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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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Something to Take the Edge Off

5 min read

This is a story about crutches...

Office chair

Trawling through my photos from the past three and a half months, I found very few which would be suitable to accompany what I wanted to write today. The photos on my phone are mostly of my cat(s) and not much else. However, this photo does - rather cryptically - allude to what I am now writing about.

When I started the lockdown, I decided that I wasn't going to bother with a desk or an office chair at home; that I would muddle by with my laptop on my lap. I decided - wrongly - that it wouldn't be worth the effort of setting up a proper office at home.

As I already wrote a few days ago, I started the lockdown drinking copiously. Every day after work, I would pour myself a large glass of wine. I would estimate that my alcohol consumption was somewhere in the region of 8 to 10 bottles of wine per week.

As I already wrote a few days ago, I started the lockdown physically dependent on medication. Every night I took sleeping pills. Every day I took tranquillising sedatives.

Then, it became obvious that there would be dire consequences to my physical health.

I didn't want to finish lockdown as a fat alcoholic pill-popper with a hunched back.

Because I delayed setting up my home office, I didn't have a lot of choice for a desk and an office chair, hence why the ugly garish monstrosity - pictured above - has become part of my home office. The desk is super ugly too. However, it's good to have a more professional set-up instead of reclining on my sofa.

The health improvements to my life don't feel like they're paying dividends. I still feel overweight, unfit and I still crave alcohol. Ostensibly, I feel much the same as I did when I was guzzling booze, popping pills and spending 16 hours a day reclining on my sofa. However, we must acknowledge that there is a very significant difference between an alcoholic pill addict, and somebody who drinks in moderation at the weekends, and is entirely medication free. That I have stabilised myself and found almost liveable and almost bearable sustainable routine without my crutches, is not an achievement which should be underestimated.

The backdrop to the past four months has been the global pandemic which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and threatens the livelihoods and living standards of hundreds of millions, if not billions of people. If there was ever a time to feel insecure about money, work and housing, it would be now.

I wouldn't describe myself as a particularly anxious person, but the past 5 years of my life have been spent with the threat of destitution hanging over me. I've been forced to generate vast amounts of money each year in order to protect my credit rating and employability, as well as to simply pay rent, bills and service debts. The amount of money needed to escape my predicament was so vast that I was forced into high-risk high-stress situations, which were potentially high-reward. Eventually, perseverance paid off. There was no other choice: a crappy salaried job would have inevitably led to bankruptcy; the books simply didn't balance with some crap paying job.

So, I've suffered 5 years of incredible, immense stress. I've suffered 5 years of living on the edge of ruin.

When the pandemic started to get very bad in Europe my mood improved considerably. The havoc wrought by the pandemic has brought the stress and suffering that I was enduring into the lives of vast numbers of my fellow people. Suffering collectively is far more bearable than suffering alone.

At some point, I want to stop talking about the difficulties in my past and to talk about the future. I want to put some distance between my past and the present. I want to have a period of wealth and security, which clearly delineates 'now' from 'then'.

I note that my abysmal childhood became unimportant when I started to have success and get ahead in life, in my late teens and early twenties. My rapidly growing bank balance, exotic travel, status symbols - like houses, cars and boats - and adventurous hobbies, felt like I could forget about past transgressions against me: the bullies and abusers were rotting, and I was thriving, so I wasn't bitter and angry; I had broken free from the misery of the past.

My rage at my parents - which has been a repeated theme of the past 5 years - and sad memories of a ruined childhood, which has caused me vast amounts of problems... all becomes irrelevant again, as my health and wealth are regained, and my quality of life improves manyfold.

Yes, my crutches are going to change from alcohol and medications, to be luxury holidays and other trappings of wealth, but I don't care. Alcohol and medications lead to misery and death - they're a dreadful trap, which leads nowhere positive.

I still have suicide as my 'retirement plan' but that's a simple matter of practicality, given that I'm now unable to be likely to accumulate enough wealth to enjoy a comfortable retirement before my health starts to deteriorate. It's something I'm going to have to learn to live with. Or rather, it's something that's going to kill me. C'est la vie. C'est la mort.

 

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Lockdown Improvements

5 min read

This is a story about the Coronavirus pandemic...

Lighthouse

Many people planned to come out of lockdown with new hobbies, fitter, healthier, happier and myriad other unachievable unrealistic things. I think that we have mostly come out of lockdown fatter, more unfit, poorer, more insecure, lonely, isolated, bored and generally worse off.

I started the lockdown drinking very heavily and eating McDonald's breakfast every morning. I decided that if we were going to be suffering the misery of being under house arrest, then I would treat myself. Quickly I realised that I was going to end up with clogged arteries and morbidly obese. I was eating takeaway several nights a week and not doing any exercise.

I started the lockdown physically dependent on sleeping pills to get to sleep, and using two different tranquillising sedatives to cope with unbearable anxiety. I decided it was too much hassle to try to keep stocked up with the medications I needed during the lockdown, and I calculated that I have enough left to be able to taper myself off. I didn't want to run out of medication suddenly in the middle of a pandemic.

I started the lockdown working on my sofa, fully reclined. I realised that my posture and back would be ruined by working in such a position for 8 hours a day, followed by many more hours on the sofa after finishing work.

Things had to change.

I thought the lockdown would last a month or two, but I must admit that I didn't think it would drag on beyond a quarter of the year. I tried my best to psychologically prepare myself for the lockdown lasting for months, but I was hopeful it'd be all over after 6 to 8 weeks.

I bought a desk and an office chair.

I weaned myself off the sleeping pills and tranquillisers.

I cut down my drinking, and even went teetotal for 6 or 7 weeks.

I started exercising. Not, like, exercising exercising. Just going for a 10km walk every day. Enough to keep me a little bit active, but nothing crazy.

I stopped getting takeaways. All those takeaways were costing quite a lot of money, when they were all added up. Sure, I felt like I could justify spending the money to enjoy some nice food, as compensation for the doom and gloom of the hundreds of thousands of people dying all over the world, and the restrictions to our freedom... but it wasn't healthy and it was costing a packet.

