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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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So Hungry

10 min read

This is a story about rushing...

Pub grub

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don't feel particularly good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Rehabilitation

12 min read

This is a story about civilised society...

Lots of pills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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1,243 Words Per Day for 37 Days

9 min read

This is a story about life goals...

Dusty keyboard

I seem to have a lot of competing priorities at the moment. The only thing I've got much control over is the day when I reach a million words on this website, which I would like to be on September 6th, precisely 3 years after my very first blog post. In order to achieve that objective I need to write 1,243 words every single day for the next 37 consecutive days. It sounds achievable considering I managed to write an average of 1,667 words per day during the month of November, for 2 years running. My daily average word count over the 1,058 days that I've been writing works out at just over 900 words, so I need to increase my output by 38%.

My other objectives are to pay off all my debts, rebuild my non-existent social life and get healthier.

In theory I can clear my important debts in 3 months, and I can clear some other less important ones in another 3 or 4 months, which frees me from the substantial burden of paying a huge amount of interest every month. Those don't sound like long timescales at all, but 3 months of sanity and stability in my life is a very rare thing, let alone 6 or 7 months.

My sums exclude the lost income from any holidays I take or time off sick. My sums assume that I'm working flat-out as hard as I can every day for months and months on end. It's been over 2 years since I had a proper holiday so it seems reasonable to assume that I'm going to burn out really soon.

A social life and my health don't really figure in the equation. In order to earn money I'm working in a city where I'm only staying temporarily. There doesn't seem to be much point in investing heavily in building a social network near my workplace, because I have no plans to stay here any longer than I have to. I'm just here for the cash. I have no idea how to pay any consideration to my health when my objectives are so diametrically opposed to my wellbeing. If I was able to prioritise my health I'd be working part-time or not working at all. Everything about my life is completely toxic for my mental and physical health.

I have a short-term objective of being sober for a few days. Today is day 4. It's hard but I'm sure my liver will be glad to have a break from the non-stop alcohol abuse. Ideally, I'd substantially reduce my drinking for the rest of my life, but I don't see how I'm going to be able to do that when I've got 6 or 7 months horrible miserable slog stretching out ahead of me, and I can't take a holiday or sort out my social life because of the insanely toxic work and money demands which are placed on me.

I don't know how I got into this situation where the numbers look favourable but the reality of my daily existence is such unbearable misery.

A seemingly small bad thing happened at work today, but it's totally destroyed my hope and optimism. It's shocked me how quickly suicidal thoughts flooded back into my head, having had a period of respite which has lasted quite a while. Every way I look at my life, I can only see stress and intolerable living conditions; unsustainable demands. I can't see any way to fix things.

Somehow, my costs have spiralled and my income has fallen slightly. Somehow, I've ended up in a position where I'm potentially going to be forced back into spending the majority of my time away from home, in a place where I really don't want to be, doing a job which appears to be too boring to distract me from my woes. Somehow, the path to my goal which had appeared easy and well understood, now appears to be impossible; unachievable.

Of course, if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I'm making progress. All progress is good progress. Every little step takes me a little bit closer to my goal, but I'm acutely aware of how long it's going to take me to reach the end.

Perhaps I have summit fever. I can see what I think is the peak of the mountain and I've become obsessed about reaching the summit. Psychologically, it's a terrible idea to fixate on the summit too much. The important thing is to just keep steadily moving up the mountain at a sustainable pace, and try not to think about getting to the top. The psychology of how to suffer and endure the hardships of climbing a difficult mountain are reasonable to apply to my situation, but I'm not fighting a war of attrition... I'm trying to get rich quick.

Frustratingly, I know that I was happier when I dropped out of mainstream society and I was a homeless bum. I know that I'd be much happier if I declare that the demands placed upon me are too excessive and unreasonable, and I only accept my fair share of responsibility. I'm being a bit of a martyr. I'm being stubborn and trying to prove a point.

