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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

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Hitting the Wall

3 min read

This is a story about having a breakdown...

Broken glass

This broken glass in my sink is symptomatic of whatever the hell is happening to me at the moment. I'm too exhausted to get out of bed. I sleep all night, then I sleep all day, then I'm sleepy and clumsy and I knock glasses into the sink, but I'm too exhausted to safely dispose of the shards of broken glass.

I knew I was tired. I knew I needed a holiday. A proper holiday, which was relaxing and allowed me to recharge the batteries. I basically needed two weeks in a hot country, with no pressure or responsibility or guilt or financial stress or any of the other things which have completely and utterly exhausted me.

I knew I was close to breaking point. How long had I been complaining for? How long had the warning signs been present for?

I've started to screw up. I should be showing my face in the office. I should be attending work social events. I should be on top form and leaving a good impression everywhere I go. Instead, I'm making mistakes; I'm unreliable, clumsy.

When things start falling apart it can set of a domino-like chain of events. My life feels like it's imploded. Nothing's going my way and I don't have the energy to fix anything, or even clean up the mess properly.

It's strange. I don't feel as suicidal as I have done in the past, so it makes me think that this must be something physical. Maybe I'm just completely physically exhausted. Being stressed out is hard on the body, I think, being so tense all the time. I know I'm depressed, but I don't feel like the exhaustion is just a mental problem.

I feel like I've destroyed the good reputation I worked so hard to build, while also at the same time, I'm losing confidence in my own abilities. I've always been able to bounce back from setbacks. I've always been able to save myself from disaster. I'm worried I can't pull off those escape-artist tricks anymore.

I'm in a lot better position than I was this time last year, but it's been a year from hell. I'm in a lot better position, but that's not saying much. It would be pretty hard to be in a worse position than the one I was in last year.

Yes, things are not the very worst that they've ever been in my life, but they're still pretty dire by most people's standards.

The trouble is, I've started to go backwards; I've started to sink.

 

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How to Become Irreverent

14 min read

This is a story about the values you raise your children with...

Church window

It seems like I have had the sentimental attachment most of us feel towards everything we revere in society systematically thrashed out of me. If you pick one thing that summons feelings of safety, security, comfort, respect for authority and faith in the divine/spiritual, then I will tell you how exactly how I came to question everything: every institution, everything sacred, every tradition, every profession, people who are normally considered beyond reproach and ultimately even existence and its purpose.

Starting with my birth, I'm literally a bastard. I was born outside of wedlock. My parents never married and always planned to remain unmarried, such that I took my mother's surname instead of my father's. Ironically, my mother had once been married, and I have the surname of her ex-husband instead of her maiden name. Confused? Imagine trying to explain that to your fellow pre-schoolers when you're 3 years old. I didn't really understand it at the time, but I understood that I was different; unusual.

My schools would often address letters intended for my parents to Mr & Mrs Grant, and my father would always tell me that I was the only Mr Grant in the house and therefore the letter was addressed to me. My mother would tell me that she was no longer Mrs Grant and she was Ms Grant. "Why not Miss?" I would ask, and she would explain that she had been married, and Miss was only used by women who hadn't been married. If anybody telephoned the house and asked to speak to Mr Grant, my father would hand the receiver to me and say "it's for you", which it never was, of course.

I understood that there was divorce and some of my school-friends were raised by a single parent, or a step-parent. My peers would often ask if my father was my step-father, to which I would reply "no". Nobody could understand how I came to have a different surname from my biological father, or entertain the notion that I could have been given my mother's surname, not my father's.

At some point, a fairly clear question formed in my mind: "why aren't my parents married?". 

The reasons why people get married had become quite clear in my mind, for the very simple reason that I had endured years and years of people's reactions that suggested that not getting married was very atypical behaviour. Nobody wants to feel unusual; freakish. Nobody likes to feel odd.

When I posed my question - "why aren't you married?" - to my parents, they replied with their own question: "why should we get married?". I had a pretty easy answer for them, as I've explained: because that's what everybody else does. "Do you want to be like everybody else?" my parents asked. "Yes" I replied.

[I just burst into uncontrollable sobbing. If it wasn't what you experienced, I don't think you can begin to understand what it's like to spend your entire childhood as the freakish weirdo; the odd one out... the one who's different from everybody else]

Having covered marriage there is a natural segue into the topic of religion, and the origins of my atheism.

For a number of formative and important childhood years I lived in an attractive terraced house in an area called Jericho, on one of the most desirable roads in central Oxford. These houses are the most expensive in the world, far exceeding real estate prices in London, San Francisco and Hong Kong, in terms of their affordability. However, these £1.5 million houses were bought by the first wave of gentrifiers, when academics and young professionals with families started to move into slummy areas because they couldn't afford family homes in the more desirable parts of the city.

When your immediate neighbours include an MP, a barrister, a heart surgeon, a City banker and a number of promenant Oxford dons and professors, their children were raised in an environment which was knowledge-rich and encouraged the exploration afforded by a curious rational mind; critical thinking. Nobody went to church. My friends, whose father was a consultant at Oxford John Radcliffe Hospital, went to Quaker "friends meetings" occasionally, but my peer group - the sons and daughters of the intellectual elite - had little place for God and church in their lives.

