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Sorry For Not Replying

8 min read

This is a story about having a miniature nervous breakdown...

Blurry phone

I know it's offensive to say "I'm a bit OCD" just like you can't be "a bit in a wheelchair". However, I'm a bit of an authority on life implosions. It's not hyperbole to describe myself as on the brink of a breakdown and/or a suicide attempt. If anybody could know just how close I am to breaking point, I would be me, given that I've lived far too much of my life on the limit; I've had far too many breakdowns and brushes with death.

What do I mean by a breakdown?

There's the fairly tame stuff, like not going to work, not answering the phone, not answering the door, not opening the curtains, not getting out of bed, not washing, not eating, not socialising, not paying the bills, not opening the mail, not doing any kind of activities, sleeping all the time, unpredictable random bouts of uncontrollable crying, suicidal thoughts and plans... that kind of stuff. That's your common-or-garden depression tame breakdown stuff, which destroys your job, your finances and your relationships with friends and family.

I can pretty much manage to stay functional and not lose my job, even when I'm spending 40 hours a week at my desk plotting to kill myself. I can quite literally spend a whole day in the office thinking about what poison I'm going to buy, where I'm going to get it from, how I'm going to use it, which tall buildings I can access the balconies of, what pavement or other area there is beneath the balcony, how I would gain access, how I would get there... all the little details.

Nowadays, I plod along like it's ordinary to have those thoughts and feelings. That sort of stuff is just ordinary background noise to me.

There's other tame stuff like spending vast sums of money on expensive consumer electronics and plane tickets. Casual sex, alcohol and drug abuse; extreme sports, bad driving and other excessive risk taking. All of that stuff is part of my day-to-day existence.

I'm able to quell both my impulse to stay in bed and my impulse to run away, to such a great extent that I've given an excellent false impression of a highly functional adult human being, for 10 or more consecutive months. A large number of people have been fooled.

I've dragged myself to work after drinking 3 bottles of wine. I've dragged myself to work after a multiple-day drug binge without any sleep. I've kept the receipts for thousands of pounds worth of consumer electronics and mostly resisted the urge to walk out of the office and jet off to an exotic location with a fat wad of £50 notes in my pocket, yelling "SEE YOU IN HELL" and flicking V-signs at my colleagues as I exit.

It's the last part that's been my biggest success.

My brain mostly tells me I'm brilliant and other people are slow and dimwitted. I work with very smart people, and the less I say about my colleagues the better. Let's just focus on the me part, because it's a confusing issue. My thinking goes a little bit like this...

"I was a drug addict sleeping rough in a bush in a park, nearly bankrupt, and now I'm putting together this massive software system for a gigantic organisation, even though I'm as mad as a box of frogs, and yet everybody seems to respect my opinion, trust me and follow my leadership; they pay me an obscene amount of money"

So then I start thinking...

"Who else in my organisation is a nearly-bankrupt severely mentally ill person who was sleeping rough in a bush in a park and physically addicted to multiple dangerous drugs?"

When I arrive at the conclusion that my colleagues have not faced the same adversity, it fuels delusions of grandeur. Why would it not? It seems only logical that the reason I'm not destitute or dead and instead I'm earning big bucks and doing important work, must be because I'm special and different. I write this paragraph dripping with sarcasm, the reader should note.

On the matter of the success part: turns out that it's a good idea to keep your mouth shut most of the time, if you want to get along well with the literally hundreds of thousands of employees who work with you in some of the world's biggest organisations. It turns out that it's an even better idea to keep your mouth shut and not say what you think, if you're plagued with delusions of grandeur, brought on by the sheer ridiculousness of seemingly being able to drag yourself out of the gutter and reach the stars at the drop of a hat.

It's quite mind-fracturing to believe at the same time that you're worthless and that the world would be better off without you, while also believing the hard evidence that no matter how hard you try to destroy your life, you still remain eminently employable and in-demand; no matter how many times you walk out the office shouting "GO TO HELL FUCKTARDS" somebody somewhere still will offer you a great big suitcase filled with £50 notes to sit at a desk and think about killing yourself.

It should be noted that I like my colleagues and I think they're very smart people.

It should be noted that there hasn't been a "GO TO HELL..." moment for quite a while.

Like, there probably hasn't ever been a "GO TO HELL..." moment.

Not ever.

I get very worked up about the systems, the organisations, the politics, the structural problems, the inherent unfairness and absurdity of it all. I get very worked up about perfection, utopia and engineering elegance. I get very worked up about management incompetency. I get very worked up about the speed with which things get done, which feels painfully slow.

These opposing forces within me - the depression and the mania - seem to express themselves quite suddenly as an exhaustion which confines me to bed for many weeks, jetting off around the world or getting very angry with one particular situation. The anger one is probably the most destructive; the other two are recoverably destructive.

I'm particularly fearful of waking up one day and being unable to go to work, which is strange because that would probably be the least damaging of all outcomes. Yes, it doesn't look great to disappear and not answer your phone for weeks, but understood within the context of a major episode of depression, most people's reaction is sympathetic.

Past experience has taught me that becoming arrogant, cocky and full of myself leads to saying and doing stupid things in the office, which is far more damaging than being off work sick. As hypomania boils over into all-out mania, I know that I can be prone to say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time; patience and tolerance wear thin.

Somehow, I manage to navigate a path through both extremes, so long as I'm not too depressed or too manic. I build up some goodwill which carries me through difficult periods. I prove my worth and make myself useful, such that I get second and third chances.

Knowing myself very well, I feel like I've been skating on thin ice for far too long. I feel like I'm well overdue a meltdown; a major catastrophe.

I don't have any spare energy left to maintain my mask of sanity; I can no longer keep up my "game face".

The mask is slipping.

My main preoccupation should be remaining civil.

So long as I can remain civil, I'll probably be forgiven for having a breakdown.

I'm too outspoken, as usual. People are getting to know me. I'm super exposed.

Some poor bastard usually feels the sharp end of my tongue and I desperately attempt to apologise and take back the things I said in the heat of the moment. My regret and remorse are heartfelt, but it's usually too late. Gotta keep things civil, no matter how much pressure and stress I feel I'm under.

Perhaps worst of all are the lies and the boasts, which come at the very end of a long period of fake it until you make it when I actually no longer need to fake it anymore. Lolz. Irony.

The fear of being exposed as an imposter - having my secrets revealed - has followed me around for an incredibly long time, but now I'm almost-but-not-quite back on my feet. This is the very worst period.

I need to consolidate my gains.


I'm so close to having a breakdown.




A Streak of Arrogance

7 min read

This is a story about hypomania warning signs...

Cambridge Union Society

If I was pressed to justify why I have any self-confidence and why I think I add any value to humanity - anything useful or interesting to say - then I could reference a number of achievements which I'm very proud of, indicating that I'm not completely delusional and grandiose. My sense of self-importance and pomposity is not entirely driven by perturbations of my sick mind. There are a few little things which mean I shouldn't think of myself as a complete waste-of-space, I hope.


I've had to endure plenty of these sharp-elbowed puffed-up pompous idiots, in love with their own reflections; quite convinced that they're brilliant people. I'm not exactly the shy and retiring humble type, but there's got to be some kind of middle ground unless you're happy flipping burgers in a minimum wage McJob and otherwise being trampled by precocious little shits; being shouted down by fucking airheads and their entourage of sycophants who believe the world owes them a stage and an audience.

...and breathe...

I realise that an arrogant streak within me rears its ugly head whenever I'm stressed and exhausted; whenever I'm scared and insecure.

I'm feeling very scared and insecure at the moment.

I know that I'm good at my job and I make a big difference to the teams and organisations that I'm part of, but I can see that a nasty side of my personality emerges when I'm under extreme pressure and stress. I can start to believe my own bullshit and see those around me as dead wood. I can start to become irritable and impatient. I can start to treat people unpleasantly. I become horribly arrogant.

It's a reaction to circumstances.

I'm not comfortable. I'm not secure. I'm not happy.

I'm exhausted.

I'm tired.

I'm scared.

At work, I know that I've proven myself yet again. I know that I've gotten to grips with a huge complicated system and a gigantic organisation in record time, and I'm making myself useful. I'm highly productive. I feel needed and I feel like I'm delivering good value. That feeds my fragile ego. My ego is incredibly battered and bruised because of the rollercoaster ride I've been on during the last few years, and because I don't feel at all secure.

I can point to things from the past which hint at my potential and clearly indicate that I'm not an idiot or a nobody, but how far back do I have to go? The picture above of me doing a Dragon's Den style pitch at Cambridge Union Society is about 7 years old. It feels like my life has been a complete mess since then. I feel like a fraud. I feel like a washed-up has-been.

For all my achievements, I've also repeatedly had problems with hypomania, where I've become impatient and irritable and I've spoken to people really badly. My arrogance has raged out of control at times. There's no justifying that behaviour.

I'm acutely aware that I wrote a very boastful blog post yesterday, and that I'm starting to become quite irritable by the amateurish stuff I have to deal with in my day job. I have to try very hard to avoid being harshly critical of my colleagues' work, which is perfectly mediocre and acceptable in the humdrum corporate world. I have to frequently remind myself that although I'm right it doesn't matter; although I could build a much superior system and do things so much better, I'm just one team member on a big project in a huge organisation. I need to recognise that I'm prone to the cyclical pattern of being smashed to smithereens and ending up destitute, only to get back on my feet and able to become high productive again with unbelievable speed. I need to stop being so dazzled by my own remarkable ability to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, because it's horribly arrogant.

There's a mountain of evidence that proves I can achieve exceptional things, but there's also a mountain of evidence that shows that I can become a right pain in the ass and I can be thoroughly unpleasant to deal with, when I'm consumed by hypomania. I need to remember that it'll be beneficial for me and everybody who I work with if I can rein in my arrogance, keep my lip buttoned, be kind, be patient and be as humble as I can possibly be.

It doesn't help that two people who I very much admired and respected have left my team, leaving me as the de-facto top dog, but I work with smart people and I need to work as part of a team or else I'll burn out. I need to get into the habit of learning to be more tolerant of the mistakes which people have made and the "varying abilities" in a diverse team, which is diplomatic double-speak for learning to put up with dullards. It's an essential skill in the workplace I think, to accept that there are more people who are undoing your good work and generally thwarting your ambitions to build utopian perfection, and to recognise that there are a huge amount of advantages of being a member of a big team of people who really don't care too much about the gigantic heap of useless crap they're very handsomely rewarded for fucking up. Striving for perfection has really messed me up very badly in the past.

So, I need an attitude adjustment. I need to acknowledge that when I've been given carte blanche - a clean slate - I've been lazy and sloppy and cut corners. I need to recognise that even though I have single-handedly built great big complex systems and profitable businesses from nothing, it's always fucked me up and burnt me out. On balance, it's the same net result - the tortoise and the hare.

I want to work really hard. I want hard work to accelerate me forwards. I want there to be a direct relationship between how hard I work and how much money I earn, but there isn't. No matter how brilliant and ingenious I am, I'm basically paid for being bored and keeping my mouth shut. The more dumb and numb I am, the more I get paid and the more people love me at work.

It's a really tricky time, because my mood viciously see-saws between suicidal depression, extreme boredom, insecurity about my value as a human being and a mountain of evidence that I'm very capable and competent at pulling off death-defying stunts and overcoming very difficult challenges, which clearly hints at a kind of troubled brilliance... although I'm not wanting to pat myself on the back too much or otherwise pump up my already excessively over-inflated ego.

If I'm going to make it through the coming weeks and months without disaster, I need to remind myself of past mistakes and attempt to curtail my arrogance; I need to recognise the cyclical pattern of my mental health and remember that it's always disastrous when I start getting impatient, intolerant, irritable and generally full of myself.

I need to keep my arrogance in check.




Binging on TV

7 min read

This is a story about edutainment...


I set myself the objective of writing 1 million words in 3 years on this website. To date, I've written over 950,000 words. Of course, some of it is complete garbage. I've written during periods of extreme sleep deprivation, paranoia, stimulant psychosis, mania, hypomania. I've written from psych wards. I've written while losing my home, losing jobs, losing my mind. I've kept writing through it all, and my task is nearly done.

I wrote a whole novel that I'm quite proud of, and 42,000 words of another novel which I'm not so proud of, but I learned a lot. My first novel came relatively easily; I wrote about what I know. The first year that I was blogging seemed to go relatively easily, but the second and third years have been... eventful.

I've lost friends because of my blog, but I've also gained new friends all over the world. My words have been used against me by ex-employers and ex-girlfriends, but more fool them: I think it's the most cowardly and pathetic thing in the world to hit somebody when they're vulnerable; kick a man when he's down.

I've made myself incredibly vulnerable. My whole psyche is on display to the entire world; public property. In the last week alone I've had readers in over 50 countries, speaking nearly 40 different languages as their mother tongue.

I'm not so arrogant, deluded and hubristic to believe that I have any influence, of course, but nobody can deny that I exist... out there in cyberspace. Very few people have gathered their thoughts so exhaustively and presented them at such length.

The internet is littered with abandoned blogs. Twitter is awash with billions - if not trillions - of throwaway garbage 140-character tweets. Even now with 280 characters, what can people really say that's profound or interesting, with such a constraint? Creativity does not love constraints: when was the last time you read a book which could be tweeted? The various competing messaging platforms - SMS, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter DM, Instagram DM - all store huge archives of chat between their users, but it's all throwaway garbage; transient tosh.

Of course what I'm writing is not profound or perhaps even interesting. Of course what I'm doing is not original; it's not a novel idea. Of course I'm not special or different in any way. Of course I'll never achieve anything except my arbitrary target of writing 1 million words in 3 years. What was the point?

I could sit around and be a consumer. I could sit around and consume content. I could read other people's books and blogs and never write another thing. I could watch films and TV and never create a single thing in my whole life. I don't have to write. There are plenty of people who write already. Why does the world need another writer? What have I got to say which is going to add anything of value to the literature?

Writing and creating art became an urgent need which could not be ignored any longer. Writing is a healthier addiction than slouching on the couch, having soap operas and celebrity reality TV shows projected into my living room for all my waking hours. Writing has become a habit, and I've become habituated into the ritual of writing down my stream of consciousness and making it public. Writing my innermost thoughts and feelings publicly has become part of me, because I always existed but I didn't have anywhere to exist... I was trapped in my own mind and I needed to escape that prison and go live in a place that was less isolated. I live in cyberspace. I live through my writing and those who it connects with. Anybody can connect. I'm publicly accessible. I'm common property.

I've interrupted a weekend spent binging on Netflix and Amazon streaming videos. I've deliberately paused the endless stream of nonstop entertainment to write. Why would I do that? Why would I deny myself the pleasure of sitting and doing nothing - being entertained - and spend my precious time writing this? Most people find writing to be a real chore. Most people would struggle to write a thousand words, let alone 950,000. Even your average university-educated person will consider their 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation, 40,000 word masters dissertation or 100,000 word thesis to be a lifetime achievement. If you want to level the accusation at me that it's easy to write complete crap, I remind you that in amongst the 950,000 words I've written are the best part of 2 completed novels, which had to have coherent plots and credible characters, and be written well enough to deserve to be read... although I admit, my unfinished second novel is pretty crappy.

It's hard to create something. It's easy to pick things apart. It's easy to be a consumer. It's hard to finish a project. It's a lot harder than you think to write a whole novel. It's ridiculously hard to commit to a 3-year 1-million-word writing project and see it through to the end.

There's something kinda tragic about broadcasting when nobody's listening. Why do people keep public video diaries when they've got no audience? Why do people keep blogging when nobody reads or comments on their blog? Why do people keep tweeting when they've got no followers?

The answer to the riddle of why people speak to an empty room is something that you might never know, because you're not prepared to publicly ridicule yourself to find out. You think you already know the answer: that it's stupid and pointless. However, how does anybody learn how to be a good writer in the first place? How does anybody get followers and readers? How does anybody go from nothing to something; somebody?

Nothing happens if you just sit around watching TV. You're not going to win the lottery if you don't even play the game. All that's gonna happen is that you'll get fat and old and wonder what you did with your life, if you don't ever create anything. That's fine; that's what most people do: they just get fat, old and then they die, and nobody knows a damn thing about them except for their nearest and dearest. They take their secrets to the grave.

This might be seen as a vanity project; egotistical, but you've got to remember that at the funeral of people who've committed suicide, everyone always says "if only we knew" and "what could we have done differently?" and they're ultimately left with more questions than answers. The only antidote to that I can see is to begin to change the way we live: instead of lives of quiet desperation, we can now express ourselves fully. We have all these amazing communication tools which we can use to connect with one another. There should be no monopoly on who's allowed to communicate; broadcast; publish.

Yes, there's a snobbery around self-publishing, but it's the quickest and easiest way to get yourself out there; to be heard.

I've been racing against time to make myself heard; to get all of this down on the page so it can be read by anybody who's interested. It's been a race against time to communicate enough of myself, that I feel like I'm not going to be one of those suicides where people are left wondering about anything: it's all written down.

I'm not saying I'm actively suicidal at the moment, but I know how quickly my circumstances can change; how rapidly my mood can blacken.

It feels like a good use of my time to write every day, even if nobody is reading.

It feels good to write, when I would otherwise just be binging on TV shows during my leisure time.

