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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.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Safe Socks

2 min read

This is a story about retail therapy...

Supermarket Socks

My latest addiction is sock-buying. I am spending almost £16 a week on socks. My sock habit is raging out of control.

I'm not buying socks like the ones pictured above.

I've become hooked on buying stupid childish socks in bright colours and with cartoons on them. I'm getting immense pleasure from buying socks with whimsical slogans on them. I'm totally addicted to the buzz I get from choosing, buying and wearing sills socks.

I'm not a morning person.

However, choosing the socks I'm going to wear on any given day, is something that's a real highlight of my day. For something so relatively inexpensive - costing an average of £2.67 per pair - those simple socks pack a surprising punch. I feel genuine joy and happiness every time I see my growing sock collection and I pick out the pair that I'm in the mood to wear.

I have socks with an English breakfast of sausages, beans and fried eggs on them. I have socks with foxes on them. I have socks with dinosaurs on them. I have socks with hamburgers on them. I have socks with sock puppets on them, as a demonstration of the meta-stupidity I've descended into.

I know that other members of my clan of geeks have huge T-shirt collections, but it would be inappropriate for me to wear a T-shirt at work, no matter how witty and hilarious I thought its design was. My choice to wear silly socks is my way of thumbing my nose at the establishment, while also recognising that it's a pretty good idea not to bite the hand that feeds me - I'm well paid, I like my colleagues and I find the work to be increasingly tolerable.

Given the vast number of things which I could possibly become addicted, and the harmful behaviours and bodily abuse which could ensue, the sock thing seems mostly harmless.

 

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Zopiclone

5 min read

This is a story about the sweet kiss of oblivion...

Zopiclone tablets

Isn't zopiclone the most perfect Nazi-inspired name, recalling the horrific Zyclon B in a lot of ways? Who the f**k thought it was a good idea to name a quite benign sleeping tablet with a similar name to a pesticide which gives a quick and permanent sleep to whomsoever is dosed with the chemical?

I thought I should write about zopiclone because every time I do I receive a lot of messages and emails from people, far outnumbering my regular communications. Anecdotally, it appears to me like I strike a nerve every time I write about zopiclone.

The first group of people ask me how do I get my doctor to give me more zopiclone? Sleep is something which the whole working world seems very stressed out about, and the idea that high quality sleep can be prescribed by your family doctor has become somewhat of a highly valued commodity. People are apparently swapping tips for how to manipulate medical professionals into writing prescriptions for this sought-after medication.

(The answer by the way is that I buy whatever I want from the dark web, cutting out the middleman)

The next - and perhaps equal - group of people write to me to tell me how important sleep is. There is without a shadow of a doubt, an enormous group of people out there who recognise the importance of sleep as one of the most fundamentally important things for mental health and life quality. Every time I write about sleeping pills - particularly zopiclone - I get a huge outpouring of support for pro-sleep approaches to healthcare, and those precious pills which give us the quality sleep we so desperately crave.

(I don't disagree. I think the alarm clock is the worst invention in the history of humanity)

The other group who write to me are general apologists for medication dependency. Every time I write about ANY medication, I receive a flurry of emails and messages telling me that medications replace something which is missing due to congenital deficiency. It's as if the vast majority of us have been born with holes in our hearts which need to be surgically closed. Suddenly, there is an epidemic of genetic abnormalities and the only thing which can repair those defects happens to be psychiatric medication.

(This seems unlikely to me. Civilisation has advanced at a pace which has far outstripped evolution, so it seems logical that our anxiety, depression, stress and other psychological distress has a circumstantial origin, not a medical one)

In short, we are looking for fast-acting solutions which work for our immediate distress. It seems unconscionable that a medical professional would prescribe a suffering patient a medication which might become 'effective' within 6 to 8 weeks. Are you fucking insane? I'm suffering RIGHT FUCKING NOW. You really expect me to wait the best part of two months to feel some relief from this agony? Are you fucking nuts? What kind of fucking quack are you anyway? Give. Me. The. Good. Stuff.

Zopiclone works.

30 to 40 minutes and it's lights out.

Oblivion.

Blissful refreshing sleep.

Why the hell are they keeping this stuff from you? Why the hell aren't they putting it in the water?

Do you want to know why?

You're not going to like it.

It's an arms race.