We should rewind a little bit, back to the village our family lived in before we moved to central Oxford. If one were to imagine the most quintessentially English picturesque Cotswolds village, with the manor house, the village green, the workers' cottages, the post office and village shop, the village pub, the village school, one should not forget the church and its graveyard. The church's presence and influence is not to be underestimated. My religious indoctrination began as soon as I started school, with the vicar regularly present. Village social events are very often church-linked, like harvest festival, and of course everybody who grew up in such an idyllic village wants to get married in that particular church, have their children baptised there and be buried in that graveyard.

Essentially, the church's opportunity to exploit a child's vulnerable immature mind were scuppered by my father. For everything that the church had a comforting but incorrect explanation for, my dad cited a lack of evidence and instilled in me the skepticism which gradually became integral to my developing personality: "show me the evidence".

When we moved to the centre of a city whose university is globally recognised for its academic excellence, I never encountered another simple-minded fool who had been persuaded to believe in Gods and other aspects of religion, which are so obviously irreconcilable with the pursuit of knowledge. Religion encourages ignorance but I had been raised to question everything and remain skeptical until I had seen convincing proof. "What are atoms made of?" I remember asking one of my friends who lived on my street. "Quarks" he replied. We were perhaps only 5 or 6 years old - the product of a childhood immersed in academic culture, as opposed to the sentimental and traditional.

The disturbing and unpleasant consequences of an irreverent life can impose themselves on a child at a worryingly young age. I've already been uncontrollably sobbing about just one thing - the tradition and sanctity of the institution of marriage - and I haven't even mentioned how a child deals with the concept of mortality and threat of death without the comfort of religion.

A US Air Force pilot who drank at the village pub which my parents later bought and now live in, drunkenly boasted about the ability of the United States to wipe humanity off the face of the earth. I was definitely no older than 4 years old. With my friend with whom I had discussed subatomic particles, we talked about the temperatures which could be reached near ground zero of a fission or fusion nuclear bomb, and how the radiated 'heat' (electromagnetic radiation) had instantly vaporised human beings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with only their shadows left behind, permanently etched into the walls of buildings.

If you believe you live in a Godless world with no afterlife you naturally want to know what everything's made of if God didn't make it; you want to know why it's here. How did it get here? Why is it here? You start to pick everything to pieces by iteratively asking what each thing is made of: humans are made of cells, and cells are made of molecules, and molecules are made of atoms, and atoms are made of quarks and leptons... and you can in fact keep asking the question. There's good proof that the electron is not a fundamental particle, as had originally been thought.

When your schoolmates are smart-arse little shits, because their parents are brilliant academics, teachers and school loses its awe and authority. If you're being taught science that's almost 100 years old, and sometimes even 200+ years old, the whole exercise is nothing more than a box-ticking exercise to be endured.

The other thing to consider is that my parents used illegal drugs on a daily basis, and had strong views about the legitimacy and usefulness of the law, certainly in the instances that suited their own addictions. As with many drug users, they were very paranoid. They viewed the police as corrupt and not to be trusted - the enemy. My father's criminal conviction for drugs not only poisoned his views on the police, but also made him very anti-American, as he believed he would never be allowed to enter the country due to his criminal record.

[I'm crying again]

It was only because of first-hand dealings with the police that my viewpoint changed from skepticism due to lack of evidence: the police had never caused me any harm, and in fact I had never had any dealings with the police at all for most of my adult life. You might be surprised to learn I adore and respect the police. My accumulated experience of police encounters has consistently shown that they are some of the most kind, patient, empathetic, forgiving, reasonable people, who have always gone out of their way to bend the rules and simply help as opposed to ever enforcing the letter of the law.

One shouldn't mistake my respect for the men and women of the police force for reverence. I would never for a minute expect that a 999 call is somehow going to be the answer to my prayers. I don't feel safer or more secure, knowing that I can call for police assistance. I wouldn't feel any more comfortable in a stressful situation if there was a police officer present. Of the very many police men and women who I have had first-hand dealings with, they have always treated me very fairly and kindly, and it's quite clear that they deal on a daily basis with a huge number of very vulnerable and damaged people, which they do so with incredible compassion - they are the living embodiment of humanity not deities who should be worshipped and revered.

[More crying]

So if I don't revere priests, vicars, teachers, headmistresses, marriage, religion, military superpowers, soldiers, the police, the law and my own parents, what else is there left for me to lack reverence for?

Cumulatively, I've spent almost 6 months having my life saved in hospital - often in high dependency and intensive treatment unit (ITU) wards. Shouldn't I revere doctors; surgeons?

I think that if there was one thing that would make almost anybody feel more secure and happy in a stressful situation, it would be knowing that there's a doctor present. It's such a clichéd question: "is there a doctor here?".

To explain my irreverence for doctors, we merely need to explore the reasons why I have ever had to deal with one, and the outcomes of those interactions.

Having been lucky enough to escape congenital abnormality, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out what I want from a doctor and why. You don't need to spend 5 or 6 years at medical school to know that the human body has been dealing with pathogens since the species first came into existence. You hardly have to be brain of Britain to figure out whether you're dealing with a viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection, and furthermore, which is likely to be treatable. In actual fact, I've never been to my doctor for antibiotics: every infection has always cleared up on its own. Fungal and parasitic infections can be dealt with without a doctor obviously: head lice shampoo is available in every pharmacy, without a prescription, for example.

