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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

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

All opinions are my own.

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Wishing My Life Away

8 min read

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

The show

Smoke machines, lasers, fountains, stage lights, people in costumes, animatronics and a powerful public address soundsystem combine to create quite a spectacle, for evening entertainment in Turkish Disneyworld. There are lots of magical, surprising and delightful moments in this theme-park, with adjoining hotel, and there's lots to do. Time has passed quite weirdly slowly though.

It struck me that I won't ever relax and enjoy myself, because I'm extremely paranoid that something's going to go wrong and my paint-by-numbers simple plan to restore my life to debt-free, health, wealth and prosperity, is going to be ruined by something unexpected.

I suppose people who have borrowed heavily against their future predicted earnings, so that they could buy a house and a car, have resigned themselves to sleepless nights worrying about losing their job and being unable to make repayments, rapidly causing their entire comfortable existence to crumble and be irreparably destroyed by reposessions, bailiffs and a bad credit score. If you go bankrupt you won't be able to rent a place to live or get a good job, because of credit checks and general employment contract exclusions, discriminating against former bankrupts.

If you imagine that there's a safety net there to catch you, you're naïve. Every property you might hope to rent is not only barred to bankrupts, but also to anybody receiving housing benefit. "NO DSS" every single advert for every single property on the market, quite clearly states. Capitalism and banking are closing ranks, creating an system that goes beyond that of a hostile environment to actively create vast numbers of homeless, unemployable, economic lepers who can't get back into civilised society no matter how hard they try.

Legislation which addresses the rehabilitation of former offenders, is quite strict about who is and isn't allowed to know a person's criminal record. The system of credit checks and your credit file is firmly in the civil sector. The use of credit data is extensively used to discriminate against people. Those who are in receipt of state welfare benefits are discriminated against, wherever that data is available to the rentier class.

We are increasingly corralled into minimum-wage zero-hours contract McJobs, with zero security and insufficient pay to afford a basic standard of living, where every letter which hits the doormat potentially delivers an economically catastrophic blow. While wealthy ignoramuses far removed from the reality of daily life for ordinary people, imagine that the social problems must be due to poor budgeting skills, they simply haven't a clue what it's like to live your entire life not having any surplus money to set aside for unexpected demands for cash. If a person who's in receipt of £73 weekly income gets a £80 parking fine, how are they supposed to pay it?

Of course, I'm clearly far-removed from the struggles of poverty... or am I?

I am lucky enough to be able to survive more than 2 missed paycheques without ending up on the street, when ⅓rd of UK people are not so fortunate. However, my so-called financial security is due to having access to a good line of credit, which is not the same as having a pot of savings for unexpected expenses. If I suffer another period without income, I slip deeper into debt and my miserable existence continues.

It might seem foolish to spend money on a new iPhone and a holiday, when I'm deep in debt, but I worked for 10 consecutive months without a nice relaxing break. The rewards for my hard work have come in the guise of a place to live and enough money to be able to travel to work, which aren't really rewards at all. The next big reward is going to be the repayment of a significant chunk of debt, which again isn't really a reward. Working relentlessly without reward is not a sustainable situation, so I've chosen to prolong my indebtedness a little bit, because I can't put my entire life on hold, eating cold baked beans and living in a cardboard box, for the sake of getting out of debt a little quicker.

There are many aspects of my attitude and behaviour which seem very vulgar. How dare I talk about poverty and financial distress, when I seemingly have a good job and spare cash? How dare I talk about money worries and the burden of debt? How dare I compare myself with people who are two missed paycheques away from ending up on the streets?

I've been on the streets. I've slept rough. I know how quickly everything can fall apart. I can tell you exactly how I'd end up back on the streets.

Yes, I can borrow to service the interest on my loans, but that only delays the inevitable temporarily. Yes, I'm seemingly quite employable, but there's no point getting a job which doesn't pay enough money to repay my debts. Yes, I seem to have access to enough cash for rent, deposit, car and other major expenses, but that cash comes from my credit facilities, not my savings.

I've been battling a toxic combination of ill-health and mountainous debt for far too long. I'm starting to feel like it's an unwinnable battle. Of course, capitalists, bankers and the rentier class don't want you to be able to escape your economic fate - they want you to be insecure, so that you'll accept a minimum wage zero-hours contract McJob and kindly donate 100% of your income in the form of rent, bills and interest on loans, to those who really don't need the money.

This week has gone really slowly.

This year has gone really slowly.

As it stands, there's a plan in place which will dig me out of the hole I've been stuck in for far too many years. It's heavily reliant on better luck than previous years. I really don't need anybody throwing a spanner in the works. I really don't need to find myself unexpectedly looking for work again, as has happened far too often in the past.

If it seems like I'm unaware of my good fortune - unable to get things in perspective - then it's due to the present discomforts. Of course, I may look back upon this time and be unable to understand what I was complaining about so much. Unpleasant memories always fade faster than pleasant ones. I'm sure I'll look back with some regret, that I didn't enjoy myself more along the way; take more pleasure in the journey.

It's hard for those who've gotten used to having money to relate to those who've gotten used to living in fear of the letters hitting the doormat, the phone ringing and the doorbell. It's hard for those who've gotten used to regular income, to relate to those whose unreliable health has meant that financial planning is hard, and regular mortgage payments have become a tyranny; fear of getting into rent arrears and facing eviction being a constant nightmare. It's hard for those who don't have mountainous debts to relate to those who know that their entire lives could be destroyed in the blink of an eye; how quickly a small debt can become a ridiculously huge sum of money once legal fees, court fees and recovery costs have been added on. Money - or lack thereof - can destroy a person like nothing else.

Yes I could have saved myself some money here and there, but the thing that's going to save me from my dire situation is not economising and budgeting... it's oodles of cold hard cash. The thing I need is for the coming months to go as planned, so I can keep working and keep earning money. You can economise and budget as much as you want, but 100% of nothing is still nothing. If you earn nothing, it doesn't matter how great you are at financial planning, you're in deep trouble.

