closer to my meal. I'm 20 minutes closer to the day when I've earned enough money to start to dare to dream. I'm 20 minutes closer to the moment I die, when I can finally enjoy some peace from this torture.

I'm off to the pub. I'm tempted to have a drink.

 

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Quantity Not Quality

10 min read

This is a story about churn...

Scrap bikes

The Matthew Effect is applicable to authors, bloggers and people who have Twitter accounts, insofar as those who have bestselling books, popular blogs and lots of Twitter followers will find it a lot easier to get even more book deals, advertising and sponsorship and turn themselves into a famous celebrity influencer, with the accompanying financial rewards. It's worth giving away your content for free so you can rise up through the charts and reach the top ten, where people will then assume you got there through merit, and your place will be cemented.

Of course, who has the time and the money to invest in such a risky loss-making venture purely in the hope that they will be able to one day rise to the top? People will buy and books at the top of the charts just because other people do. The things that are popular, are popular because they're popular - it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy once the initial seed is sown. This is why it makes sense to buy lots of copies of your own book, to artificially advance your position in the charts to the point where real book buyers will start to take an interest, purely because of chart position.

"For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance" -- Matthew 25:29

Or in other words, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Because of the very great number of people who'd prefer to write books than to flip burgers and clean toilets, the competition is fierce. One must remember that every spoiled brat with rich parents has the option of choosing much more fun and rewarding careers in the creative arts, as opposed to ordinary folks who have to work for a living. Not possessing the financial means to self-promote can be initially limiting - having to bootstrap and do things on a shoestring budget. Who has the energy and the leisure time to spend many hours every day, not only creating content but also promoting it and building a brand? Most people are far too busy working and raising children to be able to mess around with rich-people's hobbies like writing.

If you want to get noticed you have to lay down some impressive headline numbers. You need to catch people's eye and invoke the Matthew Effect. Nobody's going to stick around and read your crap or buy your book if they think you're just one of the ordinary struggling masses. You need to have X thousands of Twitter followers and X published works to prove your worth and be worthy of consideration by a harshly dismissive general public who are bombarded endlessly with crap churned out by a brigade of rich spoiled brats.

I'm churning out crap but that's because I'm trying to get through the final 2 weeks of my 3-year journey - to reach my target of writing and publishing 1-million words on this website.

Google knows I've done things the hard way. Google knows that my content is original. Google has algorithms which effectively check for plagiarism. Google harshly punishes any websites which have ripped off content from elsewhere by ranking those pages very low. Gone are the bad old days of content aggregation sites cluttering up Google's search results in a desperate attempt to trick people into clicking and viewing adverts. Nowadays, the only way to get people to click is with clickbait, which requires real content. Google loves real content. If you write thousands of words every day then Google thinks you're great and will give your website a high page rank.

Twitter thinks I'm the enemy. Of the 140 characters (now 280) which I could use for my tweets, I only use a tiny fraction on average. Twitter would call me a blogospammer because most of my tweets are just links to my blog. Twitter would view me as a leech on their community, because I'm taking people away from Twitter - and away from their adverts - and onto my website. Twitter wants you to stay on Twitter, and keep looking at Twitter for as long as possible. Twitter knows, quite correctly, that I'm neither invested in the platform nor am I doing my part to keep other people glued to the platform. If I had published all of the 978,000 words I've written to date on Twitter then I'd be very heavily invested in the platform and at the mercy of Twitter. Barely 3% of what I've written in the past 3 years has been published on Twitter. Twitter feels like it's getting a bum deal and Twitter hates me, because Twitter brings me readers, not vice-versa. Twitter would very much like to own me and my content, but it doesn't.

Every online behemoth wants to get bigger off the back of your effort and creativity. The big boys keep getting bigger and bigger, while anybody attempting to 'get a break' and establish themselves today will find that they're simply drowned in a sea of noise. To invest substantial amounts of time, effort and money into building a brand, readers, followers etc. on a big platform like Twitter is a waste of time - all it does is benefit the tech giants. The more you invest, the more committed you are to the platform you've chosen.

In some ways I wish I'd chosen Medium.com 3 years ago, because there's a huge Medium community, which is great for being discovered by new readers. Medium have a mechanism for writers to be able to monetise their content, which is great, but your average internet user has become so accustomed to having high quality content for free, that far less than 0.5% of potential readers would be prepared to pay. With eyeballs in short supply - because they're all busily looking at clickbait on BuzzFeed - the number of people you could ever hope would read your precious content dwindles to a depressingly small amount.

Of course, if you're producing something great, which is really what people want to read, then you're going to have tons of readers. However, are you going to make the editorial effort to publish at a very high standard, when what you're doing is an exhausting loss-making hobby anyway? Only the rich spoiled brats can afford to kid themselves that what they're doing is some kind of job and that one day they might turn their unprofitable ego-project into any kind of profitable endeavour. For those of us who write because this is a cheap hobby, and one of the forms of artistic creativity where entry is not barred by gatekeepers and financial barriers, why would we compromise our artistic principles by writing BuzzFeed clickbait? For sure, I could be writing "12 Surprising Things you didn't know about Bipolar Disorder" clickbait which proved very popular when I once did an experiment, but then my unpaid second job really would feel just like a job, rather than an outlet for my frustrated creative talents.

In my day job, which pays the bills, I hardly ever get to be creative. I almost never get the opportunity to work on an incredibly massive truly epic barely-comprehendible project like this. I can hack away to my heart's content at this, churning out my words until my itch is well and truly scratched.

My day job is incredibly frustrating. I work on big complicated projects as a part of huge teams, in massive organisations. Getting along with my team is more important than being a wild untamed artistic spirit, and creativity is the first thing to suffer in such an environment. Very rarely is there an opportunity for me to simply sit at the keyboard and let rip for any substantial amount of time.

When my day job was just a hobby - as I was teaching myself how to be a programmer - I was free to embed myself in vast virtual worlds which I had created. I was free to follow my artistic whims and create whatever I felt like. I was immersed in my creative output. I probably wrote as much computer code as the million words I've almost written and published on this website. The thing about computer code is: it has to be ordered and logical and syntactically perfect for it to work. There's a poetic beauty well-written code, when it's written to be as concise and efficient as possible. There's also an addictive quality to code, which demands the coder to imagine how it all pieces together. It's sometimes more fun to read the code and think about how it works than to even run the program and see it working.

Now I hardly write any code.

I could write code and be paid very well for it, but I'm paid a lot more to not write code. There are a lot of organisations who want to pay me just to have me around. There's an inverse relationship between creativity and remuneration. Artists earn an average of £10,000 per annum. Junior programmers might earn double that amount. The top people in tech - who hardly write any code - are paid 6-figure salaries. Go figure. It's very frustrating when you're good at something and you're a creative person, but it pays a lot better to just sit at your desk being bored.

The net result is that all of my creative abilities have been thwarted and frustrated by the working world and the need to earn money to pay bills. The solution has been to write for my own enjoyment in my spare time, of which I have a lot because my day job is so boring and easy. I need to write in my spare time, because I'm so frustrated while I'm chained to the desk, although - of course - that's because I've chosen to earn a 6-figure salary rather than an artist's wage, which would not be enough to pay the bills.

The reason for the quantity is that I'm unrestricted. I don't have an editor who's going to refuse to publish the crap I churn out. I want to be finished by my deadline. I'm in control of when I finish, because I can write as much as I like. I'm writing an average of 1,900 words per day at the moment, because I want to reach my headline number of 1-million words, and then I'm free to write as little or as much as I like - I'll have my artistic freedom again.

I feel sorry for my readers who are persevering through this period where I'm just pouring my stream of consciousness out onto the page. I feel sorry for the people who are having to suffer this period of quantity over quality. I feel embarrassed that I'm wasting people's time and repeating myself a lot, and making people read more and more when the quality is so poor. It's supposed to be a temporary thing, just to get me over the finish line. I'll be over 979,000 words when I hit "publish" in a minute, which means I'm within spitting distance of my target. I can write 10,000 words in a day if I'm suffering a particularly bad bout of verbal diarrhoea.

I promise that in a couple of weeks time I'll return to writing for the sheer pleasure of the artform and the joy of getting to be creative; expressive.

A friend once accused me of intellectual masturbation. So what if it is?

 

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London Keeps You Fit

9 min read

This is a story about declining health...

Bike tyre

My mental health can be tracked reasonably well by thinking about the periods when I was so extremely unwell that work became impossible, there are gaps in my blog and there's photographic evidence that I was having an episode of stimulant psychosis and sleep-deprivation induced insanity. The evidence of my naturally fluctuating bipolar mood is very obscured by other major events, including job loss, money worries and periods of relapse and addiction. There, however, periods when I've been functioning well enough to start getting back on my feet, although these have been quite short-lived and usually occur at some point between May and October.

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well as bipolar, so my tendency towards mania has started to become linked to the summer months. As my life became more chaotic and unmanageable, depression and drug abuse started to appear during the peaks and troughs. I've suffered winter relapses and summer relapses. I've also spent endless months with seemingly unshakeable and relentless anxiety and depression, which has been unbearable while working boring bullshit full-time jobs.

Through all the difficulties of divorce, selling my house, moving to London and attempting to get back on my feet - getting a new place to live and new job sorted out - I've suffered a whole series of seemingly catastrophic events which have always threatened to destroy me, but somehow every year I managed to do some good work and earn plenty of money.

By the time I arrived in hospital for the umpteenth time, I was completely burnt out by the demands of getting myself off the streets, into my own apartment and working on an extremely high pressure project for an incredibly demanding client. However, I was remarkably fit and healthy. My blood pressure and my resting heart rate both indicated an excellent level of fitness.

