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The world's longest suicide note

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

All opinions are my own

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nick@manicgrant.com

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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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Swapping Addictions

5 min read

This is a story about changing habits...

Pill packets

A couple of months ago, I'd gotten myself to the point where I was off all the medications and I was even having some periods where I wasn't drinking. It's quite a remarkable achievement considering that a year ago I was physically addicted to a nasty cocktail of Xanax, Valium, zopiclone, zolpidem and pregabalin, all washed down with copious quantities of alcohol. Last year I had started drinking caffeinated drinks again in an effort to allow me to function at work, when I was so heavily medicated. It was a mess.

Last week, I had a little bit of pregabalin and a little bit of diazepam to help me get over the new job nerves, and to help my body re-adjust its sleeping pattern to office hours.

This week, I've had a little bit of zopiclone to continue to help my body re-adjust to getting up early in the morning.

My coping mechanism; my crutch is alcohol. My portion control with alcohol is fairly hard to adjust. If I open a bottle of wine I'm definitely going to finish it. If alcohol is easily available I'm definitely going to drink. Eliminating all the medications which would tranquillise me, sedate me and ease me gently to sleep, and not replacing any of them with anything has meant that I've consciously or unconsciously sought to salve my anxiety; soothe my nerves. I've reached for the bottle.

Ideally, I'd swap unhealthy habits for healthy ones. I'd love it if my job was absorbing and I could become a workaholic. I'd love it if my lifestyle permitted fitness-related leisure pursuits, but it doesn't: I'm in an office job which bores the shit out of me, stuck at a desk all day long, then I'm in a hotel room near a motorway, and the thought of doing anything beyond simply surviving tips me into an outright panic attack.

In time, my debts will be repaid and my savings replenished. In time, I'll have re-established my working routine and proven my value at my workplace with my new colleagues. In time, my brain will have adjusted to life without all the medications.

My fear is that I'm going to get fat, unfit and develop a heavy dependence on alcohol.

I know that my personality is fixed a certain way, which means I can very easily become obsessive about work and leisure pursuits making me fit, fulfilled and rich, but things just aren't going my way at the moment. I'm struggling along with pretty intolerable living arrangements, working arrangements and paying a very high price for lengthy periods where I was using powerful psychoactive medications.

I have a deep longing for some tablets to make the next few months a bit more bearable. I'd consider almost any antidepressant at the moment, if it promised to reduce my anxiety, take away the dread I feel the night before a working day and soften the blow when my alarm goes off in the morning and it's time to go to work; if it could reduce the acute feelings of misery and hopelessness.

I've felt a lot less suicidal the past couple of weeks, but depression has manifested itself as feeling tired all the time and an incredible struggle to get up in the mornings. My energy, enthusiasm and motivation levels are all at rock bottom. My brain feels pretty sluggish and slow, and I'm disappointed with myself that I haven't been able to feel useful or productive in my new job yet.

All of these things place a huge amount of stress and strain on me. You'd be surprised how hard it is to make medication changes, let alone stop taking a whole host of powerful medications all at once, plus the other stressors in my life, such as an unsettled work and home life; lack of support network.

My bank balance steadily creeps in a positive direction, which is pretty much my main objective, but my responsibilities seem to mount while my enjoyment of life is at rock bottom. I need to go to the supermarket to buy cakes for my work colleagues because tomorrow is my birthday, but it's going to be one of the worst birthdays I've had for a long time, although it might be OK if I can meet a local friend for a beer, which would improve things immeasurably.

Perhaps I'm being a martyr; perhaps I'm not. I've gotten into the habit of going cold turkey with addictive drugs and medications, and white-knuckling through the dreadful withdrawal symptoms. I've desperately tried to avoid becoming dependent on anything new and muddying the psychiatric picture by pickling my brain in more chemicals.

I'd like to make things as easy as possible on myself for the next few months, but I don't think the answer lies in addictive tranquillisers, sedatives, sleeping pills and painkillers. Perhaps my mind has been too closed off to the idea of antidepressants. I desperately need this job and the money. I desperately need the next few months to go smoothly and without incident, so I can escape the shackles of my debt.

I'm sad that I'm so sad on the eve of my birthday. I'm sad that I'm so sad in the middle of summer. I'm sad that I'm so sad when I've worked so hard to do the right things: work hard and quit all the addictive drugs and medications. Isn't there supposed to be some reward for hard work?

I wonder when I'm going to feel the benefits from all the good choices I'm making?

 

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Comfort Eating

5 min read

This is a story about getting fat...

