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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Treatment for Social Jetlag

4 min read

This is a story about alarm clocks...

Kitchen garden

How many people start the day, jolted from their pleasant slumbers by their alarm clock, repeatedly pressing the snooze button because they want and need more sleep? Is it 50% of the world's population? Is it 75% of the world's population? Is it 95% of the world's population? Certainly, in Europe, North America, New Zealand, Australia - and a bunch of other 'westernised' societies - the figure will be exceedingly high. That's an incredible amount of unnecessary human misery and suffering, in my opinion. Why the hell is society functioning like that, with its most productive members so exhausted?

I do not subscribe to the rat race, insofar as accepting that social jetlag is an inevitable part of the prime years of my life. I do not accept decades of torturous suffering. I refuse to be part of that.

Many years ago, I was unable to get out of bed, one morning. I lay in that bed for weeks, paralysed by depression. But, I don't think it was depression: it was my body's natural reaction to an abhorrent situation. Nobody should have to get up in the morning, against nature. It's unnatural. It's an offence to human existence. It's toxic to human health and wellbeing. No. No way. Not doing it.

But.

It's almost impossible to fight against the established order of society. Even though almost everybody is exhausted and socially jetlagged, because of the rat race, nobody wants to flinch first; nobody wants to be the person who gives up, lest other eager competitors steal their place in the rat race.

In an arms race, eventually, the only outcome is the destruction of human civilisation. This is the point that we've arrived at: life has become uncivilised in the extreme.

So.

What are we going to do about it?

Let me tell you a little bit about my life. I go to bed at the same time every night, and I always fall asleep quickly. Then, I always wake up before I need to wake up. I never set an alarm clock. I'm never woken up unnaturally: I always wake up, doze peacefully a little longer, start thinking about my day, read a little news on my phone, then get up when I'm ready. I'm almost always among the first of my colleagues to start my working day. Sounds too good to be true? Well, yes, certainly this can't be achieved without a little cheating.

How do I cheat?

Well, that's really easy, so I'm not going to beat about the bush. The answer is obvious: sleep medication.

Yes, that's right, sleep medication is the obvious treatment for social jetlag.

Sleep medication.

It's that simple.

There are two problems: firstly, your doctor will not give you any effective sleep medication, because otherwise society would be a happier, better rested, and a less miserable torturous place, and we couldn't possibly have that, could we?!?! Secondly, getting a great night of sleep every night, and waking up naturally every morning feeling refreshed, starting work early without need in alarm clock, is really great so it's hard to want to go back to being tired all the time, and hating every single morning when the alarm goes off. Obviously, you need a virtually unlimited supply of effective sleep medication, to last you until retirement.

Good news though: capitalism plans on continuing to manufacture goods and services, for as long as there's demand. Also good news: while you continue to be useful to capitalism, you will be given tokens which you can exchange for goods and services. More good news: while you have needs and valuable tokens, and capitalism produces goods and services, there will be people willing to facilitate the exchange of those tokens for the goods and services, in exchange for a profit margin. Good news all round: while capitalism demands that you get out of bed unnaturally early in the morning, there will be a plentiful supply of sleep medication, to allow you to cope with the social jetlag.

Of course, when capitalism collapses, I'm going to have some pretty bad insomnia, but maybe that's advantageous. When everybody else is sleeping, overcome by exhaustion, I'll have plenty of extra hours awake to scavenge the looted supermarkets for scraps.

Don't waste your time with your doctor: capitalism has already created efficient markets, where you can procure whatever you need at a highly competitive price.

 

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My Own Worst Enemy

4 min read

This is a story about self sabotage...

Bruise

Why can't I just keep my big mouth shut? Why can't I just smile and nod, and think of the money? Why can't I sit back, relax, and just take the money? Why can't I just focus on the money, and not worry about anything else? I'm getting paid, aren't I? That should be enough, shouldn't it?

No.

It's not enough.

Not for me, anyway.

Of course, when I've burned the bridge I will be filled with regret, remorse, shame and embarrassment. Of course, when I've burned the bridge I'll be depressed and anxious, and I'll wish I had kept my big mouth shut. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, I'll see that I threw away something really good; that I made a huge blunder.

All of this presupposes that I'm in possession of free will. All of this presupposes that I'm able to make choices.

I'm not able to choose.

