Skip to main content

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

facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Mount Cardboard

6 min read

This is a story about packaging...

Cardboard pile

My house has high ceilings but I've still managed to reach the ceiling with my mountain of cardboard packaging, mostly from all the Ikea furniture I've bought. Arguably, I'm getting by with the bare minimum amount of furniture. What's the minimum amount of furniture that you could have, and lead a fairly normal life?

I lived out of suitcases and holdalls for a long time, so it seems reasonable to want a wardrobe - for hanging garments - and a chest of drawers for my other clothes. I'm sick of rummaging in bags to find the clothes I want.

I have a guest bed. It might seem like a real luxury to have a guest bedroom at all, but what was the point of working so hard for so long, if I'm not able to accomodate guests in my own home? Sure, I could rent a room in a shared house, share a kitchen, share a bathroom... but I spent enough years putting up with other people's disgustingness and inconsiderate behaviour. I think I'm entitled to a place of my own, with some space for friends and my sister to come and stay with me.

I have two sofas and a coffee table. I could probably get along alright with just one sofa but at some point I was going to want a matching pair and there's no guarantee that Ikea would have kept manufacturing the model I bought, so it made sense to buy the second sofa. Also, it does mean I can seat guests without us all having to be cramped onto the one sofa. I don't think it seems particularly profligate to own two sofas.

I managed to live for about 18 months without a microwave, iron, vacuum cleaner and various other domestic items, but it is rather tiresome not having these household basics. Yes, I did manage to survive without those things, but I could hardly be accused of being a spendthrift for purchasing such mundane objects.

In amongst the packaging pile of Mount Cardboard are some large lumps of polystyrene, which protected my washer/dryer during delivery. I'll accept that the dishwasher - which I did not purchase - is a luxury item that I could easily live without, but I refuse to wash my clothes by hand using a washboard and mangle. Using the dryer is horrendously energy inefficient and I have been good at taking advantage of nice weather to hang my washing out to dry, but sometimes it's incredibly nice to fill the machine with dirty laundry, push a button, and then have dry clothes ready to wear some hours later - requiring virtually zero effort.

The sum total amount of money I've spent vastly exceeds what I expected, even though I have bought bottom-of-the-range items most of the time. One must remember that I was starting my life afresh - a clean slate - with virtually no possessions, and the innumerable items which you use in normal daily life shouldn't be underestimated.

I bought items which could be seen as serving a purely decorative purchase, like lamps for my lounge and bedrooms, and shelves for the bathroom. I bought a bath mat and some pillows. I bought a pair of curtains. I bought some little organiser boxes. I even bought a couple of outdoor chairs to sit in the sun and read my book, in the privacy of my own garden. My life would function without these things, or I could make do with what I've got, but there's an intangible value to having a house with some finishing touches which make it feel homely; inviting.

If things should go horribly wrong somehow, with the benefit of hindsight some might criticise me for having set up my home relatively quickly - in under two months - instead of being much more cautious about the rate I have been spending money. I would counteract that argument by saying that this lovely home is my reward for having struggled through the years in shared houses, hostels, sleeping rough, months in hospital and generally unsettled existence which led me to the point of having no furniture, and very little else which is necessary to make a house a home.

It pleases me when I open a cupboard to find that I had the foresight to buy tea and coffee for the benefit of any visitors, because I do not drink tea or coffee myself. It pleases me when I'm able to offer a guest a hot beverage of their choice, with milk and/or sugar too. It might sound laughable, the idea of living a life where I simply wasn't in a position to have friends or my sister stop and visit, but that's what my life has been like - we quickly take our lives for granted and get used to our surroundings.

It will be a relief to take Mount Cardboard to my nearest recycling centre. It will be great to reclaim that space and not have the ugly eyesore, but I do have a final wave of Ikea furniture, which I have delayed for now because I have the bare minimum to be able to comfortably accomodate one guest or a couple. At some point, I would like to be able to have the space to have visitors and their kids too, given that most of my friends have children, and I have a young niece.

To say that having a great big house that's empty most of the time is hugely wasteful is a valid criticism, but this is my reward for working hard and making good sensible choices. This is how I'm making sense of the world, because I was struggling to see the point of being alive, if I was not seeing any benefit from my efforts.

I guess for most ordinary people, they get a "treat" occasionally - they have to spend their meagre income little by little - but I've gotten an entire furnished house suddenly overnight, but that's not really a fair comparison. I assure you that when you have no bed to sleep on at all, getting a bed seems like a necessity, not a treat.

I'm beginning to live very well, and I am grateful; I am happy. I am beginning to feel contented and settled.

 

Tags:

 

Suddenly Everything is OK

5 min read

This is a story about overnight recovery...

Flip flops

One day you can't feel your leg. One day a leg is twice the size of the other one. One day your kidneys have stopped working. One day you're in agony from muscle and nerve damage caused by DVT. One day you're in hospital on dialysis and you're very sick. One day you're physically dependent on a medication which you've been buying on the black market, and you'll have seizures if you stop taking it. One day you're so addicted to a drug that you won't sleep, eat or drink, because you don't want to stop your binge for a single second. One day you're virtually bankrupt. One day you're homeless. One day you're jobless. One day your mental health is so bad that you're hearing voices, seeing things and you're paranoid about everybody and everything, to the point where you think even the person who loves you the most in the world is your enemy.