I paid off all my debt. This wasn't so much a planned thing. It was something that just happened to co-incide with the lockdown. However, it feels pretty damn good to have some savings now. I have a net worth again, which feels good. I have some financial security, even if it is pretty negligible. It had been a very long time which I'd been struggling to get my finances sorted, and it's a big relief to be back in the black.

My life is extremely austere and simple. I have my house, my job, my cat, my car; that's it. My health is probably OK. My weight is OK, although I am carrying some extra weight I'd like to shift, as a consequence of lockdown. My finances are OK. My job seems OK. My housing situation is sort of OK. My kitten is great, although my cat is lost... overall OK. My car has a big dent where an idiot crashed into it during lockdown, in a virtually empty car park, but there are more important things in life than having a shiny perfect car.

All things considered, I think I'm one of the lockdown winners - I'm emerging in far better shape than I went into lockdown. Some people have lost their job, or are about to lose their job. Some people have struggled with alcohol and food. Some people have struggled with mental health. In almost every area of my life, things have improved; I look reasonably well positioned to weather a difficult autumn and winter.

Although losing my cat was the worst thing that happened, it has forced me to connect with my neighbours and the wider community, so I have even managed to live a far less isolated and lonely existence under lockdown, than I was living before - I speak to far more people; I'm more connected and socially engaged.

I thought that if I retreated inwards, living and communicating through my blog and social media, then I would find it impossible to get through the lockdown. It looks like a reasonably good decision, to have taken a break.

It helps that it's summer - of course - which lifts my mood and generally creates a more pleasant and favourable backdrop for life, but I feel hopeful that I've got a decent position of health and financial stability to fight through the autumn and winter. I just need to book some holidays now... I've worked non-stop since early January, when I was discharged from hospital.

 

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Heartless

9 min read

This is a story about self preservation...

Boxed up

I haven't written for over a month, but the general circumstances of my existence would have been repeated ad nauseam, as they cause me untold amounts of stress & anxiety, for reasons I am about to explain.

I have two more months of paid employment and then I'm potentially back hunting for work again. Even in the best case scenario, where I work every single day between now and the end of March, all that money is accounted for - somebody wants it: the taxman, a bank, a landlord... some vulture or parasite.

My rusty old car has bitten the dust and must be scrapped. I managed to limp it along, spending very little money on it, but it finally became uneconomical to repair it, despite the problem being as seemingly simple as a single broken bolt.

What does a 40 year old man who doesn't own a house or a car, or have a job, have to live for?

This is the question I asked myself on December 19th, when I noticed that my urine was full of blood, and later turned dark brown in colour, with a noxious scent. Later that day, I noticed that my bladder was no longer filling and I knew that my kidneys had failed.

The usual response of a healthy happy person when faced with a life-threatening medical emergency is to hastily make their way to hospital. My response was to wonder how long it would be before the waste products in my body would build up to a sufficient level to trigger a cardiac arrest. I imagined that 3 or 4 days would be adequate. I began the wait.

By December 23rd I was suffering from seizures, blackouts, confusion, muscle pain, abdominal pain, weakness and a host of other symptoms related to multiple organ failure, the complications of having highly toxic blood and massive fluid retention.

Against my will but without protest, I was taken to hospital by ambulance, where I spent two and a half weeks having dialysis for many hours a day, in the hope - the doctors' hope, not mine - that it would save my life. My only concern was that my life would be saved but my kidneys would not, thus rendering me dependent on dialysis sessions, 3 times a week, 4 hours per session, for the rest of my life, in order to remain alive. Of course, under those circumstances I would have committed suicide at the earliest possible opportunity.

I was discharged from hospital to discover that my cat had urinated on almost every single item of clothing that I own. My cat is incredibly intelligent, and she had managed to find a way to squat and pee in every drawer, box, bag and other container of clothing.

Kidney failure prevents the waste products from your muscles from being filtered out of your bloodstream and into your bladder, where they can be urinated away. Pickling your muscles in toxins, virtually immobile in a hospital bed, on a noisy hospital ward for two and a half weeks, was something that left me physically drained and very weak. Dealing with the mountain of cat-urine soaked clothing was a task which was beyond my capabilities, while still recuperating from the ordeal I'd suffered.

During the two and a half weeks when I was in hospital, I had three visitors: my ex-girlfriend, a work colleague and a friend. My ex-girlfriend was staggeringly out of touch with reality and stubbornly refused to drop her fantasy ideas about what the National Health Service is. She visited a few times at the beginning and then I never saw her again. My work colleague reminded me that I'm well liked and respected at work, and that's incredibly valuable. My work gives me a great deal of pride and a sense of identity. My friend reminded me that for all my years of struggle, I've been playing a rigged game all along, and I'm the only one who's been playing by the rules; not cheating.

It seems inevitable that in the not-too distant future, for one reason or another, my temporary employment will end and I will lose not only my source of income, but also any reason to remain in both this city and this country.

I have no relationship to stay here for: that's over.

I have work colleagues here, who are wonderful, but I always maintain a degree of separation between my work life and my private life, notwithstanding this blog (which serves as an invitation for anybody who really wants to be my friend to reach out).

I do love my cat, but she urinates on everything made of fabric or otherwise porous, and destroys anything else which she takes a disliking to: my houseplants, my carpet, my furniture, cables, anything fragile etc. I'm sure that I can find her a loving home where her misbehaviour will be tolerated.

My existence appears to be that of an anti-social hermit, but I assure you that there are hundreds of people who I have to deal with on a professional basis, who find me to be a pleasant and affable fellow; a good colleague. I have a very select few close friends who I maintain regular contact with via phone, email, SMS and other text, voice and video services.

Estranged from my family for over 6 years, with the exception of my sister, and single, this might be cause for loneliness and unhappiness, but I live for my work at the moment, which provides ample social contact, and it seems sensible that I move somewhere where I have at least one close friend - I'm in no mood to become one of those tragic 40+ men who join some kind of club or society in the desperate pathetic hope of gaining a social life.

What about suicide? Well, if the opportunity to die - passively - presents itself again, then I certainly won't be phoning the emergency services. It's barely a month ago that I had a few days to contemplate the fact that I was about to die, and I was quite calm; I was looking forward to the rest and relaxation of being dead.