At the age of 28 I went to my doctor wanting treatment for depression, but I knew which specific medications I was prepared to try and which medications I didn't want because the side effects were not acceptable. Having my choices limited only to SSRIs provided firm evidence that doctors were an obstacle to be overcome, not a panacea.

When we think about the first time I was hospitalised, do you think I didn't know that I was going to end up there and what the problems were going to be? Do you think it was an accident that I ended up in hospital?

Again, you don't need to spend 5 or 6 years at medical school to know that the human body needs water, salt, glucose, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and myriad trace elements, or else the bodily functions haven't got the fuel, carrier fluid and raw materiels they need. You don't need to be a doctor to know that human body temperature needs to be homeostatic as much as possible - much like every other measurable thing in the human body - and any extreme variation too high or too low is going to have dire consequences.

When you are making choices in full knowledge of the likely consequences, medicine ceases to be lifesaving magic, and instead it becomes another simple case of what do you want and why?

One must consider the very last time I was hospitalised to truly understand my irreverence.

Not only had I quite carefully pre-planned my suicide attempt, when I arrived at hospital against my will, I gave very clear instructions: do not put activated charcoal into my stomach, do not perform gastric lavage, do not intubate, do not provide life support and most importantly of all, do not resuscitate. "Do you know what's going to happen?" the A&E doctor asked. "Yes. I'm going to die of a combination of organ failure and serotonin syndrome, with a lot of seizures" I replied. "Do you think you'll be unconscious? Do you think it'll be painless?" the doctor asked. "No. I expect that it will take a long time to die and I'll be conscious and in a lot of pain for most of it" I replied. Then I started having seizures.

Doctors see a lot of people who are scared and they don't understand what's happening to them. They're desperate for somebody who seems to know what they're doing and what they're talking about; doctors are an authority figure. I have no doubt that for feckless simpletons and those who lack access to medicine, the arrival of a doctor or a priest/shamen/witch-doctor is incredibly soothing and comforting. If you don't know what you want and why, your reverence is misplaced, but it may still ease your passage from life to death.

When shit goes bad, who are you going to turn to? If you have to pick your team of people to survive on a remote island, who are you going to pick and why?

Why revere anyone? Why kiss anyone's arse and tell them they're great because they did the study and training that you could've done if you wanted to. You could have passed those exams. You could have gained those qualifications. You could have followed that path if you wanted to. If you wanted it bad enough, you could put on that uniform; you could get that job title; you could prefix or suffix your name with the bit that tells the world just exactly why everyone should drop to their knees and worship you.

Nothing's sacred to me. I could do your job if I wanted to.

I'm not smarter than anybody. I'm not better than anybody. That's the whole point: I'm lucky enough to not have anything that's holding me back; limiting my potential.

I really don't recommend telling your kids they can follow their dreams and be anything they want to be. I really don't recommend telling your kids to question everything, and understand everything about how the universe works, to the point where they reach the very bleeding edge of scientific research. I really don't recommend raising your kids to challenge the status quo and resist the urge to fit in with wider society and their peers.

Take it from me: there's a mind-destroying kind of cold uncaring "nothing matters" bad feeling that comes from being too rational; too much of a free-thinker. Take my word for it: understanding the absurdity of existence will destroy your mental health.

You should probably experiment with hard drugs. That's probably way less likely to fuck up your life than going down the rabbit-hole of picking everything to pieces and trying to reason from first principles and pure logic.

 

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The Man Who Has Nothing Has Nothing To Lose

4 min read

This is a story about being unhinged...

Toilet graffitti

A highly paid civil servant decided to doodle this cock onto a poster which was affixed to the toilet door, at a government agency which is responsible for the collection of £6bn in taxes per annum. You'd have thought that the kind of people who clear the stringent security vetting wouldn't be the types to do graffiti in toilets, especially the toilets at the highly secure office.

There's nothing in writing yet, but I'm getting the shove... services no longer required. Project delivered, happy client, but there isn't another project at the moment, and I'm quite expensive to have sitting around doing nothing, although the banks I've worked for have never seemed to care much about that.

It's the worst-case scenario. Contract has finished early and no extension. Nothing that's very appealing in the local area; not a lot of choice... in fact, pretty much just one contract I could apply for, which I'm pretty sure I'd hate.

If I go on my holiday instead of working, I'll lose £3,000 of potential income. That's a helluva expensive holiday, when I could just write off the £600 it cost me for the flights and accommodation. Should I work that week, and use the extra money to go on a holiday which'd be much more suitable for me now I'm single? Should I work that week and simply go on a better holiday, to cheer myself up? Should I work that week and be sensible, and save the money, given that I'm about to lose my income?

What have I got now? No girlfriend. My car is about to be declared unroadworthy. No job. I've only got 2 friends in the local area, and one of them I haven't seen for 6 months and the other I've only met twice. All my money is earmarked for debts, rent and bills. I have no surplus which I can use to have an unplanned break from work - I need another contract.

Wind back to September 9th 2017 when I tried to kill myself. Why did I go through that hospital treatment to save my life and restore me to physical health? Why did I go through that psychiatric treatment, to make me safe to release from hospital? Why did I go though the stress of moving to yet another city where I don't know anybody? Why did I work my arse off and have the misery of living out of a suitcase, staying in a different AirBnB every week? Why did I work my arse off getting security vetted and landing a cushy public sector contract? Why did I spend every spare penny I had getting a car and an apartment? Why did I wine and dine and generally woo and wow a girlfriend? Why did I bother? Why did I think that I'd get anywhere; that I'd make any progress; that I'd ever be able to get ahead in life? Why did I think I'd ever be happy; content?

