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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

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Sugar Craving, Caffeine Addicted, Alcohol Dependent

4 min read

This is a story about shelf life...

Red bull cans

Objectively comparing feelings at different times in your life is a virtually impossible task. What you would have described as 'low' mood a few years ago might have now become your new standard for a 'good' day. All I can tell you is that I don't remember ever feeling as tired as I have felt today.

I spent 5 hours driving, 7 hours waiting around in airports and 5 hours flying, which was all exhausting. However, in the last week or so there's something else that's been quite different about my behaviour - I've been drinking coffee and energy drinks.

A couple of weeks I desperately needed an extra bit of 'get up and go' to get me through a tough couple of weeks. I reached for caffeine as a crutch. I gave up - although perhaps only temporarily - my many years of caffeine-free existence.

When I was away with my friend over the weekend, it was tempting to just move from bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant, café to café. We drank fizzy drinks, strong European coffee, had ice-creams and I drank quite a lot of beer. We guzzled sugar, caffeine, and I had plenty of alcohol.

Yesterday, because I had to drive home from the airport, I had to stay sober all day. I also didn't want to be wired and jittery from having loads of coffee. I was exhausted, so I wanted to sleep on the plane ride, so that I wouldn't fall asleep at the wheel while driving home.

I think to say "alcohol dependent" is an over-exaggeration, but having slept most of the day, and generally felt like everything was far too much effort, it was the lure of alcohol that finally managed to get me off the sofa and out of the house.

If you look at most of my behaviour, it's motivated by the tiny dopamine hits from sugar, caffeine and the mellowing effect of alcohol. I used to ride a dreadful chemical carousel when I was a lot younger, working in London: I would have 8 or more espresso shots a day, and then had to have a bottle of red wine at night in order to be able to sleep. It was a vicious see-saw of uppers and downers, that were quite legal and indeed the consumption of coffee and alcohol was quite ubiquitous amongst my friends and work colleagues.

I've felt like my sleep quality has improved and I find it a lot easier to get up in the mornings, since going caffeine-free.

I've never really managed to get rid of alcohol completely. I find that I suffer terrible anxiety and depression whenever I try to stop drinking.

Sugar is something I have a mixed relationship with. I crave it like crazy when I'm tired. When I'm well rested I don't have a very sweet tooth at all. I think I associate sugar with getting an energy boost, which in fact never happens. If I'm craving sugar I should probably take a nap.

There's nothing to say that caffeine is particularly bad for you, and in fact there's good evidence that it has a neuro-protective effect against dementia in older people, but anecdotally I can definitely report feeling improved mood, energy and sleep, since cutting my caffeine intake to zero.

Sugar is obviously fattening, and is very unhealthy, although an essential part of our diet - every cell in our body is powered by glucose, so any faddy sugar-free low-carb diets are pure idiocy.

Alcohol is fattening and seems to have a firm grip on me, even if I'm not physically dependent on it. The strength of the cravings I have for alcohol are quite shocking, and the regularity and quantity I consume is definitely unhealthy. I would like to cut down, or even quit for a while, but I'm never quite able to.

In short, I'm feeling really tired, old and unhealthy. My mood is dreadfully low, I'm lacking motivation and I seem to have lost all enjoyment of life.

I wonder if I'm past my sell-by date.

 

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Too Many Late Night

2 min read

This is a story about paying the penalty...

Nightclub

I thought this week was going to be impossible - I'd lost a lot of sleep over the weekend and I was freaking out that I'd never catch up. However, I seemed to get through 3 normalish days in the office somehow.

Something's screwy with my mood and body clock. All of my rules about early bedtimes and no caffeine have gone out of the window.

The net result has been 3 late nights, and 3 days when I've been quite manic, which is exhausting in and of itself.

It all caught up with me today, and all the exhaustion has seemed to hit me at once.

Frustrating, because it's my last chance to make a good impression at the old place, and possibly find a way so that I can carry on working locally. Also frustrating because I need to be sharp and at the top of my game tomorrow, first thing in the morning.

I've got so much to do tomorrow. It's going to be a horribly busy day.

Then, I'm seeing an old friend over the weekend, which I'm really looking forward to, but I'd hate to ruin it by being half-dead from exhaustion.

