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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

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

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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What do Depressed People do All Day?

7 min read

This is a story about tiredness...

Corner blob

To the casual observer it might appear like I bunked off work today so I could write a blog post. In fact, writing takes up very little of my time now that I have developed the daily writing habit. I don't see writing as an alternative to work. I don't feel like writing takes any effort. I don't even care if nobody reads what I write, although obviously it helps me a lot to know that there are people who care about me.

It's remarkable how much I can sleep. I'm not at all short of sleep. I slept for 12 to 14 hours a day, at a minimum, throughout November. I slept for 8 hours a night through August, September, October and January. During the Christmas and New Year break, I slept for 14+ hours a night. Surely I can't be short of sleep.

Today, I dozed until nearly 3pm in the afternoon. My alarm was going off from 8am to 12:30pm, before I finally admitted defeat and decided that there was no way I was going to make it into the office today.

It's exhausting worrying about having to get up and go to work. It's exhausting worrying about the next time I'm going to have to pack my bags and travel across the country. It's exhausting being on a constant cycle of packing and unpacking, and washing and preparing everything for another week in yet another AirBnB that I've never visited before. It's exhausting preparing for yet another week in the same office, with no work colleagues to speak to or work to do - sitting there pretending to look busy so I can scrape together a bit of cash. It's exhausting that my needs are so out of alignment with the demands placed upon me. It's exhausting to be forced into a situation that's so toxic to my mental health and that destroys any sense of happiness and wellbeing.

I'm usually awake before my alarm. If I wake up early enough, I'll go to the toilet and try to get back to sleep, otherwise I'll lie there dreading the moment that my alarm will go off, which is always a lot sooner than I expect. Then, I try to rouse myself but I can't. Even though I would easily have sprung out of bed to use the toilet at 7am, I flatly refuse to get up at 8am. There seems something really wrong with getting up and then going back to bed, so I stay in bed, even if my bladder is really uncomfortably full.

After I pass the point where I would walk into the office ridiculously late, I then start to tell myself that I can walk in at lunchtime with a sandwich and sit down to eat my lunch at my desk as if I'd been there all day. This is my new strategy. It worked for 3 days, but today I couldn't even face half a day. As the clock ticked past 1pm, I realised that I would be late for lunch - by the time I sat down at my desk it would clearly no longer be lunchtime. I gave up on the idea of going into the office at all today.

What have I done all day? Surely I can't be asleep for 15 hours when I'm not tired. Well, there's a kind of emotional exhaustion that's created by this job where I've got nothing to do. I loathe going into the office and sitting all on my own with nobody to talk to. I hate it so much that I get tired just thinking about it. I'd rather lie in bed full of dread thinking about how awful things are, than be sat at my desk pretending to look busy. It's a sane response to an insane situation, to stay away from the source of such sheer misery.

You'd think I would be hungry, having skipped breakfast and lunch, but I'm not. You'd think I would be bored taking so much time off doing nothing at all, but I'm not. When the prospect of being in the office is so abominable to my mental health, I can easily lie in bed avoiding it.

"We'd all like to lie in bed doing nothing!" you might chide. Well, why don't you?

If you're thinking of all the ways that I could put my time to more productive use, then good for you, but I don't think like that. It's not like I'm visiting art galleries or going shopping when I'm bunking off work. It doesn't work like that. I can think of plenty of ways to fill my spare time, but this time is not spare, you see - this is time where I'm laid low; subdued by depression created by the intolerable conditions that I must endure.

"Why must you endure this?"

Well, it's still very lucrative to just work 2.5 out of 5 days a week. I'm still earning more money than I'd get as an artist or a poet. I'm still earning more money than I'd get volunteering to stroke puppy dogs at the local animal sanctuary. I'm clinging onto this job in the hope that my mood will lift and things will get easier, but even if things don't get any easier, I'm still managing to earn quite a lot of cash and inch my way closer to the end of the contract. No matter how unbearable it is, I don't want to give in. I want to push myself. I want to find out if I can push through this difficult period.

Sometimes I sit and I don't do anything at all. I don't read, listen to music or watch TV. I don't talk to anybody. I'm not really thinking. I'm not occupied by anything - I'm in a trancelike state, zoned out. I'm just sitting and waiting. I can wait. I'm really good at just patiently waiting. It's harder at work, because I get anxious that somebody's going to ask me what I've been doing with my time, and I can't really reply that I've just been sitting in a trance. I feel like I should be doing stuff, but there's nothing to do. The company are happy enough to pay me to keep a seat warm and do nothing, but it's pretty unbearable even if it's helping my bank balance a lot.

So, I guess I'm tired. I'm really irrationally, illogically, weirdly tired. I'm tired all the time, but I have no obvious reason to be tired. My job is not demanding in the conventional sense of the word. My life is not particularly physically demanding. I'm apparently not doing anything so I should have no reason to be tired, but I am tired. Sleeping is the main thing that I do. I live to sleep at the moment.

You'd think I'd get bored of sleeping and doing nothing, but I'd rather be sleeping and doing nothing at home, than doing nothing at my desk. It's a blessed relief to finally give myself permission to bunk off the whole day, even though I'm squandering the time in bed. It seems strange that I'm not doing anything with my time, when I'm complaining that I've got nothing to do at work, but that's the way it is - I feel shackled to my job, and it's emotionally draining, having nothing to do.

That's my life at the moment: Sleeping and dread.

 

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Cry for Help

5 min read

This is a story about compassion fatigue...

Man on the edge

I imagine that the boy who cried wolf was probably telling the truth every time he raised the alarm, but the villagers just wanted him to shut up - they wanted him to quietly deal with the wolf on his own and to leave them alone. I mean, what kind of monsters would leave a little boy to protect sheep from wolves? The moral of the story is "don't complain" and "fuck off and die".

I'm sick and tired of explaining that my depression and suicidal thoughts aren't going to be cured by yoga, kale smoothies, exercise, mindfulness, whale song recordings or other quack cures. I'm sick and tired of explaining that I've had enough of swallowing a heap of different pills to try to level out my moods - one to counteract another, and so on ad nauseam. I'm sick and tired of explaining that my job is making me unwell, but I can't quit because I need the money. I'm sick and tired of explaining that my living and travel arrangements are toxic to my mental health, destroying any sense of wellbeing. I'm sick and tired of hearing simple solutions to an oversimplified version of my complicated problems. I'm sick and tired, and I want to die, because that's the only easy solution.