Of course, if I could choose, I would switch off my brain and sit mute in my chair, collecting my paycheque. Of course, if I could choose, I would press the fast-forward button, and get myself to the point where I've collected all the money. In order to get the money, all I have to do is nothing. They're going to give me the money, but only on the proviso that I keep quiet. I'm going to get the money, but it comes with strings attached: I have to sit in my chair and keep my mouth shut.

Why can't I keep my mouth shut, and just think of the big fat paycheque?

I'm grappling with the idea that I'm not a very nice person. There are plenty of people with the same mental health problems as me - bipolar disorder, anxiety etc - and they're lovely perfect Jesus-like individuals who spread joy everywhere they go; infinitely charitable, kind, helping old ladies, sick animals, orphans, starving Africans and suchlike. Why am I such an asshole? I certainly can't blame my mental illness, because every other person on the whole wide entire planet with a mental illness is a saint who would make a nun blush with shame at their lack of piety.

For sure, having a mood disorder makes life in civilised society pretty challenging. For sure, being shackled to a rigid organisational structure, where everyone's expected to fit in or fuck off, is a massive problem when my mood is not stable like an ordinary person's. We all want to lie in bed with the curtains closed sometimes. We all want to go a bit crazy sometimes. Sure, you can say that it's incumbent on me to fight my mood, with willpower, mental strength, medication, or whatever it takes... or else fuck off and die in some dark dank hole. For sure, it's my problem, nobody else's. Everyone else is getting on with life, neatly compartmentalising themselves into their assigned slot; fitting in. What the hell gives me the right to be eccentric; different?

Aside from lying down on the floor and resigning myself to death by multiple organ failure, last Christmas, it shouldn't be understated just how hard I have been working to overcome my mood disorder, and to fit in. For the last three years, I've forced myself to battle through severe depression, social jetlag, overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks and suchlike, in order to keep working and rebuild my shattered finances. If I wasn't battling my mental illness, you can be certain that I would have been at home in bed, in a darkened room, instead of turning up at work, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

The other side of my mood disorder is mania, which I've employed to make myself incredibly productive. I can quite rightly feel proud of a lot of achievements during the past three years. My productivity has been sky-high.

High productivity has come at a high cost.

I'm crashing, predictably. I'm exhausted and irritable. I'm getting physically sick. I can't regulate my mood. I can't act appropriately; professionally. I'm losing it. I'm having a breakdown.

All of this was inevitable, sure, but I don't think it was avoidable.

 

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Diet

4 min read

This is a story about hunger...

Burger

I've only ever been on a diet once before in my life, about a year and a half ago. I was going on a beach holiday and wanted to get thinner, for reasons of vanity, which must pretty much be the main reason anybody ever goes on a diet, surely. I remember that it was pretty easy: the weight came off quickly. This time has not been so easy.

I wanted to avoid talking about things which are long and difficult, lest it become boring and repetitive. The combination of lockdown, sobriety, dieting, exercise and various other health-related activities - or more specifically, non-activities - was going to make for pretty boring reading, so I shied away from writing altogether.

My diet is, I'm told, quite extreme. I've been aiming to eat a maximum of half my calorie need, every day: 1,250 calories. In reality I've probably been eating closer to 1,500 calories per day, but it's still substantially less than the bare minimum needed to maintain my weight, which of course is the whole point. I don't want to bang on about the hard numbers, because it's very boring.

Psychologically, I wanted to cross a threshold quite quickly, to get below a certain weight because it then seemed like I was the 'right' side of a bad number instead of the 'wrong' side of a bad number. Ultimately, I'm trying to get my BMI down into the 'healthy' range again, but I've had to set myself some milestones along the way.

I've never owned a set of scales. My reason for dieting the previous time was that I wanted a flatter tummy. My reason for dieting this time is the same, but I bought some scales thinking it would be good to have some hard numbers. I WAS WRONG. I was in for a big shock when I stepped on the scales for the first time. I had let things get pretty bad, even though I was kidding myself that things weren't that bad, and it wouldn't take long to sort the problem; wouldn't take long to lose the weight.

I think I'm about 5 weeks away from reaching a healthy weight, which is not bad at all. I have the motivation of a holiday, which helps.

It's a fairly tough regimen, not drinking at all, trying not to snack, calorie counting... I'm not used to it. I had always been able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, but lockdown has tipped the scales, as it were... I've been fighting a losing battle. I didn't think it was difficult or even necessary to watch what I ate; I didn't think I'd ever find myself in the position of dieting. I was wrong.