Just like athletes with their performance enhancing drugs, we use the same things in our daily lives. We drink coffee and energy drinks to pep ourselves up in the mornings when we really feel like having a lie-in. We take legally available psychoactive chemicals to increase our concentration, focus and make us more alert - the wakefulness-promoting agents. We're hopped-up on the sensory-overload of modern life, with 70mph superhighways, 600mph jet air travel and 671,000,000mph speed of electronic communications, we're just not built to cope with the technological 'advancements' of the past 75 years - there are fast jets which can carry us across the surface of the planet faster than so-called 'time' elapses, such that we can land before we have taken off. No terrestrial animal is built for such a thing.

You're not allowed to have a lie-in or have sleeping pills because it's giving you an unfair competitive advantage but also, what goes up must come down. For every upper and downer that you take, you're going to suffer a difficult period of re-adjustment when you stop taking those pills. Your body is going to get used to taking those pills and it's going to take more and more to achieve the same effects, until you're practically poisoning yourself with huge doses of the toxic chemicals. You're chasing something unsustainable. There's a reason why your brain has evolved over millions of years to be homeostatic and able to hold itself in perfect balance. To fuck with your brain chemistry is a short-term quick fix, not a solution.

Zopiclone is wonderful and I've had a brilliant week at work. For the first time in two months, I've had some good days.

Tomorrow I'm pretty sure I'm dead though.

I've had enough.

I can't keep up.

This race has run.

 

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Relapse

6 min read

This is a story about the easy option...

Pill packets

I took a sleeping pill last night. Sunday nights are hard and so are Monday mornings. Lots of people struggle but I've got a fairly legitimate set of reasons why I'm struggling: mountainous debts, soul-destroyingly boring and slow work, social isolation, mood disorder and having recently gone gold turkey on a zillion addictive drugs and medications. Normal people who've been through the ordeal I've been through - including the homelessness and the hospitalisations - are not working a full-time high-pressure demanding job. I find my job pretty easy, but it's still a lot of pressure and very demanding to turn up and appear like I've got my shit together as opposed to having just dragged myself off the streets and gotten clean.

Take a look at the people who are getting clean and recovering from a severe mental health crisis. Take a look at the people who are recovering from suicide attempts and addiction. Take a look at the people who are getting back on their feet.

Are they working full time jobs, miles away from home?

So I took a sleeping pill.

So. Fucking. What.

It's not the slippery slope. It's not the thin edge of the wedge. It's not the beginning of the end.

I will have a proper relapse at some point. I'm bound to. It's inevitable.

When I've finally got my debts paid off and I'm finally free, the relief is sure to be overwhelming. I've struggled so hard for so long to reach that milestone of repairing the damage of divorce and everything that went with it, that I think I'll be happy to sleep rough at least knowing that getting off the streets and working to earn money was the easy part which I've done a million times before. The hard part has been that it's been so unrewarding. I've worked so hard for so long and I've got nothing to show for it. Where's the payoff?

I took a sleeping pill and I slept well.

I woke up feeling refreshed.

It was easy to get up.

Dread = gone.

That was amazing to wake up and not be filled with dread about the day ahead. In fact that reduced feeling of dread lasted all day and I was reasonably happy at my desk, rather than bored out of my mind. Is that a co-incidence, or is it linked to the fact that my brain was getting something that it was missing?

I don't really want to go back to being dependent on all those pills, but I did go cold turkey very abruptly, and the re-adjustment has been brutal. So many little things make me stressed and anxious, which is not a choice to catastrophise, but a perfectly rational and logical thing for a person who's suddenly found themselves living life without copious quantities of nerve-soothing tranquillisers, sedatives and painkillers. Medication adjustments aren't something that can be done in days, weeks and months. It takes a very long time to adjust to harshness, and the world is a very harsh place.

It's so tempting to pop pills at the moment.

Pills don't have any calories. Good quality sleep is so valuable. Life without anxiety is so much better.

Why would I want to suffer?

I need to sleep well, wake up refreshed, not dread going to work, not be anxious and miserable at my desk and not feel hungry and wanting to comfort eat all the time. Of course I want pills.

The rebound insomnia and rebound anxiety were terrible, and it's still a problem, but without tea, coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes or some other vice to overcompensate with, I've snacked like crazy and put on weight. I'm stressed and anxious about my weight, which is a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.

The solution is to not have to get up at the crack of dawn every day and go to an office and be bored out of my mind. The solution is to not be in debt up to my eyeballs and unable to stop working as hard as I can. The solution is not to live with job insecurity, money insecurity, housing insecurity, social isolation and all the other problems which come about as a result of the pressure on me to simply chain myself to my desk.