Lobster and burger

In December I started a lovely little self-contained project. I flew to Warsaw to gather the requirements from the client and then I flew back to London. I was living in AirBnBs and travelling home to Wales every weekend. I was living out of a suitcase, but it was OK because I was busy getting on with my project.

Then I finished the project.

The project was only supposed to take 6 weeks, but I finished it in 3. I spent another 3 weeks polishing the finished result and adding every bell and whistle I possibly could to create a completely spectacular Rolls-Royce solution, but then the project was well and truly finished and there was nothing left to do.

The team I was working with were based in Warsaw, and I was based in London. I had nobody to even chat to in the office, to while away the hours. I was bored out of my mind. The client was quite happy for me to sit around doing nothing, and he even wanted to extend my contract for a further 6 months beyond the original 3 months, but I was losing my mind with the boredom.

To cope with the boredom, I started to drink. I was drinking heavily. At one point I was drinking 2 bottles of wine a night, every night.

At the start of last September I had a benzo habit that had gotten out of control. I was taking several Valium and Xanax every day, and then a couple of zopiclone and zolpidem at night, plus a whole load of pregabalin. All those medications are GABA agonists, which is to say that they're hypnotic-sedative/tranquilliser type drugs that all act in the same way... very similarly to alcohol. I was physically addicted to those medications and if I stopped taking them then I would have a seizure that might kill me.

By the time I started that project back in December, I had managed to quit the Valium, Xanax and zolpidem. However, I had stopped but then started taking the pregabalin again because I was so stressed out by the travelling and the new job, and the fact I was homeless and rapidly running out of money. The pregabalin soothed my jangled nerves during the day, and the zopiclone helped me to sleep at night. With the combination of those two medications, I was able to limp through that 3-month contract in London.

I drank a lot when I was in London because I was bored and I was withdrawing from the benzos, and I hated the job because I was so isolated and lonely, and I hated the travel and the AirBnBs. I was suicidal A LOT of the time.

Along with the drinking, I got into bad eating habits. I would have fried chicken from KFC and burgers from McDonalds. I would have greasy curries and fatty kebabs. I lived on fast food and vast quantities of wine. I really let myself go, because I hated my life so much and it was so unbearable.

In January I decided that I needed an incentive to quit the London life and base myself in Wales full-time, so I started dating. I met a lovely girl who enjoys eating out, getting takeaways and drinking wine. We've had a great time, eating, drinking and being merry.

Now I'm feeling fat.

My girlfriend and I have stuffed our faces with fine food and wine for the last 3 months, and I'm feeling fat and unfit. I've had a brilliant time, but I've really let myself go. I've stuffed my face without a single ounce of restraint.

There's a canteen at my new workplace, and I stuff my face with chips, burgers, pizza, burritos, pies and numerous other incredibly unhealthy foods, every single lunchtime. Gone are the days of my relatively healthy lunches that I used to have in London. My lunches in Wales are nothing but carbs, carbs and more carbs.

All the money I've earned has so far been spent on living expenses. I'm running out of money, although I should get a much needed cash injection early next week, which can't come soon enough, because it's been really expensive getting myself back on my feet - renting an apartment and buying a car so I can get to work. It's been really stressful, having the threat of bankruptcy hanging over me for so long. It's been so stressful being so short of cash.

Because of the unbearable stress, and the dreadful withdrawal that I've been through from stopping all those highly addictive tranquillisers and sleeping pills, I've been compensating with comfort eating and alcohol. I've been drinking bucketloads and eating far too much. I've put on weight, and I'm depressed about that - it affects my self-esteem.

Hopefully, money will come flooding in next week, and I'm booking a holiday for mid-June, which can't come soon enough, because it's been a ridiculous 21-month slog without a holiday to get to this point, and I still have a month and a half more to go before I finally get a nice break.

I'm using alcohol and food as a crutch, because I'm not taking any medication and I'm not taking any time off work. I'm stressed and exhausted, and the thing that's suffering is my health; my weight; my appearance. It depresses me that I've let myself go, but I've been dealing with more than I can handle. Frankly, it's a miracle that I've made it this far.

So, as if I haven't worked hard enough, I'll need to cut down my drinking, exercise more and eat less. That sucks. At least there's a holiday and summertime on the not-too-distant horizon.

 

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Antipsychiatry

9 min read

This is a story about doing no harm...

Pile of pills

Imagine that somebody says to you "you're so argumentative". What could you possibly say in return? You can't say "no I'm not" because then they'll say "yes you are and the fact that you're arguing proves it". There are lots of other quirks of the English language that allow you to box people in, such as asking questions like "so when did you stop raping children?" or some other kind of fallacy.

