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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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After The Mania, Regret

8 min read

This is a story about the consequences of a mood disorder...

Bipolar memory

Having had a mood disorder - bipolar - all my life, with its symptoms perhaps becoming indisputably obvious from adolescence onwards, I've had a lot of time to reflect upon the regrettable consequences of things that I said and did when I was experiencing hypomania or mania.

As a child I had little opportunity to do anything which had any particularly negative consequences. I took risks I suppose and I established a pattern of frenzied activity followed by melancholic lethargy. The intensity of my early hypomania was triggered by the rare event of being able to spend time with friends, when so much of my childhood was spent bored while my parents took drugs and got drunk. The excitement of escaping the boredom and oppression of being trapped in a house or a car with drugged-up or drunk dribbling morons, was so great that I would talk rapidly, be unable to sleep and I exuded so much energy that my friends and their parents were alarmed by this behaviour, which was uncharacteristic of how I acted at school, for example.

School terms were long and they were unbearable. For whatever reason, I was bullied constantly. School was something to be endured and I treated it in very much the same way that I treated my parents' negligence - I lived inside my own head, bored but attempting to entertain myself with my own imagination. I was incredibly patient, given the unpleasantness of my school days and the time I was forced to spend with my parents, who were so incredibly selfish that they destroyed most chances I would've had to form meaningful long-lasting friendships. Every school holiday, and indeed many weeks and months of term-time, my parents would remove me from the company of my peers, because they wanted to get drunk and take drugs in an isolated rural location, where they thought they would be safe from the criticism which they would draw for the neglect they were showing me; they attempted to hide their disgusting disgraceful behaviour.

My parents' folie-a-deux, which I see now was a toxic co-dependency, motivated by their addiction to alcohol and drugs, was clearly very formative and shaped my character. I became a patient plotter, who could put myself into a trancelike disconnected state to endure the interminable boredom of being trapped with a pair of dribbling moronic drug addict drunks, with no friends to play with - deliberately isolated from my peers.

This is why I do not celebrate mothers' day - because my mother is nothing more than an alcoholic drug addict with bad taste in men, and I wish I had never been born.

Luckily, modern society reveres those who have bipolar tendencies. How would anybody be expected to pass their school examinations, university finals or write a dissertation, unless they were able to cram and work hard in short and intense periods, having the academic holidays to then collapse on the brink of a nervous breakdown, to recover? How would anybody be expected to undergo the the awfulness of attempting to get a foot on the first rung of the career ladder, and the dreadfulness of the 9 to 5 office grind, unless they could muster the manic energy to be enthusiastic in numerous interviews where you're expected to lie about how excited you'd be to join Acme Corporation and their widget manufacturing business? How can you get ahead in your career, when you are so thwarted by your colleagues and the dreadful bureaucratic nature of organisations - with their "can don't" attitude - except by having periods of intense focus and effort, which no stable level-headed person would ever undertake in their right mind? How could you quit your job, start a company and make it successful, unless you had some kind of screw loose, which drives you to work 100+ hours a week and not give up on something until the results are delivered?

Nobody much cares about the periods of depression that regularly occur in the life of a person with bipolar disorder, because we celebrate achievements and we hide our failures. We pretend that we never screwed up. We pretend that we never got sick. According to our CVs and our LinkedIn pages, we are perfect infallible human beings, who are completely flawless. Because people with bipolar disorder regularly have episodes of hypomania or mania which are full of boundless creative energy, they have an impressive list of achievements under their belt. Nobody ever lists their depressions on their CV or LinkedIn.

Moving house and breaking up with my last girlfriend has left me exhausted and all alone in a new city. I have a work colleague who is reasonably friendly, but a very busy family man, and I have met one new friend, although they don't live very nearby. It's hard to describe how lonely and isolated I am - physically - because few people ever reach this point in their life without taking some kind of evasive action. It's very unnatural for humans to go to strange places and leave themselves totally cut off from social contact, beyond the minimum necessary to get money and buy food.

The flurry of activity which pre-dated me moving house was prompted by stress, and it contributed to the exhaustion and depression I'm feeling now. Also, I feel embarrassed that my grand plans to work on projects presently lie abandoned and the people who I was in contact with have been neglected for quite some time. It's very damaging to my self-esteem to know that my behaviour is so conspicuously unpredictable and unreliable, which leads people to believe that there's little value in the investment of a deeper and more meaningful friendship. When I crash, I cannot face the pressure of maintaining contact, so I disappear and I'm overwhelmed with guilt over the people and projects which are being neglected.

Sometimes, mania prompts me to say regrettable things. I particularly use Facebook as a 'safe space' to rant when I'm struggling with my mental health, because at least it keeps my regrettable words contained in a place where they're not publicly accessible. My friends can respond and calm me down, and I'm not left scrabbling to delete things which were inadvisable to write and publish publicly. My friends - if they're real friends - would take my words with a pinch of salt and not unduly categorise me as a madman and a lost cause.

It's deeply worrisome, knowing that my mental health can collapse and I can act regrettably. It's an unsettling and insecure state of affairs, knowing that I could easily destroy the good reputation I have and the respect of my colleagues, if I was to show a little bit too much of my illness. I keep things relatively neatly partitioned: my blog is where I write honestly, but always mindful that my words are subject to public scrutiny. Facebook is where I write things which are almost always a cry for help, or in some way symptomatic of the very bad mental health problems I'm dealing with. Work is where I spend a great deal of effort "acting normal" and attempting to show a reliable consistent side of myself, despite dreadful inner turmoil and very difficult events in my personal life.

One might say that this entire blog is regrettable, given that it's easily discoverable by my work colleagues, but I do not speak ill of anybody or the organisations I'm involved with, and I do not bring my profession into disrepute - I think that my conduct is perfectly acceptable, and I'm prepared to defend it on the grounds that I find it immensely therapeutic to have this outlet, and the support of people who are kind enough to read my words and send me kind messages.

I have a lot of regret. I admit that I could have made much better choices in a lot of situations. I don't hide behind my mental illness as an excuse. I'm perfectly capable of accepting that my behaviour has been regrettable and that I should have handled things differently.

Why then continue to write like this? The answer is complicated: I have no idea what would happen if I didn't have this single thread of consistency in my life. Rightly or wrongly, I credit this blog with bringing me things which have saved my life: my guardian angel, the people who got the emergency services to save my life during my most recent suicide attempt, the family who looked after me when I was jobless and homeless, and some of the friends who I speak to on a regular basis, who all only know me because I put myself out into the public domain - they reached out to me and rescued me, in their own ways.

 

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Indoor Voice

6 min read

This is a story about shouting...

Dafodils

I find myself in the thick of the action at work and I'm failing to keep my head down and my mouth shut. It would be better if I gave my opinion quietly and infrequently, after much careful consideration, but instead I shoot from the hip and engage my mouth before my brain. Most of what I say has a solid basis and imparts some useful expertise, but it would be better if my voice wasn't so often ringing out loudly across the open-plan office.

I'm not sure how received I am. I'm loud, outspoken, quick to respond, decisive, but I'm also like a flame sucking all the oxygen out of the room. I wonder how little room I'm leaving for other people.

I know that I'm not a bad manager - I'm not prone to micromanaging people or being too fussy about the details, such that there's no room for my underlings to think for themselves - but I wonder if I'm a bad team member at times. I know that I'm patient and forgiving with junior members of the team and I invest a huge amount of time in knowledge sharing and training, to help them, but I'm pretty scathing with my words when I see bad quality work done by people who call themselves fully trained and experience professionals. I sometimes wonder what my colleagues do with all their time - how do they entertain themselves if they're not busy?

I often wonder who has the right approach: my colleagues who don't do much so that their projects are never completed, or me finishing projects early? My colleagues would argue that you can make yourself redundant if you do a good job and finish your project to a high standard, such that it doesn't need much more ongoing work to maintain it. I would argue that you're not a good engineer if you never finish a project.

I went home yesterday feeling as though I'd been too outspoken and that I should apologise to one of my colleagues. My brain was badly affected by anxiety and flooded with thoughts about myriad things which needed considering. I bombarded my colleagues with a whole host of things to consider, which probably overwhelmed them and I certainly didn't make a single clear and concise point - I simply couldn't stop words from spilling out of my mouth.

This week, some ideas that I've been nursing for 6 months are coming together. A piece of work that I did in a flurry of manic activity is taking shape as something tangible, just the way I had planned it would. It seems unusual that I should have done all the hard work so long ago and then rested on my laurels, but I needed to have a holiday and move house, which were a huge distraction. The festive season is a bad time to try and do anything important. As it happens, the timing has worked out perfectly, although I have been very bored at times this year.

Having sat quietly at my desk for a very long time, thinking, I now find that I struggle to regulate the volume of my voice. I struggle to hold back in meetings. I struggle to remain quiet for the benefit of the whole team. I'm struggling not to be loud and overbearing.

I would be well advised to put my headphones in and confine myself to my own thoughts for a few days, to give my colleagues a break from the sound of my voice. It would be a good idea to make a promise to myself to say nothing in meetings, except the very bare minimum required, to make a bit more space for my colleagues. I'm like a liquid poured into a mould, filling every square inch of space and leaving no air pockets.

Having unmedicated bipolar disorder in an office environment is problematic. I trample on toes and speak too much, too loudly. I must be very annoying.

