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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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Bipolar Medications

8 min read

This is a story about tailored medicine...

Different tablets

It's a subject I've written about at length before, but I was writing about my experiences with different mood stabilisers earlier today and I thought I would re-purpose that content for my blog, because I'm tired and I'm stressed, and it seems like a logical thing to do: To take something I wrote earlier and re-use it.

What I've written is in the style of advice given to somebody who's perhaps newly diagnosed as bipolar, or perhaps suspects that they have bipolar disorder. What I've written is from my own personal experiences. What I've written is not meant to be completely authoritative and factually correct, but I'm aware that it's my general writing style to present my opinions in a persuasive manner.

So, without further ado, let's get onto the list of bipolar mood stabilising medications I have known and loved (or hated, more like).

Quetiapine (Seroquel)

Horrible side effects, including weight gain, daytime sleepiness, dry mouth and constipation. When it takes effect, it's so strong that it's very hard to get to bed, or use the toilet in the middle of the night. Cannot be mixed with alcohol - the alcohol makes you feel very unwell.

Overall, this medication feels like being "heavily sedated" and it would be very difficult to carry on a normal life at dosages above 200mg. At dosages of 300mg or more, you'll be sleepy and dopey all the time. At dosages over 400mg, you'll be a shuffling zombie, good for nothing except dribbling in front of daytime TV.

Not compatible with having a job.

Aripiprazole (Abilify)

This medication had a strange side effect, where I lost fine motor control of my lips and seemed to produce excessive amounts of saliva. It was impossible to have a conversation with somebody without spraying them with spit, which was a horribly degrading experience for me.

Aripiprazole is very long-lived in the body, so it can take a week or more to wear off and get back to normal, even after taking this medication for only a couple of days (i.e. if you try it and you get bad side effects immediately, you'll have those side effects for a whole week at least).

Because of its very long half-life, I would have serious reservations about trying this one, except as a last resort.

Lamotrigine (Lamactil)

No side effects at first, but the dosage has to be increased very slowly with this one. Migrane headaches are a very common side effect, which I got, so I decided to stop taking it. The headaches are tolerable, I guess, because this is the medication with the fewest side effects.

Some psychiatrists might not consider lamotrigine to be a mood stabiliser, but in fact more of an antidepressant which is safe for bipolar people to take. It improves sleep quality so I think it's a good choice from amongst the fairly bleak options.

Also a good choice if you plan on attempting to have a normal job and work.

Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

Side effects include weight gain, daytime sleepiness and a general feeling of being drugged, but nowhere near as bad as quetiapine.

Very good at quickly stopping a manic episode, so it could arguably be used only when entering a manic phase, and then stopped a short while later, but this would require discipline.

Not recommended to take on a long-term basis.

Not compatible with having a normal job.

Sodium valproate (Depakote)

Dreadful side effects. Will turn you into a total shuffling, dribbling zombie and eventually you will get an irreversible kind of brain damage, which will cause you to make involuntary facial movements (a bit like a tic).

This is an awful drug, given to paranoid schizophrenics who are very severely sick (paranoia, hearing voices, hallucinations etc).

If you're on this, it's probably forcibly injected into you in a psychiatric institution. The injections last for 3 months. Don't ever let yourself get so unwell that this becomes necessary. Exhaust all the other options first.

Lithium

Very hard to get the dose right, and requires regular blood testing, which is annoying and inconvenient. Very effective and side effects are tolerable if you can get the dose perfect but it might take many years to find exactly the right dose, and it will be very destabilising if you start going too low with your dose - i.e. you might end up triggering manic episodes when you're simply trying to avoid side effects.

Lithium causes irreversible health damage when used long term, and is therefore "life limiting" in a way - it might reduce your lifespan by 5 years or more, which is obviously a high price to pay.

General Comments

Psychiatrists will tell you that you need to commit to a medication for at least 3 months, in order to feel the therapeutic effects and for the side effects to wear off. I have tried all the medications listed above for 3 months or more, and the side effects never wore off. The side effects were intolerable for all the medications, except lamotrigine.

If you take these medications for longer than a few weeks (with the exception of lamotrigine) then you cannot stop taking them abruptly. If you suddenly stop taking these medications, you will have horrible rebound mania and possibly psychosis too (hearing voices etc). However, I have successfully 'weaned' (i.e. tapered) myself off all these medications, without too many problems.

The worst manic episodes I've had have been when stopping quetiapine and olanzapine abruptly. When I've tapered off the medications slowly, my mood has been fine and I've not had any problems. In fact, every time I've stopped taking a medication, I've felt much better, because the side effects are so awful.

I would advise you to consider olanzapine as a treatment for acute episodes of mania... i.e. you should have some ready to take, and when you start to go manic then start taking it to make sure your mania doesn't spiral out of control.

I would also advise you to consider lamotrigine as first or second choice. I believe many busy working professionals with bipolar disorder find lamotrigine to be a good medication, because it has few side effects.

Psychiatrists will probably pressure you to be on a stronger medication, which is likely to be an atypical antipsychotic (quetiapine, aripiprazole, olanzapine, sodium valproate, risperidone, clozapine) but all of these will have very profound side effects, most notably making you feel tired and sleepy, lethargic, foggy-headed, confused, increasing your appetite and reducing your sex drive. It's personal choice, but I find those side effects unacceptable.

Alternatives to Medication

Alternatively, you can use good lifestyle choices to manage bipolar: no alcohol, no caffeine, strict bedtimes, strict work:life balance, exercise, good diet. You will probably need some trusted people around you who can let you know when your speech is becoming more pressured, you're getting irritable, perhaps you're getting a little obsessive about projects, becoming more impulsive and taking more risks... essentially, when you're heading into a manic episode, which could escalate. I find that getting 8 to 10 hours sleep each night, no more and no less, helps me to keep my mood stable. I also find that my manic episodes are much less of a problem since I quit caffeine. Recreational drugs are a terrible terrible idea, and completely incompatible with bipolar, unfortunately, especially the stimulants: legal high powders, speed, coke, crystal meth, meow meow, M-CAT, mephedrone, monkey dust etc. etc.

Stressful life events can be very triggering for mania, as well as the temptation to work hard because of a job change, promotion or exciting project. It takes a lot of careful planning to ensure that stress is kept to a minimum and work:life balance is preserved. If you want to get obsessed with anything, make it exercise and the great outdoors.

In Conclusion

I'm living a functional and complete life, with a full-time job, managing to have good relationships, managing my money, not engaging in risky behaviours or otherwise suffering many problems with my bipolar disorder. I have depressions, which are sometimes bad enough to cause me to take some time off work, but only a few days here and there. I have hypomanic episodes, where I can spend a lot of money and make impulsive decisions. However, considering that I don't take any mood stabilising medications for my bipolar disorder, my mood is remarkably stable and almost everybody would consider me to be successfully managing my condition, without having any particularly adverse effects on my quality of life.

I can highly recommend trying to go medication free, or spending a lot of time trying different medications and tweaking the dosage, because life is so much better when you're not drugged up to the eyeballs with powerful psychiatric chemicals, which radically alter you and your personality, with horrible side effects.

I'm not antipsychiatry per se, but I would advise people to make very well informed decisions and remind your clinicians that it's your body, so it's your rules, and like with every profession, there are people who are brilliant at their jobs and there are people who are not so great. You need to educate yourself so that you know whether you're getting good advice or not. You can't just trust everybody who calls themselves a doctor.

Mental health is complex. Bipolar disorder is complex. People are complex. We are all individuals and we have individual needs and individual unique circumstances. Tailor your solution to meet your needs.

 

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How I Became a Drug Addict Again

6 min read

This is a story about re-relapse...

Syringe

The title of this blog post, the hyphenated nonsensical word "re-relapse" and the image of an oral syringe which I happened to spot lying on the floor of a hospital, are all intended to set the tone of this piece: Everything you think you know about drug addicts is probably wrong, especially when referring to "drug addicts" as a collective group of mostly identical people.

I could easily wander into the territory of blathering on about "we're not all the same, you know" and other such clichés, but instead I thought I'd simply tell you the story of my re-relapse.

I guess how I became a drug addict again is far less interesting and important than why, so I'm actually going to explain some of the who and the what which means my story makes sense, I hope.

Back in November 2018 - less than 3 months ago - I was a drug addict. I also booked some flights to Mexico for my girlfriend and I, so that we could spend Christmas and New Year on the beach. This presented a problem: How does a drug addict go on holiday?