Those options are not available to me.

Those solutions are denied to me.

Make hay while the sun shines.

I never know when I'm going to lose my job, lose my mind, suffer health problems or get fucked over by somebody. I never know when I'm going to get totally fucking screwed so I've got to work as hard as I can for as long as I can, because somebody always screws me in the end.

All I can do is take pills.

I take pills so I can keep going in the fucking miserable merry-go-round which is my life. I take pills to prop me up. I take pills to pep me up. I take pills instead of taking a holiday. I take pills instead of taking a break. I take pills because I can't afford to stop pedalling as fast as I can. I take pills to help me cope with this never-ending nightmare.

I take pills.

I hate taking pills.

I'd rather take a break.

But I can't.

Not yet.

The day never seems to come.

Always just out of reach.

Round and round.

On and on.

Forever and ever.

If I do come out the other side of this, I need to make sure I'm not too fat, not too addicted to things, not dead. It's pretty hard, balancing things. It's pretty hard judging things just right.

This is the last time I do this.

If this time doesn't work out, I'm through with life. I'm done. I've had enough. Either it works out for me this time or I'm checking out. I'm history. The end. See you later. Goodbye.

 

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Self Doubt

5 min read

This is a story about the beer fear...

Pub

My mood and my perceptions swing wildly between a cautious sense of optimism and overwhelming defeatism. On a good day I can be thinking about how far I've travelled and how much improved my circumstances are; I can feel really hopeful about the future and I say to myself "not long to go until I'm quite financially comfortable". On those good days I'm pleased with my achievements; proud. On a bad day I think I've made a huge mistake and I've wandered up a one-way street; I'm convinced that I've been wasting my time and I haven't made any progress at all. On the bad days the uphill struggle seems impossible to sustain and it's pointless to continue flogging a dead horse; I say to myself "there's still so far to travel and I'll never make it".

I was doing some Google searches yesterday and by accident I discovered that there was a problem with my site's position in the rankings - searching "manic grant" wasn't bringing my site back as the number one hit. I was distraught. For a moment I felt as if I'd been living in a fantasy world - hallucinating - and everything I'd worked so hard on for 3 years was just dribbling nonsense which had been identified as spam by Google. I started to doubt my ability to write. I started to think that perhaps I'm semi-brain-dead and nobody's had the heart to tell me yet - everybody is just humouring me. Tiny mistakes became magnified in my mind. I misspelled the word "novelist" and I was crushed with embarrassment; cringing at my pseudo-intellectualism. I felt dumb.

The first day of the working week back in the office was every bit as dreadful as I hoped it wouldn't be, and perhaps even worse still. There were a lot of moments where I felt like walking out, because I couldn't stand to be so bored with nothing to do; nothing to keep me busy and allow me to escape my own thoughts. I so desperately needed to escape my own thoughts, because all I can think about is how many more boring days I've got to endure when I've already reached the limit of what I can tolerate.

I don't think the problem is Mondays (or Tuesday in this case).

I don't think the problem is the job.

I don't think there's a problem.

What's happening is that I keep having very boozy weekends with teetotal Sundays (or in this case bank holiday Monday) because I have to get up early and drive for the best part of an hour and a half to get to work. My brain keeps suffering repeated periods of alcohol withdrawal at the beginning of the week. While this might be tolerably OK for the majority of people - and indeed getting drunk at the weekend is the norm - my brain has been highly sensitised to GABA agonist type chemicals, because I spent most of 2017 highly medicated with neuropathic painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquillisers. As a result, I probably have a high alcohol tolerance and I feel the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms very acutely.

A friend of mine describes a phenomenon he calls the "beer fear" as a gnawing anxiety, sense of hopelessness and generally unease; the sensation that the world's about to end, even though you can't put your finger on why. This very much tallies with how I've been feeling.

When I take a break from drinking, after a few days of insomnia, anxiety and negative thoughts, the "beer fear" goes away and some energy, enthusiasm and positive thinking return. All the hopeless thoughts seem nonsensical and are forgotten - it's a complete mindset change.

Since December I said to myself I was allowed to eat as much junk food as I wanted, and to get as drunk as I wanted because I deserved to have those things as a reward for the stress and hard work of working away from home. For most of the past 9 months I've drunk at least a bottle of wine every day, plus I've had periods where I've used leftover prescriptions of painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquillisers, all in a desperate attempt to make the time pass more quickly and less painfully. I was desperately stressed at the start of the year but now my circumstances have improved remarkably, but I guess I'm still paying a bit of a price for those bad habits I got into.