I was pleased to reach the end of Jinxed January. I was pleased to start dating again. I was pleased that money has started to flow again. However, it's all too little too late - the demands which have been placed on me are too great. The things I've had to battle through and overcome have exhausted me, and I've got nothing left to give - I'm spent.

In the last year I lost two girlfriends, two apartments, two jobs. In the last year I spent 7 weeks in hospital. In the last year I quit stimulants, opiates, benzodiazepines, neuropathic painkillers, sleeping tablets and a host of other pills, powders and potions. I moved between several cities and slept in so many different beds that I can't possibly count them all. You'd think that all the hard work would pay off, but it hasn't. For all the agony and anxiety, there's no reward at the end of it. For all the stress and strain, it hasn't got me anywhere. For all the self-denial and good behaviour, there's been no benefit.

I emerged from work this evening and the sky wasn't completely dark. Longer days are coming. Better weather is on its way. However, sustaining myself until the first warm days of this year is going to be impossible - I'll never make it to mid-spring, because I'm fucked right now. "One day at a time" is the problem - the days are unbearable.

I thought my suicidal thoughts had subsided, but this evening I had the strongest urge to end my life that I've had in quite a long time. My suicidal thoughts had turned into hopes and plans for the future, but this evening those hopes seemed too far out of reach. I've done the maths and the figures just don't add up. There's no way that I can carry on. The money's not coming in fast enough to stop the rot. I can't keep myself afloat like this any longer.

I found some Bitcoins I'd forgotten about. They're sitting there ready to be spent on the dark web. I'm not going to relapse, because that would be slow suicide. If I'm going to kill myself, I'm going to do it quickly and suddenly, not in the drawn-out and degrading way that happens with drug addiction. If I'm going to kill myself, it's going to be with pride and dignity, knowing that I tried as hard as humanly possible to rescue myself, but it wasn't enough. If I'm going to commit suicide, I'm going to be clean, sober and sane.

Life's not worth the aggravation. Life's not worth the effort. The rewards just don't match up with the stress, exhaustion, loneliness, isolation, boredom, trauma, suffering, grief and inevitable death.

Why bother?

I've worked a million jobs and delivered a zillion projects. I've moved house so many times, built fortunes, created companies and invented products. I've travelled. I've lived and loved. I've taken everything to the extreme. I've had enough. I'm sick of this shit.

Don't try to persuade me to live and don't be sad when I'm gone. I've lived a thousand lifetimes. I just can't stand having to live one more, when it's just repeating the same old bullshit I've done a million times before.

Don't ring the police or whatever. I'm not going to kill myself immediately. I just really want to die and I'm planning when and how I'm going to do it.

 

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California Rocket Fuel

4 min read

This is a story about wanting to feel better...

Venlafaxine and mirtazepine

My mood viciously see-saws between two poles at the moment. Thursday night and Friday night were delightful. Monday morning and Friday morning were abysmal. Sometimes I feel like I have boundless energy and enthusiasm, and other times I just want to curl up and die. I feel weirdly mixed up - both manically high and suicidally low at the same time. I think I'm experiencing what's known as a "mixed state".

Not wanting to get too bound up in navel gazing and examining every minute change in my mood, I'm not going to write too much today. It's the same old stuff that's bothering me - a job that's boring and isolating, and a lifestyle that's unsettled and exhausting. In a few hours I have to get on a train, travel to the other side of the country and then check into yet another AirBnb that I've never been to before: The bedroom will be different; the bathroom will be different; there will be different noises that go bump in the night, waking me up. My life has very little stability and consistency.

I desperately want to reach for substances that will make me feel better. I'd love to pop some pills - like the California Rocket Fuel pictured above - in order to feel more happiness than sadness, but it would be highly likely to push me into out-and-out mania. I really want to quit my job and hide under the duvet for a month or two, but I can't afford to do that.

By the end of February, I'll have run out of money again. I'm burning lots of money on expenses, and I only get paid 61 days after having done my work, because of a strange contractual arrangement. Big outlay and big risk - I'm spending money I don't have in the hope of recouping it in future, which leaves me with nothing but stress.

It seems worthwhile to continue to work through February, even though it's making me sick. If I can finish the month, then I'll have a big paycheque at the start of March and another at the end of March, which will make me solvent again. If I quit now, I'll almost be worse of than if I hadn't bothered. It feels like I've achieved nothing.

My mood is desperately low, but at least my thoughts have turned away from suicide, and instead I think about running away to a hot country, or just stopping work and refusing to get out of bed.

I'm carrying some extra weight from Christmas. I'm unfit. My skin is pale and pasty. I'm still having to carefully budget, lest I run out of money before I complete my contract - my finances are still in a pretty dire situation. I wonder where the reward is for not killing myself. I wonder when - if ever - I'm going to feel glad that I'm alive.

My life is not entirely bleak, and I have brief moments where I'm really happy. There are things I look forward to occasionally. However, it's pretty misery-making that the pressures on me - career and financial - are taking me away from the things I care about, and the things that are good for my mental health. Circumstances demand that I continue to suffer long train journeys, lonely hotel rooms and a bullshit job that's pure torture.

I'm trying to vent and whinge and complain and moan like crazy, in the hope that it'll help me to limp along until the end of the month. I keep telling myself "it's only another X weeks" and counting down the hours, minutes and seconds, but it's pretty unbearable.

I wonder to myself if I should start drinking coffee again. I wonder if there's some kind of pill or powder I can get my hands on that will give me some relief from the dreadful depression. I wonder if there's some way I can earn money and retain my sanity, because the present situation is killing me.

I'm going to stop writing now, because I'm just making myself more miserable. There's nothing more to say. There's nothing that can really be done. I know what I have to do, and I know how much I hate it and how sick it's making me, but I've got to do it.

 

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Goodbye, Jinxed January

8 min read

This is a story about the bitter end...

Urine bottle

For a devout atheist, I can be surprisingly superstitious. I seem to have survived Jinxed January without losing my job, becoming homeless, going bankrupt, being hospitalised, getting sectioned, getting arrested, getting anybody pregnant, committing any crimes, taking any illegal drugs, contracting a terminal illness or dying. Epic win.

