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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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Treatment

10 min read

This is a story about making people better...

Ward

I remember the days when I thought that there were magic buildings full of magic people with magic potions who could make magical things happen. I remember the days when I was naïvely optimistic about the abilities of people, institutions and organisations who make highly alluring claims: we can cure you!

If I had ruptured a major blood vessel, or my body was losing its battle against a bacterial infection, you can be damn sure that I'd want somebody to stop the bleeding or give me some antibiotics. If I had an operable cancer, you can be sure that I'd want somebody to cut it out of my body.

Some areas of medicine are comparatively new. Some areas of medicine don't have a great deal of success - the data doesn't show significantly better outcomes for patients who are treated, versus those who are untreated. Medicine is actively losing its battle to save lives in some areas, such as suicide and opioid addiction. Mental health problems and addiction have been declared medical emergencies; epidemics.

Sometimes I wonder if it's useful to think of myself as having a chronic illness, and to expect that problems are just around the corner. I can have a good day, a good week, a good month... maybe even a good year. However, it's probably dangerous to start thinking of myself as "cured" or "recovered" and begin to consider myself "normal". Complacency will no doubt lead to repetition of past mistakes, which can result in an incredibly fast chain of disastrous events, destroying every semblance of a normal life, which was so convincing that I and other people were completely convinced that I'm just another ordinary bloke... not some ticking time bomb.

I fought very hard to get treatment. There was a great deal of reluctance to diagnose me as bipolar, and there was further reluctance to treat me. I seemed very functional. My problems seemed acute. Everybody hoped that I'd go away and get better without intervention.

wanted treatment. I knew I was getting sicker. I knew that my situation was deteriorating. I could see the car crash that was about to happen.

I believed that treatment was effective.

I just had to find the right treatment.

I tried so many medicines. I also believed in the "magical healing powers" of hospitals and doctors. I was indoctrinated by the medical establishment's dogma: "we are the experts and we are the only ones who can cure you".

Of course, I'm not such a fool that I believe in alternative medicine. I critically examine all the claims of all charlatans, quacks, healers and others who promote themselves as miracle-workers. Desperate people are suckers. People are also lazy and gullible. Many of us will be scammed in our lifetimes, because we are so desperate to believe in the existence of things that are too good to be true.

It would have been good I could have avoided that period of my life when I was desperately searching to find the right specialist, hoping that a stay in hospital would be my salvation, or trying a heap of different medications in the hope that I would stumble upon the right one, but it was a necessary education. I needed to learn what was possible, and what was not possible. I needed to see with my own eyes and experience those things first-hand, to learn the limitations of psychiatric medicine.

Psychiatry is young. Mainstream psychiatry - the prescribing of psychiatric medications on a massive scale - is an experiment that's barely a few decades old, which is no time at all, when we consider that anatomical studies of the human body and surgery are parts of medicine which are hundreds of years old. The present-day situation, where at least half of us will take a pill for depression or anxiety at some point in our lives, and so many of us have been taking psychiatric medications for years and years... this would have been unthinkable before Prozac successfully normalised the practice of dispensing mind-altering drugs to tens of millions of people across the USA and Europe. Nobody really knew what the long-term consequences and long-term outcomes would be.

I've lost interest in having any contact with doctors now. I've lost interest in any new developments in the field of psychiatry. I've lost interest in the idea that there will ever be a miracle pill to cure depression, anxiety or to stabilise moods. The brain has proven a far more complex organ than the blunt instruments of psychoactive substances are able to have any precise effect on. Pills are useful for curing a bacterial infection, but they are of no use in an organ which has been evolved to specifically resist attempts to alter it - the brain's ability to maintain homeostasis is incredible, and all psychiatric medications are fundamentally flawed, because they affect a plastic organ, which can simply adapt itself and return to its original state.

Hospitals can offer welcome respite - sanctuary - from the unreasonable demands of the world. Hospitals have their place as a controlled, safe environment, full of caring people. However, psychiatric care has changed radically in the short time that we have been practicing it as a branch of medicine. Those who are ill-equipped to cope with life outside institutions cannot expect to live in an asylum forever, which might sound like a good thing for those who believe that people can be cured and rehabilitated. However, in my experience, it is the horror of the "real world" which is the very reason for the epidemic of mental health problems, and it's often infinitely preferable to protected with the safe confines of an institution than to be fending for oneself in the big wide world. The idea of losing your freedom might sound terrifying and unpleasant, but for those who are struggling to cope - struggling to be functional - freedom is a small price to pay, for the comforting reassurance of life inside an institution.

When you are a child and you hurt yourself, you run to your parents to "kiss it better" but often the injury remains painful for sometime and there is nothing that can be done to alleviate your discomfort. We learn that sticking plasters, stitches and plaster casts can help our bodies mend themselves, but there is nothing to be done to speed up the healing process. There is little that can be done to take away our pain. There is little that can be done when we are suffering mental anguish.

Although my life was very badly damaged, I'm now part of a large organisation where I'm known to a lot of people, and they'd be concerned if I went AWOL. My home city is still very new to me - and I know very few people locally - but I also think that somebody would ring my doorbell and check on me if I went AWOL. I have a routine. I have put things around myself that are structured and stable, even if that rebuilding process is very far from complete.

I've been here before... so very close to a fresh start; a complete life. About a year ago, in the blink of an eye I lost most of my new friends, my new girlfriend and my new job. The year before I nearly died, and I regained consciousness to find I'd lost my girlfriend, my home and my job. I'm aware that my life is very fragile. I'm aware that my existence is precarious.

I wrote positively yesterday about my life and how far I've come since the very deepest depths I sank to, but I know that I have a difficult job trying to stabilise myself and find a way of living my life that's sustainable, and tolerable... pleasant even, one hopes.

It's strange that I've been so much and ultimately reached the conclusion that I was doing a reasonably good job of looking after myself, but I simply had some very stressful life events to deal with. I thought that I could turn to doctors and hospitals to make me better - and indeed my life was certainly saved when my physical health was severely damaged - but now I feel much happier doing everything on my own: I prescribe my own medications, adjust my own dosages... but mainly I just try as best as I can to create a tolerable set of circumstances to allow myself to thrive; I've come to recognise that my family don't care about me and have abandoned me. I've been incredibly lucky to have very loyal, generous, kind, caring friends and wonderful girlfriends, who've believed in me, and looked after me, and stuck by me through the difficult times.

When you see the finished product - a functional man - then we might assume either that he never had any major difficulties in his life, or that treatment was a success. I'm grateful for the hard work, effort and dedication of those who work in psychiatry, but my ultimate conclusion is that it's a flawed branch of medicine. Things could have ended very badly, but those friends who bothered to come and visit me in hospital, check on me when I went AWOL, look after me when I was sick, believe in me, support me... that's the thing that was the key to giving me a chance at getting my life back. Those who've read my blog and are kind enough to reach out to me - to be in contact - have helped me to feel like I have some value, and to feel some self-esteem.

My colleagues don't know how sick I've been, and they don't know how much it means that I'm able to be treated like a normal person at work. My colleagues don't know how important it is that I have the structure and routine of office life. My colleagues don't know how great it is for my mental health to have the social interaction that we have, even if it's just office chit-chat.

We might conclude that the doctors I saw 11 years ago were right - I'm not really very sick and I'm quite capable of living a fully functional normal life - but they're also wrong, because everything had to get smashed to smithereens and rebuilt from nothing, before I could reach this point. I nearly died so many times. Was it avoidable though? Probably not.

That's my conclusion: I've learned a hell of a lot, but it would be wrong of me to start telling people that I have the answers, because what I discovered was that I had to learn everything first-hand. If I had a time machine and went back to tell myself everything I've learned up until now, I don't think I'd believe myself and I'd end up making exactly the same decisions, much like children have to make mistakes even though their parents warn them about everything and try to protect them.

Does this mean that I forgive my parents for abandoning me? Nope. If your kid is sick in hospital, you go and visit them. Period. No ifs. No buts. You don't abandon your children, no matter how old they are.

 

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Microcosm

10 min read

This is a story about paranoid schizophrenia...