I'm aware that I can get carried away with my productivity and ability to solve hard problems, and I can start to see other people as deadweight, which can lead me to saying unkind things and being very rude and dismissive. I forget that people take pride in their work - even if it's rubbish - and can be offended when I bulldoze my way straight through it inconsiderately, in pursuit of my goals. I'm aware that my future employment depends on playing nice with others, and I should calm myself down during these periods of mania-like frenetic activity.

I forget that I'm no longer managing huge teams all across the world. I forget that I'm no longer CEO of a startup that I founded. I forget that I'm no longer the boss, but in fact I'm a consultant who's been hired for my expertise and opinions, which need to be tactfully given to the client. I forget I'm not in charge of the project. Often, my loud authoritative voice can lead to people getting into the habit of looking to me for leadership, when I'm not in charge of anything, which is a mistake on my part, because my strength is in my knowledge and experience, and my ability to solve hard problems - it's not my job to lead the team, but I always find myself naturally providing some degree of leadership, although I don't actively seek to gain power and control.

It's strange. Sometimes people are very relieved to have me working on their project, because I always have a clear sense of direction and I provide a reassuring level of seniority - people trust that I know what I'm doing - but I continuously jeopardise my job by doing things which could very badly backfire if they didn't work.

I have a colleague who's close to retirement who's been hired to do pretty much the same job as me. We couldn't be more different. He spends his days listening to the radio and reading the news. I think there's a lot I could learn from him about plodding along as slow as possible, without getting sacked. Sometimes I find the attitude to be loathsome, but what's the real harm in it - isn't he getting a lot better deal out of life than I am? What use is all my hard work? What good will it do?

I need to calm down. Arrogance will flare up and I'll start being disrespectful to people, and that will be the beginning of the end.

 

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Packing Up

7 min read

This is a story about mechanical failure...

Box

How I expected to feel - physically - and how I am actually feeling, are out of alignment. There is considerable discrepancy between my anticipated relief from fatigue and discomfort, and the aches and pains which are unexpectedly and unpleasantly asserting their presence.

I suppose my mind has erased the memories of the suffering I went through repeatedly as a drug addict. I know that the comedowns and withdrawals must have been terrible, but my memories are very patchy. Perhaps mercifully, I can't recall that pain.

My body feels poisoned; toxic. I suffered plenty of hospitalisations when my organs were struggling and failing. There is a very real and tangible muscle memory that tells me that this unpleasant experience is not a new one. Indeed, I can rationalise that I've survived countless periods of immense dehydration, starvation, insomnia and physical exertion, beyond that which anyone of sound body and mind could and would withstand. I know that my addiction drove me to repeat the same stupidity countless times, always with more-or-less identically awful outcomes.

To my mind, I've done nothing to deserve this physical suffering, knowing what dreadful things I've put my body through in the past. Instead of being cautious and avoiding that pain, perhaps I came to regard myself as indestructible. Certainly, I had gathered a lot of evidence that my body could take a great deal of punishment and seemingly suffer no long-term consequence. Perhaps I have learned to take my body's resilience for granted.

I don't feel like I did anything particularly excessive, but my body tells me otherwise: My muscles and joints all give me a great deal of pain and I'm extremely fatigued.

It's distressing, but I have to accept the evidence as I see it. My body is telling me that I'm very sick. My body is telling me that I need to rest and recuperate.

I know that to proceed as if my body weren't signalling its distress, has led in the past to near-catastrophic medical emergencies, and lengthy hospital stays. It's only by the skill and hard work of the medical teams that so much of me has been preserved. I was under the impression that I was not in too bad shape; that my organs were functioning OK and that I'd somehow dodged a bullet.

Perhaps the doctors were just being kind - sparing my feelings. Perhaps it was kinder to tell me I'd been lucky and that I should take better care in future, as opposed to telling me that I'd inflicted irreparable damage upon myself. I heard what I wanted to hear anyway: I thought I got away with it again and again.

It was more or less 2 years ago that I realised that I had to pump the brakes.

The accomplishment of going cold turkey and completely rebuilding my life, is not something I've achieved just once. In fact, it's remarkable that from the supposed apogee of my life - a wealthy homeowner with a wife - I should have had multiple periods of homelessness and almost total destitution, at the hands mainly of drug addiction intermingled with mental health problems in the most destructive way; and also multiple periods of repairing the damage and attempting to rebuild my shattered existence, which have been successful but not for very long.

Each attempt to rebuild my life consumes considerably more time and energy than the last, and I suppose I never accounted for the wear and tear that the boom and bust existence must have been having on my poor broken body.

I'm disoriented. A breakup and moving house coincided with a very bad episode of mania, which resulted in a brief period when my body was very harshly abused. I seem to have survived, but I haven't been truly tested yet: I need to go back to work and pick up where I left on. There's a lot of hard work left ahead of me, and I will need to work with consistency and stability, and continue to attempt to be very conservative and cautious in the workplace.

I don't know whether I'm winning, or actually I already lost but I just didn't realise it yet: I'm waiting for overwhelming evidence that my fate is sealed, and that my body is giving up on me.

That's honestly how I feel right now - that my body has been pushed too hard for too long, and there's not much life left in me. I would not be in the least bit surprised to be told that some vital organ is failing and my days are numbered.

It's a little frustrating, because I made some health decisions that have not been easy to follow-through with, such as stopping drinking and eating more healthily, but I accept that it's probably too little too late.

I'm probably being a little melodramatic, but I do have an annoying habit of knowing the difference between a serious medical emergency and what is merely severely life-threatening but survivable outside of a clinical environment.

A couple of concerned friends are encouraging me to get blood tests done etc. but I can't see it changing the outcome much. If I've done myself in, then I've done myself in and I'm done for, and that's that.

I think I'm more optimistic than I'm perhaps letting on. I can imagine that I'll go easy on myself for a couple of weeks - ease my feet back under the desk - and then I'll start feeling a lot better. It does seem understandable that a very short sharp shock would cause me considerable pain and suffering. Perhaps I've just been over-optimistic about how quickly I could recover.

I plan on working from home tomorrow, which is part of my strategy of going easy on myself. I still literally bear the scars of the recent ordeal on my face and hands, so I'm not being entirely hyperbolic.

I think if my body does pack up, that would be an entirely fitting end, and I would probably have a good chuckle about the irony of it, given my body's refusal to give up the ghost at any point when I have been acting far less sensibly.

It's funny how people perceive me. They ask me whether I'm going to go jogging or cycling in the park, when in fact climbing a flight of stairs is an unpleasant ordeal at the moment. It's hard to comprehend what I've been through - many many lifetimes worth of boom and bust, replete with the agony and the suffering. You can't see that stuff from the outside - all you can see is a 39 year old body that's not in particularly terrible shape, on first inspection. I dread to think what my internal organs must look like, but I've got a lot of scars on my skin, which each tell a pretty gruesome story.

I'm going to look pretty silly if I'm full of the joys of spring and zooming around like a young man in a few weeks, full of energy, but anyhoo... this is the way I write; this is what I do.

 

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Mania: 110 Consecutive Hours Without Sleep

2 min read

This is a story about mind over matter...

Empty pill packets

It doesn't seem to matter how many sleeping pills, tranquillisers and sedatives I swallow, if my brain wants to be awake, it wants me to be awake.

Several times during those 110 hours, I took my night-time pills and got into bed, but my brain was in no mood for sleep. The pathetic pharmaceuticals were brushed off effortlessly, and carried on writing and chatting to people online, all night long.

Eventually, I started to hallucinate. I couldn't see straight. I couldn't type well. I became clumsy. Tasks were slower and harder to accomplish.

The strangest thing though, is that I never became incoherent. I never started spouting gibberish.

I must now try to go to bed and get some sleep.

No doctor is likely to be sympathetic to my plight. They'll batter me with baseball bats and club me with batons. They'll throw bricks at my head and smash planks of wood over me, until I'm so broken I can't get up. In other words, they'll prescribe me dreadful medications, which are the modern equivalent of a straight-jacket.

While chemists' store-rooms are filled with medications which are precisely suitable for my symptoms - insomnia and extreme agitation - those are never allowed to be dispensed. I must suffer the pills that make me fat and unable to have an orgasm. I must suffer the pills that leave me dribbling and shuffling.

For now, I have some of the forbidden pills - the ones that work - and I shall use them until my supply is exhausted. I anticipate a peaceful night of delicious refreshing sleep, with no 'hangover'.

Good night.

 

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Misuse of Drugs

21 min read

This is a story about fit for purpose...

Prescription medications

Here are a range of prescription medications. Three of them are illegal to possess without a prescription under the Misuse of Drugs Act, because they are scheduled as "class B" and "class C", respectively carrying a 5 year prison sentence, a 2 year prison sentence and an unlimited fine.

So, 3/5ths of the medicines pictured here could see me locked up for somewhere between 2 and 5 years, if I didn't have a prescription.

The medication at the top of the picture is lamotrigine, which treats bipolar depression, as well as epilepsy. It has no abuse potential, but it does carry a high risk of causing a fatal skin rash.

The medication in the middle of the picture is bupropion, which treats addiction to nicotine. It has no abuse potential, but it also carries a high risk of causing seizures, which might be fatal.

