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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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Trashing Tech

3 min read

This is a story about sabotage...

Macbook damage

This is my laptop I have with me while visiting my friend. It's had that damage since 2010. My nice new laptop is away being repaired.

My Apple watch screen is half-covered with a big black blob. It's pretty much useless now, so I don't even wear it anymore.

I bought a Macbook Air, which got damaged, and I'd spent so much getting it repaired that when it got damaged again, I just sold it for spares and bought my new laptop - the one that's currently being repaired.

What is it about me and damaging expensive technology?

Well, it's not just hardware. I pretty much threw away an entire tech startup company. My friend and co-founder managed to repair it and keep it profitable, but I had pretty much managed to destroy that company.

It's strange. I'm away on a short weekend vacation with my old friend who, 7 years ago, I used to share a house with. We were both doing tech startup companies. We were meeting the same mentors, angel investors and venture capitalists. We were being interviewed by the same journalists. We were with each other 24x7 for a pretty damn intense and important period of our entrepreneurial tech careers.

I don't feel embarassed that I screwed up my startup. I'm pleased that my friend's succeeded.

What I feel embarrassed about is that one of my arms has scars running along its length, and a big scar that I would usually cover up with my Apple Watch. What I feel embarrassed about is that I'm using my old laptop from all those years ago, and the reason is pretty much the same as why I have all those scars and my Apple Watch is irreparably damaged. I'm a damaged person, and I've damaged so much stuff during the on/off period I've been sick, which has been most of the last 7 years.

It's geek status symbol stuff, to have the latest Macbook Pro, Apple Watch and iPhone X, and I'm the guy who threw away his valuable tech startup, so I guess it'd be foolish for me to pretend like I'm something I'm not - to waste valuable cash on status symbols which I can't really afford.

The tough thing though is, I had/have those latest gadgets, but I trashed them in one way or another, and it's the story of how they got trashed that's the difficult thing. I want to be the happy, healthy, energy-filled and motivated guy who I was 7 years ago, but I'm not. I'm this broken damaged guy, with his broken damaged old stuff.

I guess I should just be grateful I'm alive.

 

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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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I'm Sick of Moving

9 min read

This is a story about putting down roots...

Cardboard boxes

It looks like the smartest short-term decision for me right now is to go back to London. Third time lucky, maybe.

London was amazing the first time, so I guess third time lucky is not really accurate.

London was pretty amazing when I went back, but my damn acrimonious divorce and evil ex-wife conspired to disrupt and destroy my chances of re-establishing myself back in the capital. I'd reconnected with lots of old friends, incorporated a company and had started doing business. The last thing I needed was the distraction of the divorce, so I went and sold my house to a cash buyer - I had the sale organised within a few hours, and should have completed with cash in the bank in about 6 weeks.... except my evil ex-wife sabotaged the whole thing and put it back on the market with the worst estate agent she could find, and accepted an offer - for the same amount as I'd already agreed with the cash buyer - from some clueless idiots who were part of some horrible chain.

Said same evil ex-wife then tried to screw me over with the division of the house sale proceeds, which was a more than fair and reasonable 50:50 split. The contracts had been exchanged and the deposit had been paid. I was quite happy to have us both get sued if she wanted to drag things on any longer... she'd already delayed everything by 3 or 4 months. My final signature was needed for completion and if I didn't give it, we'd have breached our contract. So, I didn't give it until I had it in writing that she'd take her 50% and let me get the hell on with my life. She's an idiot, because I'd have gladly paid more if she'd just let me get on with rebuilding my life in London.

So, that changed the complexion of my second jaunt back to the capital completely. Gone was the momentum of my new business. Gone was my new girlfriend. Gone was a holiday I'd been planning on treating myself to. Gone was every bit of optimism and energy, wasted on worrying about cashflow and legal wranglings with one of the most thoroughly unpleasant individuals I've ever had the misfortune of dealing with.

I never quite caught up. You need a lot of money behind you if you're going to get ahead in London. If you haven't got the working capital - the comfortable financial cushion - you'll never be able to handle the challenges of the city AND fret about money.

Out of pride and stubbornness, I tried and failed and tried and failed again. I kept almost but not quite reaching the point where I was financially comfortable, only for the stress and effort of it all to finally scupper me, plus some bad luck too. I lost a contract simply because I refused to kiss the arse of one guy who thought he was indispensable. They terminated my contract, and then the guy who did it got the sack for getting rid of me. Another time, I was just too exhausted from living in a hostel while working on one of the most demanding projects - and indeed important projects - I've ever worked on in my life. I got myself out of the hostel and into my own apartment, but the stress and exhaustion of it made me very unwell. I tried to get myself sacked while I was on holiday in San Francisco, so I could stay for longer, but they didn't take the bait - I got sacked as soon as I walked back into the office, which I knew I would.

I took a shitty contract in a shitty part of Greater London. That was awful, but I did it out of necessity.

Finally, I got a great contract, great team, great project, great company... then my kidneys failed and I was on emergency dialysis on a high dependency ward for weeks. DVT in my leg. Nerve damage. Unbelievable pain.

That was me done for. Broke. Game over. I was lucky to escape bankruptcy.

Now, I've had a little taste of small town provincial life, and it's OK. I liked it when I could drive to work and walk to my girlfriend's house. I liked it when my income was 20 times as much as my rent, and I was living like a king... or at least I'd have been able to if the gravy train had continued to run on it's scheduled timetable.