I suppose I knew I was fit. I had been lugging my luggage all over London, from hostel to hostel, because I was homeless. I cycled everywhere and I cycled very fast and aggressively - I loved the buzz of weaving through London traffic on my bike with handlebars sawn to the exact width of my shoulders. When there was a tube strike, I cycled all the way from North-West London to East London through the horrendous traffic jams. Cycling anywhere took me less time than it would have done by any other means of transport, with the possible exception of helicopter.

Even when I stopped cycling regularly I still did a lot of walking. To commute to my job in the City required a fairly long walk to my nearest Docklands Light Railway station, and a couple of times a week I had to visit a client in South London, which required even more walking. Seeing friends meant more walking. Going to the supermarket meant more walking. Seeing my girlfriend meant more walking. I maintained a reasonable standard of fitness through 2016, although not quite matching the preceding years.

In 2017 my health completely failed me and I was in hospital on dialysis for ages. Psychologically, I wasn't able to recover from the setback. I watched my savings dwindle depressingly quickly and I knew that I was going to end up evicted from my apartment; bankrupt and homeless. I knew that I couldn't face the exertion of pulling myself up by my bootstraps and getting back on my feet, yet again. I'd had a remarkable 2014, 2015 and 2016, where those years had horrendously bad periods, but also periods when I was productive and earning a lot of money. I hadn't been able to reach escape velocity at any point, and get myself back to a position of financial and housing security, with a dependable source of income. It had been an almost relentlessly shitty 3 years in terms of having the gains I had made smashed to smithereens. I had tried hard to make things work in London for a long time I'd run out of road - I had to leave to avoid total destitution.

Fitness tracker

I've amended the graph I made a short time ago to include 2015, so it can be compared and contrasted with more recent years. Every year used to look like 2015. It's quite plain to see how 2017 and this year are not showing my usual summertime boost at all. I'm having a terrible time in terms of fitness and physical health.

My brief stay in Manchester - August 2016 - was too short to say whether it could have been healthy, but I very much doubt it would have been. I didn't want to be there. The place was not inspiring.

Wales - as the data clearly shows - has not been a healthy move for me at all. The air quality is worse where I live than it was in Central London. There's little reason to walk anywhere - my local job was too far to walk and it was too easy to just drive everywhere. I live on a very steep hill, which is somewhat of a disincentive to walk to the beach, the shops or the pub, knowing there's such an uphill struggle on the way home. For 3 months I was commuting from Wales to London, which of course meant I was doing a lot of walking and carrying a heavy bag - I was starting to get fitter. The chance to work closer to home was too good to turn down, but when my mood wobbled and I had a rough patch, I've been very inactive since. I hardly left my apartment for the best part of two months.

My lifestyle now involves hardly any walking at all. I jump in my car on a Monday morning and park outside my office. I drive to a hotel where I stay 3 nights a week and I always eat in the pub next door. I drive home and I don't leave my apartment, except to walk to the nearby corner shop to buy wine and unhealthy snacks.

What people don't realise about London is how far you have to walk to get around. Walking to the tube station, then walking up and down the steps and through the various passageways that connect the different lines. I would always be prepared to walk further to get to my preferred places to eat and buy groceries. Dating in London always seemed to require quite a lot of walking. I'm not particularly inspired to socialise, date or in any way engage with the place where I live in Wales. I just stay at home, drinking wine and watching TV.

I've made a concerted effort to cut down my drinking to 3 nights a week or fewer. I'm changing a lot of things all at the same time, which is very intense and hard to deal with, but I think I feel a bit of improvement. When I started my new job 4 weeks ago I was having panic attacks and hating most of the time I was in the office. I felt like walking out and killing myself. I was drinking a bottle of wine or 4 pints of beer every single night, and twice that amount on Friday and Saturday nights. I was abusing prescription painkillers and sleeping tablets and tranquillisers, in a desperate attempt to cope with the stress and anxiety.

Now I've stopped taking the sleeping tablets and I've stopped drinking midweek. I've managed to get through a couple of weekends where I've limited my drinking to less than a bottle of wine each night. It might still sound excessive, but it's a huge positive change from where I was.

I went out for a walk a week ago, and this weekend I went for a longer walk and I socialised with friends. That's a big change from a few weeks ago, when I hated the idea of leaving the house for any reason except to buy another bottle of wine from the closest shop.

In London I stayed fit and healthy simply because of the amount of walking I had to do to get to my job and drag my groceries home from the shops. In London I stayed fit and healthy because of the intensity of the place; the buzz I got from travelling around the place.

I had feared that I'd completely slumped recently, and I was destined to become a fat blob of a couch potato. My drinking had gotten out of control and I didn't want to do anything other than lie on the sofa getting drunk.

I don't exactly feel motivated to join a gym or start doing sports, but we have to consider the relative improvement. Things are a lot better than they were.

I have my cerebral preoccupations. I work with my brain not my body and I have my writing to do every day after work, which is surprisingly exhausting. I hope that when I reach my million-word target in a couple of weeks, I'll be more relaxed about my writing. I'm starting to regain my confidence at work and I'm getting more relaxed. Hopefully I'll be able to have a holiday or two in the coming months, without too much worry about jobs and money - hopefully I now have reasonably secure income for the foreseeable future.

I'm going to have to take some more pro-active steps to get fit and healthy than I'm used to. In London I got fit just doing the things I needed to do, like getting from A to B.

In theory, I should have more time, money and energy to spend my leisure time being fit and active, because people work fewer hours outside London and the cost of living is a lot less. In practice, I'm struggling to re-adjust.

I know that getting fitter will be hugely beneficial for my physical and mental health. Baby steps though - it's important not to try to do everything all at once.

 

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Chore

11 min read

This is a story about strict routine...

Washing machine

I don't feel like writing today. I saw something in the news which I wanted to write about and I even started a blog post, but then I kinda lost my way when doing a bit of research. I had selected a photo - different from the one above - and I started to feel that it was unwise to use it because it shows my face without my cunning and infallible disguise. I'm starting to think more and more about how people perceive me and the damage I could do to my own reputation if my blog was read by my work colleagues.

There are certain things that will cause people to look at you in a completely different light. There are prejudices that are so powerful that they can warp reality and turn good people into twisted grotesque imaginary monsters. To write about addiction is to bracket myself with baby-eating, granny-mugging, child-raping, ethnic-minority-murdering, every-other-bad-thing-you-can-think-of, demonised people who are blamed for all the ills in society. Your average injecting crack and heroin addict is going to commit a hundred or maybe even two hundred crimes every year to feed their habit. However, it's a non-sequitur to think that everybody who's experienced a period of drug addiction in the past is an immoral murderous criminal. "Death's too good for 'em! String 'em up!" cries the tabloid press and the public lap it up, even though the vast majority have never been a victim of crime, nor are they aware that the so-called character flaws which potentiate addiction live inside all of us.

I was going to write about that oft-used song lyric: "there's a monkey on my back". I can't say that I ever felt like I had a monkey on my back when I was a drug addict. "I'm waiting for my man" is another famous addiction-inspired song lyric, which again is something I can't relate to at all. In fact I can't relate to any of the addiction references in popular culture. I've never 'scored' drugs from a dealer. I've never been part of a drugs 'scene'. I never adopted a drug as part of my identity - I never wore clothing with a cannabis leaf or some other drug reference advertising my addiction.

There's a lot I don't understand about drug addicts even though I was one myself. I don't understand why many addicts buy crack cocaine when they could easily make it themselves with baking soda. I don't understand why addicts buy their drugs in small quantities. I don't understand why addicts buy impure and weak products at hugely inflated prices. I don't understand why there are heroin addicts when they could easily bulk-buy fentanyl, which is much more powerful. I don't know why addicts don't just stop being addicts and get rich - like me - whenever life gets tough.

Of course, I do understand all those things. I understand that the only difference between me and an injecting crack and heroin user, is that they were exposed to a drug 'scene' which brought them into contact with dealers, street drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia. Addicts are caught in the never-ending cycle of scoring drugs, turning tricks, petty crime and everything else that's part of the chaotic life of an injecting drugs user, and the only difference between them and me is that I know that there's some hope that I can escape a miserable life of poverty. What hope does your average crack and heroin addict have of earning a 6-figure salary a month after they quit drugs? What hope do they have of ever earning a decent wage?

I've been able to use my wealth, intellect and other privileges - such as my science and technology skills - to research and obtain high purity drugs of the maximum potency at rock-bottom prices. Instead of messing around with £10 bags of crappy cut heroin, I'd do the research and find out what the chemical with the biggest bang for my buck would be, and then buy it in bulk.

What happens when you have access to a practically unlimited amount of drugs and a practically unlimited amount of time to use them, is that you discover the meaning of the word: practically. It's practically impossible to satisfy a desire for addictive drugs. Given enough drugs and enough time, you just die. Eating, drinking, sleeping, personal hygiene, bathroom breaks and other bodily functions are put on hold for as long as possible. There are some addicts who are perfectly functional - they go about their daily business under the influence of drugs and they can carry on like that for years. That's not really addiction though. Addiction specifically means harmful drug use. Smoking, for example, harms the health of the smoker and the health of those who have to breathe their second-hand smoke. Arguably a pill-popper isn't an addict at all, if the pills are not causing health damage. My own addiction took the form of the very worst kind: the insatiable appetite for a drug to the exclusion of everything else, including the basic necessities for human survival.