Then, overnight, you recover.

Overnight, all your physical health problems are cured.

Overnight, your mental health problems are cured.

Overnight, all your substance dependency - addiction - problems are solved.

Overnight, you have a house.

Overnight, you have a job.

Overnight, your debts are repaid.

Overnight, you have lots of money.

Nope.

Just nope.

I was rummaging in the boxes of stuff which managed to survive the chaotic years of my life and I found a pair of flip-flops with a piece of string tied to them. The string is there because I couldn't feel my foot and I couldn't control its movement - I couldn't walk properly. When I was walking in flip-flops, the left one would just fall off after ten or twenty steps, because I didn't have enough feeling in my toes to be able to 'grip' the flip-flop properly. The string was my improvised attempt to be able to wear my beloved flip-flops during some nice weather.

My attempt at using a piece of string to fix my inability to wear flip-flops was a lovely metaphor for the attempts I was making to solve all my problems, overnight.

That was two years ago.

Things got a lot worse before they got better.

Things were so bad that on the very worst day of my life, I woke up in an hospital intensive care ward, with a tube down my throat forcing air into my lungs, a tube up my nose and into my stomach, forcing activated charcoal and other things into me, 6 canulas all for pumping me full of various things, an arterial canula for measuring my blood pressure with incredible accuracy, plus I was attached to an 8-cable ECG machine, a clip on my finger measured my blood oxygen and I had been catheterised - I noticed that a tube coming out of my penis had been taped to the inside of my leg. The worst thing was that I was alive.

I did not want to be alive.

I had tried very hard not to be alive.

Physically I was alive, but I was still very sick - my kidneys and other organs had shut down and I had been in a coma - and I was also going through benzodiazepine withdrawal, which is both life-threatening and thoroughly unpleasant.

I was alive, but it turned out I didn't have a job or a home anymore.

I was single and without any friends. I was in a strange city where I didn't know anybody. I didn't have enough money to rent a place to live and support myself until I got my first paycheque. I was utterly screwed.

So, of course I still very much wanted to be dead.

Now, I have a nice house, full of nice things. I've made some friends and I've met some women. I go on dates. Sometimes those dates go really well. I have a job. I earn a lot of money. My finances are sorted out. I'm no longer addicted to drugs or physically dependent on medication. I hardly even drink - perhaps once a week, socially.

I can wear flip-flops.

Weirdly, the nerve damage repaired itself enough so that I have enough sensation in my foot to be able to wear flip-flops, run, go kitesurfing and do the other things I always used to do.

I don't know if I'm happy - there's still a lot of insecurity in my life; I live with an unacceptable amount of jeopardy for a person to have to suffer. I don't have enough friends in the local area. I don't have a girlfriend. I haven't established myself in my new home city. I've barely even started to unpack my stuff.

Compared with two years ago, my life does look like an overnight success. I'm good at my job and my colleagues are grateful for my contribution to the team and the project. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fit together, and my life is beginning to look viable.

It's strange how people expect to be able to 'save' people who - on closer examination - have such a clusterf**k of issues that it's easy why some would think they're a "lost cause" and abandon them.

I'm grateful to that handful of people who didn't give up on me; who didn't write me off and abandon me.

 

Tags:

 

Clean Slate

6 min read

This is a story about fresh starts...

Chalboard

To many people, the idea of starting their life again from scratch sounds appealing. We can become weighed down with clutter and running away from our old life to start a new one - a fresh start - is something which many people yearn to do, but never actually dare to follow through with.

I'm still in the process of starting my life anew, so I thought I should tell you about a few things you probably hadn't thought about.

Your wardrobe has things in it which you don't need very often, but are essential during difficult times. The best example I can think of is a black tie, which you will need if you have to go to a funeral. It might sound like a trivial item to obtain, especially given that ties are one of the few clothing items which comes in one size, but you have to consider that very few shops sell ties, and those that do might not sell a plain black one. It's pretty rare to reach your late thirties and not have bought a black tie, and that black tie will last you a lifetime, given that you're likely to only ever wear it to funerals.

On the subject of clothing etc, you are sure to own a washing airer, ironing board and iron. It's hard to go through adult life without gathering clothing items which have to be dried slowly rather than tumble-dried. There are lots of times when creased clothes are not socially appropriate, so you will own these laundry-related items.

Curtains. Assuming that you own furniture - which in and of itself is a huge amount of stuff to buy - the curtains that you own are the appropriate size for your windows. If you move house, your curtains are unlikely to be the right size. Curtains are surprisingly important, given that without them you will have no privacy, and light will come flooding into your bedroom at dawn. It doesn't matter how much stuff you own, you will probably have to buy new curtains - urgently - if you ever move house.

Vacuum cleaner. I've lived for a month without a vacuum cleaner. There's no particular urgency in getting one, but sooner or later it would be good if I could hoover my floors and carpets, given that it's getting pretty tedious sweeping up with a dustpan and brush, which is something else I had to buy. These things are very mundane and domestic, but eventually your house will get pretty grubby without the modern appliances we all take for granted.

Kitchenware. I have two saucepans, one frying pan, a few sharp knives, a measuring jug, some wooden stirring implements, a few other utensils, but otherwise I'd find it pretty hard to prepare a meal according to a recipe book, which is bound to call for sieving, grating, whisking, mashing and other such things, requiring some kind of kitchen equipment I don't currently own.