The medication in the bottom-left of the picture is pregabalin, which treats neuropathic pain. It is addictive and can be abused. Pregabalin is a "class C" controlled substance, and anybody caught in possession without a prescription, will receive 2 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

The medication in the top-right of the picture is methlyphenidate, more commonly known as Ritalin®, which treats Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD). It is addictive and can be abused. Methlyphenidate is a "class B" controlled substance, and anybody caught in possession without a prescription will be imprisoned for 5 years and receive an unlimited fine.

The medication in the bottom-right of the picture is zopiclone, which treats insomnia and other sleep disorders. It is addictive and can be abused. Zopiclone is a "class C" controlled substance, and anybody caught in possession without a prescription, will receive 2 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

So, if I didn't have a prescription for all the medications on this table, I could be facing 9 years in prison and an unlimited fine, should the judge decide that my sentences should run consecutively, not concurrently, due to the gravity of my crime.

Yet, millions of UK citizens receive the medicinal benefits of pregabalin, methylphenidate and zopiclone, and the quality of their lives is greatly improved. These tablets were developed as medicines by pharmaceutical companies, to treat medical problems. Substantial empirical evidence was gathered in many controlled trials, to prove that these medicines were safe and effective at treating the medical problems they have been licensed for.

Indeed, these medicines have unexpected benefits beyond the purpose they were licensed for. Lamotrigine improves sleep quality. Bupropion is a fast-acting non-drowsy antidepressant, which also increase libido and enjoyment of sex. Pregabalin reduces anxiety and aids sleep. Methylphenidate improves concentration, allowing students to study harder and for longer periods. Zopiclone can prophylactically prevent psychosis and mania, by preventing sleep deprivation.

It is very hard to argue that the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Psychoactive Substances Act are successful laws, because the evidence shows that the use of mind-altering substances remains entirely unaltered by legislation which seeks to discourage that behaviour, and harshly penalises those who break the law.

If I approached my GP and asked for zopiclone to help me sleep, methylphenidate to help me concentrate at work, pregabalin (or any benzodiazepine) to treat my anxiety and zopiclone to treat my depression, they would flatly refuse all my requests.

My GP would tell me that zopiclone is too addictive, despite my insomnia ruining my life. My GP would tell me that methyphenidate is too addictive, despite my inability to concentrate impairing my ability to be productive at work. My GP would tell me that pregabalin is not licensed to treat anxiety, and it's too addictive, despite my poor quality of life due to anxiety. My GP would tell me that benzodiazepines are too addictive, despite my life-ruining anxiety. My GP would tell me that zopiclone is not licensed to treat depression.

Instead, I would be offered sertraline, which would allegedly treat my depression and reduce my anxiety. Sertraline is very slow to take effect and it has an emotionally-blunting effect, as well as affecting sex drive and ability to orgasm. Sertraline is not an effective treatment for anxiety. Sertraline is not an effective sleep aid. Anybody who has ever tried to quit sertraline will tell you that it is very addictive and the withdrawal side effects are intolerable.

In short, doctors would offer me nothing.

In short, doctors would tell me to go away, even though their medicine cabinets are stuffed full of medicines which have been extensively proven to treat the ailments which ruin my quality of life. The medications exist, but I would be denied a prescription to access those medications.

This much like a man who is dying from a bacterial infection being told that he's not allowed any penicillin, because a small number of people have a penicillin allergy.

Then, there are medications such as diacetylmorphine and ketamine, which are considered essential medicines. Diacetylmorphine, more commonly known as heroin, is scheduled as "class A" which carries a 7 year prison term and an unlimited fine, if possessed without a prescription.

How can we have a Misuse of Drugs Act which puts diacetylmorphine - a medicine routinely prescribed - into the same category as crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is fiendishly addictive and has zero medicinal use. Crack cocaine is so addictive, that it might even be considered to be "instantly addictive" and the vast majority of its users commit acquisitive crimes - muggings, thefts, burglaries - to raise money to pay for their drug addiction. Addiction is a medical condition, not a crime.

How can we have a Misuse of Drugs Act which puts mushrooms into the same category as crack cocaine? In fact the law states that it's magic mushrooms which are a "class A" controlled substance, which implies that the government believes in magic. Is that not utterly terrifying? Is it not utterly terrifying that our lawmakers are so mentally impaired that they would make specific reference in law to a certain type of mushroom which is "magic". Like, are you for real? We actually have laws criminalising magic, in the 21st century.

What would be a fitting punishment for anybody possessing a "magic" mushroom? Perhaps they should be made to climb a beanstalk grown from "magic" beans. Perhaps they should be lashed to a dunking seat and immersed underwater until they drown. Perhaps they should be burnt at the stake. These are the punishments that are most ususal for involvement in "magic".

We also know that behaviours such as sex and gambling can be addictive, but nobody imagines that gambling addicts inject decks of playing cards into their veins. In fact, gambling is widely permitted, advertised and promoted throughout society, despite its addiction potential. We are allowed to have sex, even though there is a risk of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases, and there is addiction potential.

Terrifyingly, the government has now passed an Act of Parliament which criminalises:

Things that cause hallucinations, drowsiness or changes in alertness, perception of time and space, mood or empathy with others

Obviously, eating a big meal might cause you to feel drowsy. Being tired will make you drowsy and less alert. Being tired will affect your mood and make you more 'snappy' with others. It seems pretty obvious that children are a thing that causes drowsiness, changes in alertness, mood and empathy with others. Many mothers get post-natal depression (mood change) and many parents feel a great deal of empathy towards their children. Is the production of children going to carry the 7 year prison sentence, as the law states?

The law helpfully tells us that:

Food [doesn't] count as psychoactive substances.

But, hang on a second... aren't mushrooms food? If I'm a mushroom producer or supplier, am I exempt from the 7 year jail sentence?

Let us imagine that I cross-breed a "magic" mushroom with a regular mushroom, not thought of as "magic" by government lawmakers, I must surely be able to produce a non-magic mushroom, which I can supply as food, even though it might cause hallucinations, changes in perception of time and space and mood. Clearly if I used gene editing, I could produce a mushroom that was not "magic" at all - no witchcraft or wizardry necessary - and this could be bought and sold in the supermarkets as food.

Fundamentally, the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Psychoactive Substances Act are flawed pieces of legislation, which are not protecting citizens of the United Kingdom, reducing crime, reducing antisocial behaviour, saving lives or reducing the burden on public services. In fact, it is categorically clear that the UK's approach to mind-altering substances is a gigantic waste of money, which is also ruining countless lives, by criminalising people with medical conditions.

The fact that we have the word "magic" in our statute books, criminalising mushrooms that are alleged to have "magical" properties, in the 21st century, is quite absurdly ridiculous. The fact that we have put "magic" mushrooms, diacetylmorpine and crack cocaine into the same "class A" schedule, carrying the harshest punishments. Diacetylmorhine is an essential medicine, administed every day by up to 130,000 doctors and countless nurses. Picking "magic" mushrooms to share with my friends is punishable by life imprisonment.

I can understand that crack cocaine is an instantly addictive drug that drives most of its users to commit a very great deal of crime, because they are suffering from an illness. Therefore those who supply crack cocaine are committing a terrible crime, because crack cocaine exists for no other purpose than its abuse, and it's abuse is so devastating that it ruins the life of the sick person and creates very many victims of crime. I can understand why supply of crack cocaine is punishable by life imprisonment.

I cannot understand that "magic" mushrooms, which are not addictive, and its users commit no antisocial nuisance nor cause any burden on the state, and are an incredibly safe thing to eat with no fatalities attributed to their consumption, are seen as the same as crack cocaine in the eyes of the law. Those who supply magic mushrooms are no more guilty than a person who obtains a crate of beer, with which to share with their friends. 

The antisocial behaviour of people intoxicated by alcohol, the addictiveness of alcohol and its adverse health effects, makes suppliers and producers of alcohol culpable for a very serious crime, which deserves harsh punishment, if we follow the logic applied to other mind-altering substances.

To sell packs of cigarettes is possession with intent to supply an addictive harmful substance. The health damage caused by cigarette smoking and the antisocial nature of it, because of the harm caused to passive smokers by second-hand smoke, as well as the unpleasant smell of cigarette smoke, which also harms items of clothing and other property. Cigarette smoking places considerable burden on the state, who must invest significant sums of money into smoking cessation treatments, smoking prevention programs and treat the many smoking-related diseases. Smoking-related diseases shorten lives, cause early death and reduce the productive capacity of those who suffer from cigarette addiction. Cigarettes have a high economic cost to society. Suppliers and producers of cigarettes, cigars and loose tobacco are culpable for a very serious crime, which deserves harsh punishment.

When the esteemed neuropsychopharmacologist Professor David Nutt was adviser to the government on its drug policy, he suggested - based on overwhelming empirical evidence - reclassifying all drugs based upon the health risks they posed, the harms they cause to society, and the economic cost of their use and abuse. He was forced to resign. Drugs are a politcal pawn and the government has no interest in the wellbeing of its citizens, with respect to drug use.

We only need to look at Portugal, which took a scientific data-driven approach to its drug policy and has achieved:

  • 60% increase in uptake of addiction treatment programs
  • 90% drop in the rate of drug-injection related HIV infection
  • 45% decrease in the murder rate
  • Drug-related deaths dropped to 3 per million (in comparison to the EU average of 17.3 per million)

The most [un]surprising thing of all is that drug use remained the same. People like to take drugs. LOTS of people like to take drugs. Alterations to the law do not affect people's desire to take drugs. Drug laws are not a disincentive to drug taking, because drug taking has been a feature of human life since pre-historic times. People want to take drugs, hence why alcohol, cigarette and coffee consumption is ubiquitous and legal.