Things should be alright, but I really need that early night I keep talking about but never actually managing to get. Also, less wine. I've been drinking far too much.

Not been looking after my physical or mental health at all well.

 

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Deadmaus

2 min read

This is a story about god's perfect killing machines...

Dead mouse

I love cats but they kill a lot of mice and birds. I love cats but they're hunters. I love cats but they're carnivores and they require a lot of meat to satiate their murderous bloodlust.

I'm a bit drunk - my sobriety didn't even last a week - and I can't really write, but I need to maintain my daily publishing ritual.

Today was a good day. I woke up with cats and cuddles, I ate unhealthy food, I got drunk in the sunshine and there was some boat and water related messing around - things felt very summery and it lifted my spirits The summer months are my favourite, of course.

I think that spooning and pets are the best antidepressants, along with sunshine and adventure. Alcohol and tasty food are also excellent at improving mood. Life is quite good at the moment. Challenges ahead, but things could work out ok if I can withstand the constant uncertainty over my future; the constant threat of running out of money and consequent destitution.

My life is full of surprising life or death extremes. Either I could be sipping prosecco on the deck of a yacht, or sipping methylated spirits in a cardboard box, sleeping rough on the street - there's very little middle ground.

 

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Dry

4 min read

This is a story about repetition...

Raindrop on the window

In my profession everything has an acronym. DRY means don't repeat yourself. I was going to write about the awfulness of withdrawing from sedative/tranquilliser type substances, like alcohol, benzos, Z-drugs and gabapentin/pregabalin. I can't be bothered. I've done it to death.

It was sunny earlier on yesterday but the weather didn't match my mood. Because I didn't feel well enough to leave the house and do stuff, I was sad that I was wasting the pleasant weather being sad and miserable indoors. Then it started raining and I felt better because the weather was more apt for the way I was feeling. I stood by the window and watched the rain.

If you write 900,000 words, you're really unwell when you write a lot of those words and your life gets smashed to bits multiple times - such that you're repeating the same well-trodden steps of picking yourself up and getting back on your feet again - then your writing is quite naturally going to become a bit repetitive.

I wish I had the enthusiasm to write whimsical fictional short stories, but I don't have a lot of time for fantasy, given the things going on in my life that ground me in reality. To indulge in flights of fancy is ridiculous when my day-to-day aims and objectives are as pedestrian as being able to pay my rent and not end up sleeping rough again.

I'm repeating myself again; hamming up my sob story - poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.

It's all very well expecting me to suffer in silence, but I have to find some kind of coping mechanism for the suffering, and mine has been drinking and writing. While the latter has been a lot healthier than other things I could use to cope, the former got rather out of hand. Time to give my liver and brain a little break from intoxicating liquor.

Oh dear I'm repeating myself. Didn't I already have a couple of dry spells?

Getting started on a break from the booze is harder than you'd think. I spent most of yesterday evening, night, this morning and this afternoon feeling like I wanted to slice into my arm lengthways in order to puncture my radial artery. I've felt like everything is going to go wrong and that I'll never escape my predicament; that I'm getting nowhere. I've felt like everything is futile and life is so unpleasant that I'd rather be dead. I'm attributing these feelings to the abrupt cessation of the consumption of alcohol.

I'm not sure why I'm doing this to myself. The sleep deprivation and horrible gnawing anxiety that I'll put myself through will in no way compensate for the marginal relief that my liver will feel, and I jeopardise my job because my days at a desk with nothing to do become intolerably awful.

My friend calls this "the fear" which I think is a good description. For him - a moderate drinker - it can be 3 days of unpleasant nonspecific butterflies in the tummy. For me it's a round-the-clock skin-crawling hellish experience that completely ruins my ability to function and puts me on a precarious knife-edge, with self-harm and suicide being the big risks.

I needed to make a change and it's easier to do it now that I have a bit of money in the bank, but I've got to get through another month and a half of the daily grind before I can have my first proper holiday for 22 consecutive months.

I'm already starting to falter and slip-up. My spotless image was tarnished when I had to take a couple of days off sick. I'm going to have to figure out how to take more time off if I'm going to be able to limp along to the middle of June without having a nervous breakdown. My petrol tank is empty and even the fumes have pretty much gone - I'm spent.