I looked in my photo archives to see what I was doing this time last year. Apparently I was pissing in a bottle, hospitalised on a high dependency ward with kidney failure. On my blog, I was writing about "what would Jesus do?" so I was clearly pretty deranged, but then I was on dialysis for several hours a day, which was not exciting so I'm sure my mind must have been wandering a lot. On Facebook I was jabbering about a cocktail of painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquillisers I was taking to try to get some sleep on the ward. I feel relatively sane and happy by comparison - my life looks quite peachy compared to that unfortunate period.

I looked back two years ago to see what was going on at the end of January and there's a gap. I simply ceased to exist for a few days, before popping up and writing over 3,000 words about all manner of things. It looks pretty conclusive that I was in the vice-like grip of madness and shenanigans.

I can't look back three years on my blog, because I only started two and a half years ago, but I do know that three years ago today I was staying with friends in County Cork, Ireland. My contract with Barclays had been terminated early, I'd broken up with my girlfriend, lost loads of friends because of the breakup and I had been evicted from my apartment in Swiss Cottage. I needed to escape from London for a bit, because I couldn't take any more, and so my friends looked after me in rural Ireland. Not so jinxed, but pretty jinxed because my life was still totally messed up.

I can see from an email that four years ago I was receiving inpatient treatment for dual diagnosis - bipolar and substance abuse - after the messiest and most acrimonious divorce you can imagine. My life was profoundly dysfunctional - I'd only just managed to escape "the poison dwarf" and the relationship that nearly killed me. My stuff was in storage and I was living with friends in Kentish Town. My new business had been put on hold because the divorce and house sale had been too much for me to handle. I'd been surviving by mining bitcoins, but the price had crashed and I was in big trouble, even though I'd managed to cash in at $1,100 per bitcoin.

I can't see my email from five years ago, because I lost my original Google Mail account, which I'd had since soon after GMail launched for public beta testing. I can see that I was late for my appointment to see a psychiatrist who I'd found (albeit a week later) so I imagine that things were pretty dire... although I clearly had the presence of mind to find a private psychiatrist and arrange my own treatment, so I'm guessing this was the beginning of the descent into Hell. This time five years ago - roughly - my new wife told me that she wanted to be a widow and that she wouldn't let me have the treatment I needed. This time five years ago, I was trying to find people to help me, while my wife and my parents broke my heart. This time five years ago, I realised that I needed to get my parents and my wife out of my life at all costs - I realised they're toxic people and that if I wanted to have any kind of future, they couldn't be part of it.

Five years of insanity is a hell of a long time. In those five years, things got a lot worse before they got any better. In those five years, I sorely missed my house and my cat. In those five years, I sorely missed the life I'd built for myself, with my friends and my good reputation and my good job. I threw away a lot, taking a gamble that I'd be better off in the long run. The last five years have been insane, but I don't see how I could have extricated myself from the situation any better. I've played the best I could with the cards I was dealt.

I'm sick and tired of Jinxed January, and I hope I've seen the back of it; I hope I've broken the curse.

Of course I tempt fate by saying that now I've had one un-jinxed January then I've got things sussed and it'll all be plain sailing from here. Of course there are going to be Foul Februarys and Miasmic Marches but January has been my nemesis for so long. I don't want to get cocky and complacent, but it's a big deal that I've beaten this dratted month. February and March are going to be dreadful, but at least I have a few quid in my pocket, no imminent threat of homelessness and nothing particularly awful on the horizon. I have another month of paid work ahead of me. For once, I have a few things going in my favour.

You might see that my biggest fight is with myself. Of course, there's work available year-round and my skills mean that I'm never going to go hungry and homeless, except through spectacular self-sabotage. It seems obvious that I should just quietly and obediently pop the pills and behave myself. It doesn't look that hard to just get my head down and concentrate on working hard to get myself back into a position of financial security. To say that by the end of the year I could be well and truly wealthy again, seems like no time at all to you. However, you must remember that I march to a different beat. My timescales are not the same as your timescales.

I'm not going to get paid for the whole of February. A very Frugal February beckons. The weather's just as dark and miserable in February and my job will be just as isolating, lonely and boring. The unfavourable conditions very much remain unpleasant and unconducive to any mood improvement. However, the so-called short month of February does seem like a less daunting proposition than Jinxed January was. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Another month without an almighty fuck-up is a huge achievement, in the context of my messed up 5 years of Jinxed Januarys. If I'm being superstitious, so be it, because it's helped me to avoid going off the rails.

I'm really pleased with where I'm at actually. Drink and drug free, unmedicated, as sane as I'll ever be, relatively settled in my home life, regular(ish) income and gainful employment. There aren't too many loose ends to tidy up. I'm on top of my taxes and my paperwork. To be in this position, at this dreadful time of year, where I don't have anything looming that's of major concern, is a really big deal.

I submitted another invoice to my client, and even though I lost over £4,000 of potential earnings this month, I'm still in profit after expenses. The money's not in the bank yet, but it's on its way. Perhaps it will be good to spend another month being a little thrifty - money after all, can be something that's triggering.

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm imagining that by the end of February, my financial woes will be mostly ended. I'm imagining that by the end of March I'll be feeling positively wealthy again. I'm projecting into the future, and that's bound to end up making me miserable. I still have a whole month more of my miserable boring contract to do. I need to start looking for the next job, at some point sooner rather than later. I can't make tomorrow come any sooner, and I shouldn't wish away today.

What can I say, except I'm slightly glad that I didn't throw away a perfectly salvageable situation. I'd still rather be dead, because it's been a lot of stress and hassle, but I'm alive so I'll carry on for a bit longer and see what tomorrow brings.

 

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This Time Last Year I was F**ked

11 min read

This is a story about the hands of time...

View from the loft

I have a breadcrumb trail of images that allow me to retrace my steps and understand where I've come from and attempt to estimate whether I'm spiralling downwards or slowly recovering. If I look through my photo library at the images and videos that I captured exactly one year ago, there are three strange videos that I recorded, which clearly indicate that I'd had a major relapse. Three days later both my kidneys had failed, my left leg had ballooned to twice its normal size due to DVT and my blood was toxic enough to kill me at any moment.