I'm not sure if I'm a danger to myself, others or both. I'm unhinged. I'm mad. I'm deranged, demented and disturbed. What the hell am I going to do? How the hell am I going to react? Who or what am I going to blame?

Desperate people who believe they have nothing to live for - that their lives are not worth living - are dangerous, aren't they? Can you think of anything more dangerous than somebody who's got nothing to lose?

Fear of consequences is the thing that keeps our behaviour 'in check'. What possible consequence could be used to threaten me or control my behaviour? Why on earth should I behave myself? What reason have I got to give a damn about consequences? I've got nothing to lose.

I've played by society's rules and it's gotten me nowhere because the game is rigged. I've conformed and complied and it's been to my detriment, because there are so many who lie and cheat and break the rules. I had hope and I had things that I didn't want to lose, but now I don't. That's a dangerous situation. That makes me a dangerous person.

I'm liberated. Too liberated. Too liberated for society to tolerate... depending on my completely unpredictable behaviour.

Should I be locked up?

 

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Everything's Ruined

5 min read

This is a story about insight...

Greetings card

My own perceptions and judgement are very rarely reliable, so I depend on a handful of trusted people whose opinion I value so highly, that if two or more them are in agreement, I will substitute my own firmly held beliefs for theirs.

I can adamantly believe that a certain course of action is the correct one, and be completely unable to understand why anybody would not agree with me, but if two of my trusted inner circle disagree with me, I'll go with their better judgement.

I very often suffer wildly warped perceptions, which cause me suicidal depression and intolerable anxiety, but if two of my trusted inner circle perceive my situation differently - more positively - I will "tread water" in the hope that my own perceptions will move towards a more positive outlook.

My trusted inner circle is not some great reservoir from which to draw as much as I need whenever I need it. Generally, I seek a first preferred opinion and then a second to corroborate. The great paradox of the system is that I quickly make my own unwise decision to eject people from my trusted inner circle, leaving myself woefully short of the independent guidance I heavily rely upon.

Relatively recently, I've ejected three out of four people whose opinion I valued, who live locally. Two others who I'd previously been in regular contact with now have things happening in their personal lives, which puts them "off limits". I worry that my guardian angel's perceptions and judgements can be as warped as mine, so therefore I disregard their opinion, although I value them immensely as a friend. That leaves one person, presently, who can occasionally be relied upon to give me some precious guidance.

When I cast the net wider I have friends all around the world who I never speak to on the phone, and our periods of communication are patchy: sometimes we're in contact, but then there'll be long periods of radio silence. When these people speak up, I listen and respect their opinions, but my life becomes unmanageable: I have too many opinions to consider; too many contradictions; too many platitudes to filter out.

At the moment, a friend from Ireland has been phoning me and that's helped a lot to end one self-destructive aspect of my behaviour. The other person who springs to mind is a friend from New Zealand who's pointed out my repetitive, obsessive, cyclical pattern of behaviour, which I'd noticed myself but would easily ignore if left to my own devices.

The breakneck speed at which I travel, the immutability of my opinions - no matter how ridiculous - and my extremely poor judgement and impaired perceptions, create a toxic combination which leads to terrible decision making and regrettable actions, invariably making situations worse and damaging things beyond the point of repair.

As things stand, I hate where I live - both the place and the apartment - and I hate my job. I feel like my blog is ruined, which was just about the only thing I felt proud of and secure about. I feel like I'll never achieve financial security. I feel like I'll never have the social group and the partner I desperately need to be a secure and happy person. I feel like I'll never be happy. I feel like the stress and anxiety will be with me forever. I feel like there's no hope and that there's no point in anything: no point even trying.

I have enough insight to see that I've completely destabilised myself, by meddling with my brain chemistry and breaking up with my girlfriend. I have enough insight to see that hijacking my blog to grind my axe and expose my obsessive, unhealthy, repetitive, negative thought patterns, is something that would damage the relationship with my readers and particularly those who actively support me via social media. I have enough insight to see that becoming unwell has damaged the 'golden boy' image I had at work, which gave me a great deal of pride and security.

Despite that, the wind has gone out of my sails, and I genuinely believe everything is ruined. I don't feel like I've got the energy to fix things. I don't feel like I'm able to handle the things that will inevitably go wrong, or be disappointing. I can't see a workable solution; a way forward.

I should be putting myself out there, meeting new people, leveraging the many advantages I am lucky enough to have, but it seems almost impossible to muster the energy, enthusiasm and to get into a positive mindset.

I'm aware that this piece of writing is quite deflating; very negative. I'm aware that it's self-defeating, as it drives more people away. Who wants to read about somebody who feels so sorry for themselves, when it's pretty clear that most of their problems are of their own making? Who wants to read about somebody complaining that they're miserable, instead of doing things which would improve their life?

I'm astounded by the stark contrast between how I felt at the beginning of the month, when the weather started to improve, and now. I might have enough insight to see that it is my mood which is mainly at fault, but I still have to live with my warped perceptions and the unbearable unpleasantness of my feelings.

Are there any solutions? I think the best one is to act as normal as possible, pretend like everything's fine with my work colleagues, and don't do anything stupid... just sit it out and wait for the storm to pass.

 

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Life Insurance

2 min read

This is a story about an interrupted phonecall...

Stuffed toy

I was on the phone just now to my life insurance company, making sure absolutely everything was perfectly in order, so there would be no quibbles or delays in the event of a claim. I bought that life insurance policy deliberately because it will pay out in the event that I commit suicide.

The doorbell rang. My phonecall was interrupted. In fact, the thing that's been most central to my entire life - this blog - has been interrupted.

When I think about my breakup with my girlfriend in London, shortly before I had to leave the capital for a new job, I remember all the nice emails we've exchanged since; how supportive she's been - real lifesaver stuff.

It looked like we were both moving on with our lives, and we didn't want the inevitable pain when one or the other of us met somebody new, so we mutually agreed to break off contact. I expect she'd probably still reply though, if I emailed her. I know I would reply if she emailed me.

The problem is, people don't often reach out when they're on the brink of suicide, as I can personally attest to.

Time to get back on the phone to the life insurance company... make sure all the Is are dotted and Ts crossed.

 

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I Hate to Worry You, but You Should Worry

8 min read

This is a story about warning signs...

Night vision

One of the reasons why I write every day - and publish publicly - is because it's a healthy habit: I do it when I'm well, or at least not dreadfully unwell. One of the reasons I publish every day is because it gives a lot of clues about my state of mind, and therefore informs the reader about the risks to my life.

For example, I published every single day - without fail - while I was working in London, because I was on the brink of suicide nearly every day. More often than not, if I stop blogging, I'm either dead or dying. If you look at the previous blog posts leading up to the days I stopped blogging, then you'll see plain as day all the warning signs.

The problem is, people get used to hearing a struggling person casually saying "I wish I was dead" and they think it's part of their personality; they think that they're "crying wolf". Trouble is, many of those people will eventually kill themselves, or at least attempt to. There's a lot of bullshit about "attention seeking" and not having to worry about the ones who are talking about it: "it's the quiet ones you've got to worry about". Bullshit bullshit bullshit. There's a lot of bullshit - especially in the medical community - which equates to "I don't think you're really going to do it. Go on! Do it! Prove it! I call your bluff!".

The net result is dead people. Lots and lots of dead people. A man kills himself every 2 hours in the UK. When you visit a doctor and the number one thing that's going to kill you is suicide, and the doctor has the opinion that you're "probably not" going to kill yourself, they're arrogantly gambling with your life.

I get it. It's boring hearing about how awful people's lives are. I get it... it gets REALLY BORING waiting for a suicidal person to finally do it. DO IT ALREADY. I'M BORED OF WAITING. I'VE HEARD YOU SAY YOU WANT TO KILL YOURSELF SO OFTEN, SO I WANT YOU TO DIE SO I DON'T HAVE TO HEAR IT ANYMORE.

Thus, we arrive at the world's longest suicide note. 900,000 words and counting.

Nobody can say "I didn't know" or "we'd have done something if we knew" or "we don't understand".

I've documented in exquisite and unflinching detail, every single aspect of what makes me suicidal.

The photo above is taken using the night-vision mode of my smartphone. The photo is taken through the crack at the bottom of my door. You can see my bike in the hallway, but other than that the image is pretty hard to discern. This is a snapshot of psychosis - I was using the night-vision mode on my smartphone to 'peek' outside my bedroom and look into the rest of my empty apartment, but the psychosis was telling my that my apartment wasn't empty. I was looking for intruders: the shadow people.

My mental illness started as common-or-garden variety depression, meaning that I was planning to kill myself by sellotaping a bag full of pure nitrogen over my head, and asphyxiating. I bought the canisters of nitrogen gas. I bought the duct tape. I found an airtight bag big enough to envelope my head, and leave enough space so I could breathe in the nitrogen. Nitrogen is not a poisonous gas, but it's inert... if you breathe pure nitrogen, you're not breathing any oxygen, and you'll quickly pass out and die.

I bought potassium cyanide. I even put a picture of the potassium cyanide that I'd bought on Facebook and told people what it was and what I planned to do with it. The most notable reply I got was from a 'friend' who was angry that I had it in my house when he brought his kid over to visit... which I did not. It was triple sealed in airtight vacuum packaging, then placed in a hazardous chemical containment jar, then finally it was placed in a locked steel strongbox in my summerhouse - nearly 100m away from the house. His kid must be pretty special to be able to pick two locks, locate the container and open the packaging in order to ingest the deadly chemical. That was the most notable reply. THAT WAS THE MOST NOTABLE REPLY - anger that somebody's child might have died if they had the ability to time-travel and pick locks.

So... nobody gives much of a fuck.

I was immediately discharged as soon as I came out of my coma and my kidneys started working again, following my attempted suicide in Manchester, when I'd ingested enough tramadol to kill an elephant. They didn't transfer me to a psych ward. They didn't put me in a crisis house. They didn't do anything - they just discharged me, whereupon I had to go back to the apartment where I'd tried to kill myself, with its door hanging off its hinges because the emergency services had to kick it down to save me. The first thing I said to the ITU doctor when I came round was "I'm upset that I'm alive. I wanted to die. I told you not to treat me; not resuscitate me. I still want to die". What the actual fuck? Do the capitalists want to exploit me so badly that they'll keep me alive against my will?

There's an 'unsound mind' argument, but my mind is free from drink, drugs, medication and other mind-altering substances. My brain is working the way nature intended through millions of years of evolution. MY BRAIN IS FUCKING WORKING. If I'm depressed, it's because of depressing bullshit jobs, war, famine, climate change, inequality, brutality, bullying, people who don't give a fuck whether you live or die, and people who want you to stay alive so they can exploit you until the day you die of old age and exhaustion. My mind is perfectly sound. I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world.

If I'm not blogging, you should worry.

If I stop blogging, worry.

In a perfect world, I'd tell this fucked up world to fuck off and I'd become an artist. I'd quit my god-awful boring unchallenging piss-easy pointless bullshit job, and I'd go do something creative. I'd be a 'bum'. I'd be a 'loser'. I'd reject 'civilised' society and go have some damn fun. 21+ years in the rat-race full time, and 13+ years in full-time 'education' which was just bullying and absolute bullshit box-ticking for the sake of school league tables. I don't give two fucks about pieces of paper to wave around - they prove nothing - and I don't give two fucks about inflated job titles for work that is ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Take a long hard look at yourself - you're all talk and no action; you produce nothing; your job is completely and utterly useless; you're very busy doing NOTHING.

However I kill myself - quickly by jumping off a tall building, or slowly with drugs and alcohol - it's the same end result. We all die in the end anyway, so I really don't see the point in prolonging the suffering. Cut to the chase. Jump to the end. Skip the awful bit, with the commuting and the BORING BORING BORING bullshit made-up pointless jobs.

Yes, at one point I had lots of lovely holidays and lots of friends, plus lots of material trimmings like sports cars, yachts, speedboats, hot tubs, summer houses, a house, a garden, a cat... then I said to myself "but I'm still depressed that my job is utter bullshit which doesn't do anything of any use for anybody". So I became an electrician. I can proudly say that lots and lots of families have lights, and power sockets, and electric ovens, and electric hobs, and electric showers, and power to their hot tubs, and power to their sheds and outbuildings, and power to their electric gates and power to a million and one other things. Work that I did is responsible for improving the lives of all the tons and tons of families for whom I installed the electrics in their homes. Trouble is 1) people begrudge paying tradesmen, expecting them to work for minimum wage, 2) the work destroys your health, because there's so much brick dust, asbestos etc, and 3) the responsibility for doing a safe installation to safeguard the lives of everybody who will ever be in those houses, is not reflected in the wage or the health damage aspect.

Pushing paper around my desk and pretending to look busy carries zero risk that a mistake of mine might kill somebody, but yet I get paid 5 or 6 times more money... but I'm intolerably bored.

I might as well be an artist. At least with the creative arts, you're paid fuck all but it's lots of fun, intellectually stimulating, free from responsibility, and nobody gets electrocuted to death if you make a tiny mistake... in fact, can you even make a mistake as an artist?

This blog is an artwork; it's a piece of evolving art - it's durational to use the wanky arty term.

But, when the art stops my heart stops.

If I stop blogging, you should worry about me.

 

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Self Defamation

6 min read

This is a story about making yourself look like an idiot...

Movember

I started this blog as a suicide survivor who was interested in suicide prevention. I started this blog because my head was buzzing with ideas for how technology could be used to help people at risk of suicide. I started this blog because trying to explain to colleagues, friends and family what was going on with me had nearly killed me - it was an unwinnable battle, because nearly everybody makes the same incorrect presumptions and carries near-identical prejudices.

Only a fool would try the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, but if I had a pound for every time somebody has suggested yoga, mindfulness, jogging, kale smoothies and all the rest of the "wow thanks I'm cured" quick fixes that a person with mental illness gets bombarded with, then I'd be a very rich man. Equally, explaining the same thing over and over again - "yes I've had mental health and substance abuse problems, but no I'm not going to stab you in your sleep or rob you" - was an exhausting madness.

I needed to move from the position where my work colleagues had no idea that I'd been a homeless drug addict when they hired me to work on the number one project for the biggest bank in Europe, to the position where my colleagues had seen me working very effectively in the office and been a valuable member of the team, yet they began to understand a little of the difficulties I'd faced in my personal life. I didn't want to have to hide my mental illness - bipolar disorder - and I didn't want to have to hide my problems of the past, which included homelessness and substance abuse.

Pretending to be Mr Boring Corporate Worker Bee was exhausting, and I already had been through enough, trying not to run out of money, trying to get off the streets and trying to get clean.

In June 2015 I was a homeless junkie, arranging interviews while sleeping in a park. I got an interview for a job, which I was nearly an hour late for because I fell back to sleep after the agent phoned me to wake me up, and then I had to get showered, changed and rush across London. In July 2015 I was living in a hostel in a 14-bed dormitory, trying to do my job, but I was still a junkie. In early September 2015 I started this blog. In late September 2015 I managed to get an apartment. By December 2015 I had 2,000 Twitter followers, so I decided to go fully public and write a blog post called "Cold Turkey" on Boxing Day, which was about my problems with substance abuse.

By accident or design, my blog has recorded every aspect of my illness: homelessness, depression, mania, self-harm, suicide attempts, hospitalisation, near-bankruptcy and destitution, eviction, relationship problems, family estrangement, poly-substance abuse and my attempts to get back on my feet, plus the relapses.