I hate writing like this - this whingey diary entry. This isn't the kind of writing that I want to be doing. I promised myself I'd write fewer than 700 words, and I'm going to have to stop now if I don't want to exceed...

 

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Alcohol Addiction

7 min read

This is a story about being functional...

Bottles of liquor

In every supermarket, corner shop, convenience store, licensed café, restaurant and in vast numbers of bars, pubs, clubs and other establishments where people gather to spend money and socialise, there is always alcohol on sale. Alcohol is ubiquitous. It's always possible to get cheap booze quickly, wherever you are - you're never further than a short walk and a couple of quid away from intoxication.

The weather in the UK is pretty miserable. We get hardly any snow, and there's only a couple of mountains that have a ski lift - it's quicker and easier for me to fly to France, Austria, Switzerland or Italy, than it is for me to drive all the way to Scotland, where the mountains aren't very high and the snow's really poor. The pleasant months of weather in the UK are May through to September, and the rest of the time it's grey and overcast; drizzly and thoroughly miserable. Our summers are often plagued by rain, although the weather is at least pleasantly warm by British standards, but don't forget your brolly even in August. It's enough to drive anybody to drink.

Our little island is quite overcrowded. The industrial revolution led us to abandon our rural lifestyle and move to the cities, seeking our fortune. Our cramped towns and cities have rows and rows of terraced worker cottages, which are too small to comfortably accomodate a family. As our social fabric disintegrated in the 1960s and 1970s, we built brutalist concrete monstrosities, very similar to Soviet-era blocks, which could house vast numbers of people who serve no useful economic purpose in the age of robotics, technology, automation, IT and the boom of the service industries. The vast majority of Britons are struggling to just-about-manage on god-awful estates, some of which were built by councils as social housing, and others were built by a handful of massive property developers. Estates comprise huge numbers of cheap and nasty houses built on the outskirts of dismal towns, which were already struggling to provide the necessary infrastructure to educate, transport, entertain and look after the health of local residents. We have not scaled well.

Overcrowding has reached such problematic levels, that cities such as London, Bristol and Manchester have no-go areas, where drugs, guns, knives and prostitution are the backbone of their black-market economies. In those areas predominantly populated by people who are considered economically redundant, there is little hope of escaping poverty, except by selling drugs or selling your body. Gangs compete for their turf, and violence is rife.

Meanwhile, we have seen the rise and rise of the bullshit job. While the economically redundant are given a pitiful state handout and left to rot on their council estates, the 'cream of the crop' will be able to study at university and obtain the necessary academic credentials to get a job that's completely unrelated to their field of study, which will mostly involve pointless boring meetings, Excel spreadsheets and a ridiculous volume of emails about absolutely nothing. The service industries produce nothing - no real value to the economy, no productive output - but they account for 85% or more of the so-called economy. Paper gets shuffled around in increasingly elaborate ways of obfuscating the fact that nothing of any importance is being done. Our smartest people are very busy doing nothing... and the smarter ones quickly figure this out and become quite disillusioned with the whole sham.

All of these things contributes to a toxic environment which makes people depressed, demotivated, stressed, anxious, but horribly trapped by their mortgages, car loan repayments. Despite stress and exhaustion, there persists a futile and flawed belief that if we only work hard enough, we'll be able to elevate ourselves from our dismal situation and build a better life for us and our family. When the workers eventually realise that life in the UK is a massive con, and we're going to be stuck in our dead-end job that we hate until the day we die - and our children are going to struggle just as much, if not more - then we need vast quantities of antidepressants, anxiety pills, tranquillisers, sedatives - and alcohol - in order to allow us to ignore the horrible situation and carry on functioning. Our nation is packed full of functional addicts.

Alcohol is used because of its ubiquity. It's self-medication that's available on every street corner. The proportion of the average family budget that gets spent on alcohol, versus food, is quite staggering - alcohol is the glue between the pooh... the only thing that's allowing people to carry on being functional in such a toxic environment; under such a hostile conditions.

Alcohol is the cause of so much obesity, as well as the other health-damage that accompanies its chronic consumption. If we really cared about people's health, we wouldn't bully and hector them to give up their crutches, but we would instead improve the quality of people's lives. If we make the world a less depressing and stressful place, we'll see alcohol consumption levels naturally drop.