Bedroom

I've lost my mind in all kinds of places, but the place where my sanity most eluded me was in this bedroom. I moved into this almost-ready-made perfect home, which only required a few bits of bedding and storage boxes to turn it into one of the most tidy and well organised places I've ever lived. I had stability and eventually I had security. I had my own front door, which I could lock and double-lock and be safely protected from the outside world and anybody who wanted to intrude.

The story begins in the midst of an unhappy relationship, several years earlier. A toxic mixture of mental health problems and drug abuse combined with an abusive relationship, to leave me barricading myself into rooms for my own protection, while my long-term girlfriend and later wife screamed abuse, kicked and punched the door which was my flimsy defence from the onslaught, which was seemingly unending.

The situation got so bad that I retreated to my summer house, where I drank water from a hosepipe and defecated in a bucket. I had no food or access to anything other than cold water. I couldn't take a shower. I was cornered.

To her credit, my ex-wife relented and I was able to come out of the summer house unmolested, unharassed and somewhat reassured that she was a safe distance away. We separated, but I was badly traumatised. The psychological torture had lasted for nearly 2 years and I was deeply damaged.

The extent to which I had been traumatised was not apparent to me. I moved away from the area to be away from her, and I assumed that my mental health was intact enough for me to start a new life without any problems. I assumed that having escaped from that abusive situation where I was cornered, I would be quickly on the mend.

What I discovered was that I carried a kind of post-traumatic stress which was thinly concealed by my generally sunny and upbeat positive mental attitude. I set about rebuilding my life and didn't think too much about the past. However, stress, exhaustion and drugs all had the capability of plunging me back into flashbacks of those awful moments when I was cornered. I experienced episodes of extreme paranoia about the kicking and punching of the flimsy door that protected me, and the torrent of abuse and violent anger which was a constant source of threat on the other side of whatever barrier I could find to protect myself.

It seems obvious that drugs are bad, and certainly the problems I had with drugs unleashed the very worst of the psychological trauma I had sustained. One might be tempted to say that the paranoia was caused by the drugs, but in fact the origin of my paranoia was much easier to explain. Few people would be psychologically strong enough to withstand the torment of being trapped somewhere with only one exit, and an angry violent abuser screaming and hammering on the single door with punches and kicks. Few people would escape without post-traumatic trauma from such events.

It seemed obvious in my perfect safe protected stable microcosm that nobody was going to hurt me. It seemed obvious that my front door was sufficiently robust to resist kicks and punches, and that I had escaped my abuser. It seems perfectly obvious in retrospect, but you have to understand that the trauma was deeply ingrained in my subconscious.

While I was able to function reasonably effectively and act mostly normal, I struggled with paranoid thoughts, unusual beliefs and strange behaviour, when I came under great financial pressure and and had a great deal of stress in my job. When I became exhausted, physically and mentally, I began to form paranoid beliefs. I struggled to maintain my ability to be objective and grounded in reality. My sanity suffered during moments of great difficulty.

I had a long period of drug abuse which demonstrated to me - beyond any reasonable doubt - that my original paranoia was no longer grounded in any past trauma, but instead had grown into something which was self-fuelling. While the original seed of my traumatised behaviour - barricading myself into rooms - was well understood, I had a lengthy period of time where I would suffer dreadful paranoia, only to eventually have to face the fact that my feared abuser was never going to turn up.

Strangely, that period I spent barricaded into my bedroom, hundreds of miles away from my abuser, did actually 'cure' me of my paranoid psychosis. Every time I desperately piled up furniture against the door and could never quite manage to create enough of a barrier to satisfy myself that I was safe, I eventually realised that nobody was battering on the door. I took down my barricades and I was surprised to find that my tormentor was nowhere to be found.

It was incredibly dangerous, and it cost me very dearly, but eventually I was left with nothing except drug-induced paranoia, which went away as soon as I stopped taking drugs.

I'd had periods where I'd been clean and sober, but they'd never cured me of my paranoia. My post-traumatic stress was still very much unresolved and the psychological damage was a deep and bloody wound. Even after long periods where I had been abstinent from booze and drugs, my mental health was fragile as hell and I could be tipped into insanity by relatively trivial stressors.

Two years in my lovely apartment, barricading myself into my bedroom and my ensuite bathroom, and I was cured by the most unusual and unlikely of things. The very behaviour which an outsider might assume was the root cause of all my problems, turned out to be a cathartic exercise which rid me of both the paranoia and the drug addiction.

I expect today if I were to spend several days and nights abusing powerful stimulant drugs, I would begin to suffer from paranoia, but I have been through some incredibly stressful events lately and my mental health has been reasonably robust. In comparison with the many days which I would spend not eating or drinking, barricaded in a room with only one exit, fearing for my safety, the few problems I've had in the last year have been nothing... hardly worthy of consideration.

A breakup and a house move were enough to unseat my sanity and cause me to be absent from work for a week. My brain chemistry was messed up for a couple of weeks following that episode, but the damage was contained and I've been able to hold onto the substantial progress that I've made, without slipping too far back down the greasy pole.

The demands placed upon me are almost unthinkable. I live amongst unpacked boxes of my stuff and furniture that needs to be assembled. I live with all my suitcases of clothes strewn around my bedroom, because I haven't built the furniture to put things away yet. My mail piles up and administrative chores are left ignored, because it's taken an unimaginable amount of effort to get myself from the point where I was homeless, jobless, penniless and detained against my will on a psychiatric ward, to where I am today, with a house, a car, a job, money in the bank, my reputation and my liberty preserved. The tasks which still lie ahead, such as making new friends and finding a girlfriend, plus putting in place the hobbies and interests and weaving the social fabric which will make my life worth living, is not something that should be underestimated.

Not all those who wander are lost, and I have decided that I wish to make this city my home, but it's not as simple as just deciding. There is considerable effort involved in surrounding yourself with the things which meet your human needs, such as the web of relationships which support you.

I'm convinced that the very worst of my mental health problems were caused by the circumstances of my existence. Psychiatrists would refer to my condition as adjustment disorder which is just a fancy way of saying that human beings will struggle under incredibly stressful conditions. My problems have been acute - not chronic - and can clearly be seen and understood in the context of the extremely toxic circumstances of my life. Certainly, quitting drugs and staying clean are essential to any hopes I have of continuing to rebuild my life and improve my circumstances, but drugs are just a small piece of the puzzle, which is mostly about having secure housing, financial security and a support network. Anybody would crumble to pieces if they were put under the kinds of stresses and strains that I've had to endure in recent years.

I now live in a brand new place. I've had a clean break. My home is untainted. This city gives me a fresh start.

London is big enough that you can lose your mind and nobody will notice or remember. London is big enough that you can go completely crazy and you'll never manage to screw up your life, because there are so many people that you get lost in the noise. It was good to be in London during those difficult years where I was barricading myself into rooms for no reason, except that I was so post-traumatically traumatised that I simply had to do it as part of my recovery.

I face the difficulty of starting afresh from almost nothing, but I don't carry a single bit of paranoia that somebody knows about my difficult past. I really feel like I have a chance to totally start anew without anybody knowing anything which might prejudice me. I'm judged totally as the man I am today, not at all on who I was during the dark moments I endured in the past.

It might seem crazy to write and publish this, given my opportunity to escape my past and re-invent myself, but I don't want to run away from my own history. I need to acknowledge that bad things happened in my life, and they have shaped me. I need to acknowledge that even though I am healthy and functional today, I will carry a lifelong risk of problems if I become complacent. I need to make sure that I keep my stress levels and energy levels within safe ranges, and I need to put in place the things that will help and protect me when there are inevitable hiccups in life.

My bedroom looks nothing like the neat and tidy bedroom in London, pictured above, but my mind is far more neat and tidy, ordered and robust. I feel far more in control of my behaviour and my thoughts. I feel far less troubled by anything even remotely like paranoia. To all intents and purposes, I have very good mental health, but still very poor life circumstances, but at least there are practical remedies for things like my lack of local friends.

It's a somewhat positive outlook, especially considering how frequently I suffer from suicidal thoughts, but despite my tendency to become depressed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead, at least most things seem to be within my control. I can choose between going on dates or trying to make new friends. I can do things to get the stuff I need in my life. I feel relatively safe from traumatic events that are beyond my control.

 

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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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Stash

10 min read

This is a story about drug dependency...