When I went on holiday to Turkey for a week in October 2018, I literally went cold turkey, which I thought was really funny because I had travelled to Turkey for a hot holiday during the cold UK autumn. The irony of it had a kind of poetic deliciousness, which I couldn't resist. Besides, I wasn't that much of a drug addict at the time.

During that week in Turkey, I struggled to sleep at first, without the drugs which I had become addicted to. Then I became incredibly tired and lethargic due to lack of sleep, and I didn't leave my hotel room for 3 days. However, by the end of the holiday I was able to enjoy some sunshine and I was also 'clean' - I was no longer a drug addict.

Now we must ask: If I had managed to get 'clean' and beat my drug addiction, why would I relapse? The answer is quite simple and straightforward really: Because I am using drugs as a coping mechanism for my ordinary day-to-day circumstances.

What about Mexico?

I had planned a 2-week holiday with my girlfriend, to Mexico, which would have been far more enjoyable than the holiday to Turkey, except for the fact that my drug addiction had escalated. I'm not sure what was so particularly awful about November, except that the UK weather was getting even colder and more miserable, but I found it necessary to augment my existing drug addiction with additional substances.

I did not want to travel through two international airports carrying controlled substances, for which I did not have a prescription. In the UK, it's a criminal offence to be in possession of certain medicines, unless you have a prescription. I did not have a prescription. One of the medicines which I needed to transport with me to Mexico via transatlantic flight, in order to maintain my drug addiction, was unfortunately illegal to possess in the UK without a prescription.

What was I going to do?

I procrastinated for a long while, and then with 3 weeks until the scheduled departure of our flight to Mexico, I decided to start reducing my dose a little bit every day. I tapered myself off one of the medications I was addicted to - Xanax - until I was no longer addicted to it, so I was then able to travel without being at risk of prosecution for trafficking narcotics across international borders.

Essentially, I got 'clean' again. Yet again. I've gotten 'clean' so many times.

Oh, did I mention that I also quit drinking?

Yeah. Don't try to quit Xanax in the space of 3 weeks if you're addicted to it. If you're addicted to Xanax, you need to taper down your dose really slowly or else you'll have problems.

I had problems.

I drank 9 pints (5 litres) of very strong beer and I don't remember many of the details, except that I went bat shit crazy and smashed some stuff up. I was pretty much blackout drunk, so my memory is very patchy. I was out of control. I was a mess. The worrying thing is how little of it I remember.

So, I quit drinking soon after I started trying to quit Xanax. Mixing alcohol and Xanax is a bad idea, but drinking alcohol while quitting Xanax is a disastrous idea.

However, quitting alcohol and Xanax, when you're addicted to both... that's hell.

I had 3 weeks where I felt like the world was about to end and life was not worth living. I had 3 weeks where I was absolutely convinced that every conceivable disaster was lurking just around the corner. I had 3 weeks of the most unbearably awful anxiety.

Then I went to Mexico.

Turns out you can just buy Xanax over-the-counter in a pharmacy in Mexico if you smile nicely and pay in cash. Obviously, I was well aware that it's illegal to sell Xanax in Mexico, but I was also well aware that it wasn't illegal for me to buy it or possess it. So, I bought a bottle of Xanax from a Mexican pharmacy, and I resumed my drug addiction. Xanax is branded Tafil in Mexico by the way... if you ever need to get some.

Then, at the end of my holiday in Mexico, which was awesome by the way, I threw the leftover tablets in the bottle into the trash, at the airport.

Since my holiday, my life has continued pretty much as normal. I don't drink - I've managed to remain almost completely sober since I quit alcohol back in December. My life is also normal, insofar as I'm a drug addict.

Every night I take a sleeping pill and a tranquilliser, and I do so because I need sleep and I need to be tranquil. My life circumstances dictate my need for the substances I use.

I imagine that I will become completely 'clean' and 'sober' again one day, but for the time being, I need to endure some pretty horrible life circumstances, and I find that the drugs I'm addicted to are helping me to cope, even though it's commonly thought that all drug addiction is automatically a bad thing.

What I wish for is not to be 'clean' and 'sober' but for the circumstances of my life to be more pleasant and favourable to a life without the 'crutches' of drugs, but what I wish for seems mostly impossible, at the moment. I can't achieve the impossible. I have to work within the limits which I'm constrained by. I have no control over most things in my life, which cause me a great deal of discomfort and unhappiness, but I've found my coping mechanisms which work.

The end.

 

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Perfect Storm

4 min read

This is a story about life at the limits...

Cliffs

I suppose that it's a regular complaint of mine that I'm feeling overwhelmed, and it's a regular boast that I've been through some substantial periods of adversity. I'm also aware that the picture I've selected to accompany today's blog post is not exactly very stormy, but it's the best I could come up with in the circumstances.

I stopped writing for a while, which was because my friend killed himself, and also an enormous project kicked off at work, and also I had plans to get myself across the Atlantic Ocean and back again in one piece... plus all the many other important things to numerous to list. In short, I didn't make the time to write and there were a number of very good reasons why I took a break from writing every day.

Now, my friend's funeral is done, my transatlantic jaunt is done and the enormous project at work isn't going to be finished any time soon, so I must resume my daily writing duties, even on days when I don't feel like writing.

This morning I woke up and I felt terrible. I considered not going to work. I got to the office and several of my colleagues told me that I looked awful and said that I should go home. There was snow forecast and local schools were closing. My colleagues weren't doing anything except staring out of the window and/or talking about stockpiling food. I came home early and worked from my bed.

Unfortunately, I have my 'day job' plus my company to run, plus this website, which I have started to attempt to migrate from one place to another, although all these things are behind the scenes. I also treat my writing a bit like a job, in that I sometimes force myself to write even when I'd much rather be doing something else, or I've got a lot on my plate.

The things that get neglected are my sister and my niece, my friends, all the phone-calls I never answer, all the messages and emails I never reply to, and all the tasks which can be deferred for as long as possible. I need a haircut. My car needs servicing. Today is the final day that personal taxes are due to be paid in the UK, and I was close to the deadline as usual. I need to find a new place to live. I need to renew my car insurance. I need to see if my former friend's mum still has my stuff - the majority of my stuff - still stored in her garage, or whether she's disposed of it, since the fallout with the friend.

I quit drinking back in early December, although I did have a couple of drinks on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Quitting drinking helps, actually. I feel fitter, healthier and I've lost some weight. I find my life to be much improved versus the recent period when I was drinking heavily every single day.

Something's gotta give though.

Today it was my health. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, it was also my health. Every day I take too many sleeping pills and too many tranquillisers.

Eventually, the weather will improve, my finances will improve, my routine will stabilise, I will get the housing security I need, I will have the regular social contact I need, I will get the exercise I need, I will replace my run-down old car with a newer nicer one, I will replace my worn-out clothes, I will pay off my debts and I will get a haircut.

Not today though.

 

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No News is Bad News - Part Two

6 min read

This is a story about radio silence...

Hotel room

On June 20 of this year I attempted to write my life story from 2011 onwards, covering the happiest, most successful period of my life and the pinnacle of my career - doing a tech startup accelerator program in Cambridge with a cohort of incredible people - and the subsequent reasons why I stepped down as CEO, separated from my wife, sold my house and settled my acrimonious divorce.

I wrote 10,000 words in a non-stop brain dump. Once I started I couldn't hold back - the words flooded out onto the page.

It was supposed to be succinct. It was supposed to be a simple set of bullet points.

It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, to write down even the first part.

Part two has a lot to cover:

  • Homelessness
  • Hospitals
  • Police
  • Drug addiction
  • Psych wards
  • Suicide attempts
  • More banking jobs
  • More IT projects
  • Moving to Manchester
  • Moving to Wales
  • Several relationships and breakups; love and loss
  • Psychosis
  • Self medication
  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Financial problems
  • Near-bankruptcy
  • Salvation

I'm not going to write part two in the same way that I wrote part one.

That was 6 months ago. This is now.

A lot can happen in 6 months.

As a quick recap, here are the problems I've been trying to tackle this year:

  • £54,000 of debt
  • Homeless
  • No job
  • No car
  • Single
  • Addicted to prescription drugs: sleeping pills, tranquillisers and painkillers
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder

As if those problems weren't enough, in June I had relapsed onto supercrack. I'd been working but I'd lost my job - through no fault of my own - and I was in no hurry to get another one, because my addiction had returned with a vengeance. I was in a place with no family and only a handful of friends, none of whom were equipped to deal with my clusterfuck of issues. I was more-or-less alone, except for the people who I try to connect with on a daily basis through my blog, Twitter, Facebook and other digital means.