My priorities remain the same as they always have: to repay my guardian angel and attempt to achieve some kind of financial and housing security, and to reconfigure my life so that the vast amounts of stress, anxiety, boredom and misery heaped upon me by the rat race - causing untold depression - can be replaced by either an alternative, or early death (i.e. suicide).

Thus, I might appear heartless, but it's all a practical necessity to maintain the slim chance that a life worth living might eventually present itself; otherwise the choice is clear: immediate suicide.

I sometimes wonder: am I tough? Am I mean? Am I a sociopath? Am I antisocial? Do I lack empathy? Do I mistreat people?

I think the answer to all those questions is: no. I spent the best part of three weeks in hospital with some people who were just as sick as I was, if not more so, and they really wanted to live. They were tough. I was tough too, but we're all tough, so that means I'm not particularly tough. None of us are tough. The answer to the rest of the questions is clearly no, because the evidence points overwhelmingly to the contrary. I'm just surviving; that's all I'm doing - I'm doing what needs to be done to get through every miserable, awful, unbearable day.

If you think I owe you something, believe me I know about it. Believe me, I think about it more than you think about it. Does that mean that you're going to get a gift-wrapped package in the mail with a red ribbon on it, containing what you're 'owed'. No f**king way. Get to the back of the queue, buddy. Do you think I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm owed? Sometimes I realise that if everybody who's picked my pocket coughed up their debts to me, then I'd have that financial security that I so desperately need, but I'm happy with the way that I've lived my life; I don't regret trusting people and taking chances.

So, where are we? Ah yes, self preservation. I basically need to work every single day I can for two solid months, just to have a bank balance of zero pounds and zero pence and not owe anything to anybody, and not have any valuable assets to my name. When I wrote "self preservation" at the top of this blog post, I did so with extreme sarcasm, because my life is literally preserved without my consent; if it had been up to me, I wouldn't have been born, I wouldn't have been 'saved' all those many times; I wouldn't have survived at all, and I'd be glad of it, because I would be resting in peace.

I do of course have people - and cats - who I love and I would 'miss' (although this is an oxymoron, obviously, to imagine that the dead are capable of missing anybody) and who would miss me, but it's selfish to want people who are in pain to go on living, when their quality of life is intolerable: this is why we euthanise our pets with no qualms; it's more humane.

If you think I'm heartless and lack empathy, you are mistaken, you are a fool, and you're no friend of mine.

 

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Step Eight: Be Selfish

10 min read

This is a story about looking after number one...

Safety card

I just spent about half an hour searching for a specific picture which I know I took, because I have a photographic memory. I quite clearly remember the harrowing scene depicted, of the person crawling out of a burning aircraft. Perhaps I have muddled up some parody/meme image with my constant snapping of everything vaguely interesting, but I am certain that it was a photograph which I took and have uncharacteristically misplaced.

Why the hell is this important?

Well, every day I have to think of a title, introductory line, a rough outline of what I plan to write, and I choose what I think is an appropriate photo to accompany my piece. It might often seem like the pictures are unrelated, but very often a photograph is the thing which prompts what I'm going to write.

In today's instance, I knew what I was going to write, and I knew which photo I wanted to accompany the piece, but I couldn't find it despite a thorough search.

I imagine that many people are quite thorough and meticulous about organising their lives, and I am too, but in my own unique way. I can quickly lay my hands on on what I need, given that I have taken the various essential tasks of my life and turned them into efficient processes, despite not spending an inordinate amount of time on systematically organising stuff.

I deal with a substantial amount of stuff. I run my own business, which requires me to do monthly payroll submissions to HMRC, quarterly VAT submissions, annual accounts, self-assessment tax return, corporation tax, dividend tax, income tax, national insurance, annual shareholder statements, board meeting minutes, dividend certificates, professional indemnity insurance, 3rd party liability insurance. I live an ordinary life, which brings rental contracts, house inspections, gas and electric meter readings, tenant insurance, home contents insurance, pet insurance, car insurance, car tax, car roadworthiness testing, car servicing, car maintenance, cleaning the house, feeding the cat, scooping my cat's poops and replacing her kitty litter, recycling, bin day, mowing the lawn, composting, buying food, preparing meals. None of this is unusual, but it's not insignificant.

With the continuous unrelenting pressure to do a good job at work, and impress my colleagues, combined with the constant threat of ending up bankrupt, homeless, penniless and destitute, it's an intolerable amount of stress and anxiety, heaped upon me. Although I'm not drowning in ever-growing debt - my income far exceeds my expenditure - I don't have any job security, housing security or financial security. The position I find myself in is immutable: there are no alternative choices I could take.

"Why don't you take some time off?" or "why don't you do some unpaid voluntary work" or "why don't you switch careers?" or "why don't you study something interesting?" are all as utterly ridiculous as asking me why I don't just wave my magic wand and turn a pile of house-bricks into a pile of gold bullion. My situation is completely, rigidly, unalterably dictated by my circumstances. There is no other way to structure my life, other than the way I have done it - my life is like a prison.

Of course, I could always drop out of society, live in a tent under a road bridge, beg for money, eat at soup kitchens. Of course I have the option of becoming totally feral, and foraging for food in the forest, covered in dirt and clothed in rags. Yes, I suppose those are options which are available to me, but we must be aware that society operates a strict one-way street. Once I left society, I would never be permitted to return.

"So Mr Grant, what have you been doing for the past 6 months?" asks the interviewer. "Living in a cave" comes my reply. "Where should we write to you if your application for the job is successful?" the interviewer asks. "I have no postal address" comes my reply. Thus endeth any attempts to re-enter society, once a person has dropped out. I suppose I could get a cash-in-hand job washing cars for illegal immigrants, and sleep rough on the streets, but I think I would rather go back to my cave than suffer such a fate.

The point of this rant is that my life is finely balanced: it doesn't take much extra demand placed upon me, to push me beyond what I can cope with, given that I've already endured such incredible hardship to get here.

My journey has already included rough sleeping, hospitalisations and being locked up in secure psychiatric institutions. My journey has already included recent periods where I had no money and I had no income which is a pretty difficult place to come back from. My journey already took me to the limit of human survival, where I was in an intensive care ward of a hospital on life support in a coma, suffering from multiple organ failure.

I'm feeling pretty fit and healthy, relative to how I was before. I'm feeling pretty financially prosperous, versus the time when I had no money and no income. I'm feeling as thought I have a realistic prospect of re-entering civilised society, as opposed to crushed beneath its heel, like a bug. However, it really wasn't very long ago that I was in dire trouble, relatively speaking.

So, I have to be careful about being too competent and capable, taking on the world's problems; boiling the ocean. Only a few months ago I shunned anything and everything which would add more complexity and stress to my life, cutting things back to the bare essentials, so that I could cope. I'm little more capable of dealing with extra stuff now, but it's easy for me to get carried away. Vast amounts of my precious time can be eaten up when I try to help with some "simple" task, which is always anything but.

It's hard to say "no" as an engineer. We are, by our nature, problem solvers who like fixing stuff. We have dogged unshakeable determination to follow a complex set of tasks through to completion. What use is a half-finished engineering project which doesn't work? What use is half an aeroplane? What use is half a bridge?

I don't really know what my wants and needs are, but I know that it's very important that I fend off things of no value: things that drain my time and energy, disproportionately versus any reward I receive. My blog is an engineering solution to a problem I had, where lots of people wanted to be kept updated about my woeful life, but nobody was offering any useful practical help, so it was a massive waste of time speaking to the rubberneckers who wanted to know every gory detail, despite being completely useless, and indeed counterproductive because it was valuable time wasted which could otherwise have been put to good use, earning money or securing a place to live. If you want a soap opera - human drama - then you can read the pages of this blog, but don't bug me for your own personal show, because I don't have the time.

Of course, I love my online friends and they are very supportive, but only one or two have ever stepped forward to ever offer any real tangible thing of any use. Only one or two have ever made effort and taken risk, in order to help and support me. This is not to say that all the messages of support I receive aren't lovely, and the concern that's felt for me does lift my spirits, but I have to balance that proportionately against the effort involved. Lots of "sorry to hear you're having a hard time" messages won't pay my rent, if I'm in a financially precarious situation, so I have to prioritise work and other practical matters ahead of maintaining online friendships.

As a group of supportive individuals, of course my Twitter followers - and one in particular - were instrumental in getting the emergency services to me and saving my life, so it would be churlish and mean-spirited to complain about the 'burden' of having people who are interested and concerned my welfare. Of course I want more friends, not fewer. Of course I want to maintain a good relationship with as many people as practicably possible, but I have to offset that with the effort involved and the probability of useful, practical payoff. I could never have predicted that Twitter followers would be so swift in delivering the emergency services to me in the nick of time - although I still nearly died - and I could never have predicted that I would receive vital practical things that I needed, exactly when I needed them, due to people who've read my blog. I could never have predicted that my blog would bring me new friends, who make the effort to come and visit me. All of these things are positive, but I also need to be careful, because social media is mostly a black hole, swallowing vast amounts of time and energy, and giving very little back in return.

So, I say this as a reminder to myself: my blog is the way that anybody who's interested in my life can stay up to date, without excessively burdening me. It seems unfair to ask for your own personal update, when I spend so much time and effort crafting these written updates, for the express purpose of keeping anybody who's interested informed.

Of course 1.3 million words are far too many for anybody to read in order to "get to know me" but also somehow too few... either way, I'm struggling to survive day to day through my essential tasks of: work, sleep, eat, write.

It might sound selfish or antisocial, but this massive piece of writing contains everything you might ever want to know, if only you can be bothered to look. Don't ask for me to look for you, because that undermines the very point of having gone to such a great deal of effort in documenting years of my life. There's a search box at the top and I tag every post. Knock yourself out. Go digging. Explore - there's plenty there.

Meanwhile, I just need a simple, basic, undemanding life at the moment, because things are demanding and overwhelming and stressful enough. I don't need any extra work, especially if it's unrewarding versus the effort expended.

This lengthy blog post has taken me all day to finish, because of various interruptions, some of which were very welcome - like a phonecall from a close friend - and others were questionably useful, when I might otherwise have been spending my time doing something more beneficial for myself. Spare time feels very scarce at the moment, so it should be used wisely and efficiently. I went to a great deal of effort to provide a vast trove of information, so it irks me if that effort is not delivering what I want it to, which is to avoid having to repeat myself.

Anyway, I need as many friends as I can get looking out for me, but I have very little "spare capacity" to offer at the moment, and it's wrong to ask too much of me - the resources are out there; you just have to look.

I need to protect myself. I'm no good at saying "no!" and "enough!".

 

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World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day 2019

5 min read

This is a story about annual events...

Hampstead Heath

I sometimes forget that I have a 1.3 million word repository of 4 years of my life documented in exquisite detail. Given that I have chosen to manage my mental illness - bipolar disorder - without medication, it's extremely useful to have everything written down. Memories are easily corrupted. It's easy to romanticise the past. Past traumas can be forgotten. Pain fades from memory. By having everything stored digitally like this, it's easier for me to avoid getting stuck in a cycle of boom and bust; making the same mistakes again and again.

Mental illness combined with some dreadful circumstances which exacerbated the problem, like an abusive relationship followed by an inevitable divorce, plunged my life into utter chaos. I was homeless and slept rough. I was sectioned and kept in secure psychiatric institutions. I very nearly lost everything.

Today is both World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day. The two things go hand-in-hand, but the choice of day was a coincidence, I expect, although ironically it's quite apt.

There is a powerful relationship between mental health and other problems, such as being able to work, having money problems, having relationship problems, homelessness, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, self harm, suicide and crime, amongst other things. To say that drug addiction causes mental health problems, for example, is a mistake of confusing correlation and causation. To say that mentally ill people are more likely to become homeless is a mistake of cause and effect. As you might imagine, not having a secure, dry, affordable, pleasant place to live is toxic to good mental health - how can anybody be expected to have any kind of sense of wellbeing when one of their most basic needs is unmet or under threat?