There's no opportunities here. It's a small place. I was lucky to have a few months when I had it all, but I always knew that when it came to an end, there wouldn't be anything else here for me that's comparable.

No girlfriend. No job.

Gone off the place a bit.

I had a look at what London has to offer and I'll be increasing my already obscene income by 50% if I go back there. Make hay while the sun shines. Get rich quick, or die trying. The number of jobs I'd be a perfect match for was quite staggering... so reassuring to know that I've got the right skills that still command such high remuneration.

There's nothing round here. At least, nothing for somebody who's trying to get ahead. I'm sick of being behind. I'm sick of playing catch-up.

If I go back to London and keep this Welsh seaside town as my primary residence, I can live on expenses - my rent, meals, travel... all that will be reducing my tax bill as well as giving me a lovely lifestyle. No more shitty AirBnBs and pot noodles. I can have my own little central London apartment and eat takeaway every night. I can take black cabs everywhere and even reclaim the expenses of having my suits dry cleaned, shirts laundered and shoes shone. What the hell am I doing, having to cook, clean and do laundry, in this sleepy seaside town where I don't know anybody except for my ex-girlfriend and some of her friends, who all hate me.

I can go on Tinder and there will be gazillions of drop-dead gorgeous highly educated well travelled professional career women, who are pretty up-front about what they want. Tinder in this Welsh seaside town has 15 identical looking Snapchat filter photos of women who look like they've put make up on with a trowel and can't string a sentence together, and then that's it - you've swiped them all left, and there's no more to swipe.

I shouldn't do the place down, because it makes sense if you've got your wife & kids sorted and mortgage paid off, plus a big fat wedge of cash in the bank, but it makes no sense at all for me to be here, single and still struggling to get back to a position of financial security.

So, at some point I'm going to push the button and the calls will come flooding in and the contract negotiations will start, and before I know it I'll be on the train back to London, except I'm not slumming it this time.

When I sign on the dotted line for my third attempt at making things work in London, I'll be going to live in a serviced apartment, and I'll be living there for the duration of the contract. I've got my little seaside retreat - my second home - where I can leave most of my stuff, but I'll also have a permanent base in the capital, where I can leave my suits and shirts and smart shoes and everything else I need midweek.

If I hesitate, I'll just burn through all the cash I've managed to tuck away during the last 6 months of nonstop hard work. If I hesitate, I'll lose all the ground I've gained. If I hesitate, I'll lose momentum. If I hesitate, self-doubt will creep in and I'll dither and dawdle.

I might be sick of moving, but as long as I'm able to keep on sending my invoices every month, and every month my net worth moves rapidly from the negative to the positive, there's a tiny glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I might be sick of proving myself over and over and over again, and having the stress of yet more reference checks, security vetting, credit checks and criminal records checks, but in London if one contract doesn't work out, there are literally hundreds of others. If one relationship doesn't work out, the London is literally jam-packed with mind-blowingly beautiful intelligent women who have dedicated themselves to their careers, and are making themselves known to be single via the Tinder app.

I have friends in London. I know my way around. There's a drinking/socialising culture, instead of the "going home to the wife and kids" culture of the provinces. What am I doing here in this place where I suddenly feel so out of place?

In the blink of an eye, I'll be available again - back on the market.

In 2 or 3 weeks, I'll be meeting my new team and learning about my new project; my next opportunity.

It's actually quite exciting. It's a fresh start in a place I already know and love. It's another opportunity to stick two fingers up at my ex-wife for ruining my chance to have a clean break and rebuild my life back in London. It's another roll of the dice - maybe I'll be lucky this time and I'll prove I can make it work. I've certainly tipped the odds massively in my favour.

I'm sick at the moment, of course. My mania must be plain as day to anybody who has any dealings with me. My colleagues kindly and patiently indulge my endless stream of ideas and words, delivered so fast they can't keep up, but it's good timing: things are late and everybody's stressed. To the uneducated eye, it just looks like I care a lot about the end of the project, as opposed to being in a fully-blown manic episode in the middle of an office full of mild-mannered civil servants, who normally move at glacial speed, as is the way of the public sector.

I'm sick, but I haven't pissed anybody off or burnt any bridges yet. I'm sick, but I do remember to shut up and try to act normal once in a while. I'm sick, but I obviously made enough of a good impression that I'm being given the benefit of the doubt.

I'm sick and I'm sick of moving, but move I must. I must move and I must maintain momentum.

 

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A Typically Manic Day

6 min read

This is a story about predictable unpredictability...

Man in a tree

I messaged a trusted friend at work: I'm sleep deprived and manic... can you sneak my laptop out of the building, should I make up an excuse to bunk off work, or should I just come in and pretend like everything's fine? He told me to message him in the morning.

I woke up at 4am, when presumably the deadly cocktail of sleeping pills, tranquillisers, sedatives and alcohol wore off enough that my mania re-asserted itself. Even my dreams hadn't been sweet dreams about nothing... my mind had been working overtime to find elegant solutions to hard problems.

By 7am - when I usually get up - I realised I could force myself out of bed and face the day if I wanted. However, the only restful part of any 24 hours for me, is the period when my intense dreams are done and I can have a second period of sleep, which is pure bliss. The alarm clock is perhaps responsible for more human misery than any other human invention, including bombs and guns and instruments of torture.

There were no small cans of Red Bull for sale at the office canteen, so I guzzled half a litre of high-glucose high-caffeine energy drink. As I feared, I spoke far too much; too loudly... I lost all subtlety, tact and ability to hold my tongue. In short: I was everything you don't want from a work colleague who you have to spend 40 hours a week in a small room with.

As with many engineers - or those with a tendency towards the technical - I started pulling things to bits. Something had been broken for a week or two and nobody knew how to fix it. People were losing sleep and the shiny shiny new system was starting to look like an unreliable heap of junk, not the perfect thing that everyone imagined they would create, given a blank canvas.

I skipped my lunch. I said "just give me 5 minutes" to so many people, while I continued to pursue my new obsession: I was going to be the hero who solved this problem which had defeated so many others.

Before I knew it, the cleaners were hoovering under my feet and the building was looking pretty dark and empty. I went out to the car park, where luckily my car wasn't parked, because the compound was fully secured - I was locked in.

In my mind, I achieved something noteworthy. I found and fixed the problem they said that nobody would ever be able to do - it was too hard; everything that could be thought of had already been tried.

I shared the news with my colleagues, all long-since departed home to their families. Most people write 1-liners "fixed the bug". I struggled to not write an entire essay on why the shiny shiny new system is actually a piece of shit that should be rebuilt; repainted on that blank canvas. Of course, nobody really wants to read a message with 6 paragraphs. Nobody really wants to be told that a fundamentally shit decision at the start of the project has flawed the whole damn thing. Nobody really cares that much, except me.

Actually, I'm being unfair. Some of my colleagues have been seized by manic moments and decided to embark upon one-man missions to reach that engineer's nirvana: the most elegant system imaginable. My colleagues kindly indulge me when I say "errr.... why hasn't this been done properly?" and they tell me the age-old tale of the decision to cut corners, because it's "tactical". We roll our eyes, and dream of the day when we're really given that elusive blank canvas.

A few years ago, I single-handedly rewrote an entire system - belonging to one of the UK's big 4 high street banks - over the course of about 4 days, mostly without sleep. I learned nothing. What I ended up with was elegant and beautiful, but it'd be like hanging a Monet in your 3-year-old's bedroom - it'll soon end up with crayon and felt tip pen scrawled all over it. It was an arrogant and stupid waste of time.

Today, I rebuilt what my colleagues had built, so that I could learn why they made the decisions they made. I put myself in their shoes, and I walked the same path that they must've walked, when they built the shiny shiny new system.

There's a short answer and a long answer. Tomorrow I can say: "I know where the bug is and I know how to fix it". That's the short answer, and that's the only one anyone cares about. Tomorrow I want to say: "I know where you took a wrong turn, and I know how we can make things perfect; elegant" but nobody cares... just get the damn thing running, no matter how flawed and unreliable; no matter how ugly it is when you peek behind the scenes.

It wasn't that long ago I was given a blank canvas for the first time in my career. You know what I opted for? Ugly simplicity. I built something that was the complete opposite of elegance. I built something where just about anybody could see what every nut, bolt and widget was there to do. You know what else I learned? When you've actually got to make a whole entire system from the ground up, you never ever anticipate the things that are going to ruin the perfection - the decisions that seem great at the time, but eventually mean you'll never achieve a completely elegant solution.

All I can say is, at least my mind is occupied on days like today. There hasn't been a moment to consider just how terrible I feel. There hasn't been a moment of boredom.

I'm glad I got up and went to the office, even if I've made it abundantly clear to my colleagues that I'm an unstable nutcase.

The world needs unstable nutcases.

 

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Self Defamation

6 min read

This is a story about making yourself look like an idiot...

Movember

I started this blog as a suicide survivor who was interested in suicide prevention. I started this blog because my head was buzzing with ideas for how technology could be used to help people at risk of suicide. I started this blog because trying to explain to colleagues, friends and family what was going on with me had nearly killed me - it was an unwinnable battle, because nearly everybody makes the same incorrect presumptions and carries near-identical prejudices.

Only a fool would try the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, but if I had a pound for every time somebody has suggested yoga, mindfulness, jogging, kale smoothies and all the rest of the "wow thanks I'm cured" quick fixes that a person with mental illness gets bombarded with, then I'd be a very rich man. Equally, explaining the same thing over and over again - "yes I've had mental health and substance abuse problems, but no I'm not going to stab you in your sleep or rob you" - was an exhausting madness.

I needed to move from the position where my work colleagues had no idea that I'd been a homeless drug addict when they hired me to work on the number one project for the biggest bank in Europe, to the position where my colleagues had seen me working very effectively in the office and been a valuable member of the team, yet they began to understand a little of the difficulties I'd faced in my personal life. I didn't want to have to hide my mental illness - bipolar disorder - and I didn't want to have to hide my problems of the past, which included homelessness and substance abuse.

Pretending to be Mr Boring Corporate Worker Bee was exhausting, and I already had been through enough, trying not to run out of money, trying to get off the streets and trying to get clean.

In June 2015 I was a homeless junkie, arranging interviews while sleeping in a park. I got an interview for a job, which I was nearly an hour late for because I fell back to sleep after the agent phoned me to wake me up, and then I had to get showered, changed and rush across London. In July 2015 I was living in a hostel in a 14-bed dormitory, trying to do my job, but I was still a junkie. In early September 2015 I started this blog. In late September 2015 I managed to get an apartment. By December 2015 I had 2,000 Twitter followers, so I decided to go fully public and write a blog post called "Cold Turkey" on Boxing Day, which was about my problems with substance abuse.

