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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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Chore

11 min read

This is a story about strict routine...

Washing machine

I don't feel like writing today. I saw something in the news which I wanted to write about and I even started a blog post, but then I kinda lost my way when doing a bit of research. I had selected a photo - different from the one above - and I started to feel that it was unwise to use it because it shows my face without my cunning and infallible disguise. I'm starting to think more and more about how people perceive me and the damage I could do to my own reputation if my blog was read by my work colleagues.

There are certain things that will cause people to look at you in a completely different light. There are prejudices that are so powerful that they can warp reality and turn good people into twisted grotesque imaginary monsters. To write about addiction is to bracket myself with baby-eating, granny-mugging, child-raping, ethnic-minority-murdering, every-other-bad-thing-you-can-think-of, demonised people who are blamed for all the ills in society. Your average injecting crack and heroin addict is going to commit a hundred or maybe even two hundred crimes every year to feed their habit. However, it's a non-sequitur to think that everybody who's experienced a period of drug addiction in the past is an immoral murderous criminal. "Death's too good for 'em! String 'em up!" cries the tabloid press and the public lap it up, even though the vast majority have never been a victim of crime, nor are they aware that the so-called character flaws which potentiate addiction live inside all of us.

I was going to write about that oft-used song lyric: "there's a monkey on my back". I can't say that I ever felt like I had a monkey on my back when I was a drug addict. "I'm waiting for my man" is another famous addiction-inspired song lyric, which again is something I can't relate to at all. In fact I can't relate to any of the addiction references in popular culture. I've never 'scored' drugs from a dealer. I've never been part of a drugs 'scene'. I never adopted a drug as part of my identity - I never wore clothing with a cannabis leaf or some other drug reference advertising my addiction.

There's a lot I don't understand about drug addicts even though I was one myself. I don't understand why many addicts buy crack cocaine when they could easily make it themselves with baking soda. I don't understand why addicts buy their drugs in small quantities. I don't understand why addicts buy impure and weak products at hugely inflated prices. I don't understand why there are heroin addicts when they could easily bulk-buy fentanyl, which is much more powerful. I don't know why addicts don't just stop being addicts and get rich - like me - whenever life gets tough.

Of course, I do understand all those things. I understand that the only difference between me and an injecting crack and heroin user, is that they were exposed to a drug 'scene' which brought them into contact with dealers, street drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia. Addicts are caught in the never-ending cycle of scoring drugs, turning tricks, petty crime and everything else that's part of the chaotic life of an injecting drugs user, and the only difference between them and me is that I know that there's some hope that I can escape a miserable life of poverty. What hope does your average crack and heroin addict have of earning a 6-figure salary a month after they quit drugs? What hope do they have of ever earning a decent wage?

I've been able to use my wealth, intellect and other privileges - such as my science and technology skills - to research and obtain high purity drugs of the maximum potency at rock-bottom prices. Instead of messing around with £10 bags of crappy cut heroin, I'd do the research and find out what the chemical with the biggest bang for my buck would be, and then buy it in bulk.

What happens when you have access to a practically unlimited amount of drugs and a practically unlimited amount of time to use them, is that you discover the meaning of the word: practically. It's practically impossible to satisfy a desire for addictive drugs. Given enough drugs and enough time, you just die. Eating, drinking, sleeping, personal hygiene, bathroom breaks and other bodily functions are put on hold for as long as possible. There are some addicts who are perfectly functional - they go about their daily business under the influence of drugs and they can carry on like that for years. That's not really addiction though. Addiction specifically means harmful drug use. Smoking, for example, harms the health of the smoker and the health of those who have to breathe their second-hand smoke. Arguably a pill-popper isn't an addict at all, if the pills are not causing health damage. My own addiction took the form of the very worst kind: the insatiable appetite for a drug to the exclusion of everything else, including the basic necessities for human survival.

At some point drug-taking either becomes a chore - it's something which has to be done to stave off the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms - or it becomes so destructive that destitution and death become certainties. I'm sure there are a handful of homeless people who could see that their addiction was making them unable to work and unable pay their rent or mortgage, and they would be evicted eventually, but they didn't want to stop the drugs: they'd rather be homeless, living in a tent or otherwise sleeping rough, and able to carry on with their addictions. Most homeless addicts probably couldn't see any hope of avoiding homelessness if they quit - there was no incentive. The drug-taking becomes a chore and there's no hope of escaping the dreadful circumstances when you fall too far; the health damage is too severe and the behaviour patterns are too entrenched... rehabilitation would take years, and the best possible hope for those people who dropped out of mainstream society for a long time, is that they could become burger flippers, shelf stackers, toilet cleaners and street sweepers. I have nothing against the untouchables on the bottom rung of civilised society, who do the worst jobs for the worst pay, but it's hardly an enthralling prospect to be shackled to a dreadful job which doesn't pay enough to cover rent and bills, and robs a person of their time and freedom. Given the choice, I'd rather be begging on the streets.

My life is a chore. I'm doing things which I've done a million times before - so there's no doubt that I'm extremely capable of doing my job - and I'm working on projects which are exactly the same as every other project I ever worked on. It doesn't matter if it's Space Invaders, torpedo guidance, stockbroker share prices, computers for schools, public transport, investment banking, government... whatever. Same shit different day. I make systems which are just like the old systems. It's like painting a white wall with white paint, over and over and over again.

Life's a stupid pathetic pointless game. Money is the 'score' and the more you have of it the better player you are, supposedly, but everybody starts with a different amount and the ones with the most are cheating the most. There are other ways to score points, such as academic qualifications, but again, those who start with the most money have the most leisure time to pursue academic interests and surround themselves with people who'll help them obtain those qualification. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if the game wasn't on the clock. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if you were raised by chess grandmasters and your entire childhood was structured around a single purpose: to make you into a brilliant chess player.

As we scurry around desperately trying to comply with the rules of the game, which mostly means being exploited by capitalists and living in constant fear of losing our job, our home and our children, we surely must stop and think that this is insanity. Why would mortal creatures waste their precious time playing a rigged game, for the benefit of the rentier class who oppress them and profit from their labour?

It must surely be due to drugs and drug addiction that the present situation is allowed to continue. How else are people able to buy alcohol, cigarettes, tea and coffee if they don't have miserable exploitative jobs? How else could we tolerate the intolerable except with massive amounts of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills? Why would we bother with the miserable commute and the horrible work, unless there was the promise of some artificial and chemically induced bliss during our breaks and at the end of the working day?

You can have as many slaves as you want, but they won't work without coca leaves, khat, betel leaves, areca nut, tobacco, tea and coffee. Fear, intimidation, pain and torture will only get you so far. There needs to be carrot as well as stick.

If you watch enough X-Factor and Pop Idol on TV then you'll see that all anybody has ever wanted for their whole entire life - more than anything else - is to be a singer. Why then are those who succeed against the odds in becoming a rich and famous pop singer, are very often afflicted with addiction problems and many die young?

Consider how hard it is to escape from the poverty trap. Consider how hard it is to escape the rat race. Consider how hard it is to accumulate enough wealth to be truly free. Consider the effort and exertion necessary to break the chains and liberate yourself from the shackles of capitalism and bullshit jobs.

Unfortunately, most people's idea of freedom is flawed. Are you looking forward to your retirement? Why? You'll be old and your health will be declining... why didn't you retire when you were young and fit? Are you looking forward to fame? Why? You'll be working for your sponsors; you'll be working for your fans. Are you looking forward to being rich? Why? What are you going to do when you are? If you spend your money you'll be poor again, and you'll be just as much of a slave as you ever were, except you'll have developed expensive tastes.

Drugs strip away all of capitalism's artificial constructs. A £10 bag of heroin will get a billionaire just as high as a homeless penniless person. Drugs can - in a way - become a way of life which has much more meaning than the pursuit of wealth. However, the insatiability of a drug addiction; its intrinsic destructiveness and lack of meaning beyond the internal experience of the drug addict, leads inexorably to the desire to use drugs as a form of protracted suicide.

Art is the only known antidote, but art is denied to the vast majority of humanity. Only wealthy spoiled trust-fund brats are truly free enough from the tyranny of capitalism to be artists. Of course many of the spoiled brat offspring of the ultra-rich will become drug addicts, because they're too stupid to appreciate the incredible privilege it is to be able to be an artist.

Perhaps the other choice is to bury ourselves in bestial behaviour. If you're blessed with enough stupidity and ignorance to be happily consumed by your reproductive efforts, all the best to you - enjoy yourself. Sadly, this isn't an option for those who've read too many books and newspapers, and have become aware of the absurdity of existence - ignorance is bliss, and there's no returning to those blissfully ignorant times once your eyes have been opened to the stark reality of human life.

In a godless world with no afterlife, free from magic, spiritual and otherwise ethereal non-existent mumbo-jumbo, there's little which is comforting and inviting in a hostile universe which obeys strict mathematical laws. Just a few hundred kilometres away there's the vacuum of space, where you'd just turn into a frozen corpse and float around weightlessly for billions of years. And you're worried about losing your minimum wage zero-hours contract McJob cleaning toilets just so that you can give every penny you earn to a capitalist, even though you already give every waking hour of your life to a different capitalist? Don't you feel conned; cheated?

I don't feel like doing much, but is that really surprising? Is it so surprising that life feels like such a chore?

 

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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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1,243 Words Per Day for 37 Days

9 min read

This is a story about life goals...

Dusty keyboard

I seem to have a lot of competing priorities at the moment. The only thing I've got much control over is the day when I reach a million words on this website, which I would like to be on September 6th, precisely 3 years after my very first blog post. In order to achieve that objective I need to write 1,243 words every single day for the next 37 consecutive days. It sounds achievable considering I managed to write an average of 1,667 words per day during the month of November, for 2 years running. My daily average word count over the 1,058 days that I've been writing works out at just over 900 words, so I need to increase my output by 38%.

My other objectives are to pay off all my debts, rebuild my non-existent social life and get healthier.

In theory I can clear my important debts in 3 months, and I can clear some other less important ones in another 3 or 4 months, which frees me from the substantial burden of paying a huge amount of interest every month. Those don't sound like long timescales at all, but 3 months of sanity and stability in my life is a very rare thing, let alone 6 or 7 months.

My sums exclude the lost income from any holidays I take or time off sick. My sums assume that I'm working flat-out as hard as I can every day for months and months on end. It's been over 2 years since I had a proper holiday so it seems reasonable to assume that I'm going to burn out really soon.

A social life and my health don't really figure in the equation. In order to earn money I'm working in a city where I'm only staying temporarily. There doesn't seem to be much point in investing heavily in building a social network near my workplace, because I have no plans to stay here any longer than I have to. I'm just here for the cash. I have no idea how to pay any consideration to my health when my objectives are so diametrically opposed to my wellbeing. If I was able to prioritise my health I'd be working part-time or not working at all. Everything about my life is completely toxic for my mental and physical health.