I came up with the title "No News is Bad News" because it's usually true. I came up with that title, because a period of silence on my blog is usually cause for concern. It's usually time to start phoning round the hospitals to see if I've been admitted. It's usually time to start worrying if I'm dead or dying.

Back in June - 6 months ago - the title was very apt, because I hadn't been online for a while. Losing my job had completely destroyed my hopes of dealing with the mountain of issues I was facing. Losing my job had wrecked my plans for recovery.

Today, my world looks very different.

I can't tell you too much - because it's private - but I'm writing from the comfort of my girlfriend's bed. Her bedroom is very pink and girly. She just brought me a plate with a generously buttered thick slice of toast and a glass of orange juice, which I am eating in bed. I'm getting crumbs in the bed and greasy finger-marks on my laptop.

I'm no longer living out of a suitcase in a hotel and eating in the same gastropub every night, sat at a table for one. I'm unofficially co-habiting. We only met a few weeks ago. The relationship is going fast. Too fast some might say.

I kiss my sweetheart good morning and wish her a good day as I depart for work. My journey takes no more than 15 minutes when the traffic is kind to me. I'm finding it easy to get up in the morning. I don't dread lonely evenings in a bland hotel room. I don't dread the unsustainable interminable monotony of miserable days in the office, and miserable evenings spent alone.

I'm going too fast though.

I'm working too hard.

It takes vast quantities of alcohol, sleeping pills and tranquillisers to prevent me from working 12 to 14 hour days. It requires a huge amount of effort to stop myself from working at the weekend. I'm desperate to achieve results as quickly as possible, because the finishing line is within sight.

It could be months before I'm well-and-truly out of the danger zone and enjoying some long-overdue financial security. It's definitely going to be a long time before I get truly settled at home and at work. I need to decide where I'm going to live and what I'm going to do for a job, on a more long-term basis. At some point, my good luck is going to run out and I'll be forced back into living out of a suitcase, maintaining a long-distance relationship, and having to face the anxiety and stress of proving myself in a new organisation, with a new set of work colleagues.

Mania has arrived. There's no doubt about that.

My manic energy has been ploughed into my day job, instead of my new novel. I worry that my work colleagues have noticed that I've completely obsessed by my project. I worry that the undesirable accompanying behaviours - irritability, rapid and pressured speech, arrogance and delusions of grandeur - will become so hard to hide in the office that I might be forced to disclose my bipolar disorder to my colleagues, in the hope that they'll be sympathetic.

My blog has been neglected, along with my friends.

I work too hard. I'm moving 'too fast' in my new relationship - the "L" word has been used and she has given me a key to her place. We're going on holiday together. All my original problems are still there, to some extent. I need to decide where to live, pay off my outstanding debts, drink less, quit the sleeping pills and tranquillisers, get my mania under control.

What else can I tell you?

I can't try to tell you too much all at once, even though I desperately want to. I want to sit down and write 10,000 words without taking a single break. I want to pour my heart out onto the page and tell you everything, but I'm trying to pump the brakes a little bit. I'm trying to be a little bit sensible, even though I'm clearly going too fast.

It feels like the week-long hiatus from blogging was not bad news. Perhaps it's good news? No. It's not good news. I'm not looking after myself. I'm not managing my bipolar very well. I'm allowing myself to become manic, for the purposes of achieving 'great' things at work. It's exciting to be manic after so many months of depression and misery.

It would be a good idea for me to resolve to resume my daily writing, but I'm wary of making unrealistic promises. Today, I'm coming to terms with the fact that my 3rd novel remains unfinished, when I had hoped to have completed it yesterday.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my present situation in a nutshell.

 

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Stash

10 min read

This is a story about drug dependency...

Pills

This is how I function. This is how I normalise myself. This is how I comply with society's demands. This is how I cope with social jet-lag. In our fit-in-or-fuck-off culture, this is how I conform. These are my crutches. I might appear functional and unimpaired. It might be somewhat insulting or offensive to describe myself as struggling in any way - perhaps I should instead talk about my wealth and privilege and acknowledge that since being born with a silver spoon in my mouth, my life has been uninterrupted gilded luxury; I've never known pain; I've never known suffering.

Think about the starving African children.

I comparison with the 8 or 9 bottles of red wine I was consuming every week - drinking alone - my use of a few sleeping pills and tranquillisers seems relatively safe and healthy.

This is all I have left.

I've had to eke out my dwindling supplies for far longer than I'd expected to. My opportunities to "re-up" have been constricted and constrained. I've been forced into drug withdrawal, which mercifully has been bearable because of my successful rationing strategies.

Insomnia has been the price I've paid for economising; suddenly cutting back on the medications I've become dependent on. Hypomania has been a very real and tangible consequence of the brain chemical destabilisation.

Perhaps I shouldn't meddle with my mind? Perhaps I should put my faith in the medical community? Perhaps there are people who know what's best for me?

Ironically, I'm using these medications - obtained on the black market - to plaster over the cracks and blend in with the very people who are specifically tasked with deciding what's best for you. I'm a member of the paternalistic elite. One should always remember that the people dishing out the advice and prescriptions are just as fucked up as everybody else.

My hypomania constantly threatens to boil over and create a disaster. My hypomania is a constant threat to all the health and wealth I've managed to accumulate this year. My hypomania is almost impossible to conceal, constantly attempting to sneak out from under the cover and camouflage I've carelessly draped over it, in the hopes of it being ignored and not talked about by my discreet, polite and extremely civilised colleagues.

Unable to sufficiently bludgeon my brain into submission to society's demands, using powerful psychiatric medications, my mask slips.

Exhaustion from the toll of 11.5 consecutive months desperately attempting to re-enter civilised society has reduced me to surviving on my instincts. I speak without thinking. It is only my well-practiced and well-rehearsed routines which allow me to continue to appear functional, when my mind has crumbled and descended into outright insanity internally. If I could only sit mute in my office chair at my desk, I would be fine, but unfortunately stuff pops into my head and pours out of my mouth before I have a chance to hold my tongue.

My medication dependency is a cruel mistress. My anxiety skyrockets in the late afternoon and evenings as my short-acting tranquilliser wears off. My insomnia robs me of refreshing and energy-replenishing sleep, leaving me almost paralysed by panic attacks about the simple task of getting out of bed, having a shower, getting dressed and going to work. Unless I take the right amount of pills at the right time, my mask of sanity quickly slips. The illusion of a functional productive member of society quickly evaporates, the moment that I skip a dose or start reducing my medication.

Of course, I'm hopelessly dependent. I admit it. So what?

My life revolves around my regular medication doses. So what?

Doesn't anybody's life revolve around cyclical things? Life and death, sunrise and sunset, summer and winter, weekdays and weekends, work and leisure, awake and asleep, hungry and satiated, horny and spent, love and loss. Some of the cycles are societally and culturally enforced to remain the same year-round, when it's clear that it's unnatural. Why the hell don't we sleep more in winter, when the days are shorter? Why the hell don't we sleep more when we're tired? Who the hell invented the fucking alarm clock and the 9 to 5 office job anyway?

I am quite literally tyrannised and oppressed - abusively coerced - into compliance with health-damaging social rituals, lest I be excluded from society; marginalised. It's in my rational economic self-interest to comply, but it's in the interests of my mental health to refuse to comply. Non-compliance will be met with harsh and intolerable economic sanctions.

Of course I seek out and consume the pharmaceuticals which 'normalise' me and allow me to cope; to function.

You might be surprised that I'm a junkie who needs his fix so that he can work a boring office job. You might think that junkies take drugs to feel pleasure and otherwise get high, but my drug dependency is mandated by the otherwise unbearable awfulness of the 9 to 5 grind.

You might think that people get rich off drugs by selling them. You might think that drugs will ruin your life, my drug dependency has been a mandatory part of repairing my life. Do you really think that it's humanly possible to achieve the kind of comeback - the recovery - which I've managed to complete during the past 11.5 months of turning up at the office and acting normal, without access to the full range of pharmaceutical options?

I've done the impossible: gotten off the streets, where I was sleeping rough, gotten out of the hostels, gotten off the terrible drugs, gotten out of the psych wards, repaid unimaginably huge debts, got myself a place to live of my own, got myself a respectable good job, held down that job, impressed my colleagues, delivered high quality work on time and on budget.