I presume that suddenly stopping drinking, after spending the best part of a couple of months drinking excessively every single day, is probably going to be a shock to the system. My brain surely doesn't know what's hit it, having been pickled in alcohol and now suddenly left high and dry. My days have been structured around getting drunk. Every evening after work. Every weekend after a certain time of day that seems resonable and respectable to start getting drunk. Getting drunk has been the highlight of my day for far too long. What's the highlight of my day now? Nothing.

I'm sure that given enough time I could re-adjust but the show must go on. I've got to do all the things that I can't stop doing, as well as making the other changes. I still need to get up and go to work every day. I still need to write every day. I still need to commute, pack my bags, wash my clothes, iron my shirts, do my book-keeping and make sure that the cash flows as it's supposed to. I'm spinning lots plates, even though my life is drastically simplified and paired down in an attempt to make it manageable. I don't exactly feel overburdened by competing demands... the problem is more that I'm powerless to influence almost everything in my life, except for the number of words which I can write each day on this website.

The one goal that achieves absolutely nothing - there's no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow - is the only one which I'm able to steadily work at in a sustainable way, and I feel confident that I'll reach the finishing line. All the other goals, even though they have obvious benefits, look to be impossible. How am I ever going to get my health sorted out when I'm so depressed, miserable and anxious? How am I ever going to keep working for as long as I need to, in order to repay my crushing debts, when my working day is so unbearably awful? How am I going to reduce my alcohol intake to a much more sensible and moderate level, when I am in such desperate need of something to ease my daily suffering; something to look forward to at the end of the working day and the end of each working week?

Even my blog, which at times I feel quite proud of, is getting ruined. I know that people don't want to read the same moaning and complaining repetitive rant about how I'm bored at work, my life is unsustainable and all I'm doing is churning out a million miserable words. I can see from my analytics that my readers are disengaging. What the hell am I writing about? What the hell am I doing?

It seemed to make sense to me, that I could live in a hotel next door to a pub, and I could get drunk every evening after work, then I'd get drunk all weekend, and the time would pass... soon the debts would be repaid and I could start to think - for the first time in 3 years - about what I want to do with my life which would be compatible with my mental health; my needs. I've been driven by necessity for so long. I do what I have to in order to survive, but after a long while surviving I'd rather be dead if I'm never going to be thriving.

How long has it been since I felt happiness and contentment? How long has it been since I dared to dream?

I'm not sure if this is coming across, but I'm trying to moan and complain my way to the finish line. Like people who grunt and groan as if vocalising their pain and the strain of their exercions somehow makes the task easier, I'm doing the same thing: I'm trying to make the time pass more quickly by whinging and whining.

Of course, I bore myself almost as much as I bore you. I cringe with embarrassment at what I've become, and the complete crap I'm churning out, but I just need to reach my arbitrary goal so I can at least say that I did one really hard thing, because it was within my power to influence the outcome, unlike the rest of my life which simply has to be endured.

Patience, patience. Perhaps all I need is patience.

 

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Word Count

10 min read

This is a story about carelessness...

Grazed knuckles

I'm a regular at my local corner shop. During the month when I wasn't working, I think I visited the shop every single day to buy a bottle of red wine. The weekend before last I was buying some unhealthy snacks and my usual bottle of red, when I decided at the last minute to grab a bottle of white from the fridge, which was near the counter. My usual bottle of red was balanced precariously on top of the snacks I was buying, which then plummeted towards the shop floor where mercifully it bounced off the linoleum; the glass didn't break. Last Friday I grabbed both a bottle of white and a bottle of red. As I walked up the steep hill back to my apartment, I wasn't paying attention to my footing and I tripped over. I grazed my knuckles as I attempted to save my precious cargo of wine from being smashed on the tarmac.

I've definitely become a functional alcoholic.

I woke up on Saturday morning and I had a slight tremor. I don't get hangovers because I think my alcohol tolerance is so high. I can drink two bottles of wine and I feel fine. Obviously I'm not fine.

I've started to skip meals because I'm getting enough calories from all the wine. I could drink 5 bottles of wine over the course of a weekend, and the only 'food' that I would eat would be some salty snacks - crisps and suchlike.