At some point drug-taking either becomes a chore - it's something which has to be done to stave off the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms - or it becomes so destructive that destitution and death become certainties. I'm sure there are a handful of homeless people who could see that their addiction was making them unable to work and unable pay their rent or mortgage, and they would be evicted eventually, but they didn't want to stop the drugs: they'd rather be homeless, living in a tent or otherwise sleeping rough, and able to carry on with their addictions. Most homeless addicts probably couldn't see any hope of avoiding homelessness if they quit - there was no incentive. The drug-taking becomes a chore and there's no hope of escaping the dreadful circumstances when you fall too far; the health damage is too severe and the behaviour patterns are too entrenched... rehabilitation would take years, and the best possible hope for those people who dropped out of mainstream society for a long time, is that they could become burger flippers, shelf stackers, toilet cleaners and street sweepers. I have nothing against the untouchables on the bottom rung of civilised society, who do the worst jobs for the worst pay, but it's hardly an enthralling prospect to be shackled to a dreadful job which doesn't pay enough to cover rent and bills, and robs a person of their time and freedom. Given the choice, I'd rather be begging on the streets.

My life is a chore. I'm doing things which I've done a million times before - so there's no doubt that I'm extremely capable of doing my job - and I'm working on projects which are exactly the same as every other project I ever worked on. It doesn't matter if it's Space Invaders, torpedo guidance, stockbroker share prices, computers for schools, public transport, investment banking, government... whatever. Same shit different day. I make systems which are just like the old systems. It's like painting a white wall with white paint, over and over and over again.

Life's a stupid pathetic pointless game. Money is the 'score' and the more you have of it the better player you are, supposedly, but everybody starts with a different amount and the ones with the most are cheating the most. There are other ways to score points, such as academic qualifications, but again, those who start with the most money have the most leisure time to pursue academic interests and surround themselves with people who'll help them obtain those qualification. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if the game wasn't on the clock. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if you were raised by chess grandmasters and your entire childhood was structured around a single purpose: to make you into a brilliant chess player.

As we scurry around desperately trying to comply with the rules of the game, which mostly means being exploited by capitalists and living in constant fear of losing our job, our home and our children, we surely must stop and think that this is insanity. Why would mortal creatures waste their precious time playing a rigged game, for the benefit of the rentier class who oppress them and profit from their labour?

It must surely be due to drugs and drug addiction that the present situation is allowed to continue. How else are people able to buy alcohol, cigarettes, tea and coffee if they don't have miserable exploitative jobs? How else could we tolerate the intolerable except with massive amounts of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills? Why would we bother with the miserable commute and the horrible work, unless there was the promise of some artificial and chemically induced bliss during our breaks and at the end of the working day?

You can have as many slaves as you want, but they won't work without coca leaves, khat, betel leaves, areca nut, tobacco, tea and coffee. Fear, intimidation, pain and torture will only get you so far. There needs to be carrot as well as stick.

If you watch enough X-Factor and Pop Idol on TV then you'll see that all anybody has ever wanted for their whole entire life - more than anything else - is to be a singer. Why then are those who succeed against the odds in becoming a rich and famous pop singer, are very often afflicted with addiction problems and many die young?

Consider how hard it is to escape from the poverty trap. Consider how hard it is to escape the rat race. Consider how hard it is to accumulate enough wealth to be truly free. Consider the effort and exertion necessary to break the chains and liberate yourself from the shackles of capitalism and bullshit jobs.

Unfortunately, most people's idea of freedom is flawed. Are you looking forward to your retirement? Why? You'll be old and your health will be declining... why didn't you retire when you were young and fit? Are you looking forward to fame? Why? You'll be working for your sponsors; you'll be working for your fans. Are you looking forward to being rich? Why? What are you going to do when you are? If you spend your money you'll be poor again, and you'll be just as much of a slave as you ever were, except you'll have developed expensive tastes.

Drugs strip away all of capitalism's artificial constructs. A £10 bag of heroin will get a billionaire just as high as a homeless penniless person. Drugs can - in a way - become a way of life which has much more meaning than the pursuit of wealth. However, the insatiability of a drug addiction; its intrinsic destructiveness and lack of meaning beyond the internal experience of the drug addict, leads inexorably to the desire to use drugs as a form of protracted suicide.

Art is the only known antidote, but art is denied to the vast majority of humanity. Only wealthy spoiled trust-fund brats are truly free enough from the tyranny of capitalism to be artists. Of course many of the spoiled brat offspring of the ultra-rich will become drug addicts, because they're too stupid to appreciate the incredible privilege it is to be able to be an artist.

Perhaps the other choice is to bury ourselves in bestial behaviour. If you're blessed with enough stupidity and ignorance to be happily consumed by your reproductive efforts, all the best to you - enjoy yourself. Sadly, this isn't an option for those who've read too many books and newspapers, and have become aware of the absurdity of existence - ignorance is bliss, and there's no returning to those blissfully ignorant times once your eyes have been opened to the stark reality of human life.

In a godless world with no afterlife, free from magic, spiritual and otherwise ethereal non-existent mumbo-jumbo, there's little which is comforting and inviting in a hostile universe which obeys strict mathematical laws. Just a few hundred kilometres away there's the vacuum of space, where you'd just turn into a frozen corpse and float around weightlessly for billions of years. And you're worried about losing your minimum wage zero-hours contract McJob cleaning toilets just so that you can give every penny you earn to a capitalist, even though you already give every waking hour of your life to a different capitalist? Don't you feel conned; cheated?

I don't feel like doing much, but is that really surprising? Is it so surprising that life feels like such a chore?

 

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An Étude on Stupidity

11 min read

This is a story about a dawning realisation...

Glasses

Moments of clarity elude me. My life consists of a long string of crises, with each moment demanding my full and undivided attention, such that I'm unable to reflect upon the bigger picture and see the error of my ways. Very occasionally I am able to contemplate the way I've behaved in the past with some objectivity; some insight. As I emerge from a fog of alcohol, tranquillisers, sedatives, sleeping pills and mind-numbing painkillers, I'm assaulted with an onslaught of memories from the years of instability which I've lived through recently. My flashbacks and dawning realisation about the things I've said and done while in the grips of insanity, cause me to wince and gasp aloud. I yell at myself: "what the hell were you thinking?". I cringe in embarrassment.

To say that I'm thinking more clearly today would be unwise, unless I've learned nothing from the mistakes of the past. Every time I think I'm regaining my grip on sanity, it seems that I'm mistaken. All I can do is keep my mouth shut and try to remain humble. I seem highly prone to overconfidence; delusions of grandeur. The world has fought hard to subdue me and keep me in my place; to grind me under its heel. The world has won. I'm not going to make any significant contribution to humanity. I'm nothing; a nobody.

"You've done more in one day than X did the whole time they were here" a colleague said to me yesterday. It's hard to not take that grain of salt and get carried away. It's hard not to believe that I've pulled off another amazing feat of resurrection from the ashes. It's hard to reconcile the journey I've been on and the things which should have dealt me a death-blow with my recovery. It's hard to be humble and ordinary when I know that I'm unique amongst my peers in having been through things which are not only career-ending, but also life-ending too in many cases. It's hard to not believe my own bullshit, when I successfully blag my way back into my old life and seemingly pick up where I left off, except I know I've done it against the odds - with significant additional adversity. All the fuel for the fire of delusions of grandeur is there aplenty.

What happened to my peers? Of those who didn't descend into the depths of mental illness, addiction, homelessness, destitution, bankruptcy and other life-destroying things, have they fared any better than I have?

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree and, as expected, the outcome of our lives was very much dictated by the pre-existing socioeconomic conditions we were born into. Briefly I joined the ranks of a group destined for greatness, but as soon as the storm clouds gathered it seemed obvious that I would be driven to run for cover. I've ended up with ostensibly the same outcome as my school-friends. Arguably, it's all the more remarkable that I've been able to maintain a high standard of living and remain highly employable, despite the incredibly averse events of my recent life, but it's no reason to believe I'm special or different.

When I think about the setbacks I've inflicted upon myself, I'm saddened. How much have I damaged my brain? How badly have my future prospects been harmed by my years in the wilderness? How can an old dog be expected to learn new tricks, when that old dog is also sick and senile?

I've started to become racked with self doubt.

I see that friends have been consistent throughout their lives in the furtherment of their education and pursuit of knowledge. I see that friends have stayed abreast of current affairs and are well-read; well-schooled in matters of relevance to today's society. On the other hand I have large gaps in my life when I was subdued by mental illness, acrimonious divorce, addiction, homelessness and near-bankruptcy. Entire years of my life have been written off and I have few experiences and memories which would be relevant and useful in civilised society. My considerable head-start in life has been swapped for a considerable disadvantage.

I struggle to remember that I'm no longer 3 or 4 years younger than any of my colleagues who've reached a similar point in their career. I struggle to remember that I'm no longer an exceptional rising young talent. I struggle to remember that I've squandered all those years of advantage and I'm now playing catch-up.

If I shut my mouth and just listen my day-to-day existence is quite a lot more enjoyable than it was when I was a younger man. When I was younger I was frustratingly held back by dimwitted dinosaurs. Now it's me who is the dimwitted dinosaur playing catch up. It's fun to be learning, of course, which is making this period of my career much more enjoyable and much less frustrating, but I forget that I'm no longer a young prodigious talent - instead I'm out of date and out of touch. I have nothing particularly valuable to offer anymore.

I'm very fortunate that I'm working with some super-smart people. I'm now feeling the benefits of being older, which I always begrudged those who were given more power and authority simply because of their age. People defer to me when they really shouldn't, because my years of experience don't tell the whole story - nobody knows that for the best part of 5 years I was no use to anybody.

5 years!

Yes, I need to acknowledge how long it's been that I've been going backwards, not forwards.

Of course, I'm wily enough to have made sure that I do enough work for prestigious organisations every year that my spotless CV is kept immaculate, but in reality I completely stalled and ceased all personal development. Of course I gained a great deal of knowledge and experience in the areas of mental health, addiction, financial problems, homelessness and suchlike, but those things are not useful in civilised middle-class wealthy society. Everything I've learned in my many off-piste years has been at the expense of the prime opportunity to transform myself from an ambitious young man into a very successful rich person. My momentum has been enough to carry me through events which would destroy most people, but that's the only thing that's presently exceptional about me; I'm otherwise completely average and humdrum now.