You think that was possible without performance enhancing drugs? Are there laws that say I can't use the very best of medical technology to allow me to function at my very best in a workplace environment? I'm not an athlete. I can use whatever the fuck I want and I have done.

It might seem logical to presume that I must now have a massive drug habit, because I've leaned so heavily on unhealthy coping mechanisms to get me to the point I'm at today.

I use the word "dependency" very carefully.

It's true that technically I am dependent on medications. It's true that abrupt cessation of the 2 or 3 medications I use on a regular basis would be catastrophic for my career, my reputation, my finances, my stability and all the other things in the house-of-cards which constitutes my life.

However, the doses I take are laughably negligible.

Instead of being in a horrible mess, the dose which maintains me in a functional and stable state is totally reasonable and acceptable. The problems I've stored up for the future - by becoming dependent on medications for normal day-to-day functioning - are pathetically tiny insignificant problems compared with the goddam mountainous obstacles I've had to tackle to get this far.

It concerns me that my stash is now critically low, because my whole happy healthy wealthy future hinges upon the continuation of the well-established routine for another 6 to 12 months, at the very least. If I can carry on with my dirty junkie medication dependency for another 18 months I will be rich as fuck compared to the struggling masses, which would be an unexpected result for anybody who's been brainwashed to believe that junkies like me are no-hope losers.

I don't go to the doctor. I don't have a psychiatrist. I don't have a psychologist. I don't have a community mental health team (CMHT) or a crisis team. I do what the fuck I want.

My experiments with being completely medication-free earlier in the year were a total disaster. I do hope that one day I'll be able to quit the pills, but I don't see how I'll ever be able to do when my health needs directly contradict capitalism's need to exploit me as an expendable commodity. There is a fundamental incompatibility between human needs and corporations' needs. There is a systemic inability to cope with anybody who deviates from the top of the bell curve.

I'm different, and I no longer expect society to accomodate me. I accept that I must alter myself - with pharmaceuticals - so that I can accomodate society's inflexible demands for homogeny and conformity.

I swallow a sleeping pill so that my social jet-lag is medically corrected. I swallow a short-acting tranquilliser so that the existential dread of working a pointless bullshit meaningless office job is bearable. I'm not overjoyed or happy to be doing it. In fact, I'm not happy at all about any of the situation. It would be fucking weird if I was artificially happy all the fucking time, because there's not a lot to be happy about during the death-throes of late capitalism.

You know what makes me happy? Spooning. Kittens. Holidays. Sex. Dreaming about going to live in a cabin in the woods. Delicious food. Binging on mindless entertainment. Extreme sports. Writing.

Should I be attempting to live the dream? Should I be trying to have it all? Should I mix work and pleasure?

Yes, I'm going to do all those things but you have to pay to play and it costs a fuckload of cash to make dreams come true.

I'll leave you with this quote:

"The power of inclosing land and owning propriety, was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murther their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or theeve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand, by the power of the sword; and so you justifie the wicked deeds of your fathers" -- A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England, Gerrard Winstanley

It's up to the reader to decide whether I'm a Lord of the Manor, born into wealth and enjoying inheritance from my ancestors who plundered and stole. The fact that you've persevered reading this text in English using a computer or smartphone puts you into a certain socioeconomic set and suggests a level of academic achievement, which might suggest you might have benefitted equally from "the power of the sword" although you did not "kill or theeve" yourself.

All I can say of myself is that I'm trying to play by the rules in a rigged game. Nobody said I wasn't allowed to use performance enhancing drugs. This isn't sport, it's survival.

 

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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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Controlling The Variables

8 min read

This is a story about self-experimentation...

Xanax tablets

It's very difficult to conduct a scientific study involving human beings. Our innate ability and inclination to adapt to our ever-changing environment means that we can't control the variables as we would be able to in vitro.

Sample sizes are always tiny - statistically impossible to gain any insight from - because of the difficulty of recruiting so-called ideal study candidates and being able to follow them for long enough to gather any meaningful data. Each individual will have wildly varying personal circumstances, which render any studies of hundreds or thousands of participants, complete and utter pseudoscience hogwash; nonsense; garbage.

Aggregating data from all the antidepressant controlled trials, as well as thousands of other studies into the efficacy of those medications, concludes to a high degree of statistical significance, that in more than 80% of cases the person's depression would have 'cured' itself on its own - medication makes no difference at all.

Clearly, psychoactive medications do have perceptible effects, just as you're able to tell if you've drunk 4 pints of beer or 4 pints of water. Thus, a double-blind placebo trial is not a placebo trial at all, because those who are in the placebo group know that they're unmedicated.

The question then arises: can we prove that some medications have positive effects?

Problematically, we are as superstitious as an animal with a bird-brain, quite literally. If a food pellet is randomly released to feed a pigeon kept in a cage, the pigeon begins to believe that whatever it was doing when the food pellet was released caused the food pellet to be released. If the pigeon was - for example - turning 360 degrees clockwise when the pellet was randomly released, it will continue to spin in circles, believing that its actions are causing the food pellets to be released. This is called magical thinking and humans are just as prone to it as a bird-brained pigeon.

Extrapolating, if we take up yoga, start eating kale, listen to whale music, start believing in imaginary sky monsters, wear lucky underwear, read self-help books, use homeopathic remedies or start doing any one of the many billions of similarly stupid and futile superstitious rituals, these are at least 80% likely to co-incide with a natural improvement in our mood which would have happened anyway. However, we will falsely attribute our better mood and more hopeful future, to something which actually had absolutely no effect whatsoever so far as good empirical evidence-based repeatable science is concerned.

To control the variables is extremely hard, in complex modern life.

I had a very good night's sleep last night, woke up early, ate a healthy breakfast, got to work early, had a productive day, and I felt like I had the energy and enthusiasm to do some exercise. My quality of life was manyfold better today than it has been for a very long time. My hope and optimism were sky high today.

Let us deconstruct the reason for my good day.

Last night I swallowed two 7.5mg zopiclone tablets, which are a sleeping pill. Perhaps it's high quality sleep, delivered with some help from medicine, that's the reason I had such a good day - I was well rested and refreshed.

No.

Earlier in the year - and in fact quite recently - I had completely quit all sleep aids and I was sleeping very well without them. I have no problems initiating sleep and remaining asleep. This variable is eliminated.

Last night I swallowed one 2mg Xanax tablet, which is a short-acting benzodiazepine hypnotic-sedative muscle relaxant, generically known as alprazolam. Perhaps it's relief from anxiety delivered with the help of medicine that is the reason why I had such a good day - my anxiety was subdued.

No.

Earlier in the year - and in fact quite recently - I had completely quit all sedatives, tranquillisers and tranquillising painkillers and I was coping very well with my anxiety without those medications. I am fully functional despite my very high-stress and demanding life. This variable is eliminated.

Last night was my 5th consecutive night without alcohol. Perhaps it's the healthy decision to quit booze and become teetotal which is the reason why I slept better, woke up refreshed, had improved concentration and felt more full of energy and enthusiasm for other healthy activities than I have done for a long time. I thought about catching up with a friend. I thought about doing some exercise.

Ah. We have a problem.

On the face of it, we have 3 significant changes, and those changes all concern mind-altering substances.

I can be fairly certain that I'm able to sleep and I'm able to cope with my anxiety without medication, but I combined two medications which should have helped with both, which is already complicating the clinical picture, but then I also quit heavy drinking quite abruptly and managed to get through 5 consecutive sober days. 3 changes is far too many changes to attribute my improved mood to any one of them, or even all 3 in combination.

But.

Oh no.

There are other changes too.

I got paid on Monday. Getting paid is always a good day. Sure, Monday I was off work sick, but it wasn't until yesterday that I started doing some sums and I realised that I can pay off half my debts at the end of the month. It's something worth considering.

I went back to work on Tuesday. Not losing my job is always a big relief when I get sick. Sure, it'd be pretty bad luck to lose my job after just one day off sick, but it's always a relief somehow to go back to work and find everything's fine and people are cool with me. It's something worth considering.

I have 8 working days - less than two weeks - until I go away on holiday. I haven't had a week-long holiday since July 2016, over two years ago, so that's a massive relief to know that I'm going to get a relaxing break soon. It's something worth considering.

I spent the weekend in the company of old friends. I took a flight to Prague. Socialising and travel are exciting and stimulating. I played with my friends' children. We did activities, like sightseeing and mushroom picking in the woods. All of those things are very nice and normal and pleasant. Sure, it was exhausting, but now that I've gotten over the travel I have some really nice memories of that trip. It's something worth considering.