Lampshades. I bought myself a nice lamp for my lounge, but the lightbulbs in my house are otherwise uncovered - naked bulbs are pretty ugly things, along with their cheap plastic electrical fittings. It might sound like a stupid thing, but I don't feel very comfortable in my home without nice lampshades.

Lawnmower. I suppose I'm lucky to have a garden, after having spent so many years in central London apartments, but a garden brings extra responsibilities: I have to mow the lawn. Actually, I have to get rid of all the weeds and get the lawn in good shape, because I love having a healthy lawn, so I will at least need some weedkiller and a rake to begin with, but then I'll need a lawnmower. I forget that I have a garden now. I had grown to like gardening since getting a house in my mid-twenties, but I had forgotten all about the duties of keeping the garden maintained.

There are a mountain of things I'd need to buy if I wanted to do things myself and not pay somebody else to do them. If I want to wash my car I'll have to buy a hosepipe, bucket and sponge. If I want to wash my windows I'll have to buy a wiper-thing and maybe a ladder. If I want to shine my shoes, I'll have to buy shoe polish and brushes. If I want to repair my clothes, I'll have to buy a sewing kit. All of the many things you've got tucked away in drawers and cupboards - I've got none of those things.

Guests are coming to stay soon, so I need a duvet and pillows, plus spare bed linen and towels for my guests... plus the aforementioned curtains... oh and a bed!

This puts things into context: I have a sofa which I can sit on when I'm awake, and a bed to sleep in, but other than that my house is still unfurnished. My clothes are in bags or otherwise strewn across the bedroom floor. I eat in the lounge, sitting on the sofa. I have barely enough plates, glasses and cutlery to support my own needs, let alone the needs of guests. I have barely enough bed linen to keep my own bed smelling fresh, let alone having having a spare set for the guest bedroom. I'm kinda camping in my own home - getting by with a vastly reduced amount of posessions than most ordinary people.

I decided to move all my boxes of stuff up to the top floor of my house. The boxes contain all my stuff which survived the turbulent years leading up to me moving to this big house. Now, my house feels almost empty - in fact, it is almost empty, given that 5 rooms have nothing in at all. My house is ludicrously oversized for my needs, but I'm very excited about being able to have visitors with children come to stay, and there's plenty of space for everybody.

Of course it would be lunacy to re-clutter my life unnecessarily. I've learned to live without almost everything, so I've seen no need to go rushing to the shops and completely fill my house with every conceivable furniture item I could think of. I've also bought clever things, like modular sofas which can be reconfigured easily, so I can easily re-arrange my rooms to suit me once I'm more settled.

 

Tags:

 

Can't Talk, Dating

3 min read

This is a story about multitasking...

Plate of food

I like to be punctual. I think it's especially bad to bail on a date or be late, because it's often a time of some nervousness/anxiety for all except those who seem to be eternally dating. For 'the rest of us' there's a certain amount of fear of rejection, wanting to be seen as attractive, worrying about spilling something on our outfit just before we're about to leave, fretting about what to wear, wondering if we'll recognise our date and whether it'll be awkward - to kiss or not to kiss; one kiss or two; a little half-hug? How on earth are you supposed to greet a perfect stranger the first time you meet, when you are meeting for the express purpose of getting intimate with each other to see if you're compatible.

A big chunk of my day was spent buying new clothes, which I must admit was strongly motivated by the desire to make myself as presentable as possible - trendy and cool - when meeting prospective love interests. I got a little bit carried away and spent more money than I should have done, but I'm very happy with my purchases and I'm very much looking forward to wearing my new clothes.

I've spent the afternoon finally getting my house in some semblance of good order. My main lounge now has both sofas assembled and I have a bedside table.

Did I go so far as to change the bed linen on my bed? That seems a little presumptuous. Of course a part of me would love to "get lucky" to use a turn of phrase which I find quite horrible. I guess there's something which is very good for any insecurities about being attractive, to have somebody want to sleep with you, but I'm a hopeless romantic and that level of intimacy is not just sex for me... I'm not a one-night-stand kinda guy and I'm not into hookup culture.

I now have 30 minutes to shower, get dressed and catch a cab to meet my date. I must admit, I am not struggling to match with very attractive women who want to date, but it's all in the "getting to know each other" stages, which I find somewhat bothersome, especially when it's just a preamble to what I really want, which is to be in a relationship. I know that it seems prudent to choose carefully and not rush the process, but another part of me knows that I've managed to make relationships work with very different people, so I certainly don't have a "type" that I tend to go for.

I have 27 minutes now. Gotta go!

Wish me luck!

 

Tags:

 

Not My Finest Work

4 min read

This is a story about doing a rushed job...

Cat flap

Here is a picture of my cat flap. I've been thinking about getting a cat because I miss having a furry friend and I think it would improve my life to have a pet in my life. Undoubtedly, having contact with pets is something which is beneficial to my mental health - I find it really stress relieving to stroke a cat, and I enjoy sharing my life with other living creatures. I think I would find it greatly comforting to have an animal to nurture.

I'm working very hard and my colleagues are super pleased with what I'm doing, but I can't let my job totally define and consume me.

I'm trying very hard to find a girlfriend, but such things can't be rushed. I have very limited control over when and where fate is going to match me up with somebody who's got mutual feelings for me, worth embarking upon a relationship.