I have a short-term objective of being sober for a few days. Today is day 4. It's hard but I'm sure my liver will be glad to have a break from the non-stop alcohol abuse. Ideally, I'd substantially reduce my drinking for the rest of my life, but I don't see how I'm going to be able to do that when I've got 6 or 7 months horrible miserable slog stretching out ahead of me, and I can't take a holiday or sort out my social life because of the insanely toxic work and money demands which are placed on me.

I don't know how I got into this situation where the numbers look favourable but the reality of my daily existence is such unbearable misery.

A seemingly small bad thing happened at work today, but it's totally destroyed my hope and optimism. It's shocked me how quickly suicidal thoughts flooded back into my head, having had a period of respite which has lasted quite a while. Every way I look at my life, I can only see stress and intolerable living conditions; unsustainable demands. I can't see any way to fix things.

Somehow, my costs have spiralled and my income has fallen slightly. Somehow, I've ended up in a position where I'm potentially going to be forced back into spending the majority of my time away from home, in a place where I really don't want to be, doing a job which appears to be too boring to distract me from my woes. Somehow, the path to my goal which had appeared easy and well understood, now appears to be impossible; unachievable.

Of course, if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I'm making progress. All progress is good progress. Every little step takes me a little bit closer to my goal, but I'm acutely aware of how long it's going to take me to reach the end.

Perhaps I have summit fever. I can see what I think is the peak of the mountain and I've become obsessed about reaching the summit. Psychologically, it's a terrible idea to fixate on the summit too much. The important thing is to just keep steadily moving up the mountain at a sustainable pace, and try not to think about getting to the top. The psychology of how to suffer and endure the hardships of climbing a difficult mountain are reasonable to apply to my situation, but I'm not fighting a war of attrition... I'm trying to get rich quick.

Frustratingly, I know that I was happier when I dropped out of mainstream society and I was a homeless bum. I know that I'd be much happier if I declare that the demands placed upon me are too excessive and unreasonable, and I only accept my fair share of responsibility. I'm being a bit of a martyr. I'm being stubborn and trying to prove a point.

I presume that suddenly stopping drinking, after spending the best part of a couple of months drinking excessively every single day, is probably going to be a shock to the system. My brain surely doesn't know what's hit it, having been pickled in alcohol and now suddenly left high and dry. My days have been structured around getting drunk. Every evening after work. Every weekend after a certain time of day that seems resonable and respectable to start getting drunk. Getting drunk has been the highlight of my day for far too long. What's the highlight of my day now? Nothing.

I'm sure that given enough time I could re-adjust but the show must go on. I've got to do all the things that I can't stop doing, as well as making the other changes. I still need to get up and go to work every day. I still need to write every day. I still need to commute, pack my bags, wash my clothes, iron my shirts, do my book-keeping and make sure that the cash flows as it's supposed to. I'm spinning lots plates, even though my life is drastically simplified and paired down in an attempt to make it manageable. I don't exactly feel overburdened by competing demands... the problem is more that I'm powerless to influence almost everything in my life, except for the number of words which I can write each day on this website.

The one goal that achieves absolutely nothing - there's no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow - is the only one which I'm able to steadily work at in a sustainable way, and I feel confident that I'll reach the finishing line. All the other goals, even though they have obvious benefits, look to be impossible. How am I ever going to get my health sorted out when I'm so depressed, miserable and anxious? How am I ever going to keep working for as long as I need to, in order to repay my crushing debts, when my working day is so unbearably awful? How am I going to reduce my alcohol intake to a much more sensible and moderate level, when I am in such desperate need of something to ease my daily suffering; something to look forward to at the end of the working day and the end of each working week?

Even my blog, which at times I feel quite proud of, is getting ruined. I know that people don't want to read the same moaning and complaining repetitive rant about how I'm bored at work, my life is unsustainable and all I'm doing is churning out a million miserable words. I can see from my analytics that my readers are disengaging. What the hell am I writing about? What the hell am I doing?

It seemed to make sense to me, that I could live in a hotel next door to a pub, and I could get drunk every evening after work, then I'd get drunk all weekend, and the time would pass... soon the debts would be repaid and I could start to think - for the first time in 3 years - about what I want to do with my life which would be compatible with my mental health; my needs. I've been driven by necessity for so long. I do what I have to in order to survive, but after a long while surviving I'd rather be dead if I'm never going to be thriving.

How long has it been since I felt happiness and contentment? How long has it been since I dared to dream?

I'm not sure if this is coming across, but I'm trying to moan and complain my way to the finish line. Like people who grunt and groan as if vocalising their pain and the strain of their exercions somehow makes the task easier, I'm doing the same thing: I'm trying to make the time pass more quickly by whinging and whining.

Of course, I bore myself almost as much as I bore you. I cringe with embarrassment at what I've become, and the complete crap I'm churning out, but I just need to reach my arbitrary goal so I can at least say that I did one really hard thing, because it was within my power to influence the outcome, unlike the rest of my life which simply has to be endured.

Patience, patience. Perhaps all I need is patience.

 

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Word Count

10 min read

This is a story about carelessness...

Grazed knuckles

I'm a regular at my local corner shop. During the month when I wasn't working, I think I visited the shop every single day to buy a bottle of red wine. The weekend before last I was buying some unhealthy snacks and my usual bottle of red, when I decided at the last minute to grab a bottle of white from the fridge, which was near the counter. My usual bottle of red was balanced precariously on top of the snacks I was buying, which then plummeted towards the shop floor where mercifully it bounced off the linoleum; the glass didn't break. Last Friday I grabbed both a bottle of white and a bottle of red. As I walked up the steep hill back to my apartment, I wasn't paying attention to my footing and I tripped over. I grazed my knuckles as I attempted to save my precious cargo of wine from being smashed on the tarmac.

I've definitely become a functional alcoholic.

I woke up on Saturday morning and I had a slight tremor. I don't get hangovers because I think my alcohol tolerance is so high. I can drink two bottles of wine and I feel fine. Obviously I'm not fine.

I've started to skip meals because I'm getting enough calories from all the wine. I could drink 5 bottles of wine over the course of a weekend, and the only 'food' that I would eat would be some salty snacks - crisps and suchlike.

I examine my eyes for any sign of yellowing. I prod and probe my abdomen for tenderness, firmness or any subcutaneous fluid. Surely my liver is taking a battering from a month and a half of extreme alcohol abuse?

Over the weekends I show no restraint at all. I'm making no attempt whatsoever to be the slightest bit healthy. The crap I'm putting into my body - unhealthy snacks and copious quantities of alcohol - combined with my sedentary lifestyle must be lethal. I'm either sat down or lying down. According to my step counter I've dropped from a peak of 15,000 steps per day to a paltry 2,000.

I need to figure out which broken part of the vicious cycle to fix. Stress leads to feelings of tiredness; depression leads to demotivation; anxiety paralyses me - I could start with fixing my mental health. Self-medicating with vast quantities of alcohol seems like the solution to anxiety, stress, boredom, loneliness and isolation, but it's pretty clear that alcohol is affecting my physical health and probably my mental health too. Exercise seems like a ridiculous suggestion, given how badly I'm coping with the basic demands of everyday life. I can't figure out if I'm too tired and stressed to exercise, or if exercise will bring a net benefit once I get fitter - which I know it will - but it seems unthinkable to get fitter when I'm so dependent on alcohol as a crutch.

I'm changing far too many things at once. I've only just started my 3rd week in a new job and I'm still finding my feet in the new organisation and ingratiating myself with my new colleagues. My memory is shot to pieces. I can't even remember how long I was taking sleeping pills for before I ran out. I had some leftover painkillers, which helped to reduce my anxiety enough to be able to sleep, but then I switched back to sleeping pills last week. All I know is that the second half of May was a big mess, June was a near-disaster and I only started getting myself sorted out a week before starting the new job in the middle of July.

The surprising thing is that I keep moving forward. I didn't lose my job despite a few really shaky weeks when I was really sick. I've managed to start this job and things are going OK. Well, when I say that "things are going OK" of course I don't include my mental health, mood stability, brain chemistry or any of those other things which I pretend are OK during office hours. It's a miracle that I've been able to cover up a major relapse, alcohol abuse, abuse of prescription medications and of course my rather worrisome mental health problems.

How long did my writing go erratic for? I know that I had to delete a lot of blog posts in the period between my relapse and the day I finally regained enough of my rational mind to see that I was picking fights which couldn't be won and saying things which shouldn't be said. I don't usually delete blog posts, but I'd lost my mind and I was meandering up dead-ends; I was unhealthily obsessing over things and acting carelessly.

My carelessness has manifested itself at weekends recently. I get super drunk and I write with a lack of care for coherence and storytelling. I've written at weekends in the knowledge that I have fewer readers on Saturdays and Sundays, which has made me feel like I can just ramble, complain, moan and write complete and utter crap. I've considered deleting or rewriting my daily blog posts which I've published at weekends, because I've wondered what the hell am I going on about? I've written and written and when the word count goes over 1,000 words then I decide that I'd better not write any more, but I haven't considered whether what I've written is any good.

Of couse, the end is in sight. I'm so close to a million words now. In fact, if we included the word count of all the deleted blog posts, then I'm well over a million words. The current total word count that's actually published on the public internet on this website is now in excess of 950,000. I'm repeating myself, but only because it's important in the context of my alcoholism. The last few months have been a blur. In my mind, the relapse, the breakup and the period of insanity that followed was over in the blink of an eye. In reality, I've been an intoxicated mess; I've either been doped up on pills or drunk.

Sometimes I hear myself speak and my voice buzzes in my ears and the sound vibrates my head. It feels like somebody else is speaking and they're using a megaphone directed at my head, which is so loud that the sound hurts and I can feel the vibrations. It's a dreamlike state. It's akin to an out-of-body experience. I feel like this when I think I'm completely sober but I think it's actually due to the fact that there isn't much blood in my alcohol-stream. God knows what other crap is still circulating in my body. I've abused a mixture of diazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam, pregabalin and zopiclone during the last couple of months, as I attempted to wrestle back control of my life before my supercrack addiction destroys everything I've worked so hard to rebuild.

Yes, that's right. The dreaded supercrack was back. I had relapsed.

To put things in context, I've worked a full-time job for 9 months out of the last 12. I've moved house 4 times. I've been hospitalised twice. I've been sectioned. I spent the best part of a month locked up on a psych ward. The main headline that most people would pay attention to is that I've earned a lot of money and done a lot of work. To all intents and purposes I've been a thoroughly productive worker and a valued member of the teams and projects I've been part of. This does not reconcile.

In my head, I'm brushing off serious problems with mental health, addiction and alcoholism like they're nothing. In my head, I'm as invincible as I ever was. In my head, I'm immortal and the evidence very much backs up that ludicrous idea.

I really don't want to have a reality check one day, where I find out that I've done irreparable damage to my physical health. I really don't want to keep testing my mortality to breaking point.

Yes, the numbers look incredibly good. Despite the insanity of my life during the last 12 months, I still managed to work 9 months out of 12 and my gross income has probably been well in excess of 3 times the national average. Somehow, I've managed to write more-or-less every day and churn out over 300,000 words since this time last year. How the hell did I manage to earn so much and how did I manage to write so much? How do the numbers look so good when my life has been a complete shambolic mess?

The numbers don't tell the complete story.

Yes, without good numbers my story wouldn't be very interesting. The world's full of junkies who went bankrupt. The world's full of alcoholics who drank all their profits. The world's full of people who have fascinating stories but they never write them down. I'm gunning for the convergence point where one million words meets one million pounds. I'm aiming to be an outlier: the guy who beat drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, homelessness and - most importantly - bankruptcy. I've got the archives; I've collected the data. Plenty of people lost their house, their car, their wife, their cash and everything else, but how did they get it back? The game; the sport, if you like, is to have kept this narrative going through a 3-year period which accurately captures the false starts, the setbacks and the struggles... and at no point did I wipe the slate clean; at no point did I run away; at no point did I switch to a different tack.

Why would I change my approach? The numbers look good.

I'm going to reach a million words on my blog because I'm in control of my destiny and I can work as hard as I want; I can write as much as I want. I can choose when my project is complete, because I know the word count I need to achieve every day to make sure I hit the target.

Whether or not I clear all my debts and reach a thoroughly impressive gross income for the 3-year period covered by my blog, I'm not so sure. There's no way that hard work will bring the finish line any closer - it's simply a waiting game. All I have to do is sit and look pretty and the money flows in. I just need to be patient. It's an agonising wait, but it's profitable.

Being drunk all the time seemed like a solution to the waiting game; to make the time pass quicker. However, I need to be clean and sober when I reach the finish line otherwise it was all a waste of time.

I'm going to see if I can resist the temptation to get drunk. I'm going to sober up for a few days, to try to clear my head and get some perspective. I've been intoxicated for far too long.

 

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Binging on TV

7 min read

This is a story about edutainment...

TV

I set myself the objective of writing 1 million words in 3 years on this website. To date, I've written over 950,000 words. Of course, some of it is complete garbage. I've written during periods of extreme sleep deprivation, paranoia, stimulant psychosis, mania, hypomania. I've written from psych wards. I've written while losing my home, losing jobs, losing my mind. I've kept writing through it all, and my task is nearly done.

I wrote a whole novel that I'm quite proud of, and 42,000 words of another novel which I'm not so proud of, but I learned a lot. My first novel came relatively easily; I wrote about what I know. The first year that I was blogging seemed to go relatively easily, but the second and third years have been... eventful.

I've lost friends because of my blog, but I've also gained new friends all over the world. My words have been used against me by ex-employers and ex-girlfriends, but more fool them: I think it's the most cowardly and pathetic thing in the world to hit somebody when they're vulnerable; kick a man when he's down.

I've made myself incredibly vulnerable. My whole psyche is on display to the entire world; public property. In the last week alone I've had readers in over 50 countries, speaking nearly 40 different languages as their mother tongue.

I'm not so arrogant, deluded and hubristic to believe that I have any influence, of course, but nobody can deny that I exist... out there in cyberspace. Very few people have gathered their thoughts so exhaustively and presented them at such length.

The internet is littered with abandoned blogs. Twitter is awash with billions - if not trillions - of throwaway garbage 140-character tweets. Even now with 280 characters, what can people really say that's profound or interesting, with such a constraint? Creativity does not love constraints: when was the last time you read a book which could be tweeted? The various competing messaging platforms - SMS, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter DM, Instagram DM - all store huge archives of chat between their users, but it's all throwaway garbage; transient tosh.

Of course what I'm writing is not profound or perhaps even interesting. Of course what I'm doing is not original; it's not a novel idea. Of course I'm not special or different in any way. Of course I'll never achieve anything except my arbitrary target of writing 1 million words in 3 years. What was the point?

I could sit around and be a consumer. I could sit around and consume content. I could read other people's books and blogs and never write another thing. I could watch films and TV and never create a single thing in my whole life. I don't have to write. There are plenty of people who write already. Why does the world need another writer? What have I got to say which is going to add anything of value to the literature?

Writing and creating art became an urgent need which could not be ignored any longer. Writing is a healthier addiction than slouching on the couch, having soap operas and celebrity reality TV shows projected into my living room for all my waking hours. Writing has become a habit, and I've become habituated into the ritual of writing down my stream of consciousness and making it public. Writing my innermost thoughts and feelings publicly has become part of me, because I always existed but I didn't have anywhere to exist... I was trapped in my own mind and I needed to escape that prison and go live in a place that was less isolated. I live in cyberspace. I live through my writing and those who it connects with. Anybody can connect. I'm publicly accessible. I'm common property.

I've interrupted a weekend spent binging on Netflix and Amazon streaming videos. I've deliberately paused the endless stream of nonstop entertainment to write. Why would I do that? Why would I deny myself the pleasure of sitting and doing nothing - being entertained - and spend my precious time writing this? Most people find writing to be a real chore. Most people would struggle to write a thousand words, let alone 950,000. Even your average university-educated person will consider their 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation, 40,000 word masters dissertation or 100,000 word thesis to be a lifetime achievement. If you want to level the accusation at me that it's easy to write complete crap, I remind you that in amongst the 950,000 words I've written are the best part of 2 completed novels, which had to have coherent plots and credible characters, and be written well enough to deserve to be read... although I admit, my unfinished second novel is pretty crappy.

It's hard to create something. It's easy to pick things apart. It's easy to be a consumer. It's hard to finish a project. It's a lot harder than you think to write a whole novel. It's ridiculously hard to commit to a 3-year 1-million-word writing project and see it through to the end.

There's something kinda tragic about broadcasting when nobody's listening. Why do people keep public video diaries when they've got no audience? Why do people keep blogging when nobody reads or comments on their blog? Why do people keep tweeting when they've got no followers?

The answer to the riddle of why people speak to an empty room is something that you might never know, because you're not prepared to publicly ridicule yourself to find out. You think you already know the answer: that it's stupid and pointless. However, how does anybody learn how to be a good writer in the first place? How does anybody get followers and readers? How does anybody go from nothing to something; somebody?

Nothing happens if you just sit around watching TV. You're not going to win the lottery if you don't even play the game. All that's gonna happen is that you'll get fat and old and wonder what you did with your life, if you don't ever create anything. That's fine; that's what most people do: they just get fat, old and then they die, and nobody knows a damn thing about them except for their nearest and dearest. They take their secrets to the grave.

This might be seen as a vanity project; egotistical, but you've got to remember that at the funeral of people who've committed suicide, everyone always says "if only we knew" and "what could we have done differently?" and they're ultimately left with more questions than answers. The only antidote to that I can see is to begin to change the way we live: instead of lives of quiet desperation, we can now express ourselves fully. We have all these amazing communication tools which we can use to connect with one another. There should be no monopoly on who's allowed to communicate; broadcast; publish.

Yes, there's a snobbery around self-publishing, but it's the quickest and easiest way to get yourself out there; to be heard.

I've been racing against time to make myself heard; to get all of this down on the page so it can be read by anybody who's interested. It's been a race against time to communicate enough of myself, that I feel like I'm not going to be one of those suicides where people are left wondering about anything: it's all written down.

I'm not saying I'm actively suicidal at the moment, but I know how quickly my circumstances can change; how rapidly my mood can blacken.

It feels like a good use of my time to write every day, even if nobody is reading.

It feels good to write, when I would otherwise just be binging on TV shows during my leisure time.

It feels good to create, not just consume.

 

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One Year in Pictures - a Photo Story

7 min read

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

London sunset

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

Self storage

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

Packed suitcase

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

Manchester apartment block

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

Ironing board

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

Tramadol capsules

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

Psych ward

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

Nettles

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

Warsaw snow

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

Busy underground

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

Train cancelled

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

Garage

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

Apartment keys

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

Cod and chips

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

Baked beans

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

Holiday

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

Leaving gift

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

Time to talk

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

Pint in the pub

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

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

 

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Surviving Suicide

6 min read

This is a story about psychological impact...

Canulas

I don't have a photo to capture the moment I regained consciousness in the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) of a hospital, but it was a bit like the photo above, but scaled up.

I'm no stranger to canulas, having spent far too many weeks in hospital receiving intravenous fluids, but I came round with about 6 different tubes all pumping stuff into my bloodstream through various canulas on both arms/wrists. I instinctively knew not to panic and start grabbing at stuff - there were a couple of ITU staff who were present when I came out of my coma to make sure I was OK and keep me calm. I noticed a canula coming out of a strange place in my arm with a thin red line of my blood within the plastic walls of the tubing... blood isn't supposed to flow in that direction. "It's an arterial canula" one of the ITU staff explained. "It's monitoring your blood pressure very accurately" they said. I could look up at a screen where, sure enough, all my vital statistics - blood pressure, blood oxygenation, respiration rate, heart rate etc. etc. - were all displayed.

I was put back to sleep.

When I came round again, I'd been lain flat on my back and I was looking at the ceiling. Somebody poked their face into my field of view. They seemed to be asking me a question. I tried to reply but I couldn't. I was confused and a little alarmed. They disappeared. When they reappeared I tried again to speak to tell them that I was mute for some reason. My breathing stopped when I tried to speak, then when I relaxed my breathing started again after a couple of seconds delay. It was a strange sensation but it didn't alarm me. I felt snot running down my face and reached to touch it - there was a rubber tube going up my nose. I fumbled gently across my face with my fingers and felt the tube going down my throat for the first time. Of course! I was on a ventilator - a machine was breathing for me - and I hadn't realised. I was relieved that I hadn't lost my voice. The tube must've been blocking my vocal chords, I reasoned.

I lost consciousness again.

I came round and I had been sat up a little bit. A nurse was asking if I wanted the tubes out. I nodded. He pulled the tube out of my nose, warning me that it might tickle a little bit. There was a sponge lollipop I needed to suck on after they pulled the tube out of my windpipe and out of my mouth, he explained - having been intubated for days was going to have irritated the delicate flesh. The big tube came out, I sucked on the liquid and my throat felt fine... I made a small noise and was relieved to feel the vibration of my vocal chords, reassuring me that I hadn't permanently lost my voice, which had been the most distressing part of the experience.

There was a bag of piss next to me. I was wearing a gown which was completely open at the back. I hadn't been wearing a gown when I'd arrived in hospital. It dawned on me that I'd been undressed and somebody had inserted a catheter while I was unconscious. I was glad that the first and only time I've been catheterised I was unconscious. It did feel very strange knowing that somebody had put a tube into my penis while I was unconscious, and I felt more tethered to the medical apparatus than I've ever felt before - I still had about 7 tubes attached to me, along with 8 cables which were monitoring my heart... 15 connections to machines that were pumping stuff in, taking stuff out, or monitoring my vitals. At its peak when I first regained consciousness, there had been 18+ tubes and cables attached to me.

I closed my eyes.

A doctor was telling me that my organs had started working again and I was going to pull through... I was going to live and wasn't that good news? "Honestly?" I asked. I had failed: It wasn't a cry for help; I hadn't expected to live; I had wanted to die. What had changed?

The arterial canula was removed and I had to shuffle across from the ITU bed onto another bed so I could be wheeled into the High Dependency ward. My bag of piss sloshed and the catheter tube tugged on my penis. I still had a bunch of other tubes attached to various canulas which threatened to snag on things, but I was starting to feel a bit more comfortable - I'd wheeled trolleys with drips and drip pumps around enough times, taking care not to get my tubes in a tangle.

On the High Dependency ward I had a little more time to contemplate what had just happened, but it had been surprisingly physically exhausting considering that most of the time I'd been unconscious in a coma.

A psychiatrist was telling me I could come back to A&E any time if I was feeling suicidal. They gave me a piece of paper with a number to phone if I was having another crisis. Hospital discharge was arriving swiftly.

The catheter was pulled out and I was incredibly grateful that I was unconscious when it went in. I had a shower. In the blink of an eye I was discharged... still struggling to process quite what had just happened to me. What day was it?

I guess I'm still processing what happened to me.

They say that the victims of accidental poisonings very often suffer severe psychological issues for at least a year after they're discharged from hospital. What about deliberate suicidal poisonings?

I knew with certainty that I wanted to die and I never felt a bit of regret or fear or self-doubt. When I got the news I was going to live I felt like I'd failed... I wasn't flooded with relief or any kind of feeling that I was glad to be alive. How do you move from the feeling you want to be dead to the feeling you want to be alive? There's a considerable gap between those two extremes.

In the months following this suicide attempt, I've repeatedly wished that I'd succeeded - I wasn't supposed to go through all the stress and awfulness that I've experienced subsequently... it was all supposed to be over; I was supposed to be dead.

I don't really know what else to say... this is just my raw honest reflection on the 10+ months since I tried to kill myself, and what I can remember during those moments when I regained consciousness.

 

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The Tuesday that Didn't Happen

4 min read

This is a story about not going anywhere...

Unmade bed

The question of free will - whether we have it or not - is one that often troubles me. The problem with assuming that we have absolute freedom of choice at all times, is that it does not take reality into consideration. Often times when we see people who have been affected by a natural disaster - or even a man-made one - we might naïvely ask "why don't they just move?". It must seem fairly obvious that a low-lying country like Bangladesh is regularly going to suffer terrible flooding, and in the long run it's going to be underwater due to rising sea levels. Surely people - with their free will - should just do the rational thing and move somewhere better than Bangladesh?

To now talk about not being able to get out of bed because I felt depressed, when I've just been talking about some of the world's poorest people, whose whole country is under threat of being wiped out, is rather vomit-inducing, so I'm going to need to find a segue which doesn't imply that I consider my first-world-problems to be comparable.

Why this obsession with comparison anyway? Why should we compare ourselves to a starving African child but shouldn't we compare ourselves with a professional footballer? Who gets to choose who it's right to compare ourselves to, and who it's wrong to compare ourselves to? Who decides that?

I often think about that one person - the only man or woman on the whole planet - who can genuinely claim in all honesty that their life is worse than anybody else's. It's obvious that one single individual exists at any one time, who by all objective and subjective measures, everyone would agree is the only person in the world who can feel sorry for themselves, because they're the most wretched and unfortunate; they're suffering the most. Nobody can say to that one person "things could be worse" because they really couldn't be. For that one person, none of the oft-quoted platitudes are applicable.

Again, am I inducing vomit, talking about the world's most unfortunate human being - the one who's suffering the most - in the same piece of writing where at some point, presumably, I'm going to segue into talking about myself, which implies that I'm comparing my own suffering with that of the world's current #1 sufferer, who obviously must be suffering unimaginably, given the very great suffering that the bulk of humanity endures.

Let's return to the troubling question of free will. Given free will - absolute freedom of choice at all times - why choose to have children in war-torn and disaster affected countries that live in dire poverty? Why choose to carry on living, when your life is full of misery and suffering? Are these not two sides of the same coin? Who wants to watch their children suffer and die? Are we not certain indeed, that all life eventually leads to pain, suffering and death quite naturally anyway? Who wants to grow old and infirm? Who wants to be sick and senile? This isn't one of my antinatalistic rants, this is a genuine puzzle to me: in a world of free will, who would knowingly inflict this moral suffering onto their offspring, and indeed continue to suffer themselves, when it seems far more logical to just kill yourself - quickly and painlessly - at the first opportunity.

Given absolute freedom of choice, why did you choose your mediocre life, with all its suffering and stress? Why didn't you choose to be the world's most attractive quintillionaire and king/queen of the universe? It seems rather stupid of you to have used your free will to make all the choices that have led you to the point where you're just waiting for you and all the children you've created, to die in suffering and pain.

The fact that my Tuesday didn't happen seems quite irrelevant in the face of the question: "why don't I just kill myself?".

 

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One Week to Get Fit to Work

4 min read

This is a story about being ready to roll...

Living out of a suitcase

My car's not road legal, the hotel isn't booked, my shirts and other work clothes aren't washed and ironed. I managed a few days without tranquillisers, but I still guzzled 2/3rds of a bottle of red wine and used a sleeping pill to get to sleep last night. My hair's grown long and I need a shave. I spend more time thinking about setting my affairs in order and killing myself, than I do about the practical steps necessary to prolong my suffering: another town; another job and yet more isolation and loneliness.

There's a huge gap between where I am in my mental state and where I need to be, if I'm going to go and make a good first impression, and keep up the charade until the work is done; until I can finally collapse in a crumpled heap.

There are important pieces of a liveable sustainable pleasant life which are simply missing; absent. Family, friends, community, social support network; a partner or best buddy. Can you imagine spending 28 days in complete isolation, except for a few messages exchanged via social media? Can you imagine spending a couple of years working your arse off trying to get to the point where you felt financially secure -- no longer on the brink of bankruptcy and destitution -- but seemingly never making any progress?

Yes, we've all experienced moving house, breakups, making new friends, starting new jobs, going to new unfamiliar places, having to somewhat re-establish ourselves. So what? You did it, it was stressful, and now you're relaxed and all settled in nicely. The bad memories fade quickly and the good ones dont: you can almost look back and laugh at all those unsettled times you've been through. For me, the unsettled times are so frequent that the bad memories never fade. I'm caught up in a never-ending series of very stressful events.

Out of economic necessity, I need to ready myself to re-enter the workplace one week from now. I need to look well presented, I need to be on the ball and I need to sustain a certain degree of professionalism until the work is done... I'll need to be able to get through week after week of hiding the fact I'm sick and struggling. I'll need to be able to cling on and hopefully make it through to the other side, before I hit the wall.

One day I'll wake up and say "I just can't do it anymore" and I won't be faking it; I won't be making a fuss about nothing - I really will have nothing left to give. Whether that's day 1 or day 101, or whether it's sufficiently far into the future that it doesn't affect the charade, I can't say. Obviously I worry that my health will fail me too soon; my energy will be used up and I'll be of no use to anybody, which means letting people down; no more pretending to be OK.

Having a week to prepare yourself for a period of effort that you don't feel in any fit state to face is not a nice prospect. Even if I could just sleep for the next week, I don't think that would be enough. There are practical preparations. There are things that are really toxic to my mental health - like living out of a suitcase - that look pretty unavoidable. There's the futility of going to a place where I have no intention of staying, beyond a few months, so why make friends there? Why put down roots? Why make myself comfortable; settled?

So, I continue to be unsettled. I continue to live without anywhere I really call 'home'.

It's a week to get myself into some kind of bare minimum state so I can go and get some more money, but no matter how much I earn, it all seems to just disappear... an exercise in futility; exhausting futility... except maybe for the banks and the landlords, who profit handsomely from my efforts, while not labouring at all themselves.

That the only reason for any of this stress is purely to service loans, pay rent and pay bills, hardly has me jumping for joy; it's hardly a big motivator. There's seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

So, as I try to sort my practical matters, rest, live healthily, and generally prepare myself for another stint at the coal face, I'm struggling to find much meaning in it; much reason to live.

 

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Inrec

3 min read

This is a story about being an involuntary recluse...

Wine bottles

I suppose the involuntary part of involuntary recluse is questionable. It's not like I've tried to leave the apartment and be sociable, and been rejected. There's nothing obvious keeping me indoors with the curtains drawn, all alone. However, it should be self-evident that I'd be much happier outside in the sunshine with company, than isolated within the 4 walls of my home. Therefore, there must be a reason why I don't feel able to go out; socialise.

I'm a mess.

It's got to be fairly obvious that I'm a mess. My thoughts have been all over the place. My attention and effort has been directed in many different directions. I've been drinking far too much, and other things have seriously destabilised my brain chemistry too.

It saddens me that I'm squandering the summer, but I'm sad anyway; depressed.

I spent all afternoon watching football. I don't even like football. You would have thought that somebody who has absolute free will and can choose to do anything they want, whenever they want, would not choose to be indoors in a darkened room watching a sport they don't even enjoy. That's where the involuntary bit comes in.

I can't explain it. I can't explain the complete collapse in my mental health; my quality of life; my will to live. I can't explain how I've become a prisoner in my own home. I can't explain how I've lost all my energy; all my motivation. I can't explain why I've given up; I don't see the point of anything.

I try to write a little every day. I don't know whether I'm going to be vile, vicious, vindictive and vengeful, or just whinge about my lot in life.

Sometimes, I'm forced to walk to the nearby corner shop. Sometimes, I have alcohol delivered to my door. That's about the only contact I have with the outside world. It's been the case for weeks.

A number of things happened, which I really don't feel I had much control over, which destroyed the shaky and fragile foundations of the life I was rebuilding. That's what makes what I'm going through seem involuntary; unwanted. Yes, in theory I have free will and I could make alternative choices, but in reality I'm completely flattened by a collapse in my mental health; completely floored by depression.

I lie in bed until late in the day, then I lie on the sofa with the curtains drawn. I just want to be unconscious. I often wish I was dead.

What is there for me to look forward to? Where should I invest my time and energy? What's the point? Where will it get me?

Nothing; nowhere. Don't bother. Give up.

 

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