Every year for the past four, I've had a Jinxed January. It's true that depression, hypomania and addiction have reared their ugly heads year-round, but January is a particularly awful time. I cured the November wobbles by writing novels. I cured the December wobbles by cutting my toxic parents out of my life. The next problem I've got is how to solve Jinxed January.

My present strategy is to shackle myself to my desk, doing a job that I absolutely hate and is completely incompatible with my mental health. If I can survive this January without doing anything stupid and self-sabotaging, I should have the wind behind me and a downhill stretch of road to help me coast into the spring. The odds will be increasingly in my favour as the days get longer and the weather improves.

I'm emerging from the fog of addiction, intoxicating medications and copious quantities of alcohol. It was impossible for me to really comprehend how bad things had gotten, while I had so much toxic crap in my body. I'd lost all perspective and ability to perceive reality. I struggle to relate to a lot of what I've written in the last few years, because that person who was under the influence of such vast quantities of drink and drugs feels like somebody else. I can read my own words, I can see the distress and I can remember the things that were driving my thoughts and emotions at the time, but not everything in my world was entirely real and grounded in reality. I'm not seeking to distance myself from the things that my body did - including saying and writing things - but it's a little bit hard to imagine that it was me. If you want to get obsessive about blame and responsibility, then f**k you, buddy... go read somebody else's blog you tiresome bore.

Of course, I feel very bad about the way I treated - for example - my lovely girlfriend who gave me a wonderful Christmas with her family, cared for me when I was in hospital, and was extremely nonjudgemental and understanding when addiction got its hooks back in me. I didn't treat her well in the end. I regret it and I'm sorry. I did that. I'm to blame. I'm responsible.

However, in the context of unpicking everything, I can see that there are repeating patterns and things that trigger other things - cause and effect are very complicated to understand. To fully understand the likely consequences and plan ahead, like playing a thousand simultaneous games of chess against grandmasters, is a completely unreasonable and unrealistic thing to expect of me.

Searching back through my photo archives, I can see that I obtained a prescription for an antidepressant - bupropion - shortly before one relapse. I can see that I obtained another - California rocket fuel - shortly before an episode of hypomania where I broke up with the aforementioned brilliant girlfriend. In fact, whenever I seek chemical relief from depression, that's usually an indication of a desire to feel better at any costs, having suffered weeks and months of suicidal thoughts. Am I to blame for seeking relief from my intolerable feelings of depression?

Scanning through my library of images, I can see how I become obsessive over sleeping tablets and tranquillisers, as I rely upon the pills in order to cope with dreadfully stressful situations, which would send even the least-anxiety prone amongst us running screaming in the opposite direction from the source of the stress.

This time last year I was about to start work doing yet more IT consultancy for yet another bank. I was not incredibly enamoured at the prospect, but I needed the money. Circumstances conspired to force me back into an unhealthy environment.

Sadly, I'm not rich enough to do whatever I want, and I'm not even financially comfortable enough to do something tolerable - I've got to do the thing which pays the bills, and that's IT consultancy for banks, unfortunately. It's a fact of life that sometimes we have to do things we don't like very much.

So, I've avoided the antidepressants this time, because they always seem to send me loopy. I'm white-knuckling it to the end of Jinxed January, because I just need to get through this god-awful month, come hell or high water. I'm constantly reminding myself that even to dabble with so-called recreational drugs or get mixed up with girls in a big way, is likely to be destabilising. I live like a monk - work, eat, sleep, repeat.

Because of the extraordinary quantity of benzodiazepines I was abusing, I have huge holes in my memory. It feels like such a short time ago that I was hooked up to my own dedicated dialysis machine, on a high dependency ward. It feels like only yesterday that I regained consciousness with a machine breathing for me in intensive care. I managed a spectacularly terrible sum total of just 11 weeks at work in 2017, and virtually all the rest was pure insanity. I spent about 7 weeks in hospital, so with that 11 versus 7 ratio, you can see that my year was pretty messed up.

This year is brutally drug-free and medication-free. My brain screams in agony at the unbearable levels of depression and anxiety, but I've seen that to reach for any kind of substance for relief is opening the flood gates to fully-blown addiction. I'll convince myself that whatever chemical I'm using to feel better is not effective, and I need to take more, more, MORE! Before I know it, I'll be back on the supercrack.

It might seem obvious to an outside observer that my cyclical life is due to bipolar disorder, and I should rush to my psychiatrist and beg to be given mood stabilisers immediately. However, those who superficially observe me would remark that I'm very stable: I get up, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, go to my job, spend my evening watching TV and writing and get eight hours sleep. To the casual observer, I seem like the most functional and stable person who you could possibly hope to ever meet.

The reality of my existence is one of continuous battle with depression, anxiety and a craving to spectacularly self-sabotage with addiction. Getting out of bed in the morning and overcoming debilitating anxiety are comparatively easy, having built up the mental strength to overcome the urge to take one of the most addictive substances known to man. I'm not meaning to compete with those who find their lifes to be completely unliveable due to depression and anxiety, but merely to say that I've found it easier to overcome things which would have kept me bed-bound, after having been through what I've been through. Every cell of my body screams in protest at the bullshit I'm putting myself through at the moment. Every bit of my brain yells in agony at the daily punishment I suffer, but what does an extra bit of suffering matter compared with the endless comedowns and drug withdrawals I've been through?

As I look back on the last year, I realise I've been through opiate withdrawal from tramadol, codeine and dihydrocodeine; through benzodiazepine withdrawal from diazepam and alprazolam; through stimulant withdrawal from crystal meth and supercrack; through withdrawal from pregabalin and alcohol; through withdrawal from sleeping tablets like zopiclone and zolpidem. In terms of detoxes, I've had the detox from hell. In terms of quitting addictive medications, I'm a Guinness World Record holder. I really do deserve a medal.

As I look back on the last year, I realise I've been through so many health issues, housing issues, financial issues, legal issues, employment issues, relationship issues and everything else that would wreck your head and rob you of your sense of stability, comfort, contentedness and happiness. I'm surprised I'm not sleeping in a cardboard box, just to escape the clutches of a society that wants its pound of flesh at any costs. I'm exhausted by the constant stress of it all.