I hate that I have to drink, just to get through the working week. I hate that I'm using a really fattening and health-damaging drug to salve my stress, and to help me to cope, but it's freely and readily available without having to see a condescending, patronising and unhelpful doctor, who has no sympathy and compassion for the day-to-day struggles of the proletariat. Doctors enjoy a position of high social status and an income that is many times greater than the average wage - they have no idea what life's like in the real world, for ordinary people - and while my overall experience with doctors has been a mostly positive one, the elites completely fail to grasp the awfulness of life for ordinary people, and fail to sympathise with the plight of the just-about-managing struggling masses.

Our doctors are trained in acute medicine - disease and injury - and are not succeeding at treating the chronic conditions that arise from the current economic climate, which is so toxic to mental health. Instead of lecturing, hectoring and bullying people because they use alcohol, cigarettes, coffee and drugs to be able to cope, our medical community needs to recognise that people are driven to use substances because of their intolerable living conditions. The mental health epidemic and scandalous suicide rates are all the proof we need that the model of medicine which dished out bucketloads of antibiotics is not succeeding in saving lives, when it dishes out bucketloads of antidepressants - clearly it's not working and suicide and mental health problems are the number one public health issue we're facing.

Having access to a fast-acting drug which can help when the stress levels become unbearable - when life becomes unliveable - is vitally important for a society that wishes to treat its people with some degree of sympathy and compassion for their plight... people need something to ease their suffering.

I think alcohol is a terrible drug, and I pity those who have become addicted to it, but it's plain to see the reasons why people drink too much, and it's not that they've got 'addictive personalities' or they lack willpower - it's that their lives are fucking shit and they've got to find a way to cope.

I wish I could quit alcohol, but how would I cope without it?

 

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Whine

5 min read

This is a story about feeling hard-done-by....

Wine glass

Poor me. Poor me. Pour me another drink. I look back upon things I've written and I cringe because I'm so self-pitying. In the context of my improving situation, it looks rather churlish to complain about my lot in life, however I'm wont to moan because I've spent most of the last 5 years battling to get back on my feet after a messy divorce. I'm repeating myself. Jeeps I'm repeating myself and it's only the first paragraph.

I don't really understand the whole "count your blessings" and "other people have it harder" mindset. Shitty times are shitty times. Unbearable crap is unbearable crap. I don't really care that there's one super unfortunate person who's having the most awful time in the whole entire world. I don't really care that there's only ever one human being on the entire planet, who supposedly has the moral right to complain, because nobody has it any harder than them. This isn't a lack of perspective, or being a spoiled brat - it's human life. Next time you stub your toe, you should try not being in pain by remembering that other people are in far more pain than you... see how that works out for you.

I don't generally think of myself as very hard-done-by.

I get up in the morning pretty early, but not the earliest. I have to commute to work, but not the furthest. I have to do a job that's pretty boring most of the time, but it's not the worst. I don't have housing security or financial security, but I'm not starving and homeless. I'm pretty lonely and isolated, but I'm not raped, tortured and murdered every single day. On balance, my life's pretty good. Perhaps you think that means I should only ever write about how awesome everything is. Perhaps you think I should leap out of bed in the morning with a smile from ear-to-ear.

My depression has definitely lifted a little now that I got through a ridiculously stressful and unpleasant ordeal where I pretty much lost everything and very nearly ended up with black marks against my name that would have made me unemployable and unable to rent a place to live. I very nearly ended up homeless again. I got down to a bank balance of £23 available credit, making bankruptcy imminent. I got through that, but it's taken its toll.

I'm drinking loads. Perhaps that's because I was using alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism - a crutch - when I was battling to beat my addiction to two prescription medications that I had been taking for a year. I was battling to earn money and stave off bankruptcy. I was battling to save up enough money to buy a car, rent an apartment and be able to switch to a job that was closer to home. Alcohol soothed my nerves; calmed my anxiety. Alcohol lulled me off to sleep.

I whine a lot. I drink at lot of wine and I whine.

I release the pressure build-up here on this blog. I come here and I write every day. Writing is my healthy coping mechanism. Whining is healthy. Drinking wine is not healthy. I drink too much wine.