We might dismiss housing concerns, believing that local councils and "the government" ensures that nobody goes homeless, but it's lazy and ignorant to believe that housing is not the number one concern of people in crisis. The root of all problems is not mental health or drugs, or Brexit... it's housing.

The proportion of people's wages spent on rent or mortgage payments, has steadily risen, while wages have fallen in real terms. Vast numbers of people are on zero hours contracts or work in the 'gig economy'. Unemployment figures do not tell the real story: millions of people live under constant threat of eviction; homelessness.

Do I really have to spell this out?

Living with the constant threat of losing your home is incredibly stressful.

People are working all the hours they can to try to make ends meet, and they are still only one or two missed paycheques away from being chucked out onto the streets. One hiccup and they'll be homeless. Living with that kind of daily threat creates intolerable anxiety.

If you put somebody under an enormous amount of pressure and stress, for a very long period of time, it will negatively affect their mental health. It's inevitable that the lack of affordable housing in the areas where there are job vacancies, would create a mental health epidemic.

In London, where there are the most jobs, the housing is also the most expensive, over competitive and overcrowded. Yes, there are lots of jobs in London, and they're better paid than elsewhere in the UK, but the housing is terrible quality and massively overpriced, plus there are heaps of people competing for the few place to live, and the nice places to live are virtually unattainable except for the mega-rich.

Where I currently live, I pay a fraction of what I used to pay in London, and I have a lot more space, but when my contract ends I will struggle to find another one nearby - there simply aren't as many jobs in the area, hence why far fewer people want to live here and why the cost of living is lower.

This is capitalism in action. This is supply and demand. Capitalism is maximising how much money it can extract from our pockets, before we all go insane and/or kill ourselves. Capitalism is highly efficient at creating the maximum misery, in its pursuit of the maximum profit. Capitalism is not about freedom or choice. Capitalism is about the immoral destruction of human lives, in order to deliver relentless 'growth' at the expense of our quality of life.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I have emerged from that dreadful chaotic period of mental illness and homelessness, and I now enjoy a reasonable standard of living, but I am painfully aware of how insecure my existence is; how quickly I could be turfed out onto the streets again. I'm acutely aware that my mental health cannot be taken for granted, and the pressure to keep earning vast sums of money, month after month, to line the pockets of an idle capitalist, is incredibly toxic to my mental health.

 

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Step Three: Rinse & Repeat

6 min read

This is a story about repetition...

Bottles

Drug addicts and alcoholics know a lot about relapses. What dreadful consequences they suffer when they fall off the wagon. Am I immune from such things? Am I the first person in the history of humanity to outsmart addiction? No. Of course not.

Readers who have followed any of my story might wonder if I've started drinking again, or have become addicted to sleeping pills again. No. No I have not.

I went to the supermarket yesterday - a big fancy supermarket with lots of lovely things to choose from - and it was difficult to stay away from the alcohol aisle, but not impossible. The whole point about being an alcoholic or an addict is that you're powerless over the substance(s) that you're abusing. I do not offer my successful self control as evidence of my immunity to addiction and alcoholism, but it does prove that I'm in control, which cannot be said of those unfortunate wretches who are in the grip of active addiction and/or alcoholism.

Rehabs are full of charlatans who claim that they have a magic cure for addiction and/or alcoholism, but all recovery comes from within - how bad do you want it? I'm not saying that those who are killed by their addiction and/or alcoholism didn't want to be clean and sober, but they clearly wanted to be drunk and high more than they wanted to avoid their inevitable demise, or else they wouldn't have died. Unfortunately, the self-reinforcing draw of addictive substances can overpower the best of us, and although I do view addicts and alcoholics as "victims" of a disease, it's also demonstrably clear that people who have no problems with drink and/or drugs - including those people 'in recovery' - were simply lucky enough that the scales were tipped marginally in their favour.

My life has potential which would be churlish to deny. It's not fair for me to say "everything is ruined so I give up" when clearly I have high earnings potential, and with money comes opportunities to escape a miserable life and get a better one. Sure, I can get overwhelmed and decide that I don't have any energy left to keep fighting, and I would quickly be wrecked and ruined by our over-competitive coercive and exploitative society, which would dearly love to trample me underfoot, but I stand a better chance than most people of escaping the rat race.

Yep, I cheated a couple of times this week. I used a sleeping pill on a couple of nights to help me force my sleep pattern into the one which capitalism demands. I used a sleeping pill to combat the incredibly negative side-effects of social jetlag, caused by the toxic demands of office hours, contrary to human health and welfare.

Did I relapse? Nope.

What does relapse even mean for me? I've never been an alcoholic.

What does relapse mean in terms of mental health episodes? My mania-driven achievements are widely celebrated and cheered on by the capitalists who've been assisted by my immense productivity, which has been almost superhuman, but has come at great personal cost. My mental illness has been on public display for many years, yet my paymasters don't care because I'm delivering the goods - so long as I keep up the successful results, my violent mood swings are tolerated, and the results of my manic episodes are highly prized by all involved, especially by those who provoke me into doing high-pressure projects with unrealistic deadlines.

I hope - eternally - that the repeating patterns are not on a downward trend. I attempt to learn from each mood cycle, and to hold onto the gains and not give up so many losses. I try to limit the downright outrageous negative consequences of unrestrained mania, and I try to fight through the devastating depression that follows, forcing myself to keep inside the artificial constraints of some reasonable tramlines, knowing that it will be ultimately beneficial for me and help me to escape from the boom and bust... most importantly to escape from the bust!

Self medication with the occasional sleeping pill is infinitely preferable to routine intoxication with copious amounts of alcohol, although it's easy to convince myself that neither has any long-term ill effects, clearly my health will suffer if I drink heavily on a regular basis, even if my wealth and professional reputation are not impacted.

It's all a bit boring really. Uneventful. I'm very good at putting one foot in front of the other, I just don't like it very much, especially when going on a journey I've done a million times before. There's not much pleasure left in renting a house, moving my stuff, starting a new job, impressing new colleagues or delivering a project which is exactly the same as every other project I've ever delivered in my long and illustrious career. I just do it for the money.

Some might accuse me of being a dry drunk but they are idiots. Every day that I struggle through the rat race puts a significant amount of pounds, shillings and pence into my pocket. Every day that I force myself to do the intolerable shit that I have to put up with, is a large step closer to freedom. I have no need to adopt a significantly different life at the moment, because the life I have is staggeringly lucrative, which unfortunately means that it's the quickest route to financial independence and housing security, which is the most important thing for my health and wellbeing.

Sobriety between now and the end of October is something quite welcome - it will help my health immensely. Working between now and the end of my contract, on Halloween, is something that will help my wealth immensely. It's incredibly dull and boring, but it's got to be done. It's easy, but it's repetitive. When was the last time that you put up with a shit job that you hated? Probably never. When was the last time you spent years doing boring, repetitive, easy stuff? Probably never. You just wouldn't put up with it.

 

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Cat Fancier

4 min read

This is a story about my fur baby...

Cone of shame

My job is incredibly intense at the moment and I'm at risk of becoming excessively obsessive, but when I see my cat's cute face greeting me when I get home from the office, I'm able to switch off and relax a little. There are things which are causing me a lot of stress at the moment, like an uncertain financial and housing situation, but it's all a little easier to bear in the company of my lovely cat.

I wondered whether I had made a big mistake, getting a very intelligent breed of cat, because her personality is so different to the moggy I had before. Repeatedly wetting the bed as well as being relentlessly hyperactive, I felt that I was getting far more of the downsides of pet ownership, with only a very limited amount of upsides: it seemed very rare that she wanted to sit and be stroked. I wondered whether I had taken on a bigger responsibility than I had expected - and been used to in the past with cats - with none of the rewards that I was used to from my previous cat.

She is very annoying.

However, I have gotten used to how annoying she is. Now I have begun to enjoy her character.

At least once a night, she will have a manic episode where she will decide that she's going to attack me. For a period of 15 minutes to an hour, she will attack my hands, arms, feet or indeed anything that she fancies, such as my legs, knees, or simply my torso. She will bite, scratch and kick me. She will jump on me and wind me. However, it's all rough play and she doesn't mean to hurt me, although she does draw blood. If I want her to stop, she does... but not for long.

Multiple times per day she will attack my houseplants and other fragile things, such as some tall lamps which have paper shades, now utterly destroyed. She does not attack these things when I'm not around. Not wanting to anthropomorphise, but she wants to provoke me: she annoys me for her own amusement. It's a game to her. It used to stress me out but now it's become kind of funny... since I've accepted that I can't have nice things anymore and I've given up being precious about my stuff.

She wants to be with my, wherever I am. It's very nice having a little shadow, following me around. She meows and I meow back. Sometimes she wanders off and then feels lonely, so she meows and then comes rushing to find me when she hears me. She's a very sociable animal.

Since she's been wearing her cone she's not been able to scratch behind her ears, which is something she gets me to do for her. She has an insatiable appetite for behind-the-ears scratching.

Once or twice a day she will have a period where she is desperate to be stroked, and she will force her head into my hand, whatever I'm doing. Typing becomes impossible. Resting comfortably becomes impossible. Sleep becomes impossible. If I sit or lie on my hands, she will burrow furiously in order to push her head repeatedly into my hand, urging me to stroke her. It's so adorable and impossible to ignore.

She has started to enjoy sitting on my lap, or otherwise lying peacefully in contact with me. She has started to have some calmer periods, which are of course blissful.

Stroking her is immensely stress relieving. She also seems to know when I'm unhappy, and she cheers me up a lot. I think she's responsible for helping me to avoid complete capitulation during some recent stressful events.

In short: I'm really pleased I got her and I'm so happy she's part of my life.

 

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Sensitive

5 min read

This is a story about spectator sports...

HP

Politics and protesting is a kind of hobby for the middle classes. In the absence of a football team to support and matches to attend, the middle classes engage in similar tribal behaviour with their political party affiliations and their favourite political causes. Instead of an irrational hatred of a geographically proximate football club to one's own preferred football club, the middle classes hate the political party on the opposite wing from their own chosen party. The reds hate the blues and the blues hate the reds, whether it's football teams or political parties.

The issues of the day have rather vague and nebulous non-threats. Terrorism and immigration do not affect us day to day. Climate change does not affect us day to day. Brexit does not affect us day to day. Very few of us will be victims of terrorism, man-made climate change or economic catastrophe due to leaving the European Union. Why get so worked up about these things?

Given that most of us are idle in our bulls**t jobs which needn't exist, we have plenty of time to read, listen and watch the news. We have plenty of time to engage with social media. We have plenty of time to partake in manufactured outrage and to work ourselves up about things which have no bearing on our day to day existence.

My mental health is fragile.

The constant media bombardment with nonstop news coverage of the political drama is something that affects me more than it should. I think I'm somebody who feels quite a lot of empathy - a lefty libertard snowflake - and I am often taken in by my perceived onslaught on the vulnerable members of society. I'm one of those bleeding-heart tree huggers. I feel a great outpouring of sympathy for refugees and asylum seekers, homeless people, alcoholics, drug addicts, neglected and abused children, neglected and abused animals, and indeed our ecosystem. I struggle to go through life with a "take are country back" (sic.) attitude, and to ignore the climate emergency, the refugee crisis and the misery inflicted by economic disaster and austerity. I struggle to distance myself emotionally from current affairs.

I'm acutely aware of how little I am contributing towards worthy ideals. My bulls**t job requires me to drive a car and otherwise pollute the planet, as well as robbing my labour from any efforts to build a better world. It would, in fact, be better if I just stayed at home; far less polluting. If I didn't have to go to my bulls**t job then I would have all the time in the world to knit my own yoghurt and wipe my bum with a chinchilla, or whatever it is that tree-huggers are doing these days in order to save the planet.

It's highly toxic to my mental health to be forced to spectate. It's awful that I have so little opportunity to be a productive member of a new, better society, helping to build a better world. It's really crappy that the coercive demands of unrestrained free-market capitalism dictate that I have to choose between homeless destitution, or selling my soul and being part of a society which is destroying the planet, in pursuit of endless profit and growth, with no regard for sustainability.