I wouldn't say I'm hungry all the time, but I am cold all the time, and I am tired all the time. Low blood sugar is playing havoc with my mood and energy levels, and also my ability to think and concentrate. There are lots of times I notice that I'm craving sugar. This could, of course, be as much my sobriety as much as my diet: for sure, being teetotal should be taken into consideration.

The reason for my sobriety is obvious: alcohol is so calorific; so fattening. Also, when drunk or slightly tipsy, I make poor decisions about food - I get takeaways, eat snacks and generally lose self-control. It's not unheard of for me to eat an entire can of Pringles, or suchlike, when inebriated. It's an easy way to cut a lot of calories, by simply not drinking.

In absolute terms, I've lost 3.5kg (almost 8 pounds) in 4 weeks, which is OK; pretty good. I want to try to lose a kilogram (2.2 pounds) per week, just for easy maths, and also because psychologically, it seems like a good milestone. However, there's no way I can reduce the amount I eat without putting myself through hell. Having used food and alcohol as coping mechanisms, life's very difficult without those crutches.

My clothes are looser and my tummy is flatter, but according to the scales I have a long way to go. If I can keep it up though, I will be looking nice and slim for my holiday.

I know this diet stuff is a bore, but I wanted to tell you about it anyway.

 

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Abandon Hope

4 min read

This is a story about devastating blows...

Mushroom

My break from writing was precipitated, not by the second lockdown, but by the need to purge spammy comments from my website, and wait for the search engine(s) to re-index all the content, such that I'd no longer be consigned to the dustbin of spammers, along with those pedalling illegal drugs, controlled medications and suchlike.

Now, I have to start rebuilding my reputation again. Not with my readers, but with the search engine(s) which had kinda blacklisted me, because there were so many spammy keywords all over the comments section, in a desperate attempt by Chinese and Indian sweatshops to generate links to their clients' websites, in order to try to improve their page's ranking in search results.

Obviously, I spend a significant proportion of my time, lovingly crafting some well-written prose, for no other reason than that I want to freely share the contents of my brain, lest it prove useful to some soul out there on the interweb.

I spent a lot of time cultivating, creating, crafting my content, and all that hard work was paying off: I was getting many thousands of readers every day, and many of them were writing to me to say that they were grateful that I took the time to write and share. Mercifully, I still have a reasonable number of readers; all my hard work hasn't gone to waste. People still write to me to say they're grateful that I spent the time writing and publishing what I did.

Nobody would ever spend 5+ years of their life writing every day, seemingly getting nowhere, if they were fixated on how many readers they had: it's a thankless task with pitiful progress, to begin with. There's an enormous amount of very high quality content already out there, so why would you think that your content wouldn't just get lost in the noise? You're right: most of your content will get lost in the noise. Only the most dedicated will survive, and the rest will litter the interweb; the interweb is mostly composed of people's abandoned creations... except nobody much sees that content. Part of the whole advertising eyeball-driven business model of the commercial interweb, is driving the content creators to push stuff out on a daily basis, to habituate them and their content consumers. If you're not publishing regularly, you will be harshly penalised.

So, having played the game, succeeded, then lost - almost to the point of being buried into obscurity - I now need to dedicate myself 7 days a week, to the challenge of writing and publishing, once again. I need to build, again. I need to create, again.

I've really really missed the daily writing habit. I've really really missed having the opportunity to express myself. I've really really missed the security it gives me, knowing that I've composed my thoughts on a page, publicly, for all to see. It's a life insurance policy: that I'm about as close to not dying misunderstood, as anybody could ever possibly be. Of course you can hurl predictable insults at me - narcissist, egocentrist, self-centred <expletive> and whatnot - but who gives a shit about your jealous tantrum? Who gives a shit that you're too stupid, lazy and cowardly to write and publish your thoughts and feelings? I'm doing it and it's allowed; it's OK. It's useful for me to write and publish, so nobody's going to stop me. It's useful to a lot of other people, that they can read my thoughts and feelings, so I'm going to keep going.

Winter's a particularly bad time for my mental health, and I've been struggling without my writing crutch. It's been pretty bad, not being able to tell this blank page about how I'm feeling. It's been really hard to cope, without my daily writing habit, which has become so central to my healthy habits and routine.

Anyway, I'm back, writing again. Hello, welcome back.

 

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World Mental Health Day

5 min read

This is a story about wanting to die...