One big variable is my health. My health could scupper my plans to work hard. Hence the holiday. Hence the rest.

It might seem wasteful to have spent 5 out of 7 days in bed, but I needed to recharge the batteries.

It might seem wasteful to have spent so much of the last year miserable, but I needed to pay off my mountainous debts.

If I could go to sleep and wake up next March, with no recollection of the intervening months, then I'd absolutely love to do that. I'd gladly give up all those many months of my life, to be able to press the fast-forward button and skip the anxiety-inducing and super-stressful, boring, monotonous and unrewarding bullshit in-between then and now.

Yes, I'm wishing my life away.

 

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Alone With My Thoughts

6 min read

This is a story about bad memories...

Hotel bed

I drew back the curtains this morning and I was almost relieved to see that it was cloudy. One of the theme park rides was on fire also. I did not need much of an excuse to go back to bed.

I'm not actually sleeping that much.

It's nice to be in the position where I have quite strong cash reserves, I'm on holiday, and I have a job and a place to live when I return home. Rarely do I have all those puzzle pieces at the same time.

When things are broken and stressful in my life - beyond my ability to control things and influence the outcome - then I don't cry; I park my emotions and move myself into a neutral gear. I'm a leaf tossed through the air by hurricane-strength winds. There's no sense in thrashing around and wasting any energy.

Now is the worst time.

The time before an anticipated milestone.

I got very worked-up about my million-word milestone, and very paranoid that something was going to trip me up. My work-rate increased as I neared the finishing line, as I desperately wanted to reach the end when it was in sight.

Now, there are some major financial milestones on the horizon. In a couple of weeks I can clear half my important debts, with a whopping great big 5-figure lump sum. In a couple of months, I hope to clear the balance of what I feel I have a moral obligation to repay, because it was borrowed from a friend, not borrowed out of thin air, like it would be with a faceless corporate bank. By the end of March, I should be completely debt-free.

My mind is working overtime, thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

It seems likely that I'll get to the end of the month OK, but beyond that, recents years have shown that this is a very difficult period for me. I can't help comparing my behaviour with previous experiences, and worrying that I'm becoming too much of a loudmouth. I'm acutely aware that any bumps in the road could be disastrously psychologically damaging - it's very hard to pick myself back up after major setbacks, because the path to victorious recovery is quite plainly laid out in front of me and to snatch it away is cruel. There is absolutely nothing that I haven't seen and dealt with before - my recovery is a paint-by-numbers exercise.

I'm not sure if it's the job that's killing me... I think it's the debt. Every day when I wake up I'm still deep in debt, and I'm more in debt than when I went to sleep, because the interest on my loans accrues while I sleep, but I'm not working and earning any money. Debt hangs around like a bad smell; all-pervasive.

When alone with my thoughts, I re-analyse my actions. I wonder if I have been entirely fair in my assessment of events. I re-imagine things, admitting more fault and being more charitable towards those who deserve to receive the benefit of the doubt.

I try to make sense of everything.

Most people are too busy and they're too embroiled in everyday life to stop and think about how they arrived where they are. Most people are too swept up in the minutiae of childrearing and bickering with their other half, to particularly give much thought to anything. Most people's lives plod along, not veering too far from the top of the bell curve; safely within the boundaries of accepted norms.

My mind scans all the years of my life, but is mostly fixated upon the period filled with the most traumatic events, which covers roughly the last 6 years. Of course, I wonder why bad things have happened, and there are clear memories from earlier times in my life, which provide pretty compelling evidence of why I'd be predisposed to the vulnerabilities which have led me down a certain path. It's not a blame game; it's simple cold, hard, rational analysis of the facts at hand.

I'm bombarded with intrusive thoughts. I can see why I'd want to blot out most of my mind's activity with alcohol and tranquillisers, when I have a period like this, where I'm alone with my thoughts. The traumatic memories come at me thick and fast. It's ludicrous, when I think about the number of traumatic events I've lived through and have harrowing memories of. I haven't received any counselling or therapy to help me with any of the stuff I've been through.

My mind has constructed a kind of "map of the madness" which allows me to understand how I arrived where I am today. Without the ability to see the bigger picture, I'm sure I'd be irretrievably lost in the mists of insanity. I constantly consult my 'map' to see if I'm repeating mistakes I've made in the past. I use my 'map' frequently to ensure I'm doing all the things which have proven successful in the past, and avoiding the things which have turned out to be pitfalls.

For 5 out of 7 days of this holiday, I'll have been confined to my bed. For most of that time, I was probably suffering insomnia or otherwise alone with my thoughts.

It's been hell, but it's probably been useful.

My mind isn't "pleasantly unclouded" now that I'm off all the sleeping pills and tranquillisers. In fact, I'm a nervous wreck. My brain torments me with various day-dreams about ways in which I could be killed, maimed or suffer catastrophic economic disaster, such as being evicted, being made jobless and otherwise tormented by a society which is keen to disown and marginalise me.

Annoyingly, my thoughts can't be easily dismissed as irrational nonsense. At the root of every worry is a seed which is perfectly valid. In fact, far too often my worries have proven to be well-founded. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.

In fact, I'm more comfortable when things are going wrong than I am when there are positive milestones within sight. It's agonising, not knowing what new unexpected horror is going to come and destroy the pleasant future which I'm owed.

I'm so ridiculously alone, as I don't speak to any family, friends or partner on a regular basis. My life isn't really shared with anybody, even though I publish my innermost thoughts and feelings quite publicly online. I have great friends who I chat to regularly online, but when I'm in a foreign country in the dark, alone with my thoughts, it isn't possible to get much more alone than that. I guess I could pick up my phone or open my laptop, and I've got a whole internet full of people to chat to, but it's not quite the same as having a face-to-face conversation with somebody and maybe even getting a hug.

This week has been shockingly unexceptional, because I've gotten so used to being alone.

 

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Phone in the Throne Room

5 min read

This is a story about being in the lap of luxury...

Loo telephone

As I write this now, there are no fewer than 8 buttons which control the lights in this hotel room packed with tech. There's a PlayStation 4, projector and screen which drops from the ceiling at the push of a button. There are many, many little things which surprise and delight me, but perhaps none more so than the telephone in the toilet.

The hotel phoned my room, concerned for my wellfare because the "do not disturb" button had been depressed for 3 consecutive days. They were worried, was I OK?

When the phone rang, there was also a ringing from somewhere else. I thought it was the room next door. I presumed it was some sort of technical malfunction, like when the power went off, causing the lights and air conditioning to be turned on in the middle of the night, throughout the whole hotel. In fact, it was the telephone in the bathroom ringing.

This afternoon I forced myself out of bed, put on some shorts and a T-shirt and drew the curtains for the first time in recent days, and saw that the skies were a little overcast. I expect that if I was out all day under those overcast skies I would still get a little bit of a tan, but I needed little excuse to draw the curtains again and retire to bed.

I'm starting to worry that I'm going to go back to work every bit as pale and pasty as when I departed under the UK's gloomy skies.

The small number of things which I need to do to prepare for a day at the beach or in the theme park, comprise having a shower, getting dressed, putting my money, laptop and other valuables in the safe, and packing a bag with a towel, sunglasses, sun screen and stuffing a fistful of Turkish Lira into my pocket. However, these minute tasks, along with the ever-present worry that it's a bit weird that a 39-year-old single man is hanging around a family resort, have conspired to keep me locked up indoors.

I spend a lot of my time tormented by the sensation that I have unfinished business at home. I've made a decent dent in my debts, but debt still looms large in my life. It doesn't feel like I can relax and enjoy myself, when I'm still so deep in negative territory. My lucrative contract leads me back to wealth and prosperity, theoretically, but losing the contract would leave me high and dry, as has happened so often before.

As you would expect at the end of the holiday season, during school termtime, midweek this resort is quite quiet. Mercifully, I've identified some other guests who are waving their phones around with gawping mouths, appearing to be other man-children who've decided to embark upon a ridiculous holiday unbecoming of our advanced years.

I'm starting to feel quite a bit of pressure to give my skin some colour in the few remaining days. I did need the sleep though; to spend some time liberated from the tyranny of daily working life demands.

I spend the night cursing myself for having used sleeping pills again - causing rebound insomnia - and the day cursing myself for not being able to overcome my depression, exhaustion and anxieties, such that I'm able to get out of this hotel room and enjoy my holiday.

I'm glad I went away on holiday, even if I'm crippled by insecurities about how people are judging me. I'm glad I'm away on holiday, even though the prospect of doing simple things - like ordering food or walking to the beach - is overwhelmingly daunting. I'm glad I'm away on holiday, despite being quite unwell, which is never great when in a foreign country.

At home, I stay in the same hotel and eat in the same gastropub every night. At home, I maintain the same identical routine each week, wearing the same pre-planned outfits at work and in the evenings. At home, I have controlled the variables, to give myself as little stress as possible, and the greatest chance of success in my battle to dig myself out of debt.

At home, the tiniest inconveniences can be harbingers of doom. I'm highly attuned to any hint that my controlled environment - my well-laid plans - are about to be bulldozered.

This resort is perfect in every way. There are no beggars or homeless. There are no shopkeepers trying to hawk their wares. There are no less-salubrious areas. There's nothing that would give rise to an unexpectedly negative or traumatic experience. Not a single thing is out of place, except me perhaps.

I'm crushed by imposter syndrome, both at home and abroad. I live with the daily threat of being asked to leave hanging over me, which would destroy any prospect of me being able to escape from under the dark storm-cloud of debt. I fully expect to be told: "you don't belong here" and to be cast back onto the streets.

I don't belong. That's the truth.

 

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In a Darkened Room

7 min read

This is a story about invisible sickness...

Psych ward

I'm not throwing up. I haven't got diarrhoea. I don't have a fever, sweats or chills. I don't ache or have physical pain. I haven't got a rash. My skin isn't discoloured. I can pass urine. I'm lucid; conscious.

Symptomatically, I'm not sick. I'm perfectly fine and healthy.

A few years ago - back in 2015 - I got so exhausted and stressed at work and I felt so unable to say "no" and ask for some time off, that the only legitimate way I could lift the pressure upon me was to be hospitalised. Being in hospital somehow legitimised the 'sickness' I was feeling, due to invisible illness. I felt protected from the relentless pressure which was being applied to me constantly, in the workplace and with mountainous debts. I felt safe in hospital.

I slept.

I slept so much.

I slept for 12 to 14 hours a day at least, for a whole week.

I was voluntarily admitted to the psych ward - I could leave whenever I wanted - but I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay safely protected within the walls of the hospital. I wanted to stay safely protected from the world of work, the world of debt, and the world of intolerable and unreasonable expectations; insufferable pressure which was killing me.

Unless my sickness is externally validated, by a doctor, I don't feel like I've got a legitimate reason to not work as hard as I can, and bash my head against a brick wall in a futile attempt to deal with an unreasonably huge burden of responsibility placed upon me. Unless somebody tells me it's OK to not be OK dealing with the mountainous tasks placed in my path, then I work until I reach breaking point.

Breaking point in 2015 meant getting myself admitted to a psych ward. Breaking point in 2017 meant killing myself.

I've been at breaking point for most of this year.

Today, I've spent a second day in my hotel room with the curtains drawn. Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with anxiety. Today I'm just plain exhausted. I'm a little sad and regretful that I've wasted another day of my holiday, but I really think I needed the rest. I was at breaking point.

You'd think I'd get bored or hungry, just lying in bed. You'd think that the prospect of a dip in the sea and the sensation of warm sand in-between my toes would tempt me to get out of bed. You'd think that the rollercoasters and water slides, which I haven't yet ridden, would tempt me out of bed. You'd think that the excitement of having a whole week with nothing to do but enjoy myself would give me an energy and mood boost.