If I make it through Jinxed January, I have little to look forward to. There's nothing jump for joy about. Anybody who tells you you'll feel better if you quit the booze and the drugs and the pills is a fucking idiot. Anybody who tells you that you'll have improved self-esteem and all the other good stuff, if you get yourself off the streets and into a job, is a fucking idiot. I'm an extremely rare example of a judge, policeman and a social worker's wet dream - a bankrupt homeless mentally ill junkie who's got themselves scrubbed down and gone back to civilised society, but I've got to tell you in no uncertain terms that it's awful and I hate it. My life is a living hell.

Perhaps this is the ultimate comedown. Perhaps all the chickens are eventually coming home to roost. Perhaps this is the payback, given that I somehow miraculously avoided prison, a criminal record, bankruptcy and permanent health damage. Perhaps I'm finally paying the price for all that partying.

But, I haven't been partying. It's not like I haven't paid the price every time I fucked up. It's not like I haven't tried hard to do the all the right things and contribute to society. It's not like I've robbed, and manipulated and been a parasite on society. I've already paid for my transgressions. Where's the reward for getting myself sorted out? Why did I bother?

As I look back, I have rose-tinted glasses. As I look forward, I see the world through a blue filter. The past wasn't so bad and the future looks bleak. Perhaps this is the final stage of recovery from addiction, when my memory of the horrors of the past is becoming faded and I fondly reminisce about the few moments that were OK in all that insanity. It was certainly an easier life, to be on a rocket-ride to hell.

I try to look back and remind myself just how bad things were, but I find myself smiling and laughing in a way that I just don't when I think about the eight hours I spent going through hell at my desk today. In my mind, I perceive the present unpleasantness as far greater than anything else I've been through in the last year. That's strange, isn't it? To have suffered multiple organ failure, loss of my home, loss of my job, a suicide attempt, incarceration, getting sectioned, psych wards, addiction, loss of my girlfriend and all the other atrocious things that I went through in the last year, and the very worst thing is my current working arrangements.

Obviously, I think that my perceptions must be warped by my state of semi-recovery from addiction and other mental health problems, but I don't think it explains everything. There is something awful about being all alone in an AirBnb, working a job I hate because it's boring, easy and doesn't bring me into contact with a single soul... it's so lonely and isolating.

I'm churning words out into the ether, because I'm in such discomfort and I'm so afraid.

It's strange that I'm not afraid of ending up back in hospital, isn't it?

 

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Unholy Trinity

11 min read

This is a story about lethal combinations...

Three empty cans

Those who are familiar with the more extreme end of Grindr casual sex shenanigans will know that there's an unholy trinity of club drugs - crystal meth, GBL/GHB and viagra - which provide the sexual stamina for outrageously debaucherous f**kfests. To arrange drug-fuelled sex parties via the Grindr app is shockingly quick and easy. Under the influence of these drugs, one's sexual appetites are rarely satiated.

My own unholy trinity is far more prosaic - sleeping pills, tranquillisers and alcohol.

I never intended on becoming hooked on 'downers' and indeed I was very well aware of the physically addictive nature of the benzodiazepines. There is absolutely nothing that appeals to me about being intoxicated on CNS depressants. I do not enjoy feeling under the influence of the GABA agonists. For me, it was all about wanting the absence of something: the absence of panic attacks where I felt like I was going to die; the absence of interminable insomnia; the absence of the skin-crawling feeling of anxiety; an escape from a life that was unbearably awful.

Alcohol was a taste I had to acquire. Getting drunk was a necessary part of getting laid - Dutch courage. Booze was ubiquitous at work and it was necessary to be a drinker to get ahead in my career. I would have been a suspicious outsider if I'd been sober during the many drunken lunches, after-work beers and meals where wine flowed liberally. Alcohol lubricates the world of investment banking and I fully embraced the culture.

Valium crept into my life as I searched for something to help me manage the undesirable side effects of stimulant abuse. I thought I could swallow a couple of pills and sleep off the worst of my addiction without any consequences. I knew that I was playing with fire - to use one addictive drug to combat the effects of another - but that's the kind of addict logic that I applied at the time. I knew that if I abused benzodiazepines for more than a few months, I'd end up with a physical dependency that would cause me to have seizures if I abruptly stopped taking the pills. I did what I felt I had to do.

Sleeping pills never held any appeal. If there's one thing I'm really good at, it's sleeping. I quickly figured out that the best way to escape an oppressive and unpleasant world is to be unconscious. I can put myself into a zoned-out trancelike state and sit quietly for hours. I can spend all day dozing in bed, even after 12 hours of restful sleep. I'm a master of sleep. Why would I dabble with sleeping pills?

Some of the benzodiazepines have a very long half-life. If you take benzos - like Valium - for a long time, they never really leave your bloodstream. If you're addicted to Valium, you're just topping up when you take the pills. Strangely, it's possible to have insomnia when you're on tranquillisers - you just lie there awake, not caring at all that you're not asleep. It's restful, but it's not refreshing, if you know what I mean?

During one of the most difficult periods of my addiction to a powerful stimulant - a drug that sends me completely psychotically insane - I could hear helicopters hovering over my apartment. All the traffic on the road had stopped - I couldn't hear any motorbikes, cars, lorries, buses or trucks. Then, I heard a lot of yelling. To my paranoid drug-addled and sleep-deprived mind, this was the thing I'd been dreading: the police and the army were coming to get me and drag me in front of a crowd of people, to shame and ridicule me. The 'enemy' were coming to get me. Then, I heard a commentator announce that the first runners of the London Marathon were about to come past my apartment block. Of course! It was the marathon, the route of which travels right past where I was living.

I was still fairly traumatised by the whole marathon thing, even though I quite quickly figured out that the helicopter wasn't there to deliver a SWAT team clad in black uniforms in through my bedroom windows. I turned to diazepam to soothe my jangled nerves. I swallowed about 20 high-strength 10mg blue tablets. That's a HELL of a lot of diazepam. It didn't touch the sides. What I really wanted was to be unconscious. Sometimes, being tranquillised up to the eyeballs just isn't enough.