I examine my eyes for any sign of yellowing. I prod and probe my abdomen for tenderness, firmness or any subcutaneous fluid. Surely my liver is taking a battering from a month and a half of extreme alcohol abuse?

Over the weekends I show no restraint at all. I'm making no attempt whatsoever to be the slightest bit healthy. The crap I'm putting into my body - unhealthy snacks and copious quantities of alcohol - combined with my sedentary lifestyle must be lethal. I'm either sat down or lying down. According to my step counter I've dropped from a peak of 15,000 steps per day to a paltry 2,000.

I need to figure out which broken part of the vicious cycle to fix. Stress leads to feelings of tiredness; depression leads to demotivation; anxiety paralyses me - I could start with fixing my mental health. Self-medicating with vast quantities of alcohol seems like the solution to anxiety, stress, boredom, loneliness and isolation, but it's pretty clear that alcohol is affecting my physical health and probably my mental health too. Exercise seems like a ridiculous suggestion, given how badly I'm coping with the basic demands of everyday life. I can't figure out if I'm too tired and stressed to exercise, or if exercise will bring a net benefit once I get fitter - which I know it will - but it seems unthinkable to get fitter when I'm so dependent on alcohol as a crutch.

I'm changing far too many things at once. I've only just started my 3rd week in a new job and I'm still finding my feet in the new organisation and ingratiating myself with my new colleagues. My memory is shot to pieces. I can't even remember how long I was taking sleeping pills for before I ran out. I had some leftover painkillers, which helped to reduce my anxiety enough to be able to sleep, but then I switched back to sleeping pills last week. All I know is that the second half of May was a big mess, June was a near-disaster and I only started getting myself sorted out a week before starting the new job in the middle of July.

The surprising thing is that I keep moving forward. I didn't lose my job despite a few really shaky weeks when I was really sick. I've managed to start this job and things are going OK. Well, when I say that "things are going OK" of course I don't include my mental health, mood stability, brain chemistry or any of those other things which I pretend are OK during office hours. It's a miracle that I've been able to cover up a major relapse, alcohol abuse, abuse of prescription medications and of course my rather worrisome mental health problems.

How long did my writing go erratic for? I know that I had to delete a lot of blog posts in the period between my relapse and the day I finally regained enough of my rational mind to see that I was picking fights which couldn't be won and saying things which shouldn't be said. I don't usually delete blog posts, but I'd lost my mind and I was meandering up dead-ends; I was unhealthily obsessing over things and acting carelessly.

My carelessness has manifested itself at weekends recently. I get super drunk and I write with a lack of care for coherence and storytelling. I've written at weekends in the knowledge that I have fewer readers on Saturdays and Sundays, which has made me feel like I can just ramble, complain, moan and write complete and utter crap. I've considered deleting or rewriting my daily blog posts which I've published at weekends, because I've wondered what the hell am I going on about? I've written and written and when the word count goes over 1,000 words then I decide that I'd better not write any more, but I haven't considered whether what I've written is any good.

Of couse, the end is in sight. I'm so close to a million words now. In fact, if we included the word count of all the deleted blog posts, then I'm well over a million words. The current total word count that's actually published on the public internet on this website is now in excess of 950,000. I'm repeating myself, but only because it's important in the context of my alcoholism. The last few months have been a blur. In my mind, the relapse, the breakup and the period of insanity that followed was over in the blink of an eye. In reality, I've been an intoxicated mess; I've either been doped up on pills or drunk.

Sometimes I hear myself speak and my voice buzzes in my ears and the sound vibrates my head. It feels like somebody else is speaking and they're using a megaphone directed at my head, which is so loud that the sound hurts and I can feel the vibrations. It's a dreamlike state. It's akin to an out-of-body experience. I feel like this when I think I'm completely sober but I think it's actually due to the fact that there isn't much blood in my alcohol-stream. God knows what other crap is still circulating in my body. I've abused a mixture of diazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam, pregabalin and zopiclone during the last couple of months, as I attempted to wrestle back control of my life before my supercrack addiction destroys everything I've worked so hard to rebuild.

Yes, that's right. The dreaded supercrack was back. I had relapsed.