Perhaps I was always destined for mediocrity, but we'll never know. What we can say for certain is that I've done significant damage to my physical and mental health with a lifestyle that completely threw caution to the wind; an utter refusal to compromise or comply. I've taken things to the very most extreme point of survivability, and it should be unsurprising that there has been some irreversible damage.

Talking about the irreversible damage to my brain is the subject for another blog post, and not something I'm delving into right now, suffice to say that traumatic brain injuries are not 100% recoverable and cause permanent personality changes and suchlike. The brain is an incredible organ and its plasticity means that a person can re-learn how to function in ways that are an excellent imitation of who and what they used to be, but damage has been done and it would be foolish to think that it'd be possible to return to how things were before.

I rely a very great deal on what can only be described as 'muscle memory' for my survival. When I attempt to make quick judgements and shoot from the hip I'm very successful in areas which were my bread and butter for my whole career, but my judgement and decisions are terrible when I wander into new and unfamiliar areas. Working in an office full of developers on a huge software project, I'm in my element and nobody would think that I'm out of place; nobody would suspect that I've had a chequered recent past. However, when I'm put into an environment where there's an element of bluffing and blagging, I'm no longer credible or able to be convincing in the same way as when I was a younger man - I veer worryingly towards stupid and outlandish thoughts, actions and statements, which I cringe with embarrassment about later when the pressure is off and I'm able to reflect objectively.

I always used to pride myself on my ability to blag and bluff, but now my overconfidence is way beyond my abilities to pull it off. I'm pleased that I'm still able to learn new things and get up to speed very quickly, but I'm also upset that I'm behind and I'll never catch up, and my bluffs and blags just make me look stupid and ignorant. I used to pride myself on proving myself capable of proving the snickering, sneering and doubting critics wrong. Now I'm full of nothing but embarrassment and shame from all the moments when I've said something which later turned out to be stupid.

If you want to think of me as a stupid man you could examine the recent years of insanity with the benefit of hindsight and re-imagine that period as if I was making a series of well-considered decisions, without bias or the influence of circumstances, and conclude that it could only be due to stupidity that I ended up in the dire situations that I did.

It's kinda hard to defend myself from anybody who wants to label me as stupid.

It strikes me that there are a lot of people who're queuing up to take turns calling me stupi. There are very many who would like to see me flipping burgers or stacking supermarket shelves. Those jobs are important, of course, but I don't understand the appeal of underestimating the useful function of a person; diminishing their utility and value in society. Why are some so-called friends so keen to label me as stupid and useless; worthless?

Naturally, I've expelled toxic people from my life, but I do need to be aware that the truth probably lies somewhere in-between the extremes. As I've said, I'm very very good at doing the kind of work I've been doing for 21+ years as my full-time career, despite a few years hiatus, but I must admit that I struggle in areas which haven't been my daily bread and butter - I can be a fish out of water, at times. Is it stupidity? It's certainly stupidity if I'm not self-aware and able to have the insight to see that I'm very flawed and damaged in some areas.

I function effectively with a highly simplified life, but I feel very stupid in arenas where most others flourish. Most others flounder where I flourish though, so at least I have an anchor point - I can point to a successful career where I'm thriving and functioning seemingly without consequences for my off-piste years.

Of course I want to have a social life and a relationship with a girl. Of course I want to have friends and do normal stuff, but at the moment I'm just doing the things which keep me in the game: working and earning money. Later when I'm rich again, I can be as eccentric and weird as I like. For now, I have to hide my eccentricity by keeping my mouth shut.

I'm sure I've been made a bit stupid by my brain-melting activities of recent years, but I'm not sure it's wholly accurate to characterise me as completely stupid and dimwitted. It's probably a dumb idea to write me off as stupid, because I've made a lifelong habit of proving people wrong.

It's useful to think of myself as stupid as an antidote to overconfidence and delusions of grandeur, which are quite naturally stoked by my remarkable recovery. Perhaps it's even useful to force myself to think of my recovery as unremarkable, despite evidence to the contrary. I should definitely be as humble as possible, especially during the fragile period when I'm getting back on my feet.

For every remarkable achievement and person we revere, we have to ask ourselves how did they cross over from mediocrity and ordinary averageness, to becoming notable? One has to ask, do many of our airhead celebrities even know how stupid they are? It seems like ignorance of our own stupidity is a prerequisite for success.

I write as if I'm already famous. I can't see any point in behaving differently. Yes, I might die as a ridiculed nobody whose writing goes unnoticed and death is unwept. So what? Fine... a stupid egotistical nobody wrote and published a million words... so what?

I have no idea how I'm going to reflect on things in years to come, but that I'm able to reflect at all hints at the fact that my moments of madness are not characteristic of complete and utter stupidity. Perhaps I'm protesting too much. Only time will tell.

 

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Dysfunctional

13 min read

This is a story about all the little things you take for granted...

Shopping basket

Take a look at your mobile phone recent calls - that tells you who you pick up the phone to when you're feeling blue or something bad has happened in your life. Your recent phone-calls is a good way to see who your social support network consists of. Maybe it's your mum, or maybe it's a brother, sister or best friend. Maybe your recent calls are all work-related, but work can provide support and meaning to life; purpose.

Now, think about the last few journeys you took. You live in a place for a reason - maybe it's where you grew up, or maybe you had to move there to get a job, but you've got connections to the area. You know how to navigate around the place, to get from your house to the shops, and to get to your job. You know how long it takes to reach other important places, like the train station, the bus station, airports, major road junctions and big cities. You know how long it takes you to get to nearby beauty spots and tourist attractions.

Think about all the things you routinely do. Think about where you shop for food and drink. Think about where you'd go if you needed to buy a new pair of shoes. Think about where you'd park and how you'd get there. Think about whether you'd need to pay for parking or whether you know somewhere you can park for free. Think about when it'd be busy and when it'd be quiet, and all the local knowledge you have about what shops there are, what they sell and where they are.

Think about where you'd go in a crisis. You know where the hospital is and you know where the police station is. You know where friends and work colleagues live. You know where to find people and you know where the crime spots are; you know which areas to avoid. You know which places are daytime places, and which places are night-time places.

You do your recycling don't you? You know which day you have to put the bins out, and what recycling is collected on what day. You know which colour boxes and bags have to be put out for collection, and you've gotten into the habit of separating your glass, plastic, cardboard, cans, food waste, garden waste and everything else from your general trash. You know where the dump is if you have to dispose of something bulky.

You have a vague idea of the meals you like to cook and eat. Maybe you plan ahead and you've decided on every meal you're going to eat for the next week. You know all the ingredients you need to buy. You write a shopping list. You know which supermarket you're going to go to and you know every aisle which has the products you want. You know when's a good time to go so it's not too busy. You know where you're going to park your car. You know how many shopping bags to take to bring your groceries home.

You budget and you have a good idea what your bank balance is at any particular point in time. You're saving up for a holiday. You know how much the repayments on your car loan cost you, and how much your mortgage is. You know how much the household bills are. You know what you spend on groceries every week. You know how much you spend on transport. You know how much spare money you have. You know how much you can spend on a night out at the cinema, at a restaurant or at a bar.

You know where your income comes from. Maybe you're on housing benefit and Employment Support Allowance. Maybe you get a paltry salary and your wages are topped up with tax credits. Maybe you have a regular average job which just about covers your monthly costs. You know exactly what your take-home pay is, and exactly when it will arrive in your bank account.

You're planning a holiday. You spent a long time choosing where you were going to go, and you'd been saving up for it for a long time. You're really looking forward to it, and you've planned the itinerary and you've budgeted to make sure you have plenty of spending money, so you can convert your money into local currency and enjoy yourself.

Your car needs taxing, testing and insuring every year, and you know exactly when those things fall due. You know that your car needs servicing and that it will cost a certain amount for tyres and other things every year.

There are birthdays. So many birthdays. It seems like every week there's a card to post off; flowers to send. Some birthdays require a trip. Some birthdays require presents.

There are births, weddings and funerals. There are family emergencies. There are elderly relatives to be cared for. There are friends who are having a tough time. There's your loser brother who's in hospital again.

Maybe you work. If you do, you've probably done the same kind of work for your whole adult life. You know what kind of working environment you belong in - whether that's an office, a building site or a hospital - and you know precisely the job titles and organisations which are likely to employ you. You know the jargon and buzzwords. You know what salary to expect. You know how to do your job blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back.

Maybe you've got kids. In fact, you probably do have kids. You know exactly when they have to get up, what they're going to eat, what they're going to wear, where they need to be taken and how they're going to get there, how long they're going to be there for, who's looking after them and what exactly they're doing when they're there. You know when you've got to collect them and which friend they're bringing home. You know what after-school thing they're attending. You know what paraphernalia they're going to need, both during the day and after school - gym kits, science projects, spelling homework, reading books borrowed from the library, the trumpet and trombone, their Brownie's uniform and the cakes they've baked, their swimming costume and the thing they're going to wear at the dress rehearsal for the play. You've thought about a nutritious and delicious lunch for them, which balances both healthy eating and their particularly picky tastes - you cut the crusts of their bread and scraped the seeds out of the tomato; you gave them the flavour of crisps that they like the best and a drink that's marketed as a "low sugar" version of the drink they really wanted.

You've probably got kids, and you've already decided who they are and what they're going to achieve in life. You've got their whole life mapped out ahead of them - you know what subjects they need to study and what grades they need to achieve and which universities they're going to apply for, and which career that means they'll end up in. You know how you're going to sharp-elbow your precious little darlings to the front of the queue. You know how you'd do anything to give little Henrietta a head start in life.