2.5 million Xanax tablets were purchased on the black market in the UK. At least half a million people in the UK are using MDMA (ecstasy) on regularly, and on a single weekend, a million tablets could be consumed. Almost one million UK citizens are using powder cocaine, and most of them are affluent professionals.

What we can learn from Portugal is that punitive drug laws have no affect on citizen's behaviour. The criminalisation and harsh punishments are not a disincentive to illicit drug purchase and consumption.

Legislation to criminalise the sale of alcohol - prohibition - was tried in the USA from 1920 to 1933, and it was an abysmal failure. Industrial alcohol was deliberately made extremely poisonous in 1927, causing innumerable deaths and making people blind. But people drank it anyway, getting literally "blind drunk". Moonshine was responsible for vast numbers of speakeasy customers being poisoned: 33 people in Manhattan, NY died in just three days, for example.

We can see from all historical evidence, worldwide, that every culture has used mind-altering substances extensively. Coca leaf chewing is common in South America. Tobacco smoking and chewing originated in North America. Betel nuts and areca leaves are chewed all over Asia. Khat leaves are chewed in Africa. Tea leaves a brewed in hot water in China and India. Coffee beans are roasted, ground and brewed in South America. Cannabis has been drunk as Bhang in India for more than 3,000 years, and the Egyptians were smoking cannabis 3,600 years ago. Opium was being consumed 5,400 years ago, by the Mesopotamians. Alcohol wins the top prize though, because it's been brewed for at least 13,000 years - since the goddam stone age.

The invention of distillation apparatus is a relatively recent phenomenon, but we should accept that human desire for intoxicating alcoholic beverages has been unwavering since the discovery of the fermentation process, and the invention of brewing methods. The body of archeological evidence overwhelmingly proves that beer and wine were present in human lives, continuously. Mass production of cheap distilled spirits pose new challenges, but we must remember that society does not adapt to scientific and technological advances with sufficient speed to avoid difficult periods of re-adjustment.

The isolation of psychoactive molecules responsible for psychoactive effects, and the laboratory synthesis of those naturally occurring compounds, has resulted in highly refined and pure chemicals. The investment in high-volume chemical production for industrial and agricultural uses, makes the precursor ingredients for synthesised compounds extremely cheap, and therefore, drug supply can inexpensively meet drug demand, through mass-production. The very poorest people in the world are often able to afford to buy very potent and pure drugs.

In 1804 Friedrich Sertürner isolated the morphine molecule from opium. In 1804 the world's population was 1 billion and the average global income was $3 a day (adjusted for inflation). Today, 3.4 billion people live on approximately $3 a day, which means that there are 340% more people living in poverty on an increasingly overcrowded planet.

We know from animal studies that stress and overcrowding affects behaviour adversely - "the behavioural sink" - and experiments have produced compelling evidence. Animals whose living conditions are intolerable, will prefer water laced with alcohol, cocaine, heroin and other addictive drugs. When the experiment is repeated with better living conditions, such as having other animals to socialise and have sex with, more comfortable bedding, exercise wheels and toys to interact with, then the rats prefer to drink the water without any mind-altering substances.

Findings from experiments with overcrowding in rat colonies found the following disturbing results:

Many female rats were unable to carry pregnancy to full term or to survive delivery of their litters if they did. An even greater number, after successfully giving birth, fell short in their maternal functions. Among the males the behavior disturbances ranged from sexual deviation to cannibalism and from frenetic overactivity to a pathological withdrawal from which individuals would emerge to eat, drink and move about only when other members of the community were asleep.

The animals would crowd together in greatest number in one of the four interconnecting pens in which the colony was maintained. As many as 60 of the 80 rats in each experimental population would assemble in one pen during periods of feeding. Individual rats would rarely eat except in the company of other rats. As a result extreme population densities developed in the pen adopted for eating, leaving the others with sparse populations.

Infant mortality ran as high as 96 percent among the most disoriented groups in the population.

Translated into human terms, we see that the majority of the world's population live in overcrowded cities. We see neglected and abused children taken into foster care. We see high infant mortality rates in the developing world. We see sexual deviancy. We see widespread manic-depressive symptoms and other psychiatric illnesses. We see men living lives of quiet, desperate isolation, withdrawn from the world and spending most of their time in their bedrooms, emerging only to grab a microwave pizza or use the toilet.

One must remember that in the rat overcrowding experiments, there were no drugs or alcohol. The behaviour of the rats was a spontaneous response to their living conditions.

Thus, we must conclude that the problems we see in society are not caused by drugs and alcohol, but the abuse of drugs and alcohol is caused by intolerable living conditions.

In the west, the social problems we have are due to industrialisation and mass-production, which required high-density housing in close proximity to the factories, mills, textile manufacturers and steel works. The social problems were compounded by the service industries building tall office blocks in the business districts of major metropolitan areas. Property developers built high-rise housing blocks in cities which were already densely populated.

Manhatten had a population of 60,000 people in 1800. Today it has a population of 1.7 million people who each earn $378,000 per annum, on average.

Hong Kong Island had a population of about 3,000 people in 1842. Today it has 1.3 million people and a 2-bedroom city centre apartment would cost about $2 million to buy.

Those are the affluent places.

In the developing world, the social problems are due to the purchasing power of "soft" currencies. Only the US dollar, Japanese yen, European euro, Swiss franc, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, New Zealand dollar and British pound, are considered to be "hard" currencies.

Developing world nations need to build factories, mills, mines, railways, ports, power stations, which can only be paid for in hard currency, along with hospital and a university, fully equipped, staffed. The university needs a library full of books. Almost everthing has to be imported, and the suppliers want to be paid in hard currency.

The developing world nations take out loans from the World Bank, issued in hard currency to buy what they need. The crop harvest, manufactured products and natural resources are exported to buyers who pay with soft currency. Labour is also sold using soft currency .

$1 can purchase 8.3 minutes of labour in the USA. $1 can purchase 36 hours of labour in Ethiopia. The poorest and hungriest Ethiopians get paid 10 Ethiopian birr for 12 hours labour. A day's wage is the same as the cost of the day's food.

$1 is exchanged for 30 Ethiopian birr. The dollar seller can pay 3 Ethiopians their daily wage, after they complete 12 hours labour. The Ethiopian birr seller can purchase $1 of specialist goods, specialist services, or hire a highly-qualified and experienced expert, from the richest nations. $1 could purchase 1 minute of time from a prospecting geologist to survey Ethiopia's stone, ores, minerals, metals and gemstones. When the data is gathered, Ethiopia can then calculate the capital expenditure to purchase land, build processing facilities, buy equipment, and build supply infrastructure. Then they consider the cost the cost of paying for supply chain services. They calculate how soon they can be ready to start exporting. They calculate a sustainable export capacity and work out the anticipated lead time from initial purchase order, legally binding supply contract, agreed.  The operating costs are deducted from the expected income from the exports. It's pretty easy maths:

(Capital expenditure + operational costs + transport costs) - (average raw material market price x quantity of raw material available)

This equation gives three numbers,

1. How much money do we need spend before we see a single dollar

2. How much money will be earned until all the natural resource is gone

3. Proft (if any)

Wheat to make flour with is $0.46 in the US commodities exchange. Coffee beans are $0.94/kg. Orange juice is $1.17/litre. Cotton is $0.71/kg. Raw sugar from sugar cane has by far the lowest market price, of $0.13/kg.

Processing makes little difference: Alcohol made from cane sugar trades at $1.34/litre and refined white sugar trades at $348.

So we can forget growing crops. The US and EU subsidise their farmers by purchasing their harvest, then dumping it in huge silos, or otherwise paying farmers a subsidy for not growing their crop, which is greater than the amount the farmer could expect to earn by selling the harvest. That's economic warfare by the wealthy west on the impoverished developing world nations. The game is rigged.

Then stone, ores, metal, precious metal and gemstones are worth considering.

Iron ore trades at $89/kg. If you invested in heavy machinery and a processing plant: Copper trades at £3/lb, Aluminium at $1/lb. Nickel at $6/lb and Zinc is at $1/kg.

This is because $1 can purchase at least 1kg of flour, which will feed a mother and child for a day. The hungriest poorest people will exchange 12 hours labour . Therefore $1 buys 87 times more labour in the poorest parts of the developing world, than it does in the USA. So $1 is offered in exchange for enough local currency to buy 1kg of flour. It costs 30 Ethiopian birr to buy 1kg of flour,

The densest population on the planet is Tondo - a district in Manila - where you are never more than 2 metres away from another person. I'm 1.83 metres tall, so if I lay down to sleep, I would have 17 centimetres between me and the nearest person That's disturbing.

The developing world population has increased dramatically in the last 200 years, which is a lot of hungry mouths to feed, in countries which might not have clean drinking water, medicine, sanitation systems, and people live with a lot of hunger. See below:

World pop growth

Can you see the trend? Poor nations are getting more populated, which drives down the value of their labour drives down the value of the crops they produce, and drives down the price of the the other commodities they can produce. In a system of global free-market capitalism: A hungry person will work harder for longer, than a well-fed one. A person who lives in a country with high infant mortality rates will have more children that a person with great well-equipped hospitals and doctors, in every city.