If I drink far less I know that it'll be easier to get up in the mornings and the working day will pass more bearably. I know that I'll lose weight, get fitter and have more energy and motivation to do things. I know that I'll have fewer periods of feeling like everything's hopeless, pointless, ruined and unbearably awful.

The question is: how do I get through my working week, my lonely evenings and my lonely weekends without alcohol? I've become habituated into having a couple of bottles of red wine on a Friday night and spending most of Saturday wishing I hadn't. It's ludicrous, because my rational analysis quite clearly indicates that alcohol is causing more harm than good, but yet I can't quite imagine not having it as my dependable reward for the miserable drudgery of the working week.

Comfort eating and comfort boozing is not bringing me much happiness, ultimately. I want to be fit not fat, so things are going to have to change. I'm 99% certain that the origin of my existential crises and overwhelming self-doubt is driven by the violent mood swings and altered perceptions caused by alcohol withdrawal.

I imagine that tomorrow I will feel a little better than today, and on Thursday I will feel much better... but then the drinking starts all over again. Need to break the cycle somehow.

 

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The Day I Didn't Drink All the Alcohol

10 min read

This is a story about abstinence...

Alcoholz

I woke up this morning and started having a not-quite-fully-blown panic attack. Re-adjusting to life without the tranquillising and sedating effects of alcohol is hard. The first couple of alcohol-free days seem to pass easily enough, but day three brings something that a friend of mine calls "the fear" which is a gnawing anxiety.

Anxiety is by its very nature irrational.

Sometimes anxiety can be attributed to genuinely stressful things that are happening, but there's no benefit to feeling anxious - our self-preservation instincts could function just fine without anxiety. Anxiety might be irrational, but it can't be rationalised away, especially when its origin is biochemical. The sudden absence of soothing chemicals in the brain - withdrawing from alcohol - triggers rebound anxiety, which is most unpleasant.

I notice that I'm hungrier and thirstier than I would usually be when I'm semi-drunk. I notice that I'm craving sweet things. I notice that I gobble my food down faster than ever, as if I'm eating my final meal or I'm dying of starvation. On balance though, I'm eating more healthily and I've substantially cut my total daily calorie intake, which will be better for my waistline. My body is not having to work so hard to detoxify itself and get rid of the barely digestible combination of wine and fatty salty snacks.

I'd love to tell you that I feel better, but I don't. On balance, I miss the soothing effects of alcohol and the dulled senses more than I cherish the clear head and sharper perceptions. On balance, I hate the anxiety more than I hate the health damage that alcohol was inflicting.

Anything worth doing is hard when you start, so I'm aware that I might not feel the real benefits of sobriety unless I carry on for a few more weeks. I'm half-tempted to have a dry August, but I'm really not sure whether the timing is right and whether it's worth the risk of having some kind of breakdown, because I have no crutch to help me through a rather challenging period of my life.

Looking back through my photo-diary exactly one year ago, I'm reminded that I was in a big mess with substances. I was abusing a combination of Valium and Xanax, as well as the sleeping pills Imovane and Ambien, plus I was prescribed Lyrica as a painkiller. Two tranquillisers, two sleeping pills and a painkiller is quite a hefty combination of sedating medications, plus I was drinking like a fish too. I'm surprised I even knew what day of the week it was.

There was no way I was going to be able to stop all those physically addictive medications safely, without risking seizures. I was trapped.

Alcohol abuse has always slipped under the radar in my life. I've always been part of a work-hard play-hard culture where conspicuous consumption of vast quantities of alcohol has been near-ubiquitous. Boozy lunches and after-work drinking sessions somehow seemed to dovetail with the demanding work I've been involved in, and industries which are disproportionately staffed by young men, mostly unencumbered by the demands and responsibilities of family life. Somehow, arriving at work an hour and a half late with a terrific hangover doesn't seem to matter if everybody else is doing it too.