By accident or design, my blog has recorded every aspect of my illness: homelessness, depression, mania, self-harm, suicide attempts, hospitalisation, near-bankruptcy and destitution, eviction, relationship problems, family estrangement, poly-substance abuse and my attempts to get back on my feet, plus the relapses.

I've written down every single thing that you never wanted to know and that nobody would ever tell you because it'd be too likely to lead to prejudice, discrimination, reputational damage, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of face, bullying, victimisation, taunts, jeers, social isolation, marginalisation, undesirable labels, being laughed at behind your back, becoming unemployable... a pariah.

Perhaps you think I'm stupid.

I did this because there are lots of people who try and fail to deal with debilitating mental illness and dreadful addictions. People try the same old things, which have terrible results. We know that the things we often try are spectacularly useless, because so many people are suffering and so few are recovering. Particularly in the field of addiction, the things that people try are not successful at all. For people who have the triple-whammy of mental health problems, substance abuse problems and money problems, they're screwed - they're almost definitely going to wind up destitute and dead.

There's nothing particularly interesting in yet another story about somebody who went to Alcoholics Anonymous and found God, only to then be caught up in a never-ending cycle of recovery and relapse that eventually destroys their health and takes them to an early grave, along with a lot of time and effort wasted thanking the sky monster and a lot of lying and deception... telling people they're clean and sober when they're really not at all.

I did this because it's hard and it's risky, but at least it's different.

Once or twice I've suffered prejudice and discrimination because of this public document which tells the world about my very worst faults and failings, but mostly it's served its purpose, which is to save me the time and energy that's wasted answering the same stupid questions, humouring people when they offer the same lame "quick fixes" and suffering the prejudice and discrimination because people guess, and they guess wrong, unless they can see the truth for themselves.

It annoys me that I can be a good co-worker, boss, friend, tenant, borrower, boyfriend, citizen... whatever... but only until people know my labels: homeless, junkie, bankrupt, mental health issues. As soon as people think those labels are attached to me, they treat me like a thief or a murderer. As soon as people hear those labels in connection with me, they think I'm going to steal their money for drugs, leave HIV infected needles in their baby's cot and murder them in their sleep because "the voices told me to do it".

The labels I attach to myself - currently only bipolar - I do so freely of my own choosing, because it's convenient shorthand for me.

I'm toying with the idea of switching out "bipolar" for "drug addict" because I think it's more provocative. I think that most mental health problems elicit sympathy, except for substance abuse disorder, which is seen as a bad choice made with free will - addicts are to blame for their own predicament. So, what about somebody who doesn't take drugs calling themself "drug addict" then? If addicts choose drugs, how's about I choose the label, even though I don't take drugs?

I'm defaming myself to see what happens. I'm defaming myself because I want to push boundaries. I'm defaming myself because I want to shake up your idea of what a homeless, bankrupt, junkie person with mental health problems looks like. I'm defaming myself, because I'm pissed off with the shame, the stigma and the prejudice.

I've done the hard work. I've earned the right to be myself. Go ahead... judge me.

I've provided everything you could ever possibly want to judge me. Knock yourselves out.

 

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All Work and no Play Makes Nick a Dull Boy

7 min read

This is a story about relentless monotony...

Sleepy Nick

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

Dark Web

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

Night vision

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

Barricaded door

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

Tray of food

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

Bathroom barricade

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

Uppers and downers

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's not easy.

 

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Emotional Instability

6 min read

This is a story about borderline personality disorder (BPD)...

Bipolar diagnosis section

If you've ever wondered about being detained against your will in a mental hospital - on a locked psych ward - then this is how it all begins... a 'section'. Being 'sectioned' means you're being legally detained under a section of the Mental Health Act (1983). The police can section you for 24 hours under section 136 of the Mental Health Act. After an initial assessment you might be sectioned for 28 days, under section 2. If you're assessed again you might be sectioned for 6 months, which is section 3. As you can see above I was sectioned under section 2.

I've been diagnosed and treated by 13 different psychiatrists. I've spent 10 weeks under lock & key on psych wards and a total of 18 weeks as an inpatient, receiving treatment for my mental health problems.

All the psychiatrists agree: I have bipolar disorder.

One unqualified doctor has been so bold as to ignore the fact that they completely failed their psychiatric long case, and ignore the fact they're utterly incompetent when it comes to making a sound mental health diagnosis. This unqualified doctor apparently read a book about borderline personality disorder and then tried to diagnose me, despite their obvious shortcomings and prior failures in the area of mental health. That pissed me off. That idiot doctor ignored all the years of evidence and the unanimous opinion of 13 specialist highly experienced and fully qualified psychiatric doctors, because their ego is over-inflated, and frankly, they're a bit of an idiot arsehole.

So. I have bipolar disorder. That's beyond question - it's been confirmed and reconfirmed. I've had a second opinion. I've had a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth opinion.

I did not ask for a fourteenth opinion.

In fact, I made it expressly clear that I DID NOT WANT another opinion... especially one from an unqualified doctor who skim-read the first few pages of a book. Especially an opinion from somebody who I think lacks empathy and compassion for vulnerable people. People with mental health problems aren't safe around that unqualified doctor, who doesn't seem to have taken on board the fact that they failed their psychiatric long-case and are therefore unqualified to be practicing psychiatric medicine.

Furthermore, when we are thinking about a borderline personality disorder diagnosis we have to consider co-morbidity.

If a person is under a great deal of stress due to housing, job, finances, relationship and other external influences, it is not possible to diagnose borderline personality disorder, because of the co-morbid adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder is just a fancy way of saying "your life is hell right now". Naturally, it's not possible to unpick mental health problems from the stress and anxiety that anybody would be feeling when their life's in tatters.