Pills

This is how I function. This is how I normalise myself. This is how I comply with society's demands. This is how I cope with social jet-lag. In our fit-in-or-fuck-off culture, this is how I conform. These are my crutches. I might appear functional and unimpaired. It might be somewhat insulting or offensive to describe myself as struggling in any way - perhaps I should instead talk about my wealth and privilege and acknowledge that since being born with a silver spoon in my mouth, my life has been uninterrupted gilded luxury; I've never known pain; I've never known suffering.

Think about the starving African children.

I comparison with the 8 or 9 bottles of red wine I was consuming every week - drinking alone - my use of a few sleeping pills and tranquillisers seems relatively safe and healthy.

This is all I have left.

I've had to eke out my dwindling supplies for far longer than I'd expected to. My opportunities to "re-up" have been constricted and constrained. I've been forced into drug withdrawal, which mercifully has been bearable because of my successful rationing strategies.

Insomnia has been the price I've paid for economising; suddenly cutting back on the medications I've become dependent on. Hypomania has been a very real and tangible consequence of the brain chemical destabilisation.

Perhaps I shouldn't meddle with my mind? Perhaps I should put my faith in the medical community? Perhaps there are people who know what's best for me?

Ironically, I'm using these medications - obtained on the black market - to plaster over the cracks and blend in with the very people who are specifically tasked with deciding what's best for you. I'm a member of the paternalistic elite. One should always remember that the people dishing out the advice and prescriptions are just as fucked up as everybody else.

My hypomania constantly threatens to boil over and create a disaster. My hypomania is a constant threat to all the health and wealth I've managed to accumulate this year. My hypomania is almost impossible to conceal, constantly attempting to sneak out from under the cover and camouflage I've carelessly draped over it, in the hopes of it being ignored and not talked about by my discreet, polite and extremely civilised colleagues.

Unable to sufficiently bludgeon my brain into submission to society's demands, using powerful psychiatric medications, my mask slips.

Exhaustion from the toll of 11.5 consecutive months desperately attempting to re-enter civilised society has reduced me to surviving on my instincts. I speak without thinking. It is only my well-practiced and well-rehearsed routines which allow me to continue to appear functional, when my mind has crumbled and descended into outright insanity internally. If I could only sit mute in my office chair at my desk, I would be fine, but unfortunately stuff pops into my head and pours out of my mouth before I have a chance to hold my tongue.

My medication dependency is a cruel mistress. My anxiety skyrockets in the late afternoon and evenings as my short-acting tranquilliser wears off. My insomnia robs me of refreshing and energy-replenishing sleep, leaving me almost paralysed by panic attacks about the simple task of getting out of bed, having a shower, getting dressed and going to work. Unless I take the right amount of pills at the right time, my mask of sanity quickly slips. The illusion of a functional productive member of society quickly evaporates, the moment that I skip a dose or start reducing my medication.

Of course, I'm hopelessly dependent. I admit it. So what?

My life revolves around my regular medication doses. So what?

Doesn't anybody's life revolve around cyclical things? Life and death, sunrise and sunset, summer and winter, weekdays and weekends, work and leisure, awake and asleep, hungry and satiated, horny and spent, love and loss. Some of the cycles are societally and culturally enforced to remain the same year-round, when it's clear that it's unnatural. Why the hell don't we sleep more in winter, when the days are shorter? Why the hell don't we sleep more when we're tired? Who the hell invented the fucking alarm clock and the 9 to 5 office job anyway?

I am quite literally tyrannised and oppressed - abusively coerced - into compliance with health-damaging social rituals, lest I be excluded from society; marginalised. It's in my rational economic self-interest to comply, but it's in the interests of my mental health to refuse to comply. Non-compliance will be met with harsh and intolerable economic sanctions.

Of course I seek out and consume the pharmaceuticals which 'normalise' me and allow me to cope; to function.

You might be surprised that I'm a junkie who needs his fix so that he can work a boring office job. You might think that junkies take drugs to feel pleasure and otherwise get high, but my drug dependency is mandated by the otherwise unbearable awfulness of the 9 to 5 grind.

You might think that people get rich off drugs by selling them. You might think that drugs will ruin your life, my drug dependency has been a mandatory part of repairing my life. Do you really think that it's humanly possible to achieve the kind of comeback - the recovery - which I've managed to complete during the past 11.5 months of turning up at the office and acting normal, without access to the full range of pharmaceutical options?

I've done the impossible: gotten off the streets, where I was sleeping rough, gotten out of the hostels, gotten off the terrible drugs, gotten out of the psych wards, repaid unimaginably huge debts, got myself a place to live of my own, got myself a respectable good job, held down that job, impressed my colleagues, delivered high quality work on time and on budget.

You think that was possible without performance enhancing drugs? Are there laws that say I can't use the very best of medical technology to allow me to function at my very best in a workplace environment? I'm not an athlete. I can use whatever the fuck I want and I have done.

It might seem logical to presume that I must now have a massive drug habit, because I've leaned so heavily on unhealthy coping mechanisms to get me to the point I'm at today.

I use the word "dependency" very carefully.

It's true that technically I am dependent on medications. It's true that abrupt cessation of the 2 or 3 medications I use on a regular basis would be catastrophic for my career, my reputation, my finances, my stability and all the other things in the house-of-cards which constitutes my life.

However, the doses I take are laughably negligible.

Instead of being in a horrible mess, the dose which maintains me in a functional and stable state is totally reasonable and acceptable. The problems I've stored up for the future - by becoming dependent on medications for normal day-to-day functioning - are pathetically tiny insignificant problems compared with the goddam mountainous obstacles I've had to tackle to get this far.

It concerns me that my stash is now critically low, because my whole happy healthy wealthy future hinges upon the continuation of the well-established routine for another 6 to 12 months, at the very least. If I can carry on with my dirty junkie medication dependency for another 18 months I will be rich as fuck compared to the struggling masses, which would be an unexpected result for anybody who's been brainwashed to believe that junkies like me are no-hope losers.

I don't go to the doctor. I don't have a psychiatrist. I don't have a psychologist. I don't have a community mental health team (CMHT) or a crisis team. I do what the fuck I want.

My experiments with being completely medication-free earlier in the year were a total disaster. I do hope that one day I'll be able to quit the pills, but I don't see how I'll ever be able to do when my health needs directly contradict capitalism's need to exploit me as an expendable commodity. There is a fundamental incompatibility between human needs and corporations' needs. There is a systemic inability to cope with anybody who deviates from the top of the bell curve.

I'm different, and I no longer expect society to accomodate me. I accept that I must alter myself - with pharmaceuticals - so that I can accomodate society's inflexible demands for homogeny and conformity.

I swallow a sleeping pill so that my social jet-lag is medically corrected. I swallow a short-acting tranquilliser so that the existential dread of working a pointless bullshit meaningless office job is bearable. I'm not overjoyed or happy to be doing it. In fact, I'm not happy at all about any of the situation. It would be fucking weird if I was artificially happy all the fucking time, because there's not a lot to be happy about during the death-throes of late capitalism.

You know what makes me happy? Spooning. Kittens. Holidays. Sex. Dreaming about going to live in a cabin in the woods. Delicious food. Binging on mindless entertainment. Extreme sports. Writing.

Should I be attempting to live the dream? Should I be trying to have it all? Should I mix work and pleasure?

Yes, I'm going to do all those things but you have to pay to play and it costs a fuckload of cash to make dreams come true.

I'll leave you with this quote:

"The power of inclosing land and owning propriety, was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murther their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or theeve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand, by the power of the sword; and so you justifie the wicked deeds of your fathers" -- A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England, Gerrard Winstanley

It's up to the reader to decide whether I'm a Lord of the Manor, born into wealth and enjoying inheritance from my ancestors who plundered and stole. The fact that you've persevered reading this text in English using a computer or smartphone puts you into a certain socioeconomic set and suggests a level of academic achievement, which might suggest you might have benefitted equally from "the power of the sword" although you did not "kill or theeve" yourself.

All I can say of myself is that I'm trying to play by the rules in a rigged game. Nobody said I wasn't allowed to use performance enhancing drugs. This isn't sport, it's survival.

 

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Condescendingly Oversimplifying Highly Complex Life-or-Death Issues and Trivialising my Achievements

7 min read

This is a story about perseverance...