I'm not actually against psychiatrists and psychiatric medications. Every psychiatrist is different. Most psychiatrists who work in the NHS have to deal with society's very sickest and most dysfunctional cases. Every psychiatric bed in England is filled with somebody who is being detained against their will for 28 days, or more likely for 6 months. There aren't any spare psychiatric beds for people who are merely having a crisis and who are in danger of committing suicide - the NHS will call your bluff and leave you to die, as so many do, because mental health services are overstretched and underfunded.

The kinds of treatment on offer vary from snake-oil bullshit, such as CBT and other behavioural therapies, to chemical coshes that will put you into the drugged equivalent of a straightjacket. For sure, there are some very sick people who are psychotically disturbed, but powerful antipsychotics are not a panacea for all problems of the mind. In some countries, physical restraints are more commonplace. In the UK, we dope people up to the eyeballs.

If you've never lost your liberty you won't quite be able to comprehend how terrible it is. We're free-thinking individuals who move through the world according to our whims - the illusion of free will. When locked into an overcrowded psych ward, even if you asked to be hospitalised because you feared for your own safety, you might suddenly panic that you won't be able to get back out.

Ironically, you can't say "I'm not argumentative" when somebody wrongly accuses you of being argumentative, and it's equally impossible to say "I'm not mad" when you're trapped by psychiatry. The only strategy you can play is to be calm and patient and ignore the provocation, which is easier said than done. It's a very natural reaction to want to defend ourselves against unfounded allegations. To have our character criticised by somebody who doesn't know a damn thing about us, is incredibly insulting. When somebody who hardly knows us has the ability to detain us against our will, and even to have us forcibly medicated, then the situation is unbearable.

I don't doubt that psychiatrists believe they have their patients' best interests at heart, but there's no acknowledgement of the antagonisation, frustration, anger and upset that they provoke. Nobody should have godlike powers over any other human being. The line between sane and insane, sick and healthy, right and wrong thoughts... these are completely arbitrary. There can be no ultimate arbiter who decides who's normal and who's not - it's not right that anybody should sit in judgement.

Am I arguing that we should fling open the doors to our asylums and let the mental patients roam free? It's more complicated than that. A survey of the general public revealed that the vast majority of people wouldn't want to live next door to, work with or have their children play with a schizophrenic. It seems that those paranoid delusions are not so paranoid after all - no smoke without fire. Having had my case reviewed at mental health tribunal to decide whether to give me back my freedom or not, it appalled me how six people could sit and have a discussion about me as if I wasn't even present in the room. To button my lip and remain silent through proceedings; to maintain my polite and courteous façade - this was virtually impossible when my liberty was at stake.

Another thing that's deeply upsetting is the way that the patient is often mobbed. Ward rounds consist of sitting with a whole room full of people - usually a couple of psychiatrists and a couple of nurses - who sit stroking their chins while the patient explains the same thing for the millionth time: please stop ganging up on me and let me go. Of course, there are mental heath problems present, but the set-up is antagonising. Should we just let anorexics stop eating and die? Should we just let the psychotic do what the voices tell them to do? This isn't what I'm arguing for. I'm just pointing out that even the most sane amongst us would be driven mad by a jeering crowd, licensed to torment and keep their victims in captivity.

If you imagine that you might get to spend 10 minutes with the psychiatrist who has the power to set you free, once every week or every fortnight, all the decisions are more important than I can possibly express in words. If you're on a medication which is causing you intolerable side effects, in a psych ward setting which is causing you intolerable distress, you're going to have to wait a couple of weeks before you can have another go at trying to communicate your needs to the doctor... which you'll have to do through the foggy haze of powerful antipsychotic medication. "This man is making no sense" they'll say, because you've been drugged into a dribbling mess. What further proof could be necessary to show that you're an imbecile who could never survive outside the protective walls of an institution?

Experiments were conducted by investigative journalists, who deliberately got themselves committed to institutions, only to find they couldn't get out again - the system grabbed them. The harder you fight the system, the more you're giving the system the 'proof' that you really are mad. It's maddeningly self-perpetuating.

Very few of us have the ability to bring our racing pulse back under control, to lower our respiration rate, to relax our muscles. Very few of us possess the ability to react to incredible stress, by calming ourselves and being patient. The most antagonisingly provocative situation will elicit the most predictable response: people don't like having their freedom taken away, told what to do and being judged by strangers who pry into every aspect of their private life.