I have a very busy mind. I'm constantly bombarded with thoughts. I don't need TV, films, books and other distractions to keep myself entertained. My brain will constantly bombard me with invasive memories and other groan-worthy things, as well as a steady stream of things to worry about. I don't get bored, even when I spend 2 whole days in a dark room with the curtains drawn.

I probably work too hard. Fundamentally, I'm a bit of a workaholic. The root of many of my problems is working too many hours at high intensity. I never switch off. I never relax. I never plod along at a steady pace - I always tear through things as fast as I can.

The mountainous debts have only amplified my tendency to work too hard, for too long, without taking enough breaks. I cannot take my foot off the gas pedal for a single second, because I'll easily be swallowed whole and disappear into a debt black hole; go bankrupt.

Debt is with you 24 hours a day, just as mental illness is. There isn't an on/off switch which can control depression, and similarly there's no off switch on the anxiety and pressure of mountainous and unmanageable debts.

Working an 8 hour day and having weekends off provides some relief from the pressures of the workplace. Although I spend most of my leisure time anxiously dreading having to go back to work, there are moments when I relax and enjoy the fact I'm not at the office.

There's never a moment's relief from debt.

Debt just has to be paid.

If you don't pay your debt off quickly enough, it'll never be repaid. If you don't earn enough money, you'll never repay your debts. Interest accrues on your debts, even when you're sleeping.

My situation got so bad that I cannot take an average salary job. I cannot take a break. I cannot relax.

Things were headed in the wrong direction in 2015. My mental health was causing problems in the workplace - being too outspoken due to hypomania - and I was living on borrowed time. I'd recently rented an apartment, which was going to cost me an arm and a leg, heaping a load more pressure onto me when I was already struggling to cope.

Things are headed in the right direction at the moment. My important debts could be cleared by the end of the year. I could be completely debt-free by March next year.

I worry that I'm screwing-up at work. I've been far too outspoken lately. I'm sure I'm pissing people off and making myself unpopular. I'm worried that my mental health problems are starting to adversely affect my behaviour in the office.

My coping strategies are unhealthy. I eat too much. I eat junk. I drink too much. I use sleeping pills and tranquillisers, when things get too unbearable.

As far as my colleagues are concerned, I've gone off on a holiday which was pre-approved and everybody's known about it for a while. As far as my colleagues are concerned, everything's ticking along just fine. As far as my colleagues are concerned, everything is pretty much normal.

This is good.

Back in 2015 I'd had several problems with my mental health, which had caused me to be absent from the office without any notice, or otherwise acting strangely. My colleagues were sympathetic, but they were well aware that something wasn't right with me. There were issues.

If things go to plan, I'll go back to work feeling refreshed and in a much better state of mental health. If things go to plan, the mania which was spilling over into my office behaviour, will be back in-check and I'll be able to resume my tight-lipped and poker-faced game of keeping quiet and fitting in as best I can; not being noticed. It's important to blend in and not be noticed, if you want to keep hold of your job when you've got a mental illness and mountainous debts.

If things go to plan, I'll go back to work and I'll finish October, work the whole of November and December, and then take another well-earned holiday for a couple of weeks, having cleared all my important debts. It seems feasible, doesn't it? Two and a half months of working my bollocks off, then I'll have dealt with the bulk of my woes - most of this crippling bloody debt.

If things go to plan, each of these holiday breaks arrive just in the nick of time, to save me from exploding in the office and losing my job. If things go to plan, each holiday allows me to recharge my batteries and carry on going.

Previously, I had been working until I reached breaking point, and becoming so unwell that I was unable to carry on working.

This year has been unsustainable and has ruined my health. This year has been horrible. However, the plan has been working and my debts are being rapidly repaid. I've been digging myself out of the hole.

Everything's taken its toll. I suppose I should not be surprised that this year has made me so sick that I've been in bed for two whole days, when I'm supposed to be on holiday enjoying myself.

I don't look sick.

It's a shame to waste a couple of holiday days, but so far this year I haven't been hospitalised and I'd like to keep it that way.

It's my holiday and I'll spend two days in bed if I want/need to.

 

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Addiction World Tour

5 min read

This is a story about drug smuggling...

Tablet

I never intended on becoming a narcotics trafficker. It happened by accident. To say that I'm a helpless puppet with my strings being pulled by the unseen hand of addiction, is not the whole truth. My executive brain functions and rational mind are still present, but there's quite a battle that rages within me. I'm mostly unaware of powerful subconscious thoughts which are often driving my behaviour, with my superego unable to perceive that I'm being steered towards addiction-sustaining acts, or indeed omissions.

Travelling from a rich country to a poorer one, customs might not expect illegal narcotics to flow in that direction, and as such might be caught off-guard by anything smuggled across the border by a wealthy Brit. My rational conscious brain says it's not worth taking the chance. Each country has their own drug laws and their own attitude towards those who flout them, with some countries being very punitive indeed, in an attempt to make an example of those who are part of the narcotics trade.

I've carried controlled substances across international borders a few times, quite by accident. Obviously I'm not talking about kilos of cocaine. I'm talking about the occasional tablet which escaped my notice when I was packing my bags.

I tried to buy some zopiclone - sleeping tablets - on the day I arrived here in Turkey. I hadn't planned to, but I saw a sign for a pharmacy and I thought I would enquire if it could be bought over the counter. It turns out you can't buy it without a prescription from a Turkish doctor.

Then, predictably, I had a sleepless night.

The last few weeks at work have been quite bearable, but perhaps only because I've been drinking heavily, taking sleeping tablets and also taking tranquillisers. I knew I was creating a problem for myself with the impending holiday, but I also needed to get through the seemingly unending and almost intolerable working weeks, without having a nervous breakdown.

After hardly sleeping all night, I then had very vivid nightmares. A lot of my nightmares revolved around drug addiction.