It's ludicrous to be criminalising things which would never exist if we paid more for our edible crops. For example, 1kg of opium resin is worth $2,506 if you buy it wholesale directly from the farmers in Afghanistan. That heroin has a market value of $6,600 in the USA.

The drug problem is the inevitable conclusion of exploiting the developing world's labour, crops and raw materials.

I should really have written this as a series of blog posts, but I might is this in a non-fiction book I plan to write if I can convince somebody I like to co-author it with me. Or at least get a literary agent to find me a publisher and give me an editor.

Side note: I started writing this on Saturday and it's now Monday (well, Tuesday, technically) and I've hardly slept. I must publish this now, and proof-read and edit tomorrow.

I hope you find these 4,000 words entertaining.

 

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Brute Force

10 min read

This is a story about feeling vindictive...

Brute force

Several nights this week I've stayed up late. I am usually very strict with my bedtimes and routine, but when some major stressor triggers an episode of mania, I struggle to stop working on whatever particular thing has obsessed me, at any particular moment. I feel as though I have spare brain capacity with which to use for a whole range of projects, virtually simultaneously. I feel as though I'm close to making a breakthrough, and with just a little more effort, I will have achieved something great.

There is some truth to what I am saying, but there is also the thing that I didn't mention: What goes up must come down. You have to pay to play.

My attempts to automate the harvesting and analysis of data from Twitter has been reasonably successful. I have managed to extract and store a significant amount of useful information, which could be analysed. The achievement is no small one, considering that I had zero knowledge of any of the technologies involved, nor did I have approval to use Twitter's developer API, which I'd never seen before. Since Sunday, I have written code which can rummage through Twitter's data and find what I want, in order to then gain the insights I want. Obviously, I also got my code to Tweet "hello world" as well as send some messages to a group of special people. Not bad, considering I had to learn a whole bunch of stuff before I could actually start building stuff.

My attempts to stay in touch with a number of friends, and to also start letting friends know that they can [and should] come visit me in my new house, have been time consuming, but incredibly worthwhile, because I'm now in touch with lots of friends - old and new - and that makes me feel very loved and cared for, during a week following a break-up, when I might perhaps have been at risk of feeling somewhat isolated and lonely. Not bad, considering that only two friends have ever made the trip from England to Wales to see me, during the whole 17 months that I've lived here. That's a long time, especially considering how few friends I've managed to make locally. I live a very reclusive life, but not particularly through choice.

My attempts to impress my colleagues and make myself useful at work have been hit-and-miss. A sense of humour driven by mania is not well matched with an open-plan office full of fine upstanding members of the community who are very quiet and mild-mannered. I made a dreadful misjudgement, which caused some upset to a very senior person, but then something else I did was recognised as really valuable, so perhaps the good and the bad cancelled each other out. I still have a job, for now.

My attempts to write something interesting and entertaining - with my usual unflinching honesty - turned into manic rants, some of which were approaching 2,000 word impenetrable essays about nothing in particular. My 'excess' energy was ploughed into writing, but I can't say that I achieved much except for maintaining my daily writing habit, which is an achievement in and of itself, not to be dismissed lightly.

My attempts to prepare for moving house were particularly demanding. Mail redirection, changing the address for several bank accounts and other financial services, arranging broadband internet installation, ordering furniture to be delivered, arranging a van to transport my belongings, boxing up my stuff, signing contracts, paying various huge sums of money to various people and keeping my current rented place tidy so that new prospective tenants can be shown around, has been an arduous task. However, my ducks are almost all lined up.

Then, there were the very many things which I became briefly obsessed about, but were a complete waste of time and effort. I was inventing jokes about theoretical physics. I was making a playlist of all the 80s synth-inspired music that I like. I was writing long ranting Facebook posts about the anti-Semitism accusations flying within the Labour party, and about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism.

I was chatting with some people who are massive fans of my favourite musical artist - Fear of Tigers - and there was an album that they were trying to download, but they were having problems. Me, being 'a little bit technical' decided that I would take a look, and quickly discovered that the website is simply purporting to have content to Google's crawler bots, which is actually untrue - the content does not exist. Angered by this honeypot, which is designed to get unsuspecting and non-technical internet users to give their name, date of birth, email address and home address, it then tries to trick the user into doing a number of other things, all of which would result in some remuneration for the owner and operator of the honeypot - the "ultimate beneficial owner" to use the legal term.

Angered by the injustice of would-be music pirates being misled by this honeypot, I decided that it would not be unethical to probe this fraudulent website for any vulnerabilities. I quickly found a couple, which I have set about the task of attacking by brute-force, in order to sabotage the fraudulent site and troll whoever set it up. I had the theoretical knowledge of how I might go about this, but it felt suddenly very important to me to learn the skills of a highly-experienced and sought-after internet security engineer (known as a pen-tester - i.e. penetration tester) or perhaps one might argue, the skills of a white-hat hacker.

Given my propensity for never abandoning tasks until I feel I have completed them to my satisfaction, I would not be surprised if my current attempt to use the most common 13,000 passwords found on the internet to break into the target server, would escalate to a full-on distributed attack to exhaust ALL possible passwords until finally I 'crack the safe' and I can then set about my act of supposedly ethical sabotage.

It's rare that I pause and think "should I stop" and even when it seems very obvious that to continue further would be inadvisable and entirely pointless, I continue, for unknown reasons. It must be something about my personality and upbringing. I particularly relish problems which are generally declared as "so hard" that they're equated with being impossible, which is untrue. Some of the very hard things I've achieved have had surprisingly positive unanticipated consequences, such as giving my life new meaning, purpose, and skills that have later turned out to be incredibly valuable.

If you imagine a lonely isolated child who's been given a hugely complicated task - perhaps even no task at all - but has a huge number of tools at their disposal and lots of raw materials, by trial-and-error that child might create something... perhaps because of sheer boredom. As that trial-and-error learning technique becomes more innate, those tools and those materials start to become understood to that child, in a way that no teacher could teach. If you can self-direct your own learning and you have developed the attitude required to keep trying and failing, but carrying on regardless, then eventually you can start to finish projects that you started, no matter how hard they seemed when they were first conceived of.

What I'm doing could be considered a vindictive vendetta, based on the false premise that the person who set up this devious honeypot 'deserves' to have a person like me vandalise it, because it's become an absurd crusade. Not a moral crusade, but a crusade against the technology that's been put in place to stop mindless vandals from doing what I'm attempting to do: To crack the security that's there to prevent total anarchy on the internet, where somebody with a grudge could cause damage to whatever they wanted, very easily.

What I'm doing is not easy. It's hard. That's more the reason why I'm doing it than any other reason, even though that reason doesn't make sense.

It was hard to get where I am, so it makes no sense to stop doing hard things. In fact, when I'm stressed I actively seek hard problems, which is why I'm always drawn back to things like theoretical physics when I'm suffering from stress-induced mania.

It seems unlikely that my knowledge of theoretical physics will ever be of any use in my everyday life, but a lot of the side projects I've busied myself in this week have very real tangible benefits, although I suppose I could technically find myself being extradited to the United States to face charges of computer trespass or some other vague and nebulous bit of US law that I've fallen afoul of, depending on whose parade I'm pissing on and how far they're prepared to to to get me back.

One thing I would advise you though: Don't get on the wrong side of the geeks, because they're the ones who look after that folder of photos you sent to your lover, which you think is well-protected. The geeks are the ones who look after all those messages you send to the person you're having an affair with. The geeks are the ones who know the most about the dark side of human nature, because the geeks suddenly got put in charge of keeping everyone's secrets. When people think they're doing stuff in private, they act very differently. When people think they're protected they do things they'd never dream of doing without the protection they assume that they have.

I like to think I'm a good person, but I'm also an unusual person. Sometimes I do stuff just to see if I can do it. Sometimes, I take things too far, but I find it hard to stop because I'm a completer-finisher, and sometimes I have to dismantle a huge complex piece of apparatus, to satisfy a mere curiosity, when in actual fact I'm terrifying the hell out of a whole bunch of people who like to believe that their barriers are impregnable. It's disturbing for society to have its incorrect notions of concepts like privacy and secrecy, openly challenged.

We feel safe, searching for whatever we want via Google. We click "private browsing" buttons that give us an extra sense of reassurance that we are entering a "safe space" where we are completely anonymous, and our privacy and secrecy is guaranteed.

Whatever contact you and your personal data have had with digital devices, you can assume that it's as good as public knowledge, I'm afraid. If somebody is determined enough, they will walk right through every barrier that supposedly exists to protect you and your privacy. If somebody is determined enough, your secrets will be known, if you've been so foolish as to let them leave your brain.

Be warned.

 

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Adjustment Disorder

7 min read

This is a story about provocation...

Pathway

I suppose the reason why my episodes of mania synchronise perfectly with periods of high stress and exhaustion, is some kind of defence mechanism - perhaps an evolutionary adaptation; something deliberately left in my genes, because it's served a useful purpose during unsettled times throughout the history of humanity.

It's problematic for me to work in an open-plan office at the moment. It's problematic for me to be surrounded by so many mild-mannered and quiet individuals, who seem happy to spend all day looking at their email inbox, waiting for something interesting to appear.