To put things in context, I've worked a full-time job for 9 months out of the last 12. I've moved house 4 times. I've been hospitalised twice. I've been sectioned. I spent the best part of a month locked up on a psych ward. The main headline that most people would pay attention to is that I've earned a lot of money and done a lot of work. To all intents and purposes I've been a thoroughly productive worker and a valued member of the teams and projects I've been part of. This does not reconcile.

In my head, I'm brushing off serious problems with mental health, addiction and alcoholism like they're nothing. In my head, I'm as invincible as I ever was. In my head, I'm immortal and the evidence very much backs up that ludicrous idea.

I really don't want to have a reality check one day, where I find out that I've done irreparable damage to my physical health. I really don't want to keep testing my mortality to breaking point.

Yes, the numbers look incredibly good. Despite the insanity of my life during the last 12 months, I still managed to work 9 months out of 12 and my gross income has probably been well in excess of 3 times the national average. Somehow, I've managed to write more-or-less every day and churn out over 300,000 words since this time last year. How the hell did I manage to earn so much and how did I manage to write so much? How do the numbers look so good when my life has been a complete shambolic mess?

The numbers don't tell the complete story.

Yes, without good numbers my story wouldn't be very interesting. The world's full of junkies who went bankrupt. The world's full of alcoholics who drank all their profits. The world's full of people who have fascinating stories but they never write them down. I'm gunning for the convergence point where one million words meets one million pounds. I'm aiming to be an outlier: the guy who beat drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, homelessness and - most importantly - bankruptcy. I've got the archives; I've collected the data. Plenty of people lost their house, their car, their wife, their cash and everything else, but how did they get it back? The game; the sport, if you like, is to have kept this narrative going through a 3-year period which accurately captures the false starts, the setbacks and the struggles... and at no point did I wipe the slate clean; at no point did I run away; at no point did I switch to a different tack.

Why would I change my approach? The numbers look good.

I'm going to reach a million words on my blog because I'm in control of my destiny and I can work as hard as I want; I can write as much as I want. I can choose when my project is complete, because I know the word count I need to achieve every day to make sure I hit the target.

Whether or not I clear all my debts and reach a thoroughly impressive gross income for the 3-year period covered by my blog, I'm not so sure. There's no way that hard work will bring the finish line any closer - it's simply a waiting game. All I have to do is sit and look pretty and the money flows in. I just need to be patient. It's an agonising wait, but it's profitable.

Being drunk all the time seemed like a solution to the waiting game; to make the time pass quicker. However, I need to be clean and sober when I reach the finish line otherwise it was all a waste of time.

I'm going to see if I can resist the temptation to get drunk. I'm going to sober up for a few days, to try to clear my head and get some perspective. I've been intoxicated for far too long.

 

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An Austere Life

5 min read

This is a story about simplicity...

Glass roof

"Work sets you free" according to the tyrants; the capitalists; the elites who never have to lift a finger; those who earn their money without labouring themselves. Our lives are controlled by those who were born destined for greatness: privately educated, public schoolboys, trust fund recipients and the sons & daughters of political, industrial and commercial dynastic families. Somebody who'll never work a day in their life has decided that work is good for you, so you'll have to work until the day you die.

My life is pretty basic at the moment. On a Monday morning I drive for 90 minutes to get to the office, I spend 3 nights in a hotel, eating my dinner in the pub next door, then I drive home on Thursday evenings and work from home on Fridays. Each evening I drink too much and try to keep my mind distracted with Netflix. Each morning it takes a huge effort to motivate myself to get up and go to my desk. Each weekend, I wonder if I'm going to be motivated to do something with my free time, but I never am: the boredom and the monotony and the prospect of months and years more misery seems to sap every bit of energy from me. I'm either at work, hating it, or I'm dreading having to go back.

Most people would seek social contact. Most people would quit jobs which caused them significant anguish. You'll find plenty of night owls who work in restaurants or bars, because they simply couldn't tolerate an office job. You'll find plenty of people who work outdoors because they couldn't tolerate being chained to a desk. You'll find plenty of people who create real and tangible things because they couldn't stand to be pushing paper for a so-called living.