You haven't really thought about the fact that your kids are going to get into mountains of debt and emerge from university with a worthless degree into a particularly hostile job market where they'll be completely unable to secure employment in their chosen field. You haven't really thought about how the student maintenance grant will nowhere near pay for the cost of living while they're studying. You haven't really thought about how your precious little darlings won't be able to get on the housing ladder. You haven't really thought about how your kids won't be able to make their pathetic wages stretch to pay for even the basic essentials: rent and bills. You haven't really thought about how you're going to have to buy them a car, pay the insurance, pay the deposit on every place they rent and generally bankroll them because they have no chance of achieving financial independence in the current economic climate.

Your parents are getting older and their health is failing, but they're going to live into their eighties in their massive house with lots of empty bedrooms. Your parents will require an increasing amount of assistance to be able to continue living independently, but you already spend over 100 hours a week working, commuting and doing the school run. You're already maxed out. You're already stressed out of your mind and you spend every penny you earn. You can't afford to work part time. You don't have any spare time or money to deal with all the hospital appointments and minor operations in your parents' lives.

You feel like you're on the brink of a breakdown all the time. You feel like you're rushed off your feet 24 x 7. You know that you need 2 weeks in bed, but you can't stop for a single second because you're stressed out of your mind keeping all the plates spinning. People are counting on you. You're a breadwinner; you're the one dependable person at work and people keep asking you to do more and more in less time; you've got to deal with the kids and there's so much to do; nobody else is going to do it; you can't let anybody down.

You know who you are and what your place is in the world. You have a purpose. Your life has meaning, even if that meaning is as slave to the brats you spawned to replace yourself. You have an identity. You know how you like to wear your hair and what your 'style' is. You know what clothes are clean and what clothes you are going to wear at any given moment - you have work clothes, comfy clothes, cleaning and gardening clothes, fancy clothes, casual clothes, holiday clothes, winter clothes. You have shoes for every occasion and shoes for specific purposes - running shoes, tennis shoes, cycling shoes, wellington boots, walking boots, horse-riding boots, f**k-me boots.

You have pets. You have cats, dogs and your kids have rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. Your parents have pets too. The pets are part of the family. The pets have birthdays too.

You have stuff.

So. Much. Stuff.

You own a house; an apartment. You own furniture. You own curtains and carpets and rugs. You own a fridge, freezer, cooker, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, kettle and toaster. You own a vacuum cleaner, mop and broom. You own bedding and towels. You own sofas, beds, dining tables, chairs. You own chests of drawers and wardrobes. You own sideboards and dressers. You own steamers, slow cookers, fryers.

Now I really have segued into a Trainspotting monologue, by accident.

You've sewn all this stuff together into a life which is more comfortingly familiar than you're even aware of. Yes, you might go away on a self-catering holiday for a week in Spain, and all the brands in the supermarket are unfamiliar and the kitchen in the s**tty apartment you rented is completely unfamiliar to you, but when you go home you're relieved to be home. Your home never went anywhere - you had two homes briefly, and you were just temporarily having a holiday, but you knew that your home was still exactly where you left it.

Try if you can to imagine losing all that. It's a near-impossible thing to do, to empathise with the plight of somebody who's been so uprooted that they've lost everything I've just described, and they find themselves to be lost and bewildered in the world which they detached from. The world's a very different place when you lose all your local connections, your support network, your possessions and your home comforts, and everything else that constitutes your entire life.

Sure, I have an apartment where I've lived for 5 months. Sure, I have a job where I've been working for 4 weeks. Beyond that, I have 2 friends in the place where I live and 1 friend in the place where I work. My list of recent calls on my phone is mostly cold-callers, although I am lucky enough to have a friend who phones me regularly, although I've actually never met him in person. My support network doesn't include anybody who I see regularly face-to-face. My list of contacts doesn't include anybody who I could call if I needed a hand getting home from the hospital, if I'd had an accident.

When I was in hospital on dialysis with kidney failure in London, I had visitors and it was lovely. I don't live in London anymore. I live somewhere where I don't have any local connections. I don't have much of anything, although I am lucky to have a roof over my head and a source of income, although it's somewhat insecure. I've been lucky enough to hang onto a few precious possessions, and I've even accumulated a few more along the way - not everything was lost.

I worry that person, who I've always thought of as one of my best and most loyal friends, is deliberately ignoring me. I feel like I must've done something wrong. I feel like I must've done something to offend or upset him.

My guardian angel is increasingly busy with her life in London, although we're still in regular contact. I feel like she's the one person who'd be there for me if I was deep in the s**t, but I've relied on her very heavily to rescue me from all kinds of sticky situations over the past few years. She knows me through my blog - we didn't know each other until I started blogging.

These are the fragile little hooks that I hang on, suspended over the precipice: I have a place to live, a job and a handful of people who I speak to via text message. Other than that, I'm pretty much cut adrift from humanity.

It's like I'm on a self-catering holiday in a strange country, except I don't have a home, friends and family to go home to.

 

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Paradoxical Rage

9 min read

This is a story about losing my temper...

Ruined shoe

I'm blessed with the ability to observe reality and analyse it using pure reason and logic; in fact it's a prerequisite of my chosen career - to be able to decompose the world into systems which can be modelled mathematically inside a computer. Computer science is good science, because in its very essence it's repeatable. If an experiment is not repeatable it's not science. So many experiments in psychology, biology and fringe pseudosciences are not repeatable at all - when those experiments are re-run, the supposedly statistically significant findings cannot be reproduced. Even many so-called scientists are prone to being led by their gut instincts and preconceived ideas - they draw completely incorrect conclusions from their data, and publish findings which are simply bad science because they're based on small sample sets and incorrect assumptions.

A lot of scientists invent a hypothesis and devise an experiment to prove or disprove the theory, then when they find that their experimental findings do not support their theory, they look at all the data and attempt to reverse-engineer a theory from the results. For example, let's say that it's my theory that people with red hair have anger issues, and so I go out onto the streets and ask anyone with red hair to complete a survey for me, as well as a number of control subjects. When I crunch the data, I find that there's no evidence that the redheads are more angry than the control group. Instead of abandoning the research as fruitless, I look again at the data and I find out that a lot of 18 to 24 year olds have scored highly on the "anger scale" based on the surveys they filled in. Thus, I conclude that this age group has anger issues, and publish my findings as if that was the original theory being tested. This is flawed science, because there was no underlying theory or hypothesis which existed before I did my experiment, and my experiment was not designed to prove or disprove the theory which I'm publishing. I'm pretending I've discovered something profound and important, when I haven't. If the experiment is repeated the results vary wildly - at prestigious universities, the 18 to 24 year olds are not angry at all, and in former industrial towns with high unemployment the 40 to 50 year olds are even more angry than the original group. Thus, the experiment is not at all repeatable and the published conclusions are worthless.

We are often so eager to reach a profound conclusion that we believe we have discovered a universal truth, when in fact we've discovered nothing. We are keen to talk in absolute terms and declare things to be fixed and immutable, when in fact the world around us is constantly shapeshifting, making it virtually impossible to tease out cause and effect - feedback loops obfuscate the fundamental laws which govern reality, so it's ludicrous to talk about macroscopic matters as if they can be examined in isolation and behaviour will be consistent no matter what the surrounding circumstances are.

Human mood, perceptions and behaviour are particularly fickle, and to believe that a person can be simplified to the point where they behave in a predictable manner according to a convenient model or label, is laughable. To say a person is "an angry man" or to damn somebody's character with a label like Borderline Personality Disorder, is not only useless but also leads to completely incorrect beliefs, in much the same way that the 12 signs of the zodiac tell you absolutely nothing about a person's character and temperament. Not only is each individual unique, but their character and behaviour will be different dependent on their ever-changing circumstances. It might be possible to corner a person and bludgeon them to death, but it really doesn't tell you very much if you limited their options and inflicted atrocities upon them. So desperate are a group of powerful elites to believe that their theories are correct, that they'll physically restrain and force vulnerable people to comply with their flawed belief system, learning only that the more artificial constraints a person suffers the more frustrated and dysfunctional they become.

Rage can be paradoxical, but so can positive reactions and behaviours. We might believe that if somebody draws a knife or a gun, our only response should be to draw a weapon of our own in defence, which will then neutralise the situation. It seems fairly obvious that in fact there are a range of available options, some of which will have much more positive outcomes than "comply or die" diktat. Of course, somebody can pull rank or badge and say that they are acting with authority in imposing their tyranny on another human being - claiming it to be in the best interests of an individual or society - but in fact we can surely see from the available evidence that this is not successful at all.

I've suffered bouts of paradoxical rage. I've become obsessively and disproportionately angry about things, and my anger has been completely misplaced. The crap on the side of my leather shoe - pictured above - was from a walk through a garden in winter time, so far as I could remember, but I suddenly became angry about it the following summer. I apportioned blame, becoming more and more entrenched in my belief that some compensation was owed to me. I got increasingly angry and frustrated about the issue, and I was soon completely consumed by an obsession that the matter had to be settled immediately. It felt at the time as if I'd suffered the most terrible injustice imaginable.

That the matter of the ruined shoe was resolved was somehow the very last thing I wanted. My rage was nonsensical and my demands were unreasonable; my blame was misplaced. I was completely in the wrong and I suppose I knew it all along, but my world had inverted and rational thought eluded me. I suppose I've lived most of my life with the burden of being the rational person who's been forced to suffer other people's illogical bulls**t, so very occasionally I flip out and cross over into the world which most people inhabit, where fuzzy-headed dunces perpetrate unspeakable acts of violence against anybody who doesn't do what they want.