I feel as though I'm an aerial, a satellite dish, receiving an incomprehensible and unprocessable torrent of information at all times. I feel tuned in to so many things, and those things all cause me pain.

I can't do anything about the pain.

I see something about climate change and I want to alter my lifestyle completely, to reduce my carbon footprint, but then I remember that I'm trapped by capitalism.

I see something about homelessness and I want to build social housing, but then I remember that I'm trapped by capitalism.

I see something about asylum seekers, refugees, drug addicts, alcoholics, mental health problems, suicide, youth unemployment, bullying, child abuse, animal cruelty... and I want to quit my bulls**t job and to build a better world, but I can't because I'm trapped by capitalism.

Instead, I'm trapped on the sidelines, watching with horror. Instead, I plough my intellectual energy into social media, writing and worrying; thinking about what the solutions are to the world's problems, and arguing with people who want to "take are country back" (sic.) and otherwise perpetuate the situation ad nauseam.

It makes me unwell, hoovering up all this information - all these world events - all day long, and thinking about the problems, and worrying, and using my rational brain to think about solutions... solutions that I'll never be allowed to put into practice, because I'm trapped making profit for billionaires; trapped by capitalism.

I hate being this sensitive. I hate being tuned into everything. I hate being powerless. I hate being sidelined. I hate spectating.

I'm a productive busy thoughtful person. I'm also very sensitive.

It's agony right now, being forced to spectate while everything burns.

 

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Not a Good Look

9 min read

This is a story about receiving advice...

Pixelated

Just a little over a year ago I made a new friend via the Internet. We bonded over our mutual desire to kill ourselves and made what can only be described as a suicide pact. We are close, speaking on a more regular basis than I do with anybody else. I value their advice.

My friend had been advising me to find a therapist, given the apparent futility of my efforts to break the cycle and begin to live a more stable, happy and contented life. My childhood trauma, bitterness, resentment, insecurity and lack of self-esteem are all plainly on public display, every single day that I write. It must be frustrating for those who follow my story for any period of time, and who attempt to support me, to see me repeatedly struggling with similar themes, and apparently making no progress. There is a well-meaning desire to want to help me, or for me to help myself.

There aren't a great number of people who can offer me advice that I will listen to, given that most people haven't experienced the extreme events, which have left me almost dead, destitute, homeless; threatened to end my life so many times. I only tend to trust the advice of those who have suffered; those who are afflicted and who understand suffering. Most people think that yoga, kale, jogging and mindfulness are the cure-all solutions to any problems, because they have never experienced truly awful things, and they never will.

I should listen to my friends. I do listen to my friends.

Advice often comes as a shock to me. It might not be my immediate instinct to accept what people say without question, but I always mull things over at length. I'm always prepared to consider the possibility that I might be wrong, and more often than I care to admit, I do end up accepting that I was wrong about something.

My friend criticised my public aggressive rant, concerned that it was not a good look.

I agree.

However, I have always prided myself on not being a person who thinks only of superficial appearances. It would have been disingenuous of me to hide away a bunch of things that I was thinking and feeling. It wouldn't have been true to myself or my mission to expose myself - make myself vulnerable - to hide my thoughts and feelings, and instead to present a fake version of myself. That has never been my style.

A work colleague reads my blog quite regularly, and they even took the time to comment on my "aggressive rant" which further made me think that my friend has a point. Seen in the context of acting unprofessionally, I most certainly worried about my image, and how my behaviour was "not a good look". If I was making an idiot of myself on LinkedIn or in the office, then I would be mortified. I am very familiar with the pressure to wear the corporate mask and to pretend to be the consumate professional - the bland corporate drone - at all times. This blog is the complete antithesis of the relentless coercive pressure to present a fake image of bland obedient corporate unblemished perfection, and the antithesis of everything you'd ever say in the office, write on your CV or otherwise share with your colleagues.

If I was all about image then I wouldn't have started this blog at all, sharing the very most unflattering things about myself.

My friend has a point: my rants are most definitely read by a couple of colleagues at the organisation where I'm currently working, and what they've read very much undermines the image that I've worked hard to cultivate. They must think I'm some kind of monster; a dangerous unstable lunatic.

I found there was too much effort involved - too much paranoia - in maintaining the bland grey perfect unblemished corporate drone image, and worrying that the mask might slip. I found that it was making me unwell, the pressure to maintain the perfect image.

My friend's advice is sound, and I am definitely thinking that I've probably gone too far. I have spent the day thinking about whether to censor myself; to delete what I wrote. I have spent the day thinking about whether I was too harsh; unfair and excessively biased.

It's a little surreal: advice given from one member of a suicide pact to another. For me, being suicidal means that I'm beyond caring what people think about me; I have transcended dignity and accepted that I place a higher value on ending the suffering than my image. I agree with my friend about the "not a good look" thing, but when I am well and truly ready to die, I don't care how it looks or what people think about it; I don't care about a world which contains nothing but misery, anxiety, stress, depression and pain.

My friend is probably right, in that there's a slim chance - a negligible chance - that I could pull through this f**king nightmare and decide that I can extract some enjoyment out of life, and I would regret things that I've said; I would feel differently about my image, but it would be too late to take back my words. My friend is right, that for those who see themselves as likely to carry on living, they have to think about things like their image and their reputation. I've been writing this blog for years saying the same unflattering things about myself, and presenting myself in an unflattering light, and it's shocking how infrequently I feel as though I made a mistake in making myself look like a "complete psycho" (to use my friend's words).

In my experience, the people who have "Done [Me] Wrong" carry on their lives with clean consciences, without a care in the world about the damage they've done. Yes, my rants are "not a good look" but they are part of the psychological make-up of a person who was bullied every day from the age of 3 or 4 years old until about 16. Every. Single. Day.

Some powerless people, abused for many years, will snap and commit violent acts. Some powerless bullying victims will fantasise about getting revenge. What I do is I write honestly and candidly. Does it mean that I forgive and forget and live a happy and contented life? No. That was never the point.