It feels like I'm committing an act of self-harm by persevering with choices which are incompatible with my sense of wellbeing, contentment and happiness, but I've swallowed the propaganda that work will set me free. It seems - on paper at least - as though I only have to suffer in the short-term and I will then reap the long-term rewards.

I could pay off all my important debts today, but then I wouldn't have the working capital to be able to get to work, pay for accommodation & food, pay my bills. I could liberate myself from the tyranny of capitalism, but the alternative is homelessness and destitution. The road out of civilised society is a one-way street. Everything in mainstream society is set up to deny access to anybody who's taken an alternative path: with a bad credit score, no fixed abode, bankruptcy and other 'black marks' against your name, you'll never be able to rent a place to live or get a good job; you'll be trapped into poverty forever.

I'm trying as much as I can to shut off my brain, getting through the next few months in an intoxicated state as much as possible. I try to be drunk or unconscious whenever I can, desperately trying to make the time go quicker.

I'm repeating a life I've lived a thousand times before. I'm doing things I can do in my sleep; muscle memory. There's nothing novel, new or interesting in my life.

I was homeless again from September last year through to March. I rented another apartment, which briefly made me happy, but it's something I've done so many times before: moving house, renting or buying a place to live. Shelter is a basic human need.

I wasn't working from September through to November last year. I got another job, which briefly made me feel relieved to have an income again, but I've had so many jobs before. There's nothing new, novel or interesting about doing the same kind of job that I've done for 21+ years full-time.

I expect I could re-do any of the many things that I've done thousands of times before in my life, and cumulatively all those things will add up to a complete and functional life, but I'm pretty exhausted by the destructive cycle of losing jobs, losing my home, losing my friends, losing money and being on the brink of exclusion from society the whole time; living on the margins. It's exhausting, constantly having the threat of a 'black mark' against your name, which will ruin your chance of ever re-entering civilised society.

Sometimes I feel happy about the progress I've been making, but other times I feel depressed about the time & effort still required to reach the point where I feel free. All I'm trying to do is get back to zero; to get square; to make things even.

I'm attempting to travel the shortest distance between where I am and where I want to be. I'm attempting to travel via the fastest route possible. In my desperation to reach my goal as quickly as possible, I'm jettisoning almost everything which seems superfluous. My life is basically unliveable; intolerable... but I keep telling myself that it's just for another few months... another few months.

What will I do when I get my freedom? I don't dare to dream at the moment. There's too much suffering in the short-term to waste time dreaming about the future.

 

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Crumbs on the Keyboard

6 min read

This is a story about lunch breaks...

Pret a Manger sandwich

I'm struggling to get to work on time. I've suffered periods in the past which have felt like agonising torture, getting up early in the morning to go to the office, but I've also had periods where I managed to adjust my body clock to become more of a morning lark than a night owl. My body clock seems to be driven by my stomach.

I never used to eat breakfast - there simply wasn't enough time, because I was always late for work. However, I've found that breakfast is the best way to tell my body what time it needs to adjust itself to, so I can cope with "normal" office hours. Unfortunately, the breakfast trick hasn't been working for the last couple of weeks.

I spent a whole month drinking wine every night until 1am or 2am, and not getting out of bed until midday, so I guess it should be expected that my body and brain would complain loudly about the rude intrusion of the working day upon my pleasant slumbers.

I also had a very unsettled period where my delicate brain chemistry was sent haywire by a combination of drugs, insomnia, lack of food & drink, drug and sleep-deprivation induced mania, plus a breakup and some other madness, all of which completely destabilised me. I'm quite lucky that I managed to put the brakes on that particular period of instability and resume working without doing serious damage to myself, my finances, my home or my career... I've managed to pick up pretty much where I left off, minus the girlfriend of course.

I feel bad that I turn up late to work and I want to go home early. My working days are mostly excruciatingly boring - I don't have enough to do, to keep me busy and my mind occupied. There's no torture quite like having to get up early to go and sit at a desk, watching the clock until it's finally time to go home, bored out of my mind.

