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

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

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Treatment

10 min read

This is a story about making people better...

Ward

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believed that treatment was effective.

I just had to find the right treatment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Life Lived Publicly

7 min read

This is a story about open secrets...

Time to talk

A date asked me if she could read my blog. She already has enough information to be able to easily find it on Google: all you'd have to type would be "Nick bipolar blog Cardiff" and I pop up as both the 2nd and 3rd hits. I've decided to go "full disclosure" on my dating profile and tell people that I have bipolar disorder, because it's something pretty important to know about me. I also say that I write a blog and spend a lot of time on Twitter. That's quite a lot of information to give away, which easily leads to this absolute goldmine of everything you'd ever want to know about me, and a lot that you really would probably rather not know.

There's a great imbalance if somebody has access to a great big cache of totally candid and brutally honest writing, which confesses every single innermost thought, expresses every single insecurity and exposes all my vulnerabilities.

Usually, when getting to know somebody, each person reveals themselves little by little, and each person slowly forms an opinion - there's a limited amount of information available from which to form a judgement. Also, we present ourselves in either the way that we would like to be perceived, or in the way that we perceive ourselves. If we have pretentions, we present that image. If we have insecurities, we also make those known in subtle ways, or we attempt to hide them. If we wish to be insincere, we can lie and boast. If we wish for things from our past to be forgotten, we can omit those gory details from the account we tell.

Given that it is my well-practiced habit to write without self-censorship on a daily basis, and to use this blog as a coping mechanism during some very difficult times, I'm exposed in a way that most ordinary people are not. A glance at somebody's Instagram account is going to reveal very little about their state of mind. A glance at somebody's hand-picked photographs, selected to present an enviable glamorous adventurous lifestyle, does not in any way hint at what life's really like for the person who controls that account.

A glance at my blog reveals a fairly dismal picture of me at the moment. I'm quite overwhelmed with seemingly mundane things, such as administrative paperwork and other fairly simple tasks associated with getting a new home into good working order - assembling flat-pack furniture and suchlike. I complain about being single and lonely, and isolated: lacking in an adequate social life. I have also regularly mentioned suicidal ideation, usually triggered by minor inconveniences and frustration, borne of my unrealistic expectations of how quickly I should be able to restore my life to health, wealth and prosperity, complete with a new girlfriend, having only just very recently moved to a new city.

Because I never write with the mindset of "what if somebody from work or somebody who I wanted to date read this?" it means that I'm at risk of being judged harshly by people who might walk in on a particular chapter of my life and quickly gain an unflattering impression of me.

I don't write to impress work colleagues. I don't write to impress potential girlfriends. I write because writing is an integral part of my life, and writing publicly is now "normal behaviour" to me, although I'm well aware that most people wouldn't share what I share, because they'd see it as a risk to their reputation - it'd make them more vulnerable, less safe and secure, and they see privacy as something desirable.

I found privacy to be unhelpful. I found that privacy meant that nobody knew how close to suicide I was, which was a very dangerous state of affairs, and I found that privacy led to me becoming increasingly isolated and paranoid - I was terrified of anybody finding out that I was unwell, which spiralled out of control. The more I worried about people finding out that I was sick, the more sick it made me.

The answer, as it has turned out to be, was to write everything down and publish it so that anybody can read it. My illness was by no means "cured" overnight by taking that course of action, but over time, old friends and new ones have been able to engage with me and I've maintained a toe-hold in the land of the living. The most unusual thing - making my entire life an open book - has turned out to be one of the most important things to give my life stability, structure, routine and access to a vast number of supportive caring individuals, who've intervened at critical moments during the 4 years I've been writing... including one crucial moment which literally saved my life.

The question about whether I should allow prospective girlfriends to read this blog is perhaps bound up with the question about whether people who've had difficult life experiences are "broken" and are therefore "worthless". If you believe that people should suffer lifelong punishment for their mistakes, then perhaps this blog is perfect to share with prospective girlfriends, because I'd never want to date anybody who'd harshly judge me for things which happened in my past which I have no ability to change: my time machine is broken.

If anybody is looking to go digging for dirt with a negative mindset - hoping to discover that I'm a terrible person who's done terrible things - then I think that those people won't be disappointed. My behaviour has regularly fallen short of perfection and I'm deeply disappointed with things I've said and done in the past; I do carry regret and remorse; I've made innumerable mistakes.