How my colleagues manage to cope in an environment that's pretty stale and ultra-conservative, I don't know. Big personalities and loudmouths are not the kinds of people who become long-serving members of my organisation. In fact, a girl I dated from my office said she cried when she got her security pass, because its expiry date was 10 years in the future. "Nobody would choose to work here" she said.

It's not that bad.

I like it.

I'm just not so sure that everyone who's within earshot of me is my greatest fan. I have a foghorn-like voice in two situations: 1) when I'm scared and insecure, and 2) when I'm manic, like I am now.

I suppose I knew that mania was cropping up - rearing its ugly head - but it served a purpose. I needed to find a place to live and make all the necessary moving preparations. I needed to continue to work hard at my job, while also finding the extra energy and the motivation to do something I hate: Moving.

The mania has propelled me to move very fast, but it also causes my brain to speed up dangerously. A colleague told a joke about friction coefficients - a classical physics joke - and I said I could come up with a better one about quantum mechanics, in only a few seconds. According to my colleague, it took me no more than 15 seconds to invent a "XXX walks into a bar..." type joke, which was actually pretty good considering I thought of it on the spot AND it involved two really fundamental things about quantum mechanics. Nothing to do with Schrödinger and his cats, but actually to do with Planck and his constant... but I digress... both jokes have a very small audience who'd appreciate them.

I'm fizzing and crackling with so much energy at the moment that I'm physically uncomfortable to be around. I think I'm literally giving people near me headaches.

One of the first things I said this morning was "do chairs really exist?" which was supposed to be funny, but my colleagues reaction was to tell me it was too early to start talking about philosophy.

I didn't get to sleep until 3:30am or maybe even 4am.

Does the lack of sleep cause the mania, or is the insomnia a symptom of the mania? It's impossible to know.

It's not like I couldn't sleep, but I can't see how else I can fit everything into the 24 hours of the day, without some late nights. I know that I need regular bedtimes. I know I need lots of sleep. But, there's so much to do.

The busier I am, the more productive I am, strangely. Today I did all kinds of horrible jobs that I wasn't looking forward to, like buying a washing machine, booking a van to move my stuff, arranging to have broadband internet installed, arranging to have my post redirected and a zillion other admin jobs, but I also managed to do a piece of work that I'd been putting off for days and days.

Where I'm finding the energy from to maintain my daily writing, as well as the development of NickBot™ and the migration of my website from one hosting provider to another, I have no idea, considering that I also have a demanding full-time job and I waste at least 50% of my time saying stupid things out loud and distracting people.

I guess I was wasting a lot of time and energy on a bad relationship, so escaping that has released me from a lot of pointlessly exhausting nonsense. I was very trapped. I was very miserable.

I'm very stressed now and I felt momentarily like I was very alone, but perhaps that's what prompted me into a frenzy of activity, sending out lots of messages to people I care about, trying to surround myself with people who care about me. There's a horrible period of stress approaching rapidly - moving day, and subsequent days - but I'm pretty well prepared for it, which I'm surprised about, because I can often become too overwhelmed by anxiety to even leave my bed. I'm surprised that depression hasn't laid me low.

All of my psychiatric problems can be considered acute: i.e. they have been spontaneously provoked into existence by the extreme set of life circumstances that I'm simultaneously dealing with. This is adjustment disorder which is just another way of saying "your life is hell right now" and that quite rightly, my brain and body are compensating for the extreme demands placed upon me.

I'm pretty terrified right now, of screwing up the good relationship I have with my colleagues and my workplace. People have been patient with me, but that patience is wearing thin. It's unusual for a manic episode to last so long, but I've managed to keep myself sustained for periods of 6, 8 and even 13 weeks before... but it always led to a horrible crash. There have always been disastrous consequences for allowing too much of my mania to overspill into the open-plan offices which I work in.

I try to rein myself in. I try to put my headphones in and keep my head down. But, then somebody wants to ask me something. Then I overhear something and my red-hot brain which is travelling at a million miles an hour immediately sparks off and I'm talking - interjecting - with something which I think is profound, but nobody can keep up with me... I'm just acting a bit weird and annoying, from the point of view of my colleagues.

I'm working from home for a couple of days. I'm going to try to pace myself and remind myself that I've got a nice long overlap of my tenancies, so I don't have to move everything all at once. If I forget anything, I can always make more trips. There's no need for me to put so much pressure on myself.

I'm pushing hard in every area of my life, simultaneously. I want my colleagues to think I'm a brilliant genius who can do anything. I want my perfect house, fully furnished and looking beautiful. I want to feel instantly at home in a city which I've barely visited. I want my side project - this website - to make a giant leap forward, in terms of technology.

It's too much, and there will be a price to be paid.

I need to be super careful.

I can't afford to lose my job, for example.

I can't afford to lose anything, in fact.

Everything teeters dangerously on a cliff edge.

But, I've kind of gotten used to living on the edge.

If nothing else, at least this period is quite life-affirming and I'm coping remarkably well. Even when I got in trouble with the big boss the other day, I managed to rescue things very rapidly and get back on good terms. Even when I wasted days and days procrastinating, I caught up very rapidly. Even when I felt that there was too much to do in too little time, to move house without dying of stress and anxiety, everything seems to be falling into place.

I've written twice as much as I meant to, of course, because I can't quite rein myself in; I can't quite pump the brakes and slow myself down.

So long as I keep doing what my colleagues are doing, which is mostly killing time looking busy, then I'll probably get through this difficult period without doing too much damage. Less is more.

 

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I'm Going On A Date

12 min read

This is a story about rushing things...

Packed boxes

I never really fully recovered after getting sick, following my close friend's funeral, which required a huge round-trip across the country. That was a really terrible week, which started with me having to break up with my girlfriend, because she wasn't being very pleasant or supportive at a time when I needed to get me, my suit, my black tie and other funeral-suitable attire to a crematorium hundreds of miles away.

I had to break up with that girlfriend, because my attendance of my close friend's funeral was being jeopardised.

That was a few weeks ago.

I have something else that was being jeopardised: My shelter; my housing security.

I suppose I could have extended my rental contract, but the place was nowhere near my workplace and therefore completely impractical. I'm struggling to cope, even though I've made smart choices to ease the burden on myself, such as staying in a hotel close to my office. If I was to commute from the current home I'm renting, it would add a 3 hours of travelling onto my day, every single day weekday. That's exhausting and pointless.

So, I guess I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to move. The clock was ticking.

It made me very anxious, knowing that there was a day when my contract would simply expire and I would no longer have any legal right to continue to occupy the place I'd called home for a year. Squatters have lost most of their legal rights over the years, and I need to be a squeaky-clean citizen anyway, because of the nature of my work: I'm expected to comply with a much more stringent code of conduct and set of behavioural guidelines, than the vast majority of people - with great power comes great responsibility.

I had back-slid into that toxic relationship after I got sick. Once my friend's funeral was out of the way, I was back home, but I was vulnerable. She cyber-stalked me and found my address. She turned up and I let her in, because I was sick in so many ways. I was physically sick with diarrhoea and vomiting, and I was emotionally sick from the recent funeral of a close friend. I was weak, she turned up and I let her in.

Fast forward to Valentine's day and I had viewed a beautiful house that I wanted to rent and the landlord had agreed to accept my tenancy. I had a house to move to. I had housing security. I had some guarantee of shelter.

She wasn't very happy for me.

In fact, she told me to get out at 11pm, when I was trying to get enough sleep to go to work in the morning. I said it was unreasonable, and that I would leave in the morning. She escalated things. It was unpleasant and unnecessary, but I was not surprised: The relationship was toxic and I had resolved to try to make my escape as soon as I could. I spent the night in a hotel.

I boxed up my belongings and made my current place more presentable, so that it could be more easily rented out. I was getting my ducks in a row, so to speak, in order to keep working my full-time job AND move house. If I don't work I don't get paid, and moving house is expensive.

I thought I wasn't going be able to move for weeks and weeks.

I hate waiting.

Now, I have a date.

I will be leaving on specific date, to start my new life in a new city - a city where I've never lived before.

I bought some furniture today and arranged for it to be delivered soon after I get the keys to my new house. I still need to buy a washer/dryer and have my broadband moved, as well as renting a van or organising a removals firm to help me shift all my stuff from one city to another: Probably the best part of 2 hours drive away, in a fully-loaded truck.

I'm going on a date. That is to say, I'm going to start my new life on a specific date. I can start to look forward to that date. I can start to dream about what it's going to be like living in the beautiful house I've rented.

I've swept problems out of the way. I've refused to allow anyone or anything sabotage my plans to maintain a secure roof over my head. It was the right thing to do: To leave the girlfriend who was jeopardising the holiday I needed, jeopardising my attendance of my close friend's funeral, jeopardising my chances of finding a beautiful new home, jeopardising the stability I need - to keep working my job - while going through an incredibly tough stressful time.

Moving house is hell. Moving to an unfamiliar city is double hell. Moving with the clock ticking down, and nobody supporting me practically - actually packing, moving boxes and assembling flat-pack furniture - is triple hell.

I expect I'll probably start dating again once I'm settled in my new house, but it's low down on my list of priorities right now. Going on a date is the last thing I want to do, when all I can think about is the date when I'm going to get the keys to my new house.