At work I'm starting to feel like I'm really making a difference and I'm a valued member of the team. My colleagues were glad to have me back and people are keen to work with me. I feel cherished and a little bit more secure every day. I feel increasingly confident in my own skills, knowledge and experience. It's something worth considering.

My sister picked up my mountain bike from my parents, so that I can collect it from her. I'm looking forward to seeing her and maybe my niece too. I'm looking forward to having my bike back. I'm looking forward to getting my bike repaired, upgraded, and being able to use it to get a bit more fit and active. It's something worth considering.

Lives are complicated.

Life is complicated.

It's impossible to control the variables.

If you were looking for the perfect test subject - a guinea pig - you would fail to find a better one than me, because so many things in my life are constant. I stay in the same hotel, I eat in the same gastropub, I do the same job I've done for 21+ years. I'm a creature of habit and I'm not destabilised by anybody else, such as family, a partner or children. I've cut every variable out of my life that's possible to do, short of locking myself in a laboratory cage. I'm the perfect test specimen.

I can't tell you why I had a good day today, but I have very good reason to believe that it was a combination of a multitude of factors, including the sleeping tablets to help me get back into a good sleep pattern, the anxiety tablets to help me cope with intolerable stress levels, the sobriety, the travel, the socialising, the money, the job satisfaction and a million and one other little things, all of which are very positive. For example, my Apple Macbook was repaired under warranty, saving me the cost of a £1,500 replacement or a hefty repair bill, which is a big relief. Who could have predicted any of this and why would we attribute my life improvements to any one particular thing, such as the favourable mood of an imaginary sky monster? Stuff was just going to get better on its own.

As you can tell, I'm not the superstitious type.

I will, however, be taking a zopiclone and a Xanax again tonight.

 

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The Dread

6 min read

This is a story about when the alarm clock goes off...

GMT

I'm routinely late for work but I think I've figured out why. I was very tired when my alarm went off this morning, but I think I could've gotten out of bed and gone to work. I was tired but I felt OK. I needed more sleep but I'd have been alright if I immediately got out of bed.

Unfortunately I let the dread set in.

My thoughts and feelings changed from "I need more sleep" to "I'm going to be late" to "I don't want to go to work at all". From initially planning to get up, iron a shirt, iron a jumper, take a shower, get dressed and drive to work, I then started planning how best to tell my team that I wasn't going to make it to our morning meeting. As lunchtime approached I dreaded having to finally get up and the ridiculousness of "I'm going to be late" meaning not turning up until the afternoon.

I did not get up.

As the afternoon wore on I was dreading having to tell my team that I was actually going to be a no-show. I dreaded the loss of earnings. I dreaded the damaging impression that I'm unreliable. I dread the day that I'm finally unable to keep going any longer, and I stop turning up for work altogether. I dread the day that I hit the wall.

I did not tell my team that I was going to take the day off sick.

It might seem like I'm my own worst enemy. It might seem like I'm making things harder for myself. It might seem like there's a long string of decisions here, and I'm making bad choices, but it doesn't feel like it at all. The whole process is quite agonising.

A couple of times in the past fortnight I've woken up at around the time when my alarm goes off. I've gotten up, dressed, had breakfast, driven to work and arrived on time or even early. "This must be what life's like for a normal person" I've thought to myself. It's been blissful on those days. Life has felt sustainable and pleasant and I've even envisaged being able to keep working for the foreseeable future, on those good days.

Most days are not good days.

I've only found a few solutions for the dread.

Short-acting hypnotic-sedatives work very well in the short term. Xanax and zopiclone last just long enough to get a good night's sleep a bit more tranquillising effect in the morning, when the dread would normally set in. Without a sleep aid, the dread sets in the night before: "I'm never going to get enough sleep and I'll be exhausted in the morning" I think as I lie awake until the wee hours of the morning.

Alcohol works a little bit as a sleep initiator but the liver metabolises alcohol so efficiently that it's mostly eliminated from your bloodstream after 4 or 5 hours. Alcohol-induced sleep is not high quality and it's followed by dehydration and a full bladder, which I usually try to ignore because I'm warm and comfortable in bed. By the time the alarm goes off alcohol withdrawal and bad sleep combine to make the dread doubly bad.

Getting absolutely smashed drunk works surprisingly well as a mechanism for getting me to the office more-or-less on time. Waking up half-pissed from the night before does offer an intoxicated tranquillisation which allows me to overcome the dread.

Driving to work drunk and/or tranquillised and being in the office while reeking of alcohol and/or slurring due to tablets, is a pretty undesirable state of affairs. Public transport, heavy lunchtime and after-work drinking were the norm in the City, so my heavy alcohol dependency was not conspicuous until I was banished to the provinces.

Everything's catching up with me now.

The heavy boozing has led to sudden weight gain this year, which depresses me. Drinking heavily no longer seems like a sustainable strategy to get through the working weeks.

The solution is a total detox, exercise, sensible bedtime, healthy breakfast and good sleep hygiene; routine. The solution is to live the most boring life imaginable, dedicating myself purely to the pursuit of being able to get up in the morning. The solution is to completely change the way I live - the way I act - in order to fit in with early-bird culture.

In many ways I am still going through an extended benzodiazepine withdrawal, neuropathic painkiller withdrawal and sleeping tablet withdrawal. My alcohol use has prolonged and worsened the excruciating withdrawal from the physically addictive medications. My body and brain's instinctive reaction to drink more and eat more to compensate, has been a very poor coping mechanism and has instead lengthened and exacerbated the negative symptoms, instead of providing the mild relief I so desperately crave.

Having used Xanax a couple of times in the last fortnight, it was remarkable how my brain responded: "THIS is the stuff which I've been screaming for" it seemed to say, as I gained some long-overdue respite from round-the-clock anxiety and the dread.

Obviously it's not desirable to use pills or booze long-term. Obviously, it'd be good to suffer the short-term pain and get healthy, before things get any worse. I've done a substantial part of the hard work, in breaking my physical dependence to a multitude of addictive medications.

I desperately craved alcohol all weekend but remained sober because my friends who I was visiting are not big drinkers. I was really craving alcohol tonight, but I managed to resist, although I'm comfort-eating to compensate for the craving.

I hate the situation, where I'm not where I want to be with anything. I'm not teetotal. I'm not medication-free. I'm not doing the healthy stuff. I'm gaining weight not losing it.

To eat less, eat healthy, go to the gym, be teetotal, stop taking sleeping pills and stop taking the occasional tranquilliser, but yet maintain my miserable single hotel-dwelling living-out-of-a-suitcase life, seems completely ridiculous. However, using my misery as a justification for drinking as much as I want, whenever I want, is also ridiculous and has led to appearance change and health degradation, which I don't find acceptable.

Tonight I've comfort-eaten and not done any exercise. Tonight I will take one or maybe even two sleeping pills. However, I won't have any alcohol or tranquillisers. I'll try to go to sleep at a sensible time. I'll try to get up early, have a healthy breakfast and get to work on time. If I can do all that, it's still a reasonable achievement considering the circumstances.

I'm not reliable. I am struggling. Hopefully nobody will hold it against me though.

 

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Zopiclone

5 min read

This is a story about the sweet kiss of oblivion...

Zopiclone tablets

Isn't zopiclone the most perfect Nazi-inspired name, recalling the horrific Zyclon B in a lot of ways? Who the f**k thought it was a good idea to name a quite benign sleeping tablet with a similar name to a pesticide which gives a quick and permanent sleep to whomsoever is dosed with the chemical?

I thought I should write about zopiclone because every time I do I receive a lot of messages and emails from people, far outnumbering my regular communications. Anecdotally, it appears to me like I strike a nerve every time I write about zopiclone.

The first group of people ask me how do I get my doctor to give me more zopiclone? Sleep is something which the whole working world seems very stressed out about, and the idea that high quality sleep can be prescribed by your family doctor has become somewhat of a highly valued commodity. People are apparently swapping tips for how to manipulate medical professionals into writing prescriptions for this sought-after medication.

(The answer by the way is that I buy whatever I want from the dark web, cutting out the middleman)

The next - and perhaps equal - group of people write to me to tell me how important sleep is. There is without a shadow of a doubt, an enormous group of people out there who recognise the importance of sleep as one of the most fundamentally important things for mental health and life quality. Every time I write about sleeping pills - particularly zopiclone - I get a huge outpouring of support for pro-sleep approaches to healthcare, and those precious pills which give us the quality sleep we so desperately crave.