I received a pair of replacement shoes, which immediately caused me to return to my senses. I was flooded with disbelief, shame, embarrassment, guilt and regret. Not only could I not believe that - for once - the world had bent to my nonsensical will, instead of vice-versa, but I was gobsmacked that I'd been so obsessed and insanely angry; my anger was completely ridiculous and misplaced. My logic and reasoning had evaporated and I'd behaved just like an average ordinary person; I perpetrated a terrible tyranny until the result complied with what I stubbornly believed; until I got what I wanted. As soon as I got the result I thought with horror "what have I done?". As soon as my point was seemingly proven, I knew with certainty that the very opposite was true - I had acted abominably and my thinking was plain wrong all along; my behaviour was outrageously unjustified.

If we step back and consider the bigger picture, we might consider that I was involved in an abusive relationship for many years, where rage and violence trumped logic and reason, and I was viciously tyrannised. I had never known known love, as my parents sought to impose their iron will over me and thought of me as an animal to be made obedient, compliant and robotic in its behaviour, through abuse. I spent about 8 years in a relationship with an aggressive psychopath who completely tormented, dominated and subdued me. Considering this, the shoe incident can be understood thusly: the most important relationships in my life had never contained any love or care for me or my feelings. The shoe incident caused me to completely reverse my stance when the reaction to my unreasonable behaviour was clearly an act of love and care; an act of kindness, the likes of which I had always hoped to receive but had never gotten from my parents or ex-wife. I had demanded proof that there are decent people in the world, and I had not been disappointed - at last - despite all the years when I had the very great misfortune of being tortured, trapped and tyrannised by abusive bullies.

My eternally optimistic hope that my strategy of being unguarded, open, trusting and loving, despite the very great risk of getting hurt, has been very successful since I cut my parents and ex-wife out of my life. I suppose I carry more baggage than I'm aware of, and it's certainly alarming that my behaviour has on a couple of occasions, mirrored that of the horrible tyrants who I suffered at the hands of. However, I on the other hand, respond immediately and positively to love and kindness, unlike my parents and ex-wife who's only objective was to subdue, control and abuse me... they never felt guilt or regret for dominating me and crushing me under their heel; they never saw their own behaviour as abhorrent, even though it was undoubtedly so.

My life's had maybe just three incredibly uncharacteristic fits of seemingly inexplicable rage, under the most extreme circumstances imaginable. Logic and reason eluded me and I fleetingly believed crazy things and acted in the most extreme and unreasonable way. My misbehaviour became quickly apparent to me - with sudden realisation - and has left me with nothing but sorrow, regret and guilt. I have no entrenched stubborn belief that my thoughts and actions could be explained or justified, unlike the total assholes who abused, traumatised, tyrannised, bullied and dominated me for far too many years of my life. If it sounds like I'm excusing my behaviour, I'm not. I live with my guilt, unlike those assholes.

I would say that alcohol and benzodiazepines play a very important role in disinhibiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which potentiates paradoxical rage. I don't think I would have meandered so far from the path of logic and reason, and been so stubbon and unreasonable - closed minded - if my brain chemistry hadn't been substantially destabilised by psychoactive substances.

I firmly believe that if you want to defend yourself you should lower your guard. If you want to de-escalate a situation you should be kind, not aggressive. If you want love, love.

 

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Progress

9 min read

This is a story about climbing mountains...

Cumulative word count

Look how close I am to my target of 1 million words in 3 years. I've got about 33,000 words to go. 42,000 words I published on Medium.com as an experiment to see if I'd get more readers if I used it instead of my own website, which accounts for the step at around 750,000 words. I'm ahead of target, because I've been averaging 1,838 words per day and I only needed to average 1,243. If I continue at the rate I've been doing for the past week then I'll reach my goal in 18 days, which will be about 2 weeks early.

Of course I'm aware that the quality has been extremely variable. In one single day I wrote 10,000 words of very dubious quality. My second novel is unfinished and I'm really not very pleased with what I wrote at all, so should I really include those 42,000 words in the total?

What does it even matter anyway? Hasn't it all been a stupid waste of time and effort?

I used an anonymous internet connection with a browser which didn't have any cookies in it in order to check which page of Google I'm on and it was page 3... and page 4 if I search from outside the UK. Obviously "manic grant" comes up as number one, but I was disappointed to see that my appearance on page 1 or 2 was only because Google knows who I am and where I am, and was tailoring the search results to flatter my over-inflated ego.

I lost 6,700 Twitter followers overnight quite recently, due to Twitter doing a big purge of bots. I didn't realise I had so many bots following me, but I was rather inundated with followers which were part of a big scam to get people to click on a dating website link. "Click the link in my profile" these fake followers tweeted, with borderline-pornographic profile pictures as the bait. Later, these followers tweeted "click the link pinned to my profile" and their profile claimed that they were interested in "cosplay" whatever that is. In some ways it was good to lose all those fake followers, because it was always a bit disappointing when I thought I had a new follower and it turned out to be a bot. However, the damage done to the 'headline' number of followers really upset me and took the wind out of my sails.

When I moved to Medium.com for a month and stopped writing my blog it really damaged my momentum in terms of regular readers. It didn't help that live-publishing a chapter per day of my experimental novel, which was of very dubious quality, was quite off-putting for those visitors who were expecting to find another instalment of insanity and miserable moaning.

Visitors

You can see from this graph of my website visitors that my experiment with writing something that I thought would be popular on Reddit worked exactly as well as I thought it would. You can also see that my suicide attempt - which I tweeted about - and my subsequent coma, life support in critical care, getting sectioned and being locked up on a psych ward, generated quite a lot of visitors... not that it was my intention that time, of course.

You can see that my annus horribilis of 2017 is perfectly reflected in the graph. I wasn't writing regularly and the quality of what I was writing was negatively affected by ill health, addiction, drug abuse, sleep deprivation and stimulant psychosis.

Of course if I just wanted to pump my numbers up and have as many visitors as possible, I know what's popular and how to get people to click, but I've tried really hard not to be led by my analytics and vanity metrics. I try to ignore the data as much as possible and just write whatever I need to write about, as a form of brain-dumping therapy.

I set out to write about mental health problems - specifically suicidal thoughts. I didn't mean to write so much about my innermost private thoughts and feelings. I never intended to write a whole series of opinion pieces on subjects, when I was feeling insecure; desperately trying to prop up my fragile self-esteem by publishing my thoughts on current affairs during a period when I was very unwell and running out of money very quickly. I definitely didn't intend to weaponise my blog to grind my axe and take out my frustrations on people who had upset me.

Readers respond very quickly to the changes in my mood and the not-too-subtle direction I'm dragging my blog in at any one time. If I'm messed up, irregular and erratic, then I lose my regular readers. If I'm bitter, angry, vicious and vengeful then readers are turned off; revulsed. If I'm distracted and pursuing some other goal - such as writing a novel - then readers are confused by that change of tack, and they wonder what happened to the regular daily stream-of-consciousness brain dump. If I get too wrapped up in current affairs and start to get on my high horse and pontificate about whatever's in the newspapers, then it's a big turn-off for readers.

I feel really bad about every single period where I lost focus and wandered up one of the many dead-ends I'm prone to ending up choosing when things aren't going well in my life.

The main thing that's really clear from the graph is that when there's stability in my life, there's steady growth in the number of regular readers I have, who are engaging with my content. Also clear is that when there's a huge crisis in my life, there's a brief period when people who care about me are reading, but those readers quickly drop away when the danger has passed.

The period from December last year until now perfectly mirrors what has been happening in my life, in terms of getting back on my feet. I've been steadily working, earning money, getting important things in place like a place to live and a car. My financial situation has been improving rapidly. The graph shows really clearly just how stable my life has been in a visual way, which is both pleasing and encouraging.

Step count

Looking at my average daily step count really shows just how bad 2017 was... or at least the first half of 2017 anyway. Each year of my life follows a very seasonal pattern, with hardly any activity in the winter months, and lots of activity from May to September, reaching its peak in July. My cyclical nature is obvious when you look at the step count graphs... but 2017 was a terrible year and it's caused my cycle to go haywire. As you can see from the graph, things are erratic, not cyclical. What you can't see are all the previous years where I had summers packed full of activity.

The trend regarding my physical activity is most alarming. The trend is clearly downwards.

If we were to do a graph of my net worth, it would mirror my blog activity and it would mirror a graph of the number of hours I spend in the office. If we were to graph the number of times I wrote the word "bored" we'd probably see that it's anti-correlated with periods of stability, work and high income. When we look at my step count, it's usually the case that it increases when I'm working, except during winter. I'm hoping that my lack of activity this year is a result of struggling to recover from the horrors of 2017. I'm hoping that my physical activity levels climb out of the low point they're in. I'm really not enjoying miserable summers.

The graphs tell a really cool story which completely correlate with my memories and perceptions.

I remember the period of spring to summer 2016 as being particularly productive, and although I was very bored at work, I was earning a lot of money and my life was stable. I went on holiday for my birthday at the end of July 2016, which correlates perfectly with the big peak in my website visitors.

The low-point in my activity in June 2017 correlates perfectly with the lowest point of my life, when I'd broken up with the love of my life, run out of money, had to leave my amazing apartment and had to leave London. As I wrote a few days ago, that was probably my rock bottom period, although it's only with hindsight that I see that now - at the time it was very stressful and miserable, but I was too busy fighting to survive to stop and consider how awful things were in the grand scheme of things.

In terms of pure progress, there's still so much work to do. I've got to clear all my debts, complete a whole year of work without a major incident, and I've got to finish my 1 million words to some reasonable standard of quality. For my own sense of achievement, I need to have a period when I'm writing short, concise pieces which I'm pleased with, and not just churning out the raw words to pump up the word count and achieve the arbitrary goal. I want my readers to have a period where the quality justifies the vast amount of time wasted perusing the pages of this particular and peculiar publication.