If anybody tells you not to whine so much, they're a toxic person who shouldn't be anywhere near you. Whining is what people do when their lives are shitty and they're going through hell. Whining is a way of coping with some truly awful stuff. Whining is a safe way of venting. If somebody tells you to be positive and pretend like everything's OK, they're toxic and they don't care about what you're going through.

I wish I whined less, but my whining is driven by my circumstances. As my circumstances improve, I'll whine less. When my life becomes sustainable and pleasant, I'll stop whining. The whining is getting me through the long slog. Wine is also helping me get through the long slog.

I'm comfort eating and abusing alcohol, and it's having a negative effect on my body - I'm putting on weight, my liver is having to work hard and alcohol is generally not very healthy. It'd be nice if I could live healthily immediately, but wine and whining are helping me to limp along at the moment - they're the crutches that I need.

I need a holiday. I need to lie on a beach in a hot country for a week. Yes, sure, lots of us need a holiday. I've got to get through another 3 weeks before I get paid, and then I can maybe have a relaxing break, where I won't be worrying about money or losing my job. I hope that the next few weeks are just going to be solid whining, because I even bore myself sometimes, but it's hard going at the moment... moan moan moan.

I have other stuff that I want to write about that's probably more interesting, but I thought I'd rattle off a little essay about whining and about wine, of course.

 

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Sobriety-Induced Insomnia

3 min read

This is a story about nodding off...

Sleeping under a kite

I was expecting my alcohol-free week to pay dividends, but it's not [yet]. I've had three awful nights of sleep and I've been struggling to keep my eyes open at work during the afternoons. My body clock is all screwed up - I'm struggling to get out of bed in the mornings and I'm struggling to get to sleep at night. The only variable is the alcohol, so I know that my sobriety is to blame.

I'm strict with my bedtime and mealtimes. I dim the lights and avoid using my laptop and smartphone in the evenings. I'm doing all the right things but I'm tired and I'm getting more tired by the day, because I'm not sleeping very well at night.

I've noticed an improvement in terms of weight gain already - my trousers had been feeling a little tight. Alcohol piles on the pounds because it's so calorific. I think it's worth having a break from booze for the benefit of my liver and waistline.

I think I'm having bouts of depression and anxiety as a result of abruptly cutting my alcohol consumption to zero. I keep thinking that I'm bored at work and that I should walk out and go home, because I can't stand sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I keep feeling depressed about the fact that I'm months away from financial security. I feel like I can't yet afford to take a holiday - I need to earn every penny I can to dig myself out of the hole and get myself into a strong situation.

My situation is pretty damn good really. I'm managing to get up and get to work nice and early. I'm making it through the working week without too much struggle. My finances are improving. The weather is improving. I have a lovely home. I'm sure I'll feel a lot better after a restful laid-back weekend watching TV while I lie on the sofa. It'll be great to have some weeks without any stress or disruption, to really get into a good routine.

I took a big gamble in making a big change, by stopping drinking so abruptly. I was sensible when I made all the other big changes, like tapering slowly off various medications, but it was really hard. By stopping drinking suddenly I've risked nasty side effects, which I'm very much experiencing right now. I'm sure my body and brain will be very grateful for having a break from booze, but right now I'm exhausted... I'm not feeling the benefit yet.

I guess things always get worse before they get better.

 

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Alcohol as an Anxiolytic

4 min read

This is a story about self-medicating for anxiety with wine...

Recycling

I keep my empty wine bottles behind the kitchen dustbin. The collection of bottles waiting to be recycled has grown very quickly, given that I've been polishing off at least a bottle of wine every day for months. Wine has been my unhealthy coping mechanism. Wine has helped me to get through 4 solid months of work, living out of a suitcase, dating, courting, buying a car, renting an apartment, moving home, two different jobs, three different countries, 12 AirBnBs and countless other anxiety-creating things.

It should be noted that during the last 4 months, I also quit a neuropathic painkiller called pregabalin, and a sleeping pill called zopiclone. The net result of quitting those medications was a vicious rise in my anxiety levels, as a result of the rebound from stopping taking them: withdrawal syndrome. It's hard enough to get off pregabalin and zopiclone under normal circumstances, let alone when you have huge upheaval and stress in your life.