Tree in winter

Despite the exhaustive lengths I've gone to in order to make myself understood, surprisingly few people have any appreciation of my achievements in conquering insurmountable odds. It shocks me that there is a complete lack of comprehension of the magnitude of the task, of starting a journey of recovery locked up on a psych ward, unemployed, homeless, £54,000 in debt, physically dependent on addictive substances and having just survived a suicide attempt that was very nearly successful. "Have you tried yoga? Have you tried kale smoothies?" people still write to me.

Yes, I take offence to being patronised.

still take offence to being patronised.

"You're only one trite platitude away from complete recovery" people seem to think.

Oh. My. God.

Drop everything.

A fucking meme saved my fucking life.

Said nobody ever.

A self-help book saved my life.

Said a bunch of idiots who failed to establish a causative relationship.

I'm a fucking computer scientist so I don't hold a lot of sway with superstitious beliefs in sky monsters, fate, karma, astrology, homeopathy, acupuncture, healing crystals, tarot cards and all that other mumbo-jumbo. I believe in cold hard cash. I believe in empirically proven theories which have been peer reviewed, with reliably reproducible experimental results.

In a way, my whole life has been conducted in a very scientific manner, which should come as no surprise given that my career has been dedicated to working in a logical and rational field, governed by rigid formal rules. There's no room for airy-fairy hand-waving nonsense bullshit in my professional field. There's a right answer and a wrong answer, and it's not possible to put your faith in god to fix your goddam code. It's not possible to put your faith in god to fix your goddam life. There are no higher powers. There is no supernatural. No amount of exercise and good diet is going to repay your £54,000 debt.

If it seems like I'm labouring the same points over and over again, and telling the same miserable story which appears to have changed very little in the 13 or so months since I was in an utterly fucked situation, you're a total fucking moron.

Of course my story is repetitive.

Of course my story is miserable.

Of course my story is boring.

Of course my story has changed very little.

From the start of December until now, I've lived out of a suitcase in hotels, working a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job. All I do is work, sleep, eat and write my blog.

I'm paying back £54,000 of debt.

I didn't start with nothing. I started with less than nothing. I started at a considerable disadvantage.

Starting with nothing would have been a fucking dream.

Most people in my situation would have declared bankruptcy. Most people in my situation would have given up.

I'm not most people.

Most people would never have had the opportunity to get £54,000 in debt. Most people would never be able to repay £54,000 in debt. It costs £10,800 a year to service a debt of £54,000, assuming a credit card interest rate of 20%. Do you have a spare £10,800 kicking around every year?

Remember that I also started this journey locked up on a psych ward, jobless and without a vehicle.

How do you think you'd get out of that particular sticky situation?

"I'd get a job"

Yeah? How much would that job pay? Would you also need a place to live? Would you need to pay transport costs to get you to the fucking job?

It's a hard problem to solve.

No amount of inspirational quote memes can solve the problem. No amount of exercise and good diet can solve the problem. No amount of being patronised as fuck by people who don't have problems will solve the problem.

If I sound angry and that I'm raging... you're damn right.

It's been ludicrously difficult and stressful to get to this point.

I might sound like a scratched record. You might wish for me to be telling a happier and more uplifting story, but the truth is that it's hard damn work to dig yourself out of a very deep hole. I'm sorry that in reality there are no quick fixes. I'm sorry that the real world is not at all like the fantasy world. There are no overnight successes. There are no sudden improvements. There is no solution in the form of a goddam inspirational quote meme.

If your life is sorted, well fucking done. Big congrats.

If your life is sorted, please don't think that you can jump into my world and quickly figure out what I'm doing wrong. Please don't fall into the trap of seeing yourself as some sort of saviour. Please don't patronise me by assuming that I'm overlooking some easy short-cut.

My story sucks because my life sucks, but my life is improving very slowly.

It takes relentless patient persistent perseverance to fix a fucking shit-tonne of problems. I don't tell the story to entertain and amuse you. I tell my story because it's real and I don't know how it's going to end. I tell my story because I think it's important to bear witness to the struggle - the reality - of people who are trying to re-enter civilised society, having been marginalised and excluded.

If you're getting impatient for the good bits, fuck off. I'm impatient too. There are no short-cuts and it's me who has to put up with the daily misery of the painfully slow progress.

Yes, at some future point I hope to sum up this whole rotten period in an executive summary; a short synopsis. When the dreadful task is finally completed, I can change my story to something different. For now, the story seems to be the same miserable repetitive depressing crap, because that's the reality of my life.

I think there's a lot to be celebrated in my achievements of the past year, but of course we have been reared on a diet of Hollywood and Disney movies, so the feeble-minded are encouraged to believe that every story should be a simple fairytale. Reality doesn't care about your desire for easy-to-understand, linear and uplifting tales of overnight success. Reality is an absolute bastard that needs to be bludgeoned to death with sheer determination; force of will. Reality is boring as fuck, most of the time.

Of course my day-to-day tale is mostly banal, hence why my debts are being repaid with exceptional speed. I have sacrificed pleasing fantasy for real achievement, at the cost of childish fantasies about following my dreams. I sell my brain and body to the highest bidder and put myself through an ordeal of misery, because it brings in a lot of cold hard cash.

It offends me when people who've enjoyed wealth, privilege and fucked about doing whatever the fuck they want, talk to me about how I should be living my life. They followed their dreams and indulged their selfish wants, but I don't have that luxury. I am forced to inhabit reality. I live in a capitalist plutocratic society dominated by global corporations, and I have to work for a living because I was £54,000 in debt, jobless, homeless, without a vehicle and locked up in a psychiatric institution. Do you understand?

I don't get to dream. I don't get to live in a fantasy world. I'm forced to inhabit reality.

 

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I Am Ridiculously Exposed

6 min read

This is a story about laying it all on the line...

Glasses

My livelihood, any realistic prospect of me being able to pay back my mountainous debts and the impossible dream of restoring myself to health and wealth - escaping the nightmare - hinges upon successfully blending in as a part of an organisation which is particularly noted for being intolerant of anybody with bad character.

I've been required to fill in a 66 page form which legally obliges me to disclose criminal convictions, psychiatric problems, the abuse of drugs and alcohol, partners from the last 3 years, marriage, divorce, bankruptcies, loan defaults, debt repayment agreements, financial conduct and details about my parents. Most employers are only entitled to know about any unspent criminal convictions, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, but I work for an organisation that knows everything.

Of course, I'm ahead of the game, because I've already publicly declared every single unflattering thing about myself.

Luckily I've never been convicted of a crime, but there are still some things I'm legally bound to disclose which would portray me in a less-than-ideal light to the powers that be, who will judge me based on what they see on paper. My life and my future will be reduced to a few scribbles on a form.

Many people have been through rough breakups and divorces and had breakdowns. Many people suffer from mental illness. Many people have had periods where they've drunk too much or dabbled with recreational drugs. Nobody is squeaky clean.

I'm in the ludicrous situation where I'm more-or-less managing to plod along and keep my mouth shut, and demonstrate that I'm a competent and capable valuable team member at work, but I've continued to write and publish this blog using my real name. I've continued to write with unflinching honesty about some of the terrible stuff I've been through and the aftermath of problems I'm dealing with, as I desperately attempt to get back on my feet.

I'm in the ludicrous situation where my hard work is beginning to pay off and my debts are getting rapidly repaid. I'm in the ludicrous situation where there's an end in sight, provided nobody screws me over.

It appears to be self-sabotaging that I would continue to write and publish stuff which makes me so exposed and vulnerable, but in fact my online presence has been one of the big factors in my recovery. Without being able to share my story and connect with kind supportive people, I couldn't have gotten this far. Without having the sense of identity, pride in my achievement and the structure and routine that daily public writing gives me - the scrutiny - then I would have been destroyed by my problems and would have perished in obscurity long ago.

Whaddya want to know about me?

Trouble with the police? Sure. I got caught with legal highs a couple of times.

Psychiatric problems? They don't call me Nick "Manic" Grant for no reason. I make no secret of having bipolar disorder.

Drug and alcohol abuse? Not the former anymore but the latter is a bit of a problem, although my drinking doesn't seem to be any more abusive than that of most of my colleagues. Arguably I'm successfully self-medicating, because I'm functional and unmedicated.

Partners from the last 3 years? I haven't co-habited since separating from my wife.