I wonder how much I differ from, say, a man who abandoned his young children and wife to run away with a young woman who he was having an affair with - an utterly devastatingly despicable piece of behaviour, ruining innocent lives and making a mockery of solemn vows of lifelong monogamy and dedication to a spouse, plus the dereliction of dutiful responsibilities - versus my mistakes which bear no such hallmark of obnoxiousness. Yes, I've caused a great deal of distress during times when I was extremely sick, but I assure you that no amount of digging will unearth evidence that I'm some kind of selfish evil man, lacking in empathy and remorse. In fact, a thorough reading of my blog reveals that I often reflect upon events from my past and wish that I had acted differently, and I am critical of my own behaviour, attempting to acknowledge my own flaws and spot common mistakes, so that I might learn from them.

This is a highly defensive piece, but it's a highly stressful time. My job is going very well and I would dearly love to start another relationship. Having this vulnerability - in the guise of this blog - is highly inadvisable, but I'm loath to bury it, given how important it is to me as a coping mechanism and a way to keep concerned friends informed of my state of mind.

I might write another synopsis of "the story so far" for those who are dipping in for the first time, because it upsets me that it's impossible to see the bigger picture without reading approximately 1.1 million words, and I don't like the idea of being judged on a handful of skim-read recent blog posts, mostly complaining about mundane and trivial matters.

Of course, none of us wants to be misunderstood, and my writing is perhaps the most desperate attempt to avoid that situation, given that I've felt so close to death for so long. However, ironically, it's pretty damn hard to get to know me - to understand me - because I've written so much and for so long.

If you've read as far as this point, what can I say? Thank you. The comfort I get from knowing that my thoughts and feelings are not trapped inside my body, unseen, is immeasurably valuable to me.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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700 Words or Fewer

4 min read

This is a story about attention spans...

Flip flop

Counterintuitive though it may sound, it's harder to write less than more. That's not to say that it's hard to write infrequently or not at all - it's actually very hard to have the discipline to write every day - but writing something more than a journal of the day's events, and keeping it short and sweet is surprisingly difficult.

I used to keep a list of writing prompts, should I ever be short of an idea for something to write about. Once I had established the habit of thinking "what am I going to write today?" I find myself planning my writing from the moment I wake up, until the moment I finally have chance to get in front of a keyboard in a suitable environment.

I'm self-conscious about writing on a train, where a passenger might be sitting next to me, reading my words as they are formed. I'm self-conscious about anybody watching me produce these little essays - it's a private process, even if the end result is published publicly. Nobody ever gets to see the words I delete, or the sentences I restructure. Nobody ever gets to witness the pauses as I consider how I'm going to phrase a particular passage. Nobody knows how many times I doubt myself, and scurry for the dictionary to check that a particular word definitely means what I think it means.

My meandering thoughts could easily become jumbled and rambling. Often I do ramble and wander off at tangents, but I try to stick to a certain theme. I try to write an introduction, then an exploratory part, then a conclusion, or at least a wrap-up of some kind. I try to end with some degree of satisfactory summing-up instead of just petering off.

From the very outset, I decided that I would treat my blog as an exercise in expressing myself in the most straightforward language I could muster. I loathe clumsy, lengthy sentences, which are hard to follow and must be re-read by somebody who's determined to decipher what I meant, as precisely as they are able to. I have succeeded when I put across my points in simple, concise and unambiguous terms, which does not necessarily preclude using a manner of communication which is verbose and littered with words not in common circulation. However, I would very much feel that I had failed if I send my readers reaching for a dictionary every few paragraphs.

Of course I'm now very well practiced at expressing my inner monologue, which makes me a bit of a one-trick pony, but I do wish to communicate and not only record my thoughts for posterity. I'm keen that as many people as possible understand what goes through my head, and feel as if they know me intimately.

The intimacy and the honesty are vitally important to me. It's incredibly rewarding to have opened myself up in this way and been received so positively. On the rare occasions when I do catch up with friends on the phone, I'm so pleased when they are aware of what's going on in my life and I don't ever find myself answering the usual range of clichéd questions about how my job is going etcetera etcetera. We can cut to the chase and talk about the things which really matter, which is vital when I spend a lot of time contemplating suicide.