Spotting the alcoholics amongst a population of similar heavy drinkers seemed to me to be impossible. One colleague was apparently swigging vodka from a bottle of mineral water at his desk, but I could never smell the alcohol on his breath... probably because I was hungover most mornings and half-drunk most afternoons. Somehow the situation continued for many years without any problems - the work would always get done and the booze kept flowing.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that a number of my former colleagues have had to go through detox and rehab, and some have dropped dead from liver failure and other alcohol-related illnesses. I suppose it should come as no surprise that several of the former colleagues who I count amongst my very best friends are just as alcoholic as I am. Somehow, we stick together and look after each other, us band of drunks.

What might be more surprising to those who've never worked in such male-dominated and alcohol-tolerating environments, where I've spent most of my career, is the level of responsibility shouldered by the unfortunate alcoholic wretches such as myself. You'd think that handing over the 'keys' to the 'bank vault' of a massive investment bank to a bunch of alcoholics would be sheer insanity, but perhaps those of a more sober persuasion aren't suited to the role. When I think about all the quadrillions of dollars watched over by a gang of brilliant men who spend most of their time drunk, it beggars belief, but that's the way that the global financial system seems to be run: in the hands of functional alcoholics.

Those who are fully in possession of their faculties don't seem to find their way into the fantasy land where 6-figure sums of money are paid to anybody who will willingly forego a sense of meaningful purpose and enter the bewildering world of high-finance, where the amount of capital that flows around the globe is an order of magnitude greater than anything that an ordinary person could comprehend. The concept of money becomes a ridiculously absurd one and cash is just a rounding error.

Further, when dealing with computer software and data, any sane person would run screaming in the opposite direction as soon as they realise that they've entered yet another ridiculously absurd world, which is the extreme opposite from anything 'real' or tangible.

When I was making iPhone apps and selling them, there was clearly a product and the idea of selling that product for a profit is something we all understand. My life was less absurd. However, the vast majority of my career has been spent helping investment banks to play with numbers in ludicrously complex ways, to obfuscate the fact that there is no product... nothing of any value is being created!

I suppose it's only natural that I would look at my obscenely large monthly paycheque and be unable to reconcile that amount of remuneration with the 'value' that I'd delivered to humanity. It seems that the greater the absurdity, the greater the financial reward. Somehow, it's never sat easily with my conscience and perhaps that's why I've spent such a big chunk of my income on booze. It's hard to get up and go to work every day when you're only in it for the money, and you're pretty certain that what you're doing is actually harmful and immoral but you can't precisely say why... it's too complex to work out. There's a kind of 'golden handcuffs' situation that arises, where you don't want to question things too much because the money is so much better than you'd get building houses or catching fish.

Ultimately, I don't know why we need so much damn software and data. I don't know why we need so many offices and service industries. I don't know what the f**k 95% of people actually do for a living that's useful or productive, when only 5% of people are doing jobs which are obviously indispensable. I consider myself to be at the extreme end of the utility spectrum, where not only is what I do completely pointless, but it's also harmful to humanity as well as producing absolutely nothing that's tangible or 'real'.

I suppose that's why I drink.

Perhaps anybody who's glimpsed the absurdity of existence and understood their place in the universe, as well as any average human could ever hope to, is likely to be confronted with an existential crisis. Most people will busy themselves by acting like slime mold or bacteria, and reproducing with gay abandon until every inch of the surface of the planet is teeming with similarly brain-dead morons just like them. Most people will revert to animalistic bestial knuckle-dragging behaviours found in every lifeform on Earth - f**king, s**tting, fighting, feeding etc.

I suppose why I drink is that I'm not like 99.9% of the beasts and the bees and the bacteria.

Consciousness is a curse.

To be conscious means to be able to rationalise and to decide to override the bestial instinct to rut and reproduce, and instead to inhabit an intellectual world which the beasts do not partake in. However, now I envy those beasts' ignorant bliss. Oh, to be thick: that's what I really want, I think. I wish I was stupid. I wish I was dumb. I wish I was a dimwit.

It seems obvious now I say it, but getting drunk is like having the partial lobotomy I so desperately crave; to be free from the burden of the things that cannot be un-learned; to escape my own rational and reasonable inquiring and inquisitive mind.

Of course, I don't claim to be in possession of a brilliant mind, but I'm clever enough to be miserable and tormented. Not clever enough to be great, but not ordinary and average enough to fit in with the masses and their orgy of mindless procreation.

I've done some good work today. My concentration's been improved. I can see that life could be better if I could remain alcohol-free, but I also don't know how to cope with the 'spare brain capacity' which is unfortunately utilised to process all the facts at my disposal, leading to the inevitable non-stop existential crisis and general unhappiness about the absurdity of existence. I don't have a choice - it's not like I can ever stop thinking. Due to financial necessity, I'm forced to work a job which requires very little thought. My mind is rarely occupied by interesting distractions because I've had to prioritise income ahead of intellectual stimulation.

Drink might be a dratted demon, but in moderation it's helped me cope with 21+ years of unfulfilling full-time career and I don't have any healthy outlets at the moment; any purpose, hobby or interest which might better occupy my time.

I'm pleased I've had a 5-day break from drinking and I suppose I'll be able to manage at least another night without alcohol. I'm pleased that I'm able to stop drinking when I want to, but that should come as no surprise - I am after all, one of the very few who are cursed with consciousness, which means I'm able to curb my cravings. It's only beasts - the dimwits - who aren't able to make conscious choices.

I wish I could choose how I felt, but of course that's a ridiculous notion. Wouldn't we all choose to be blissfully happy and content if it was easy as just choosing? I feel anxious and overwhelmed by my own consciousness, and I know that alcohol would calm my nervous system and help me cope, but I choose not to drink temporarily because my liver needs a break.

I'm glad that I've made some progress versus where I was a year ago.

 

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Swapping Addictions

5 min read

This is a story about changing habits...

Pill packets

A couple of months ago, I'd gotten myself to the point where I was off all the medications and I was even having some periods where I wasn't drinking. It's quite a remarkable achievement considering that a year ago I was physically addicted to a nasty cocktail of Xanax, Valium, zopiclone, zolpidem and pregabalin, all washed down with copious quantities of alcohol. Last year I had started drinking caffeinated drinks again in an effort to allow me to function at work, when I was so heavily medicated. It was a mess.

Last week, I had a little bit of pregabalin and a little bit of diazepam to help me get over the new job nerves, and to help my body re-adjust its sleeping pattern to office hours.

This week, I've had a little bit of zopiclone to continue to help my body re-adjust to getting up early in the morning.

My coping mechanism; my crutch is alcohol. My portion control with alcohol is fairly hard to adjust. If I open a bottle of wine I'm definitely going to finish it. If alcohol is easily available I'm definitely going to drink. Eliminating all the medications which would tranquillise me, sedate me and ease me gently to sleep, and not replacing any of them with anything has meant that I've consciously or unconsciously sought to salve my anxiety; soothe my nerves. I've reached for the bottle.

Ideally, I'd swap unhealthy habits for healthy ones. I'd love it if my job was absorbing and I could become a workaholic. I'd love it if my lifestyle permitted fitness-related leisure pursuits, but it doesn't: I'm in an office job which bores the shit out of me, stuck at a desk all day long, then I'm in a hotel room near a motorway, and the thought of doing anything beyond simply surviving tips me into an outright panic attack.

In time, my debts will be repaid and my savings replenished. In time, I'll have re-established my working routine and proven my value at my workplace with my new colleagues. In time, my brain will have adjusted to life without all the medications.

My fear is that I'm going to get fat, unfit and develop a heavy dependence on alcohol.

I know that my personality is fixed a certain way, which means I can very easily become obsessive about work and leisure pursuits making me fit, fulfilled and rich, but things just aren't going my way at the moment. I'm struggling along with pretty intolerable living arrangements, working arrangements and paying a very high price for lengthy periods where I was using powerful psychoactive medications.

I have a deep longing for some tablets to make the next few months a bit more bearable. I'd consider almost any antidepressant at the moment, if it promised to reduce my anxiety, take away the dread I feel the night before a working day and soften the blow when my alarm goes off in the morning and it's time to go to work; if it could reduce the acute feelings of misery and hopelessness.

I've felt a lot less suicidal the past couple of weeks, but depression has manifested itself as feeling tired all the time and an incredible struggle to get up in the mornings. My energy, enthusiasm and motivation levels are all at rock bottom. My brain feels pretty sluggish and slow, and I'm disappointed with myself that I haven't been able to feel useful or productive in my new job yet.

All of these things place a huge amount of stress and strain on me. You'd be surprised how hard it is to make medication changes, let alone stop taking a whole host of powerful medications all at once, plus the other stressors in my life, such as an unsettled work and home life; lack of support network.

My bank balance steadily creeps in a positive direction, which is pretty much my main objective, but my responsibilities seem to mount while my enjoyment of life is at rock bottom. I need to go to the supermarket to buy cakes for my work colleagues because tomorrow is my birthday, but it's going to be one of the worst birthdays I've had for a long time, although it might be OK if I can meet a local friend for a beer, which would improve things immeasurably.