Marriage and divorce? Tied the knot in Hawaii. Divorced 18 months later.

Bankruptcies and other debt problems? I pay my bills. I've never defaulted. I'm a good debtor.

Financial conduct and credit score? I need to pay back half my credit card debt ASAP but that's the only bad thing on my credit file.

Parents? They're not seditious traitors. They're not Russian, Chinese or terrorist sympathisers. They're not political agitators.

What about my character in general? I've had a successful career spanning more than 2 decades, working for some very big organisations on important projects. If I was some kind of fraudster or con artist, my true character would surely have been unmasked by now.

There's a lot written down here which could easily be twisted and used against me by somebody intent on casting me in a bad light. I write a lot of things about myself which are very unflattering and wouldn't usually be publicly declared by people. I spend a lot of time asking people to take the things I voluntarily tell them and to decide for themselves how they want to judge me.

It's a ridiculous thing to do.

For one reason or another I've become easier and easier to find, for anybody who bothers to look. Because of a recent mistake I made I've become even easier to find than ever before. All the effort that I've put into projecting myself into public consciousness, because I've been on the verge of suicide for so long, is finally gaining traction and I'm becoming a victim of my decision to make myself exposed and vulnerable.

Every time I write and publish I have to consider the consequences to my life. I have to make a decision between my ideological belief that we have a right to live with the freedom to be proud of our identities and to be open and honest, without fear. If we really live in a free country I should be free to be candid and not suffer persecution and tyranny. If we honestly believe in equal opportunities and our laws forbidding discrimination, then we need to take the brave and bold step of speaking without fear of repercussions.

This vast repository of information that I've created is the polar opposite of a 66 page form, designed to distill me down to a few ticks in boxes. This 1.1 million word document is intended to frustrate the reader who is looking for a convenient pigeon hole to stuff me into.

Do your worst. I'm not afraid.

 

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Normal Service Has Resumed

7 min read

This is a story about a journey all the way to the bottom and back up...

The Ritz

The year was 2011. I fought with my girlfriend about relocating my startup. The year was 2012. Depression and destruction. The year was 2013. Divorce and drugs. The year was 2014. Suicide attempts and homelessness. The year was 2015. Getting better, but still very severely mentally unwell; quite insane. The year was 2016. Substantially recovered, but not quite; false start. The year was 2017. The worst of all the years.

During the last 7 years, a lot of the cohort from the startup accelerator program I attended in Cambridge, have all gone on to be spectacularly successful both in business and in their personal lives. They've strengthened their relationships, had children, bought houses, yachts and sportscars. They've become much in-demand conference speakers and widely respected captains of industry, with amazing reputations.

I went down.

I went down hard.

I went all the way to the bottom.

I had enjoyed a lot of the material success and achieved a bunch of life goals much earlier than most of my peers, but it didn't take long to undo all that hard work. It doesn't take much effort to give up all the gains you've made. It's a lot easier going downhill, than clawing your way back uphill.

I guess a kind of rock-bottom moment was when I arranged to have high tea at The Ritz with one of my best buddies from the startup accelerator. I stood him up because I was in big trouble. Mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, debt, divorce, loss of assets, loss of my startup, loss of all hope conspired to rob me of all my self-esteem. My buddy is not the kind of person who'd make me feel like a failure or invoke any kind of shame and embarrassment in me, but I couldn't let him see me in the state I was in. I was a complete mess. I couldn't even be seen in public.

I slept rough, I lived in a hostel, I went into heaps of debt just staying alive. I wrecked my body and mind with prescription drugs, legal highs, illegal drugs, alcohol, black-market medications and a ludicrously high-risk lifestyle, which had been so punishing that it had hospitalised me multiple times for multiple weeks.

I managed to meet up with my buddy once, just as I was going through divorce in 2013, before things got really bad, but they were still pretty terrible. I saw him again in 2015, when I was having extreme mania and generally suffering with terrible mental health problems brought on by stress, pressure, exhaustion and sleep deprivation. I stood him up in 2016.

Somehow I managed to see my buddy in 2017, when he was celebrating the culmination of 6 years hard work on his startup, at exactly the same time as my life was well and truly beyond any hope of saving; my entire world was imploding. My dream of rebuilding my old life in London completely collapsed and I had nothing but debt and the threat of imminent eviction, which at least forced me to temporarily act with a little bit of self-preservation instinct, but I soon ended up in such a dire situation that I decided my life was over; I tried to kill myself. In summer 2017, the directions the lives of my buddy and I could not have gone in more opposite directions. I had failed. I was a miserable failure.

This year, what had been originally been planned as a holiday with my girlfriend turned into a bromance weekend with my buddy. Things were looking up. I'd been working for almost 7 consecutive months without a major disaster. My life was still pretty wrecked, but at least it was improving. I was in a bad state after a messed-up May, where I'd had a relapse, but thankfully it didn't ruin everything.

I had a bit of a lapse a little over a week ago. The instability which ensued prompted me to spend money. Some of that money got spent on a weekend visit to see my buddy again. Things have continued to substantially improve, although my life is still pretty wrecked, by all reasonable measures. Annoyingly, my buddy has seen me right in the middle of a period of bad mental health, immediately following a relapse. Annoyingly, I'm not seeing my friends when I'm at my best, but instead they're seeing me when I'm destabilised and a bit sick; exhausted and stressed.

It should be noted, however, that there is a significant difference between today and the time I decided to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Today is much more like the optimistic period I had in 2013 where it looked like I was going to get out of a bad relationship and start rebuilding my life. Today is not at all like 2017, which was a total train-wreck; I was a complete mess.

I feel like I must have trashed my brain. I feel like I must have fried my mind. I feel like my mental health is utterly wrecked and people are probably just humouring me, like I was ever one of their peers.

I would love it if I've gotten back to enough of a healthy state that I'm doing OK. I would love it if I'm somewhat getting back to normal, and not too much lasting damage has been done.

I know it's no use wanting to go back in time; wanting to get back to exactly how I was at some point in the past. That's impossible.

My biggest fear is that I'm some sort of washed-up loser; that I'll never recover any quality of life; that I'm irreparably damaged and any spark of brilliance which justified my presence amongst that cohort of 2011, has long since been extinguished. I fear I'm a has-been.

My brain feels sluggish and slow. I feel somehow inferior. Not just to the brilliant people I met in Cambridge, but somehow to almost everybody. I've spectacularly completely and utterly failed at life.

I'm about to board a flight back to the UK. I have a good job and my cashflow is OK. I have a holiday planned. I have a place to live and other life essentials. Things are not that bad but I'm aware that I've barely begun my journey back up from the bottom. It's worse than starting with nothing. What I'm talking about is starting deep in negative territory.

It's ridiculous and unhelpful to compare myself to the man I was in 2011 and imagine what might have been. I am where I am. I should be pleased I'm not destitute; dead.

I should be dead.

But I'm not.

My life has entered a very surreal phase now. I'm living a life which should lead towards health, wealth and happiness. I'm moving very fast in a positive direction, but the journey I've been on has been very extreme in every conceivable way.

Things are seemingly normal, but also not normal at all. Nothing ever was normal in my life. Nothing ever will be. I suppose at least things are abnormal in the right kind of way now, at the moment.

It's hard re-adjusting to the new [old] normal.

 

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Paranoia: So Close But Yet So Far

8 min read

This is a story about being thwarted...

Social Media Training

If I was prone to paranoia, I could swear that I've had more than my fair share of bad luck while trying to get back on my feet. Things should have panned out for me several times, but I've so far been thwarted by some asshats.

In September 2014 I was beginning to sort myself out after my divorce. I took a quick holiday before starting a new job. I was making good progress with the new project, but a couple of asshats took offence to me getting ahead and conspired to screw me over. Mercifully I took 'em down with me, although it was a hollow victory.

In September 2015 I'd had an eventful summer but I'd achieved a lot and proven myself to be a valuable member of the team on the project I was working on. It was a friend who rather unreasonably expected me to help him get a job and get out of the dive he was living in, which pushed me beyond my limits and made me unwell. There was also excessive pressure on me at work, but I could have coped if I'd have had a more settled personal life, such as having a secure place to live and some financial assistance.