A little over 6 months ago, I quit diazepam and alprazolam, which are both anxiety medications. They're better known as Valium and Xanax. They're highly addictive, and stopping them can cause a discontinuation (withdrawal) syndrome that can last for months and create unbearable anxiety levels.

So, the circumstances have created a hell of a lot of anxiety... a ridiculous amount of anxiety.

Alcohol has helped me to wean off the addictive medications and become medication-free. Alcohol has helped me to cope during incredibly stressful times. Alcohol has been my anxiety medication, during a time when my stress and anxiety levels would be unbearable for even the toughest person.

The ubiquity of alcohol is about the only good thing that can be said of it. Alcohol's effects are short-lived. Alcohol is a poor sleep aid. Alcohol is very unhealthy. However, it's not desirable to take benzodiazepines, Z-drugs and painkillers on a long-term basis, because they all quickly build tolerance and require a bigger and bigger dose to be effective. Valium also has a very long half-life, so you are affected by it 24 hours a day once it reaches a steady concentration in your bloodstream. At least with alcohol, you sober up pretty fast when you stop drinking.

The body's ability to eliminate alcohol is very impressive. Tonight is my third night without a drink and I've suffered no ill effects from abruptly stopping my daily boozing. It would be expected that I might get the shakes or something, given my chronic self-administration of large quantities of alcohol over a long period, but that's simply not the case - I just stopped and I'm fine.

My sleep was a little disturbed last night. My body and brain are re-adjusting to life without copious amounts of wine being tipped down my throat. I'm not feeling the benefits, and if anything I'm feeling a little worse than I was when I was drinking every day. That's to be expected: my body's repairing itself. The booze has been very hard on my body.

I've gained weight and I just feel unhealthy from a winter of misery, where I drank vast quantities of wine. I really need a mini-detox. I thought about having a sober April, but I don't see the point. Drinking in moderation is what I'm aiming to do, so I'll have a little break and then I'll try to drink less.

Having a break from drinking is important, because I need to get into better drinking habits now that the shitstorm of stress has passed. There was no way that I was going to be able to do anything healthy while I was still heavily dependent on alcohol as a crutch, during a really horrible period of my life, but now things are improving and my life is a lot more manageable.

Perhaps I'm one of the lucky ones who can take it or leave it. Perhaps I'm just normal - I'll use whatever's available and my behaviour is dictated by my environment. During stressful times of course I'm going to hit the bottle. During happier times, of course I'm able to make healthier lifestyle choices. Seems obvious, doesn't it?

So, alcohol's not great, but it's not all bad either. It helped me get to where I've got to today.

 

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Rock Bottom

7 min read

This is a story about quality of life...

Warchalking

You would have thought that rock bottom would come when you're sleeping rough, arrested by the police, thrown into a cell, you've spent all your money on drugs, you've got a physical dependency, you end up hospitalised or locked on a psych ward. You would have thought that losing your job, your apartment and tarnishing your otherwise squeaky clean CV, credit score and other things that are important to give you access to well-paid respectable work, would be the most crushing blow. In fact it's the lead-up to the point where you lose everything that's far worse. Once you're cut adrift and tossed by the wind and the waves, then you might as well just relax and go with the flow.

I woke up this morning, having been awake since 3am, worrying about the tricky transition between two contracts that are worth six figures, annually. It's a nice problem to have, right, to have two companies offering to pay you big fat wads of cash for your time and expertise, but the reality is somewhat more complicated.

I've drained my business bank account, because I've needed to buy plane tickets, book hotel rooms, train tickets and AirBnB rooms. I've been working for three months, but I'm still waiting to be paid - these are the commercial challenges I face. You've got to speculate to accumulate.

I have borrowing facilities available to me, but a substantial portion of my income is wasted on interest, paying for the money which I've needed for cashflow. Cashflow is tight when you're only managing to work 12 weeks a year, because you've been so unwell. I was hospitalised with DVT and both my kidneys had failed. I was hospitalised after a massive overdose - a suicide attempt. I was hospitalised and sectioned for mental health reasons, for my own protection. These are considerable obstacles to earning money, despite the fact that I discharged myself from hospital against medical advice, so that I could struggle into the office and not lose my job... but I lost it anyway. After my suicide attempt I struggled into the office, but I lost my job anyway.