Muddy feet

I've wanted to commit suicide for years and I've made several attempts, all of which have ended up with me in hospital, either in intensive care, and or high dependency, for weeks... months and months if you add up all that time. You might say that you think that I don't want to die, because I haven't succeeded [yet] and you would be correct: I want to want to live; I want to not want to commit suicide. But I did want to die and I did want to commit suicide. When I came out of a coma in intensive care in hospital, a doctor asked me if I was pleased that they saved my life. Honestly, I was not pleased at all.

More often than not, depression - as a mental illness - has no rational explanation. Grief and other circumstantial depression, although devastating, can be explained with relative ease; can be well understood. Stranger, it seems, is depression where the cause is not so immediately obvious.

Examining my own depression and wish to commit suicide, we can see a number of obvious circumstantial problems:

  • Estranged from family
  • No social support network
  • Very small number of close friends, none of whom live nearby
  • Enormous debts
  • Single
  • Can't remember the last time I had a hug
  • Boring, unrewarding and unchallenging profession [at times]
  • Physical illness, making me unable to work [at times]
  • No [realistic] prospect of escaping my predicament
  • No hobby/passion
  • Isolated, hermit-like existence
  • Troubled past; guilt, shame and regret; some bitterness

So, if we take all of that in aggregate, it seems like no wonder that I would be suicidally depressed, discounting even the irrational and almost-impossible to explain depression, which inflicts so many people whose lives do not have these problems (although they might have their own set of problems).

Let's revisit my circumstances, today:

  • Money in the bank; savings
  • No debt
  • Plans to see my sister and niece
  • Two friends who live nearby, although one is locked down due to COVID-19, so we can't meet
  • Rewarding and challenging work
  • Well-paid work; feel respected and valued
  • Physical health is OK, just a little unfit
  • Have managed to escape enormous debts, and become debt-free, against the odds
  • Have a hobby/passion: mountain biking
  • Leave the house to go mountain biking

Okay, so there are still some areas which need improvement but it's an incredible turnaround from my situation, which I've had to endure for years. I have to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming. Nobody should have been able to escape from the homelessness, near-bankruptcy, crushing debts and the total destitution which I faced alone. It's like I had my death sentence commuted; it's like I received a royal pardon.

The picture at the top is of my muddy feet. Nobody goes out in the mud and the rain, in the cold autumn/winter of the UK, unless they are in a good place in terms of mental health. I'm not saying that I'm 'cured' or even that I'm 'happy' but I'm making some real tangible progress. I have hope for the first time in years and years.

My mental health is incredibly fragile. My 'recovery' (hate that word) is incredibly fragile. I have no idea whether my mood is going to crash, worse than ever, and I'll be back to being suicidal. Every time I attempt suicide, there's a very good chance I'm going to succeed. You might think that I'm just being melodramatic and/or attention seeking, and that I have no intention of committing suicide, and never did, which is why I didn't succeed. If you like, I will share my medical notes from the emergency department and intensive care/high dependency: I didn't succeed because I was incredibly lucky; for example, the medical team gave me about a 30% chance of survival, last attempt. The time before, I had even less chance of survival. There's no denying the truth: when I have attempted suicide, it's not a cry for help, nor has it been 'botched' by me... it's been pure blind chance that I've been discovered before I died. I've never phoned emergency services or phoned for help in any way whatsoever; quite the opposite.

So, on World Mental Health Day, I'm really sorry for all the people in the world who are suffering. I feel your pain. I share your pain. It makes me very sad that mental health problems are so prevalent in the world. I wish we would do something to help improve the circumstances of people's lives, because that can make a huge difference. Instead of giving trillions of dollars/pounds in bailouts to banks, we should be giving each and every family a life-changing amount of money, so that they can afford to live without debt, in secure housing, and not have to work shitty soul-destroying jobs; we need the time to connect with our community and maintain a social support network; to make [and keep] friends.

Look after yourselves today, and every day. Email me if you're feeling suicidal.

 

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Profligacy

7 min read

This is a story about out-of-control spending...

Wallet

This is my wallet. It doesn't contain any cash. In fact, it doesn't contain very much at all. It's very thin, although not as thin as my favourite wallet, which unfortunately wore out. I like having a thin wallet.

My wallet contains a 'debit' card for my personal account (known as a checking account in North America, I think), a 'debit' card for my business account, and two credit cards. Also, I keep my drivers license as photo ID, and some stamps, in case I need to mail anything. So, that's 4 bank/credit cards and a card-sized driving license: 5 cards in total. That's all I need.

Sure, I need a little cash from time to time. Frustratingly, I had used the small amount of cash that I carry to pay for something, when I needed to pay the guy who cleans the windows in our street, so I had to live with dirty windows for a little while longer than I would have liked to.