I've brought the move date much sooner, because there's no point in me living in an expensive hotel when I'll soon have a whole massive house to live in. I'm so happy. It's such a relief to have secured a roof over my head. It gives me such an important sense of security, to know that I'm going to have a house that actually suits my needs, and I've managed to extricate myself from a toxic relationship that so often jeopardised the things that I need and I've worked so hard to get.

Already, friends have been getting in contact to arrange to come and visit me. I was overjoyed when a beloved Twitter follower - who I've never met in person - mentioned they might drop in on me for a cup of tea if they're in the area. I've got the opportunity to accomodate my friends and their children as my guests, because I've been lucky enough to rent a huge house.

I adore company and I love to entertain guests, but the place where I was living was a little too far away from London, where most of my friends are, and it was also even too far from places like Bristol, Somerset and Dorset, where I still have a lot of long-neglected friends.

Most of my friends now seem to have children, and I do think that little people are wonderful, even though I've been careful not to spawn any of my own with the wrong person... so I find myself in the enviable position of having the best of all worlds: I will have a large house, which will comfortably hold me and my guests, without it being any trouble at all... in fact, it'll be a joyful thing to have my house filled with life and the noises of habitation. I live a bit like a monastic monk and I wouldn't have any face-to-face interactions or 'normal' human experiences, if it wasn't for things like my day job. Nobody at work really knows the extent of my isolation; my vulnerability.

I moved to Manchester, and that was disastrous and very nearly killed me, quite literally. When my kidneys failed in 2017 and I was on a high-dependency ward, my wonderful then-girlfriend (the one who got away) arranged for me to have lots of visitors, and she was incredibly attentive and supportive. She was my rock. When my heart was broken and I was virtually bankrupt, in central Manchester, where I had no friends or family anywhere within a hundred miles, at least, it was an easy decision to kill myself. I very nearly succeeded, but for the incredible work of the resus and intensive care medical teams at Manchester Royal Infirmary, and the emergency services who got me to hospital so quickly, thanks to strangers on the internet raising the alarm.

I'm moving to Cardiff, which I shouldn't really mention because I risk being positively identified by my colleagues and people whose job it is to vet and monitor employees who have access to highly sensitive information, who might not think it's a wise idea to expose myself so publicly.

However, I'm rushing and I'm stressed and I'm tired and I'm sick and I'm terribly alone, except for the huge group of friends I have across the globe. My work colleagues are lovely, but for the sake of my career, I try to hide my mental illness and personal life struggles. I have a very serious psychiatric mood disorder, which has caused dreadful destruction to my life in the past, so I work very hard to protect my hard-won stability. Anybody who jeopardises my future happiness and security is given short shrift, hence my toxic ex got the boot on Valentine's day, which was only a day earlier than planned anyway... it just seemed heartless to break up with her on a day that has heaps of societal expectation pressure placed upon it.

So, I move to Cardiff on my own - single - which is sort of overwhelming, but at the same time it's such an unbelievably good opportunity to get all the things I need in my life, such as a secure home in a city where I can easily commute to a job which is going well, and maintain as much stability as I can.

As you can tell by the volume of text which I'm writing, and my flurry of social media activity, I've been triggered into a state of mania by the combined recent events and cluster-fuck of stresses placed upon me.

I'll be OK.

I'll just be nimble and quick.

I'll dodge my way around the people who would otherwise sabotage me and the things I work hard to make happen.

I'll cut toxic people out of my life without a second thought. I've fought too hard to get what I've got, so I'm not going to allow myself to be coerced, controlled or forced to live with oppressive insecurity and unnecessary aggravation, when I work so damn hard to ensure that stressful and difficult things happen, with smooth sailing.

I'm single, but no dates for me. I'd be rushing things too much.

Of course, I'm about to get the keys to a gorgeous huge house that I can fill with beautiful things that I hand-picked. Of course, it'd be wonderful to have the comfort and security of a partner to share that with, but if I have to do it on my own, I choose that every time even though it's difficult, because being a good partner means being supportive and making a better life together. If you threaten to sabotage the important things in my life, you'll be shown the door... sorry.

Perhaps I'm just a washed-up middle-aged nobody, with nothing to offer. Perhaps I should be feeling insecure, but I don't. I'm filled up with excitement about all the future possibilities, even though I'm a bit sick, very manic and I've got some awfully exhausting and stressful stuff to get through, which will be incredibly destabilising.

I'm planning on basing my stability on a few simple things: my daily routine, my job (which I'm really good at) and my excellent relationship with my colleagues, and a secure financial and housing situation. The safety net that allows me to do my high-wire act alone is my vast number of friends who I'm in contact with all over the world, who have my back, although I can reassure them that this move is not one of heartbreak and shameful defeat, like the time I had to leave my beloved London home, to take a shitty job in Manchester, and live in a shitty apartment.

I'm going on a date. I'm going from Swansea to Cardiff on a specific date. I know the exact date when I get my keys and I become a resident of a city that I chose to live in... this move is not driven by desperation, this time, and I get good vibes about the place. I still can't quite believe that I can afford to rent such a massive house in an amazing location... but that's Wales, it seems. Wales is my birthplace and the country seems pleased to have me back. Things have gone my way since I came back. Things have gone well, mostly.

Anyway, sorry for the manic rant, but that's what's happening in my world. I expect I'll be blathering on about it for a while, because it's part of the foundation of the stable happy new life I'm building for myself. It's incredibly satisfying to see real tangible progress towards the life I want, when I was so close to death so many times, and I was in every kind of trouble you can imagine: Debts, drugs and abandonment. For a while, my life revolved around hospitals, police stations, psych wards, hostels and sleeping rough.

If I pull this off and manage to get myself stable again, I really feel like I can hang onto things this time. Dating can wait. I feel like I've got so much to offer, so there's no rush.

 

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Bipolar Medications

8 min read

This is a story about tailored medicine...

Different tablets

It's a subject I've written about at length before, but I was writing about my experiences with different mood stabilisers earlier today and I thought I would re-purpose that content for my blog, because I'm tired and I'm stressed, and it seems like a logical thing to do: To take something I wrote earlier and re-use it.

What I've written is in the style of advice given to somebody who's perhaps newly diagnosed as bipolar, or perhaps suspects that they have bipolar disorder. What I've written is from my own personal experiences. What I've written is not meant to be completely authoritative and factually correct, but I'm aware that it's my general writing style to present my opinions in a persuasive manner.

So, without further ado, let's get onto the list of bipolar mood stabilising medications I have known and loved (or hated, more like).

Quetiapine (Seroquel)

Horrible side effects, including weight gain, daytime sleepiness, dry mouth and constipation. When it takes effect, it's so strong that it's very hard to get to bed, or use the toilet in the middle of the night. Cannot be mixed with alcohol - the alcohol makes you feel very unwell.

Overall, this medication feels like being "heavily sedated" and it would be very difficult to carry on a normal life at dosages above 200mg. At dosages of 300mg or more, you'll be sleepy and dopey all the time. At dosages over 400mg, you'll be a shuffling zombie, good for nothing except dribbling in front of daytime TV.

Not compatible with having a job.

Aripiprazole (Abilify)

This medication had a strange side effect, where I lost fine motor control of my lips and seemed to produce excessive amounts of saliva. It was impossible to have a conversation with somebody without spraying them with spit, which was a horribly degrading experience for me.

Aripiprazole is very long-lived in the body, so it can take a week or more to wear off and get back to normal, even after taking this medication for only a couple of days (i.e. if you try it and you get bad side effects immediately, you'll have those side effects for a whole week at least).

Because of its very long half-life, I would have serious reservations about trying this one, except as a last resort.

Lamotrigine (Lamactil)

No side effects at first, but the dosage has to be increased very slowly with this one. Migrane headaches are a very common side effect, which I got, so I decided to stop taking it. The headaches are tolerable, I guess, because this is the medication with the fewest side effects.

Some psychiatrists might not consider lamotrigine to be a mood stabiliser, but in fact more of an antidepressant which is safe for bipolar people to take. It improves sleep quality so I think it's a good choice from amongst the fairly bleak options.

Also a good choice if you plan on attempting to have a normal job and work.

Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

Side effects include weight gain, daytime sleepiness and a general feeling of being drugged, but nowhere near as bad as quetiapine.

Very good at quickly stopping a manic episode, so it could arguably be used only when entering a manic phase, and then stopped a short while later, but this would require discipline.

Not recommended to take on a long-term basis.

Not compatible with having a normal job.

Sodium valproate (Depakote)

Dreadful side effects. Will turn you into a total shuffling, dribbling zombie and eventually you will get an irreversible kind of brain damage, which will cause you to make involuntary facial movements (a bit like a tic).

This is an awful drug, given to paranoid schizophrenics who are very severely sick (paranoia, hearing voices, hallucinations etc).

If you're on this, it's probably forcibly injected into you in a psychiatric institution. The injections last for 3 months. Don't ever let yourself get so unwell that this becomes necessary. Exhaust all the other options first.

Lithium

Very hard to get the dose right, and requires regular blood testing, which is annoying and inconvenient. Very effective and side effects are tolerable if you can get the dose perfect but it might take many years to find exactly the right dose, and it will be very destabilising if you start going too low with your dose - i.e. you might end up triggering manic episodes when you're simply trying to avoid side effects.