I'm struggling into the office every day. I'm working Tuesday to Friday, for 4 hours each afternoon. My colleagues look at me like I'm taking the piss, as I saunter in at lunchtime and leave soon after 5pm. I travel across the country on a Tuesday morning, and I travel back the other way on a Friday evening - over 3 hours each way, which some people might scoff at. I know that there are many people who do long commutes, but I doubt many of them do them in the same year they were hospitalised as many times as I've been, due to medical emergencies.

This is my rock bottom - I'm only able to work about 16 hours a week, but it's killing me. I woke up this morning and I'm properly physically sick. If it hadn't been for the fact that I had to check out of my AirBnB, I would have stayed in bed. You'd have stayed in bed too, if you felt like I do. This is rock bottom - struggling along and barely managing to survive, even if you think that my situation is not very desperate.

I'm quite qualified to tell you what's desperate and what's not, because I've slept rough on the streets; I've lived in 14-bed hostel dorms and psych ward dorms. It's not a competition. Either you accept that I know what rock bottom looks like, or you don't.

What you can't see - because you only look at the good bits - is how quickly my life could unravel. I've got no safety net; I've got no cushion. My life hangs by a few slender threads. Of course I accept that I've had a run of good luck, such that I haven't ended up bankrupt and sleeping rough again. Of course I accept that I've had a run of good luck that there are still opportunities available to me; there's still a slim chance that I might rescue myself from my desperate situation.

There's an infantile attitude that I have to constantly suffer, like life is simple and all I need to do is get a job stacking shelves in a supermarket. You don't understand how real life works. You're not acknowledging reality. In reality we can't just abandon all responsibility and pretend like it's not psychologically destructive to lose hope; to have our dreams shattered. Loss of status and having a black mark against your name is a big deal. Being chased by debt collectors and bailiffs is a big deal. Having court summonses and court judgements and being sued into oblivion is a big deal. Getting fines and charges and all the other things that get slapped onto a poor person whose life is imploding, is a big deal. Real life... REAL LIFE involves earning as much money as you can, so that you don't have to take a calculator with you to the supermarket and ration out the value-price beans. Your infantile fantasies that we can just abandon everything that society holds dear - bank accounts and credit checks - and instantly switch our lives to be free and easy... this is complete and utter horse shit.

The reality of life is that there's a great deal of precarity. It might not look like it, but I've worked very hard to get myself back on my feet and I'm still a long way off. It might not look like it, but I couldn't have put in any more effort; I couldn't have handled any more stress - it's enough to give the most stable and secure person that you know a massive nervous breakdown. Eventually, we all reach our breaking point. We can't tolerate mental torture forever.

I've got my 3+ hour train journey, then a night in one place, a night in another, a night somewhere else, then it's back on the train, back to my job, time to check into yet another AirBnB I've never set foot in before. I need to buy two birthday presents, get a haircut. I need to do some washing. None of this is beyond the wit of man, but I'm so mentally and physically sick that I need to spend at least a week in bed, but I can't. I've got to keep the plates spinning.

Yes there are parents out there who are stressed out of their minds. Yes there are starving Africans. Fuck the fuck off. You think I've only got nice problems to have? You think my life is rainbows and puppy dogs and candy floss? Fuck the fuck off.

This is my rock bottom, because I want to throw everything away. It's too much effort. It's too much stress. It's causing too much anxiety. It's too exhausting. You think what I do is easy? If it's so fucking easy why isn't everyone doing it? If it's so easy, why aren't more people bouncing back from divorce, losing their home, drug addiction, alcoholism, bankruptcy, trouble with the police, mental health problems, suicide attempts, physical health problems and all the other things that bury people? Why aren't more people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and getting themselves back on their feet?

It feels like I'm really close to a breakthrough, and that's what makes it so hard. All the time I'm thinking "it's only another 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months... until I'm all fixed up and back to health, wealth and prosperity". It seems like it's no time at all, but that's because you're an idiot. You just don't understand how the shortest possible time can feel like an eternity, when you're in agony; when you're in such distress.

So close but yet so far.

 

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Numb & Dumb

5 min read

This is a story about being medicated...

Various assorted pills

It would substantially benefit my bank balance if I was to swallow substances that would remove my brain from my skull and place it into a jar - a chemical straightjacket. My doctors are falling over themselves to give me pills that will put me into a warped kind of reality - an altered state - where my perceptions are chemically changed.