Cash tends to stay in my pocket for so long, that often it ceases to be in common circulation: the UK is replacing all of its 'paper' banknotes (they were actually more like a kind of fabric, but that's just a geeky fact for you) with 'plastic' ones. The UK is probably the world's number one place to launder money, so of course we need to have wipe-clean waterproof money.

Anybody who's used a plastic banknote to insufflate a powdered substance into their nose - not me, obviously - will tell you that the new banknotes will damage the delicate membrane of your nose and cause it to bleed, quite often. However, at least you can wipe the blood off. Paying for stuff with bloodstained banknotes is rather embarrassing (but not the reason why I don't carry much cash - I just don't need/use the stuff, for any purpose).

If you've followed my blog, or you know me as a close friend, then you'll know that I've suffered from depression which has been quite relentless and uninterrupted; interrupted only by suicide attempts, I should probably add. My will to live has been long absent.

I was starting to give up and abandon all hope of surviving for more than a few more months. I was certain that if Christmas didn't kill me, like it almost did last year, then I'll certainly die in April or May next year. Basically, I could see no future for myself; no point in suffering any longer.

Then, I had a great idea: I'll buy a really fancy gaming computer, so I can play driving simulators, flight simulators, turn-based strategy games on a big monitor, and retro console games... generally get into gaming in a really big way.

But.

It was not a good idea.

Part of the reason for my depression, is because I'm home alone, in front of a screen all day. Part of the reason for my depression, is because of my sedentary lifestyle. Part of the reason for my depression, is that I lack real-world social interaction with people.

In short: the gaming PC was a bad idea.

But.

Then I had a really great idea, which was to buy a mountain bike.

I mean, I already have a mountain bike, so why would I buy another one? The mountain bike I have is the best that money can buy (to me at least) so why would I buy another one, if I couldn't buy a better one?

Good question.

Mountain biking is hard work. I used to be young, skinny and fit, but now I am old, fat(ter) and unfit. I am by no means obese and I am by no means so unfit that I can't do exercise, but my health and fitness have been grossly neglected during my interminable depression, as well as during lockdown, which made things even worse. I did try to finish the lockdown fitter, thinner and generally healthier than when I started, but, it was very hard. The best I managed to do, was to stop the rot, a little bit.

Pedalling a mountain bike uphill is hard work. You have to move the weight of the bike, the equipment, your clothes and your body, uphill. My super nice mountain bike weighs 24 pounds (11kg), my equipment could be zero I guess, if I was going for minimum weight, my clothes, including shoes, could be as little as 4 pounds (2kg)... but the heaviest thing is me. I weigh at least 22 pounds (10kg) more than I did when I used to ride my mountain bike regularly. So, basically, if I was to ride up a hill, it would be like me riding up that hill with a whole extra mountain bike on my back. Plus, I'm unfit too.

So what's the solution? Lose weight, right? Catch 22.

The best way to lose weight is to exercise, but if your favourite form of exercise - mountain biking in this case - has gone from something which is difficult but enjoyable; rewarding... into something which is so exhausting that it will destroy you to just go up one single hill, then the barrier to entry is too high.

What did I do? I bought a mountain bike which assists with my pedalling, to make it feel like I'm 22 pounds lighter. In fact, the mountain bike I bought can also assist with the pedalling so much, that it's like I'm young and fit too! Of course, I still have to pedal, and that still requires energy, so I'm getting the exercise I need to lose weight and to get fit again.

What I also did was buy a bunch of other stuff: waterproofs so I can go out in the rain, super-padded underwear to protect my ass (because it got soft since I didn't ride a bike for a long time) and a whole bunch of other really expensive stuff. Could I have done without that stuff? Sure. I guess I could carry a heavy mountain bike for miles and miles because I got a puncture. Sure. I guess I could get soaking wet, because it's autumn now and will soon be winter. Sure. I guess I could get run over by a car on the way to/from where I'm riding, in the dark autumn/winter bad weather. For sure, I could have avoided getting that stuff and said "I'm not going out on my bike today, because it's raining/dark/I've got a puncture or whatever".

You bet I'm worried that my spending is out of control. I spent a whole month's income.

Every. Single. Penny.

Like, no money for rent, no money for food, no money for bills, no money for transport... no money for anything except my bike, and the stuff to go with it. I spent every single penny of last month's 'wages'.

So, am I stupid? Am I rubbish with money? Am I a lost cause.