Just as a little reminder... I'd been through a breakup with my girlfriend, had to leave my apartment in London, move to Manchester, start a new job, I broke up with another girlfriend, tried to kill myself, lost my job, lost my apartment in Manchester, moved to Wales to live with strangers, ran out of money, got another job, went to Warsaw, went back to London and ran out of money again. That is more than enough stress to give anybody adjustment disorder, making any new diagnosis impossible. There is too much co-morbidity.

Also, when alcohol and drug abuse are co-morbid, diagnosis is impossible. This does present a bit of a paradox, because alcohol and drug abuse are quite often present in cases of borderline personality disorder, but they are also very often present in bipolar disorder too. There's a specific diagnosis for that co-morbidity: dual-diagnosis.

I know a lot about dual diagnosis because I spent 4 weeks in hospital seeing the country's leading specialist almost every day, and I continued to speak to that specialist regularly for a long time after I was discharged from hospital. While substance abuse was a problem in my life, my diagnosis was quite clear: dual-diagnosis (bipolar disorder & substance abuse disorder).

Finally, we must consider loss of status.

There are excellent data showing that loss of social status causes emotional instability. If you think about it, it's pretty obvious. Imagine that you lost your wife, your kids, your job, your house, your car, all your money, the respect of your friends & family... do you think your self-esteem would be intact? Do you think you'd be fine with that and you'd be carrying on with your life like normal? Of course you'd be emotionally unstable - it's a normal human reaction to that devastating loss of social status. You can't just say "it's just stuff" because it's not - it's intrinsic to your identity and your sense of wellbeing.

It's not possible to diagnose borderline personality disorder - also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) - when there are concrete and undeniable external factors that would contribute to a person's loss of self-esteem, social status and consequently make them emotionally unstable. It's simply not an appropriate diagnosis for somebody whose whole life has collapsed and is in ruins.

The arrogance of Dr Death to attempt to give an unwanted and unqualified fourteenth opinion, ignoring the unanimous verdict of thirteen highly qualified and experienced specialist doctors, is highly offensive and antagonising. This opinion was aggressively thrust upon me when I made my wishes crystal clear: "do not diagnose me, Dr Death, because your opinion is worthless unqualified irritating tosh that will only upset and anger me". The fact that Dr Death proceeded to do what the f**k they wanted anyway only serves to further prove how arrogant and lacking in any compassion they are... this is a person who's not even my doctor.

So, please don't play pretend-psychiatrist and give me your amateur diagnosis... I've spent 10 years in and out of the mental health system, and I've done extensive research of my own. Shove your crackpot theories about me up your ass.

I dearly wanted to get to the point where I've been symptom-free and medication-free for long enough to declare I'm 'cured' but for now I reluctantly accept the opinion of 13 very experienced and qualified specialist psychiatrists, who are experts in their field and highly respected. I accept their opinion - that I have bipolar disorder - and I reject f**king idiots who skim-read a few pages of a book and hardly know me. F**k off Dr Death.

I was disappointed to learn that I probably have type 1 bipolar disorder, not the milder type 2 that I thought I had, but I've had 6 months without medication and without an episode, so I seem to be managing the illness very well, especially considering the fact that I've moved 4 times, been in hospital twice, attempted suicide once, had 3 jobs, been through 3 countries, bought a car, narrowly escaped bankruptcy three times and finally managed to rent a new apartment and have a healthy happy relationship with a lovely girl. I mean... sheesh... that level of stress would send anybody insane, wouldn't it?

So...

I have bipolar disorder. That's it.

 

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April Fools Day

3 min read

This is a story about a prank...

Hostel laptop

Surprise! It was all a joke! I'm not really mad. I was just pulling your leg. It was all a big April Fools Day prank. Ha ha ha.

Except it's not.

I've genuinely been very sick.

The fact that I'm in a strong position today is incredibly promising. Usually I start sorting my life out far too late each year, and then I get clobbered by autumn and winter. Usually Christmas and New Year wipes me out and leaves me absolutely screwed during January, February and March. Usually I need April and May to recover from the winter and get myself back on my feet. The seasons screw me over.

I was working over the festive period, which meant I had a job to go back to in the New Year. I've managed to finish one contract and start another one with no gap, which means no loss of earnings. I've got the seasons on my side - the days are getting longer and the weather's improving. All of this bodes well.

It might look like I can snap my fingers and get everything I want in an instant, but it's not easy. It's incredibly exhausting, repeatedly digging yourself out of a hole. It's incredibly stressful having to repeatedly rebuild your life. I've solved these problems a million times before - getting a job, earning money, getting a place to live, re-establishing myself somewhere new - but that makes it harder in a way... there's no novelty to it, it's just hard work.

At face value, it looks like I'm not sick - I'm working, moving house, doing practical things that require me to be very functional. It's hard though. I'm always a hair's breadth away from disaster.

I could almost convince people that my whole crazy off-piste escapade was made-up - that I invented it for literary purposes. It would blow the mind of my work colleagues to know the journey I've been on.

I don't want to pretend that nothing happened. I don't want to pretend like everything's always been A-OK. I don't want to pretend like I haven't got stuff in my past that was pretty insane. I want to stop running away from my past and pretending that it didn't happen. I don't want to pretend like all this is a joke.

It's 12:03pm, so it can't be a joke... it's gone past midday.