I'm trying somewhat less hard to make friends outside of work, because I'm simply flat-out.

My house is filled with mountains of boxes of unassembled flat-pack Ikea furniture and all of my stuff which still remains mostly in the cardboard boxes I used when moving. Some of the boxes have been opened and rummaged through for long-forgotten treasures, but some boxes are still sealed up with tape.

My clothes are mostly organised using the floordrobe system, where dirty clothes are piled up in one part of my bedroom, and clean ones in another.

I have more Ikea furniture arriving soon and I need to at least assemble a guest bed before I have my first visitor.

I'm hurriedly writing this, well aware that my sleep patterns have gotten out of sync with the corporate demands of capitalist society. It's late. I'm tired.

I'm not saying a whole lot that's very interesting or insightful, but these are my thoughts after a pretty punishing - although productive - week at the office. I veer violently from suicidal despair to arrogant delusions of grandeur, depending on whether I'm doing some really cool piece of work at the office, or whether I'm struggling to secure myself a romantic companion via the local dating scene.

I'm spending money like crazy, but it seems unavoidable given my need for a furnished home, plus I need to phone all the utility companies and tell them that it's just me living here in this giant house all on my own, so they stop charging me zillions of pounds for supplying energy, water and other services which I barely use. I'm spending money on dating. I'm spending money on replacing some of my threadbare worn-out clothes.

It seems crazy to get a kitten, but it also seems like something which would bring a flood of much-needed oxytocin, given my rather isolated existence. It seems like something I could be in control of: I just need to find a kitten for sale locally and adopt it, and then I can immediately enjoy my new pet. Having a little kitten to lavish attention on, and to brighten my day, sounds so lovely. I think I would be really overjoyed to come home from work every day and be greeted by a tiny furry friend. I think my life is sorely missing an outlet for my nurturing side.

I'm producing great work at the office and I'm not doing too badly in the dating game, but both things are unhealthy to do obsessively, and neither can be rushed.

Sometimes the sun shines, like it did this evening, and I feel like life is going really well. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of meeting new friends and getting a girlfriend, which are going to be essential pieces of the puzzle if I'm going to have a happy life here in this new city.

My writing is suffering, but I'm trying my best to juggle everything. It's pretty impressive that I've done so much in such a short space of time, but it's still unfortunately not quite enough to have yielded a life which meets my basic ordinary and realistic needs, such as secure relationships, financial security, stability and suchlike.

It's well past my bedtime. I'm struggling to catch up. The extra demands placed upon me have tipped the balance unfortunately to the point where I'm not quite managing to stay on top of everything. I'm balancing on a knife edge.

 

Tags:

 

All The Money In The World

5 min read

This is a story about buying happiness...

Bitcoin miners

It seems straightforward to me that life can be lived like this: get money, spend money. I particularly like spending money in a way which maximises the amount of enjoyment, which often involves spending money on things which benefit other people as well.

One of the best things I've spent money on was a house with a garden, where I could entertain guests and have visitors to stay. I bought a hot tub, fire pit, big barbecue, lots of outdoor beanbags, patio heaters and other such things, so I could throw big parties in the warmer months of the year. I bought a yacht, which I took friends out on all the time and spent a lot of time aboard with my girlfriend, making long trips together. I bought a speedboat which provided an immense amount of pleasure, taking friends out wakeboarding and otherwise just having the thrill of messing around on the water.

Holidays alone are relaxing, but holidays with a girlfriend or a group of friends are a million times better. I've never subsidised my friends' travel, but I've paid for plenty of flights and accommodation so that I could have romantic holidays to exotic luxury locations with girlfriends, who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford the trip.

I've bought my way into expensive sports, giving me incredible experiences I'll treasure forever. I've rock climbed, skydived, mountain biked, snowboarded, done mountaineering and ice climbing. Vast amounts of money have bankrolled a bucket list to die for. There are very few things left that I want to do.

Sometimes I get smart and I figure out ways to earn money while I sleep. Most of the time I earn money the old-fashioned way, by selling my body to the highest bidder. I find the day job very often frustrating, slow, boring and unrewarding work, which poses little challenge, but it used to pay for an incredible lifestyle, so it somehow made sense.

My life doesn't make any sense at the moment.

I work harder than ever, but my life is nothing like it once was. My social life is non-existent. I'm single. I don't go on ski trips or sail yachts. I don't do much of anything except work and pay bills. There's never any spare money left, despite the vast amount of wealth that I generate - it's all hoovered up by "cost of living" and "cost of being alive".

I shouldn't complain. I'm very lucky that whatever I decide to do, things usually work out for me. I am often in the right place at the right time.

I also forget that I've lived an incredible life.

Except I don't forget.

It's precisely the opposite of forgetting: I remember.

I remember exactly how good my life was, and I wonder what happened to that life. I'm not sad, bitter and twisted about it - I spend most of my time and effort trying to get things back to how they were, before everything fell apart.

I've had moments which have reminded me of the life I used to lead. I went away with my most recent [ex-]girlfriend to Mexico for Christmas and New Year and we splashed the cash. We travelled in style. We lived life to the max. That was an excellent reward for a year of solid hard work. It tasted so sweet to enjoy the fruit of my labour.