Feelings of overwhelming depression and anxiety have kept me in bed all day.

I expected this.

I'm paying the price for having made my working day more bearable using addictive sleeping pills and tranquillisers, because now I'm going cold turkey in Turkey. Lolz.

I knew this would happen. I was prepared to accept some panic attacks and sleepless nights; some horrible anxiety and gnawing dread; feeling like the world's about to end. This the deal with the devil that I struck: to be able to keep working my full-time job and able to cope, but to pay the price later.

I could have sworn I searched my bag thoroughly, to ensure I wasn't carrying anything through the airports that I shouldn't have been. In fact I did search my bag thoroughly, but my subconscious prompted me to be not quite thorough enough. I genuinely believed that I was travelling with not even a single solitary tablet to salve my anxiety and insomnia, my my subconscious was much more alert - as anxiety reached its peak, it told me to search more thoroughly and it knew I would find something. One lonely blue tablet, nestled in the stitching of the fabric, which could only be located with an obsessive search.

Of course, one blue tablet does not an addiction make.

Lots and lots of 'accidents' do however add up to an addiction.

It's unavoidable that I'm going to have to suffer some cold turkey withdrawal from sleeping pills and tranquillisers this week. It's unavoidable that I'll return to the UK far less addicted - dependent - on medications than when I left. That's one of the reasons why I chose to spend my holiday in a foreign country, where I'd be less likely to be tempted to fall back into old habits, although of course addictions follow you everywhere.

I would argue forcefully that the worst of my addiction is dealt with, and I'm using medications to help me keep working and earning money, in order to pay off mountainous crippling debts. I would argue that I'm using medications reasonably responsibly, and not in an abusive or recreational manner. I would argue that I'm hyper-aware of the risks of becoming physically dependent on benzodiazepines, and would not risk that happening again now I've managed to escape the clutches of that dreadful class of drugs.

It does however somewhat surprise me that I've managed to do it again - to smuggle drugs by accident - although mercifully this one tablet has therapeutic, not abusive potential. It's a bona fide medicine. It's not the dreaded slippery slope; the thin end of the wedge.

I need to be aware of the risk that I could back-slide gradually into an increasingly abusive and regular pattern of drug abuse. I need to be careful. I'm well aware that the worst of my addiction was prolonged for a very long time, because I thought I was able to get away with casual, occasional or so-called recreational use, which lulled me into a false sense of security; I was deluding myself.

Not the happiest story ever told, having spent the day in bed with the curtains drawn, but I often have days like this on holiday, where the accumulated stress and anxiety of the preceding months suddenly swamps me. I've hardly taken a day off sick, so it should be expected that I'd get sick as soon as I relaxed.

It'll soon be Monday morning, but at least I don't have to go to work this week.

 

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Midnight

3 min read

This is a story about turning into a pumpkin...

Carvings

I wasn't going to write tonight. I'm lying on the couch of my very good friend and fellow co-founder of what was once a promising profitable startup. We drank wine, drank beer and ate curry. We discussed every topic under the sun, from relationships, children, getting rich, becoming poor, going mad, and the absurdity of existence. Then, it was time to go to bed because we have to be up early in the morning: him because he has 3 young children, and me because I'm a jet-set playboy who's off to the airport to catch an early flight.

Ironically, my friend has given me a book to read while on holiday, about the importance of getting good sleep.

I know how important sleep is.

My flight starts boarding in 8 hours, but I still need to drive to the airport, check-in, clear security and get to the gate. It shouldn't be too bad, but I haven't packed my bag yet. I imagine that I'll be frantically decanting clothes from one massive suitcase - into which I threw every bit of clean clothing I own - into a more reasonably sized piece of luggage. It seems ludicrous to travel across the globe with my entire wardrobe, but carting everything I own around with me from place to place, is how I lived when I was homeless in London.

The concepts of home and away-from-home are unfamiliar to me. Wherever I happen to be sleeping on any particular night is 'home'. If there's somewhere comfortable to lie down and I've got my stuff with me, then I can make myself at home anywhere.

I wasn't going to write, because it's been a long week and it's been a long year. It's taken a lot of hard work, suffering and time to get to the point where I'm able to go away on holiday, and not worry about having a place to live and a job when I come back. The future's uncertain, but there's a good chance that I'll be able to recharge my batteries and continue to earn money, paying off my monstrously crippling debts and re-filling the war chest.

I wasn't going to write because I'm tired and a little drunk, but screw it.

I wasn't going to write because it's past midnight.

I like to write every day.

Technically, it's tomorrow already.

According to my clock, it's almost 1am

I didn't turn into a pumpkin.

The next time I write to you, perhaps I will be officially on holiday, for a whole entire week.

Wish me bon voyage.

 

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Life Is Better In Flip Flops

6 min read

This is a story about nerve damage...

Tied on flip flop

As you can see from the picture above, I had a very bad injury to my left leg. What you might not know is that the massive lesion to my leg healed perfectly. Some nerves were severed when a piece of mirror glass guillotined its way through my shin, but the nerves managed to regrow. The severed tendons and muscle was sewn back together and my leg had completely recovered.

Then I got DVT (deep-vein thrombosis).

The first I knew about the DVT was that my ankle looked a bit swollen and my foot went numb. It was the fact I hadn't needed to urinate for several days which prompted me to go to hospital. On the day I decided to go to hospital, my foot, ankle, leg and knee were swelling at an alarming rate. By the time I was examined in Accident & Emergency, my left leg was almost fully twice as large as the right leg.

My weight soared from around 80kg (176 pounds or 12½ stone) to 95kg (209 pounds or 15 stone) which is a heck of a lot of weight gain for 5 or 6 days. It took many many sessions of dialysis to get that fluid out of me, while the hospital anxiously waited for my kidneys to start working again.

Unfortunately, the blood clot/thrombosis and other complications caused nerve damage. Presumably the blood vessels which had been surgically repaired and the nerves which had managed to re-grow and re-attach themselves, were quite fragile versus normal physiology. My foot went numb.