(I don't disagree. I think the alarm clock is the worst invention in the history of humanity)

The other group who write to me are general apologists for medication dependency. Every time I write about ANY medication, I receive a flurry of emails and messages telling me that medications replace something which is missing due to congenital deficiency. It's as if the vast majority of us have been born with holes in our hearts which need to be surgically closed. Suddenly, there is an epidemic of genetic abnormalities and the only thing which can repair those defects happens to be psychiatric medication.

(This seems unlikely to me. Civilisation has advanced at a pace which has far outstripped evolution, so it seems logical that our anxiety, depression, stress and other psychological distress has a circumstantial origin, not a medical one)

In short, we are looking for fast-acting solutions which work for our immediate distress. It seems unconscionable that a medical professional would prescribe a suffering patient a medication which might become 'effective' within 6 to 8 weeks. Are you fucking insane? I'm suffering RIGHT FUCKING NOW. You really expect me to wait the best part of two months to feel some relief from this agony? Are you fucking nuts? What kind of fucking quack are you anyway? Give. Me. The. Good. Stuff.

Zopiclone works.

30 to 40 minutes and it's lights out.

Oblivion.

Blissful refreshing sleep.

Why the hell are they keeping this stuff from you? Why the hell aren't they putting it in the water?

Do you want to know why?

You're not going to like it.

It's an arms race.

Just like athletes with their performance enhancing drugs, we use the same things in our daily lives. We drink coffee and energy drinks to pep ourselves up in the mornings when we really feel like having a lie-in. We take legally available psychoactive chemicals to increase our concentration, focus and make us more alert - the wakefulness-promoting agents. We're hopped-up on the sensory-overload of modern life, with 70mph superhighways, 600mph jet air travel and 671,000,000mph speed of electronic communications, we're just not built to cope with the technological 'advancements' of the past 75 years - there are fast jets which can carry us across the surface of the planet faster than so-called 'time' elapses, such that we can land before we have taken off. No terrestrial animal is built for such a thing.

You're not allowed to have a lie-in or have sleeping pills because it's giving you an unfair competitive advantage but also, what goes up must come down. For every upper and downer that you take, you're going to suffer a difficult period of re-adjustment when you stop taking those pills. Your body is going to get used to taking those pills and it's going to take more and more to achieve the same effects, until you're practically poisoning yourself with huge doses of the toxic chemicals. You're chasing something unsustainable. There's a reason why your brain has evolved over millions of years to be homeostatic and able to hold itself in perfect balance. To fuck with your brain chemistry is a short-term quick fix, not a solution.

Zopiclone is wonderful and I've had a brilliant week at work. For the first time in two months, I've had some good days.

Tomorrow I'm pretty sure I'm dead though.

I've had enough.

I can't keep up.

This race has run.

 

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Relapse

6 min read

This is a story about the easy option...

Pill packets

I took a sleeping pill last night. Sunday nights are hard and so are Monday mornings. Lots of people struggle but I've got a fairly legitimate set of reasons why I'm struggling: mountainous debts, soul-destroyingly boring and slow work, social isolation, mood disorder and having recently gone gold turkey on a zillion addictive drugs and medications. Normal people who've been through the ordeal I've been through - including the homelessness and the hospitalisations - are not working a full-time high-pressure demanding job. I find my job pretty easy, but it's still a lot of pressure and very demanding to turn up and appear like I've got my shit together as opposed to having just dragged myself off the streets and gotten clean.

Take a look at the people who are getting clean and recovering from a severe mental health crisis. Take a look at the people who are recovering from suicide attempts and addiction. Take a look at the people who are getting back on their feet.

Are they working full time jobs, miles away from home?

So I took a sleeping pill.

So. Fucking. What.

It's not the slippery slope. It's not the thin edge of the wedge. It's not the beginning of the end.

I will have a proper relapse at some point. I'm bound to. It's inevitable.

When I've finally got my debts paid off and I'm finally free, the relief is sure to be overwhelming. I've struggled so hard for so long to reach that milestone of repairing the damage of divorce and everything that went with it, that I think I'll be happy to sleep rough at least knowing that getting off the streets and working to earn money was the easy part which I've done a million times before. The hard part has been that it's been so unrewarding. I've worked so hard for so long and I've got nothing to show for it. Where's the payoff?

I took a sleeping pill and I slept well.

I woke up feeling refreshed.

It was easy to get up.

Dread = gone.

That was amazing to wake up and not be filled with dread about the day ahead. In fact that reduced feeling of dread lasted all day and I was reasonably happy at my desk, rather than bored out of my mind. Is that a co-incidence, or is it linked to the fact that my brain was getting something that it was missing?

I don't really want to go back to being dependent on all those pills, but I did go cold turkey very abruptly, and the re-adjustment has been brutal. So many little things make me stressed and anxious, which is not a choice to catastrophise, but a perfectly rational and logical thing for a person who's suddenly found themselves living life without copious quantities of nerve-soothing tranquillisers, sedatives and painkillers. Medication adjustments aren't something that can be done in days, weeks and months. It takes a very long time to adjust to harshness, and the world is a very harsh place.

It's so tempting to pop pills at the moment.

Pills don't have any calories. Good quality sleep is so valuable. Life without anxiety is so much better.

Why would I want to suffer?

I need to sleep well, wake up refreshed, not dread going to work, not be anxious and miserable at my desk and not feel hungry and wanting to comfort eat all the time. Of course I want pills.

The rebound insomnia and rebound anxiety were terrible, and it's still a problem, but without tea, coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes or some other vice to overcompensate with, I've snacked like crazy and put on weight. I'm stressed and anxious about my weight, which is a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.

The solution is to not have to get up at the crack of dawn every day and go to an office and be bored out of my mind. The solution is to not be in debt up to my eyeballs and unable to stop working as hard as I can. The solution is not to live with job insecurity, money insecurity, housing insecurity, social isolation and all the other problems which come about as a result of the pressure on me to simply chain myself to my desk.

Those options are not available to me.

Those solutions are denied to me.

Make hay while the sun shines.

I never know when I'm going to lose my job, lose my mind, suffer health problems or get fucked over by somebody. I never know when I'm going to get totally fucking screwed so I've got to work as hard as I can for as long as I can, because somebody always screws me in the end.

All I can do is take pills.

I take pills so I can keep going in the fucking miserable merry-go-round which is my life. I take pills to prop me up. I take pills to pep me up. I take pills instead of taking a holiday. I take pills instead of taking a break. I take pills because I can't afford to stop pedalling as fast as I can. I take pills to help me cope with this never-ending nightmare.

I take pills.

I hate taking pills.

I'd rather take a break.

But I can't.

Not yet.

The day never seems to come.

Always just out of reach.

Round and round.

On and on.

Forever and ever.

If I do come out the other side of this, I need to make sure I'm not too fat, not too addicted to things, not dead. It's pretty hard, balancing things. It's pretty hard judging things just right.

This is the last time I do this.

If this time doesn't work out, I'm through with life. I'm done. I've had enough. Either it works out for me this time or I'm checking out. I'm history. The end. See you later. Goodbye.

 

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Compensation

5 min read

This is a story about maintaining equilibrium...

Handful of pills

I started the year £52,000 in debt, with no home and no car. I started the year addicted to painkillers and sleeping pills. I started the year in a very dire situation. The odds were stacked against me.

I managed to quit those addictive medications. I managed to avoid bankruptcy. I managed to rent a place to live. I managed to buy a car. I managed to earn and save enough money to repay half my debt.

That's right. I'm halfway there.

In actual fact, I'm being a bit premature. My total outstanding debt is £43,250 and I've managed to save up £23,400, which is more than 50% but I haven't actually made a substantial repayment yet, because I'm terribly afraid that I'm going to get sick. I'm on the brink of having a nervous breakdown. It's been unbelievably stressful and exhausting to get to this point.

Did I mention that I quit addictive painkillers and sleeping pills?

A little over a year ago I was physically addicted to vast quantities of Valium and Xanax, as well as everything else.

How the hell does a homeless, bankrupt, drug addict, with mountainous debts, go from being sectioned in a secure psych ward, to being able to repay nearly £25k of debts as well as renting a house, buying a car and holding down a good job?

Compensation.

To compensate for the horrific withdrawal of all those medications, which caused massive problems with anxiety and insomnia, it has been necessary for me to compensate. To compensate for the stress and the misery of being flat broke and having the threat of bankruptcy, homelessness and destitution hanging over me; the stress of having to work really hard to service debts and save up money to get back in the black - that's required me to compensate.