To have captive creatures to toy with as we please must make those men and women who wield godlike powers feel very full of themselves. "It's for your own good" is the well-worn defence for the indefensible. The very nature of the relationship is toxic to mental health. Mental health treatment cannot be imposed by those who know best, because they don't know best - psychiatry is such a young branch of medicine. Nobody really has a clue what they're doing. Long-term outcomes are abysmal and the mental health epidemic continues to grow apace. Clearly, evidence-based medicine is not being practiced.

Of course I don't think that psychiatrists and mental health nurses and all the other people who offer medical and complementary treatments for ailments of the mind, are bad people. Of course they're not bad people. I don't believe there's a Big Pharma conspiracy. The truth is though, people are sicker than ever before and the treatments aren't working. My objection is with those who talk authoritatively as if there are useful diagnoses and accompanying medications and therapies which are making a profound impact... it's just not the case at all. What's happening is abysmal, and nobody is admitting they've got it wrong - a lot of people aren't sick, they just hate capitalism and modern society.

Good science means controlling the variables. I've aggressively cut out all psychoactive substances. Tomorrow I shall tell my psychiatrist that I'm debt-laden and forced to work a job that conflicts with my values and needs. My malaise is a function of the conflict in my heart, knowing that banking is a morally bankrupt profession, loan-sharking and taking advantage of the most vulnerable. My prescription? The end of capitalism and the return to a society where we're intimately connected to our local communities... do you think they'll stock that in the chemist?

Getting my happiness and contentment back in the current economic climate looks to be an impossible task. However, to medicate myself because I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world is not a good course of action.

Of course, my psychiatrist doesn't have the ability to cure me of my intolerable situation. I've got to work. I've got to travel to where the jobs are. I've got to pay my bills and service my debts. But, I don't need medical solutions to a non-medical problem.

Why even go to see my psychiatrist, when I don't think they can help me? Well, it's obvious isn't it? If we keep sending people away with pills, then we keep proceeding with our delusion that they're working and things are going to improve one day. How many times a year do you suppose a psychiatrist meets somebody who's foresworn ALL psychoactive substances, including caffeine and nicotine, and is a functional high-achieving member of society, to all outward appearances? To say that a medical problem - suicidal depression and debilitating anxiety - doesn't have a medical solution is heresy, but somebody has to stand up to those who dogmatically decree that they have the solutions, when they demonstrably do not.

Being unmedicated is really horrible and I feel terrible, but I'm being a bit of a martyr because I've got a point to prove. One day I will escape from the burden of debt, the soul-destruction of bullshit jobs and the need to commute long distances, preventing me from forming social bonds and having a work:life balance. One day I'll get a girlfriend and a cat and a home of my own and all the other things that humans need to feel complete, and then we can re-examine the situation and ask if I need medication. Until such time as the major problems in my life still exist, then medication looks like a dangerous option, because medication is allowing our society to develop into a grotesquely unhealthy form. Just because medication allows you to do awful things, it doen't mean you should do awful things. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong.

A certain proportion of society will always struggle to abide by its rules, its laws and its social contract. A certain proportion of society will be criminals and parasites - anti-social. However, when the vast majority of us are struggling and unhappy, then we've made a wrong turn somewhere; we've made a mistake and we need to retrace our steps.

I refuse to be labelled and drugged.

 

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This Time Last Year I was F**ked

11 min read

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

View from the loft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Unholy Trinity

11 min read

This is a story about lethal combinations...

Three empty cans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Getting What you Want from Your GP

7 min read

This is a story about being on the sick...

Sick note

I'm regularly asked how to obtain a sick note and/or prescription for high-strength addictive medications from a GP, so I thought I'd prepare a handy guide to answer these frequently asked questions. Above you'll find a copy of a sick note that you can print out and fill in with your own details, so that you can bunk off work because you're lazy and entitled.

Of course, your doctor wants to cure you, which would be a dreadful outcome. It takes a lot of time and effort to ensure that your doctor doesn't actually give you what you need. Your GP can instantly relieve your ailments any time they want so it's important to remember what YOU want: ineffective treatment. You must always remember that you want the wrong treatment and resist any and all attempts to be persuaded to receive the correct treatment. If you do that then you should be fine. I mean, not actually fine... I mean sick, which is obviously what you want.