Zopiclone and zolpidem entered my life as medications to allow me to have a seemingly normal sleep/wake cycle. When I was abusing a powerful stimulant, it would not be uncommon for me to spend four or five nights without sleeping at all. The most nights I ever went without sleep was about ten, which sent me completely barmy, of course. As you reach the outer extremities of an impossibly bad stimulant addiction, strangely you yearn to have a normal appetite and normal sleep. The tranquillisers helped me to stay on top of stimulant psychosis, but I needed sleeping pills otherwise I was just going to die from a low immune system, or otherwise go completely and permanently insane.

I can't stress enough how important sleep is. Without regular refreshing sleep, nothing else is going to fall into place. There's no hope of improvement and recovery without sleep.

The sleeping pills - such as zopiclone and zolpidem - don't actually give you normal sleep. Sometimes you can 'wake up' and feel a little bit like you've been asleep, but you haven't been - you've been drugged. Your body and your brain kind of knows the difference between sleep and unconsciousness. When you suddenly jerk awake and you say "what! where am I?" then that's usually an indication that you've been drugged, rather than sleeping.

I used sleeping pills for most of 2017. I almost don't know how to sleep without them. When you get habituated into using sleeping pills, you can get very anxious about trying to sleep without them. The anxiety around getting enough sleep builds and builds. You spend horrible days at work where you're trying to keep your eyes open, and then horrible nights awake because you desperately want to get enough sleep to catch up, but you can never get enough. Bedtime becomes super charged with nervous energy and you have an incredible longing for a night of refreshing sleep. The more you want sleep, the harder it is to get it. Sleeping pills are addictive, because they take away that anxiety and deliver some kind of dependable nightly rest, even if it's not very refreshing.

I abused my little toxic trio of chemicals because they gave me back my life. My life used to revolve around the highly potent and addictive stimulant drug which I had unfortunately become incurably hooked on. My life was going to hell in a hand cart. I was on collision course with permanent psychosis. I was definitely going to end up locked up in a mental institution for the rest of my days. To fight fire with fire was madness, but it worked. Although it was very dangerous and I nearly died as a result of poly-substance abuse, somehow I popped out the other side intact.

I didn't drink alcohol since last Saturday. Once I start drinking, I don't seem to be able stop when I want to. I don't seem to be able to drink in moderation. When I get the taste of beer or wine, I glug it down and I don't stop until I think "oh dear, I've had too much to drink". Because of all the occasions when I've thought "I wish I hadn't drunk so much" recently, I've decided that not drinking is the safest course of action.

I've been taking sleeping pills all week. I need some sort of crutch dagnammit! How am I supposed to cope in such unfavourable conditions without something to help make life a little more manageable. To lose sleep would be bound to push me back towards strange strung-out thinking, and make me liable to say or do something stupid.

One week from today I will see a psychiatrist. It's been 8 weeks or so since I last saw a psychiatrist. I haven't been taking any medication - except for the aforementioned sleeping pills - and I'm wondering if I should cut my pills down to absolute zero. It would be really wonderful to say that I'm not a drinker, not a smoker, I don't have tea, coffee, cola or energy drinks, and I don't take ANY medication at all. It's so rare that a psychiatrist would encounter somebody who's completely free from ALL psychoactive substances. I think I would really love it, to have the psychiatrist ask me "so, how do you feel?" and be able to answer, knowing that it's me and only me, and not some version that's twisted by caffeine, nicotine, drink, drugs and medications. How precious would that be, to be my real authentic unadulterated self?

To get to this point where I might be able to be completely free from all mind-altering substances has been an almost impossibly unbearably awful experience that's put my life at great danger, as well as my livelihood. Why the hell would I put myself through so much suffering? Why wouldn't I go a little more easy on myself?

What I find with substances is that they're insidious. Every time you say "one cigarette won't hurt" or "one glass of wine will be OK" you could be setting off down a road that leads to a whole bottle of wine, two bottles of wine, a bottle of vodka. I'm never going to be some boring teetotaller, but at the moment my life is so unbearable that I'll keep pouring myself glass after glass of booze until the pain and the anxiety is blocked out and I'm blacked out.

My nightly sleeping pill habit is comparatively healthy. I don't increase the dose. The dose is measured. There aren't any fattening calories in a sleeping tablet. Sleeping tablets don't give me awful hangovers. There could be much worse things to be hooked on. However, wouldn't it be awesome to look the psychiatrist straight in the eye and say "I haven't taken a single mind-altering substance for a week now".

This week has been awful without my little chemical helpers, but maybe next week will be better, and the week after will be even better still. Wouldn't it be awesome if I break free from chemical dependencies?

Of course, I will have to admit that I had unbearable anxiety and suffered suicidal thoughts that very nearly killed me. I will have to admit that it would have been sensible to take the sertraline (Zoloft in the USA or Lustral in the UK) instead of trying to tough it out without, and abusing things which I really shouldn't have done. It's true that I could have developed a sertraline habit by now - the withdrawal syndrome is pretty awful, so I'd be trapped onto yet another addictive medication. Yes, it would have helped me to get through some super stressful awfulness, but I'm going to end up like the old lady who swallowed the spider to catch the fly etc. etc.

My friend who's a doctor is incredibly frustrated that "Nick knows best" as usual. They're mad as hell that I'm doing my own thing; marching to my own beat. It seems patently absurd to reject a medication that could be a tiny bit better than placebo, in as little as 8 weeks. So, why is it that I feel a little bit better today? Seems rather coincidental, doesn't it?

My week at work was awful. In fact, I was too unwell to work for 3 out of 5 days. My week was almost unbearable. In the interests of being fair and honest, I must admit that this last week has made me question my stubborn decision. I've wondered whether I made a mistake. Then, I remember that I'm closer than I've ever been to proving my point: that I can be stable, contented and happy without pills. I plan on rejecting all my diagnoses at some point. I plan on declaring myself sane. I plan on being 'normal'.

How does somebody become normal if the paternalistic guardian class can always say "that's only because you're on the right medication"? When it says "medication takes 6 to 8 weeks to become effective" what would happen if you didn't take the damn pills? That's what I'm finding out. It was super telling to me that people were so quick to say "told you so" when the game wasn't even finished - the results aren't in yet.

It's been awful, but I'm winning. Bi-winning.