To be more accurate, my foot was left numb after many months of excruciating pain.

I had a nerve condition study and an MRI scan, but there was still a lot of swelling and other damage, making it unclear whether a surgical intervention might ever return the feeling to my foot. My main concern at the time was pain management, because it was too painful to walk any great distance, and pain kept me awake at night very badly. I was taking the maximum dose of tramadol AND codeine, plus supplementing prescribed painkillers with dihyrocodiene and other opiate medications, which I bought on the black market. I was briefly a very heavily dependent opioid painkiller user.

Opiates have weird side-effects. I couldn't tell whether the nausea, itching, constipation, cramps, sweating, diarrhoea, and intense anxiousness about maintaining my supply of opiate painkilllers, was a result of their effects or the effect of withdrawal. All I knew was that I would have periods where I felt incredibly rubbish, and then periods where things were more bearable, despite dosing myself regularly throughout the day.

The thing which made the greatest difference - other than a loving, caring, attentive and wonderful girlfriend - was a topical ointment containing diclofenac, which is a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drug). Because of the earlier complications with my kidneys, many medications were contraindicated. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the diclofenac gel, because it's not very kidney-friendly, but it was the only thing which gave me any reliable relief.

It's possible that most of my pain was related to opiate withdrawal and strange interactions between the tramadol, codeine and dhydrocodeine, which I should not have been combining, but I did so out of desperation for pain relief. It's possible that in my desperation for pain relief, I actually made things worse. Perhaps tramadol alone would have been more effective.

Eventually, I decided that I hated all the effects of the opiates, so I decided to go cold turkey. I had been heavily opiate dependent, for a period of several months, so I was expecting to experience pure hell quitting the opiates. Certainly a lot of noise has been made about the addictiveness of OxyContin, Vicodin and other painkillers which have been implicated in the opiod addiction epidemic sweeping the United States, declared a nationwide public health emergency by President Obama on October 26th 2017.

Back in July 2017, I tried to walk from my apartment to my local Chinese takeaway in flip flops - a distance of about 500 metres. I could not walk more than ten paces without the flip flop coming off my left foot, because it was so numb and my toes were somewhat 'clawed' such that I couldn't hold the flip flop on my foot or tell when it was slipping off.

For almost all of 2017 I was taking a neuropathic painkiller called pregabalin - marketed as Lyrica - which I found to be quite effective. However, it occurred to me that this painkiller might have been preventing the natural nerve re-growth which had successfully healed my severed nerves once before. After 9 months with no improvement to the numbness in my foot, I was becoming quite depressed about the prospect of never regaining any feeling in my foot, and consequently never being able to wear flip-flops again, without tying them onto my foot as pictured above.

I like wearing flip flops. They're an important part of my beach bum seaside-dwelling kitesurfer identity.

I decided to stop taking pregabalin.

If anybody tells you that pregabalin is not addictive, they're just plain wrong.

Pregabalin quite recently became a scheduled drug in the UK, making it illegal to possess without a prescription. Pregabalin affects the GABA system of the brain, just like alcohol, Valium, Xanax and GHB/GBL, which are all considered to have a high abuse potential, so naturally pregabalin is no different.

Of all the drugs I've quit and medications I've withdrawn from, pregabalin is one of the worst. Because of its tranquilising and sedating effects, the rebound when withdrawing creates a state of insomnia, anxiety and induces the general sensation that the world is about to end, which lasts for months.

I quit pregabalin under the supervision of doctors, tapering the dosage down gradually, but it was a pretty aggressive schedule, which was chosen by me. I wanted to quit pregabalin as quickly as possible, because I wanted to find out if it would help my nerves re-grow and allow me to wear flip flops again, or indeed be able to feel a kitesurf board underneath my feet.

Pleasingly, I can report that I put on a pair of newly-purchased flip flops tonight, and I was able to walk around without the left one falling off.

My left foot feels different from the right one, but I do have some sensation restored and I don't have the aches and pains which troubled me during a lot of 2017.

It might seem like a minor point, but it's actually something that has disproportionate imporance in my life: To be able to wear flip flops again is a big deal.

Life is better in flip flops.

 

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Back to School

6 min read

This is a story about working during the summer...

Chalkboard

My drive to work this morning was dreadful, despite leaving at the crack of dawn. The roads are clogged again as the little darling children get taxied to school in gigantic 4x4s. There's a notable change in attitude of people now that the new term has started. My colleagues are much more in work mode than holiday mode. The mood is very different.

This summer has been the 4th consecutive year where I've had to work and not take any holiday.

To be honest, I'm really glad the school holidays are over.

I want to visit some friends in Prague, but I didn't want to travel during August, because the airports would have been rammed with holidaymakers. I want to visit friends in Ireland, but it makes more sense to wait until the madness of the school holidays is done and dusted. August is a dreadful month to travel anywhere and do anything, because everywhere's teeming with tourists.

I'm utterly exhausted, but at least I have a huge advantage compared with previous years. 2016 was relatively settled and I had been earning good money for several months. I had a very good chance of getting back on my feet in 2016, but the project I was working on was terminated unexpectedly early. In 2015 and 2017 I had the stress, exhaustion and financial pressures associated with moving house. In 2015 I had to pay thousands and thousands in rent, deposit and letting agent fees. In 2017 I had to put all my stuff into storage and move to Manchester. At least all I have to do this year is keep up my well-established routine.

Seemingly "little" things can have an enormously draining and exhausting effect, because they're very stressful. Travelling back and forth from Wales to London and staying in lots of different AirBnBs took a lot of time, planning, money and energy, at a time when I had very little spare cash. Not having my own place - an oasis of calm - to return to after a week working in the City meant that I was constantly uneasy and unsettled. The demands of being a guest in somebody's home shouldn't be underestimated, if you're similar to me in that you feel like you need to live small, neat, tidy and provide some 'value' to your hosts. It's very different being in your own home, versus being a guest in an AirBnB or sofa-surfing with friends, even if you have 'your own' room.