 

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Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV)

8 min read

This is a story about past performance as a guarantee of future performance...

Boy racer cars

In the space of a few photos - arranged chronologically in my album - we jump from my wedding, a Formula 1 racing circuit, skydiving and dawn breaking over London, photographed from Primrose Hill. These were the only things that seemed worthy of a photograph, sandwiched in-between my honeymoon and my separation from my wife. My niece was born in this period, but I keep my special photos in a different place from my everyday snaps - I photograph a lot of random things for my visual diary.

I was chatting to a friend and former colleague and he asked me if I'd "dealt with any of [my] demons?". I wonder what he meant. When we started working together I was nearly bankrupt, living in a hostel (i.e. homeless) addicted to drugs and having mental health problems. Yes, I suppose I've dealt with a few demons. I don't want to make excuses for past mistakes, or assume that everything's going to be plain sailing again in future, but that job we did together where I was working six and a bit days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, and trying to get myself clean and off the streets.... it was a challenge.

There was that time that I moved to a city I'd never visited before, moved into a flat I'd never set foot in before and started work on an incredibly ambitious project, with no team supporting me. I had a tiny hiccup - also known as a medical emergency that left me in a coma in intensive care - which caused me to lose two days at work, and that was the end of that, even though I'd delivered 85% of the project.

A guy rang me up, asked me if I could do a piece of work for him. I said it would take me 6 weeks. He asked if it could be done in 3 weeks. I said it could, but the end result would be rubbish. I've been working on that project for 12 weeks and the result is great... in fact, I finished 6 weeks ago and I've been killing time ever since, because there isn't anything left to do but the guy wants to retain my services. This guy STILL wants to retain my services. One very happy client. I'm not good at being bored though.

Wherever I've gone, I've delivered value; I've improved things; I've earned my money. Wherever I've gone, I've made stuff work, on time, exceeding expectations. Wherever I've gone, it's been of substantial net benefit to my client. However, the mileage has varied.

During that period when I didn't take many photographs, I spoke to my boss. He'd rung me up to congratulate me on a really important piece of work that I'd done, and tell me that I was getting a special commendation award and a hefty extra unexpected bonus in my pay packet. Ironically, I was just about to go into hospital for a month-long stay. I knew I was sick. It was bizarre to be having this conversation, knowing that I was in the middle of a crisis.

Some people are steady Eddies. Some people will be consistently mediocre. Some people will never disappoint you, because they inspire such abysmally low expectations. I've never really had much interest in steadily and slowly plodding my way towards low quality, late, over-budget and depressingly below-average outcomes for projects that ultimately end in failure. Fail fast.

We're very afraid of failure in the corporate world. Nobody fails, in fact, we just succeed in unplanned ways: "think about all the lessons we can learn from this project" we say, as we realise that it's a pile of stinking crap that's never going to fly. It's not really in my DNA to be part of that culture.

Failure is a huge part of who I am. Failure to get to work on time. Failure to get through an entire year without having a single sick day. Failure to be content to just take my wages and ignore problems; not try to improve things; not to try to make things into a success. I fail. I can get sick. I can drink too much coffee and start shooting my mouth off - become overconfident, arrogant and deluded due to lack of sleep and too many stimulants - and I can become depressed and unable to get out of bed. Sue me. I get shit done. There's my consistency: when there's a deadline, I consistently meet it. I consistently deliver on time and on budget. I'm highly INconsistent when it comes to when I'm going to turn up in the office, or even IF I'm going to turn up in the office for a few days.

With this do-what-the-fuck-I-want kind of attitude, I've had a string of successful projects and happy bosses and clients, but it occasionally causes resentment amongst the morning-lark steady-Eddies whose only virtuous attribute is that they're always there at their desks on time, despite the fact they're fucking useless at their jobs. In fact, this statement is unfair. An organisation needs a mix of steady Eddies and sprint'n'coasts. I don't really sprint and coast... it's more like work my bollocks off and burn out a little bit, but it gets stuff done.

It's difficult for me, because there will always be some bosses who will gleefully receive the fruits of the labour from those incredibly productive periods, and then think that it's 'normal' and sustainable. When it becomes expected to work at a super high level of intensity, there's no gratitude for the incredible cost of such a feat, and there's no allowance for the fact that for every up there must be a down - people have to be given time to recover after exerting themselves.

I really don't think that there's a 'slow and steady' way to achieve some things. Fast is the only way to go, and the faster the better. The sooner you see something that's real and tangible and working, the sooner you know whether it works the way you expected it to or not. There's no value at all in something that's only half-built. I'd rather have people say "I wish it did this AS WELL" rather than "I wish it worked". Even if people say "that's not what I expected" at least they've got something that they can use, or can serve as a prototype.

A lot of managers don't really know what they want when they're recruiting. They'll hire a lot of folks who are very good at playing buzzword bingo, answering interview questions and keeping a low profile in organisations so they can keep getting paid - but those aren't exactly great qualities for getting projects delivered.

The precarity of my situation should have pushed me towards meek compliance - perhaps I too should have learned to keep my mouth shut, cover my arse and spin jobs out so that they last as long as possible. Perhaps I too should have learned the fine art of looking busy and coping with the soul-destroying nature of pointless work and projects that are doomed to failure. Perhaps I need to stop caring so much. Not my circus, not my monkeys, right? Not my money, so I shouldn't care, right?