Well, I wanted to commit suicide for a very long time, but now I'm just excited about riding my bike; now I've got a reason for living again. I'm not sure how long that's going to last, but money really can buy happiness, it seems; or at least money can get rid of depression, temporarily. Maybe, like a drug, the depression will only go away for a really short time and I'll have a terrible hangover/comedown. I expect that's true, but let's not be too hasty. Last time I did something like this, I got fit, healthy, happy, more social, more attractive athletic body, identity, self-esteem, and I had a lot of fun. Let's wait a while before we start calling me stupid for doing this.

 

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Second Lockdown

3 min read

This is a story about a broken record...

Names

What's the exact idiom? A broken record surely wouldn't play at all, so I always reject the idiom "broken record" thinking it must instead be "scratched record". However, I don't think we really use the idiom "scratched record" so I'll stick with my original preamble, which was probably correct insofar as being a well-understood idiom, but literally wrong, like so many things in life.

Anyway.

I've been a bit of a broken record, meaning that I've been repeating myself a lot.

I'm in lockdown, again. Last time I was in lockdown, I stopped writing because I didn't want to drive myself and everyone else round the bend with my repetitive days; I knew that it would be a marathon, not a sprint, to the finish. The first lockdown lasted longer than almost everyone had anticipated, but I had psychologically prepared myself for it to last many months, so I was OK. I also anticipated that this second lockdown was a certainty, so I was psychologically prepared, except I haven't taken the step of stopping writing.

I was planning on having a totally sober October, as has been my tradition. Also, I was supposed to get a new mountain bike, so I could start getting fitter and shedding some korona kilograms: I've put on weight, having been more sedentary than normal, and also utterly devastatingly depressed about the lack of opportunity this year to have travel and adventure, like normal.

I'm not sure I could stand the sound of my own voice - or my words - if I have to write for a whole month, sober and in lockdown. I might have to take a break from writing again.

The world is pretty toxic to mental health at the moment. The impending US presidential election, the impending no-deal Brexit, the never-ending pandemic, the impending economic armageddon, the rioting... the lockdown of course, and the effect of being under the same roof 24 x 7 x 365.

I find writing therapeutic, but what am I going to tell you about my present situation every day: it'll be the same. Still need that mountain bike so I can go and exercise, still need to stay sober, still need to eat less, still working on an important project I can't tell you about, still under lockdown, still depressed, still suicidal. It's going to be groundhog day; repetitive.

So, I'm warning you: if I keep writing and you keep reading, things might get pretty samey.

 

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Nick, What's the Best Way to Kill Myself?

6 min read

This is a story about email...

Inbox

When I wake up in the morning, I'm greeted by an inbox full of emails from people asking what the best way to commit suicide is. This shouldn't come as a surprise, given the thousands of readers I have every day, reading stuff I wrote about suicide methods. However, I thought I made it pretty clear in what I wrote that, deliberately, I wasn't providing any step-by-step instructions, or otherwise endorsing, encouraging, enabling or recommending suicide at all.

I think, at the root of this, we are looking for figures in authority, to make the difficult decisions for us.

It's completely insane to me, that a person in reasonably good physical health, would consider physician-assisted suicide. Why bother? It's really not hard to kill yourself. I think that we -mostly- live in a safe world, with a nanny state attempting to 'protect' us from everything. We scurry to the doctor, asking the dumbest most common-sense questions, because we feel reassured that a person of high social status - a demi-god - is dispensing blatantly obvious advice from a 'magic' building, while wearing a 'magic' white coat, and with a 'magic' stethoscope draped around their neck. It's bullshit; it's a sham - your doctor is no more qualified to guide you out of this world than a stranger you met in the street: at some point, everyone is on their own.

I understand perfectly, that we are socially and psychologically conditioned to respond to authority figures. The Milgram experiments have chillingly shown that most of us will administer lethal electric shocks to a person, who is screaming in agony, if we are told to do so by a person wearing a white lab coat, with a clipboard, who officiously tells us that we should kill one of our fellow human beings. Of course, we retain plausible deniability in that we can always say "I was just following orders" just like the Nazis in the concentration camps, who killed millions of Jews.

In a way, perhaps it's a good thing that people reach out to me, hoping that I will give my rubber-stamp of approval for their suicide, which I obviously do not give: I'm not in the business of dishing out those kinds of instructions. If you want to kill yourself, I'm not going to stop you. If you come to me, telling me that you're suicidal, then I'm not going to talk you out of it. I promise. However, I'm also not going to be the person who tells you to do it, or otherwise encourages, endorses, enables or in any way says that suicides are OK. Suicides are inevitable. Suicides are necessary. However, I have made it absolutely crystal clear in everything I've ever written: I don't want any suicides. Zero suicides. No Suicides. I can't make it any clearer than that.

