Skip to main content

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

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

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Brain Damage and Personality Change

5 min read

This is a story about neuroplasticity...

Me on the sofa

Who even am I any more? Am I the same person my friends knew 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago? Have I changed beyond all recognition?

I suppose change is not important if you're happy with who you are in the present day. I wonder about who I've become. I'm very isolated and I'm so fixated on earning enough money to dig myself out of the hole I got in, that I'm not really making a lot of time for socialising or reconnecting with old friends. I don't speak to anybody on the phone. I don't speak to anybody via email. I only speak to a tiny handful of people via text message. I've got no local social network. There's hardly anybody I'm in regular contact with.

I had a very clear plan for a long time - get out of an abusive relationship, move to London and resume my career in The City. Moving, selling the house and divorce were horribly sabotaged by my ex and made unbearably awful, which derailed me. I ended up stuck in a never-ending nightmare cycle of getting sick, ending up in hospital, recovering, starting to get my life together, and then it all falling to pieces over and over again. I had one good shot at escaping from her, but she ruined it; she ruined me; she ruined my chance.

I woke up in hospital all on my own far more times than I care to remember. I was cut adrift. Nobody came to see me.

Then, a little over a year ago, one of my lovely ex-girlfriends organised a load of support for me when I was in hospital. I had LOTS of visitors and brilliant messages of support. That was amazing. That made such a big difference. That was a turning point.

Recovery is non-linear, and getting my life back on track back in London was impossibly hard. I needed to leave London, which meant a breakup with the aforementioned lovely ex-girlfriend. Nothing about that breakup was done right by me. Nothing about the situation was good. It was a big fat mess. Things got worse before they got better. Things got A LOT worse.

Between the seizures and the coma, I think that my latest suicide attempt reset my brain. I think all those seizures were like a kind of intensive Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) for me. My life certainly started to improve versus the destructive cycle I had been caught in while living in London. When I tried to kill myself, I was hopelessly trapped. My suicide attempt broke me free from something I could never have escaped otherwise.

It's strange: two breakups and a suicide attempt led me to a better life, inadvertently. Through that destruction has come new life and more prosperity; hope.

I'm completing my 21st consecutive month without a proper holiday, and I'm exhausted and stressed, but I get up every morning and I go to work. Whatever's going on with my mental health, I'm very functional. I'm in a healthy happy relationship. I'm getting on well with my colleagues. I'm staying on top of my adult responsibilities - paying my rent & bills, keeping my car road legal, washing, cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking and all the other stuff that caused me unbearable anxiety and difficulties last year.

I might be somebody completely different, but I'm still somebody. My personality might have completely changed, but I'm still me... just not the me I was in the past. If my work colleagues like me and my girlfriend likes me, and I'm a functional member of society, then what's the problem with me?

I'm paranoid that mental health problems are going to rear their ugly head, but it's been almost 8 months without incident. I don't want to get complacent, but that's a long time to be unmedicated as well as dealing with the horrendous stress of losing your home, losing your job, almost going bankrupt, moving house, moving city, starting two new jobs and everything else to boot. Looking at the evidence, I'd say that I'm one of the most mentally strong and stable people you're ever likely to meet, as opposed to an emotionally unstable lunatic, which you might wrongly presume from some of the stuff that happened before.

I think the lesson is that the brain is a homeostatic organ that's evolved to rapidly adapt to the ever-changing environment. If you trap me in to dreadful circumstances, I'm going to have a dreadful reaction - that's logical and reasonable; that's rational... a sane reaction to an insane world.

I do have my PTSD flashbacks - described as "Tourette's-like" by a close friend - and I do have to be extremely careful with my sleep, diet, stress levels and myriad other things, but my mental health problems are a risk not my destiny.

If I can just keep plodding through life, things will improve. Time is the biggest healer, giving my brain time to adapt.

 

Tags:

 

PTSD Flashbacks

7 min read

This is a story about re-living a nightmare...

Walls closing in

Setting aside the when, how, who, what, why and any presumption of blame, guilt, morality, karma... I've been through a load of awful shit in the last few years. For longer than I care to remember, I've regularly had some very harrowing stuff happen to me. I don't care to recite the details because there are so many things - these things pop into my head randomly and they stab me like a knife in the guts. These flashbacks make me gasp aloud because the memories are so difficult to handle.

Periods of time that I've written about - like the Finsbury Park Fun Run - contain multiple distressing and traumatic events. For far too long, my life was a series of similar stressful and awful calamitous episodes, which contained everything from the mildly shameful, embarrassing and a bit surreal and ridiculous, to experiences that could pretty much destroy a person.

Of course, mental health problems and drug addiction have featured heavily, but my memory has functioned perfectly well and I've been fully conscious almost the whole time, experiencing the awful events and being affected by the trauma of it all.

