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My name is Nick Grant and I have manic depression. I write every day about living with bipolar disorder. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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Give a Job to a Busy Person

6 min read

This is a story about workload...

Gas Meter

The original idiom - which I have adapted to make it more inclusive - says that if you want a job doing, you should give it to a busy man. I notice that this is fairly true, from my anecdotal observations: the busier I am, the easier it is for me to deal with extra work being given to me.

One year ago I had the intolerable task of sitting quietly trying not to get noticed, and trying to keep my mouth shut. I knew that the very best thing I could do for my career and my bank balance, was not to rock the boat; not to attempt to say or do anything useful. The best thing I could do was act as a very expensive seat warmer. I was paid for being present, not for being useful or productive.

One year ago, seemingly minor things made me exceedingly anxious. If I had to get my car tested for roadworthiness, have a haircut, deal with the gas company, or any one of a million ordinary everyday tasks, I would find it unbelievably stressful, and I struggled to cope.

I have started to work 100+ hours a week again. To say that I'm busy would be a massive understatement. I am hyper-productive for the maximum amount of hours which human physiology allows for, without sleep deprivation causing me to have a psychotic episode. Unable to sleep, it's quite usual for me to open my laptop and start working in the middle of the night. I wake up well before my alarm clock. I am running in overdrive mode at the moment, also more commonly known as a manic episode.

Of course, with mania, I get very impatient and irritable about things which are not on the critical path. For example, I was asked to update a spreadsheet which detailed the activities I've been doing during the past couple of weeks, and how long I spent on each activity. To me, this is the most ridiculous waste of my time, given that 100% of my time has been spent on productive activities for one single organisation, so I really don't give a toss about how it's sliced and diced - all my valuable time has gone to benefit the organisation who wants me to waste time on an unproductive exercise, which leaves me less time to do productive activities. It's idiotic to get your highly paid staff to spend their time doing activities which are not valuable, when instead they could be doing something useful.

The argument would be that timesheets and suchlike are the way that we calculate how much to pay people, but this is demonstrably absurd. If the number of hours worked had any kind of relationship with the value delivered, then I would agree that it's important for us to record or time worked on task accurately, but there IS NO relationship between remuneration and hours worked. If I work the same number of hours as some of my colleagues, I am paid 5 or 6 times as much. Am I 5 or 6 times more productive and valuable? Sometimes I am less valuable, sometimes I am more valuable, and sometimes - although it's exceptionally rare - my remuneration tallies with the value that I'm delivering.

One of my colleagues said to me "you've got too much time on your hands" when he saw something I'd been doing, which he thought was a waste of time. Later, that piece of work I'd done turned out to be one of the most valuable things that anybody in the team ever produced - something that benefits every member of the team every single day, and perhaps many many other members of other teams, and indeed the whole organisation.

Value and productivity are very hard to measure. "Bums on seats" culture is dreadful. The number of hours that staff spend at their place of work has no bearing on how productive and valuable they are.

In the teams I get involved with, I try to instill a culture of "think it... do it". I want people to implement any innovative ideas the moment they have them. If the ideas turn out to be duds, so what? It only takes one or two great ideas that really pay off, to more than outweigh the small amount of wasted time doing things which had little value. So much time is wasted talking about priorities, and the pros and cons of doing something, and agonising over whether it could or should be done. The culture I bring to teams and organisations is one where everybody's encouraged to build stuff, even if it gets thrown away; even if it's silly!

It's much better for people to be productive and have their brains being kept busy, than looking busy. It's so much better for people's sense of job satisfaction, sense of purpose, sense of pride, sense of ownership, and a multitude of other great qualities that we want from the people in our teams and organisations.

There's no obvious value in the text-based adventure game which I hid inside one of our systems, as an easter egg, but the value is in the cultural tone that it sets: it's OK to build stuff; don't be afraid; don't be so serious... this is supposed to be fun and intellectually challenging.

As it turned out, now we have several tools which imitate the game I built, which perform useful functions for the organisation. Instead of attempting to "win" a "game", the objective is to find and fix problems, using the available clues, which is pretty much what every IT professional does for a day job, but it's a lot better if there's a half-decent interface to help with that task. Computer games are always brilliant at having the learning curve set to make them accessible, and they take advantage of the best available features: if all you have is a computer terminal that can print text and accept typed commands, then you can still create a brilliant game, even without fancy 3D graphics and sound.

I'm busy as hell, and you might say that the 2 hours I spent writing an adventure game were wasted, but in fact it was time well spent. The 5 minutes I spent battling with a spreadsheet where I had to record the hours I spent working on things, was a total waste of time and quite corrosive to the great working culture I'm trying so hard to create.

 

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My Dream Holiday In Pictures

6 min read

This is a story about ludicrous luxury...

Bay

The adventure began in South Africa. I don't have any pictures of Johannesburg or the dreary wet day of my 40th birthday, but here is a picture of a nice bay south of Cape Town, from an epic road trip. Table Mountain is stunning, of course. The scenery was dramatic.

Compass House

It seems kinda vulgar and a little boring to show the inside of luxury boutique hotels rather than the sightseeing, but the holiday was supposed to be about relaxation and self-indulgence. It cost me a heap of cash, so why shouldn't I re-live a little of the pleasant places which I stayed? This place was on the steep cliffs in Cape Town, looking out to sea.

Wine Region

It was winter and it was quite chilly at night in the wine region of South Africa. I certainly wasn't going to go swimming but the missus went in the pool for the sake of an Instagram shot.