Lithium causes irreversible health damage when used long term, and is therefore "life limiting" in a way - it might reduce your lifespan by 5 years or more, which is obviously a high price to pay.

General Comments

Psychiatrists will tell you that you need to commit to a medication for at least 3 months, in order to feel the therapeutic effects and for the side effects to wear off. I have tried all the medications listed above for 3 months or more, and the side effects never wore off. The side effects were intolerable for all the medications, except lamotrigine.

If you take these medications for longer than a few weeks (with the exception of lamotrigine) then you cannot stop taking them abruptly. If you suddenly stop taking these medications, you will have horrible rebound mania and possibly psychosis too (hearing voices etc). However, I have successfully 'weaned' (i.e. tapered) myself off all these medications, without too many problems.

The worst manic episodes I've had have been when stopping quetiapine and olanzapine abruptly. When I've tapered off the medications slowly, my mood has been fine and I've not had any problems. In fact, every time I've stopped taking a medication, I've felt much better, because the side effects are so awful.

I would advise you to consider olanzapine as a treatment for acute episodes of mania... i.e. you should have some ready to take, and when you start to go manic then start taking it to make sure your mania doesn't spiral out of control.

I would also advise you to consider lamotrigine as first or second choice. I believe many busy working professionals with bipolar disorder find lamotrigine to be a good medication, because it has few side effects.

Psychiatrists will probably pressure you to be on a stronger medication, which is likely to be an atypical antipsychotic (quetiapine, aripiprazole, olanzapine, sodium valproate, risperidone, clozapine) but all of these will have very profound side effects, most notably making you feel tired and sleepy, lethargic, foggy-headed, confused, increasing your appetite and reducing your sex drive. It's personal choice, but I find those side effects unacceptable.

Alternatives to Medication

Alternatively, you can use good lifestyle choices to manage bipolar: no alcohol, no caffeine, strict bedtimes, strict work:life balance, exercise, good diet. You will probably need some trusted people around you who can let you know when your speech is becoming more pressured, you're getting irritable, perhaps you're getting a little obsessive about projects, becoming more impulsive and taking more risks... essentially, when you're heading into a manic episode, which could escalate. I find that getting 8 to 10 hours sleep each night, no more and no less, helps me to keep my mood stable. I also find that my manic episodes are much less of a problem since I quit caffeine. Recreational drugs are a terrible terrible idea, and completely incompatible with bipolar, unfortunately, especially the stimulants: legal high powders, speed, coke, crystal meth, meow meow, M-CAT, mephedrone, monkey dust etc. etc.

Stressful life events can be very triggering for mania, as well as the temptation to work hard because of a job change, promotion or exciting project. It takes a lot of careful planning to ensure that stress is kept to a minimum and work:life balance is preserved. If you want to get obsessed with anything, make it exercise and the great outdoors.

In Conclusion

I'm living a functional and complete life, with a full-time job, managing to have good relationships, managing my money, not engaging in risky behaviours or otherwise suffering many problems with my bipolar disorder. I have depressions, which are sometimes bad enough to cause me to take some time off work, but only a few days here and there. I have hypomanic episodes, where I can spend a lot of money and make impulsive decisions. However, considering that I don't take any mood stabilising medications for my bipolar disorder, my mood is remarkably stable and almost everybody would consider me to be successfully managing my condition, without having any particularly adverse effects on my quality of life.

I can highly recommend trying to go medication free, or spending a lot of time trying different medications and tweaking the dosage, because life is so much better when you're not drugged up to the eyeballs with powerful psychiatric chemicals, which radically alter you and your personality, with horrible side effects.

I'm not antipsychiatry per se, but I would advise people to make very well informed decisions and remind your clinicians that it's your body, so it's your rules, and like with every profession, there are people who are brilliant at their jobs and there are people who are not so great. You need to educate yourself so that you know whether you're getting good advice or not. You can't just trust everybody who calls themselves a doctor.

Mental health is complex. Bipolar disorder is complex. People are complex. We are all individuals and we have individual needs and individual unique circumstances. Tailor your solution to meet your needs.

 

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No News is Bad News - Part Two

6 min read

This is a story about radio silence...

Hotel room

On June 20 of this year I attempted to write my life story from 2011 onwards, covering the happiest, most successful period of my life and the pinnacle of my career - doing a tech startup accelerator program in Cambridge with a cohort of incredible people - and the subsequent reasons why I stepped down as CEO, separated from my wife, sold my house and settled my acrimonious divorce.

I wrote 10,000 words in a non-stop brain dump. Once I started I couldn't hold back - the words flooded out onto the page.

It was supposed to be succinct. It was supposed to be a simple set of bullet points.

It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, to write down even the first part.

Part two has a lot to cover:

  • Homelessness
  • Hospitals
  • Police
  • Drug addiction
  • Psych wards
  • Suicide attempts
  • More banking jobs
  • More IT projects
  • Moving to Manchester
  • Moving to Wales
  • Several relationships and breakups; love and loss
  • Psychosis
  • Self medication
  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Financial problems
  • Near-bankruptcy
  • Salvation

I'm not going to write part two in the same way that I wrote part one.

That was 6 months ago. This is now.

A lot can happen in 6 months.

As a quick recap, here are the problems I've been trying to tackle this year:

  • £54,000 of debt
  • Homeless
  • No job
  • No car
  • Single
  • Addicted to prescription drugs: sleeping pills, tranquillisers and painkillers
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder

As if those problems weren't enough, in June I had relapsed onto supercrack. I'd been working but I'd lost my job - through no fault of my own - and I was in no hurry to get another one, because my addiction had returned with a vengeance. I was in a place with no family and only a handful of friends, none of whom were equipped to deal with my clusterfuck of issues. I was more-or-less alone, except for the people who I try to connect with on a daily basis through my blog, Twitter, Facebook and other digital means.

I came up with the title "No News is Bad News" because it's usually true. I came up with that title, because a period of silence on my blog is usually cause for concern. It's usually time to start phoning round the hospitals to see if I've been admitted. It's usually time to start worrying if I'm dead or dying.

Back in June - 6 months ago - the title was very apt, because I hadn't been online for a while. Losing my job had completely destroyed my hopes of dealing with the mountain of issues I was facing. Losing my job had wrecked my plans for recovery.

Today, my world looks very different.

I can't tell you too much - because it's private - but I'm writing from the comfort of my girlfriend's bed. Her bedroom is very pink and girly. She just brought me a plate with a generously buttered thick slice of toast and a glass of orange juice, which I am eating in bed. I'm getting crumbs in the bed and greasy finger-marks on my laptop.

I'm no longer living out of a suitcase in a hotel and eating in the same gastropub every night, sat at a table for one. I'm unofficially co-habiting. We only met a few weeks ago. The relationship is going fast. Too fast some might say.

I kiss my sweetheart good morning and wish her a good day as I depart for work. My journey takes no more than 15 minutes when the traffic is kind to me. I'm finding it easy to get up in the morning. I don't dread lonely evenings in a bland hotel room. I don't dread the unsustainable interminable monotony of miserable days in the office, and miserable evenings spent alone.

I'm going too fast though.

I'm working too hard.

It takes vast quantities of alcohol, sleeping pills and tranquillisers to prevent me from working 12 to 14 hour days. It requires a huge amount of effort to stop myself from working at the weekend. I'm desperate to achieve results as quickly as possible, because the finishing line is within sight.

It could be months before I'm well-and-truly out of the danger zone and enjoying some long-overdue financial security. It's definitely going to be a long time before I get truly settled at home and at work. I need to decide where I'm going to live and what I'm going to do for a job, on a more long-term basis. At some point, my good luck is going to run out and I'll be forced back into living out of a suitcase, maintaining a long-distance relationship, and having to face the anxiety and stress of proving myself in a new organisation, with a new set of work colleagues.

Mania has arrived. There's no doubt about that.

My manic energy has been ploughed into my day job, instead of my new novel. I worry that my work colleagues have noticed that I've completely obsessed by my project. I worry that the undesirable accompanying behaviours - irritability, rapid and pressured speech, arrogance and delusions of grandeur - will become so hard to hide in the office that I might be forced to disclose my bipolar disorder to my colleagues, in the hope that they'll be sympathetic.

My blog has been neglected, along with my friends.

I work too hard. I'm moving 'too fast' in my new relationship - the "L" word has been used and she has given me a key to her place. We're going on holiday together. All my original problems are still there, to some extent. I need to decide where to live, pay off my outstanding debts, drink less, quit the sleeping pills and tranquillisers, get my mania under control.

What else can I tell you?

I can't try to tell you too much all at once, even though I desperately want to. I want to sit down and write 10,000 words without taking a single break. I want to pour my heart out onto the page and tell you everything, but I'm trying to pump the brakes a little bit. I'm trying to be a little bit sensible, even though I'm clearly going too fast.

It feels like the week-long hiatus from blogging was not bad news. Perhaps it's good news? No. It's not good news. I'm not looking after myself. I'm not managing my bipolar very well. I'm allowing myself to become manic, for the purposes of achieving 'great' things at work. It's exciting to be manic after so many months of depression and misery.

It would be a good idea for me to resolve to resume my daily writing, but I'm wary of making unrealistic promises. Today, I'm coming to terms with the fact that my 3rd novel remains unfinished, when I had hoped to have completed it yesterday.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my present situation in a nutshell.

 

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