It feels good to create, not just consume.




Domestic Bliss

9 min read

This is a story about insecure housing...

Paying rent

She said she wanted to be a widow. She marked my suicide note with red pen, filling it with abusive language. I didn't feel safe in the house with her - she would rage and kick and punch the door I'd put between us to protect myself. I was afraid to use the toilet or otherwise leave the room I'd barricaded myself in for my own protection. I wasn't eating. I wasn't afraid without good reason - she'd battered my face not once, not twice, but three times. She'd had her three strikes and I'd had to go to work saying "I walked into a door". I'd had to make excuses for her violence to her parents... to explain away my black eyes, my broken nose.

The abuse had caused me to start self-harming. Later, I started smashing stuff up. We had blazing rows, but, it was always me who ended up locked in the spare bedroom, afraid for my own safety. It was her who got stronger and stronger, while I got weaker and weaker; sicker and sicker; more and more afraid; more and more isolated. I was suicidally depressed and I was trapped. How was I going to escape this abusive relationship? Where would I go? I'd lost so many friends because of her. I'd lost my identity. I'd lost my self-confidence.

She said she'd rather that I died rather than go into hospital. I needed to go to hospital. I was suicidally depressed, but she said if I did go into hospital she'd divorce me. I said that it was life or death... that my suicidal thoughts were so bad I couldn't keep myself safe. She said she'd rather be a widow.

My friends in London took me in. They tried to keep me safe during an incredibly acrimonious divorce. They supported me. They cared for me. I stayed in their spare bedroom until the house was sold and the divorce had been through the courts.

Then I tried to kill myself.

I moved out of my friends' house and I immediately tried to kill myself.

I couldn't kill myself while I was living under their roof - it wasn't right, because they'd helped me so much. They'd helped me escape my ex-wife, but I'd lost my house and what little self-esteem I had. I'd nearly lost my new business. I nearly lost everything. I had just about enough money and energy left to move out, but then I tried to kill myself because I was jobless and sick, living in a shitty shared apartment in a crappy part of London. I was all alone.

Things got worse. The hospital discharged me into a hotel. I said I didn't want to go back to that town where my ex-wife lived. There couldn't have been anything worse psychologically than being forced to go back to that town where she lived. The hospital took pity on me. They discharged me to a hotel. I had 2 weeks to sort out my life.

Inevitably, I became homeless. It was impossible. I was sick. How was I supposed to navigate the complex bureaucratic nightmare that is the UK housing system? I was refused a hostel bed. I was refused supported accommodation. I was told I could get housing benefit, but no landlord will take somebody who pays their rent with "DSS". Housing benefit doesn't pay enough to rent a place in London anyway. What was I supposed to do?

I ended up sleeping rough in Kensington Palace Gardens, and later Hampstead Heath. I bought a tent and made camp in dense undergrowth far away from the main paths. I used all my expeditionary experience to hide myself and sleep under the stars.

I lived in hostels. The hostels brought me into contact with a social group. Socialising made me feel better about myself  - people liked me; I was popular. My self-esteem started to improve.

I rented a little room in a student apartment. It was cheap, for London. They were nice kids, but they were messy students - they were trashing the place. They were partying all the time. It was hard for a thirty-something man with a full-time job at a bank to mix those lifestyles. It was hard when I left the homeless community. It was hard when I transitioned from being homeless to re-entering civilised society. There was a culture clash. I lost most of my friends.

I went back to living in a hostel.

I rented an amazing apartment on the River Thames with panoramic views over London. It wasn't my idea. A friend thought it'd be a good idea to spend a hefty portion of my monthly income on a super-luxury apartment. "You deserve it" he said. Seemed like a good idea at the time. He wanted to live there rent-free, of course. Other parasites came, wanting to live there rent-free too. I found it hard to turn them down, because I'd been homeless. I was a soft touch. I was taken advantage of. I'm owed thousands and thousands of pounds in unpaid rent and bills.

I spent the best part of 2 years living in the same amazing apartment. It was stable, but it wasn't. I had to have an incredibly well-paid job to pay for the rent. It was well beyond my means when I wasn't working. When I was well enough to work, it was a nice reward for my efforts, but the pressure to maintain the lifestyle wasn't sustainable. I got into debt, just so that I could have a place to live and not end up back on the streets. Moving is stressful. I didn't want to have to move again. I had the threat of financial ruin hanging over me the whole time.

I took a contract in Manchester because it came with a relocation allowance - an apartment. I never wanted to live or work in Manchester, but I was desperate. Out of sheer desperation - I was almost broke - I accepted the job and relocated. I didn't know anyone in Manchester. I tried to kill myself.

Of course I tried to kill myself. It was all too much to bear.

I ended up in hospital in Manchester. Of course I ended up in hospital again. I'm so vulnerable; my life is so fragile. I needed that safety; that security.

A stranger contacted me via email to say they'd read my blog. Did I want to live with them in Wales, they asked. At the time, I was living on a psych ward in a dormitory. Of course I wanted a bit of peace and quiet; a change from the insanity of the psych ward. Of course I wanted a stepping stone to a better life... the revolving doors of the institutions and welfare benefits have little to offer, except for days spent dribbling while watching daytime TV, doped up to the eyeballs on incredibly strong psychiatric medications.

I rented another apartment.

The stress peaked and I wanted to kill myself. I thought that the local job was going to fall through, I thought that the apartment was going to fall through, there was conflict with some people. Everything was falling to pieces. The stress was too much to handle. I was going to kill myself.

The stress peaked and now I'm lying on my sofa writing this, in my own place. I've got my own roof over my head, which is affordable. I've got the things that most people take for granted: money, a place to live, a partner, a job, a car. I've still got stuff that'll take time to fix, but it's so much easier when your living arrangements are acceptable, rather than impossible. Living in a hostel is OK when you're unemployed and single, but I've tried working a 'straight' job while living in a 14-bed hostel dorm, and it's impossible... trust me on that one.

You might think I'm spoiled and privileged. You might think that it's unfair that things are working out OK for me, when there are so many people who have things so much worse than me. Vulnerability is vulnerability though, and I've been so close to death so many times. How many times have I been in hospital, in the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) or high-dependency wards? How many times have I been on the brink of bankruptcy? How many nights have I slept rough? How long have I lived in hostels? Do you begrudge me my recovery?

There's more work ahead. I still need to dig myself out of a hole. I'm not out of the woods yet. I ran up debts just staying alive, which I need to repay. I need my income, to allow me to pay down my debts and build up a financial cushion in case I get sick again. I've got bipolar disorder, which means depression, mania and hypomania can all cause major problems in my life - there's no cure for this, and it can be really destructive when I have an episode. I need to stay well, but I don't have any choice in the matter.

So much of my precious stuff was lost, stolen, broken or has otherwise disappeared, during my lengthy escape from that abusive relationship. It's caused so much damage to my life, getting away from my ex and that horrible situation. I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Yes, it's true that at times in London I felt like I was making some progress, but there was too much pressure on me... too much pressure to maintain an unsustainable lifestyle.

Here in Wales life seems simpler; easier. There's less traffic, less crowding, less congestion, less pollution, fewer people, less competition, less crime, less noise... it's just a lot calmer. I feel like I'm calming down.

I can see the sea from my apartment. I can see the sea.

I used to own a house by the seaside.

I'm happy by the seaside.

Now, I'm starting to get my life back. I live by the seaside again. I'm not far from the beach. I can see the sea.

This is the journey I've been on. From domestic violence - domestic abuse - to domestic bliss. I'm a lot happier now I'm not having to barricade myself behind doors to protect myself.




Lifestyle Choices

6 min read

This is a story about non-pharmacological interventions...

Clinical psychology

The word "choice" is a little unfair. To suggest that people could help themselves by making better lifestyle choices assumes that our choices are unbiased. It seems obvious that we'd choose low-fat, low-carb, low-salt options because they're better for our heath, but we're biased towards things that taste nice. It seems obvious that we'd cut alcohol, caffeine, drugs and medications out of our life, because they all have nasty side effects, but we're biased towards things which make us feel good. It seems obvious that we should work less, spend more time with our families and not commute so far, but sadly it's not easy to up sticks and move closer to our jobs and often we have to do jobs we hate because we need the money.

At my meeting with a psychiatrist today we essentially agreed that I can manage my disposition towards mood disorder using lifestyle choices, but it's going to take a lot of hard work. I need to exercise more, I need to change my job and I need to cut down or even quit my alcohol consumption. As well, I need to continue to have strict bedtimes, avoid caffeine, dim the lights after dusk, use a light box in the mornings and eat a balanced diet. I also need to resist the urge to spend money, take risks, be promiscuous and dabble with drugs. All fairly obvious stuff, but none of it is much fun.

Aside from some disagreement over whether I'm type 1 or type 2 bipolar, and the severity of my illness, I actually got on pretty well with the psychiatrist. To hear the words "you have a chronic condition that cannot be cured" is not very nice and my instinct was to argue that I don't have a condition at all - my symptoms have been a product of my environment; caused by the stress of my situations I've been in. In actual fact, I concede that I've had symptoms of bipolar for as long as I can remember... it's just that my bosses and work colleagues have always been very understanding of my highs and lows. A lot of people would get sacked for coming in to work two hours late every day, or shooting their mouth off and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the office, but there's a place in the workplace for somebody who can work for weeks without any sleep when there's a crazy deadline to meet. I agreed with the psychiatrist that I've got a lifelong condition, which will need careful management. It doesn't scare or upset me, because I managed my condition effectively for years before things got dangerously erratic.

To hear lithium and sodium valproate banded around as potential treatments is not what I wanted. I prefer to think that I've got a mild form of bipolar which can be managed with a medication like lamotrigine, or no medication at all. I consider that my 'high' periods have been hypomanic because I had no grandiosity, psychosis or paranoia. The psychiatrist considers me to be a fully blown manic depressive, because my manic phases have lasted more than a week. I think we'll have to agree to disagree, because my mania does not seem at all severe, except when exacerbated by drugs and sleep deprivation.

I asked about talk therapy. There's an 18 month waiting list. I'm being referred, but 18 months is a heck of a long time to wait for psychological therapy. Getting some kind of talk therapy has become a crusade to me, because I first sought treatment in 2008, so it's been 10 years since I asked and I still haven't received any therapy.

In short, I think I agree that I have a certain amount of risk towards becoming really unwell, but it's not destiny. I have a lot of hard work to do, and I have to continue to make so-called smart choices, when really my life's not a lot of fun and I still have to figure out how to pay the bills somehow. I do agree that there's something about me - call it an illness if you like - that means I have to pay a bit more attention to my lifestyle than others might, who don't share the same predisposition towards mood instability.

I went into the psych consultation feeling quite unique and special. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for being unmedicated and having dealt with a lot of things that were definitely wrecking my life. Then the psych helped me see that a lot of people who are bipolar have a similar story of reckless risk taking, money spending, hyper-sexuality, drug taking, getting into conflict with bosses, drinking too much and all the other things that lead to a point where lives get utterly screwed up. I suppose there comes a certain point where a person just can't continue to live their life a certain way - the end of the road. Where my inclination was previously to commit suicide, I'm perhaps slightly erring on the side of trying to mend my ways and crawl back into normal society over broken glass.

I can see the temptation of a chemical crutch to aid my 'recovery' but I'm still pretty adamant that I'm going to go medication free. Actually, the psychiatrist agreed with me that something like sertraline, or even lamotrigine, could push me into hypomania. Antidepressants have always had a mood destabilising effect on me in the past. There's something to be said for feeling miserable: it does somehow make you appreciate the better times, when they eventually arrive.

So, it seems like a rather well-behaved life beckons for me. I don't relish the prospect of having to always make sensible choices, but I guess I'm not a young man who can bounce back from anything anymore.

Hardly thrilling, but the saga continues. I'll keep you posted on how it goes, doing the boring mundane stuff.




This Time Last Year I was F**ked

11 min read

This is a story about the hands of time...

View from the loft

I have a breadcrumb trail of images that allow me to retrace my steps and understand where I've come from and attempt to estimate whether I'm spiralling downwards or slowly recovering. If I look through my photo library at the images and videos that I captured exactly one year ago, there are three strange videos that I recorded, which clearly indicate that I'd had a major relapse. Three days later both my kidneys had failed, my left leg had ballooned to twice its normal size due to DVT and my blood was toxic enough to kill me at any moment.

Every year for the past four, I've had a Jinxed January. It's true that depression, hypomania and addiction have reared their ugly heads year-round, but January is a particularly awful time. I cured the November wobbles by writing novels. I cured the December wobbles by cutting my toxic parents out of my life. The next problem I've got is how to solve Jinxed January.

My present strategy is to shackle myself to my desk, doing a job that I absolutely hate and is completely incompatible with my mental health. If I can survive this January without doing anything stupid and self-sabotaging, I should have the wind behind me and a downhill stretch of road to help me coast into the spring. The odds will be increasingly in my favour as the days get longer and the weather improves.

I'm emerging from the fog of addiction, intoxicating medications and copious quantities of alcohol. It was impossible for me to really comprehend how bad things had gotten, while I had so much toxic crap in my body. I'd lost all perspective and ability to perceive reality. I struggle to relate to a lot of what I've written in the last few years, because that person who was under the influence of such vast quantities of drink and drugs feels like somebody else. I can read my own words, I can see the distress and I can remember the things that were driving my thoughts and emotions at the time, but not everything in my world was entirely real and grounded in reality. I'm not seeking to distance myself from the things that my body did - including saying and writing things - but it's a little bit hard to imagine that it was me. If you want to get obsessive about blame and responsibility, then f**k you, buddy... go read somebody else's blog you tiresome bore.

Of course, I feel very bad about the way I treated - for example - my lovely girlfriend who gave me a wonderful Christmas with her family, cared for me when I was in hospital, and was extremely nonjudgemental and understanding when addiction got its hooks back in me. I didn't treat her well in the end. I regret it and I'm sorry. I did that. I'm to blame. I'm responsible.

However, in the context of unpicking everything, I can see that there are repeating patterns and things that trigger other things - cause and effect are very complicated to understand. To fully understand the likely consequences and plan ahead, like playing a thousand simultaneous games of chess against grandmasters, is a completely unreasonable and unrealistic thing to expect of me.

Searching back through my photo archives, I can see that I obtained a prescription for an antidepressant - bupropion - shortly before one relapse. I can see that I obtained another - California rocket fuel - shortly before an episode of hypomania where I broke up with the aforementioned brilliant girlfriend. In fact, whenever I seek chemical relief from depression, that's usually an indication of a desire to feel better at any costs, having suffered weeks and months of suicidal thoughts. Am I to blame for seeking relief from my intolerable feelings of depression?

Scanning through my library of images, I can see how I become obsessive over sleeping tablets and tranquillisers, as I rely upon the pills in order to cope with dreadfully stressful situations, which would send even the least-anxiety prone amongst us running screaming in the opposite direction from the source of the stress.

This time last year I was about to start work doing yet more IT consultancy for yet another bank. I was not incredibly enamoured at the prospect, but I needed the money. Circumstances conspired to force me back into an unhealthy environment.

Sadly, I'm not rich enough to do whatever I want, and I'm not even financially comfortable enough to do something tolerable - I've got to do the thing which pays the bills, and that's IT consultancy for banks, unfortunately. It's a fact of life that sometimes we have to do things we don't like very much.

So, I've avoided the antidepressants this time, because they always seem to send me loopy. I'm white-knuckling it to the end of Jinxed January, because I just need to get through this god-awful month, come hell or high water. I'm constantly reminding myself that even to dabble with so-called recreational drugs or get mixed up with girls in a big way, is likely to be destabilising. I live like a monk - work, eat, sleep, repeat.

Because of the extraordinary quantity of benzodiazepines I was abusing, I have huge holes in my memory. It feels like such a short time ago that I was hooked up to my own dedicated dialysis machine, on a high dependency ward. It feels like only yesterday that I regained consciousness with a machine breathing for me in intensive care. I managed a spectacularly terrible sum total of just 11 weeks at work in 2017, and virtually all the rest was pure insanity. I spent about 7 weeks in hospital, so with that 11 versus 7 ratio, you can see that my year was pretty messed up.

This year is brutally drug-free and medication-free. My brain screams in agony at the unbearable levels of depression and anxiety, but I've seen that to reach for any kind of substance for relief is opening the flood gates to fully-blown addiction. I'll convince myself that whatever chemical I'm using to feel better is not effective, and I need to take more, more, MORE! Before I know it, I'll be back on the supercrack.

It might seem obvious to an outside observer that my cyclical life is due to bipolar disorder, and I should rush to my psychiatrist and beg to be given mood stabilisers immediately. However, those who superficially observe me would remark that I'm very stable: I get up, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, go to my job, spend my evening watching TV and writing and get eight hours sleep. To the casual observer, I seem like the most functional and stable person who you could possibly hope to ever meet.

The reality of my existence is one of continuous battle with depression, anxiety and a craving to spectacularly self-sabotage with addiction. Getting out of bed in the morning and overcoming debilitating anxiety are comparatively easy, having built up the mental strength to overcome the urge to take one of the most addictive substances known to man. I'm not meaning to compete with those who find their lifes to be completely unliveable due to depression and anxiety, but merely to say that I've found it easier to overcome things which would have kept me bed-bound, after having been through what I've been through. Every cell of my body screams in protest at the bullshit I'm putting myself through at the moment. Every bit of my brain yells in agony at the daily punishment I suffer, but what does an extra bit of suffering matter compared with the endless comedowns and drug withdrawals I've been through?