I'm in the process of getting my new house furnished and set up exactly how I want, so I can entertain guests and have visitors. I'm lucky enough to be able to choose what I want, buy everything and have it delivered. Slowly, my home is taking shape. I suppose I should spare a thought for people who can't afford to even rent a little room, while I have 4 bedrooms, 2 reception rooms and a huge kitchen with a dining room at one end, which could comfortably accomodate a large family. I have brand new furniture, which is all lovely.

None of it seems to mean anything though. I have a big empty house and my life is very empty. I don't have a social group in the local area. I don't have a girlfriend. Life is lonely and feels quite meaningless, despite the nice house and good job.

I keep thinking that if I can earn even more money, then I'll be able to relax and think about what kind of life I'd like to live, but at the moment I work to live and I live to work. I don't know what I'm living for, except to pay bills and work. Obviously I'm glad I don't live in a hovel. Obviously I'm glad I have comfy furniture. However, my life is very incomplete and it leaves me feeling very miserable.

 

Tags:

 

Cutting My Meds

4 min read

This is a story about tapering off pills...

Weed

I'm not a stoner. Never have been. Never will be. However, it seems nigh-on impossible to endure modern life without something to 'take the edge off. Most people drink, smoke, have tea, coffee and/or indulge in recreational narcotics. Most people take antidepressants. Most people take things to help with anxiety. Most people take things to help with sleep. Life is pretty dreadful without mind-altering substances, prescribed or otherwise.

My office, which is filled with many thousands of people, functions on tea, coffee, cigarettes and vaping. There are probably numerous colleagues who are also secret alcoholics, swigging vodka from bottles hidden in their gym bag or perhaps kept in their car. I've worked for more than two decades in large organisations - I know what people are like.

At the peak of my stress and misery - just a few weeks ago - I was swallowing three times the recommended dosage of Xanax and zopiclone. I was heavily medication dependent. My sleep was greatly aided, but my alertness was drastically affected and my reaction times were probably impaired. I felt very strange: as if I was having an out-of-body experience. My anxiety levels soared as my working day wore on, and the afternoons and evenings were unbearably unpleasant.

I cut my dose by 33%.

It wasn't that bad.

Taking 4 pills instead of 6 is easy enough to do: two Xanax and two zopiclone.

To cut my dosage again was going to be more difficult, except I had the foresight to have obtained some half-dose tablets, so that I was able to cut my dosage by 25%: I swallowed one and a half Xanax and one and a half zopiclone.

It wasn't that bad.

Now I take one pill of each: one Xanax and one zopiclone. Cutting my dose by 33% again was aggressive, but I've managed to do it. My sleep was severely disturbed, but I soldiered through a difficult weekend and I've managed to just about manage to get enough sleep to not lose my job. My alertness has improved significantly and I'm very pleased that I've cut my dosage by 67% in the space of just 3 weeks, which is extremely rapid.

I have left myself enough of the half-dose zopiclone tablets to be able to cut my dosage by 50% at some point. The Xanax tablets break very conveniently into half and quarter doses. Xanax is evil - it's so short-acting that it's tempting to keep popping pills whenever the anxiety comes back, which it always does. I'm desperate to free myself from my dependency on Xanax.

The prospect of being released relatively soon from my chemical prison is incredibly pleasing. Although the pills served their function very effectively, allowing me to cope during some incredibly stressful times, it's a terrible habit to become dependent on pill-popping every time anxiety occurs. Anxiety is unbearable, but benzodiazepines are a terrible short-term solution, which ultimately leave the user worse off than they began. The low price of black market benzodiazepines and their ubiquity is shocking, but life is very unusual when it's structured around medications, and Xanax is probably one of the very worst medications to become dependent on.

Cutting my zopiclone dose by 50% is going to be the hardest, because it'll be the biggest drop that I've had so far. I will cut my Xanax from a whole 2mg tablet, to 1.5mg, then to 1mg, then to 0.5mg... and then I'll be free. However, zopiclone tablets are not particularly designed to be split so easily. Purchasing some half-dose zopiclone tablets was prescient, but I'm anxious about insomnia and struggling to get up in the morning to go to work.

My life is made so much more bearable by having the ability to alter my body clock to suit early-bird culture, when I'm naturally a night owl. My life is made tolerable by having the ability to medicate away the worst of my anxiety, when it becomes unbearable.

I have no idea how I'm going to function without my tablets, and I fear that I might be tempted to eat and drink more by way of compensation, which would adversely affect my physical health, but I do want to applaud my progress so far this year: I've been virtually teetotal, while also cutting down my meds by 67% so far, which is a big deal.

Kind of a boring story... but I wanted to report on some progress I feel proud of.

 

Tags:

 

Kiss And Tell

8 min read

This is a story about hookups...

Flowers

I'm not really experienced in the world of dating. I've had plenty of long-term relationships. I've been a serial monogamist for most of my adult life. Dating is not really I thing that I do. I don't enjoy it. I find it an unpleasant prelude to the ultimate aim, which is to be in a committed relationship with somebody.

Friends who have been married for decades tell me that I should enjoy myself and revel in the opportunity to go on dates with lots of different potential love interests. They tell me that I should see the whole process as a great chance to test the water with a whole bunch of different prospective girlfriends. They are somewhat jealous of what they perceive to be a pleasurable and fun exercise.