Why should we forgive and forget? It's drummed into us that we'll be happier if we forgive and forget, but who's beating that into us? I call BS on the idea that we should forgive and forget. Why aren't the victims of bullying and abuse entitled to an apology, instead of being expected to suck it up? Why aren't the victims of bullying and abuse entitled to write and talk as much as they want about the years and years of suffering they endured at the hands of the bullies and the abusers?

Perhaps I might mature one day and see that I was foolish to hold onto so much bitterness and resentment, and to spend time and energy yelling into the great wide world, with my words never reaching the people who wronged me. It seems like incredible folly to expend so much effort, writing words which will never be read by the perpetrators of bullying and abuse, because they run away and put their fingers in their ears, determined to never feel a twinge of guilt for the trauma they inflicted. Why get so worked up and rub salt in the wound? Why not let the scars heal?

I'm undecided. While my life is still intolerable and I'm on the brink of bankruptcy and homelessness, plagued with suicidal thoughts, then I will continue to write about my suffering. I see no reason to ever stop writing about the awful things which cause me such great distress, while my life is in danger. Why would I ever shut up and pretend like everything is OK?

As you can tell, I'm conflicted. I value my friend's opinion, but I also have to live my life my way. It's me who has to figure out a way to get through the day. I am mulling over my friend's advice, and I think about all the people who spend a moment to share their thoughts with me.

Of course I feel out of order and that my behaviour is not how I would like it to be. Wouldn't we all want to be Mr Nice if we had the choice? Wouldn't we all want to be some Jesus-like figure who forgives everybody? Wouldn't we all want to be that one cool dude who lets everything wash over them with cool calm serene composure and dignity? Wouldn't we all want to wear a permanent smile, even when somebody is taking a dump on us?

I want to be Mr Nice but I don't feel able to be right now, because real life; because real danger; because real trauma, abuse, bullying, baggage, distress, anxiety, suffering and all the other things which plague me.

I wondered how many friends I'm going to have left if I make it through this f**king nightmare and reach a point where I have some financial, housing, social, relationship and career stability. Then I realised that the thought was a non-sequitur. If I don't make it through then I have no use for friends, because I'll be dead. My friends are the people who can understand the gravity of the situation. In that regard, I can't really understand why anybody would invest in a friendship with me, given that I make no secret of my relentless suicidal thoughts - I really don't hold out much hope that I'm going to pull through and reach the point where things improve.

In conclusion, I feel some regret and remorse that I might have spoken too harshly about people who undoubtedly wronged me - those are just facts - but who could perhaps be excused, forgiven and forgotten, without a public outburst displaying just how upsetting and distressing things have been, but also how much bitterness and resentment I was carrying. Not a good look, for sure. Not a dignified response. Not what Mr Nice would do.

I am not Mr Nice. I'm just some suicidal guy trying to get back on my feet.

 

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End of my Tether

4 min read

This is a story about being worn down...

Self help

I can't stand the self-help, motivational speaker, trite platitude brigade, with all their bite-sized quotes which reduce complex and traumatic situations into oversimplified cartoons, which bear no resemblance to reality.

I'm sick of trying and failing. I'm sick of slogging along, doing everything that's expected of me as an obedient citizen, while getting absolutely nowhere; going backwards.

I don't know how long it's reasonable to expect a person to struggle, with no progress; no hope of ever escaping the intolerable present-day situation. I've proceeded positively on the assumption that one day I'd turn a corner, but all the evidence is that it's impossible: there's no way out of my predicament.

There isn't any money left, after paying my taxes, my debts and other financial obligations. How can that be right? How can so much hard work and effort amount to zero? How can all those difficult and horrible years amount to nothing? How can all that struggle have been for naught; to be left without a penny?

It's not just about money. It's about the exhaustion of all those years of anxiety and stress - struggle - only to be left facing more years of the same. To say I'm at zero is wrong, because in fact I must keep working just as hard merely to exist. All that effort has not propelled me into a situation where I can take a break - work a little less hard - but in fact I must carry on at exactly the same demanding level, without having a safety net; no financial security, no housing security... nothing.

Why did I bother trying to be kind and generous? Why did I bother being trusting? Why did I bother playing by the rules? Why did I pay my debts? Why did I work? Why did I contribute?

It wasn't worth it.

Hard work doesn't pay.

Kindness leads to being taken advantage of.

I don't regret abiding by the social contract and being an obedient citizen and employee, but I sure can see that it's been to my overall detriment. I've been left for dust by those who were immoral and criminal, not that I wish I had lived my life their way.

I wish the world was different, but it isn't.

I wish the world was fair, but it isn't.

The world isn't disproportionately unfair towards me. I certainly am not one of the most disadvantaged. I would never claim that I've had things any harder than 98% of the world. Still though, it sucks not being able to make progress. The odds are stacked in my favour a lot more than other people, but the end result is the same: zero.

You can't argue with the end result. You can't argue with the effort expended. You can't deny that I've worked hard and it's resulted in nothing. Big. Fat. Nothing.

Zero. I'm at zero.

A man who has nothing has nothing to lose, is one of those trite contrived platitudes that I hate, but it sounds rather worrisome rather than inspiring, doesn't it? Doesn't nothing to lose also imply nothing to live for? Doesn't nothing to lose imply, well, having nothing, which is a rather dismal state of affairs for an adult who's supposed to have something to show for their efforts? Having something to lose means that somebody will act predictably, in order to protect something valuable. Having nothing to lose means somebody acting, well, with nothing to lose, which is terrifying.

The prospect of more of the same - more depression, anxiety and more indentured servitude struggling under the yoke of capitalism - is not at all appealing. The prospect of more years of stress and struggle is most definitely unappealing.

Some might have their morality corrupted by the appeal of get rich quick scams and schemes. Some might have their morality corrupted by the appeal of enslaving their fellow humans. I find such things equally unappealing.

Thus I arrive at the recurrent and inescapable conclusion that my course has run. I've tried and I've failed so I'm giving up. There's nothing more that life has to offer except depression, anxiety, stress, misery, pain, suffering, loneliness, heartbreak, persecution, coercion and exploitation.

I've had enough.

 

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