As I look back on the last year, I realise I've been through opiate withdrawal from tramadol, codeine and dihydrocodeine; through benzodiazepine withdrawal from diazepam and alprazolam; through stimulant withdrawal from crystal meth and supercrack; through withdrawal from pregabalin and alcohol; through withdrawal from sleeping tablets like zopiclone and zolpidem. In terms of detoxes, I've had the detox from hell. In terms of quitting addictive medications, I'm a Guinness World Record holder. I really do deserve a medal.

As I look back on the last year, I realise I've been through so many health issues, housing issues, financial issues, legal issues, employment issues, relationship issues and everything else that would wreck your head and rob you of your sense of stability, comfort, contentedness and happiness. I'm surprised I'm not sleeping in a cardboard box, just to escape the clutches of a society that wants its pound of flesh at any costs. I'm exhausted by the constant stress of it all.

If I make it through Jinxed January, I have little to look forward to. There's nothing jump for joy about. Anybody who tells you you'll feel better if you quit the booze and the drugs and the pills is a fucking idiot. Anybody who tells you that you'll have improved self-esteem and all the other good stuff, if you get yourself off the streets and into a job, is a fucking idiot. I'm an extremely rare example of a judge, policeman and a social worker's wet dream - a bankrupt homeless mentally ill junkie who's got themselves scrubbed down and gone back to civilised society, but I've got to tell you in no uncertain terms that it's awful and I hate it. My life is a living hell.

Perhaps this is the ultimate comedown. Perhaps all the chickens are eventually coming home to roost. Perhaps this is the payback, given that I somehow miraculously avoided prison, a criminal record, bankruptcy and permanent health damage. Perhaps I'm finally paying the price for all that partying.

But, I haven't been partying. It's not like I haven't paid the price every time I fucked up. It's not like I haven't tried hard to do the all the right things and contribute to society. It's not like I've robbed, and manipulated and been a parasite on society. I've already paid for my transgressions. Where's the reward for getting myself sorted out? Why did I bother?

As I look back, I have rose-tinted glasses. As I look forward, I see the world through a blue filter. The past wasn't so bad and the future looks bleak. Perhaps this is the final stage of recovery from addiction, when my memory of the horrors of the past is becoming faded and I fondly reminisce about the few moments that were OK in all that insanity. It was certainly an easier life, to be on a rocket-ride to hell.

I try to look back and remind myself just how bad things were, but I find myself smiling and laughing in a way that I just don't when I think about the eight hours I spent going through hell at my desk today. In my mind, I perceive the present unpleasantness as far greater than anything else I've been through in the last year. That's strange, isn't it? To have suffered multiple organ failure, loss of my home, loss of my job, a suicide attempt, incarceration, getting sectioned, psych wards, addiction, loss of my girlfriend and all the other atrocious things that I went through in the last year, and the very worst thing is my current working arrangements.

Obviously, I think that my perceptions must be warped by my state of semi-recovery from addiction and other mental health problems, but I don't think it explains everything. There is something awful about being all alone in an AirBnb, working a job I hate because it's boring, easy and doesn't bring me into contact with a single soul... it's so lonely and isolating.

I'm churning words out into the ether, because I'm in such discomfort and I'm so afraid.

It's strange that I'm not afraid of ending up back in hospital, isn't it?




Drug of Choice

8 min read

This is a story about cyclical patterns...

Me with pills

In 2014 I was homeless and addicted to drugs. I got myself a job at a bank, got myself a place to live and paid off all my debts. Then, I lost my contract. I went to a shop in Soho and bought two packets of a legal high powder and proceeded to undo all my hard work. Within a matter of weeks, I was back on the supercrack.

In 2015 I was homeless and addicted to drugs. I got myself a job at a bank, got myself a place to live and paid off all my debts. Then, I lost my contract. I went online and bought two packets of legal high powder and two packets of legal benzodiazepine tablets. Within a month, I was back on the supercrack.

In 2016 I had a lovely apartment. I was clean all summer. I went on holiday. I met an amazing girl who I was totally in love with. I wrote my first novel. I had a brilliant Christmas with my girlfriend and her family. Then, I got myself a job at a bank. My left leg swelled up to twice the size of the right leg, both my kidneys failed, I was put on emergency dialysis and I had to be admitted to hospital for a couple of weeks, on a high dependency ward. Then, I lost my contract. Within a fortnight I was back on the supercrack.

In 2017 I had a lovely apartment. I took supercrack. I tried to quit the supercrack. I got depressed. I tricked my doctor into giving me California rocket fuel - a combination of venlafaxine and mirtazepine antidepressants. I went hypomanic and split up with my amazing girlfriend. I bought enough supercrack to last me two years. I went insane with stimulant psychosis and was thoroughly beastly towards my amazing girlfriend. I ran out of money. I moved to Manchester. I got another girlfriend. We broke up. I tried to kill myself. I spent a couple of days with a machine breathing for me in intensive care. I got sectioned and got locked up on a secure psych ward. I moved to Wales. I wrote 42,000 words of my second novel. I got myself a job at a bank. There isn't enough time left in 2017 to get back on the supercrack. I'm worried I'm going to relapse in January. I haven't lost my contract yet.

Fluid in my leg

If we dip into each year a little bit more closely, 2014 was a really dreadful one. I was an inpatient for about 14 weeks. I lived in a bush in Kensington Palace Gardens and slept rough on Hampstead Heath. I was in two rehabs. I lived in a 14-bed hostel dorm, but that was actually one of the highlights. I abused a lot of benzodiazepines and amphetamines, as well as the supercrack. I got in trouble with the police. Twice.

2015 looks tame by comparison. Although I abused stimulants and 'downers', I had a couple of visits to a lovely family in Ireland, who looked after me. Strangely, it was working 12 hour days and working 7 days a week that exhausted me and tipped me into hypomania. I spent a week suicidal on a psych ward then suddenly decided to fly to San Francisco. I went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge, which I had contemplated jumping off. I was sober for 120 consecutive days. I deliberately got my contract terminated, because I had ethical objections to what the bank I was working for was doing. I started blogging.

2016 is unusual - perhaps there is no easy pattern we can spot - because I got myself clean and into work much earlier than I'd managed in previous years. I worked a whole contract - notably not for a bank - without going mad and getting sacked. I got a good reference and my team were really pleased with the way I ran the project. My life was quite stable. However, I was a sneaky bastard. I was using supercrack and benzos in secret, and lying to my amazing girlfriend to cover up my drug abuse.

2017 was off the charts. I've never been so sick. I've never been so close to death. For the first half of the year I had binge after binge after binge. I abused opiates, sleeping pills, tranquillisers, club drugs and stimulants. My drug abuse was definitely going to kill me. I had a physical dependency on benzodiazepines that looked impossible to cure - how was I going to escape from the death trap? I decided I couldn't escape, so I took a massive overdose. The hospital gave me a 50:50 chance of pulling through.

I'm worried that I'm repeating old patterns of behaviour. I always go back to the banks when I need money, because they pay so well and it's the quickest way of digging myself out of debt. I'm living out of a suitcase, moving from AirBnB to AirBnB. It's exhausting and stressful: factors that tipped me into hypomanic insanity back in 2015.

What is unusual is that I'm going into the New Year with a contract in place: I have my job and it's going well. I'm starting 2018 with money on the way, as opposed to the fear of bankruptcy and eviction. I'm going into next year with far fewer stresses than I've had for a very long time. Perhaps it's good that there aren't even any girls in the picture at the moment. Love and sex always have a bit of a destabilising effect on me.

Writing this summary of my hit-and-miss boom-and-bust crazy life, I wonder if I'm doomed to forever repeat the pattern.

One thing that's notably different this year is living with a family. I care about them. I imagine what it'd be like if the kids asked "where's Nick?" and the answer was that I was dead, or as good as dead because I'd relapsed onto supercrack.

This year, I quit supercrack, tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine, diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), zolpidem (Ambien), zopiclone and pregabalin. I was prescribed venlafaxine, mirtazepine and lamotrogine, but I don't take any of them now. I had 30 consecutive sober days during October. In fact, I was sober from more or less the start of September to early November. My brain has been completely drug-addled at times, but I'm clean as a whistle at the moment - I'm unmedicated and I'm not taking any mind-altering substances. I don't drink caffeinated beverages.

I'd like to tell you that I feel wonderful, but I don't. I have a cold. It's winter. Winter is shit.

You might look at all the times I've tripped up and conclude that I'm bound to trip up again. However, you might look at all the things I've fixed and conclude that I'm pretty good at fixing up my life when it's fucked. All I've got to do is bring together all the different elements: friends and family, work and home, money and rest and relaxation, stability and exercise and hopes and dreams, love and romance and sex. Easy, right?

If you're wondering what my drug of choice is, and thinking that it's supercrack, you're wrong. Look more closely at the picture at the top of this blog post. What's that thing in-between my legs? It's not my male member, it's a wine glass.

Hello wine my old friend

With closer examination of my entire adult life, we can see that alcohol features heavily. In fact my latest job came about as a result of being friends with a lovely guy who's an alcoholic. We spent a week getting pissed, when I was supposed to be finding my feet with the new job. Somehow, I've managed to drink my way through a very successful career. Without booze I'm somewhat out of kilter. Without booze, how would I self-medicate for my mood fluctuations?

Yes, without booze, my bipolar disposition rages out of control. I work too hard. I take everything too seriously. I fly off the handle.

I'm not genuinely suggesting that booze is harmless or the cure of all ills, but it's been such a big component of my adult life that I don't really know how to cope without it. How would I have survived the recent stresses and strains of a 2,500 mile round-trip, to go and gather money from the latest bank I'm working for, without alcohol? How would I square away my deep unhappiness with the work I do, with the need to earn money, if it wasn't for drowning my sorrows? Alcohol might be a terrible solution, but it's the one I've got and I know it works.

Is it lunchtime yet? I'm not an alcoholic, because I don't drink in the morning. I just make sure I lie in bed until it's after midday.




Three Stops from Dagenham

8 min read

This is a story about my 2,500 mile round-trip...

Snowy tree path

Two weeks ago, the local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) was phoning me to see if they could potentially admit me to hospital. I had revealed to a psychiatrist that I was having suicidal thoughts, opting to be fully honest - as advised by my doctor friend who was accompanying me - as opposed to saying what I needed to in order get what I wanted. Perhaps it's good that I was honest, because therapy's not quick, and the only pills that work have a tendency to send me a little hypomanic.

So, I'm still unmedicated. It's been 6 months.

The danger was that I'd become so depressed that I'd commit suicide. My hunch was that my suicidal thoughts were being driven by the fact that my life was disintegrating and I had absolutely no control over it. Doctors can't act on hunches. I can though, and I was right - as soon as I started earning money and there was hope that I wasn't facing financial ruin, a lot of my suicidal thoughts disappeared.

Another danger is that I'll start getting delusions of grandeur. However, we should examine quite closely just how delusional I really am. Am I really delusional?

The phone rang. I answered it. A man told me he had a project. Could I do it? I replied that I could. How much money did I want? I told him. Could I start on Monday? I said I could. I didn't speak to him again, until I met him for the very first time, 1,200 miles from home.

If you think that my mental illness is about some kind of lifelong condition that I need to take tablets for, you're wrong. Every single thing in my life - my environment - predisposes me towards mood instability. If you think about the kind of feast and famine stressfest that my boom and bust financial situation has given me, then perhaps you can start to see that I harbour no delusions. My days were numbered. Only bankruptcy and a life of poverty lay ahead, quietly pill popping and watching daytime television, while collecting my meagre benefit cheques. Then, suddenly: an investment banking IT contract lands in my lap.

"Yes, but you're resting on your laurels; relying on your reputation" I hear you cry.

It's true that if it wasn't for friends who've vouched for my good character, I would have been screwed long ago. However it's a non sequitur to say that I'm able to hide my mental illness by burning bridges. How did I build my reputation in the first place, if I'm no use to anybody?

If you were to read through the two and a half years that I've been writing my story, you'll see that I have burnt some bridges. However, you'll also see that my actions are always quite deliberate. I often burn bridges to stop me going back to places. If you look at my whole working life in its entirety, you'll see that the big wads of cash that I get offered to do work that's utterly incompatible with my mental health, is always too much of a temptation. Even places where I've spectacularly burnt bridges, my name isn't total mud. It's been very hard to completely destroy my reputation and good standing, and make myself un[re]employable.

Are you getting the idea at all? Are you understanding the theme?

Perhaps my most astonishing rags-to-riches feat was when I went from homeless and bankrupt, to working on the number one project for the biggest bank in Europe. The exertion of it cost me my sanity. The exhaustion of living in a 14-bed dormitory and working 120-hour weeks; trying to keep my suit and shirts clean and crisply pressed hanging up on my bunk; trying to save up enough money to get myself a place to live... it was too much. I burnt out and plummeted into suicidal depression when I ran out of energy to keep up appearances. However, can you imagine how I felt, when I upgraded from a hostel bunk bed to my own 2-bedroom apartment on the banks of the River Thames, with glorious panoramic views over London. Do you think you'd be mentally 'well' enough to cope with that kind of life turnaround?

Stress and sleep deprivation will have fairly predictable effects on most people. To deprive a person of sleep and then declare that they are mentally unwell seems disingenuous. What about taking a person who believes they're a complete failure and parachuting them into a life of opulent wealth? Do you think that it would have an effect on somebody, if they miraculously avoided certain financial ruin, destitution and homelessness? What happens when the mentally ill junkie homeless bankrupt loser reinvents themself overnight?

Of course, we don't normally let people sort themselves out.

Criminals, the mentally ill, addicts and alcoholics are very keen to club together with their own kind. Like crabs in a bucket, any crab that tries to escape will be pulled back down by the others. I shan't be adding a link to this website on my CV anytime soon. Joining any kind of community where I'm encouraged to wallow in my shame and define myself by my shortcomings, seems like a terrible idea.

In defiance of those who tell me I have delusions of grandeur for expecting more than a pot to piss in, I continue to pursue a two-part strategy: I'm doing incredibly well remunerated work and I'm candidly sharing my story publicly.

"Who are you to tell your story? You're nobody. You're not famous" I hear you grumble.

"Who are you to earn so much? You've failed. You should earn peanuts" I hear you protest.

Don't you understand? The whole system is set up to make you feel inadequate; unworthy. Every exam you ever sat; every job interview you've ever attended - the whole sham was concocted to make you feel grateful for the pittance you receive. The fact that you feel like you're not allowed to write your autobiography or otherwise blow your own trumpet, is by design - you're supposed to feel like a nobody. You've been indoctrinated to feel worthless.

On my travels - and I don't mean geographically - I've encountered a lot of people who've been less fortunate than the investment banking types who I'd usually come into contact with. The only difference between me and my fellow hostel mates, is that they never believed they'd even get within 100 feet of the front doors of a massive investment bank, let alone land a job there. The difference is attitude: act like you're supposed to be there. Life's all a confidence trick.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've faced the horrendous realisation that I'm unexceptional. I mean, I'm on the right side of the bell curve, but I'm not an outlier. What special achievements set me apart? What proof have I got of my intellect? Of course, the answer is that I'm distinctly average; perhaps even a little below average in some areas, thanks to excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol. I should have been swinging towards hypomania, but instead I've been suffering from an almighty self-doubt crisis.

Imposter syndrome has driven me to try harder; to concentrate. Anxiety and the sheer terror that I'm incapable of doing the job I've been doing for 20 years, is being slowly replaced by the welcome return of some belief in my own abilities.

Of course, now comes the threat of overconfidence. Perhaps now I'll swing hypomanic? Perhaps soon I'll declare myself Jesus Christ re-incarnated? Perhaps those doctors were right all along, and only pills can prevent the inevitable mood swing upwards?

I don't think so.

I worked on a long project last year and I was stable. The role was incredibly boring, and it was very hard to stay motivated, but money got me out of bed in the morning and money kept me at my desk until the end of the working day. Last year was a triumph of money's ability to restore mental health, through wealth. It's no accident that the countries with the biggest rich-poor gap also have the worst depression and anxiety. Anybody who tells you that rich people get depressed too, or that poor Africans are really happy is just perpetuating anecdotal nonsense - being poor in a rich country is incredibly toxic to mental wellbeing.

It's true that I've sorted myself out financially a few times now, only to throw it all away, but that's dual-diagnosis not mental illness. Bipolar has allowed me to have a lovely life. I don't want to change from feast and famine; highs and lows. However, undoubtably I'll be tempted to take drugs again once my bank balance is replenished.

If you're wondering what's going to stop me from relapsing into addiction, once I've dug myself out of the hole, then I'm afraid you're going to have to wait. Recovery from an acute episode of dual-diagnosis - depression, hypomania and substance dependency - is well beyond what I'd planned to write in this single essay. I'm going to have to revisit this topic, because it's fascinating to me: my life depends on it.

My train from London to Wales fast approaches Swansea, completing my 2,500 mile roundtrip. Of course, it's been a much, much longer journey than that.




Long Case

9 min read

This is a story about medical notes...

Hospital Note

My ex-wife - a biochemist by way of undergraduate degree - once screamed at me in an incoherent rage because I had innocently asked her "how big is a protein?" having wondered how many nanometers across, the average protein molecule measured. The sheer audacity of me asking such a question enraged her, perhaps because free thinking is expressly forbidden in an academic world which promotes rote-learning of facts and examinations graded to a marking scheme, ahead of learning.

(The answer, by the way, is roughly 3 nanometres in radius).

When I attempt to answer a difficult question, I sometimes pause and chuckle. "What is consciousness?" came one question. Although I was desperate to talk about weakly interacting subatomic particles, General Relativity and nuclear fusion, I somehow managed to constrain myself to a meaningless analogy, while keeping quiet about my "mind's eye" which could picture every piece of information that captured my entire existence, smeared out in a infinitely thin sphere at the event horizon of a singularity, across all meaningful spacetime for the entire universe that I will ever perceive, which would have been rather a mouthful to express.

Just as one may cram for an exam the night before, I've attempted to only ever amass the prerequisite knowledge that may be considered the minimum viable to navigate whatever situations I have had to endure to reach my goals. Education has never seemed like an end in and of itself, given that our understanding of the fundmental nature of reality is evolving, and the Standard Model of particle physics is rather long in the tooth. Although I find it quite delightful that there are quarks named strange, charm and beauty in the particle zoo, I would find it rather frustrating to dedicate years of my life, obtaining a degree and writing a thesis using tools which may soon look as clunky and outdated as Newton's inverse-square law of gravity.

The mathematicians will mock physics as simply being applied mathematics. The physicists will mock chemistry as simply being applied physics. The chemists will mock biology as simply being applied chemistry, and so on.

Computers are now capable of solving equations and modelling real-world phenomena, potentially making algebra and calculus into dying arts, along with handwriting and long-division. The Fractal Geometry of Nature has revealed that cold rational calculating machines can produce simulations that imitate reality, through repeating patterns. Massive computational power does not only aid human discovery of hidden algebraic equations.

Amid much fanfare, computer software is touted as potentiating new drug discovery by simulating molecular binding, protein folding, rapid gene sequencing and personalised medicine. However, we seem to have forgotten that half the planet is impoverished & hungry, and vast numbers of those who are fortunate enough to live in advanced, wealthy & technologically advanced societies, are suffering from an epidemic of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues that is bad enough to drive vast numbers of men in the prime of their life to commit suicide: the biggest killer of males under the age of 45 in the UK - more than road traffic accidents, drug-related deaths, physical disease, murder, accidents and all the other causes of death.

One should consider that I took leave of my senses in 2008, but since that time I have only managed to attract two clinical diagnoses - convenient medical short-hand - although I have acquired a third which is perhaps the bluntest instrument of the three, and much more of a pejorative than a diagnosis.

"Substance abuse" is a catch-all term which serves me well when I haven't the time & energy to go into detail. Given humanity's long history of self-intoxication, some physicians would consider themselves to be well-versed in the matter. Even the most insulated amongst us, will have struggled to escape contact with a drunk in our lives. We quickly forget, of course, that psychiatry is an extremely young discipline. The isolation, refinement and synthesis of molecules which can short-circuit brain mechanisms, is something that dates back only 70 or 80 years, along with the branch of medicine chiefly concerned with treatment of matters of the mind.

The brain: the most complicated organ in the human body - estimated to have up to a quadrillion neuronal synapses - is often considered only in terms of its vital function as central nervous system, insofar as the same fatty grey matter helps other species to fuck, fight, flee and feed. This does not, however, tell us much about human consciousness, and even less still about pathological thought.

I once sat down and hand-wrote 12 pages of notes, from memory, of every General Practice doctor, psychiatrist and hospital, which I had attended during a 7 year period. Although I kept things as brief as I could, with names, dates and locations, as well as diagnoses and medications, there was a great deal to write. I'm not a complete hypochondriac - there were important notes about my episodes of depression and hypomania, where my mental health had caused me to become significantly dysfunctional.

Perhaps your mind is now skipping ahead - as mine often does - and you're attempting to finish my sentences. Presumably, you're trying to guess the punchline of the joke. I assume you've already got more than enough information to diagnose and treat me.

I'm second-guessing myself here, and I'm struck by the egotism and "navel gazing" of the very act of being sufficiently appraised of my own medical history that I should remember such a level of detail. Who the hell am I to take an interest in my own diagnosis and treatment? Where's my certificate, framed on the wall? Where's the photo of me wearing a mortar board & gown, and clutching a scroll of parchment with a red ribbon tied around it?

When I think about where I should spend my precious time and effort, I'm not motivated by the prospect of being an understudy to a failure. While psychiatry continues to produce dismal outcomes for humanity, in terms of the epidemic of mental health problems, addiction and general societal collapse under the weight of stress and burnout, I'm reluctant to follow in the path of those who are not succeeding in improving the human condition. It should however be noted that I do not for a single moment, criticise the well-meaning intent of those in the healthcare professions, nor do I mean to discredit the lifesaving work that takes place every single day.

The idea of using myself as a case study seems quite ridiculous, but one must consider that it would be unethical to - for example - risk a person's life when there is a treatment available that has been proven to be more effective than placebo.

With a sample size of one, perhaps nothing useful can be gleaned from my first-hand experiences, but I have attempted to corroborate my findings with other evidence wherever possible. I have deliberately avoided areas where another data point would make no difference: what use would it be if I too experienced anorgasmia as a result of SSRI medication, for example?

A great deal of our knowledge regarding the anatomy of the human brain has been gleaned from unethical experiments on unconsenting psychiatric patients - lobotomies, testing of medications and induced seizures. Animal studies have been gratuitously gruesome, with a great deal of unnecessary suffering inflicted upon primates. I'm not an anti-vivisection nutcase, but there must be very tangible goals to justify the means of obtaining the results.

To bathe a brain in psychoactive molecules that will cross the blood-brain barrier, is barbaric when we consider that the theoretical reasons why drugs have the effect that they do - the theories have so often been disproven. The 'chemical imbalance' theory that said that depressed brains had lower levels of serotonin, and that SSRIs would increase levels of synaptic serotonin, has been conclusively disproven, yet it is still a widely-circulated myth.

The much-vaunted sequencing of the human genome looks like a ridiculous white elephant of a project, when we consider that epigenetic gene expression had been discovered to allow genetically identical animals to exhibit completely different physical characteristics, depending on the environment that they have been exposed to.

In a collapsing global economy, education is one of the few sectors that's not feeling the pinch, and good solid science is getting drowned out in a sea of noise: pointless research. There are already excellent animal models which demonstrate that overpopulation and otherwise horrible living conditions, will produce a "behavioural sink" and addiction, in individuals who would otherwise lead happy healthy lives.

It has seemed fairly obvious to me from the start, that my mental health problems have stemmed from the ethical objections I had to the conduct of financial services organisations, and the role of global capitalism in ruining billions of human lives, in pursuit of unrestrained, unregulated and immoral profits, to the exclusion of any and all consideration of long-term consequences. In short: my problems should not be medicalised. I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world.

While this essay goes well beyond the "answer A, B or C" multiple-choice options on the prescriptive menu that is on offer, I feel that this does not invalidate the points I am making.

To have invested heavily in a mainstream education, would be to risk becoming incoherent with rage whenever somebody was so impertinent as to ask a thoughtful question - questions that spring into a mind that's unconstrained by the narrow status quo viewpoint, rote-learned while kowtowing to those with the necessary credentials to approve clones of themselves.

This is not "my ignorance is as good as your knowledge" anti-intellectualism, but instead a suggestion that we don't need so many people who've all read exactly the same books and sat more-or-less exactly the same tests. Moving towards intellectual homogeny is as dangerous as book burning, in my opinion.

In conclusion: this is a convoluted way of saying that you're unqualified to judge me, although you're possibly technically correct if you say that my problems are mostly of my own making.




Hanging by a Thread

11 min read

This is a story about irony...

Greenwich shoes

So, I've had a busy week or so. Predictably, my rocket fuel sent me loopy - mixed state, to use the technical term, which is both high & low - which meant the sensible thing was to stop taking it. Me being me, that meant immediately, without the advice of my doctor. Pain is only temporary, right? You might say that this weird psychological state was the reason I made some pretty big life decisions; took extreme action; said some regrettable things. I have 3 big gashes down my forearm, I was seen by two Metropolitan police - who are always brilliant, even when they're arresting you (no arrest this time though) - and my psychiatrist, who wants to put me in hospital (i.e. section me) if I don't agree to daily home check-ups, but she's very nice about it.

The time was about right to get obsessive about something that's going to put pounds in my pocket. I was supposed to leverage a bit of hypomania to get the hell out of bed and either get a new contract, or work on a super cool project that might be really profitable. However, trying to harness the beast is crazy idea - when it works it works; when it doesn't, the destruction can be devastating. I did not harness the beast.

I've gone from 14 hours sleep a night to an average of 2. That can't be helping matters.

In 3 weeks time I hit zero: £0.00. No more money for rent next month, no more money for bills, no more money for anything that can't be put on a credit card, and even then, it's hardly a solution, is it? Also, I'm £6k short on my tax, due at the end of the month. Basically, I'm now insolvent.

So, what does one do in such a situation? If I could start back at work on Monday, or a week later, with the company I was contracted to in Jan/Feb, I could just about escape, by the skin of my teeth. What are the chances of them placing me with a client, within 9 working days? Slim to none, I'd say. Also, I'm sick again and I've got doctors hassling me for daily shit - dialysis & blood tests then, home visits from the Community Mental Health Team, this time. Doesn't this all sound rather like deja-vu?

My instincts tell me to box my stuff up, move out, preserve my cash and let the landlord keep my deposit. My instincts always tell me, that when shit goes bad, cut your financial commitments and retire to a safe distance. I would have done that in November 2015, when HSBC terminated my contract, but I felt responsible for a sofa-surfer and a flatmate. Big mistake. My instincts are usually correct.

My financial situation will continue to deteriorate, but at least I'm not careening headlong into a massive bankruptcy, provided I can borrow some (or all) of the £6k I need to pay my tax.

I'm now free to work anywhere in the country, if not the world. I had an offer of contract work in Poole in Dorset, from a friend. I have other friends in the area, who might be able to put a roof over my head while I find my feet again. It's one plan, at least.

What's the alternative? Go deeper in the hole and try and get a flatmate ASAP, to cut the speed with which my finances crumble to shit? I'm not sure I really want the pressure of the financial commitment; responsibility for an expensive central London flat. You know, I've ticked my "live by the River Thames" box, and I've even fallen out of love with London, or at least Canary Wharf and the touristy bits. The last time I felt wowed by my home city again, was when I interviewed for a government contract, on the first working day of the New Year. I would see Big Ben every day, and work in HMRC's impressive building, next door to the Churchill War Museum, St James Park and Horse Poo Parade. I've never worked in public services, let alone the posh bits, down the road from Bucky Pee and round the corner from the Palace of Westminster. That was 6 months ago, and I've been stressed and depressed the whole time since then.

Everything is probably going to come tumbling down - the landlord will sue me; I might not be able to borrow the £6k for my tax; who's to say that offer of work is still there? Should I just freeze, like a rabbit in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle?

Did I precipitate this, or was it destiny; fate? I've certainly been depressed for a long time - could that be to do with not wanting this life any more: the high rent, the pressure to get well paid contracts, the 'quick and painful' strategy, the limitation of how far you can realistically commute in London. It's depressing, feeling trapped. It's depressing, having so few options.

I have more options now, but less support. Was I too hasty? Yes, of course. Did I make bad decisions because I'm unwell? Yes, of course. On further analysis, am I freer now, more flexible, more able to consider almost any option? Yes, notwithstanding my dire finances and the fact I have far less assistance.

Perhaps it's time to admit defeat and prostrate myself at the feet of those who demand money with menaces. Sometimes, when the thing you fear most happens, it's liberating. I remember walking home from the police station once, in gym pumps they'd managed to find for me, having been led barefoot in handcuffs to a police van, in busy central London, then locked in a cell. As I walked along, looking like absolute shit, I thought "this has been literally the worst thing that could have ever happened to me". In actual fact, something about human nature means that we slowly deal with traumatic incidents, and they lose their venom; their potency.

You know, I worry about bankruptcy, but if it's only a barrier to jobs I don't want anyway - not in the sour grapes sense - then I get to do whatever I want anyway, unencumbered by the need to maintain a certain image & income. Maybe it'll suit me and I'll be happy. There are numerous successful entrepreneurs who've had bankruptcies in the past - it's part & parcel of taking risks.

I've always been financially responsible and met my obligations to my creditors. I've actually been very financially prudent, although you wouldn't think it from the last couple of years. I don't spend money before I've earned it, and I always kept money in reserve - I never overstretched myself. However, I'm now deep in the shit, and the stress has been there for so long, I think I'm worn down, and it's contributed to my ill health.

There was briefly discussed, potential salvation: a generous philanthropic liberator from my prison of financial misery and jobs that I detest and make me unwell. However, when it's personal, you feel differently than with a faceless bank that makes billions in profits. I've worked in banking a long time, so I know it's a victimless crime to take money that they just magicked out of thin air anyway: fractional reserves and the money multiplier. It's all just a game, and money isn't real... except when you borrow from friends & family. When you borrow from a partner who you're planning on spending the rest of your life with, it's a bit different: that's more like pooling your resources. However, your partner might have stipulations that are life-limiting: needing to or insisting on staying in one location, for example.

I do feel suddenly terribly alone, and that I need to act almost immediately; to take evasive action. I have a friend who's been a godsend; a guardian angel, but I am mindful that I've already ended up depending on her, far more than I am comfortable with or intended to do. I'm highly indebted to her, in so many ways - more than was ever supposed to happen between two friends. We perhaps share the same predisposition for trusting people and ending up pouring good money after bad. Where, for example, is my ex-flatmate who owes me thousands? Ironically, another friend who owes me a 4-figure sum, has mentioned his expertise in the field of, erm, debt recovery. But, that's a murky area I'd rather not get involved in.

Anyway, I have some new summer shoes, but it's absolutely lashing it down outside and I wanted to change the laces too. This might seem like the most ridiculously trivial thing to have elevated to a position of ultimate importance, but when the big stuff reaches incomprehensible proportions - squashing me like a giant boulder - having something that's shiny and new, improves my self-esteem, and feels like winning the lottery.

I seem to have been living life somewhat in reverse. Starting as a rich, responsible, reliable salaryman. Then around age 32, there was a veritable orgy of sin and debauchery; I cut loose from mainstream society and was homeless, in and out of hospital and in trouble with the police (although I escaped court and criminal charges). Now, I'm looking at my respectable life being shredded irreparably and who knows where that leads: flipping burgers? I can't see it. Selling the Big Issue? Quite possibly.

From where I'm sitting, I can see the river and the boats. But I can also see a top-of-the-range Vox valve guitar amp, with Korg effects head and Gibson Les Paul guitar. I can see a pro-grade racing simulator, with the seat, pedals, gear lever and an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, for a fully immersive experience, plus a very high-spec gaming PC. I can see my Macbook Air (core i7 processor and 512Gb SSD) unused while I tap away on my Macbook Pro (core i7 and 512Gb SSD) - both the best that money can buy. Next to me is my Panasonic Lumix camera, with Leica lens. Oh, and let's not forget my HD projector that can do 120" screen, in 3D. There's my iPhone, of course... almost the newest model. That's just what I can see. I could asset strip, but I'd be lucky to raise £4 or £5 thousand pounds, and I need £6 thousand for my tax alone. Second-hand electronic goods are worth very little.

What should I do? Bankruptcy and bailiffs seems like folly, but then so does staying where I am, racking up a huge chunk of debt while I search for a contract that I might be too unwell for anyway. Cut my main expense - rent - and head for guaranteed work, if it's still on offer in a cheaper part of the country; seems to make sense. I have more friends in Dorset than I do in London too. I could be stubborn - determined to make London work on the 4th attempt - and move back into a hostel, find work and then find a cheaper place to live. Certainly, I need to act now. Depression has taken me to the brink of ruin.

Ho hum. In a way, I like it when I'm forced into action, and I like it when I'm busy with a mission.

Other wild ideas I've considered are running away to France - my colloquial French was once close to fluency - or further afield: Poland, Czech Republic? I could actually just disappear right here in the UK: get a new identity off the Dark Web and abandon the old one. Then, either be a hobo for a bit, a vagrant, a native backpacker; or set up shop somewhere new, unencumbered by the vultures who circle over my current identity, and my prized plump carrion flesh they hope to feast upon... they know I'm rich pickings, and they eye me greedily.

Oh, I thought about buying a boat, but I might just as well buy a van, cross the channel and head south.

All of these options are infinitely more attractive and more realistic than landing a contract in London in the next 2 weeks, and getting paid by the end of the month. Besides, it was only Sunday that I sliced 3 deep cuts the length of my forearm, with blood running out from the capillaries, and tiny punctures in the veins. I stopped short of slicing any veins open - they're very hard to close if you do it lengthways... that's the point.

Choices, choices, so many choices, but not a one you'd want to take.