Breakfast

There's the birthday boy (i.e. me). Breakfast was incredible. I wish I took more photos at this place. The decor was amazing.

Feet up

In the Eastern Cape on safari. Loved the mosquito netting. There was floor-to-ceiling glass on all sides of this little thatched-roof lodge and I really enjoyed having my feet up on this big bed.

Bathtime

There were really great bath tubs with fantastic views at a few places we stayed, but this was probably the best. Felt surprisingly private and secluded, despite being so exposed. This safari lodge was so beautiful, with all the lovely wood.

Lion

It'd be a rubbish safari if we didn't see any animals. Saw this white lion on the very first morning, which set the tone for the whole thing. I just wanted to relax and recharge my batteries, but it was worth getting up early to see the animals.

Giraffes

Giraffes have super funny faces. Like, they look dumb but friendly.

Elephant

Spent quite a lot of time watching elephants. They're very entertaining; always playing with each other and trying to get a reaction.

Cheetahs

The big 5 game animals don't include cheetahs, but we were super happy to see these guys. We didn't see a leopard but it was pretty unlikely that we were going to. Feel really privileged to have seen as many big cats as we did.

Rhino

Rhinos are like big cows with big horns, it turns out. Cool to see one, but they just eat grass and don't do much. I was wondering if they're super endangered and I might be super fortunate to see one before they end up extinct, but our ranger said they're only endangered based on the rate that they're being poached - they're still quite numerous. This one's horn is worth many tens of thousands of dollars. Having seen the horrendous poverty in South Africa, it's easy to understand why they'd be poached.

Lioness

We saw a couple of 2-year-old lionesses hunting a warthog. That was very cool.

Infinity pool

Mauritius. The island is lush and green and the climate is brilliant. It was still nice and warm in the evenings and perfect for being outdoors in light clothing. The hotel wasn't as nice as the previous places we stayed, but it was still very special.

View

View from the balcony. Super nice to have 7 nights with nothing to do except eat, sleep, make love, swim in the ocean and do other activities, like sailing, snorkelling. I took my kitesurfing stuff but I really just wanted to chill out. I went out kitesurfing once, and the sea and wind were perfect. Probably the best place I've ever kitesurfed.

Waterfall

We did a quick tour of Mauritius, and went to some botanical gardens, the harbour and saw this cool waterfall.

Champagne

The holiday was mainly about food and drink, with incredible views to accompany. We ate fresh sea urchin, which has a lovely sweet delicately fishy flavour, a bit like lobster, which we also ate. I ate and drank with gay abandon the whole holiday and completely over-indulged, which was wonderful.

I spent a buttload of cash but it was my 40th birthday and I wanted to celebrate in style. Also, I've worked incredibly hard with very few holidays, so I felt like I deserved a big treat for all my efforts. Looking back through the photos now, I'm pleased that I spent the money even though it's left me a little more financially insecure than I'd like. The holiday really exceeded my expectations, which is great. So often holidays can cost a bomb but be quite disappointing; never quite meeting expectations. This holiday was full of surprise and delight.

You might look through these photos and think me to be quite spoiled, entitled, and completely out-of-order for ever complaining about my life. Certainly, it was an incredible two weeks and I had nothing to complain about, except perhaps my anxiety about my finances and income, with there being a great deal of uncertainty about my job.

Yes, it was pretty ludicrous to max everything out and go 5-star all the way, but it was a very stress-free holiday and very relaxing. Thinking about it now, I realise that it was a worthwhile investment in my health, even if I could have had just as much rest and relaxation for a fraction of the price. Frankly, I'll probably never spend as much money ever again, because I simply couldn't justify it. I booked the holiday in somewhat of a manic moment, but I'm kinda glad that I did, because when else was I going to do something so spectacular and incredible? It really was the holiday of a lifetime.

I don't feel blue about going back to work, because it was a great trip and I've got great memories. Going through the photos made me realise that I'll be able to go through them a whole bunch of times, remembering all kinds of different things. It was super hard to try to pick a handful of pictures that captured the essence of what the holiday was, because there were so many cool aspects.

So there we go... travelling in style.

 

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Antipsychiatry

5 min read

This is a story about refusing help...

Pharmacy

If you spend enough time with general practitioners, general psychiatrists, specialist consultant psychiatrists, registered mental nurses, specialty doctors and all the very many other mental health professionals who are part of inpatient and outpatient clinics, community mental health teams, crisis teams and all the other apparatus which is supposed to treat mental health problems, one begins to realise a rather unsettling truth: there aren't very many treatments and they don't work very well.

Psychiatry is a young branch of medicine and it doesn't have a lot to crow about. Since the days of asylums and lobotomies, psychiatry has been dogged by scandals, including the extrapyramidal side effects of medications which have left patients with lifelong irreversible unpleasant problems. The data do not show encouraging outcomes. In fact the outlook is dismal and appears to be worsening as the toxic conditions which create mental health problems, seem to be intensifying. Rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity... these are all soaring. Treatments are not effective and vast numbers of people are condemned to suffer with their illnesses AND the side effects of the medications.

I've been lucky enough to have access to private medical care, at times, and even with the very best professionals and medications, there is not a vast difference between what's available from the public healthcare system. It's all pretty crap and it doesn't work very well.

This is not a damning indictment of those who dedicate their lives to trying to treat mental illness, but simply a cold hard rational analysis of the facts.

The conclusion I've reached has been that there's an over-medicalisation of non-medical problems. The bulk of my problems have stemmed from the collapse of my relationships. I got divorced. I am estranged from my family. I've been forced to move to cities where I have no friends - no social support network - in order to work jobs which have been unsuitable for my health. I have the enormous pressure of having to work full-time, to pay rent, bills and service enormous debts, which is unbearable for a person who's having a crisis.

My mental health would be vastly improved if I had a partner, a social support network of local friends, financial and housing security and a job with reduced hours, until this crisis is resolved. Healthy diet, sleep hygiene, exercise, sex, physical affection, sunlight, fresh air, social contact, hobbies and interests... these things are all essential for human wellbeing. None of those things can be prescribed by a doctor.

During the worst days of my addiction and rough sleeping, I noticed that my fellow homeless alcoholics and addicts were not without some routine and social lives. Romantic relationships are not the exclusive preserve of those who live in houses and have jobs. The life of a homeless drug addict might be chaotic to the outside observer, but a less prejudiced analysis reveals no less structure, no less need for comfort, no less humanity. Those who have fallen into habits of addiction and homelessness might find the community of drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless to provide the social support network and sense of community, which they'd struggle to find living anonymously behind a front door.

Does anybody really know I'm here... in this house... in this city? In many ways I have found my contact with hospitals and the police to be of great comfort. I have found the nonjudgemental members of the NHS and police force to be incredibly kind and compassionate people. It's nonsensical, but I've been happy to be hospitalised or arrested. I've been happy to be in a cell or on a hospital ward, with somebody checking on my welfare. Behind my own front door I could be hanging by the neck, dead, and nobody would discover me for days or maybe even weeks.

My problems are mainly attributable to unmet basic needs: hugs, face-to-face conversation and a sense of belonging.

Because of the obvious things which need to be fixed in my life, it seems wrong to seek medical help, when my mood could be radically different if all the broken things were fixed. It might sound like a fun adventure, going to new cities, but the reality is very miserable and lonely. The reality of my present life is that I don't pick up the phone to speak to anybody when I'm feeling dangerously depressed - who would I phone? What would they do? It's not like anybody can nip round to check I'm OK.

Humans are social creatures, but I live on the periphery. I live on the periphery of life itself, always in danger of death or medical emergency. The state of being suicidal should be considered a medical emergency, especially in men of age 20 to 40, where suicide is the biggest cause of death. My perception of the danger is not warped, given my history of suicide attempts and hospitalisations.

There isn't a pill or some psychological therapy which would be effective... especially not when so much of my life is broken. It's not a medical problem. Sure, I have an underlying mood disorder, but the highs and lows of bipolar don't make me as unhappy as my social isolation does.

How I set about fixing things, I have no idea. The task seems insurmountable.

 

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Panic Attack

4 min read

This is a story about feeling overwhelmed...

Unboxing

Four days is not enough time to rebuild an entire life from scratch. Four days is not enough time to get all the little pieces that make a complete life into place. Four days is not enough time to cope with the stress and upheaval and not have a nervous breakdown.

In my kitchen sits a washer/dryer which needs unpacking, plumbing in and sliding into place. It's heavy. I'm not sure if I can move it on my own without scratching the kitchen tiles. I don't feel well enough to tackle this job today.

Also in my kitchen sits an enormous pile of cardboard, which needs to be taken to the recycling centre. There's too much here to leave outside my house, getting soggy and wet in the rain. I don't even know on which days the bins get collected anyway.

In my hallway sits a load of Ikea flat-pack furniture which requires assembly. In my haste to order the basic things that I need, I chose a chest-of-drawers that does not fit in my bedroom very well, so this will have to be returned. There's nothing here that I urgently need... I just wanted to try and get this part of the moving in process done and dusted, but I rushed it and screwed up. Now I have created more problems for myself.

In my dining room are the assorted boxes and bags in which I moved my possessions I've managed to hang onto over the years. I've rummaged in the boxes to pull things out which I needed - like saucepans, plates etc. - and otherwise just left this room as a total bombsite, because I don't have any furniture in which to store any of my things yet.

In the space of four days, I've had the heating fixed, the electrics fixed and the telephone and broadband installed. I've had two Ikea deliveries, two deliveries of white goods for the kitchen, plus some other visits that I've probably forgotten in the melee.

Theoretically, I go back to the office tomorrow and act as if nothing has happened. Tomorrow I have to carry on as if everything is normal and under control in my life.

Things do not feel under control.

I want to hide under the duvet for a month.

But I can't afford the time off.

Theoretically now I can begin to find a bit of rhythm and routine. As soon as my washing machine is hooked up, I'm pretty much self-sufficient - I'll be able to cook, clean, sleep and somewhat relax. I have a comfy couch and a comfy bed. I have figured out how to operate the central heating and I've had a couple of log fires.

I am not at all happy about going back to work. I feel very unwell. I feel certain that I'm going to have a panic attack and have to leave, shortly after arriving at the office.

My stable settled secure little world has been rocked by mighty forces and I'm quite disturbed by it. I feel sick.

My feelings are perhaps illustrative of why people don't move house very often and prefer to stay in their comfort zone. It might sound like an enviable ambitious exciting adventure, but the reality has been that most of the time I've felt extremely stressed and anxious.

I guess I hoped to have two settled sorted things in my life - my home and my job - which would allow other things to fall into place, like my mental health, my social life, my physical health and my love life. In reality, I have nothing settled and secure at the moment, but perhaps going back to the office tomorrow will instantly restore a bit of normality to my shattered life.