Some of my experiences I've managed to integrate and cope with by telling the story, like I did with Finsbury Park Fun Run, and other experiences are bundled up into a great big ball of trauma, which I can sometimes laugh about, sometimes forget about, but memories are constantly surfacing and causing me to wince with pain, as if I was being physically stabbed with a sharp object. I screw up my face and I make an involuntary exclamation. I exhale and I mutter stuff under my breath to make it go away, which it usually does.

When I get an invasive thought, which is a memory of a traumatic moment that I'm struggling to cope with, I write down a little 1-line summary of what it is. If the thoughts keep popping up, then I write about them: I use my notes as a writing prompt, so that I can work through whatever trauma is bothering me the most. I'm writing as fast as I can, trying to stay on top of these negative memories that could easily drive me insane, or cause me to collapse under the sheer weight of them. I could easily kill myself, trying to escape the torment of these invasive awful flashbacks.

If you imagine a heroin addict who's having to resort to a life of crime to fund their drug habit, they'll be forced to commit a lot of acquisitive crime: thefts, robberies, burglaries, muggings, stealing off friends and family. That addict will have their morals completely corrupted by the need to avoid getting junk-sick, which means they'll probably have a lot of stains on their conscience. Shoplifting could be seen as a relatively victimless crime, because shops have insurance against theft, but burglaries have a lasting impact on the victim, because of the violation of their home. It's not that the heroin addict doesn't care, because they're evil and immoral, it's that the need for their fix is a primal urge that's far greater than hunger, fear, pain, or anything else you've ever experienced in your sheltered little life.

I've never been a heroin addict.

I've never committed any crime to get money for drugs.

I haven't even particularly had my morality corrupted by addiction, but I came close. I understand what it's like when you're in the grips of addiction. I can see that morality is relative, not absolute.

My own traumatic experiences come from being desperately sick and vulnerable. When you're sick and vulnerable, broke and sleeping rough, trapped into a life of addiction and health problems... you're constantly traumatised. My life had so many episodes of trauma, because I was trapped into such a destructive cycle.

You'd think that if things were really bad, you'd do something about it - surely the trauma I was experiencing was there to bump me back onto the right track; to get me back on the straight and narrow. Well, no not really. When you're trapped and vulnerable, you're pretty fucked. It's very hard to escape from such a vicious cycle.

Getting yourself off the drugs and off the streets is only the tiniest part of any meaningful change. What about the pre-existing mental health problems? What about the trauma?

The longer I spend in a safe and stable environment, the more trauma seems to bubble up to the surface. When I was in the vicious horrible cycle, there was no time to stop and think about all the awful things that had happened. When I was right in the thick of things, and barely surviving, I was far too busy staying alive to be bothered by the traumatic flashbacks.

Which came first? The trauma or the unhealthy coping mechanisms?

Definitely the trauma came first.

But the unhealthy coping mechanisms led to more trauma.

I got out of the frying pan, but I ended up in the fire. I got out of a horrible abusive relationship, but the destruction to my life - at a time when I was already really vulnerable and traumatised - was too much to handle. Things got a lot worse before they started to improve.

Today, my life looks much improved. Today, my life looks sorted and peachy. Today, you might be mistaken for thinking that I'm hunky-dory and A-OK, but it's not true... I'm not out of the woods yet.

I have no idea how I'm going to deal with everything and come to terms with what I've been through, but my healthy coping mechanism is to write. I write down the particularly traumatic things that I keep getting flashbacks about, and then I write down these little stories, which attempt to explore my feelings. I'm attempting to deal with all the horrible traumatic stuff in a way that lays it to bed; gets rid of it out of my brain and down onto paper.

I feel like I should tell you about some of the stuff that I'm dealing with, so you can see that I really have been through some horribly traumatic experiences that would cause anybody significant psychological damage. I feel like I want to list off a whole load of experiences that were off-the-charts in terms of how awful they were. However, I only want to do that because I feel unworthy somehow. There are people out there who've been through unimaginable trauma - is it a competition? Should I shut up, because there's one person out there who's had it worse than every other human being on the entire planet?

I'm not even going to tell you what it is, because this process can't be rushed. I've written about plenty of traumatic stuff, and it doesn't fix it or make it all ok suddenly. Even stuff I've written about still bothers me, but every time I write I feel like I'm making some progress towards a time when I feel I can cope; a time when these PTSD flashbacks won't be so aggressively invasive and hit me so hard.

If you think I'm being hyperbolic and complaining about nothing, you probably haven't spent any time in relaxed company with me. These flashbacks regularly assault me. At work, I can barely conceal the fact that I'm hit with these awful memories, which cause me to gasp, groan and wince. At home, I can't conceal it... my close friends and girlfriend hear me yell like I'm in physical pain, and worriedly ask "what's wrong?".