I feel terrible imposter syndrome, because I've had a turbulent few years. I feel terrible imposter syndrome because it wasn't very long ago that I had a pretty horrendously insurmountable heap of problems. I feel terrible imposter syndrome because my past performance is no guarantee of future performance, despite a 20+ year career where my achievements completely eclipse and nullify any of the very few hiccups, none of which has meant that there hasn't still been a successful project outcome.

I don't know how to characterise myself. In the corporate world, nobody talks about any difficulties they've faced - everything is given a positive spin. In the corporate world, gaps in your CV and things like that are severely career-hampering blemishes; black marks. I think it's a huge strength, that I've made positive contributions to important projects, despite having to deal with some incredibly difficult things in my personal life at the same time. If the corporate world could wrap its tiny mind around it, I'd love to give the background context to my employment history.

Thus, mileage can vary. If you hire somebody who's never had a problem in their life, assuming that their spotless record is going to remain so forever, you might be disappointed if they ever face any difficulties, because they're probably not the kind of person who's ever had to deal with challenging circumstances. You might hire somebody because they've never had a mental health problem, but anybody can get depressed. A person who's experiencing problems for the first time in their life is going to be less able to cope and communicate and manage effectively, than the person who's been functioning with those kind of problems in their life for years and years. Every set of circumstances is different. Every set of pressures is different. Every time is different.

I just keep rolling the dice. As long as I'm allowed to keep rolling the dice, I'm winning more than I'm losing.

 

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Stubbornly Refusing to be Cured

12 min read

This is a story about being bloody minded...

Hospital wristband

I've been subjected to the most bizarre accusation: That I can "get better" anytime I want; that I enjoy being depressed or somehow need to have a mental illness because it's part of my identity; that I want to be unwell. Part of the accusation hinges on my Twitter following - I'm accused of being two-faced: Writing blog posts and tweets which don't somehow manage to convey that sometimes I'm not suicidal.

I'm a bit confused to be honest. I don't think I could be any more authentic. I don't think it would be possible for me to be any more candid and open. My blog isn't supposed to be a diary, accurately recording the day's events. My blog is therapy for me - I write about the things that are upsetting me the most; the things that are causing the most pain and anguish.

Perhaps I'm being given credit where no credit is due. Perhaps I'm perceived as intelligent enough to be able to rationalise away my problems and force my moods to bend to my will. Perhaps the decisions I've taken out of desperation have been mistaken for choices. Perhaps my determination to stick with a plan which will boost my finances and continue to give me a lucrative career, is seen as deliberate self-sabotage: I'm purposefully making myself sick, in the eyes of my accuser.

I can see the positives and the negatives of different "choices" without assistance from somebody else to help me 'see'. I'm not so cognitively impaired that I need somebody to point out the bleedin' obvious to me. For everything that I moan about because it's making me ill, there are many benefits which make my choices worthwhile. My work, travel and living arrangements are not conducive to good mental health, but neither is poverty and hinderances that would make me less employable. The playing field is not level. I do not get to make unbiased choices - I've got to do what I've got to do, even if it's unpleasant.

I'm accused of being the problem. It's not the job, it's me. It's not the commute, it's me. It's not the lonely AirBnBs, it's me. Apparently, everything's all my own fault and I can choose to be healthy and happy any time I want, according to my accuser. Personally, I think that life's a lot easier when you've got money behind you and you've got a stable home life. Personally, I think that we are healthier and happier when we get the pieces of the puzzle in place: friends, family, a home, an income, financial security and something we're passionate about. Let's leave aside the blame game of how I ended up in the present situation. We can even assume that everything's all my fault if you want to, but that doesn't change the fact of the matter: I am where I am and I need to get back on my feet. Blame doesn't change my needs. Blame doesn't change my situation or my mood. To accuse me of fucking up my life AND deliberately keeping it fucked up is dumb. One of the big reasons why I'm suicidal is because I've tried so hard to fix the things that are broken, but it's been a miserable exhausting experience and my life's still pretty messed up. I really am trying very hard to get things sorted out. It's a lot easier said than done, I'm afraid. Sorry about that.

I think there's a lot of ego involved. People want to be helpful, but then they start thinking like they've understood me and I can be 'cured' with simple solutions. When the simple solutions to an oversimplification of my problems don't work, then the 'helpful' people get annoyed with me... like I'm deliberately messing up their useless suggestions. I seem to have really frustrated my accuser, that I'm so determined to be a real living person, with a real life, instead of some simple little thing that can easily be fixed. "Oh I'm so silly! How brilliant of you to point out the completely obvious solution to an easy-to-solve problem that I don't have! Thank you!" I'm expected to say all the time, on top of dealing with real life.

There aren't any quick fixes. Things take time and effort to get better, and it's exhausting. Things have to be done in the right sequence. Sometimes, it costs a lot of money to make changes. Sometimes we have to wait for the things we want and need, because we can't get them immediately. I can't - for example - switch jobs until I have a financial cushion to give me some runway to make the change. Every change I make brings with it a whole new set of problems, so I need to deal with things in a step-by-step way. There's a plan, even if somebody thinks that I can just teleport straight to the end goal. Sadly, life doesn't work like that - we have to suffer in the short and medium term, to achieve our long term objectives. You have to pay to play.

I'm not short of ideas for what to do when I have surplus time and money. I'm not short of ideas of what I'd do if I could do anything, because money's no object, but it's bullshit to suggest I'm able to just abandon my current source of income and go off and do something else. I can't be a student again. I can't be a poet or a dog walker or a sculptor or a circus clown. Life doesn't work like that. Even if I took a shitty McJob, I would still need to afford to travel to work every day for a month or so until I get paid. How do you think capitalist society even works? I'm making smart economic choices which are painful at the moment, but will give me the financial means to pursue something more rewarding and better for my health. I'm giving myself the working capital to be able to pick and choose my next options.

I might have spent some of today playing like a big kid and enjoying myself, but that doesn't mean that my mood can't be plunged dangerously low when reality bites: Monday morning will come around, along with the realisation that almost nothing in my life is quite where I want and need it to be. There's so much unpleasant hard work ahead, and so little reward in the short term, that it's quite understandable that I'd get worn down and decide to reject life altogether. What looks like a few short months of hard work to you, is somewhat of an insurmountable obstacle for me, because of the journey I've been on. I've fought my way back from nothing, and I'm still fighting, but yet it feels like I'm getting nowhere. Where's the reward for my effort? Why is life still so miserable, most of the time?

In the company of my friends, or going on a date with a girl - for example - life can briefly seem wonderful, but the bulk of my existence feels like packing and unpacking bags, moving from place to place, sitting at a desk and hating every second... unsettled and unpleasant. The dread of the rat race - the treadmill - is enough to cast a dark shadow over other times. When I should be enjoying the last few hours of my weekend, I'm already depressed about another week shackled to the job I do out of economic necessity. I make a fuss, but it's not over nothing and it's not me. I'd pick up dog shit if it paid as well as my current job... at least it would feel like I was making a real tangible difference to my local community, if I was doing something like that.

There are a whole raft of issues at play, including my desire to be free from medications. It might seem obvious that my depression could be 'cured' with pills, but it wouldn't be a cure - my depression is a reaction to my toxic circumstances. I don't want to become medication dependent, when I've worked so hard to wean myself off so many different pills. I'm quite close to being 100% substance free.

I want to plan a holiday. I want to buy a car. I want to dream, but dreams require money. The dreaming part is the easy bit. Life's a lot more complicated than it seems for a casual observer. It's easy to come up with a million "you should do..." ideas, but they're infeasible if you don't have the time, money, company, energy, motivation and a million other things that are the product of getting some building blocks in place: a home, a girlfriend, some friends, a tolerable job, some money in the bank, disposable income etc. etc.

There are myriad broken things in my life, and no quick fixes. If I haven't fixed something yet, it's not because I want it to be broken. I'm not choosing to be depressed. I don't want to be sick. I'm perfectly capable of imagining a life that would be healthier and happier, but it takes time, money and energy to make it happen.

Moaning on my blog is what I do for therapy. Moaning on my blog is what I do, because it's cheap and it helps me to limp along while I'm getting the cash together to be able to do whatever I want to do next. Moaning on my blog is not my identity - it's my outlet because there isn't any other healthy way to cope. I'm trapped by circumstances and there's no escape, except through the path I've "chosen". I do not choose to be depressed, miserable and suicidal.

I don't know why I'm accused of being the architect of my own depression, when I'm working so hard to fix my life. The accusations don't even make any sense - they just seem to be an egotistical version of "have you tried being more simple so that I can solve the problems that you don't have?" and "have you tried being me instead of you, because I think I'm great?".

I've exhaustively documented the challenges that I'm facing. It upsets me that somebody would want to oversimplify things, just because of their own ego and a desire that I should blame myself and generally feel like I'm lazy and stupid, despite the fact that I HAVE TO LIVE 24 HOURS A DAY WITH SUICIDAL DEPRESSION and I'm the one who does all the actual hard work fixing my life. Pointing out the blatantly obvious is not a hard thing to do. Leaping to incorrect conclusions is not a hard thing to do.

There is a prerequisite condition for having an opinion on "what's wrong with me" which is to have read what I've written. If you want to know what's wrong with me, I've exhaustively documented everything I'm going through right here. If you want to tell me what I should and shouldn't do with my life, it needs to take into account the reality of my day-to-day existence, which I have accurately explained the most challenging parts of on this blog. If you want to give me "you should..." type instructions, then they need to be grounded in reality or else I'm just going to ignore them. Please don't get upset when I ignore your unhelpful suggestions. Please don't accuse me of wanting to be miserable and depressed.

I've written more than I intended to. I'm wondering why I'm writing. What's the point? But, that's what this blog is. It's not an attempt to manipulate sympathy out of my audience. This is a living document that records my distress in unflinching detail. This is where I pour out all the stuff that's really upsetting me. Here's where I work things out that are going round and round in my head. This is therapy for me.

One other accusation that I've faced is that my blog is making me sick - my blog is causing me to get stuck, ruminating on things that I'd otherwise let go. I think that's bullshit. My blog is where I've been able to finally let go of things that have been upsetting me. It's taken a long time, and I've repeated myself A LOT but that doesn't mean it's not working. If you take a lazy glance, you might think that I always write about the same stuff and that I'm therefore stuck in a rut, but if you look at the full story, you must surely see that I've been through some pretty traumatic stuff and this blog has helped me to cope. Writing is my healthy coping mechanism. People don't often pull through the things I've been through, and go back to being healthy happy productive members of society. I give credit to this blog for allowing me to deal with things that would otherwise have caused me to lose my mind.

I could probably edit this down, or just delete it and rewrite it, but I'm going to publish it because I want the public scrutiny. I want to document what I'm going through. I want to capture a piece of my consciousness, without censorship.

Yes, I'm lashing out, but I don't deserve to be accused of not helping myself, when I'm working so hard.

 

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