In September 2016 I was starting to believe that I was finally going to get back on my feet, but the project I was working on was cancelled unexpectedly. With hindisight I suppose it was obvious that the project was going to get cancelled and that it was a dead-end job. It's my own fault for taking my eye off the ball. It's my own fault that I didn't immediately attempt to get another job, but I'd been so bored and miserable, and I felt like I'd been de-skilled by all the time off work I'd had. I hadn't learned anything, gained any new experience or developed at all on the project, so my self-confidence was at rock-bottom.

In September 2017 I was sacked because I was in a coma on life support and the asshat I was working with thought that unconscious people are able to make telephone calls to phone in sick. He still owes me a lot of money. Obviously I had a lot of different problems that year, but successfully delivering software projects was not one of them - never has been and never will be.

I've been working for 10 consecutive months without a holiday and I've delivered two software projects successfully into production. I got sick in May, but I was given the benefit of the doubt because I'd proven myself to be a valuable member of the team, like I always do. I was sick in January/February time and barely limping along, but because I'd already completed my project in record time nobody much cared. That's the way I work - I'm blazing fast when I'm well, but I get sick too. You don't get to have me only on my good days - you've gotta take the rough with the smooth - although I don't charge my clients for the days I'm not productive.

Even with all the gaps in-between projects and time off sick, I've still delivered a hell of a lot of software in the last 4 years and I've impressed a lot of clients and colleagues. I've achieved a huge amount, despite not being very well. What I've managed to do in the workplace is all the more remarkable when we consider that it's set against a backdrop of homelessness, near-bankruptcy, drug addiction, mental health problems, hospitalisations, being sectioned and kept on locked psych wards, suicide attempts, moving all over the country, being estranged from family, social isolation and a whole host of other things which are toxic to a person's chances of succeeding in life.

I don't want to pat myself on the back too much, but I deserve a break. It's time I made a breakthrough. It's time I'm allowed to make a breakthrough.

Every time I get close to making a breakthrough, something goes wrong which is beyond my control.

It's making me paranoid.

If I can get to the end of the month, I'll have hopefully proven my worth sufficiently with my colleagues on my current project, such that I'll be able to relax and take a holiday in October. It would be incredibly cruel and unlucky if something went wrong, such that I'm not able to go away on holiday and relax, knowing I've got a job to come back to. That's what happened to me earlier this year, when I'd booked a holiday in June but then my project ended and I found myself looking for work again.

It's good that I've been able to work for 3 different organisations on 3 different projects this year, without any asshats screwing things up, yet. Not having huge gaps between projects has been crucial to my recovery. Also, it's important to note that this year I haven't - yet - been screwed over by anybody and I've been recognised for my talents and experience which I have to offer. It's nice to feel confident in my own abilities and to feel like I have proven myself to be reliable and dependable, beyond any doubt.

Obviously, I'm very exposed - my colleagues have seen the semicolon tattoo behind my ear and must have wondered if and when I'm going to get sick, but hopefully they've now started to see that I'm very capable and productive; hopefully they're enjoying working with me and they value me as a team member. However, if I need to take any time off work sick, it will obviously raise doubts again about whether my mental illness makes me a useless loser who should never be allowed into civilised mainstream society or permitted the dignity of getting back on my feet.

I'm probably pushing things too hard for too long. I should probably have a holiday sooner rather than later, before I have a breakdown; before I burn out. However, I also want to get to the end of the month, because it's a significant milestone and it puts enough cash in the bank to leave me safe from any unexpected bumps in the road. I'm so desperate to get back to a position of security as quickly as possible, having been on this agonisingly drawn-out journey with so many dashed hopes.

Everything is set up very well for me to be able to continue working and improving my life, but I'm paranoid that something's going to go wrong and screw everything up.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the consequences of a work colleague discovering my blog. I wonder if I might be the architect of my own destruction by writing this. There's nothing here that's unprofessional though. I'm not naming my client or divulging confidential details about the project I'm working on. I'm not guilty of misconduct of any kind.

As you can see from the screenshot above, I've been trained to be paranoid. I've been trained to keep my mouth shut and pretend like I don't have any problems. Despite the walls of the office being plastered with posters which proclaim "it's OK to talk about mental health problems" they really don't mean ME. I'm expected to be faultless. If and when my faults are ever revealed, it will be the end of me. The tiniest blemish is career-ending for those of us who work in the corporate world, where we must maintain a fake professional façade of perfection at all times.

If I'm feeling optimistic I like to think that my valuable contributions would outweigh the stigma and shock of realising that my colleagues have been working with a homeless, junkie, alcoholic, bankrupt with mental health problems all along - I should never have been allowed to get past the gatekeepers and rub shoulders with those who inhabit the fit-in-or-fuck-off corporate world.

When I'm feeling paranoid I feel like I'm only tolerated because I'm reasonably good at pretending to be a regular guy - any hint of who I really am and what I've really been through, and I'll be swiftly ejected onto the street to suffer destitution and homelessness.

It's so frustrating right now, because I've almost but not quite got enough money to complete my transformation from homeless, junkie, alcoholic, bankrupt with mental health problems, back to somebody who's indistinguishable from any other corporate drone. I'm so desperate to prove that it can be done - to get back on my feet from a terrible situation. It'll crush me if I'm thwarted.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. The next few weeks are crucial.

 

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The Journey

11 min read

This is a story about three years of my life...

Hotel room

I was living in an ultra-modern hotel in Canary Wharf and working for HSBC at their head office. I was a member of the team working on the bank's number one IT project. Shortly beforehand I had been living in a 14-bed hostel dorm and I'd narrowly escaped bankruptcy and destitution. I was working 12 hours a day, 6 or sometimes 7 days a week. I was exhausted and the tiredness, stress and unsettled life was driving me literally insane. I was suffering with delusions of grandeur, paranoia and my behaviour was erratic and unpredictable; I was extremely tense and irritable. I was on the brink of having a breakdown.

River panorama

I rented an apartment on the River Thames near the office. The rent was obscene - £500/week - but I was earning great money working for HSBC and I was working very hard, so it seemed affordable at the time; it seemed like a nice reward for all the hard work. It felt like justice that I'd been able to get myself off the streets and into such a lovely place to live; to have gone from homeless and sleeping rough in a park, to having a luxury Thameside apartment with panoramic views over London.

My glasses

I was dating a BBC journalist. I was rapidly gaining a Twitter following. I felt like everything was happening for a reason. I felt like it was my destiny to do something important. I was consumed with mania; I was obsessed with the idea of a grand gesture. I had been deeply affected by my homelessness and near-bankruptcy and destabilised by the exhaustion of sleeping rough and in hostel dorms. The IT project was very stressful and I was under a great deal of pressure from HSBC management. My mind was a mess. I was very severely mentally ill.

Psych ward terrace

I woke up one morning and I couldn't go on. I couldn't face the office. I wanted to kill myself. I went to my doctor who sent me to hospital. 13 hours later I was admitted to a secure psych ward. I explained that I was financially distressed and very stressed at work. The psychiatric team recommended I stay in hospital for at least 2 weeks, but I needed to be back in the office if I was going to keep my job, to be able to afford the rent.

Golden Gate Bridge

I discharged myself from hospital after a week and flew to San Francisco. I figured that if I was going to kill myself I might as well do it somewhere iconic. A friend picked me up from the airport and I borrowed a bike. I cycled straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. Seeing old friends, however, made me change my mind about committing suicide.

Sleep out

I lost my job with HSBC and I "slept rough" in the shadow of the head office skyscraper in Canary Wharf. I thought that this would be the pinnacle of my journey. I thought that having been used and abused by HSBC then unceremoniously dumped out onto the streets to suffer bankruptcy and homelessness - having managed to get myself a job at the bank while of no fixed abode and living in a hostel - would be deliciously poetic. It was, but my journey had barely begun.

Self harm

I quit drinking for 121 consecutive days. I starved myself. I thought that I would go on hunger strike. I thought that I would sleep rough on Christmas Day. I was really angry and upset with the world. Self harm and substance abuse dominated my life for several months. I got into heaps of debt just staying alive.

Cruise ship

I survived the winter. I got another job. My life was OK except for persistent suicidal thoughts. I hated the project I was working on but I persevered because I was in a lot of debt. I loved where I was living - every day in my apartment was like Christmas Day because the view was so awesome. Living by the river was an incredible privilege. I took a holiday and went kitesurfing. My quality of life was improving slowly.