There are many enviable things about my situation at the moment, so please don't think I'm churlishly complaining... I just bit off a lot more than I could chew.

 

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Nest-Making

8 min read

This is a story about impatience...

Chaise longue

I've committed the cardinal sin of spending a substantial sum of money that I haven't earned yet. Compounding my error is the fact that I have been dreadfully unwell for the last week, and was not able to work. I've quickly moved myself from a precarious position - living in hotels - to one that appears to have more certainty about it. It would take considerable effort to eject me and my belongings, now that I have arrived, and I've got a load of furniture now too. However, I now find myself in the position which I tried to work very hard to avoid: Worrying about job security.

I'm not really that worried.

I waited a long time for my home and my income to come back into alignment. I suffered too many nights lived out of a suitcase. I suffered too many different hotel rooms, bed & breakfasts, AirBnBs and other ad-hoc sleeping arrangements. My favourite clothes were either on my body or in my luggage - never put away in a chest-of-drawers.

Of course, this isn't a self-pity piece. I just watched a feature-length documentary, eating popcorn, reclining on a brand new sofa, under a fluffy blanket and warmed by a log fire. My life is good.

At least, I presume my life is good.

The enormous pressure had broken me a week ago. I was losing my mind. I gambled with my professional reputation: I'm known for being ever-present, always available when somebody needs a question answered. Getting sick was not just unfortunate, but almost definitely an act of self-sabotage.

I had my ducks so nicely lined up, that I could only see two outcomes: I would get everything I wanted, or disaster would strike and I'd lose it all. Easier to prompt the latter outcome into existence, than to sit and patiently wait for things to be OK.

The intensity of what I had planned for a 4-day period was ferocious, and intended to limit my loss of earnings due to domestic errands in the course of house moving. What actually happened was that I put so much pressure on myself that I lost my mind, and began to do things which could have become a cascading, escalating, spiralling catastrophe.

My body 'let me down' in a way that it has often done, where my muscles start to disintegrate and my kidneys are damaged. My urine turns dark brown and it becomes very clear from the sight and smell that I'm beginning to have a medical emergency.

The sensible thing would have been to defer all my plans and go into hospital, but perversely, I decided that I would carry on until complete renal failure. Perversely, it was precisely this outcome - the beginning of the end - that I had superstitiously predicted, but had also prompted into existence.

To the untrained eye it looks as if I'm enjoying a very exciting life of travel and adventure, and my skills are in demand all over the world, but in reality I'm always skating on very thin ice indeed.

It is not advisable to move house, go to new cities, change jobs and have such an unsettled life, without any anchor. Given my estrangement from my family and move away from Dorset, Bournemouth and London, I've found myself in places where I've felt like there's nobody I could phone if I was having a crisis. I'm too distant from everyone who's ever really known me and cared about me. I've become a strange hermit-like reclusive creature, who's always accessible to anybody and everybody, but I've been too loosely anchored to have any meaningful relationship with.

Of the two friends I saw the most of last year, one lives in idyllic domestic bliss with his beautiful family - a very firmly anchored man - while the other one is dead: A man who found himself very alone and very far from the vast majority of people who knew him and cared about him.

I must be careful that I now proceed to live my life with the anchor of a city I call home, a house, relationships and things of some permanence, because I can see that all-too-easily I could wind up dead, like my friend. I've made some difficult decisions which make me far less resilient to life's unexpected changes - far less adaptable - but I'm going to make my 4th attempt at building the life I want.

I once had a beautiful girlfriend who was devoted and loyal and everything I ever wanted, and we both had riverside apartments, not far from each other, but on opposite banks of the Thames. There's a foot tunnel which was by far the quickest route between our two amazing homes. All I needed was a job. I got the job I needed, but the patience of waiting for it had somehow damaged me... I self-sabotaged and ended up with kidney failure, spending a long time on dialysis in a high-dependency hospital ward. Still, this was not enough to destroy my life. I kept going down the path which led only to catastrophe, until I got what I wanted: I lost it all.

Regrettable, but nothing can be salvaged except for the lesson learned: That if I really try hard enough, then I can screw up nearly but not quite all my opportunities in life.

The intervening 20+ months have been the harshest part of the lesson, because never once have I been so close to having what I had then. The hardest part has been when I've had clear sight of the route I need to take. When, at least on paper, I've had my future all mapped out and all I have to do is stick to the plan, that's been indescribably awful. It's been such a horrible waiting game.

If your only goal in life is to get things back to at least as good as they once were, it's a pretty miserable state of existence.

I'm not such a fool that I'd attempt any like-for-like replacement of my old life, and I'm also wary of romanticising the past too. Some might say that I tried - and failed - for too long in London, because I had such good memories, from when I first started my career. Friends would tell me that London is too much hard work - too expensive, too busy, too overcrowded and too fast-paced and competitive for anybody but a fit young person.

When my washing machine failed to be delivered today and I had no clean linen for the bed, I got in my car and drove through the city centre, bought what I needed and drove home. In London, such a thing would have been an ordeal, and nobody in their right mind would have attempted to drive through the city centre during rush hour. Of course, I know how to adapt to London - you live your life very differently there - but there is a great sense of relief that things are just easier out here in the provinces. Like, I find nothing very taxing or frustrating, because London is my benchmark. I spend a lot of time marvelling at how very civilised existence can be. All of the very many conveniences available only to London's mega-rich, are at my disposal here in this city, which is but 2 hours train ride away from the Big Smoke.