Meaningful close friendships - good relationships - are grounded in emotional intelligence and the willingness to talk about our true feelings and our values, rather than having superficial conversations about trivial distractions. I'm sure there are people who've known each other for their whole lives who have rehearsed a kind of social interaction protocol, which enables them to speak to each other at length while never really scratching the surface. This is how people kill themselves and their friends are left with nothing but shock and bewilderment, because they never saw it coming - all that talk about football and soap operas was never going to provide the scope for somebody to announce that their life is misery and they'd rather be dead.

I have eight words left now.

The end.

 

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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.

 

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After The Mania, Regret

8 min read

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

Bipolar memory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sex Doll

10 min read

This is a story about sex equality...

Wimmin

When thinking about sex, one must consider prostitution, pornography and sex tourism. I also think that one should consider InCels and men who are changing their bodies with hormones and surgery to emulate certain aspects of the female physical form.

I consider all these things, because my attempts at considering what it's like to be born in a female body would be nothing more than educated, well-reasoned, rational guesses based upon a lifetime of observation. When I've written about emotive topics in the past, my readers have defended my right to write freely on the topic and say unspeakable things in the name of being a free thinker, but I've been well aware that some of my most respected female friends have strongly rejected certain opinions which I volunteered.

I wrote about consent, which created considerable discussion, while not drawing anything other than loyalty from vocal Twitter followers who were obviously reluctant to do more than reserve judgement.

I think I was being deliberately provocative.

There wasn't really any need.

Why subject my female readers to provocation when I'm increasingly aware that every female friend has experienced some kind of unwanted sexual advances - in the best of cases - and in many cases has suffered a sexual assault and/or rape? It wasn't meant to be upsetting or even particularly insensitive to those survivors, but what I wrote was not particularly useful, given that my entire essay was based around the pleasant and charmed existence I live, where consent is often not given verbally but there's certainly no ambiguity: I was being disingenuous for the sake of poking holes in attempts to legislate with fuzzy imprecise language in a world which loves guessing games.

Let's talk about some subjects which I find difficult instead.

Firstly, an admission: I hate uncertainty. I hate ambiguity. This roughly translates as a combination of insecurity and some leftover unhappiness from adolescence, when I was more shy and awkward, and more of a social outcast; a creepy weirdo. My feelings towards the dating game are closer to the feelings which drive InCel thought patterns than I'm comfortable admitting. The words "guaranteed shag" are more attractive to me than repulsive. I know that the idea of a government-run girlfriend programme to ensure that every fat pimple-faced pale gamer who never leaves the house is paired up with a sexual partner, is clearly a somewhat terrifying idea, if we imagine that hordes of wimmin are going to have to be caught with nets or herded into pens to be then boxed up and delivered to the horny InCels.

I'm starting to feel a little old, approaching the age of 40, and I have little enthusiasm for going to the gym simply to make my superficial appearance more attractive. It would be a lie to say that I wasn't aware that sex tourism exists. It would be a lie to say that I wasn't aware that prostitution and escorting exist. The idea of travelling to a foreign country for sex is quite repulsive to me - I specifically reject it, because it seems like another form of colonialism and western exploitation to me; it seems like a form of economic modern slavery. The idea of paying for sex in the UK is not problematic for me, but it is not attractive - the act of coitus is not something which I can easily separate from my desire for intimacy and companionship. The most pleasurable part of lovemaking is spooning - the stroking, tickling and the warmth of each other's bodies in a bed - so paying for sex doesn't meet my needs. I would probably pay to support a wife or girlfriend, in order to guarantee my supply of love, but paying for sex seems like an extraordinary waste of money.

In many ways, I can agree that it's a great time to be a man. High quality pornography is available for free, with every extreme fetish imaginable catered for. Hookup apps provide free sex. Plastic surgery, makeup and the sexualisation of society provides constant titillation, and the media has sifted and sorted the world's women to find the very most beautiful to parade before my eyes. My greying hair and extra pounds of flesh pose no problems for me, despite my insecurities about my appearance.

But, in many ways I'm rich and successful and I've been told that I can have it all - I can have anything I want, whenever I want.

I do agree that I feel very entitled.

I'm privileged.