The brain is a plastic organ and it will heal itself. It takes time though.

 

Tags:

 

Sorry Not Sorry

6 min read

This is a story about crossing a line...

Blurry pic

To say I'm not sorry, I'm unremorseful, I don't live with regrets and I've never made a mistake, would be completely untrue. My life is fairly simple - work, eat, sleep - so I have a lot of time to think about things. I'm always prepared to consider the possibility that I've overstepped the mark; that I've gone too far.

The level of isolation I live with is something that 99% of people would find intolerable. Humans are sociable creatures. I'm quite a sociable guy, but my life completely collapsed and I haven't rebuilt it yet. I started a new job a little over a month ago and I'm starting to build a good relationship with my colleagues, but it's early days and I have to tread carefully because I really need the job and I don't really want everyone to know that I've been really unwell. I only moved to the area a little over 6 months ago, and I've spent half that time working in London, so I've not had much opportunity to make new friends yet.

I wake up, I drive to work and I think about what I'm going to write. My job's pretty easy, so I spent lots of time at work thinking about what I'm going to write. I get home and I write. I then spend a lot of time thinking about what I've just written. I often think that what I've just written doesn't accurately reflect how I'm feeling because I feel differently after writing. On reflection, I often feel like I've gone too far - I've been too passive-aggressive and critical; I've been a little negative and cynical. However, if I let my frustrations build up I'd explode or be driven mad.

You probably don't realise just how much you use your support network every day, because you take those people for granted. If you're feeling upset about something, you can pick up the phone or talk to somebody face-to-face. I often don't have that. At work I put on my corporate mask and pretend like everything's perfect in my personal life. With people who I rely upon for my money and my accommodation, I have to present a fake front, because my life depends on it. I'm very rarely able to be myself, and when I am able to finally talk with people who I can be honest and open with, they tend to be my social media contacts, because of my isolated life.

I have a girlfriend and she's great, but I can't have a dependency on one single person - that's too much pressure. My girlfriend suggests seeing a therapist, but that's expensive and you can only talk to them for an hour a week... provided you even like and respect them, of course. Finding a good therapist is a hard enough challenge in and of itself.

If you imagine the amount of traumatic experiences I've had in the past few years - a horrendous leg injury, suicide attempt, kidney failure, police, sleeping rough, crisis house, hostel, police, lost job, evicted, hostel, police, psych ward, DVT, kidney failure, dialysis, homeless and virtually bankrupt, suicide attempt, police, psych ward - then I hope you realise that an hour of week of speaking to a therapist isn't really going to cut the mustard... hence the blog.

I arrive at the point I'm at today, heavily traumatised.

You can't see the trauma, but I know it's there because I keep getting invasive thoughts that stab me like a knife in the guts.

The shit I've been through doesn't give me an excuse to be shitty to people and not be sorry when I upset people. The shit I've been through doesn't give me an excuse to say and do whatever the fuck I want. But, I've only got a limited amount of patience for anybody who makes my life any harder than it needs to be. I've only got a limited amount of patience for anybody who thinks they've got quick fixes and easy solutions. I can only humour people for so long.

Dealing with this post-traumatic stress is taking a long time. There's a lot of shit to work through. There's a lot of stuff I'm getting over. I only just managed to get myself into secure housing and start a job that I can tolerate. My finances are still shitty and I'm only just getting to the point where I'm a couple of weeks away from a cash injection I desperately need. There's been a mountain of practical stuff to sort out, on top of the psychological damage; the trauma.

Frankly, I'm surprised that I'm not more vindictive and nasty, because I've been through a right load of shit and I'm still deeply traumatised. It's true that people have been hurt who don't deserve it, but it's not true that I'm not sorry... in 99% of the cases, I'm sorry when somebody got hurt by me lashing out.

I don't really have anybody who regularly provides some kind of checks & balance on my behaviour. Most of us talk to our friends and family and then our initial anger and indignation dissipates... we feel like we're being unreasonable, when we voice our frustrations to our trusted confidantes. My blog is my trusted confidante, because my life collapsed and I'm dealing with a clusterfuck of post-traumatic stress.

Yes, my blog is public, but I also avoid using names or other things that might identify people. Yes, my blog is public, but how else am I supposed to get the support that I need, when I'm in such a dangerously low and precarious situation? Yes you might feel personally attacked, but are you absolutely certain that it's you I'm talking about? If you think it's you, is that because you've got a guilty conscience?

So, sorry I'm not sorry. But I also am sorry too, in those cases where I overstepped the mark; where I was unnecessarily unkind.

 

Tags: