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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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nick@manicgrant.com

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Wet British Summer

3 min read

This is a story about our maritime climate...

Rainy window

The UK experienced an exceptional couple of summers in 2017 and 2018, but this year our luck seems to have run dry. During the Easter bank holiday weekend, the weather warm enough to make barbecues and picnics a pleasant thing to do outdoors - although I strongly advise against indoor barbecues - and shorts and flip-flops briefly became suitable attire.

Since Easter it's been pretty wet. Of course there have been many pleasant days, but not enough to encourage me to spend much time outside. It's about 14 degrees celcius at the moment (57 degrees Fahrenheit for my North American readers) which does not feel at all summerlike.

Often times, our peak holiday months of July and August can be a washout, but May and June are warm, dry and very pleasant, and September can be a wonderful time of "Indian summer".

I've made plans to be abroad for my birthday - my 40th - so I should be guaranteed good weather, although I suppose it depends on what your definition of "good" is. I shall be very happy if it's windy, seeing as I'm going kitesurfing on a little island off the coast of Africa.

The seasons and the weather affect my mood a great deal and I have neither the energy boost that summer brings or the lethargy of winter at the moment. Flying to more southerly climes seems very decadent in the middle of the UK's summer, when our weather is supposed to be at its best, but I have the excuse that it's my 40th birthday so I should celebrate in style.

I'm attempting to complete my thirties with dignity more becoming of a man entering his forties. My thirties were a real mixed bag, which included some incredible achievements, but also some jaw-dropping adversity. The "wealth" that I carry into middle age takes the form of an immense amount of extreme experiences, including a great many which I do not recommend other people to imitate, but I still treasure them all - even the bad ones.

This summer seems to involve a lot of hard work. There is a lot of pressure on me at work, as well as some financial worries caused by job uncertainty. However, I cannot deny that there are elements of my life that far exceed my wildest expectations: my beautiful girlfriend, my gorgeous kitten, my lovely house... and I'm having a reasonable year in terms of getting back in contact with my sister and my friends.

I'm writing sporadically at the moment, because of the many competing demands placed upon me. After boasting yesterday about how well my kitten was doing at using her litter tray, she soaked my duvet in the night, and then took a pee on my work shirts in the morning, leaving a trail of pee across the bedroom floor as I hurriedly moved her into the correct receptacle while she continued to urinate.

If I'm writing in a bit more of a "this is what I had for breakfast" boring diary style at the moment, I apologise. Lots of irons in the fire. Spread very thin. I promise to write some of my usual off-the-wall bizarre essays again soon.

 

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Cake And Eat It

9 min read

This is a story about a completed jigsaw puzzle...

Summer house cake

When I was 28 I was so depressed that I couldn't work. I couldn't face the outside world. I couldn't face the office 9 to 5 Monday to Friday routine. I couldn't face the glacial pace that projects moved at. I couldn't face the lack of productivity. I couldn't face the wastefulness of large organisations. I couldn't face the dead wood, being dragged along by those of us who wanted to actually create some f**king software.

My behaviour became erratic. The symptoms my my mood disorder - bipolar - made me a dysfunctional individual for long enough to cause problems in an ordinary office type environment: mainly my lengthy absence due to to the aforementioned depression. Nobody had ever much cared about me being hypomanic in the office, because it allowed me to deliver very complicated projects on time, to a high standard of quality.

I quit my job in 2008 and sat in my garden making iPhone Apps - mainly games. They sold very well and I was number one in the App Store charts for a brief time. Suddenly, I was earning a lot of royalties and I was comparatively wealthy.

I decided that I hated office work and corporate IT work - I hated big software projects - but that I should start a small business. I retrained as an electrician. I did all the training, bought a van and started trading.

Electrician

My electrician business traded profitably, but I kept getting asked to do freelance software work, which paid twice as much as my electrical work, and I was obviously much better at it, given that I've got 20+ years of commercial software experience and about 18+ months of commercial electrical experience. It's a lot less stressful being a software consultant than it is being an electrician.

I decided to combine my entrepreneurial side - the iPhone Apps and the small business - to create a startup which would have a software product which could be licensed, so that I could make money while I slept: it was a scalable business model.

During all this erratic behaviour, I was making a ton of money, I designed a built a beautiful summer house in my garden, I had a wakeboarding boat, I threw lavish garden parties. I was having the time of my life, except I was in a very toxic, abusive relationship.

I ended the relationship and my life continued to improve. In fact, my life kept on improving.

Soon, I was enrolled on a prestigious startup accelerator program which takes 8,000 applicants for every place, and only offers 10 teams the chance to be mentored by senior executives from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Paypal and a bunch of other great tech companies, plus the opportunity to pitch on "demo day" to a packed auditorium full of venture capitalists and angel investors, and raise a huge amount of investment.

My company was already profitable enough to pay my co-founder and I a decent salary and hire our first full-time employee. That was entirely bootstrapped: the company was built from nothing. My co-founder and I built a profitable startup without taking a single cent from any member of friends or family, or risking any of our own money.

This was my cake and eat it moment.

I worked too hard for too long. On the accelerator program mentor madness was fine for the teams who just had an idea, but my co-founder and I had a profitable business to run. We had customers who needed supporting. We had sales deals which needed to be closed. The rest of our cohort were happily burning the money they'd raised - making a loss - while our startup was living within its means and growing organically... in fact it was growing rapidly organically.

The problem was that toxic, abusive relationship.

She wasn't kind. She wasn't supportive. She didn't want me to succeed. She was just plain mean and totally inflexible; uncompromising. It wasn't fair, because I had supported her when she wanted to change career, and I had also been a very loyal loving boyfriend. Of course I could have split up with her and run off into the sunset with a lovely girl from the tech startup scene who could see the potential in me and the potential of my startup, but I let loyalty and a sense of "doing the right thing" get the better of me.

Since then, there hasn't been a lot of cake eating.

Divorce became extremely acrimonious in 2013, after a harrowing period when the abuse and the trauma was sufficient to give me PTSD - I was barricaded in rooms and defecating in a bucket to avoid physical harm and at least give myself what little protection I could. Verbal abuse and violent kicking and punching of the door was so frequent it was literally torture. My abuser was keeping me trapped with threats of violence, and I starved, I was thirsty and I had to sh*t and piss in a bucket.

Mercifully, we separated in August 2013.

Trauma doesn't heal overnight.

The divorce dragged on into 2014, ruining my second startup and depriving me of all my liquid capital - my money - which I needed to start another business. The divorce ruined me every bit as much as the toxic relationship and abusive marriage did. The divorce left me so physically drained, traumatised, financially taken advantage of, exhausted and stressed, that I broke down completely. I ended up sleeping rough. I ended up homeless. I was wrecked.

Briefly, at the end of 2014 I had a nice apartment in Swiss Cottage, a lovely commute on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf and a well paid consultancy contract with Barclays. Was I having my cake and eating it? No. The divorce and the separation had caused me such horrible PTSD and financial distress that for almost that whole year I had been sleeping rough and in a homeless hostel. My life was very fragile; my recovery was only green shoots.

In 2015 I had an amazing apartment overlooking the Thames with panoramic views of all the London landmarks. I had a great consultancy contract with HSBC. Was I having my cake and eating it? No. I was so distressed by the financial troubles I'd had that I worked unsustainable hours and got very sick, and had to be hospitalised. I had to be kept in a secure psychiatric ward for my own safety.

In 2016 I had the same apartment. I had a great consultancy contract. I was less stressed about the erratic nature of my life and the financial boom and bust, but I certainly didn't feel comfortable spending money.

In 2017 I had the same apartment and a great consultancy contract with Lloyds Banking Group. A large blood clot - a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) - formed in my leg and it caused the complication that my kidneys failed. I nearly died. I was sick for months with agonising nerve and muscle damage. Out of desperation I took a short contract in Manchester. It was so miserable that I tried to kill myself. I very nearly succeed - I was in a coma for 4 or 5 days in intensive care. I was sectioned and kept in a secure psychiatric ward for my own safety.

By the end of 2017 and into 2018 I had recovered enough to be consulting for an investment bank in London. I was commuting from Wales and staying in crappy AirBnBs. I was well paid but it was the most miserable life. I was homeless, single and coming to terms with having survived a suicide attempt which should definitely have killed me.

Then I got a consultancy contract in Wales. I had a nice girlfriend in Wales, I had a job in Wales and I had a very nice home in Wales with panoramic sea views. I was about to have my cake and eat it.

Then, soon after booking a short holiday, my consultancy contract ended early because the project was finished - I worked very hard and delivered early.

I got another consultancy contract in Wales. I still have that consultancy contract in Wales. I have a girlfriend who I think is amazing and I'm crazy about her. I have very serious feelings for her. I was about to have my cake and eat it.

Now my consultancy contract is ending prematurely. I worked hard and managed to rescue a very important project which was running late. I was working very hard to deliver our project early.

Clearly I work very hard. Clearly, I'm lucky enough to create these opportunties where I could have my cake and eat it but so far nothing's worked out for me.

It may well be possible for me to still have that amazing holiday we've got planned, but it will always be slightly spoiled by the stress of knowing that I don't have secure income when I get home, which makes me worried about money.

You can understand why I'm worried about money, can't you?

You can understand why it's so terrible that my holidays get ruined by having my consultancy contracts unexpectedly cut short, especially when I work so hard and make such a big contribution.

Of course, I could throw caution to the wind and take that luxury holiday anyway. If there's one repeating theme in this story, it's that I always bounce back from adversity. I could risk it all and go ahead with that holiday, which I desperately need and want.

I've been lucky. I got to go to Turkish Disneyland on my own. I got to go to Tulum in Mexico. My luck ran out eventually I guess. I have a beautiful girlfriend who is kind and loving and supportive, I have a gorgeous bengal kitten, I have a very nice great big house. I have a little financial security, but paying for a luxury 2-week holiday has a major negative impact on my meagre financial resources, seen in the context of how bad things can get: months in hospital, sleeping rough and nearly dying on several occasions.

Perhaps it's just not my destiny to have my cake and eat it.

 

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Distractions

4 min read

This is a story about feline friends...

Black cat

The two best things about owning a house were getting a kitten and having a nice garden. The garden was not in a good state when I bought the house: the lawn was in a dreadful state, the borders were full of unattractive things which had self-seeded, the path was shoddy and the small shed was falling down.

Getting a kitten was amazing. Having a precious little fluffball to nurture was one of the best things I ever did in my life.

Working on the garden, planting an attractive deep herbaceous border in neat mulched flowerbeds, laying a straight path with nice pebbles and later building a summer house in the style of a giant beach hut, was enormously rewarding.

Today, my back garden is full of weeds and my house is empty except for me.

I miss having a cat.

The photo above is of a neighbour's cat who strayed into my garden. I went outside to say hello but the cat ran away before I even stepped out of my back door. I suppose I should leave other people's pets alone, but I see no harm in being kind to the neighbourhood cats, provided I'm not feeding them or letting them come in my house.

I knew that I wouldn't be able to resist getting a cat for very long. I lasted 2 months.

I'm hoping to pick up a beautiful little bengal kitten in a couple of weeks. She has the same name as my niece, which seemed like fate: it was meant to be. If you're unfamiliar with the bengal breed, they're like little tiny leopards - their fur markings or 'spots' are quite unlike any other domestic cat's. I never pictured myself as an owner of a particular breed, but I had been interested in a few breeds: Maine Coons and Savannahs. Everything I heard about bengals made me want to own one, and soon hopefully I will.

I have lots of nice distractions in my life at the moment. Everything seems to be going according to plan.

I'm a strange fellow. Of course I want to chase girls. Of course I want sex. However, I also have a pretty strong nurturing instinct, which seems to take the guise of being a bit of a gardener and cat 'parent'. I'm mad about cats.

I'm sure I can give a little kitty a really nice life. I'm sure no grown cat, having lived in a warm house and had a steady supply of cat food for its entire life, is ever going to tell me that it's depressed and wishes it'd never been born. I can be pretty certain that I'm not going to have chosen the world's first cat to be afflicted with existential angst.

It might seem pretty selfish wanting a cat; another mouth to feed on an overcrowded planet. The amount of meat that my carnivorous kitty is going to need to consume in her lifetime is certainly going to have an environmental impact. There are ethical questions about whether it's right to domesticate wild animals like we do: for food and for harder to define reasons, such as having a feline companion.

I worry about whether my life is stable and secure enough to guarantee that this little kitten - collected in a few weeks - can have a very happy life, where she can be loved, cared for and live in a stimulating environment where her every feline need is met.

I feel like a pretty responsible adult, having taken reproductive precautions seriously enough to reach the age of 39 without having fathered any children who by now would be asking "why was I born into this terrible world?". I'm not ruling out meeting somebody who I fall so utterly in love with that I might be convinced to start a family, but at the moment I'm glad that my nurturing instincts have been mostly curtailed with gardening and kittens.

Call it May Madness, if you like... I'm a little swept up in the joys of spring. I certainly worry that I'm making rash decisions, but I find it hard to be anything other than excited about soon collecting a little bundle of furry joy and bringing her home. You should expect a lot of cat pictures to be shared imminently, hence why I haven't shared one of the cute little kitten today... there's gonna be a lot coming soon!

 

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Summer's Here

4 min read

This is a story about unseasonably good weather...

Sun tan lotion

While my colleagues have been enjoying Easter holidays, it's been 4 months since I took some time off work. Having the long 4-day Easter weekend was very pleasant, and there are two more long weekends in May. The Easter bank holiday weekend was particularly nice because it was sunny and warm.

A friend asked if I'd like to join him and his family for a picnic in the park, which I thought was madness, given that we're still in April and the nights can be decidedly cold. However, it was very pleasantly warm, even as the sun started to go down.

During the daytime over the Easter weekend, it felt most summery indeed. My skin is pretty tolerant of the UK sun, so I didn't really need sun tan lotion, but I was able to wear flip-flops and sunglasses, with short sleeves, and it felt like summer.

Summer is my favourite time of year.

There are a number of juggling balls I've got midair at the moment. Work, house, relationships, friendships, money, car, bills and admin... the usual crap that almost everybody has to worry about. Somehow, I'm managing to keep all the plates spinning reasonably well at the moment, which bodes very well for having a good summer.

Last year, a catastrophic chain of events screwed up my job, my relationships, some friendships, and put my whole situation - regarding housing and finances - into jeopardy. I got very sick and I was worried I was going to lose everything: my life is fragile.

This year, my approach has been exactly the same: I'm working hard on an important IT project, I have a place to live which I like, dating is going well, I'm starting to make friends, my finances are in good shape - things are looking extremely promising, but I know how quickly everything can crumble.

Last year, I ended up snatching a couple of days away with a good friend - a boy's trip away - which was amazing, but my life had been destabilised and my future was uncertain. By the time the summer arrived, I didn't feel in a position to enjoy it at all, and in fact I hardly saw the sunshine at all. When a new job came along, I took it immediately and worked all summer, including the day of my birthday.

Although I have had a very good run of luck, including a fantastic holiday over the Christmas and New Year period, I feel like I would like to celebrate my achievements and hard work by going away on holiday for my birthday. It's a little extravagant and it's an avoidable expense, but I feel like it would be great to have a summer break, to recharge the batteries ready for the long slog through to the autumn.

Perhaps it's not necessary to go abroad. A staycation can be just as great as going overseas. In fact, the UK is fantastic if you're lucky with the weather. Certainly, the Easter bank holiday weekend felt like being on holiday in a country with a much better climate than our own fair shores.

I guess it's something to aim for; something a little bit more exciting than domestic purchases of boring things for around the house. It feels like a way of psychologically declaring 2019 to be "a good year" which is important to me, given the number of "bad years" I've had. It hasn't been since 2016 that things were going smoothly in my life, when I went away for a lovely holiday to celebrate my birthday.

There's something really nice about having a holiday when things are going well - to be settled at home, in a relationship, work going well, financially secure, social interaction and other things which make life bearable - is important if you're going to be able to relax and enjoy yourself.

My life is becoming increasingly good, especially considering how much I was struggling with stress and anxiety very recently. I was overwhelmed and too exhausted, depressed and anxious to think about doing nice things, but now the landscape is starting to look very different.

 

Of course, I must say that I'm very fortunate to be in the position that I'm in, and I'm trying not to feel "entitled" to things, but it's no accident that I'm in the situation I'm in - there has been hard work, struggle and suffering to endure, so I don't feel too guilty about planning a nice holiday for myself, to celebrate my birthday in July.

 

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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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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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Historically March Has Been A Terrible Month For Me

3 min read

This is a story about social media memories...

Clock tower

Facebook provides an "on this day" feature, which reminds me that March has been afflicted with madness and sadness for more years than I care to remember. I'm horribly affected by seasonal depression and I think March is the worst month of all, because it's long, dark, cold and the weather is terrible. At least in April the clocks have sprung forward. At least in April, the first pleasant month of the year - May - is within sight.

I was trying to remember what the earliest point in any year was, where I'd regained control of my sanity and been working. With the exception of the current 15-month long streak, it hasn't been earlier than May that I've managed to get myself into gainful employment and start repairing my life, and it's been as late as October and even December, which has proven pretty disastrous for my finances.

It might sound pretty incredible that I could lose my mind in one winter - usually around Christmas time - and not work until the following autumn. My life is incredibly cyclical and part of that cycle is rescuing myself from the brink of disaster. Because of my creditworthiness, I simply sink into debt, then dig myself out of the hole when my mind is more amenable to being in the workplace.

I'm pretty sick of the boom and bust, hence resolving to dig myself out of debt once and for all. I'm sick of having debt hanging around, threatening to destroy me. I'm sick of working hard, mainly to line the pockets of my creditors.

Last year was compromised because my summer was ruined, but since then I haven't got much to complain about. I managed to have two very nice holidays. If I play my cards right I can have a nice summer holiday this year and enter the autumn in a financially strong position. I had imagined that my woes would be behind me now, but I've had to balance the reality of the daily slog - commuting etc. - with the desire to get out of debt as quickly as possible. I could have lived on dry bread, tap water and lived in a hovel, but I think that would have been unbearable.

I realise that I consider this to be my sixth consecutive terrible year, but my life hasn't been anywhere near simple enough to reduce to that level. In fact, 2016 very nearly worked out for me. I'm kinda having another attempt at 2016, but hopefully not repeating the same mistakes. Every year has had a terrible winter and spring, followed by an autumn period which has been much more promising.

This year is unique, in that it started with an awesome holiday and the period that threatened to plunge me back into disaster and despair was quite short-lived. I've already managed to fend off a breakup, a house move and some brain chemistry problems, which all could have been terminal for my dreams of achieving stability, security and happiness.

I don't want to jinx it, but this year is going far better than any previous year, all things considered.

 

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Ignorant Of My Own Stupidity

7 min read

This is a story about benchmarks...

Crossed wires

There's no way for me to really know how much permanent brain damage I've inflicted upon myself. There's no way to know how much cognitive impairment I've caused. There's no way to know how many brain cells I've killed and how much grey matter I've destroyed. Most of the time I feel fine - no change - but sometimes I have a sudden panic that I've lost a lot of my ability to think.

My concentration span is ruined, but I think that's a pretty endemic problem given the ubiquity of smartphones and social media. The reasons for my brain damage are pretty obviously down to neurotoxicity of chemicals I've put into my body, but it's hard to know what I'd be like if I hadn't lived through that period of drug abuse. I feel dumb, but maybe I'd have been made dumb by other stuff anyway, like the steady stream of mind-numbing entertainment which is available over the internet.

I learned some new things in the past 15 months, so my ability to learn doesn't seem totally ruined. I achieved some difficult projects, so my ability to deliver complex pieces of work also seems to be functioning OK. This is a relief - at least my brain is functioning OK in a professional capacity. The demands seem relatively light on my brain - not too taxing - except for the concentration issues and the boredom. The boredom has always been an issue.

I think about the incidence rate of me saying or doing stupid stuff. Sometimes I worry that I'm saying just as much dumb stuff as ever, but then I look at the frequency of the really bad dumb stuff, and I realise that my spectacular own-goals are becoming less and less frequent. When I screw up, it's not as long and protracted and it doesn't cause as much damage.

Of course, I haven't done the data-collection and analysis, but I'm usually right. My hunches are usually correct, because I do collect data as I go along and I regularly compare periods of time using hard numbers.

Still, I can't quite shake the feeling that I've made myself pretty dumb through my abuse of drugs.

I think it's useful that I don't drink caffeinated beverages. I think that caffeine gives me a kind of false sense of security and overconfidence. I'm sure that caffeine is to blame for tipping me into a manic state.

It's kinda useful that I don't drink alcohol. When I quit drinking once in 2015 it was followed by a bad period of mood instability that ultimately cost me a job, financial security and then ultimately resulted in going back to square one. I'm undecided about the role alcohol has in my life, but at the moment I'm glad to be getting my intoxicants in the form of a measured dose, which is not fattening or otherwise damaging to my physical health.

I feel a little stupefied by medication. I feel quite drugged and intoxicated. I have no idea what I'm going to feel like once I finally manage to wean myself off all the pills.

It's very hard to judge where I'm at.

I look at metrics such as my average earnings. The data is very positive.

I look at metrics like my step count. The data is very negative.

I look at things like the tightness of my belt, and things are very positive again. I look at myself in the mirror when I get out of the shower and I can visibly see the improvement. There's no denying the substantial physical change - I'm losing weight and looking healthier.

I combine everything into a generalised view and I can see that this summer is likely to deliver a continued decline, which the step count data robustly supports, as well as my general perception that I've had a couple of terrible years in a row. However, the future is somewhat in my own hands, so I can choose in advance to make plans for the summer which will be something to look forward to. I can plan to succeed, instead of waiting to fail.

I know that having a girlfriend would make life more bearable, but I also know that it has always provoked instability too. I know that breakups have been the catalyst for the most self-destructive behaviour in my life. I find myself wanting some validation that I've done well. I find myself driven by insecurity a little - wanting to reassure myself that I'm still attractive.

I find that my addiction hasn't been cured. I've had thoughts which have resisted suppression, surfacing from my subconscious. I'm experienced enough to know exactly what part of my brain is plotting. I can see all the warning signs. However, I think I've proven that I'm disciplined enough to resist and get through difficulties. It's been too hard to get here - I'm not going to screw things up.

It's difficult to live with so many episodes of boom and bust. There's so many examples to analyse. I can see all the things that have worked very well, and I can see all the things which have been utterly disastrous. It should be good to have so many experiences to draw upon, but it's actually a bit frustrating. Theoretically, I know all the right moves, but linking them together into a dance is not at all easy.

I endlessly analyse everything. I extrapolate. I predict.

My predictions don't make for comfortable reading. I can see that my improvements are only marginal, while the long-term trend is pretty dreadful. I can see that there's a lot of hard work ahead with very little reward. However, I do know that for every year that I'm well more than I'm sick, my situation will improve and my quality of life is much better. For every year that I work more than I don't, my finances improve, which opens the doors to a world of possibilities. Better finances means better living conditions, which means better state of mind, better self-esteem and a whole load of things that I want become easier to get.

I'm not so stupid that I can't see my mistakes and the damage I've done to myself. I'm not so stupid that I can't take premeditated steps to try to change my own future and improve my ultimate outcome. However, I do admit that my intellect has thus far never been something that's stopped me from doing dumb stuff.

I've retreated into my own mind, so it's very hard for me to ask other people whether they can see me improving or declining. My perceptions have been very badly impaired in the past. It's virtually impossible to know whether I'm on the brink of breakthrough or disaster.

It's kind of a make-or-break time. Either the universe gives me everything I want, at long last, or I really have been banging my head against a brick wall all this time. The next few months will determine whether I'm bouncing back or whether I'm doomed.

I've seen a few documentaries about people recovering from traumatic brain injuries, and I see that they can achieve remarkable recovery, but personality change and some impairment seems to always linger. I suppose these things don't matter, in my world where I've successfully re-invented myself. Nobody much remembers who I was and what I was capable of anyway, so perhaps it's helpful that there's no benchmark for me to get depressed about.

 

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I'm Sick Of Waiting

6 min read

This is a story about losing patience...

Washer

I suppose I am becoming acutely aware that there has been a very high cost associated with the ups and downs of recent years. The cost is mostly financial, but that has a drastic effect on every single area of my life. We live in a financially obsessed global economy which is reluctant to forgive debts, and in fact enforces its debts to the point of causing widespread suffering and death.

I borrowed from a friend in order to stave of bankruptcy and total destitution. The financial system would have ruined me and left me for dead. The black mark against my name would have made me unemployable and unable to rent a place to live. The consequences would have been unimaginable, unless you yourself have truly experienced the brutality of capitalism, and the harsh reality of having less than zero money.

In order to dig myself out of the hole I've had to work very hard, but unfortunately the value of the pounds and pence in my pocket are eroded by the capitalist system, faster than I'm able to generate income.

The system is rigged.

I'm well aware of how badly rigged the system is because I was caught on the wrong side of history - I was suckling at capitalism's teet, and I was fed by the biggest fattest pig of them all. I was at ground zero during the financial collapse of 2007/8. I had ringside seats. I was part of the inner circle.

I can't feel sorry for myself, because I've got blood on my hands.

I knew that I was involved in something very corrupt and immoral. I knew that I was involved in something that was completely in contradiction of the needs of society and humanity. I knew that I was seeing the very worst excesses of capitalism. However, I didn't quit until it was too late. I put my pride as an engineer before my instinct to reject what I could see in front of me - I had a system to finish building, and I couldn't stop myself. I concentrated on doing my job, instead of stopping and blowing the whistle.

Did I see anything I could've actually stopped? No.

The complicity is so widespread that nobody can stop capitalism. So many people profit so handsomely and benefit excessively that capitalism's an unstoppable force. As my colleagues counselled me: The only person I'm hurting is myself.

Still though, I know instinctively that only a small segment of global society benefits from capitalism, while most people are exploited, forced to suffer and die.

What's staggering is that I can work very hard for 15 consecutive months and effectively get nowhere. It's remarkable how strongly capitalism has resisted me having a very modest standard of living. I simply want to live a debt-free existence, free from the tyranny of slave-drivers. I don't want Damocles' sword dangling over me anymore. I've worked hard enough in my lifetime to be granted some respite from the pressure, the stress and the exhaustion.

Every year a mountain of expenses are rained down onto my head. These are expenses that have to be paid just to be able to continue to play the game. This is the price of being alive, which is extremely high.

I only feel indebted to my friend. I don't feel like I owe anybody else anything at all.

Once I pay my friend back, I'm not sure what I'm going to do.

At the moment, I'm not sure I can carry on.

It's been too exhausting to get to this point.

Anyway, it's all hypothetical at this stage. I still have another three or more months before I can fully repay the debt to my friend. I have to keep going so at least the trust and faith that my friend had in me can be proven to not be misplaced.

It shamed me to lose my status symbols - like my house - and it was very damaging to my self-esteem. Now, I simply wish to pay back a friend so I can die with some dignity.

I'm being a little melodramatic. I could have paid my friend back a long time ago, but I've been trying to make life feel worth living. I had a couple of very nice holidays in the autumn and winter of last year. It did feel momentarily nice to enjoy the fruit of my labour, but the choice to do that has delayed the day when I'm debt-free again.

Perhaps my mood will improve as the weather improves. The clocks spring forward at the end of the month and the days are getting longer. Warmer weather will lift my spirits. Perhaps I will even have a pleasant summer.

My weekend has been full of chores like grocery shopping, installing my washing machine, doing laundry and getting my hair cut, but perhaps I'm a little grateful that a couple of major pieces of the puzzle - my job and my home - are in place, even if there's an enormous amount of work ahead of me.

I toss ideas around in my head, like starting dating again, or getting a kitten. I'm not completely depressed and suicidal. I can picture a more pleasant and bearable life in the not-too-distant future, but it's going to be stressful to get hold of what I want.

Why shouldn't I have everything I want right now, I sometimes ask myself. Why haven't I got everything, when at some point in my life I've had all the things, which cumulatively add up to everything I want. Why hasn't everything come together at the same time?

It's a bit spoiled brattish and unreasonable to expect to get everything, but I always compare effort and suffering with payoff. Where the effort and the suffering don't result in any payoff, then I question what the point of being alive is.

I know there are lot of people in the world who don't seem to be getting a fair payoff for their effort and suffering, but still they carry on. Some of them are happy. Good for them.

I suppose I'm unhappy being exploited and I'm unhappy doing the exploiting, which puts me in rather a difficult position. How does a person avoid either?

My assumption has always been that one day I'll see an opportunity to live my life free from exploitation, but increasingly I've come to recognise that it's impossible, except through suicide. Perhaps my outlook will change if I fall in love or find some purpose, but at the moment I'm just sitting and waiting, and I don't like what I see happening all around me.

I think I'm deeply depressed, which is understandable given the stress and the trauma of recent weeks.

 

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Stash

10 min read

This is a story about drug dependency...

Pills

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

Think about the starving African children.

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

This is all I have left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I use the word "dependency" very carefully.

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

However, the doses I take are laughably negligible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll leave you with this quote:

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

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

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

 

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