Perhaps I'm being a martyr; perhaps I'm not. I've gotten into the habit of going cold turkey with addictive drugs and medications, and white-knuckling through the dreadful withdrawal symptoms. I've desperately tried to avoid becoming dependent on anything new and muddying the psychiatric picture by pickling my brain in more chemicals.

I'd like to make things as easy as possible on myself for the next few months, but I don't think the answer lies in addictive tranquillisers, sedatives, sleeping pills and painkillers. Perhaps my mind has been too closed off to the idea of antidepressants. I desperately need this job and the money. I desperately need the next few months to go smoothly and without incident, so I can escape the shackles of my debt.

I'm sad that I'm so sad on the eve of my birthday. I'm sad that I'm so sad in the middle of summer. I'm sad that I'm so sad when I've worked so hard to do the right things: work hard and quit all the addictive drugs and medications. Isn't there supposed to be some reward for hard work?

I wonder when I'm going to feel the benefits from all the good choices I'm making?

 

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Recovering Regularity

3 min read

This is a story about rhythm and routine...

No hands clock

I've had a shaky couple of months with a breakup and a work project finishing. My life of simple domestic bliss was smashed to smithereens. My routine was shattered and my life had become chaotic; it looked like I was on collision course with total disaster.

I wouldn't say that disaster is averted. I now need to get into a completely different and quite uncomfortable routine than the one that I was enjoying a couple of months ago. Already, I'm lacking any routine social contact, love, care or affection. Getting back to work will at least give me some social contact from Monday to Friday. As far as domestic bliss goes, that's gone out of the window: I shall be living out of a suitcase again, living in hotels and AirBnBs until I figure out how long I'm going to be working away from "home".

As I've written at length, I don't really know where to call home. Estranged from most of my family, having made perhaps only one or two local friends, having no other local connection other than the bizarre circumstances that brought me here, having had two unpleasant periods of conflict which have been distressing and upsetting, I'm left feeling generally unwelcome in the area... unwelcome anywhere perhaps. It's always me who's the odd one out; the weirdo; the freak; the outsider.

All I can do is try to force myself to comply with a very unpleasant routine, which will leave me feeling even more unsettled, but will at least keep the cash rolling in. I have this unshakeable belief that if I concentrate on achieving financial security and freedom, then I can dare to dream about where I really want to be, and what I really want to be doing. At the moment, there's no point tormenting myself with unattainable dreams.

Early Monday mornings and Friday evenings are going to be spent bumper-to-bumper on the motorway, along with every other poor soul who can't find a local job. I'll be hoping I have packed everything I need for the working week. I'll be throwing myself into the new job, immersing myself in the work, but what will I do in the evenings? Watching TV and movies in a hotel room on my own, I expect. What will I be looking forward to? The weekends? There's not a lot of excitement in returning to a place where you don't really have any friends or family. Think of the money and count down the days, weeks and months until I'm free: that's all I can really do.

It's an exercise in clock-watching, much more akin to serving a prison sentence than waiting for the end of your working day.

What is it you look forward to at the end of your working day? Seeing your loved ones? Seeing your pet(s)? Relaxing in the comfort of your own home? Eating a home-cooked meal?

What if you have none of those things to look forward to?

Watch the clock.

Count the money.

Count down the days.

Inch along at snail's pace.

Painful.

 

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Sugar Craving, Caffeine Addicted, Alcohol Dependent

4 min read

This is a story about shelf life...

Red bull cans

Objectively comparing feelings at different times in your life is a virtually impossible task. What you would have described as 'low' mood a few years ago might have now become your new standard for a 'good' day. All I can tell you is that I don't remember ever feeling as tired as I have felt today.

I spent 5 hours driving, 7 hours waiting around in airports and 5 hours flying, which was all exhausting. However, in the last week or so there's something else that's been quite different about my behaviour - I've been drinking coffee and energy drinks.

A couple of weeks I desperately needed an extra bit of 'get up and go' to get me through a tough couple of weeks. I reached for caffeine as a crutch. I gave up - although perhaps only temporarily - my many years of caffeine-free existence.

When I was away with my friend over the weekend, it was tempting to just move from bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant, café to café. We drank fizzy drinks, strong European coffee, had ice-creams and I drank quite a lot of beer. We guzzled sugar, caffeine, and I had plenty of alcohol.

Yesterday, because I had to drive home from the airport, I had to stay sober all day. I also didn't want to be wired and jittery from having loads of coffee. I was exhausted, so I wanted to sleep on the plane ride, so that I wouldn't fall asleep at the wheel while driving home.

I think to say "alcohol dependent" is an over-exaggeration, but having slept most of the day, and generally felt like everything was far too much effort, it was the lure of alcohol that finally managed to get me off the sofa and out of the house.

If you look at most of my behaviour, it's motivated by the tiny dopamine hits from sugar, caffeine and the mellowing effect of alcohol. I used to ride a dreadful chemical carousel when I was a lot younger, working in London: I would have 8 or more espresso shots a day, and then had to have a bottle of red wine at night in order to be able to sleep. It was a vicious see-saw of uppers and downers, that were quite legal and indeed the consumption of coffee and alcohol was quite ubiquitous amongst my friends and work colleagues.

I've felt like my sleep quality has improved and I find it a lot easier to get up in the mornings, since going caffeine-free.

I've never really managed to get rid of alcohol completely. I find that I suffer terrible anxiety and depression whenever I try to stop drinking.

Sugar is something I have a mixed relationship with. I crave it like crazy when I'm tired. When I'm well rested I don't have a very sweet tooth at all. I think I associate sugar with getting an energy boost, which in fact never happens. If I'm craving sugar I should probably take a nap.

There's nothing to say that caffeine is particularly bad for you, and in fact there's good evidence that it has a neuro-protective effect against dementia in older people, but anecdotally I can definitely report feeling improved mood, energy and sleep, since cutting my caffeine intake to zero.

Sugar is obviously fattening, and is very unhealthy, although an essential part of our diet - every cell in our body is powered by glucose, so any faddy sugar-free low-carb diets are pure idiocy.

Alcohol is fattening and seems to have a firm grip on me, even if I'm not physically dependent on it. The strength of the cravings I have for alcohol are quite shocking, and the regularity and quantity I consume is definitely unhealthy. I would like to cut down, or even quit for a while, but I'm never quite able to.

In short, I'm feeling really tired, old and unhealthy. My mood is dreadfully low, I'm lacking motivation and I seem to have lost all enjoyment of life.

I wonder if I'm past my sell-by date.

 

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Without hope, why go on?

6 min read

This is a story about motivation...

King of Bohemia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there a middle ground?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why go on? Why struggle anymore?

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

 

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Sobriety-Induced Insomnia

3 min read

This is a story about nodding off...

Sleeping under a kite

I was expecting my alcohol-free week to pay dividends, but it's not [yet]. I've had three awful nights of sleep and I've been struggling to keep my eyes open at work during the afternoons. My body clock is all screwed up - I'm struggling to get out of bed in the mornings and I'm struggling to get to sleep at night. The only variable is the alcohol, so I know that my sobriety is to blame.

I'm strict with my bedtime and mealtimes. I dim the lights and avoid using my laptop and smartphone in the evenings. I'm doing all the right things but I'm tired and I'm getting more tired by the day, because I'm not sleeping very well at night.

I've noticed an improvement in terms of weight gain already - my trousers had been feeling a little tight. Alcohol piles on the pounds because it's so calorific. I think it's worth having a break from booze for the benefit of my liver and waistline.

I think I'm having bouts of depression and anxiety as a result of abruptly cutting my alcohol consumption to zero. I keep thinking that I'm bored at work and that I should walk out and go home, because I can't stand sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I keep feeling depressed about the fact that I'm months away from financial security. I feel like I can't yet afford to take a holiday - I need to earn every penny I can to dig myself out of the hole and get myself into a strong situation.

My situation is pretty damn good really. I'm managing to get up and get to work nice and early. I'm making it through the working week without too much struggle. My finances are improving. The weather is improving. I have a lovely home. I'm sure I'll feel a lot better after a restful laid-back weekend watching TV while I lie on the sofa. It'll be great to have some weeks without any stress or disruption, to really get into a good routine.

I took a big gamble in making a big change, by stopping drinking so abruptly. I was sensible when I made all the other big changes, like tapering slowly off various medications, but it was really hard. By stopping drinking suddenly I've risked nasty side effects, which I'm very much experiencing right now. I'm sure my body and brain will be very grateful for having a break from booze, but right now I'm exhausted... I'm not feeling the benefit yet.

I guess things always get worse before they get better.

 

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