Proper preparation is essential. Make sure you have extensively researched your chosen ailment and know what all the likely treatments are so that you can refuse or say that you've already tried the ones that work. This is important. Your doctor will try to fob you off with something which has an overwhelming body of evidence that conclusively proves that it will cure you instantly, so you should be fully prepared to absolutely flatly refuse any of those treatments. Be careful, because your doctor will obviously try to trick you into becoming well again, which isn't what you want at all.

When demanding dangerous addictive medications, it's a good idea to scream, yell and aggressively and insistently dictate that you must be given what you want immediately. Obviously your GP may be alerted to your blatant intention of doing yourself harm with the "fun stuff" and your desire to remain sick and incapacitated, so it's important that you get irate and use ill manners in order to better communicate your want for large quantities of deadly pills.

While you're spending time with your GP, it might be a good idea to ask if the pills you're getting are the kind that are easily crushed and snorted. Ask if the pills contain an excipient or other additive which would make intravenous injection less pleasurable, and demand brands which have no such so-called 'safety' formulations. Find out if you'll get a bigger rush by combining medications and make sure your GP knows you don't care about any so-called contraindications. Your GP is an expert in the most fun ways to abuse prescription drugs. Generally, the less willing your GP is to give you a particular medication, the more desirable it is.

GPs often talk about the "analgesic ladder". Say for example you are hoping to obtain a prescription for codeine, which you can extract from co-codamol tablets using water that has been cooled to 5 degrees celcius or lower - filter the chilled liquid to get rid of all that pesky paracetamol. If your GP refuses to give you co-codamol, then you should climb the analgesic ladder and demand tramadol. If your GP refuses to give you tramadol, then you should continue up the rungs of the ladder, demanding buprenorphine, then morphine, then diacetylmorphine. Do not leave the GP's consultation room until you have obtained your prescription for pure diacetylmorphine. It's your right to have pure heroin dispensed to you via the NHS, because you want it and it's nice.

When demanding your sick note, make sure your GP knows it's yours and they should return it to you immediately. Make your displeasure loudly known that you were inconvenienced by having to visit your GP to get it back.

It's a commonly held misconception that you would have to feign illness in order to get a sick note, but it's a well-known fact that sick notes are in fact a certificate of bone idleness and it would look very odd if a sick person were to ask to be signed off work. It's imperative that you demonstrate that you're quite capable of performing a range of work-related activities and you have absolutely no reason at all to not be hard at work down a f**king coal mine or something. Take some heavy weights and a computer keyboard with you and repeatedly lift the weight up and down while doing star jumps and typing at 100 words per minute, to absolutely convince your GP that you're capable of doing any physical or mental task that would take place in the workplace, such that you're obviously urgently in need of YOUR sick note.

Did I mention eating deep fried battered lard cakes, smoking a thousand fags and drinking flagons of mead? It's important to demonstrate all the unhealthiest lifestyle choices that you can, in order to show your commitment to being unwell, otherwise your GP might mistakenly believe that you want to be cured or helped in some way. Leave your GP under no illusion that you have not even the slightest glimmer of desire to in any way help yourself.

Remember, it's you versus them. Seeing your GP is an adversarial conflict, where you want completely opposing things and you absolutely should not never under any circumstances not never no way agree or co-operate in any way whatsoever, or listen, or heed any advice or in any way allow yourself to be corrupted by your GP's intentions, which are completely out of alignment with your own firm decision to be sick and die. If you even listen to your GP a teeny tiny bit, you could be accidentally cured beyond your worst possible nightmares, to the point of being healthy and happy - disaster!

It's important to remember at all times just how much you love being miserable, sick, anxious, depressed, overweight, unfit, in pain and on your way to a premature and painful death. It's important to hang on to your main objective - remaining unwell at all costs - if you want to avoid your GP's devious attempts to cure you of all your ills and send you on your merry way as a productive, healthy and content member of society. It will take all your wits and cunning to outsmart every attempt to make you better.

By following this prescriptive guide, I hope you're able to obtain YOUR sick note and a prescription for vast quantities of dangerously powerful, fiendishly addictive and deadly medications which can be mixed to make you sick, dying and dead in horrendously toxic combinations. It's a difficult challenge to obtain the wrong treatment, but given that the reward is pain, suffering and death, it's worth the effort.

Just remember: your GP is not on your side. You and your GP want different things, and you should stick resolutely to your desire to have the WRONG treatment and remain sick and dying. Every time you trick your GP into giving you the wrong treatment, or refuse the right treatment, you're winning.

Good luck and STAY SICK!

 

[P.S. apologies to my GP if they should read this for some reason]

 

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Numb & Dumb

5 min read

This is a story about being medicated...

Various assorted pills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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