If we want to talk about euthanasia, that's a whole different conversation. For sure, I'm pro-euthanasia. For people who literally can't end their lives with dignity, because their medical condition(s) have robbed them of the physical ability to end their own lives, for sure I am in favour of physician-assisted suicide.

What the fuck do you want from me? Surely you're not so stupid as to know that there are an almost infinite number of ways to kill yourself? You don't need me to tell you what the 'best' way is; to make a recommendation. I already provided ample information on all the methods. OF COURSE I am not going to give you a step-by-step guide: it's your death, so it's your responsibility.

Although it breaks my heart that so many people contact me in crisis, on the verge of committing suicide, it's a good thing that they are looking for my recommendation, approval and very basic instructions on how to end their lives. It's a good thing, because it means that the trivial obstacles are enough to keep them in the land of the living.

Of course, I do not wish to prolong another human being's suffering for a single second longer than absolutely necessary. Absolutely, if I possessed the means to wave my magic wand and take away anybody's suffering, I absolutely would do that. Me telling people - step-by-step - the exact way that they should kill themselves, in a way that shifts personal responsibility onto myself, is not responsible, right, useful, ethical, or otherwise conscionable. If you want to kill yourself, you'll find a way. If you NEED to kill yourself, you'll find a way. There's a whole internet of information out there, for those who are properly motivated.

I hope nobody sees what I've written as a challenge. I hope nobody sees what I've written as calling anybody's bluff. I believe, absolutely, that everyone who contacts me professing a desperate suicidal crisis and the imminent end of their life, is telling the truth; they are to be wholeheartedly believed. Their situations are desperately sad, and my heart bleeds. However, I am not operating a euthanasia clinic. I am not qualified to judge people's lives as hopeless, and dispense the means to end lives. Only YOU are qualified to judge whether your life is bearable - liveable - or not, and to then take the necessary steps as appropriate. If you wail that you do not know what those steps are, then I'm afraid that your fate is sealed: your desire to remain alive is stronger than your desire to pursue one of the infinite avenues open to you, to end your life.

I'm absolutely not asking you to stop writing. Please continue to write. However, I'm setting your expectations quite clearly: I will not, ever, tell you the "best" method of suicide, nor will I do anything to enable your suicide, nor endorse it, nor approve it, nor in any way get involved in your life-and-death decision, other than to say that I empathise very strongly with your plight - your crisis - and I'm very sad that things reached such a desperate situation. I will listen. I will understand, as much as possible. However, I won't try to talk you out of it. Think about all of this, if you get in contact: I'm totally not going to say you shouldn't do it, but I'm totally not going to say that you should either, or tell you how you should do it. That's your business, not mine.

 

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Aide-Mémoire

4 min read

This is a story about writing prompts...

Book

During a more exciting and varied, but also chaotic period of my life, I habitually made a note of writing prompts for myself. I was able to stay somewhat on top of these sparks of inspiration, and turn them into essays, but the list still grew longer and longer.

I've started writing a list of writing prompts again. Currently it has 10 items on it, which have inspired me to write 3 completed essays, which I've now published.

The other thing which inspires me to write, I must admit, is my readers. My readers write to me, which I'm very grateful for, but even those who do not are inspiring me by reading, because there's nothing worse than feeling ignored, irrelevant or otherwise non-existent. However, there's also a temptation - which I try to avoid - of writing stuff which I know will bring me more readers. What's the point of making art, if you're doing it just for popularity and notoriety - surely that isn't art at all?

The majority of my readers - thousands per day - are new readers. Perhaps [most of] my social media followers and [most] friends have tired of the repetitive nature of my writing; the repetition of my story; the lack of any dramatic change in my circumstances. There isn't much narrative in my writing, because there isn't much narrative in my life. In the adventures of employee man, one day looks very much like the next.

Of course, I am grateful that I have a semi-secure source of income - albeit only in the short term - and I have stability and routine. My health and wealth are thriving, relatively speaking, thanks to the boring repetition which is the backbone of my life.

Perhaps I'll dig some more hair-raising tales of near-death and destitution out of my memory banks, to amuse and entertain my readers, but I did promise myself that I wouldn't dwell on the past, and I would attempt to start a new chapter. I would very much like it if I had a substantial period of boring "this is what I ate for breakfast" type typical run-of-the-mill yawnfest blog vapid bullshit, to put some distance between the chaotic, traumatic and nearly fatal period of my life, and the stable, secure life which seems within touching distance; tantalisingly close.

It feels a little odd to not be in the mood to write, because of low social media engagement, given that I almost exclusively transmit - never receive - and otherwise do not engage myself in discourse; do not engage with the community; do not socialise on social media, per se. A cynical accusation that I want to take, but I never give, could be levelled at me, and I would have little defence; I admit that I don't spend a lot of time keeping up with the lives of my Twitter friends, although I am extremely grateful for their continued support, and the occasional message or cat pic.

Also, I'm a little burnt out. I've been working very hard on a demanding project, and I'm extremely emotionally invested; I've been working with maximum intensity. In addition, of course, I pour my guts out every day onto the pages of this website. Writing and publishing a halfway-decent essay every day is not trivial. Those who say I'm not generous with my time and effort, are being unnecessarily cruel and unkind, if not downright wrong.

I'm not out in the community helping little old grannies cross the road or picking up litter, but people do write to me from all around the world every day, to say that my writing has been helpful - in some way - to them. I'm not saying that what I'm doing is particularly praiseworthy, or patting myself on the back in general, but I do put a lot of effort in, and that effort is not entirely a fool's errand.

Anyway, that was today's essay. I hope you liked it. Even just a teeny tiny bit.

 

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Overdue Holiday

4 min read

This is a story about stamina...

Me

It's been over 13 months since I had a holiday. My holiday plans for last year got really screwed up. I need to have a couple of winter holidays, for mental health reasons - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) exacerbates my bipolar, and can make me suicidally depressed, as was proven last Christmas. I ended up spending Christmas and New Year in a hospital bed, instead of on a beach, because that's what happens.

Of course I can technically keep working for years, without a holiday. The problem is, I get tired and irritable, which damages my relationship with my colleagues. Nobody wants to work with somebody who's tired and irritable.

The past 13+ months haven't just been a continuous slog at work, without a holiday. The past 13+ months have included an enormous amount of work on a very high-profile project of national importance. There's a lot of pressure. Sure, I thrive on pressure, but not everybody's going to be a fan of my style, when I'm tired and stressed, which is to not suffer any fools gladly; I can be extremely impatient and intolerant of fuckwits.

Of course, if I get the chance to keep working on the project I've been involved with for a long time, then I'm going to have to look after myself. I'm going to have to take some holidays. My health - mental and physical - demands that I take some holidays.

In a lot of ways, it's great for colleagues to have the consistency of me being around, all the time. In other ways, it's bad for me to be around all the time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and familiarity breeds contempt etc.

One of the bosses who I admired the most, even if I didn't particularly like him, was notoriously short-tempered and impatient. He was extremely quick-witted and blazingly quick at everything he did. I always swore I would never ape his demeanour, because it wasn't very pleasant for colleagues, but when I came to building and running my first startup, I admit that I had a very sharp tongue; I reduced my co-founder to tears.

The boss who I attempt to copy, is a guy who was a 'shit umbrella' for the team: he fended off all the pressure, and kept the workload and general demands at a reasonable level, so that the engineering team could work without unhelpful and annoying people hanging around saying "is it done yet?" constantly. He used to give estimates which were extremely conservative - being over-optimistic, over-promising, will always lead to stress, pressure, being rushed, and ultimately a poor quality, late and disappointing outcome. My ex-boss created a great environment to work in, and I'll never forget that.

As discussed at length, I'm desperate to achieve financial security, and as such there's a great temptation to never take any holiday, when I suffer a double-whammy financial blow when I take a holiday: the loss of earnings AND the cost of the holiday. Of course, it's a false economy if I end up getting sick or losing my job, because I've overworked myself, but I've always taken things to the extreme.

I have no idea how or when I'm going to take a holiday, especially in the context of a second-wave of Coronavirus and the subsequent second lockdown. Already, the UK has more new cases than the UK's own threshold for quarantining visitors from another country. I feel pretty certain that I would end up spending my entire holiday in the hotel room, under quarantine. Another consideration is that I'm now single, and as such, would be holidaying alone, which I would hate.

I do need to take a holiday, and I will always find a way to achieve something if I set my mind to it, but there are many reasons not to take a holiday - money, coronavirus - and the prospect of being abroad, alone, is not enthusing me to the idea.

 

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