 

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How to Cure my Suicidal Depression

6 min read

This is a story about quick fixes...

Dietary supplements

January is traditionally jinxed for me. I haven't had a problem-free January for many years. I seem to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of recovery and disaster. So far, this January has not been a complete disaster but we're only just over halfway through.

The thing that's causing me most distress at the moment is my job. I'm very lonely and isolated. I don't have anybody to talk to or any real reason to interact with anybody in the company. I've got my list of deliverables and I just have to sit down and churn out the results - easy, huh?

I really don't think my job is my problem. Although my job doesn't give me much of what I need except for money, it's not a bad job. My job is not aligned with my values or my personality and it provides no distraction from my crisis, but it's an OK job. My job doesn't motivate me to get up and go to work, but whose does? When I've thought that my job is causing me problems in the past, I quit, only to find that I didn't realise how good I had it until after I left.

I think the problem lies elsewhere.

I'm certainly unfulfilled at the moment. I have very little scope to influence my day, my week, my month or my year - it all looks like a solid unrewarding slog to get nowhere. All I'm doing is my easy job that I can do with my eyes closed, in order to get money to pay off debts. That's hardly a reason to jump for joy, is it?

So, is it that my expectations are unrealistic? We can't all be bouncy castle testers or cake tasters. We can't all be puppy dog strokers and lifestyle bloggers. Somebody's got to scrub the toilets and empty the bins.

2017 might have been unhealthy but it was certainly action-packed. There are no surprises in my day-to-day existence. If this year is going to be considered healthy and productive then I need to turn down the dial from 11 to somewhere around 3 or 4. Last year was off the charts insane. However, how am I supposed to find any motivation when 2018 is going to be one of the dullest on record? I thrive on adrenalin.

I thought about the two things that would get me out of bed today. The first was the complete self-sabotage of my life with a drug binge that would be likely to kill me and destroy everything I hold dear. The second was the purchase of a deadly poison with the intention of killing myself. They're pretty much the same thing, aren't they?

I've been signalling my suicidal intent for a long time now. I've written this blog since 2015. I've been sending up distress flares. I've been sounding the alarm. I've been yelling at the top of my lungs. What the hell am I playing at? Why don't I crack on and do it already?

When I made my most serious suicide attempt I was probably at my most unstable. I was taking a potent mix of benzodiazepines and sleeping pills in combination with copious amounts of alcohol and prescription painkillers. I had destabilised myself with sleep deprivation, recreational drugs and a toxic relationship, living in a city I'd never been to before, with no friends or family nearby, and working an incredibly stressful high-pressure job. I'd just escaped from certain homelessness, bankruptcy and being sued into oblivion by my landlord and creditors. It was an unstable time.

Now, I'm possibly at my most stable. I have the support of friends. I don't have the pressure of high monthly rent and bills. I have a job. I've quit all the medications and drugs, and cut my drinking right down. It's been months since I did something utterly insane.

So, why do I keep having suicidal thoughts? Why am I so depressed that I can't go to work?

I definitely feel very trapped. I'm trapped into making the smart choice, which is to travel hours away from my home to stay in depressingly shit AirBnBs in crap parts of London, and go to a job that pays fabulously well but is incredibly stressful and isolating. It's heaps of pressure on me with not a lot of excitement. I know exactly what I need to do and how I'm going to do it, but I know that it's going to bring unbearable levels of anxiety. I'm just counting down the hours, minutes and seconds until I'm free.

I feel like I'm holding my breath. I feel like my lungs are burning and my eyes are bulging and my throat is gulping, but I can't suck air into my lungs. I know that it makes sense, rationally, to hold my breath like this, but life must go on even though my situation is thoroughly incompatible with my mental health.

I'd love to quit my job and think about what's next, but I know I'll regret it. I know that my life is in danger by putting myself in such a horrible situation, but I know that the longer that I do it, the more glad I will be in future. Pain now for future gain. Pay now, benefit later.

So I vent: I whine and I whinge and I complain. I try to get out all the negative stuff that's threatening to sink me. If I sound bitter and cynical and hate-filled, it's because I'm trying to dump out all the emotions that could destroy me. It isn't working though.

I've had three days off work and I feel incredibly guilty. What the hell am I doing turning down well-paid work? What the hell am I doing bunking off?

What the hell am I doing putting myself in a situation that's exacerbating my suicidal thoughts to dangerous levels?

It seems patently obvious that I should go back home, to where I have the love and support of my friends and I plan to make a long-term life for myself. It seems absurd to put myself through so much suffering. It's plain to see that I need to find some work that's compatible with a liveable life, doesn't it?

I'm aware, however, that the combination of the stress of a new job and Christmas, combined with the depression and superstition that Jinxed January always brings, would drive me to suicidal depths. Everything looks awful when you're at the bottom of a very deep hole. I could so easily throw away a perfectly decent opportunity, just because I'm so sick that I want to curl up in a ball and die. I really don't think the job's the problem - it's my mental health, although the two are somewhat related.

Yes, I'd love to retrain as a juggler or an ice sculpter, but that'll bring a whole raft of other problems. Better to concentrate on problems I know I can solve.

I remain resolutely committed to my chosen path. When you're going through hell, keep going etc. etc.

 

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Numb & Dumb

5 min read

This is a story about being medicated...

Various assorted pills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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#BlueMonday

9 min read

This is a story about the most depressing day of the year...

Bandages

I had a game plan for this week. I thought everything was going to be OK. I woke up and I felt awful. Then, I started feeling progressively more awful.

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. Just because I had an OK day on Friday, doesn't mean that I'm going to have an OK week this week. Just because I can appear to be functional at times, doesn't mean that I'm cured of depression and other debilitating mental illness. Just because I did my job doesn't mean I'm going to be able to crank out day after day of great performance at work. Most of the time my life sucks.

Of course, a lot of people's lives suck. A lot of us are stressed and exhausted and overwhelmed. A lot of us have almost intolerable levels of anxiety and other mental ailments that make our heads feel like they're going to implode. A lot of us say to ourselves "I can't do it; I can't go on; I can't cope"... but we do.

Just because we're appearing to cope doesn't mean that we really are coping. Some of us are building up to a breakdown of some sort. Some of us are pushing ourselves to the limit and beyond in an unsustainable way that's going to end in disaster.

I do a lot of whinging, don't I?

Of course I don't think I'm unique. Of course I don't think that my problems are worse than anybody else's. Of course I don't think that issues are insurmountable. Of course other people have survived worse. Of course I'm aware that my perceptions are warped by depression and anxiety, such that everything seems to be broken and disastrous and intolerably unbearably awful. But none of that matters - the fact is that one day you wake up and you just can't go on. One day, no amount of bullying and coercion will get you out of bed.

I used to stroke my cat and talk to him. I used to potter round my garden and talk to my plants. I used to talk to my significant other. Now, I talk to myself. I'm alone with my thoughts around-the-clock.

My job is incredibly isolating. I have no real reason to talk to anybody. I'm expected to be plugged into the Matrix, quietly making software. I'm expected to be some kind of robotic software-making machine, sitting silently in a corner churning out software systems, with zero human interaction required.

My home life is 5/7ths isolating, sitting alone in hotel rooms trying to connect with the world via the internet. London's not an unfriendly place, but locals definitely think you're a bit strange if you try to start a conversation with them. I suppose I could go looking for groups of gregarious tourists who'd be happy to chat to somebody who knows this city well, but it's exhausting doing all that getting-to-know-you stuff. It's exhausting to work all day and then have to carry on working just as hard - if not harder - to put myself out there and meet people.

So, here I am, in yet another room I'd never set foot in before. The noises are all different. The light is different. The bed is different. The bathroom is different. At night, different things wake me up. My body and brain are on high alert in this alien environment. I'll get used to it, but it's exhausting staying somewhere new every week.

I should have been at work today. Work is a known quantity. I know exactly what work I've got to do. I know roughly how I'm going to do my work. Nobody else is going to do anything - it's all down to me. My work will still be there, exactly how I left it. It's a job I've been doing for over 20 years, so there are no surprises. The familiarity makes it exhausting somehow - I get anxious about solving problems I've solved a million times before. I get anxious, because I know exactly how it makes me feel.

I hit the wall today. I couldn't get up. I gave up.

It's not like I had the flu or arterial bleeding gushing from a gaping wound. It's not like I had a legitimate excuse for not going to work, I just felt really shitty.

How can I explain it to you, that I really felt like I couldn't get up and face the day? How can I explain that although I was able to get up and buy myself something to eat at 3pm in the afternoon, I couldn't leap out of bed and dash off to the office at 8am? How is it possible to reconcile the fact that if I could be bothered to breathe, then surely it would have been possible to go and do 8 hours work?

I feel run down but I don't feel sick. I don't have nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, pain, swelling, tenderness, bleeding, bruising or any other physical symptoms to speak of. I feel exhausted, but I haven't recently run a marathon or climbed a mountain. I feel sad but I haven't recently lost a loved one. I feel anxious but I'm not trapped in a cage with a tiger. In theory, I shouldn't be feeling anything other than tip-top, ready and raring to go to work.

I don't know what to say, other than that I feel guilty about feeling like this. I feel guilty that I haven't gone to work when so many other people have done today. I feel guilty that I've spent time in bed when I haven't got any obvious physical symptoms of illness.

When I've felt like this before, I've been tested for thyroid problems and even AIDS. I've been subjected to a barrage of tests on my kidneys, liver and blood. I've been poked and prodded for any possible physical reason why I'd feel tired and unable to leap out of bed and enthusiastically rush to my desk in my office. No physical illness has ever been discovered. I'm not physically sick. I must be making it up. People in Africa wouldn't lie in bed like I do.

I sometimes wonder if we're supposed to get up when it's still dark, in the middle of the wettest and coldest months of the year, in order to go to jobs that are soul-destroying.

I wonder if one day, somebody's going to be brave enough to say "actually, you're having a sane reaction to an insane world" and give me a prescription for exemption from the bullshit of the rat race. It's surely grossly unhealthy to experience as much unhappiness as I do. It must be damaging to be as stressed as I am. It must be enough to make me sick, to be so isolated and lonely.

I walk down the road, or I sit at my desk, and I chatter away to myself. I write this blog because I need somebody to chat to. I have no regular healthy human contact. Everything shifts around me constantly. New places; new people. I assume that everything's all transient; temporary. What's the point in getting attached to anything or anybody? What's the point in feeling settled and contented - my whole world gets smashed to smithereens all the time anyway, so what's the point of anything? What's the point of life?

There's this massive gash; an open wound. I've got a staggeringly terrible injury, but nobody seems to acknowledge it. It's like I'm walking around with my arm hanging off and blood pissing out onto the ground, and everybody's just ignoring it. "It's just a scratch. You'll be fine. Just go to work like everybody else. You don't see other people making such a fuss, do you?"

But, I am making a fuss. I'm bunking off work, which always pisses people off ("lazy scrounger parasite" etc) and I'm lying in bed, which also pisses people off ("layabout idle waste-of-space" etc). What's my excuse? Because I don't feel very well? Not good enough. What possible reason could I have for not feeling very well? What's my excuse?

I've got antidepressants, but I don't take them. I've never taken antidepressants.

"Well, there's your problem"

Erm, yeah... if you say so. But what causes depression?

"Chemical imbalance"

Right. So what causes the "chemical imbalance"?

"I dunno. Genes or something"

Ok, but did you know that two genetically identical mice can end up looking completely different depending on environmental cues that cause different epigenetic expression of genes? That is to say, two mice with identical DNA won't always end up being identical individuals. Even with identical DNA, the environment can influence identical twins to become non-identical in appearance.

You're right, I don't live in Africa. I don't live in a warzone. My life's just peachy. What could I possibly have in my environment that would induce anxiety and depression in me?

In the last year, what's the ratio of traumatic events versus consistent things you have in your life? Did you stay in the same home? Did you stay in the same job? Did you stay in the same area of the country? How many kids do you have? Did you have the same partner? How many family members do you see and speak to on a regular basis? How many times were you hospitalised? How many times were you arrested? How many times did you think you were going to go bankrupt? How many times were you homeless? How many times did you think you were going to die?

It's not a competition and I'm not trying to elicit sympathy.

I'm exhausted and depressed and anxious, and I don't really know why, but it's not because I don't take antidepressants.

 

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