Cooking with bath salts

I met somebody very special and fell totally in love. She accepted me for who I was, including the all the bad bits, such as my prior issues with substance abuse. She was the first person I'd been in a relationship with who'd been able to read everything about me on my blog and to understand my flaws. We had a good relationship. The project I had been working on came to an end and I was jobless again. I wrote and published my first novel - she proofread it and helped me with the ending and other ideas. She was very supportive and I was confident I'd find work again easily.

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve watching the fireworks over London, sipping champagne on my balcony with the woman I loved - it seemed like the New Year was full of promise, but I was worried about getting another job and I was still in a lot of debt. There was a lot of pressure.

DVT

Disaster struck. I got deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my left leg, which swelled up to twice the size of my right leg. My kidneys failed and I ended up in hospital on a high dependency ward having many hours of dialysis every day. The potassium in my blood spiked to a life-threatening level and I was constantly at risk of cardiac arrest. I was very sick.

Drug shrine

My stay in hospital caused me to lose my job. Losing my job caused me to collapse psychologically and become very depressed and despondent. The DVT had caused terrible nerve damage and I had a lot of neuropathic pain, as well as a numb left foot. I started to become dependent on painkillers. I sought powerful antidepressants for my low mood. Pictured on the table are: codeine, dihydrocodeine, tramadol, diazepam, alprazolam, mirtazapine, venlafaxine, dextroamphetamine, zolpidem, zopiclone and pregabalin, which are all highly addictive. Because of this cocktail of prescription drugs I suffered an episode of medication-induced mania - temporary insanity - and broke up with the love of my life.

Manchester flats

I ran out of money. I had to pay a huge tax bill and I had to go even deeper into debt. I was virtually bankrupt. Out of desperation I was forced to put all my worldly possessions into storage and leave London to take a job in Manchester. The job in Manchester included an apartment as part of the package, which was lucky because I didn't have enough money to pay rent or a deposit - I was totally broke. Moving house and leaving London was incredibly upsetting and traumatic. The new job was extremely demanding and exhausting. I was very lonely and isolated in an unfamiliar city with no friends or family; no local connections.

Psych ward fence

I tried to commit suicide. I took a massive overdose: I'd been stockpiling my prescription painkillers and I knew that 8+ grams of tramadol was likely to be fatal. I sent a tweet when I believed I was beyond the point of no return. I thought nobody knew where I lived. I thought there was no chance anybody would get to me in time. I was wrong. I regained consciousness a few days later in a hospital's critical care ward on life support. I was later sectioned for 28 days and admitted to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Hay bales

A doctor from Wales discovered my blog and invited me to live on their farm in a converted garage. I had no money, no car, no job. I had nothing.

Rat race

I almost went bankrupt but a friend got me some work in Warsaw and in London. I was living in AirBnBs and working in the Square Mile from Monday to Friday and living in Wales at the weekends.

Keys

I bought a car, I got a local job, a local girlfriend and I rented an apartment. Briefly, I had everything I wanted and needed, although I went even deeper into debt. The pressure, stress and turmoil which I'd endured to get to this point was unimaginable; just to get to a position which most people would take for granted as the minimum acceptable things for a normal ordinary liveable life.

Papered windows

The local project ended and I was jobless again. The relationship ended. I papered over my bedroom windows and withdrew from the world. The journey had destroyed me. I was spent.

Cashflow

An obscene amount of money flows through my hands, but it all ends up in the pockets of those who I owe money to. I'm desperately trying to keep my head above water. The financial pressure is immense; unbearable. The journey has been incredibly long and arduous. There's still a very long way to go before I reach security and stability; before I'm comfortable, happy and content.

Empty wine bottles

In the last year alone, I've managed to move house 3 times, work 4 different jobs, travel to 4 different countries, date 2 girls, survive a suicide attempt, be admitted to 3 different hospitals, quit addictive painkillers, sedatives, tranquillisers and sleeping pills, be arrested and locked in a cell, buy a car, rent a place to live, stay in 17 different hotels and AirBnBs, and somehow stay on top of my mountainous debts, not go bankrupt and even pay some of that crippling amount of money back. My only remaining vice is wine. I'm completely unmedicated and I don't abuse any substance other than alcohol. It's a remarkable journey for just 12 months, but the journey has been much, much longer than that.

In the last three years, I've written and published a million words and connected with thousands of people all over the globe.

To be precise, to date I've written exactly 1,001,020 words and counting, on this blog.

It's the world's longest suicide note.

If you want to understand why I'm suicidal you just have to read it all - it's all written down in exquisite detail. To save you the trouble of reading all 1 million words I've summarised the last 3 years for you right here.

The pressure; the stress; the exhaustion. Where is my reward?

I've travelled so far and I've achieved so much but yet I feel like it's gotten me nowhere. I should be rich but in fact I'm up to my eyeballs in debt. If you want to know where that debt came from, I just explained it to you. I didn't get into debt buying frivolous things and being profligate. I didn't make particularly bad choices. I'm not stupid. Where's the payoff for working so hard? Why did I bother?

My name's Nick Grant and I drink too much but otherwise I'm an ordinary regular guy. I do my job to a high standard and I'm liked and respected by my colleagues. I pay my taxes. I pay my rent and bills. I contribute to society as a productive member. I do ordinary stuff and have ordinary needs.

I'm 39 years old and I have nothing but debt. I have nothing much to show for my 39 years on the planet.

I'm lonely. I live a double life. The person I am in the office is different from the person I am in the comfort of my own home. Nobody at work would ever suspect that I've slept rough, been in trouble with the police, been hospitalised many times, been sectioned and had horrific problems with addiction. Nobody would suspect that my mental health has caused me horrendous difficulties when exacerbated by stressful life events, like divorce, moving house, losing jobs and everything else that's happened to me in the past 5 or so years.

My solution to the instability in my life was to create a backbone that has run consistently through my ups and downs: my daily writing. To have been able to write a million words has been immensely stabilising and has brought me into contact with so many wonderful kind and caring people. I quite literally owe my life to those who've followed me and my blog, especially via Twitter. Without this connection to the world I would be dead.

Today, I've crossed a seemingly arbitrary imaginary finishing line, in having written and published a million words in less than 3 years. It might seem ludicrous and pointless, but if you consider it in the context of the journey I've been on, you can see why I've wanted to document it.

If you've followed me on some part of this journey, I'm really grateful to have had your support. Thank you.

 

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Monkey Dust

11 min read

This is a story about the food of the gods...

Monkey dust

It was a spate of sensationalistic tabloid newspaper articles which first alerted me to the fact that you can buy super-strong high purity narcotics on the internet. It seems fairly obvious that the internet would sell drugs, given that pornography and escorts are readily available to anybody who looks online. It's a simple case of supply and demand.

Your average middle-class person normally has excellent life prospects - they're likely to be able to get a rewarding secure job, buy a house and afford to raise a family. Having a nice life is an excellent protective factor against the temptations of drink and drugs, although there are plenty of wealthy people who become alcoholics and junkies. Most middle-class people are afraid of drugs, because their insulated life never exposes them to the reality of recreational drug use and they wouldn't know where to find a drug dealer even if they wanted to.

Making drugs easily available on the internet lowers the barrier to entry. Being able to conduct a frictionless e-commerce transaction and have extremely potent drugs hitting your doormat the very next day, places a whole group of people who'd never normally be able to dabble - because they're insulated - in the position where there's a mountain of choice available at the click of a button.

Addictions don't generally take hold unless there are other social and psychological risk factors present. Being stressed, depressed, unemployed, having no hope, having relationship difficulties, family difficulties, money worries and a whole host of similarly unpleasant things, predisposes a person towards drug addiction - unhappy people are much more at risk of developing a habit, because their lives are shitty.

The first wave of legal highs were not very good - the stimulant drug BZP is a an anthelmintic... i.e. it's a worming treatment given to animals.

The second wave of legal highs was a huge improvement. Meow meow - methcathinone, mephedrone or M-CAT - swept the nation at a time when the average purity of street cocaine was less than 20%. Street drugs were terrible quality because of prohibition and the pressure on dealers to maximise profits, because of the risk to their life and liberty. Legal highs were the obvious solution in a capitalist society driven by supply and demand.