If you put your hand in a fire and it's hurting because your hand is getting burnt, you have two choices. Firstly, you could remove your hand from the fire. Secondly, you could take a drug so that you don't feel the pain or care about your hand getting burnt.

I remain absolutely convinced that I'm in a state of depressive realism that's allowing me to perceive the madness of our late-capitalist society. I see suffering and injustice everywhere I look. I see the ridiculous situation where powerful incompetent men are paid millions of pounds, despite screwing everything up, while the people who do the most essential jobs in society are paid a pittance. The poor give every penny they earn back to the wealthy men for the privilege of being alive. It's a bitter pill to swallow.

Why have we defined "functional" to mean doing jobs that we hate? Why have we defined "functional" to mean not rocking the boat; not challenging the status quo? Why are our most "functional" members of society the ones who are causing the most human misery?

To decide not to take medication is a political statement. To decline to have my body violated - simply to conform with a political system that I don't agree with - makes me into a kind of political prisoner. I'm a victim of "fit in or f**k off" culture.

It seems to me like most people depend on substances - alcohol, tea, coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes, nicotine e-liquids, antidepressants, anxiolytics, tranquillisers, sleeping pills, painkillers - and very few of us are able to live life substance-free. What is it about modern life that pushes us onto these addictive substances and keeps us dependent on them? Why should it be mandated to use psychoactive substances, just to live my life?

It seems deeply immoral to have constructed a society that's unbearable except with something to 'take the edge off'. It seems like a complete car crash of a situation that we have to reach for chemicals just to be able to function and fit in. It seems like bullying and coercion to me. I have deep ethical objections to a world that forces me to put substances into my body against my will.

I fought hard to free myself from my dependence on caffeine. Quitting coffee was challenging. Quitting tea was relentlessly difficult. Avoiding caffeinated beverages is tricky.

I had the good fortune of never becoming addicted to nicotine, except when addiction was forced upon me by my parents breathing their second-hand smoke all over me in a confined space, which was wicked and immoral.

I deliberately spend lengthy periods without alcohol, to clear my mind of all substances. Alcohol is ubiquitous and hard to avoid. There's huge amounts of peer pressure to drink.

Finally, I find myself fending off prescription medications. Without prescribed pills, life is very hard. It's almost expected that modern life is going to induce anxiety and depression in most of us, and so it's us who must change rather than us changing the circumstances that produce the unbearable mental health problems - we consent to having mind-altering substances put into our bodies, because we have little choice in the matter.

If you want money - and I imagine that you probably need it - then you're going to have to slurp tea & coffee, suck on your e-cigarette, get drunk and pop pills. We've arrived at a state where life is so utterly depressing and shit that we need all these chemicals to pretend that it isn't.

In the face of so many obvious problems in the world, is the answer to take pills that allow us to be wilfully ignorant and carry on regardless? In the face of the whole shambolic mess threatening to crumble into dust at any moment, should we be so coerced and bullied into medicating ourselves?

We live with incredible insecurity. Our jobs are utter bullshit and we could lose them at any moment. Our wages barely cover our living expenses, and in many cases they don't. Payday lenders and other legal loan sharks put us into a constant state of debt-laden fear. Our livelihoods are under constant threat; our homes. Where's the security? Where's the comfort? Where's the contentment and relaxation and happiness going to come from, in this bullshit merry-go-round of horrible jobs and insufficient money to ever escape from the rat race?

Eventually, it's all too much and we capitulate. "Give me something to make me feel better, doc" we say. We swallow our antidepressants, anxiolytics, tranquillisers, sleeping pills and painkillers because we can't afford to take time off to get better. We can't afford to drop out of the rat race. We can't afford to show any weakness. We can't afford to catch our breath.

The capitalists have got us right where they want us - numb and dumb. We're so f**king doped up that we don't realise how awful we've let things get. We don't dare to imagine a better world. We just keep chasing that ever-elusive dream that one day we'll get to quit the rat race, but we never will because we're all doped up to the eyeballs with enough drugs to tranquillise an elephant.

That's why I don't take the damn pills. That's why I'm going through the shit I'm going through - I want to experience reality and I don't want to be yet another dull-eyed slave.

 

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