I don't struggle to cope with situations outside of my comfort zone. I don't struggle with new people and places. I don't struggle with having an unsettled, insecure life, where people come and go and I'm continuously in new and unfamiliar situations. In fact, I'm probably one of the more resilient folks you might come across - you can plonk me just about anywhere, and I'll cope.

However, I have a choice.

I don't really want to be dating. I don't really want to be single. I don't really want the things that people who've been married for decades think would be really fun and cool.

I want familiarity, comfort, security, routine, stability, normality... I want the ordinary and the everyday.

I want to wake up next to my long-term partner. I want to say "have a good day honey" and "hi honey I'm home". I want 95% of my conversations to be about what we're going to eat for dinner and watch on TV. I want that comfortable loveliness which comes from being in a secure monogamous regular relationship.

Dating as a long protracted affair, consuming a great deal of time and energy, is an exhausting and pointless exercise to me. Why would I take a torturously circuitous route to achieving the end result when there is clearly a straight-line from A to B? I see no value in the whole dating and courtship business.

"It's better to be single than in a bad relationship" is something that people in bad relationships tell me all the time. It's idiotic, because I've almost made an artform out of putting up with bad relationships; making things work. If anybody can tell you about whether it's better to be single, or better to try and make something work which is deeply flawed, it's me who is the goddam expert.

I'm exhausted by loneliness and isolation, in a way that most people cannot understand. Most people have their families, their friends, their partner, their children. Most people live lives which have a minimum amount of social contact, to make their existence tolerable. A quick glance at my mobile phone would confirm that my life is very different from that of ordinary people: who would I phone and discuss my day with? Who would I contact to tell my plans? Who would message me to ask me to run the most ordinary everyday errands? None of that is included in my life. My life is atypical in the extreme.

Who are the significant people in an ordinary person's life? If it's not their mum, their partner, their siblings, their best friends, then it's often their doctor or some other person who's otherwise involved in a caring/therapeutic profession. Humans are social animals and it's highly distressing for us find ourselves cut adrift from family ties and romantic bonds.

The demands of my job and my recent house move have consumed the lion's share of my energy, and I feel unable to apportion enough of my time to the task of binding myself back to humanity. If I lost my job I'd be done for. I'm lucky enough to have friends all over the world, but we need to interact with people face-to-face every day. We need hugs. We need tactile contact. We need the reassurance of knowing that there are people nearby who care about us.

My efforts to date local singles have not gone unrewarded, and I have more options than I'm able to actively pursue - life has been generous towards me as always - but ironically I deeply detest dating and the entire rigmarole, despite results being forthcoming with relative ease. To me, it seems as though I am still a million miles away from what I really want - a committed loving relationship - but I suppose the speed at which I live my life vastly exceeds what is considered ordinary and average.

Of the relationships I've had in the last 3 years, two of those girlfriends were unquestionably amazing people who I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to share a period of my life with. Even the 'worst' relationship during the period in question was what I wanted at the time, and it served its purpose - I'm no fool and I got exactly what I wanted out of it, which was to have a period of settled, secure, loving companionship. I can't share any of the details with you - it would be disrespectful and inexcusable given my current mental stability - but I can tell you that the worst moments were worth putting up with, at the time. Sadly, I can also see that a couple of very lovely girlfriends were unreasonably treated by me, as casualties of my dreadfully unstable life and unreliable mood.

What do I have to offer today? Perhaps I should be single and learn how to be perfect?

What a load of bullshit.

I'm not an inexperienced kid. I'm not an idiot. I know what's good about relationships and I know what's bad. I know red flags when I see them, and I know what my weaknesses and insecurities are. I know what I want.

I know that I'm happier being single, with the possibility of meeting somebody amazing, versus the situation I was in before where I was working very hard to make a relationship work, because it had marginal benefits at the time. The value of potentially meeting another love of my life is not something that should be underestimated, but neither should the misery of loneliness, especially considering my life circumstances: estranged from my family and without a group of local friends; dangerously isolated and alone.

Of course it's easy to say that I should be fixing my social life and getting back into my hobbies before I think about offering myself up as a prospective partner, but the people who suggest that are absolute fucking idiots who know nothing about how lucky they are to have their families, friends and every other part of the fabric of their lives. They know nothing about what it's like to live in such torturous isolation. They can fuck right off.

My life's stability and routine has been dangerously damaged by my need to form human attachment, so fundamental to liveable existence. I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't, so of course I've ploughed time and energy into meeting somebody who might turn out to be a really great girlfriend. My life's experiences have taught me that having a partner has brought incredible joy in the past, and my behaviour is always driven by well-reasoned decisions which deliver the greatest possible return on investment.

I work hard, which brings me a great deal of financial income, and I am dating hard, which will hopefully bring me the emotional and otherwise intangible rewards of meeting a companion. It might sound like an all-or-nothing risky gamble, but you'd only think that if you enjoy the luxurious position of having a life filled with lots of things which I don't have. You are unable to empathise with the isolation of my situation.

It's late and I'm exhausted. My sleep routine is ruined. My stress levels are through the roof. The demands placed upon me are beyond sustainable limits, but I must plough onwards, because "if you're going through hell, keep going".

I have no idea how things are going to work out for me, given that I'm in a much more alien situation than I've been in previously, which undermines my confidence that "everything's going to work out just fine". I know that past experience has taught me that things always work out, but the unsettling and destabilising recent events, leaving me in strange and unfamiliar circumstances, cause me to redouble my efforts to seek the security I so desperately crave; the attachment that's so dangerously absent in my life.