I felt a huge sense of calm and contentedness descend upon me, as soon as my bed was properly made and I knew I could snuggle under the duvet whenever I felt I wanted or needed to. I can't believe that it's only Saturday, and my lounge and bedroom both feel like they're my home and I belong here. In fact, I often get the sense that I'm not too far away from declaring my life to be as good as it once was.

I'll be going back to work with some trepidation and it will take me a while to feel as though I've undone any damage caused by my self-sabotage. I'll need to get a few more cheques in the bank before I start to relax and let my guard down - to allow myself to think of this life as 'mine'.

I wonder if people think that I demand the impossible and am ungrateful for what I have. I know I've done a lot of moaning and complaining about the discomfort and unpleasantness of living out of a suitcase, and perhaps with retrospect that seems very impatient of me, given that I must surely have known that my efforts woud bear fruit.

Is it very bad of me, that I walk around my beautiful home and I think "this is befitting of the effort expended and the struggle"... almost like I deserve this, which I know sounds despicable. There is no justice in the world, but I still want you to know that I'm sitting here thinking "this worked out the way I wanted it to".

There's still a scary time ahead, while I cement my victory in place, so it can never be unseated, but every day when disaster doesn't strike is another day I can look back on with incredible gratitude, just like I can do for all those days I was in love by the riverside. No regrets.

 

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Victim Blaming

7 min read

This is a story about acting unconscionably...

Lime sofa

I'd like to tell you that I had an enjoyable evening picking out a sofa and a bed, which I need for the house I'm hoping to rent soon. Certainly, I visited IKEA and I did photograph a couple of items of furniture which I liked, and I lay upon two or three different mattresses, plus I sat down a couple of times to see how comfy some particular sofa cushions were. However, I was mainly visiting to purchase a chest of drawers, to replace one in my current rented home.

How the white IKEA chest-of-drawers came to be discoloured is something of a mystery to me, but there's a noticeable yellowish tinge which I'm certain was not there when I rented the place, roughly a year ago.

I'm not happy to hand the keys back to the landlord, and leave it up to him to replace the chest-of-drawers.

Technically, it's wear-and-tear. Technically, my landlord should expect to have to do a certain amount of property maintenance each year. Technically, it's not at all clear whether I'm at fault for the discolouration of the chest-of-drawers, or perhaps it was some manufacturing fault.

Whatever. I feel responsible. I feel like it's my responsibility to hand back the keys to the place in more-or-less exactly the same state that it was rented to me.

I've been a good tenant.

I always kept the place pristine.

I've always paid my rent on time.

I've always fixed any problems I found, not wanting to hassle the landlord.

I've hardly lived in the place, having spent most of last year in hotels and AirBnBs.

The manner in which I conduct myself brings people of different kinds into my life. One flatmate left owing me £7,000 in unpaid rent and bills, without a care in the world - he felt he was entitled to help himself to a vast amount of my money. One of my blog readers lent me some money, which allowed me to avoid bankruptcy and rescue my business, which is my livelihood and a source of stability.

I was ashamed to have to borrow money from a real person, rather than a faceless profit-making bank, but that shame serves as a litmus test, for me. Those who feel entitled to spend other people's money, and never repay it, despite having the financial means to do so, and who act without a conscience, are at one end of the spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum are the people who play by the rules - a debt is a debt, and a debt to a friend or a good samaritan is something that should be treated with respect - their conscience is troubled while that debt remains outstanding; they are anxious to pay back those who have been kind and generous.

It occurred to me that I might be asking for it.

I have a friend who regularly asks to "borrow" money. I have tried to employ this friend. I have offered to gift him money, instead of "lending" it to him. I have offered to purchase the things he needs as gifts, instead of "lending" him money. He knows I can often afford to lose the amounts of money he asks to "borrow" and I know he can't afford to pay me back. That's our arrangement, and I don't begrudge him, even though some might see him as taking advantage of me. Once I was briefly angry when he didn't show up to do the work I'd paid him in advance to do, but merely because of the inconvenience of having to find somebody else to do the work, when I was stressed and really didn't need the hassle.

The ex-flatmate who owes me £7,000 didn't ask to borrow that money. He simply didn't pay his bills or his rent. When I told him that he would have to leave, he accused me of intimidating him, harassing him and suggested that I might be in breach of some law, by refusing to let him get further into arrears. His mother is wealthy and owns a very large house, which he visits regularly. His lack of money was a symptom of his idleness; his sense of entitlement. In short: he's a spoiled brat.

I have a friend who I fell out with over money, a couple of times. I lent him £10,000 so that he could become a stock market trader. The loan was only supposed to be for a year, but after 4 or 5 years of not seeing a penny back, I decided to press him to repay what he owed. He acted as if I had done something wrong; as if it was my error, not his. Some years later I asked him for some help to find somewhere to live, and with the administration of my business. He saw that I was earning a lot of money at the time, and set about spending a very large amount of my cash on "us" which I later resented, because the division of labour didn't seem to justify the rewards he felt entitled to.

I also have a best friend, who gave up a very lucrative job and left his pregnant girlfriend behind on the other side of the country, to run a company with me. Then I was extremely unpleasant towards him for 3 months, during a startup accelerator program. I was a very driven man at the time - as CEO - and the way I spoke to my friend probably deserved a beating in return: I was asking for it, one might say. That friend must certainly have lost money versus his earning potential if he'd stayed in his well-paid job, but he knows I love him dearly and we both enjoyed the adventure, at times. He also knows how guilty and bad I feel about everything that didn't go so well; everything I did wrong.

The friend who's "borrowed" a couple of thousand pounds from me over the years thinks I'm asking for it because he considers himself a "have not" while also considering me a "have". I'm not sure whether he sees himself as Robin Hood, per se, but his justification is not entirely unfounded, hence why our friendship persists to this day. He is certainly a very disadvantaged young man, versus my own seemingly charmed existence.

People hear the way I speak - with a posh English accent and a wide vocabulary - and they assume that I had a privileged upbringing. They assume that I went to private school. They assume that my parents paid for me to go to university. They assume that my parents funded me through unpaid internships, so I could get into investment banking. They assume that I'm the person I sound a little bit like.

The problem with sounding a little bit like a privately-educated investment banker from a wealthy family, is that you're asking for it.

Maybe I should tone down my accent, wear jogging sweatpants and sneakers, use more slang. Maybe I should pretend to be ignorant of things which are generally the preserve of snobby elites, and narrow my field of interest to popular sports, soap operas, reality TV and celebrity gossip.

Maybe I shouldn't wear make-up, a short skirt and a low-cut top, with high-heels, and go to a place where people frequently hook-up for sex, because those things are avoidable, right? It's my fault that people feel entitled to greedily grab my money, because I'm asking for it. I'm asking to get ripped off. I'm asking to get used. I'm asking to get raped.

The comparison I'm making is unpalatable; perhaps unspeakable.

There it is. I said it.

 

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I Lost 5 Years of my Life

6 min read

This is a story about the wilderness...

Endless desks

Why am I not more rich and comfortable? Why don't I have financial security and a home which nobody can evict me from? Why do all my years of experience and all the massive multinational corporations on my CV assure me a comfortable standard of living?

Conversely, why haven't I ended up with a criminal record? Why haven't I ended up in jail? Why am I not dead?

Why am I not bankrupt? Why am I not sleeping rough? Why am I not an alcoholic or a drug addict?

Why is my physical health OK? Why is my mental health OK?

I've picked up my life and carried on as if nothing happened, but something very major did happen.

Luckily I had a head-start of 3 or 4 years on my peer group, at least in terms of career progression and the accumulation of wealth. When we do the math, it seems I'm no more than 1 or 2 years behind where I should be, and I'm rapidly catching up again.

I get frustrated that it's going to take a couple of years before I'm back in the position - in material terms - which matches my skillset and experience. I get frustrated that there's no way that I can accelerate the process of clawing my way back to the position in society which I used to occupy.

I could have arrived back at a position of health, wealth and prosperity much sooner, but my experiences during my wilderness years have altered me for life. Most people live in terror of loss: Losing money, losing assets, losing relationships and damaging their reputation. I learned during the difficult wilderness years that the world is a big enough place that even the most madcap escapades go entirely unnoticed.

It is with great pleasure and pride that I am returning myself to a position of status which gradually begins to approach the status I held before my fall from grace.

Is it shallow and vain and pretentious, to wish to maintain our status in society?

Bullshit.

At first, it was an adventure to sell my house, sell my car, give away all my possessions, sleep rough and truly start my life all over again. I felt a great sense of relief that I was unburdened by the constant worry that what I had worked so hard to get and to achieve, would be stolen or damaged. It was liberating and I had the time of my life, truly free from any sense of responsibilities or duties. I entrusted my fate to good fortune, and a healthy dollop of my own wit and ingenuity.

Then, I realised that my wide-eyed innocence and trust in people laid me wide open to exploitation. I'm sure I hardly had any money stolen off me by other homeless people, but as I began to get my life back on track, I found that there are an entitled, spoiled, brattish, immoral group of people who've never known suffering or deprivation, and they see it as their birthright to dip their hand into my wallet, instead of paying their own way. I attracted a lot of freeloaders, who had no guilt or conscience, when it came to stealing from me - these were people who've never slept rough; these were people who've never known what it's like to lose everything, and they never will, because they're spoiled brats who can telephone their mothers and fathers and receive massive cash handouts. Those freeloaders will never have setbacks in their lifetimes, because they're from wealthy, generous, loving families.

It's a source of great shame and damage to my self-esteem that I drive a very battered and rusty old car, and that I live in rented home in one of the poorest areas of the country. It's a source of great shame and embarrassment that I have indebted myself in order to pay my rent and bills, simply to house myself and feed myself. It's a source of constant worry and anxiety that my work colleagues might wonder why one of their "superstar" consultants dresses in worn-out clothes and gives away other clues which hint that the wealth they would expect me to have, is not present: I'm poor.

It's shit being poor. It's shit being poor when you work in a world where everybody who does my job as well as I do is not poor. The loss of status should not be underestimated.

When a man loses status, he is highly likely to lose his life.

It's one of the hardest things to do, to recover from a major setback, which has ruined your finances, your secure housing, your material possessions, like your new car and your nice clothes. The hard thing is knowing that everybody can see that you fucked up and it takes years and years and years to put things right. Some people will never be able to recover.

My recovery is not about mental health. My recovery is not about alcohol. My recovery is not about drugs. My recovery is about self-esteem, which is damaged so drastically, and is so hard to repair, that for most people they will just give up and kill themselves. It's a fatal blow.

One of the reasons I keep trying and I keep writing, is because I want to be one of the few people who's lived to tell the tale of coming back from such a major setback. Plenty of people have survived, but few have gone on to thrive. I want to tell the story of regaining my pride and my dignity, and of being indistinguishable from a person who didn't spend 5 lost years in the wilderness.

This is our little secret. Every day I pay off a little bit more of my debt and I fix up a little bit more of my life. Every day I become a little bit more like the person I would've been, if it hadn't been for my missing 5 years. This is our secret, because the joke is on those people who have absolutely no idea what I've been through.

At work, I feel so proud that I'm doing valuable work and I'm almost back to being as good as I always thought I was going to be, by the time I reached the age I am. I'm so proud of the work I do. I'm so pleased that my brain and my natural aptitudes and the talents I was fortuitously given, are being put to good use and I feel as competent and capable as anybody. I don't feel damaged, and that's so important for my self-esteem.

This isn't about pride. This isn't about regret. This is about the damaging effect that loss of status can have on a man, with fatal consequences.

 

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On Probation

7 min read

This is a story about being on tenterhooks...

Book quote

I'm a living contradiction. I choose security and certainty over the vain hope of hitting the jackpot. If I was given the choice between having a "B" grade, but not having to do any work or suffer any uncertainty, versus the potential to achieve an "A+" then I would take the "B" grade without a moment's hesitation. If you think that's settling for mediocrity, you're wrong - I choose my battles and I achieve "A+" grades all the time... as an accidental consequence of pursuing the things I'm interested in and passionate about.

The other part of my contradictory personality is that I choose to take incredible risks. I jump out of planes. I climb rock faces. I scale high mountains. I ride gigantic waves in gale-force winds. Why the hell would I do that?

There are a lot of risk-reward-cost-benefit calculations that go on inside my head.

I've gathered a lot of data.

The decision to take dangerous highly addictive drugs might seem like one of the most baffling choices that a person would elect to do. For example, taking heroin is seen as an indication of character flaw, but being a BASE jumper is seen as cool, although the latter carries the same risk of premature death.

Let's do a bit more in-depth analysis, shall we?

Cost of being a rock climber:

  • Rock boots: £45
  • Harness: £75
  • Chalk bag & chalk ball: £15
  • Rope £150
  • Helmet £50
  • Belay plate: £20
  • 10 quickdraws: £150

TOTAL: £505

So, for somebody who wants to climb a rock face safely, the minimum amount they're going to have to spend is over £500. Also, you might fall and die. Let's re-iterate that: It's pretty damn obvious that if you climb up a vertical rock face and you lose your grip, you can fall to the ground and be killed on impact.

Cost of being a mountaineer:

  • Crampon-compatible boots: £200
  • Crampons: £120
  • Base layers: £40
  • Mid-layers: £80
  • Shell layer jacket: £250
  • Shell layer salopettes: £180
  • Ice axes: £250
  • Helmet: £50
  • 9mm waterproof rope: £175
  • Ice screws: £120
  • Warthogs: £40
  • Deadman: £40
  • Backpack: £150
  • Survival bag: £20
  • Down sleeping bag: £300
  • Down jacket: £200
  • Tent: £350
  • Sleeping mat: £60

TOTAL: £2,625

So, for somebody who wants to climb a 4,000m+ mountain (Mont Blanc etc) then you're going to have to shell out more than £2,500. In fact, it's going to cost you a lot more, because you're going to need lots of things I didn't list, like spare pairs of socks, spare base layers, and also a stove, cooking utensils, plus all the other expedition gear. You're not going to have much spare change out of £3,500. Did I mention that you're highly likely to be killed by falling rocks, avalanches, falling into a crevasse, or simply plummeting to your death.

I shan't follow the same process for kitesurfing, yacht sailing or skydiving, but the financial cost of putting your life in danger can be staggering, especially when we consider that rugged outdoorsy types are somehow healthy and laudable people of good character and moral fibre; made of the right stuff.

Another group of people who we might consider are the entrepreneurs. Who are these people who reject conventional employment - salaried jobs - and instead choose to make their money by means other than selling their singular body and brain. Are these people risk takers too?

In fact, all the celebrated members of society have one thing in common: they've had the financial means to pursue avenues that are not available to most of the populace, because the need to eat, be housed and be clothed is an insistent demand which is too pressing for all but those who enjoy considerable economic advantages. Do not believe the bullshit - rugged adventurers are not brave souls and entrepreneurs are not gifted geniuses... they're all people who've had the financial backing in order to pursue their expensive dreams. Don't believe any of the "self-made man" bullshit. Behind every "self made" man are a whole bunch of people who've underwritten their risk.

I busted my shoulder up pretty badly - broken bones - on a beach in a remote part of Brasil. My startup co-founder broke his leg very badly indeed in roughly the same part of Brasil. That part of the world is many hours away from a good hospital with a surgeon and operating theatre where complex orthopaedic surgery could be performed. Would we have been so adventurous if we hadn't become somewhat complacent about the bubble we live in?

I'm on probation at the moment. I'm on best behaviour. I'm trying to impress my new girlfriend. I'm trying to prove that I'm a good boyfriend.

But, do I really think that I'm going to fail?

Have I ever been worried that I'm going to fall to my death?

Have I ever been worried that world-class medical establishments and all the many wonders of modern civilisation aren't rapidly available in an emergency? Have I ever been worried that somebody wouldn't patch me up as good as new, if I had an accident?

It's never really crossed my mind that I might not get what I want. Of course, I've had heart-stopping moments when I've suddenly realised how staggeringly exposed I am. I've spent so much of my life living on the edge that I've become desensitised to the worrying fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the more times I put my life at risk, the greater the chance that I'm going to be badly injured or killed.

I was worried that I was too fat, old, mentally ill and addicted to drugs and alcohol to ever meet somebody who'd fall in love with me. I was worried that I was too indebted and lacking in any assets - such as a fast car and big house - to be attractive to any object of my affections. I was worried that I was a washed-up loser; a has-been.

Our whole lives are lived under Damocles' sword, somewhat. We could mess up our exams. We could mess up our careers. We could mess up our relationships. There's never a single moment when we can really relax and feel like we're not on probation in some way.

I guess I'm pretty sanguine. I get anxious and I torment myself a very great deal with catastrophic thinking but ultimately, I feel the fear and do what I was always going to do anyway. I'm well aware of the innumerable and virtually unimaginable risks, but if you examine my behaviour - as opposed to what I write - then you'll see that I never choose the low-risk option; you'll see that I continuously pursue the very best that life has to offer, despite stress levels which are almost intolerable.

Tomorrow is an important day, but I already know that I'm going to be OK. My risk is underwritten. What's the worst that can happen? Death? Hospitalisation? Been there. Done that.

 

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The Logistics Are Complicated

5 min read

This is a story about three consecutive weeks away from home...

My front door

Despite some pretty serious drug and alcohol issues, having reduced my supercrack addiction to just a couple of relapses in the last 16 months, my life is going considerably better. Before, things were too chaotic and messed-up to manage basic adulting, let alone making complex plans and following through with them.

Poly-substance abuse makes life particularly unmanageable. Stimulants produce excessively, obsessively focussed attention on tiny details, to the point of dismantling a television to see how it works, but forgetting why and not thinking about the consequences, such as not being able to put it back together again. Tranquillisers paper over the cracks temporarily, forestalling the inevitable crash and inducing amnesia, such that the brain doesn't have its natural corrective reaction: "fuck! I should never do that again! that was dumb!".

In the grips of drug-induced mania, I've made a lot of plans, contacted a lot of people, done a lot of hard work and generally laid some of the groundwork for grand schemes, only to let everything rot and wither on the vine because eventually I crash. My ideas are never dumb per se but as we say in the startup world: ideas are worthless; execution is everything.

This weekend I need to wash and pack 3 weeks worth of clothes; 3 wardrobes - work, UK autumn and holiday sun. I need to buy flip flops and sunscreen. I need to get a haircut.

I need to load up my car on Monday morning with everything I need for 3 weeks.

It sounds like an adventure, right?

I've had enough adventures to last me a thousand lifetimes.

My left arm is covered in scars where I've slit my wrists and cut my veins lengthways. My left shin has a humongous scar from when I was trying to escape from my sister's bedroom, where my dad had cornered me, and I picked up a mirror to defend myself - like a shield - which got smashed and a massive piece of glass dropped like a guillotine blade. My right thigh has a huge scar from when I fell through a glass roof, running away from voices in my head; admittedly more obviously a consequence of my so-called bad choices but easily understood in terms of the fucking abuse I had suffered at the hands of my ex-wife and my parents beforehand.

My life is remarkably improved since mostly quitting drugs, legal highs and black-market medications, but I'm loathe to become one of those "drugs ruined my life" idiots, because clearly there was a reason why I was driven to seek something in substances: I was denied a conventional happy contented life. This isn't a "poor me... poor me... pour me... another drink" whingefest. This is simply a statement of fact.

My needs are the same as anybody else's: food, shelter, companionship, intimacy, safety, security.

I'm a pretty basic guy.

Garbage in, garbage out.

If it sounds to you like I'm absenting myself from personal responsibility - distancing myself from my bad choices - then I've got a few questions for you. Where were you when I was lying on the floor dying of a suicide attempt overdose a couple of times? Where were you when I was in hospital all those many, many times? Where were you when I was sleeping rough? Where were you when I was arrested, locked in a cell and then released without charge? Where were you when I was voluntarily admitted to a psych ward, or sectioned? I've faced so much adversity alone. It's true that in the last couple of years I've had the assistance of my guardian angel, but that person is clearly the reason why I've recovered, obviously. I was floundering on my own, but at no point did I ever fully abandon the notion that I was personally responsible for influencing the outcome of my life, or death.

So you think life's complicated doing the school run? Wiping bums, making packed lunches, playgroup, after-school activities, grazed knees, tears, tantrums, sleepless nights, sore nipples and general procreation-related bullshit is a reason why your life is hard? I've got 7.6 billion living breathing walking talking reasons why you're a fucking idiot. I've got over a hundred billion skeletal remains of your failed attempts to clone yourself into immortality you fucking moron. You're at the top of the bell-curve you rutting simpleton.

Life's not a competition but I'm winning.

This is not what I intended to write tonight at all, but I've abandoned all attempts to avoid repetition and any misguided belief that I'm able to project an idealised image of myself, as opposed to baring my ugly soul for anybody who unfortunately happens to be looking in this direction at the time.

You might think that my life is an enviable adventure, but it's actually a fucking nightmare, without kisses, cuddles, hugs, spooning and the comfort of knowing that I'm safely embedded within the crowd; safety in numbers, like a school of fish.

I'm an outlier and it sucks.

 

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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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