I'm trying to justify the fact that I'm not working as many hours as my colleagues, or being anywhere near as productive, because I'm new and also I only take a short lunch break. If there was work I could do, I would do it, but I always seem to tear through any tasks at breakneck pace and I'm left with nothing to do again. I need a really huge project to completely immerse myself in, but instead my paymasters are quite happy to have me sitting idle - they really don't seem to care that it's an enormous waste of my productive capacity. Of course, nobody knows just how awful it is for me to be bored too; just how terrible it is to feel alone with my thoughts for 7 or 8 hours a day, trapped at my desk with no distractions.

At home, I can read a book, write or watch TV/films. At home, I can distract myself from the constant noise of my brain. At home, I can easily waste time. At work, I'm simply getting paid to be present. At work, all there is to think about is how much I earn every day, every hour, every minute... every second even. Tick... that's 2 pence... tick... that's 2 pence... tick... that's 2 pence... tick... that's 2 pence... tick... another 2 pence...

Yes, if I saw a penny on the floor it wouldn't be worth my time to stop and pick it up. I would quite literally lose money if I watched the pennies. If my job was literally to pick up pennies that were covering every inch of the floor, and put them in my piggy bank, I would be earning less than I am now, assuming that I had to pick each one up individually. My job isn't to watch the pennies. My job is to sit at a desk doing nothing. It pays very handsomely to be bored doing nothing.

Things aren't as bad as they were back in February, when I didn't even have any colleagues to talk to. Things will get better as my colleagues start to get to know and trust me, and they ask me to do more and more stuff; bigger and bigger bits of work, hopefully. I want to be swamped with work, so that I don't have to sit at my desk bored with nothing to do.

My brain's a bit broken and I feel stressed and anxious; on edge. I'm acutely aware that I'm in a lot of discomfort during most of the working day, despite the fact that it seems quite enviable to be highly paid to sit around doing nothing. At the end of every month I submit an invoice, and each invoice makes a considerable dent in my debt. By all "normal" people's standards, I'm rocketing my way from poverty to wealth and the timescale seems like nothing... only a few more months and I'll be getting on top of things. There's got to be something wrong with me, because time is passing so painfully slowly.

That's all I've got to do: sit and do nothing, and everything gets sorted out in my life... at least financially.

I feel very anxious about the fact that I'm not being productive or working the expected number of hours in the office. I'm acutely aware that my colleagues might become resentful of the fact that they're at their desks for longer than I am. I go to bed and wake up with a horrible feeling of dread, knowing that I've got another working day tomorrow - and for months and months more - where I'll be bored, underworked and overpaid. It might sound like a nice problem to have, but I promise you that you'd have walked away already if you experienced what I'm going through.

What can I tell you? Maybe I'm a spoilt brat. I really don't think I am - I'm a mercenary who's figured out how to make a lot of money very quickly, but my task is not one that sits comfortably with my soul, although at least the work is not as immoral as it was when I was working for the investment banks.

I skip breakfast, eat my sandwich at my desk, and try to stay at the office for as long as I can possibly can, before the boredom becomes unbearable and I have to escape to somewhere where I can distract myself for a short while, until it's time to do it all over again, and again, and again... ad nauseam.

 

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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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Drop Out

6 min read

This is a story about life falling apart...

Pile of stuff

I've started to put my life back in good order, but I still have to get well enough to go back into the office sometime soon. I look like a tramp at the moment. A very tired tramp.

My bedroom carpet has been deep cleaned. The walls really need a wipe down and there's a bit of decorating touching-up to do. Considering I barricaded myself in there for days in very unsanitary conditions, it's not too bad. I need to buy a new bed, but I hated the old creaky one anyway. It's alright, but has a very ugly repair to one of the bars, which I decided I needed for my barricade, so I bent it in half until it broke.