I've written down every single thing that you never wanted to know and that nobody would ever tell you because it'd be too likely to lead to prejudice, discrimination, reputational damage, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of face, bullying, victimisation, taunts, jeers, social isolation, marginalisation, undesirable labels, being laughed at behind your back, becoming unemployable... a pariah.

Perhaps you think I'm stupid.

I did this because there are lots of people who try and fail to deal with debilitating mental illness and dreadful addictions. People try the same old things, which have terrible results. We know that the things we often try are spectacularly useless, because so many people are suffering and so few are recovering. Particularly in the field of addiction, the things that people try are not successful at all. For people who have the triple-whammy of mental health problems, substance abuse problems and money problems, they're screwed - they're almost definitely going to wind up destitute and dead.

There's nothing particularly interesting in yet another story about somebody who went to Alcoholics Anonymous and found God, only to then be caught up in a never-ending cycle of recovery and relapse that eventually destroys their health and takes them to an early grave, along with a lot of time and effort wasted thanking the sky monster and a lot of lying and deception... telling people they're clean and sober when they're really not at all.

I did this because it's hard and it's risky, but at least it's different.

Once or twice I've suffered prejudice and discrimination because of this public document which tells the world about my very worst faults and failings, but mostly it's served its purpose, which is to save me the time and energy that's wasted answering the same stupid questions, humouring people when they offer the same lame "quick fixes" and suffering the prejudice and discrimination because people guess, and they guess wrong, unless they can see the truth for themselves.

It annoys me that I can be a good co-worker, boss, friend, tenant, borrower, boyfriend, citizen... whatever... but only until people know my labels: homeless, junkie, bankrupt, mental health issues. As soon as people think those labels are attached to me, they treat me like a thief or a murderer. As soon as people hear those labels in connection with me, they think I'm going to steal their money for drugs, leave HIV infected needles in their baby's cot and murder them in their sleep because "the voices told me to do it".

The labels I attach to myself - currently only bipolar - I do so freely of my own choosing, because it's convenient shorthand for me.

I'm toying with the idea of switching out "bipolar" for "drug addict" because I think it's more provocative. I think that most mental health problems elicit sympathy, except for substance abuse disorder, which is seen as a bad choice made with free will - addicts are to blame for their own predicament. So, what about somebody who doesn't take drugs calling themself "drug addict" then? If addicts choose drugs, how's about I choose the label, even though I don't take drugs?

I'm defaming myself to see what happens. I'm defaming myself because I want to push boundaries. I'm defaming myself because I want to shake up your idea of what a homeless, bankrupt, junkie person with mental health problems looks like. I'm defaming myself, because I'm pissed off with the shame, the stigma and the prejudice.

I've done the hard work. I've earned the right to be myself. Go ahead... judge me.

I've provided everything you could ever possibly want to judge me. Knock yourselves out.

 

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Without hope, why go on?

6 min read

This is a story about motivation...

King of Bohemia

In a godless universe with no afterlife, if you're not fulfilling the will of your genes and reproducing, what's the point in being alive? We all die and we're all forgotten; everything is meaningless. Entropy will destroy everything that's structured, ordered and regular - we are being systematically destroyed; in the blink of an eye it will be as if we never even existed... all of human history, all civilisations, all buildings, all scientific knowledge, all great men and women, all works of art... it will all be gone.

Replication; reproduction is the force that fights against entropy. While entropy seeks to return everything to a jumbled and unordered chaotic mess, molecules that are mathematically probable to exist turn into more complex hydrocarbons, acids, proteins and all the other building blocks in the primordial soup, from which emerged the first self-replicating entities. Replication is as inevitable as the force that destroys everything that is ordered and regular, and returns it to disorder and chaos. Replication is the yin to entropy's yang.

The fact that you are conscious today, and not at some earlier point in history, is proof that you're the only consciousness in the cosmos. When you die, the universe dies with you too. You are the sole observer of events from your frame of reference, which means that your universe is unique to you. There are lots of other universes that are similar, but you cannot be conscious of those where you are dead, because your consciousness has ceased to exist, or never existed in them - you can only be conscious when you are alive. It's inevitable that there would be many other self-replicating entities in your universe with you, in close proximity, because of the spectacularly improbability of all the circumstances being right to create a consciousness - of course there'd be billions of very similar entities, with all very similar experiences, and all similarly 'conscious'... but your consciousness is unique in your universe, and your universe will end when you do.

If you're fulfilling the will of your genes, you are not conscious, you are merely one of the hundreds of billions of human animals that lived and died before you - unthinking fucking baby-making machines, making yet more beasts which will fuck and make more babies... and so on. You're just a disposable bundle of chemicals that has been used to replicate your genes. You're spent. You're trash. You're a husk; a shell.

In a godless universe with no afterlife, there's no point in anything, so you might as well do whatever you want. It could be a good excuse to live a hedonistic pleasure and sensation-seeking life that will maximise the amount of euphoria that you feel. However, you might sadly discover that you're immortal and find that your morals are completely corrupted. If you believe that the reason for living is to maximise your pleasure, what's to stop you raping and killing, just for fun? What's to stop you from raping the earth for your own pleasure? What's to stop you using and abusing the whole human race, and leaving the surface of the earth scorched and barren, plundered for every single drop of pleasure that you could possibly extract?

Thus, we arrive at a vision of hell: a planet made uninhabitable by an all-powerful immortal overlord who believes in nothing except their own pleasure, and damn the long-term consequences. It's pretty easy to see the evidence for that all around us.

Is there a middle ground?

I like to think that one day I'll be able to quit the rat race and become an artist. You might say that I'm already an artist, because I'm a writer, but the bulk of my time and effort is diverted into very mundane bullshit. My day job exhausts me. The need to pay rent and bills and service debts is a huge stress and a strain; a distraction. I'm completely unable to immerse myself in art, because of the arduous job of simply keeping a roof over my head and putting food on the table.

I've worked very hard during my 21+ year full-time career, and although I've been able to pursue a period of hedonism up to the point where it nearly killed me, I've not been able to ever pursue something I really love and am passionate about. It seems like the opportunity to indulge my passion for art might never be realised - it's somewhat unattainable.

I work, always with the slim hope that through hard work I'll be able to dig myself out of the hole and be able to then follow my dreams, but the realisation of that hope is eternally just out of reach. Hard work just isn't paying off. It doesn't matter how hard I work, and how long I work for... I can never reach my goal.

Why bother? Why bother with the early mornings and the dreadful boredom? Why put up with the stress and the anxiety and the slog of it all? Why put in the effort? Where's it getting me? Where's the payoff?

If life is about the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure, I can do that today and not have to work a single day more. I can end the struggle and return to my hedonistic life. Why bother struggling any more?

However, if life is about following your dream, and ideally pursuing some aesthetic abstract thing, like art, then I don't think I'll ever get there. I think being an artist would be perfect, because it's a change from the relentless pursuit of things that simply consume and exhaust resources, like procreation and hedonism, growth and conquest, business and capitalism, war, slavery and all the other things that inflict untold human misery.

I feel like I should be more comfortable than I am; more able to be an artist; more free.

Why go on? Why struggle anymore?

I'm not sure if I want to kill myself, or if I just need 2 weeks lying on a beach in a hot country.

 

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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.

 

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Self Pitying Poser

4 min read

This is a story about victim playing...

Skeleton face

Apparently the world is full of attention-seeking malingerers who aren't really sick, but who in fact choose to be depressed and miserable, and to self-harm and attempt suicide, because it's a lifestyle choice. Apparently everybody knows exactly what they're doing all the time and we all have complete free will - our hand is never forced, we're never coerced or pressured into doing things we don't want to do, and we can choose how we want to feel. If we want to be happy, we can just choose to be happy.

Those who are suffering aren't really suffering - they're victim-playing; they're attempting to get sympathy, so they can bunk off school or work. Thankfully though, there are some clever people out there who can see straight through you and understand everything about you in an instant. Thankfully there are clever people who are qualified to immediately judge you, and to declare you fit and well, except you're just too damn bloody minded to snap out of your silly pointless melancholy.

Those clever people who declare that you're so definitely faking it are so clever and infallible that they're prepared to risk your life. They'll call your bluff. They don't care if you die. It's more important that you're unmasked for what you really are - a self pitying attention seeking malingering poser - than you staying alive.

This situation, where those clever people call your bluff, is clearly working very well, because suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. If somebody commits suicide, clearly they were telling the truth, but if they don't immediately kill themselves that then proves that the clever person is really clever and can carry on killing people.

It's a bit like the witch-hunts. If a woman floats, she's a witch, and if she drowns she wasn't a witch. It's a flawless system.

I do often wonder - as I'm programmed to do by society - whether I'm feeling too sorry for myself; whether I whinge and moan too much. I'm certainly not wedded to depression as part of my identity and I wouldn't be sorry to see it go. I can see my part in my problems, in as much as I had ability to make other choices. You really don't understand the pressures and biases and other factors that influence a person's decision making, if you think that life is all about free will and making the right choices.

Yes, it is nice to have a reason for why life is shit. Yes, it's nice to have a diagnosis that says that there's a very good reason why life is harder than it should be. These things aren't excuses, they're explanations. Yes, it's comforting to know that there are very good reasons why I'm predisposed towards certain negative feelings and behaviours, and it's not because I'm lazy, stupid, immoral, bloody-minded, evil or of bad character. Yes, it's useful to think of myself as a victim of circumstances and a victim of disease, rather than some evil bastard who deliberately makes bad choices and is depressed and suicidal out of spite.

If I'm victim playing, fine, whatever - put me down as a victim player. If I'm self-pitying and saying "poor me" far too often, fine, whatever - put me down as an attention seeking poser.

I have some choice in the matter of what happens in my life, but mostly I don't. Most of what happens to all of us is dictated by fate - when we were born, where we were born, the socioeconomic circumstances we were born into, the people we came into contact with, the things that happened to us that were completely outside of our control. Even my choice of what to eat for dinner is heavily influenced by my upbringing and everything else that's going on in my life - I might crave salt or sugar, because my body needs it because of the activity I've been doing. How much do you want to blame the victims?

If you get your kicks from fat-shaming, then you're the kind of person who probably enjoys victim-blaming the suicidal too. You're the kind of person who'd rather see people die, than show them any sympathy. You're a bluff caller. You're a gambler with people's lives. You probably think of yourself as very clever.

Do you think it's worth it, to have suicide being the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, just so that you can feel big and clever?

 

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