I've been compensating for the horrendous things going on in my personal life; the incredible stress.

I've compensated by over-eating and drinking too much.

The stress has been off the fucking charts.

My drinking has been out of control.

I've put on weight.

If you think I should eat less, eat healthy, exercise more and generally look after myself, I ask you to re-consider what I just told you. Somehow I've managed to quit 5 physically addictive medications, move house twice, service debts of over £50k, save up £24k, work 3 jobs, please my clients, zoom all over the fucking country and generally live a miserable austere life with no reward for my efforts.

My mealtimes and my alcoholism are all I've got to live for at the moment. Getting fat, unfit and destroying my health with alcohol isn't my idea of a great way to live - it's a reaction to my extreme circumstances, and the horrible suffering associated with the stress of being massively indebted, skint, insecure and withdrawing from very addictive medications.

A lot of people aren't able to tolerate the horribleness of the anxiety, the insomnia and generally feeling like you're going to die, when you stop taking medications like Valium and Xanax. A lot of people will be hooked for life on their antidepressants, sleeping pills, tranquillisers, sedatives, painkillers and other such medications, because they can't stand the withdrawal.

A lot of people are destroyed by their debts. So many suicides are precipitated by financial problems. When you're deep in a debt hole and bankruptcy seems to be like the only option, that's a life-ruining thing to happen, because a bankruptcy is a black mark against your name for the rest of your life. Try renting a place to live as a bankrupt. Try getting a good job as a bankrupt. Try living any kind of life in this modern debt-driven society as a bankrupt.

My way of compensating for the difficulties in my life has been to comfort eat and get drunk.

I hate it.

I'm getting fat and unfit. I'm destroying my health.

It's a race against time.

I need to clear my debts before my unhealthy eating and abusive drinking kills me.

Don't tell me to eat healthy, eat less, drink less, exercise and otherwise make my life any more fucking miserable than it already is. I know what I'm doing to myself and I know what I'd do if I wasn't under such extreme pressure and stress; so distressed and living a life of such abject misery. I'm taking a very calculated but extreme risk, to escape from the trap - the trap of debt, the trap of addiction, the trap of homelessness, the trap of poverty, the trap of mental health problems, the trap of misery and hopelessness.

That I've managed to almost escape so much that threatened to destroy me, is remarkable. The only way I've managed to achieve it is by compensating with over-eating and drinking too much. My health is getting fucked up. My appearance is getting fucked up. I hate everything about my life, but I'm halfway to freedom.

I did intend on writing this once I've finally managed to make a great big £24,000 downpayment on my debts, bringing things down to an amount I can pay back in 3 or 4 months, which seems much more achievable.

I've achieved the fucking impossible.

I had to write this now, because I can't hold on much longer. Every week is unbearable, but every week inches me a little closer to freedom.

Getting to the end of September will be a huge milestone.

October I need to take some well-earned and very overdue rest.

November and December I need to make sure I stay sane and healthy and keep my job.

2019 is potentially the year I turn my whole life around.

Still so far to go.

It fucking sucks.

But there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

 

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Self Doubt

5 min read

This is a story about the beer fear...

Pub

My mood and my perceptions swing wildly between a cautious sense of optimism and overwhelming defeatism. On a good day I can be thinking about how far I've travelled and how much improved my circumstances are; I can feel really hopeful about the future and I say to myself "not long to go until I'm quite financially comfortable". On those good days I'm pleased with my achievements; proud. On a bad day I think I've made a huge mistake and I've wandered up a one-way street; I'm convinced that I've been wasting my time and I haven't made any progress at all. On the bad days the uphill struggle seems impossible to sustain and it's pointless to continue flogging a dead horse; I say to myself "there's still so far to travel and I'll never make it".

I was doing some Google searches yesterday and by accident I discovered that there was a problem with my site's position in the rankings - searching "manic grant" wasn't bringing my site back as the number one hit. I was distraught. For a moment I felt as if I'd been living in a fantasy world - hallucinating - and everything I'd worked so hard on for 3 years was just dribbling nonsense which had been identified as spam by Google. I started to doubt my ability to write. I started to think that perhaps I'm semi-brain-dead and nobody's had the heart to tell me yet - everybody is just humouring me. Tiny mistakes became magnified in my mind. I misspelled the word "novelist" and I was crushed with embarrassment; cringing at my pseudo-intellectualism. I felt dumb.

The first day of the working week back in the office was every bit as dreadful as I hoped it wouldn't be, and perhaps even worse still. There were a lot of moments where I felt like walking out, because I couldn't stand to be so bored with nothing to do; nothing to keep me busy and allow me to escape my own thoughts. I so desperately needed to escape my own thoughts, because all I can think about is how many more boring days I've got to endure when I've already reached the limit of what I can tolerate.

I don't think the problem is Mondays (or Tuesday in this case).

I don't think the problem is the job.

I don't think there's a problem.

What's happening is that I keep having very boozy weekends with teetotal Sundays (or in this case bank holiday Monday) because I have to get up early and drive for the best part of an hour and a half to get to work. My brain keeps suffering repeated periods of alcohol withdrawal at the beginning of the week. While this might be tolerably OK for the majority of people - and indeed getting drunk at the weekend is the norm - my brain has been highly sensitised to GABA agonist type chemicals, because I spent most of 2017 highly medicated with neuropathic painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquillisers. As a result, I probably have a high alcohol tolerance and I feel the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms very acutely.

A friend of mine describes a phenomenon he calls the "beer fear" as a gnawing anxiety, sense of hopelessness and generally unease; the sensation that the world's about to end, even though you can't put your finger on why. This very much tallies with how I've been feeling.

When I take a break from drinking, after a few days of insomnia, anxiety and negative thoughts, the "beer fear" goes away and some energy, enthusiasm and positive thinking return. All the hopeless thoughts seem nonsensical and are forgotten - it's a complete mindset change.

Since December I said to myself I was allowed to eat as much junk food as I wanted, and to get as drunk as I wanted because I deserved to have those things as a reward for the stress and hard work of working away from home. For most of the past 9 months I've drunk at least a bottle of wine every day, plus I've had periods where I've used leftover prescriptions of painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquillisers, all in a desperate attempt to make the time pass more quickly and less painfully. I was desperately stressed at the start of the year but now my circumstances have improved remarkably, but I guess I'm still paying a bit of a price for those bad habits I got into.

If I drink far less I know that it'll be easier to get up in the mornings and the working day will pass more bearably. I know that I'll lose weight, get fitter and have more energy and motivation to do things. I know that I'll have fewer periods of feeling like everything's hopeless, pointless, ruined and unbearably awful.

The question is: how do I get through my working week, my lonely evenings and my lonely weekends without alcohol? I've become habituated into having a couple of bottles of red wine on a Friday night and spending most of Saturday wishing I hadn't. It's ludicrous, because my rational analysis quite clearly indicates that alcohol is causing more harm than good, but yet I can't quite imagine not having it as my dependable reward for the miserable drudgery of the working week.

Comfort eating and comfort boozing is not bringing me much happiness, ultimately. I want to be fit not fat, so things are going to have to change. I'm 99% certain that the origin of my existential crises and overwhelming self-doubt is driven by the violent mood swings and altered perceptions caused by alcohol withdrawal.

I imagine that tomorrow I will feel a little better than today, and on Thursday I will feel much better... but then the drinking starts all over again. Need to break the cycle somehow.

 

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Rehabilitation

12 min read

This is a story about civilised society...

Lots of pills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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On My Own Terms

8 min read

This is a story about independence...

Deed

Why do I gotta do everything on my own terms? Why is it important to me that I do things when and how I choose, rather than when instructed by a meddlesome busybody, or otherwise forced to by circumstances beyond my control? What's so important about the choosing and agency and free will anyway? Surely there are people who know better than me, so I should just bow down to them and let them rule my life, because they know best.

Depressed? Just be happy. Tired? Just be fit and healthy. Drink too much? Just stop. Addicted to drugs? Don't take them any more. Bankrupt? Be rich instead. Hate your job? Be a multi-billionaire president of the universe instead. Anxious? Don't worry.

See? It's easy. Just do the blatantly obvious things that other people tell you to do and your life will be amazing. Of course if you don't do exactly what they tell you to do immediately then you're beyond hope of helping and you are stubbornly deciding to sabotage your own life. That's the only reasonable, rational and logical explanation for why anybody wouldn't immediately drop to their knees and say "oh my god thank you!" in praise of the giver of the most obvious answers to every problem that ever existed.