Methylone - βk-MDMA or beta-keto-MDMA - was the legal version of ecstasy, and for people who used to go clubbing in Ibiza when they were younger, it proved to be very tempting for former ravers, including myself. Being able to legally obtain an ecstasy-like drug via the internet, enabled me to resume safe recreational occasional weekend drug-taking, which had no negative effect on me or those around me. This was legal, victimless drug-taking in a capitalist society, where the drug was simply a product being produced in a factory and sold by a vendor to the customer - me - in exactly the same way as people buy Nike trainers.

Then, the government banned meow meow and methylone, along with a whole host of other chemical analogues.

For a while, I didn't care.

I went back to my drug-free existence.

I wasn't addicted.

But.

18 months later, I was incredibly stressed and I was having horrible relationship problems. I was depressed and suicidal. I was at risk of addiction.

I went onto a legal high website that I'd used 18 months previously and I looked for a product that was similar to methylone; similar to ecstasy. I wanted to feel better. I wanted something to lift my mood. I didn't know it, but I was very vulnerable to addiction getting its hooks into me.

I bought the number one bestseller on that website.

It was called "NRG-3".

I had no idea what it was.

I'm not stupid, so I did my research. I was away from home a lot because I was trying to raise investment for my startup. I researched this "NRG-3" stuff and it sounded horribly dangerous, so I decided to throw it in the dustbin as soon as I got home - it was sitting on my dining room table in the padded envelope it had been delivered in.

I went to a wedding.

I had an almighty row with my partner.

I decided I was going to kill myself.

I drove home from the wedding in the middle of the night, trying to build up the nerve to drive my car into a concrete bridge pillar at 100mph+. I had turned off the airbag in my car. I wasn't wearing my seatbelt. I figured I'd die instantly if I crashed at that speed into an immovable object.

I got home. I wasn't dead, but I was still suicidal.

There was the envelope.

...

The rest as they say, is history.

...

But what is "NRG-3"?

In America they call it bath salts. Sometimes it's sold as Ivory Wave. Now it seems to be called monkey dust, in the UK. There are also nicknames like flakka, gravel and zombie drug. It's all the same stuff. I call it supercrack.

The reason why I call "NRG-3" supercrack is because I don't really want to write anything online that makes the connection. I've written at length about how potent supercrack is, with a dose of 15mg lasting circa 18 hours, which means that 1 gram of supercrack is 67 doses. This drug is so ridiculously strong and so incredibly cheap that it seemed irresponsible of me to inform anybody of what exactly it is. This drug messed me up so badly that I didn't want anybody else getting curious and falling into the trap that I did.

The active ingredient in monkey dust is alleged to be a chemical called MDPV, but this seems very unlikely given how effectively the Chinese and UK customs have cracked down on the laboratories and supply chain, such that MDPV does not exist in the wild anymore. When the newspapers report that monkey dust is MDPV, they're just plain wrong.

Another chemical called a-PVP - α-PVP or alpha-PVP - is so similar to MDPV it's almost indistinguishable. When the Chinese shut down all the labs producing MDPV, they simply switched to producing a-PVP. Now, a-PVP has gone the same way as MDPV and it doesn't exist in the wild anymore.

There are zillions of analogues of MDPV and a-PVP, so monkey dust could be anything, but it's certainly related to MDPV and a-PVP. Monkey dust is not MDPV, as misreported by the newspapers, but it certainly has all the same effects, such as inducing stimulant psychosis - users hear voices and hallucinate. The psychosis is so powerful that people climb buildings and run through traffic to get away from the monsters in their head. The psychosis has lead to a number of grizzly deaths, hence why the tabloid newspapers have decided to run sensationalistic stories about the crazy escapades of monkey dust users.

The trend towards ever more powerful and ever cheaper drugs is a natural consequence of capitalism and drug prohibition. I'm definitely not pro-legalisation given that it does increase the risk that vulnerable people will become addicts if they have easy access to any drugs they want, but we have created a situation where those with crack, heroin and crystal meth addictions are beginning to realise that there are cheap alternatives, and the new drugs from the Chinese labs are incredibly pure.

Carfentanil can be bought via the Dark Web, which is a synthetic opioid so powerful that an amount the size of a pin head is enough to cause respiratory failure and death. Carfentanil is so powerful that it's considered to be a potential weapon of mass destruction, were it turned into an aerosol and sprayed in a crowded area. The Russians famously pumped carfentanil into a theatre full of Chechen rebels and hostages, killing at least 170 people.

The combination of Bitcoin, the Dark Web, Chinese factories, late-capitalism, austerity, prohibition and drug policies based on vote-winning and public opinion, instead of risk and good science, is creating a perfect storm where increasingly powerful drugs are becoming ubiquitously accessible at an increasingly cheap price. The situation is so bad that the US President has seen fit to declare a state of emergency. Emergency workers in the UK have declared the use of monkey dust as "an epidemic"

The synthetic cannabinoids - sold as Mamba and Spice in the UK - have ruined countless millions of lives and are used by almost the majority of homeless people and prisoners. The ubiquity of these psychosis-inducing cannabis replacements seems unaffected by the New Psychoactive Substances Act, which makes possession in a prison illegal, as well as criminalising the supply of the drugs. In such a depressed economic climate and with the dismantling of the welfare state, of course there will be countless millions who will become addicted to something which has proven far more addictive and destructive than the cannabis it was invented to legally replace.

All the trends point towards an ever-increasing proportion of society struggling with drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, suicide, money worries, insecure jobs and insecure housing. Homelessness rates are soaring, living standards are declining, death rates are climbing and life expectancies are falling. It's a scandal. It's a disaster. It's a tragedy.

I struggle with addiction problems, although I've been 'clean' for a couple of months. Knowing that drugs are always readily available at the click of a button, but a secure job and a place to live are not, it seems obvious that the odds are stacked against people like me who are struggling. What's the best a person can hope for in such a dreadful economic climate? If you're suicidally depressed, of course drugs are going to seem more attractive than the life that's pushed you to the point of killing yourself. Drugs are simply a more protracted and drawn-out form of suicide, and most addicts know exactly what they're doing; they're choosing to kill themselves with drugs, because there's no better life on offer.

I read in the tabloid rags that a small bag of monkey dust can be bought for £2. I used to pay £27 for 2 grams of "NRG-3" which would last me anywhere between 2 and 3 months, so I imagine that a £2 bag of monkey dust lasts for 4 or 5 days, which - in an addict's mind - is incredibly good value for money, even if it's causing them to suffer powerful stimulant psychosis.

I've got a huge scar on my right leg where I fell through a glass roof in a classic monkey-dust story. I hid 80 feet up a tree with a massive shard of glass protruding from my leg, before descending and hiding in a bush in very unsanitary conditions. It's a miracle that I didn't bleed to death or subsequently die of septicaemia, shock or infection. It was exactly as the newspapers describe: superhuman strength, feeling no pain, hearing voices, hallucinating and being wide awake for days and days, with accompanying paranoia and strange delusional thoughts.

That I've been able to recover is only due to the fact that I've been able to somehow continue to work doing very highly paid jobs and the money I've earned has conferred considerable advantages. I've been very lucky to have had a guardian angel looking after me, helping to smooth over the enormous and virtually insurmountable difficulties associated with breaking the habit, detoxing and getting rehabilitated. Unleashing a powerful drug like monkey dust onto impoverished people is consigning them to an incredibly awful fate with little or no hope of escape. It's no wonder our emergency services, social services, police and mental health services are over-stretched, dealing with an avalanche of people who're using drugs like Spice, Mamba and monkey dust, because their lives are so shit, depressing and hopeless.

The social decay that we see and the conspicuous addiction and mental health problems that are putting such a strain on our first-line services, is a direct result of the collapse of our living standards and demise of any opportunity to work hard for a better life. The prospect of becoming crushed by spiralling debts, working zero-hours contract McJobs and not being able to afford rent and bills, is not something I'd wish upon my worst enemy. Of course people are going to become dysfunctional addicts when they're treated so appallingly, and there's so little hope of them ever owning a house and being able to afford to raise a family; there's so little hope of ever having the dignity of earning enough money to feel happy and secure.

Monkey dust is a hell of a drug, but there's no point in me warning people not to use it, because it's toxic circumstances that corral people towards addiction, not bad life choices or bad character.

 

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