The graphs don't quite do justice to the journey I've been on, and a number like 1 million is seemingly trivial in a world which has racked up debts in the trillions. However, I assure you that the project has been every bit as hard as scaling an 8,000m+ peak, such as Mount Everest.

Ah yes, that's the other work that's still to do: I need to get more fit and active.

On that note, I'm going to the pub.

 

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Burning Bridges

11 min read

This is a story about wearing a mask...

Cambridge bridges

A long time ago I used to be very careful about what I shared on social media. On Facebook I separated my work colleagues and other business contacts from my close friends, and I thoroughly considered my audience before I posted anything; I spent a great deal of effort managing my public image and attempting to pretend I was a squeaky-clean pristine perfect professional who didn't have any problems in my personal life.

At some point during my acrimonious divorce and the total collapse of my mental health, along with the destruction of my hopes and dreams of escaping the rat race and being my own boss, my depression became so bad that I purchased 2 grams of potassium cyanide. I'm not sure what possessed me - perhaps it was a cry for help - but I decided to put a photo of this deadly poison onto Facebook. The reaction surprised me: one friend was angry and accused me of jeopardising the life of his child [which I didn't] and another made a darkly humorous joke. Most people seemed to just ignore me.

My mental health has caused me an increasing amount of difficulties, resulting in hospitalisations. Initially, I was extremely careful about what I told colleagues. I tried - as much as possible - to cover up and hide my struggles in the hope that I would quickly get better and my image would be untarnished. I lost a couple of jobs and an entire profitable business during episodes of poor mental health, but my reputation seemed to somehow be fully intact despite my faltering ability to work.

At some point, I decided to put more and more of my dirty laundry onto Facebook. I think that the stress and strain of the divorce - having to sell my house in particular - completely destroyed any remaining hope and optimism that I would be able to recover, so I ceased to believe that it was prudent to safeguard my reputation. I jettisoned any caution about who was reading the gory details of my life's implosion and instead preferred to desperately reach out via social media, hoping to receive messages of support and to alert my friends to the danger I was in.

As I became increasingly unwell and addiction turned my life into unmanageable destructive chaos, I continued to overshare without any regard for the reputational damage I was doing to myself. I wrote things which must have broadcast my very darkest and most regrettable moments of struggle to former work colleagues and business acquaintances, completely tarnishing my own reputation.

To have fallen from grace is bad, but to tell the world that you've ended up in a complete mess is quite something else. I'm not sure if I just didn't care, or whether I was so sick that I didn't know what on earth I was doing, but I used Facebook to loudly proclaim the fact that I'd become an unemployable, useless, unreliable, messed-up waste of space. Surely I have left friends, former work colleagues and other people who used to like and respect me, in absolutely no doubt that I was a no-hope loser?

Meanwhile, I managed to keep working and completing projects successfully, and I kept my CV and LinkedIn free from any clues about my mental health problems and drug addiction. My career didn't skip a beat and my skills continued to be highly in demand. I seemingly suffered no negative consequences for all of my loose-lipped moments on social media. It seemed as if I was unable to completely burn every bridge and destroy my own reputation sufficiently to make myself unemployable.

Sharing on Facebook highly alarming stuff about suicidal thoughts, self harm, drug abuse, prescription medication dependency, poly-substance use, breakups, mental breakdowns and the bat-s**t insane ravings of a total madman, seemed to make little or no difference to my day-to-day existence. The response was muted, where my friends and former work colleagues really didn't know what to say, leaving a kind of awkward silence which clearly indicated that people were cringing with embarrassment on my behalf. On the other hand, I was not shamed into silence at all. The madness was so all-consuming that I couldn't even remember what I had shared on Facebook. I had no idea what I was doing.

I suppose that everything I put on Facebook was done in brief moments of extreme insanity. I was still generally cautious about sharing the candid and honest truth about things which portrayed me in a very unflattering light. Nobody wants to be thought of as a junkie, because everybody thinks that junkies are thieving scumbag liars. Mental health elicits some sympathy, so long as it's the milder kind. Nobody wants to be thought of as completely insane, because everybody thinks that madmen are deranged murderous unpredictable lunatics.

I suppose I had attempted to tell my Facebook friends that I was unwell with as much subtlety as I could manage, and I had tried to brush some of the unflattering facts under the carpet, such as my problems with addiction.

I suppose I always wanted people to know that mental illness and a horrible relationship were things that I had been dealing with alone for a long time, and that addiction only crept into my life much more recently. I suppose I felt that I could quietly deal with the addiction issues and nobody needed to know about it; I would just pretend it never happened.

When I started this blog, it was an opportunity to re-assert the 30-odd years of my life where I had achieved a hell of a lot. I wanted people to remember all the projects I successfully delivered and all of the places where I'd worked and made a big difference to the organisations and the teams I was part of. I wanted people to remember that I'd built profitable businesses. I wanted people to remember that I'd played a positive role in their lives; that I'd been a good person; that I had value. I wanted to remind everybody that for the vast majority of my life I'd been making a valuable contribution; that for most of my life I'd been an OK person who'd tried very hard to do good things.

I had imagined that my recovery would progress in a linear way, from bad to good, and every day would be an improvement on the day before. I imagined that I would be able to write a straightforward story about the struggles I'd left behind in the past and the increasing number of positive things that were happening in my life. I had imagined writing a fairy-tale rags to riches story, as I started my blog homeless and bankrupt, and finished the story rich and successful.

It soon became apparent that the journey was going to be a lot tougher than I had hoped it would be.

Every huge gain I've made has quickly been met by a major setback. When I managed to rent an amazing apartment in London, I then lost my job. When I managed to get a lucrative contract, I was then hospitalised with kidney failure. When it seemed like I was getting the perfect combination of friends, girlfriend, job, money, home and hobby, everything fell to pieces. If we look at the whole 3-year writing project, it perfectly captures the vicious swings between high and low which you'd expect of somebody with bipolar disorder, especially when exacerbated by money problems, insecure housing and patches of addiction problems.

After only 4 months of sharing the sanitised version of my life history, where I portrayed myself in the very best possible light, it became clear that I was going to have to write about the bad stuff too if I was going to carry on for a whole year, which was my initial plan. I wanted to write every day for a whole year, to prove to myself that I could be consistent and achieve something very difficult, despite my challenging circumstances. I hoped that the regularity and having a goal to focus on would help to stabilise my life.

Writing my blog has certainly given me a rock to cling to while I've weathered the storm. Writing my blog has certainly helped me to regain some stability in my life, as well as being a source of pride in the achievement.

At some point, it became habitual to be 100% unflinchingly honest, and not to care about what people think.

I'm aware that I've probably prejudiced my employability with a handful of former work colleagues who are also Facebook friends. I'm aware that my reputation is probably damaged beyond repair, if I wanted to try to enter an arena where reputation is more important than skills and experience. In the world of work which I inhabit, people only care about whether I can do the job, and not at all about the skeletons in my closet, so I've suffered no setbacks in my career. However, it does upset me that I've tarnished my image in some of the gossipy organisations where I used to be very well liked and respected. It upsets me that friends who are former colleagues and business acquaintances, who I like and respect, have been left in no doubt that I've been through some very tough and turbulent times in my personal life. Perhaps my opportunities in life have been more damaged than I'm aware of, because I've created doubts in people's minds about my reputation and reliability.

I continue to write using my real name and am slowly advancing towards page one of a Google search, which seems ludicrously stupid, but so far it's caused me very few problems in my career.

I don't think I could live without the regularity and stabilising influence that writing and publishing so publicly has given me. I don't think it would be healthy for me to lose the public oversight, and lose the huge amount of support that is available to me from the online community. I can't imagine going back to a life where I had to hide my struggles and rely on private communications to keep concerned people informed about what's happening to me. It's far too much effort to have to concern myself with image and reputation management when I've been fighting for my life.

There's no turning back now anyway. The genie is out of the bottle. All my friends, former work colleagues and business acquaintances have been left with absolutely no doubt that my mental health problems have caused me a great deal of difficulties, and extremely unpalatable and unflattering things have happened in my life, such as periods of addiction. I have no doubt that my reputation is in tatters in the eyes of anybody I'm Facebook friends with. I must be a laughing stock.

Amusingly, I've been able to deliver projects and impress work colleagues, surrounded by people who are completely oblivious to my personal life struggles and the bad things that have happened in the past. Because my Facebook, Twitter and blog are a world apart from my CV, LinkedIn and references, the two worlds have not collided and I'm able to go to work and do a good job without prejudice or stigma. I suppose it's reckless to risk my identities being connected by anybody who could be bothered to put my name into a search engine, but so far I've not burnt any bridges in the 'new' chapter of my career, since I re-stabilised myself, ironically by using my blog.

I think that's what I'd tell anybody who stumbled on my open secret and had reservations about my public identity: that it's a necessary coping mechanism and it's the reason why I've been able to act completely normal in the office, and to be a productive valuable member of the teams and organisations I work for.

Of course I sometimes worry that I'm taking too much of a risk by continuing to use my real name and writing without concern for the level of public exposure that I live with, but frankly most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to really give much of a s**t.

Sure, if stuff goes wrong I'm dangerously exposed. If I have a wobbly moment then I'm hugely at risk of some unpalatable truths about me from becoming more widespread knowledge. I think the risks are acceptable though. So far, I'm glad that I've laid myself wide open like this.

Some bridges have been burnt, but I'm glad I've set the record straight and I'm glad that there's so much written down here that even the nosiest person is going to quickly become exhausted if they go digging for dirt.

 

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Rehabilitation

12 min read

This is a story about civilised society...