It's true that I'm somewhat bloody-minded and I'll deliberately do things my own way to prove I'm right, especially if an idiot tells me I'm doing something wrong and what I'm doing will never work. It's usually the case that there are a mountain of idiots who have oversimplified unworkable solutions to oversimplified versions of problems you don't have: "oh, you're bleeding to death? well, if you put some tin foil at the bottom of your grill pan, then it catches the fat and makes it easier to clean".

I guess people are only trying to be helpful, but don't ever let anybody tell you that their 'helpful' suggestions aren't rooted in the advice-giver's ego and their need to feel useful, as opposed to your need to solve a problem. You'll see that as soon as you start to explain that your problem is more complicated than their lazy appraisal had surmised, that they have no real interest in actually helping; they just wanted to feel smarter than you, that they were able to solve something where the solution was blatantly obvious to anybody with half a brain cell.

Thus, when it comes to hard problems, most people are just noise; irritating useless noise which needs to be filtered out so you can concentrate on solving the actual hard problem. If there were easy answers, the person who's been suffering and struggling with the problem would have figured out the solution long before some pseudo-helpful busybody came and suggested the very first thing that anybody would think of.

A problem shared is not just a problem that two people have, but it can also be a problem which will take twice as long to solve if the second person insists on making all the same mistakes as the first, by retracing every step, wrong turn and dead end that's already been exhausted by our long-suffering person with the problem. Reliving the experience of trying all the obvious things for a second time, knowing it's doomed to fail because those solutions have already been tried, is a painful and pointless exercise.

There are common problems which, if they were easy to solve, those easy solutions would already be exploited by vast swathes of people . Poverty, for example: if the solution to poverty is to simply get a better paid job and work hard, then we surely wouldn't see any more poverty. To suggest that poverty is due to laziness and stupidity is grossly insulting to the hard-working people who are trying as hard as they can to get themselves out of poverty, but the problem is that they already have the very best paid jobs which are available to them, and they already work as hard as they possibly can.

There are common problems which, if the de-facto solutions worked, we wouldn't consider to be problems at all. If abstinence, detox, rehab, 12-step programs and the like were a good solution to addiction and alcoholism, we wouldn't see alcoholics and addicts anymore, would we? The very existence of vast numbers of people who are dying from addiction and alcoholism is obvious evidence that unequivocally shows that the so-called 'solutions' on offer are not solutions at all: those things simply don't work.

"It works if you try hard"

No. No those solutions really don't work.

"But it worked for this person"

Yeah, maybe a little bit. But what about 99% of the others who it didn't work for? You're being an idiot. An exception does not prove the rule. You're blaming the victim. You're blaming people for their problems. You're undermining the hard work and effort and all the energy that's already been expended by that person in trying things that don't work.

We can't ignore the evidence and believe the charlatans who claim to have found solutions to problems, when the data shows that their claims are completely false.

Let's take mental health problems as an example. All the data was gathered from all the studies into the efficacy of antidepressant medication, and it's been shown conclusively that for at least 80% of patients, the medication made no difference whatsoever. What we also know about mental health is that it's an epidemic: things are getting worse, not better, and an ever-increasing number of people are suffering with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and a whole host of other mental health problems. Not only are our so-called 'solutions' not effective, but our incorrect belief that medications are effective, despite evidence to the contrary, is contributing to an epidemiological explosion in the number of people who are suffering. The biggest tragedy is that nobody is looking at any alternative treatments, because the charlatans claim that the available treatments are effective, despite overwhelming evidence that pharmacological treatments are not effective at all. Fewer than 1 in 5 patients would feel any benefit at all, and the benefits are marginal - at best - for that tiny minority.

Now let's look at addiction and alcoholism: 12-step abstinence based approaches are as ubiquitous as the booze and drugs themselves. Every church hall, community centre and other public space in your local area plays host to some flavour of X-Anonymous every night of the week, with every letter of the alphabet corresponding to a particular addiction or vice. If the 12-step abstinence approach was the right one, we wouldn't have an opioid epidemic exploding in the United States, claiming 70,000 or even 80,000 lives every year. If 12-steps and abstinence were solutions, we wouldn't have hospitals crammed full of people dying of alcoholism-related illnesses.

Charlatans present themselves as experts and saviours when the evidence quite clearly shows that the so-called 'solutions' they have to offer are not only a dismal failure, but are wasting time and money, diverting funding and research away from any real solutions which could have some meaningful impact on problems which affect a very great number of unfortunate people.

I find it deeply offensive that the 'solutions' on offer are clearly ineffective, and those who fail to succeed when they've been set up to fail are blamed for their lack of dedication, commitment, effort and blind faith in things which are demonstrably snake-oil and quackery, peddled by charlatans who should be stripped of any semblance of professional and ethical conduct.

The placebo effect is real and it's even effective when a person knows they're receiving a placebo treatment, so I don't see why we can't all get sugar pills and redirect all the money that's wasted on ineffective treatments - and those who dispense them - and plough those funds into scientific empirical research.

I hope it's now clear why I choose my own evidence-based path, instead of placing my fate in the hands of charlatans and fraudsters who are pedalling snake-oil quack cures which don't work. The age-old adage about following doctor's orders is pure idiocy when the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates the folly of such a course of action.

Of course I stay abreast of developments in the field of clinical research into promising pharmaceutical compounds which might be effective and offer the "magic bullet" that so many of us desperately yearn for: a pill which cures the depression, anxiety and the craving for those substances which do actually temporarily alleviate the unpleasantness of human existence.

As for poverty... yes, you're right that one or two people got rich playing the lottery, but that doesn't mean that it's a solution for the whole of humanity.

 

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Blur

4 min read

This is a story about mental clarity...

Shoreline

Day three without booze. I woke up feeling surprisingly fuzzy-headed, but I guess that's because I'm still using sleeping tablets in an attempt to be able to fall asleep despite overwhelming feelings of anxiousness and hopelessness. My brain is waking up, having been pickled in alcohol, and now I'm sober my thoughts are somewhat racing. I can sense that my tendency towards mania has been kept at bay by the demon drink; now that I've stopped drinking the brakes are off and my mood can fluctuate dangerously.

I feel like I've regained a lot of the sharpness of my mind, but with the clearing fog comes an overconfidence: I'm far too outspoken at work; I'm shooting my mouth off. I'm going to get myself into trouble.

It's a horrible situation to be in, having to self-medicate just to be able to cope with so-called 'ordinary' life, but the medications and the alcohol only temporarily put a lid on things, and there's a price to be paid for artificially constraining me and my mood - there's a backlash as soon as my brain gets a little freedom from the chemical straightjacket. I can't be artificially constrained forever, and the longer I am constricted and constrained then the worse it is in the end.

I'm treading an extremely fine line between what I need to do to keep my job, earn money, pay rent, bills and generally take part in civilised society like an ordinary regular person, and what I need to do to be able to fake it; to keep a lid on my problems. I have to pretend like everything is A-OK in my life and I'm having no problem at all dealing with depression, anxiety, crushing levels of debt and incredible insecurity about my housing, income and other things which are essential for everyday life. I have to intoxicate myself just the right amount to be able to appear functional.

I want to do all the right things, but there's only so much change I can manage all at once, and each change requires a lot of unpleasantness in the short term before I feel the benefits. Every change carries a certain amount of risk. I run the risk of swinging into mania and becoming a pain in the ass in the office. I run the risk of reaching the limit of the stress I can endure, and having a breakdown. I run the risk of becoming exhausted and depressed, and being unable to work. I run the risk of giving up on the daily unpleasantness; abandoning everything and running away because it's just so damn bloody awful. Obviously, I run a huge risk of simply deciding to kill myself.

Just because it's healthier to be sober and I'm gaining mental clarity, doesn't mean it's better. Seeing the world exactly the way it is isn't a comfortable thing. The world is full of awfulness and it's better if we're somewhat blinkered, otherwise we'd all just curl up in a ball and await our inevitable painful demise. In a godless universe with no afterlife, where science and rational thought has removed all the wonder and magic from everyday existence, what is life except suffering and death?

It's clear that I somewhat prefer being half-cut; semi-intoxicated. It's obvious that I like a little something to "take the edge off". Perhaps what I'm writing here is a love-letter to my alcohol addiction, given my self-imposed temporary sobriety. Perhaps I'm trying to justify my drunkenness.

Anyway, whatever, I'm off to the pub [where I'm going to drink a non-alcoholic beverage, probably].

 

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