As you can see, my temporary window coverings have been taken down. The low-tack masking tape I used hasn't left any marks or pulled off any paint. However, in the very worst case scenario, I could replace the underlay and carpet, replaster and repaint all the walls, and re-do all the caulking, which'd cost me about £1,000, plus the cost of replacing the bed. Frankly, if I stay for a couple of years and do a bit of touching up with roughly colour matched paint, nobody'll really notice - there's a huge patch where the paint is a whole shade darker, because I moved the wardrobe out of my bedroom and into my dressing room.

As for me, I'm exhausted. I had to get up and tidy my bedroom before the carpet cleaner arrived at 10am. I slept on the sofa. I probably didn't fall asleep until about 3am, even though I had sleeping pills and tranquillisers.

I have a mountain of towels and bedding to wash. The bathroom needs a good clean.

I need to re-stack up all that crap that's on my bed behind my second, superfluous, bedroom door. Perhaps I could get things a bit more organised while I'm at it, but I'm too tired.

During all this craziness, there's been a Royal wedding and apparently there's a big local music thing that all the locals are going on about, like it's not just some random concert. So many people have told me that "the place will be gridlock". London can put on a marathon all round the centre of a city of 10 million people. I think the Billy Ray Cyrus cover act playing "Achy Breaky Heart" headlining Wales' "Big Weekend" isn't going to cause too much of a problem for a city which is about 1-2% as big as London.

So, I've dropped out at the moment. I'm not going to the office. I'm not seeing anybody. I'm not leaving the house. I'm not leaving my apartment. Sometimes, I'm not even leaving the same room for days.

Problem is, in London you can pretty much shove your thumb up the Queen's arse and get away with a slapped wrist, but here it's a proper community and people stick together. You can't misbehave without getting in serious trouble. People gossip. Messages and emails get forwarded again and again and again. Faces get remembered. You bump into people you know.

If all else fails, try Wales, but I still need to be careful not to shit on my own doorstep cos what I got away with in London FOR YEARS just will not fly round here. I wanted a clean break, a fresh start, but I've already fallen out with a GP who was partially responsible for a young man's suicide, and a girlfriend who seemed to think the worst of me, despite evidence to the contrary. I've been accused of writing stuff on my blog about people and their families and generally sharing private stuff. Bullshit.

I need to act a bit differently now I live in this tiny city, so that I don't fall out with any more friends and break up with any more girlfriends, but you know EXACTLY who I am and EXACTLY what I think, without naming names or sharing private things... of my friends. If you're not my friend, you're fair game, except I'm not nasty and vindictive.

I'm feeling a bit sad that I've only got 2 non-work friends in the city, and that a great opportunity to socialise is currently a bit difficult because I don't want people from work seeing me when I'm looking so unhealthy.

I went on a site to find drinking buddies, and meetup.com. Jesus, that's depressing. My ex-girlfriend was always worried that I was "downdating" because the pool of available hotties in this tiny town is nothing like London, where Tinder brings an endless stream of stunning intelligent and cultured women.

If the work dries up here and I fail to find a social group I like, I think I could end up going back to London, now that I have the money to do it in style. Being able to drive to work is brilliant, but I'm so worried that I'm not going to find friends and a girlfriend who have similar values, goals and ambitions.

You know what I really miss? My cat and my girlfriend's cats.

It's amazing how quickly I went from viewing a yacht, drinking in the sun at a food festival, having a picnic in the sunshine, and finally getting a bit of a tan... to losing my girlfriend, risking my job, wrecking my bedroom, losing my mind.

I think I just want to drop out completely. I'll empty my bank accounts to pay back my guardian angel, and the taxman and the banks can go fuck themselves. I'll leave the country and go live and work somewhere you don't have some god-awful experience every time you just want to get a bit of money or a place to live, somewhere laid back. It's stressing me out too much, the pressure of staying in the rat race and keeping squeaky clean - one black mark and you're f**ked.

My ex-flatmate who owes me about £6,000 in unpaid rent and bills, also owes thousands to basically anybody who would give him any kind of credit agreement. The red bills - final demands - and debt collectors started appearing soon after I threw him out (I gave him SO MANY chances, but he kept lying and the debt kept getting bigger). Now, if his Instagram is to be believed, he's living the high life, so maybe there's a lot to be said for being a thoroughly disreputable and immoral piece of shit.

Personally, I've contributed the best part of a million quid to the economy, and I've worked my arse off to never default on a debt and always honour my commitments. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong. I need to just be a flakey drop-out. I think it'd be more fun. It'd certainly be a lot less stressful.

 

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Payday

5 min read

This is a story about triggers...

50 pound notes

Having money burning a hole in your pocket is thought to trigger relapses, but I think it's the period of poverty that precedes it that causes the problems. Flush with cash after such a long struggle trying to make ends meet and not go bankrupt, who wouldn't be flooded with relief and be significantly affected by such a rollercoaster ride? Our boom and bust, feast and famine world is highly destabilising to our mental health.

Back in September I found myself jobless, homeless and without enough cash to afford to rent a place to live and support myself for long enough to get to payday. Mercifully a friend managed to get me a job in Warsaw in the nick of time, and I was just barely able to afford to be able to live in AirBnBs until I got paid - I escaped bankruptcy with just £23 left in my bank account the day before my pay finally started to arrive.

Back in February I had to buy a car so that I could get to my new job, tax it and insure it. That nearly wiped me out.

Back in March I had to rent a place to live, and paying the first month's rent, deposit and letting agent fees again nearly wiped me out.

I've spent April praying that nothing goes wrong - that I don't lose my job and that my car doesn't break down. I couldn't afford any unexpected bills - I've been running on fumes, although it wasn't quite as bad as when I got down to my final £23.

My financial distress dates back to December 2016, when the Christmas and New Year period delayed me from getting back into work, and by the time January arrived I was very unwell - I spent 3 weeks in hospital on dialysis and promptly lost the job I'd just managed to get. Things got worse and worse, peaking in July when I had a very large tax bill to pay and I had to leave my apartment in London because I could no longer afford the rent. Out of desperation I took a job in Manchester, which turned out to be disastrous - I didn't know anybody in Manchester and my entire life was in the hands of a company which ended up treating me very badly indeed. I tried to commit suicide.

Working in Warsaw and London during December, January and February, meant I was incurring a lot of expenses, with flights, hotels, train travel, AirBnBs and the other costs of living out of a suitcase. I tried to live off pot noodles and other things that can be prepared without a kitchen, but economising can become impossible when you have to travel around from place to place - I had to re-buy all the things you generally keep in the kitchen cupboards, or carry food around with me without the contents of the open containers leaking and turning everything into a horrible mess.

Finally, I managed to rent an apartment but it didn't have a single saucepan, plate, glass, mug, utensil or cutlery item, let alone all the other myriad things which make a house a home, such as toilet brushes and a million other things you take for granted.

To go on the journey from having less than nothing, to re-entering civilised society and having enough money to keep the wolf from the door, has been extremely stressful and exhausting. I'm still in the process of setting up my standing orders and direct debits so that the council tax, TV license, gas, electric, water, sewerage, broadband and all the other various utilities can be paid regularly every month. I'm still in the process of re-stocking the cupboards with all the things that are needed for daily living.

Yes, my situation seems to be rapidly improving, but there's still so much work to do and I'm still a long way from being comfortable and having a financial cushion in case there are any unexpected problems - there are many more sleepless nights ahead.

I don't mean to moan, because I'm very lucky - things have gone my way and finally getting paid some of the money I'm owed today has a big positive impact on my life. I can loosen the purse strings a little, although I still have to be very careful.

There is of course an impulse to go mad now that I'm a bit more financially comfortable, but that's a reaction to the relief I'm feeling, after so many months of having the threat of bankruptcy, homelessness and destitution hanging over me. My main impulse is to draw the curtains and not get out of bed for a month, because I'm so exhausted and emotionally drained after such a horrible rollercoaster ride.

Because of the way I get paid, I'm not expecting another payday for another couple of months. If I can make it to the next payday it'll be a huge milestone and I'll very definitely be on the road to recovery, but I still have a very challenging time ahead of me.

I hope you don't think I'm moaning. It's always a good day when you get paid.

 

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