Lots of pills

What is rock bottom? My life doesn't seem to obey the rules - the first time I was forced to sleep rough because of my drug addiction and chaotic lifestyle, I had about £50,000 in the bank. Of course I could have stayed in a very fine hotel, but the culture clash between me in my dishevelled state, the hotel staff and the other guests was going to create a lot of friction. The first time I ran out of money I owned my own home. The first time I had depression so bad that I wanted to kill myself, I seeming had it all: friends, girlfriend, good job, money in the bank, nice house, boat, cars etc. etc.

Rock bottom seemed to begin shortly after I landed a lucrative contract with Lloyds Banking Group, when I sat on my leg which caused circulation problems, resulting in a blood clot and Deep-Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which then caused kidney failure and landed me in hospital on dialysis. It wouldn't have been so bad, but the DVT caused nerve damage and the pain was excruciating, so I was taking the maximum dose of tramadol, which is an opiate painkiller.

I started to get closer to rock bottom moments when I desperately sought relief from the pain - I obtained codeine and dihydrocodeine tablets on the Dark Web, as well as some extra tramadol. I was in too much pain and discomfort to work. The ludicrous amount of opiate painkillers I was taking left me a dribbling mess at the office. When I lost the job which I had fought so hard to keep, it destroyed me. I started swallowing a chemical cocktail which I'm very surprised didn't kill me.

The problem with opiate painkillers is that they cause very unpleasant physical symptoms. When you take opiate painkillers they make you sleepy and constipated, and when you withdraw you get diarrhoea, aching, sweating and a whole host of other flu-like symptoms. It's thoroughly unpleasant and withdrawal brings back the original pain twice as bad.

I had started taking a neuropathic painkiller called pregabalin - marketed as Lyrica - which isn't an opiate. I was also taking sleeping pills: zolpidem - marketed as Ambien - and zopiclone.. These are what you might call downers as they all have a sedating, tranquillising and soporific effect. The list of downers doesn't end there. I had started to use increasing amounts of diazepam - Valium - and alprazolam - Xanax - which have similar effects to the pregabalin, zolpidem and zopiclone.

So, to recap, I was taking on a daily basis: tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine, pregabalin, zolpidem, zopiclone, alprazolam and diazepam... and that's just the pills.

You can't function if you're as doped up to the eyeballs as I was, so I was also drinking strong coffee, Red Bull energy drinks, taking dexedrine and occasionally dabbling with crystal meth in an attempt to bring myself out of my stupefied state of drugged intoxication.

Somehow, I managed to get off the opiate painkillers. I went cold turkey and it was unpleasant, but after a week or so things started to improve. Life on opiates is a horrible merry-go-round of repeatedly having to take a dose every two or three hours to stave off the nasty withdrawal symptoms. I feel very glad that I was able to kick them to the kerb without too much difficulty.

Getting off all the other pills proved much more difficult. You can't just stop taking benzodiazepines - like Valium and Xanax - because you'll have a seizure if you've been taking them for a long time at high doses. Benzos are far more physically addictive than opiates - you can die if you suddenly go cold turkey.

During this extended period of unpleasantness, I broke up with the love of my life in a moment of spectacular stupidity and drug-induced insanity. To my ever-lasting shame, I continued my non-stop blogging and oversharing on Twitter and Facebook, broadcasting my idiocy to all my friends as well as on the public internet. That was - in retrospect - definitely rock bottom, but I was too messed up to see it at the time.

My super-expensive London apartment was burning through my cash and available credit at very high speed, and it became apparent that I was going to get into rent arrears if I didn't take drastic action. All my worldly possessions had to be boxed up and put into storage, and I didn't have enough money left to be able to afford to rent anywhere cheaper in London. I was forced to leave my home and my home city, in search of the first financially viable opportunity, which arose in Manchester.

You'd think that being effectively bankrupt and homeless would be rock bottom, but no, I still think that my rock bottom had been spread over an extended period when my life truly started falling apart. It started with the blood clot and the DVT in my leg/ankle and reached its peak when I broke up with my wonderful lovely amazing ex. It's very hard to pinpoint a single moment of rock-bottomness, because there was a chain-reaction of events which unfolded like a slow-motion car crash. Unlike a car crash, however, I was dimly aware of the disasterous decisions that I was making and should have been more in control.

I'm not an idiot, so of course I knew that I shouldn't risk becoming addicted to opiate painkillers. I'm no fool, so of course I knew that all the sleeping tablets, tranquillisers and sedatives were addictive and I was becoming dependent on them. When I relapsed back into fully-blown supercrack addiction the consequences were obvious: the sleep deprivation and the stimulant psychosis is enough to send anybody insane.

There was never a moment that was so utterly awful that I would call it rock bottom. In fact, the moment when I decided that I need to take evasive action and attempt to avert total disaster, was not a moment at all. I had known for a long while that the money I had managed to accumulate would only allow me to survive for a finite amount of time, and that my expensive London lifestyle was burning through cash at an astonishing rate. I knew exactly how long I could remain as a jobless junkie, before I became bankrupt, destitute and homeless. The only surprise to me is how lucky I am that total disaster was averted at all.

When I left London for Manchester I carried a horrible addiction with me. Benzodiazepines are insidious as they creep their way into your life, literally lulling you into a state of tranquility. Quitting benzodiazepines is not only extremely dangerous, but almost indescribably unpleasant as well - peaceful, tranquil and anxiety-free existence is replaced by incredible anxiousness, stress, worry, nervous tension, insomnia, restlessness and a general sense of all-pervasive and inescapable unease.

I ended up in a shitty apartment, being paid less than half what I'm worth, with an incredibly stressful and demanding job, in a city where I have no friends or family. I had a couple of "rebound" flings with girls, which had seemed promising at first but then ended miserably. Perhaps this was my rock bottom, because this was when I made my most premeditated and calculated attempt to kill myself.

I don't think I tried to kill myself because I was at rock bottom. There have been times in my life when I've been in much worse situations. I could see that there was no way I was going to be able to quit all the addictive benzodiazepines and make new friends and woo a new girlfriend and deliver my project at work and get back on my feet financially. I had a fleeting moment where I lost hope and I was so heavily doped up that it was a lot easier to kill myself. I was so full of medication that I quite calmly poured myself several pints of white wine, which I used to wash down about 400 tablets and capsules, most of which were very powerful and deadly opiate painkillers.

I should have died. I certainly didn't have better than 50/50 odds.

After they told me in hospital that I was going to survive, soon followed the moment which would seem most like rock bottom to a casual observer. I quickly had even more problems than when I had attempted suicide. I lost my job and my apartment and found myself not only homeless, jobless and virtually penniless, but also sectioned and locked up on a psych ward in a part of the country miles away from any friends or family. However, I'd suffered days of seizures while in hospital and had been through an incredibly rapid benzo detox. I was at least free from the shackles of my benzodiazepine addiction at last. It would have been impossible for me to detox on my own and without intensive medical assistance.

Having to sell my house due to my divorce was incredibly traumatic and destabilising, but I was glad to be rid of my horrible ex-wife. Becoming homeless in London and getting in trouble with the police was traumatic and I thought I'd never be able to recover from the shame of being arrested and locked up in a cell, but the police are kind and they helped me - they didn't want to ruin my life [or me to ruin it myself]. Sleeping rough and living in a hostel was an adventure and I made lots of new friends. Becoming a poly-drug abuser - addicted to a whole heap of medications - going insane and breaking up with the love of my life was incredibly tragic and I feel very guilty about what I put her through, as well as being heartbroken myself... however, I needed to escape the high cost of living in London and reduce the enormous financial pressure I was under. For every downside I see an upside. For every moment that was thoroughly awful at the time, I can look back and see that none of those moments were bad enough to be called rock bottom.

My life today could be characterised conventionally as 'desirable' by most ordinary people's standards. I have a large amount of so-called disposable income - although I use every spare penny to rapidly repay my debts - and I'm quickly returning to a position of financial stability. I have a lovely apartment with sea views, which is far more spacious than I need. I have a very well paid respectable job and I work with smart people. My commute is not too far. I enjoy a great deal of comfort and luxury, which belies my troubled past. I've never had to compromise on my lifestyle - although I've come within a whisker of bankruptcy on very many occasions, I've never had to economise or alter my habits of consumption.

On the flip side, I've lost contact with many friends and I have no local support network to speak of. I live a very solitary reclusive existence, where I spend 99% of my leisure time alone, reading, writing, watching documentaries and films. I'm unfit and I drink too much. I'm bored and unchallenged most of the time at work, and I'm depressed and anxious a lot. The tiniest things can inflict an incredible amount of stress, causing sudden and breathtakingly powerful suicide and self-harm impulses.

By anybody's measure I'm rehabilitated. In the last year I've worked for 4 different organisations and delivered 4 big projects successfully. I've earned a lot of money. I've got my own home. I've got money in the bank. I've got a car. I'm getting up and going to work and my colleagues have absolutely no idea what I've been through, and they would never suspect a thing. I'm quite a convincingly 'normal' productive member of civilised society. I've even managed to sail through background checks and security clearance, and found myself in positions of responsibility, which one would not normally imagine being given to an ex-homeless, ex-junkie, near-bankrupt person with mental health problems, who's known to the police.

If you believe that people can be rehabilitated - that deep down there's always some good in a person no matter how many bad things there are in their past - then I think that I could be a poster-boy for that idealistic belief. I hope that my story indicates that it's worth giving people a second chance; allowing them to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and to be rehabilitated without prejudice and stigma.

Of course, I still have the potential to f**k up spectacularly, but on the whole my net contribution to society must surely be a positive one. I am trying my very hardest to see if I can at least break-even.

Am I rehabilitated? Inside I feel very broken and that happiness and contentment are still an extremely long way away, but to all outside observers and by all objective measures I represent a great success: the proof that a person can re-enter civilised society and make a valuable contribution, provided they are given the chance.

Am I rehabilitated? I leave it to the reader, who is far better informed than most, to decide.

 

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