Probably the weirdest and least comfortable of my admissions is that I considered the merits of purchasing a sex doll. It seemed like a straightforward enough decision, given that it would undoubtedly be more pleasurable to penetrate an object which simulated a female body, than to stimulate myself with my hand. It seemed as though it posed no ethical quandary - nobody had to suffer for my pleasure; nobody was coerced into doing anything they didn't want to. Then, of course, I remembered that my primary needs are for intimacy and companionship. I have no difficulties in masturbating to temper my sex drive, without the aid of a sex toy. I can't think of a much worse feeling than having to clean and put away a sex doll after use, when the lust had been satiated and a more rational state of mind had returned. How awful to have the grim task of dealing with putting away a lifeless object, instead of the deliciousness of being wrapped in another person's arms postcoitally.

I considered that I live alone and there's perhaps no reason to even put away a sex doll, if I owned one. It would only be paranoia that somebody might be unexpectedly in my home and see the lifeless object in my bed, which would mean that I'd shamefully hide it away after use. What about having the sex doll in my bed to comfort myself when I'm alone at night, I wondered... what would it be like to put my arm around this object and cuddle it, like a child would cuddle a teddy bear, perhaps?

Is this the grim future which we inhabit: Where balding men with beer guts and grey pubic hair travel to Thailand and have sex with young women who are trying to financially support their families? Where the ugliest men have sex with the most attractive women, because of the coercion of capitalism? Where stripping and webcam work pay for university educations? Where sex work is normalised? Where computer games and the internet have left some of us lonely and isolated, while others hook up using apps and take their bedroom exploits to new extremes?

At the root of it all, I recognise something which I freely but uncomfortably admit to: that the certainty is exactly what I want. I want to be able to go to websites where I know there is a vast trove of free pornography. I want to be able to browse vast numbers of single women in my local area. On the matter of being able to buy sex, or to be able to travel to a country where the buying of it is more subtle, I suppose it disturbs me more than it comforts me. However, I would be more afraid of dying alone if sex tourism didn't exist. Perhaps I would have made a more serious attempt at securing myself a wife if there was no route open to me to leverage my wealth and privilege when I get desperate enough. There must be comfort in knowing that there are some guarantees in my privileged life.

On the topic of entitlement, I suppose I feel as though I should be able to get a girlfriend as easily as I would obtain any other thing that I want: I choose and I pay. I'm not such a monster that I objectify wimmin in the way my words seem to suggest. I'm very much looking for a life companion who I can shower with love and affection, but I must admit that I find the uncertainty of dating quite unpleasant, and I would much prefer to skip straight to the part where we're fully committed to each other and we figure things out from there. I instinctively reject things like arranged marriages, because they seem coercive and exploitative - mostly very young girls being married off to rich old men by their greedy selfish parents - but I watched a television program where people who'd never met each other got married as part of a very fascinating experiment.

I suppose these thoughts and these words are indicative of how dysfunctional I am and how incomplete my life is. It seems clear to me, writing this, that I am pinning my hopes on a relationship as a magic bullet to cure my unhappiness and distress, which is far more due to my lack of local friends than it is due to lack of a partner. Of course, having a lifelong companion is of great comfort and a source of much pleasure and happiness, but I do consider what I have to offer myself in return, and whether I would be a needy and clingy burden because my life is so empty.

The sex doll thing is a bit of a red herring. I wrote the title because I knew it would attract attention. Sex is of much lower importance than surrounding myself with people to talk to. Intimacy is important. Cuddles are important. Sex is just a fleeting itch to be scratched, and not worth being in a bad relationship for or sacrificing friendships for.

I write this somewhat aware that it makes it almost impossible for me to admit to any future object of my affections that I write this blog. I've been writing stuff which paints myself in a terribly unflattering light. I've been writing stuff which is very hard to read for even those who've gotten to know me over a considerable length of time, let alone those who are considering embarking upon a romantic relationship with me.

I wonder to myself if I should employ a cleaner to clean and tidy this gigantic house that I live in. I must admit that I have entertained - theoretically - the idea of financially supporting and housing a woman, in return for the guarantees which I feel entitled to as a member of the patriarchy.

Of course, you must understand that I feel repulsed by myself and I instinctively reject the idea of having servants - even if they're paid - so this has been somewhat of a hypothetical exercise, but I write with candid honesty, as I am wont to do.

 

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Microcosm

10 min read

This is a story about paranoid schizophrenia...

Bedroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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