It's a strange catch 22 situation. I need to invest energy to save myself, but by exhausting myself I put myself in great danger of reaching a limit which is not safe. I suppose I'm hoping for a well-timed lifeline, which life has often supplied, luckily.

I guess luck has always been in my favour, but I work very hard to manufacture that good luck.

 

Tags:

 

Blur

9 min read

This is a story about trying to do too much...

Ceiling fan

I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want and what I need. I think I've got enough experience to know what makes a happy, fulfilling, complete and stable life. I think I've been through plenty of difficult periods when my life has been incomplete, to know what was missing. I've been through very happy periods when I've been full of joy and contentment, and I know the things that created those delightful episodes.

There aren't any short cuts.

It's a strange situation, knowing what my life would contain if I could cherry-pick all the things I needed from all the years I've been alive. I'd choose the huge group of friends I met in the kitesurfing community, and the exotic travel locations we went to. I'd choose living in a city by the beach, where I could have barbecues and play volleyball on a random weekday evening after work. I'd choose garden parties, dinner parties, pool parties, eating out, board games nights and sitting around drinking wine, with a house full of great friends. I'd choose a stable long-term loving relationship with somebody kind and caring, with an incredible career and fascinating educated opinions, who dazzled me with their intellect. I'd choose to have loyal friends nearby, who'd do anything to help me, and I'd do anything for them. I'd be surrounded by people. I crave company and affection.

I hate being single. I hate that all my friends live far away. I hate that I don't have a pet.

I hate not feeling settled, secure, in love with my home city and in love with my house.

I think I'm going to love Cardiff. Soon enough I'll buy a place of my own. I'll make friends. I'll meet a special somebody. I'll probably get a cat. I'll get back into kitesurfing and wakeboarding. I'll build a social network around me, which will make me happy - my gregarious and extroverted side will come back again, and I'll feel like myself; I'll feel glad to be alive.

I don't tend to do things slowly and steadily.

I want everything immediately.

I've set about trying to have a lovely house in a lovely area, meet people, fall in love and meanwhile carry on with all of life's daily demands, such as working my job and paying my bills. It might sound like the regular stuff that we're all trying to do, but you have to understand that my life was profoundly dysfunctional. Every facet of my life was incredibly damaged in some way, and I have found myself starting from scratch, more-or-less.

Of course, there are people whose lives are decimated and they don't enjoy the many advantages which I do, such as being able to find well-paid employment anywhere in the world. My health is good enough that I can work with limited impairment. My experiences have prepared me, such that I'm able to deal with just about anything and everything that life throws at me. I live a very charmed existence.

As it stands, my life is very incomplete, but I'm no longer paralysed by depression, anxiety, indecision and hampered by financial problems. The feelings of unhappiness are prompting me to take action, and I'm pursuing every avenue simultaneously to fix-up my life.

One year ago, I had a very lovely girlfriend, a great home with gorgeous panoramic views of the sea, and a well-paid job which was a short drive away. I might sound like Goldilocks, but that city was not somewhere I could fall in love with. The friends I made there who had cared very much about me, and I adored, had vanished as quickly as they had arrived in my life - an argument which exploded, and ended the relationships I had with an entire family. My house of cards collapsed, and I was jobless, single and sick, in a place where I only had a couple of friends left... and neither were particularly well equipped to help me.

Today, I have a big empty house. I love my job and I love the people I work with. I'm becoming wealthy again. I'm in a city which I find jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Some parts of my life are absolutely perfect.

The parts of my life which are broken and dysfunctional are being fixed. I'm meeting people. I'm no longer trapped in depressed isolation.

Being single is particularly horrible. I haven't had a hug in far too long. I've had nobody to cuddle me when I've been feeling terrible. For a time, I felt like I had nobody in the world who I could phone in a crisis, but slowly my life improves: a friend from work has been in contact, for example, making me realise that I'm not completely invisible... there are people who care about me.

I know that there are people who care about me all around the world, but I promise you that it's pretty awful being in a city you've never visited before, where you don't know anybody, and you're living all alone in a house full of cardboard boxes and unassembled flat-pack furniture. My clothes are all still in suitcases, because I have no furniture to unpack into yet.

Of course, we must consider the great potential that my life holds. In a matter of months, the scary alien city where I'm completely unable to find my way around, will become my home and I will feel attached to the place. My empty house will be filled with my things and I will make it comfortable, and pleasant to live in. I'll make friends and my social life will no longer be something painfully absent. I'll meet somebody special and have a companion to share life with. All of these things will happen, at some point in the future.

Because I'm used to living life at breakneck pace, doing everything all at once, of course I want to do as much as humanly possible. My life is a blur. I'm not doing things in a methodical, measured and sustainable way - I'm charging headlong into every problem, attempting to get what I want overnight.

I should have been in bed a long time ago, getting as much sleep as possible before another punishing week at work on a highly stressful project where I'm under a great deal of pressure. I should be protecting the things which are the essential enablers for everything else: without a job and money, my life will collapse like a house of cards, again.

I almost skipped writing for two days running, because I'm spread so thin, but I'm forcing myself to write now because I don't want a single part of my life to be neglected and left to rot and wither on the vine. I have ploughed a significant amount of time and effort into this writing project, and I'm loath to lose something which is such a consistent and central part of my identity, especially when my embryonic new life is just a tiny seed - it hasn't even begun to sprout green shoots yet.