I've tried to engineer my life to give myself the greatest chance of success. I stay in the same hotel every week and I have an identical room. I eat in the same gastropub. I wear the same shirts on the same days. I pack the same things in my bag. There's a system and a routine which makes things less stressful and unsettling. I still don't sleep as well as I would in my own bed, because of the unpredictable noises of other guests, although I'm very glad that the hotel is of high enough quality that loud snorers - and there are so many - are not audible enough to make sleep impossible, through the sound-insulated walls. I've chosen a hotel which mostly accommodates business travellers like me, so I don't have the din of a family of 5 all cramped into one room, opening and closing the door and shouting in the corridor for hours every morning and evening.

I'm not one of your "children should be seen and not heard" miserable mean-spirited people, but I have little time and patience for the imposition of other people's lifestyle choices which negatively impact me. I don't mind kids in restaurants and bars. However, I've made a very conscious effort to carefully plan parenthood, so it's not fair that I should have my beauty sleep impacted as if I was simply one of the herd of rutting beasts, mindlessly spawning brats into the overcrowded world.

Most employed people think that the unemployed should get jobs, simply because they have to get up early and go to work, so they can't abide anybody who's not suffering the same miserable slog of the rat race. Perhaps it's like that with me and the holidays - I'm upset that I've had to work all summer without a holiday, so I somewhat begrudge people who've had lots of time off during July and August. Maybe I'm more bitter and resentful than I'm fully aware of.

I'm not going to dwell on my sense of being hard-done-by, because I'm starting to get myself into a position where I have enough financial security and employment security, as well as the freedom of being unencumbered by children, to be able to do pretty much whatever I want. I'm starting to regain my wealth, which means soon I'll be able to have some very luxurious holidays, I hope.

It helps having my colleagues in more of a work-mode. The attitude change is important. I need to be busy. I can't stand being bored.

It's very cool that I've made it to this point and my life is much more stable and secure than it's been in the past, and commensurately my mental health is much improved. Even in 2016 - which I think of as a good year - I was desperately suicidally depressed and struggling a lot more, I think.

I've definitely managed to get myself out of the danger zone yet again, which I'm very good at doing, but my luck usually runs out and I'm quickly plunged back into the red. At least I have critical pieces of the puzzle in place this year - car, apartment, job, cash - and I've got my routine well established. Provided I can keep turning the pedals then I should be able to cement my position. That I was able to withstand an almost disastrous May and June with little lasting ill effects, was a really good test and proof that my recovery is starting to be a little more resilient to life's slings and arrows.

I feel like I'm almost on a level playing field with my peers now - the fun and frolics of the summer are behind them and we all have months of miserable hard work stretching ahead of us. It feels better to be "in it together" rather than jealous of my colleagues jetting off on their holidays. In fact, I even have a slight advantage because I can take my holidays whenever I want - I'm not bound to the school holidays.

It might seem like schadenfreude but I don't care.

 

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One Year in Pictures - a Photo Story

7 min read

This is a story about the last 12 months...

London sunset

The story begins in London, looking out at the skyline of the capital from my balcony. This is the last photo I took from my apartment in London before I had to leave to go chasing cash... I was practically bankrupt.

Self storage

That's everything I own all boxed up and put into self storage. That's all the stuff I've managed to hang onto through the past few years. I'm amazed I even managed to accumulate and retain this much stuff, considering that a few years ago I was homeless and even sleeping rough. In a way, it's liberating that my life can be boxed up and moved so easily.

Packed suitcase

That's all I could manage to carry on the train to Manchester, leaving my beloved home city of London. I'll always think of London as home first and foremost, because I've spent more time there than anywhere else. Yes, I got my ass kicked, but the place was relatively kind to me. I've still got plenty of friends there, at least.

Manchester apartment block

Here's the apartment block where I was moving to. I'd never set foot in Manchester before in my life. I'd never been inside the apartment. I didn't know anybody in the city. In fact, I hardly know anybody in the North of England. In retrospect it was insane to move to Manchester, but I was desperate - I was bankrupt and I couldn't afford to pay the rent in London anymore, so homelessness and destitution were imminent. I did what I had to do.

Ironing board

I was lonely but there were girls. I was so busy with my work that there wasn't a lot of time for making new friends. I was really gutted about a breakup a couple of months earlier - she was such an amazing girlfriend - and it seemed to make sense at the time to meet somebody new. It made things more bearable, having a partner.

Tramadol capsules

Things were fragile; delicate. I was under so much pressure and I'd been through such emotional upheaval leaving my home and moving to a new city, as well as the exhaustion and the stress of it all. I often thought about killing myself. I even took this photo of one of the boxes of capsules I used as part of my massive overdose suicide attempt.

Psych ward

Psych ward. Not just any psych ward - this was a PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) and my fellow patients were very sick. I arrived here after my suicide attempt, having spent days in a coma on life support.

Nettles

Wales. What the hell was I doing in Wales? I might've been born in Wales but I've never lived here. The hospital were going to discharge me into some kind of supported housing, but I had no idea where in the country I was going to be housed. I've got no local connections anywhere. I could have stayed in hospital and taken a gamble on social services finding me somewhere tolerable to live, but instead I accepted the kind offer from a doctor who read my blog - I moved into their converted garage. I was homeless and it was the state's responsibility to house me because I was vulnerable, but there was too much danger I'd end up housed somewhere where I didn't know anybody. It turned out the doctor was married to somebody my friend was friends with... there was a connection.

Warsaw snow

Warsaw. What the hell was I doing in Warsaw? I needed money and I needed it fast. An old friend put in a good word for me with his boss and the next thing I knew I was packing my bags for a business trip to Poland.

Busy underground

London again. This time I was commuting from Wales and living in AirBnBs. I stayed in 12 different AirBnBs. It was a horrible existence, spent on trains and in really crappy accommodation. I nearly ran out of money. It was unbelievably stressful, having to pretend like everything was OK and normal, when in actual fact I'd already been through 6 months of hell and things were worse than ever. I was no fixed abode, living off the charity of a doctor who read my blog and emailed me, and I was almost out of cash but I still had to get to work every day and pretend like everything was normal.

Train cancelled

Dating again. I decided that there was no point in dating in London because I didn't plan on staying in London for any more than another couple of months... I couldn't stand the commuting and the AirBnBs. I was dating, but I still didn't have any money, or a car, or an apartment - I was still virtually bankrupt and no fixed abode. What the hell was I doing dating?

Garage

I got a local job. That meant I needed a car so I could get to work. I had a horrendous chest infection, but I needed a car and I needed one fast. I barely had enough money for the car, the road tax and the insurance. In fact, I didn't have enough money - I had to go into even more debt in order to get myself back on the road.

Apartment keys

I managed to rent an apartment. That was stressful. They were asking for the whole 12 months rent up-front at one point. I was struggling to prove that I was able to pay the rent, of course... I'd spent the past 9 months on the brink of bankruptcy so of course I was worried that my credit score was destroyed and I wouldn't be able to rent an apartment. Once again, I spent every penny I could lay my hands on and went deeper into debt, but I desperately wanted some security... a place to call home with a legally binding tenancy agreement... no longer dependent on the charity of the kind people who'd let me live in their converted garage.

Cod and chips

A brief moment of domestic bliss. I had a car, an apartment, a local job and a local girlfriend. We were a "dinky" couple - dual income, no kids. We ate out or had takeaway nearly every night, or cooked luxury ready meals. We were planning a holiday together.

Baked beans

Easy come, easy go. I broke up with my girlfriend. The work project had been completed and the local company were letting me go. My windows were covered with paper so nobody could see in and I was eating cold baked beans out of a can with a business card as an improvised spoon.

Holiday

Instead of a week lying on a sun lounger by the swimming pool, on holiday, I managed to snatch a weekend mini-break to a European city with an old friend. It was exhausting, but of course great to see my friend. My week-long holiday was cancelled. I haven't had a proper holiday for 2 years.

Leaving gift

A leaving gift from my local job. They got me a card and everything. The gift was alcohol. It was a nice gesture. I like alcohol.

Time to talk

Another day another dollar. I got another job. It's still in Wales but it's 90 minutes drive away in rush hour traffic. My mental health is destroyed and I find it ironic that there are posters everywhere in the office saying "it's OK to talk about mental health" but there's an unwritten rule that says I'm supposed to be a reliable, steady, dependable worker who never complains and just gets on with the project... I'm not allowed to take sick days. I'm back living out of a suitcase again. I'm still a long way away from where I need to be.

Pint in the pub

This is my life now. Drinking in the pub next to the hotel, which is near my new office. My new colleagues are nice - and super smart - and the project is interesting, I guess, but I really need a bunch of local friends, a local girlfriend etc. etc. and I could really do without the loneliness and the boredom and the isolation and the pressure and the stress, which are all as present as ever.

A pretty crazy 12-month rollercoaster ride. I'm very surprised that I'm still alive.

 

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Vitamin D

4 min read

This is a story about agoraphobia...

London Balcony

This is how I used to get fresh air and sun-kissed skin a year ago. You might say that central London has terrible air quality, but the city where I now live has worse air quality.

My apartment in London cost me more than three times as much as my current apartment, but there were hundreds more opportunities for work, if not thousands more - all accessible by public transport.

I had to get my car roadworthy today. It looks like I'm going to be joining the commuting masses, all clogging up Britain's roads. After dropping my car at the garage, I opened the Uber app on my smartphone. There are no Uber drivers in the whole city. I rang the city's biggest cab firm and they said I'd have to wait 90 minutes or more. I walked home from the garage in the sunshine. I did need the fresh air, the vitamin D and the exercise, but remember... I now live in a city that's more polluted than London.

I think I'm taking a wrong turn. I think I should be going back to London, because I can guarantee a steady stream of work there within the space of a few square miles: The City of London - the Square Mile - and Canary Wharf are the gifts that keep on giving. Sure, London is overcrowded and overpriced, but at least it's somewhere I know and I have friends. I'm going to end up in places I've never visited before, temporarily, and feeling very unsettled. I think it's a mistake.

I didn't mind isolating myself in that apartment in London so much, because I could sit on the balcony and soak up the sun. I could sit on the sofa and watch the boats go past. I could open those big patio doors and have a lovely breeze blowing through my whole home. It blows my mind that I felt more connected to nature in the middle of a city with 10 million inhabitants, than I do in this small seaside place with lush green valleys and hills no more than a 20 minute car ride away.

I probably need a bit of both. I might as well be in London if I'm working full-time. But I need somewhere to call home - I need a base, and that base should be somewhere cheap. It's a lot of pressure to keep working all the time when you need to find £500/week just to pay the rent... plus you've got all the bills on top of that.

It was a mistake to put myself into the situation where I had sole responsibility for paying all that rent, and no way to get out of the contract when I was too sick to work. If I went back to London, I'd have my company rent a place on a month-by-month basis, so I could leave whenever I stopped working.

I don't know what's keeping me indoors. There's some kind of force-field. I haven't reached the point where I feel I can relax, take my foot off the gas pedal and just coast a bit. I should be enjoying the summer, but I'm not; I'm really not at all. My summer has been ruined.

I think I need to plan to go away when the days are getting shorter, it's getting cold, wet and miserable, and the clocks go back. I need to get an autumn/winter sun boost. That's the next thing I can start to pin my hopes on.

If I can get through the next 3 or 4 months relatively uneventfully, keeping the cash rolling in, maybe I'll be in a position to sit in the sunshine and actually relax and enjoy myself. At the moment, I don't feel like I deserve to enjoy the summer... there's still so much work to do; there's still so much stress ahead, and uncertainty.

 

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