The problems I have are nice problems to have. I write to you, happy that things are clearly improving, even if I haven't yet claimed any triumphs since successfully moving to Cardiff. It's slightly more intangible to say that things are getting better, when the gains are so imperceptibly marginal; the changes are so slow and none of the major milestones have been achieved yet. However, I had a nice weekend.

As always, I'm very hard on myself and I feel like I should be succeeding in every area of my life, overnight, but things are taking time and effort, and I will have to sustain my efforts if I want to get the things I need. It sucks, but at least I'm starting to have yet another attempt at rebuilding my life. I've had setbacks, but on the whole I have to say that there's more positive progress to report than negative things which have happened.

I seem to be finding reserves of energy that I didn't think I had. I seem to be more capable than I thought I was. The amount that I've achieved in a single weekend seemed inconceivable to me, and was causing me some anxiety, but in fact everything went very well and I'm very pleased.

Of course, there is a great deal of peril and uncertainty in my life, which will remain for some time, while I cement my gains and secure my future, but I've done pretty damn well at coping with setbacks recently, and I hope that I'm able to continue without any major disasters. I hope that I can keep control of my own propensity to self-sabotage. I hope that I can subdue my underlying mood disorder, such that I can plough through the depressive episodes and suppress the manic episodes, and emulate the behaviour of those who are fortunate enough to be blessed with mental stability.

My life has been a blur. My frenetic activity is so fast that my movement is a blur. The amount that I'm trying to do all at once creates a blurry picture, as all the different activities all blend together and I find myself continuously in strange novel situations, attempting to make sense of what's going on: mostly a passenger on a rollercoaster ride.

Life is certainly interesting at the moment, although I am always afraid that I will burn out or break down at any moment. I'm probably over-investing in the wrong things, as always, but that's me: a blur of activity.

 

Tags:

 

British Summer Time

4 min read

This is a story about the tyranny of alarm clocks...

Wristwatch

Before the clocks sprang forwards I had bludgeoned my body clock into co-operating with the social jetlag imposed upon me by society. Society is run in favour of "early birds" not "night owls" despite there being a 50/50 split between each different genetic variant. If you want to earn decent money for doing easy work, then you have to suffer the torture and torment of complying with hours of business which are incompatible with your body clock - it sucks.

Because I am unafraid to prescribe myself whatever medications I need, I have access to sleeping pills, which are a fantastic invention for "night owls" like myself, who are coerced into working office hours which are fundamentally incompatible with my DNA. It's as if I was a coeliac forced to eat exclusively gluten-containing foods, when there are plenty of other foods available but they're all prohibitively expensive. I could get a job which would better suit my body clock, but I would have to take an 80% pay cut, or maybe even more than that. Sleep medication has provided me with a solution to end the torture which I had to endure for the best part of 20 years.

The clock change - to British Summer Time - has been shockingly disruptive to my routine. Before the clocks changed I was waking up before my alarm clock and getting into work early, with great ease. Now my alarm clock jolts me out of my peaceful slumbers and I am immediately filled with dread at the prospect of having to leave my bed. One hour does not sound like a huge amount, but an extra hour in bed is hugely beneficial to my health, given that my body clock is not compatible with "early bird" office hours, at a fundamental physical genetic level.

To live in a perpetually jet-lagged state is torturous, and I am angry about capitalism's tyranny, in forcing me to comply with its schedule, rather than my own body's schedule. I'm handsomely financially rewarded for the suffering, but it often seems like inadequate recompense for the unpleasantness of every single morning, which I have to endure.

Further disruption to my schedule has been seen in my writing, where I completely forgot to write a blog post one day - it feels like I have less time in the evenings to do everything I need and want to do, after work. It feels like I have nowhere near enough time to deal with essential admin, do chores, write my blog, catch up with friends and get to bed early enough to avoid sleep deprivation.

I'm attempting to shift my body clock to the new schedule, but it's not a quick process.

I'm also attempting to reduce my dosage of sleeping tablets, which means it takes longer for me to fall asleep, and my sleep quality is much reduced. I was very late to work on Monday, Tuesday was a struggle, and today was OK but still not wonderful. I hope that by the beginning of next week my body clock will begin to comply with the new regime.

As far as having an "extra hour" of daylight after work, it is very nice to be driving home earlier, but it's still pretty chilly and the weather is changeable, so I don't yet feel enthusiastic about being outdoors in the evenings. It's going to be a while before the temperatures lift enough for me to think about making use of the local parks, or perhaps cycling somewhere. Given how little time I have for the essentials - such as meal preparation - I can't see that I'll be doing much with my evenings, while the start to my day is so painful: the alarm clock is such a rude intrusion on my sleep.

It might seem inconceivable that a single man with no children should complain about having no spare time, but my primary concern is getting enough sleep to make my 9 to 5 office job bearable enough that I don't lose my mind. It's essential that I keep in the routine of my job, because it provides the money which is digging me out of a hole, and it provides the stability which is useful for my health and wellbeing.

Ultimately, I still want to find a way to make life work for me, and no longer be tyrannised and coerced into the unpleasantness and boredom of the bullshit world of an office job, but a great deal of compromise is necessary for the foreseeable future, so I shall have to put up with it.

 

Tags: