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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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Winter is a Nightmare

4 min read

This is a story about the worst of all worlds...

Snow

I was already depressed and anxious before the winter started, but now I'm really depressed. I get seasonal depression very badly every winter, but this winter seems worse than ever.

The most dreadful combination of factors, includes the exacerbated isolation of not having any local friends or family, magnified by the pandemic lockdowns, being single, not drinking, unmedicated, on a diet, tired, hungry and generally pretty pissed off with life, having worked 16 months back-to-back without a holiday; only a single day off, except for the very occasional bank holiday and a period where I was hospitalised with multiple organ failure, which doesn't really count.

Poor me. Poor me etc etc.

Yep, this is self-pitying stuff, but I don't care: I'm miserable and this is the only coping mechanism I've got.

In an attempt to count my blessings, I guess I've only gotta work for three more weeks before attempting to take a long-overdue holiday. My finances are heading in the right direction. My weight is headed in the right direction. My fitness is headed in the right direction. The project, which has been my all-consuming passion for the best part of a couple of years, is at least not in terrible shape, which is something of a minor miracle. I don't have to waste my life commuting, which is good. I don't dread my alarm clock going off or struggle to get up in the morning, which is definitely a miracle.

My mental health is definitely in tatters, as I swing from suicidal depression to manic ranting, but the rigid structure and routine I've installed in my life, is holding me steady. It beggars belief that I have managed to save as much money as I have, work as much as I have, and produce as much as I have, while undergoing a near-continuous mental health crisis, which very nearly killed me less than a year ago... even getting hospitalised with multiple organ failure didn't much disrupt my stride.

I know that winter is a dangerous time - a threat to my life - and I had successfully employed some great techniques to cope: namely, getting the hell out of this miserable country and going somewhere hot, as much as possible during the winter. Of course, as soon as I found myself trapped here last winter, it was curtains. We will see what happens this year, but there's a glimmer of home that I might escape both the terrible winter weather, and the threat to my life which implicitly comes with being in the UK during the winter.

The period when I had the most face-to-face contact with other humans, was during the height of the pandemic, when we stood on our doorstep and clapped for the NHS. I was getting a daily dose of talking to other humans, in-person. Now, I spend the long winter evenings and the miserable weekends totally alone.

Of course, almost everything which I hate about my life, appears to be a choice: I'm choosing to not drink any alcohol, I'm choosing to diet, I'm choosing to be single, I'm choosing to be unmedicated. All of these choices are good for me though, so it's not really a choice, but a necessity. I know that in the long run I will have substantially improved my bank balance, flattened my tummy, and maintained my sanity, none of which would be possible without short-term sacrifice.

I'm sitting here with my stomach gurgling angrily. I over-indulged with food at the weekend, although I was still well below my calorie requirements and as such, still dieting. However, my weight loss is not progressing as quickly as I want it to, so I'm fasting for 40+ consecutive hours. The hunger is made all the worse, by all the other things I've got going on.

Still, just three weeks to go, I tell myself. Just three weeks before I attempt to take a long-overdue holiday.

 

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Greater Anonymity

5 min read

This is a story about professional reputation...

Radiator key

I had a game plan for this year, which was to write eye-wateringly boring things about my mundane existence, such that the history of my chaotic and traumatic life would be safely hidden behind a wall of impenetrable tedium. Unfortunately, I have not stuck to the plan. However, I have arrived at the conclusion that the best place to hide is in plain sight.

I once attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting - or similar such thing - which annoyingly was in a building immediately adjacent to my workplace. As I predicted, while I was in the process of leaving the meeting and saying goodbye to people in the street, a work colleague emerged from the office and also greeted me; that was my worst nightmare realised: that my private world and my work world would collide.

Today, I can count at least one work colleague amongst my readers, and over the years there have been a large collection of both present and former work colleagues, who have read some of what's published here, publicly for all to see. Most of what I write is frank, brutally honest and candid, and none of it is the stuff which can or would be discussed in a professional context. Sometimes it troubles me, being exposed in a professional reputation sense, but I doubt I do a very good job of concealing my madness in the workplace.

One thing, I hope, is quite apparent to my work colleagues, versus my readers: that I am highly productive, and making an undeniably useful contribution, with just about enough sanity to spend 40+ hours a week in close quarters with people who, presumably, have no plans to call the men in white coats to take me away.

I'm not so stupid as to think that it's not quickly obvious that I'm mentally ill, if you spend a little time with me. I'm not so stupid as to think that my colleagues don't consider me odd; abnormal; different. But, I'm used to being the odd-one-out and I've got over the initial paranoia, which was caused by mistakenly thinking that I had successfully integrated and been accepted as 'normal' when I so obviously am not. I had begun to believe that I had shaken of my miserable childhood and re-invented myself; that I had integrated with normal mainstream society. When the mask slipped, it destroyed me, because I had worked so hard to hide my flaws.

Retrospectively, I see that the effort I put into making myself as homogenous and unnoticeable as possible - the effort I put into fitting in - was essentially wasted.

People. Just. Don't. Care.

Unless you're actively going out of your way to be a problem, most people are too busy with their lives to acknowledge your existence or take any interest in you. Unless you're a massive pain in the backside, and you're annoying everybody, nobody really knows or cares who you are.

Conversely, if you make an effort to be 'different' you are equally uninteresting. Sure, you might think that your carefully constructed identity, with your weird haircut, purple hair colour, piercings, tattoos, and deliberately unusual fashion choices, is something which makes you stand out. No. In such an individualistic society everybody is attempting to stand out, so you are conforming and fitting in by attempting to do so.

Are you damned if you do, and damned if you don't?

Well, I'm very glad to have made a friend, who's a work colleague, somewhat thanks to this website and my writing. The friendship makes an almost infinite amount of being ignored by the world, pale into insignificance. I'd like to say that I don't care when I have a day with fewer readers, but it would be a lie: for sure, I want to be noticed; I want people to be aware that I am, at present, alive, having thoughts, experiencing feelings.

The massive folly that I have built - millions of words written and published - is utterly disproportionate to the number of readers and amount of income that I make, as a direct result of my effort. However, over the years, the effort has brought me some of the best things in my life.

I don't discourage anybody from going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, if they want to, even if they're not an alcoholic... I too, am not an alcoholic, nor am I a recovering alcoholic, nor have I ever been an alcoholic. My relationship with alcohol is entirely controlled by me, not a higher power, or a bunch of anonymous people meeting in a dingy basement, spilling their traumatic stories out to each other. I'm doing the opposite: publicly broadcasting every innermost thought, and most shameful trauma, and here I am... seemingly as normal as anybody. No need to label myself as anything other than "me".

 

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Dreading the Weekend

4 min read

This is a story about time as an enemy...

Clock

I suppose almost all of us live for the weekend, or the equivalent: the working week can't pass quick enough, and our precious leisure time doesn't last long enough. "Is it Monday morning already?" we ask ourselves rhetorically, with disappointment in our voices.

Not me.

Although Friday does hold a special significance for me, it is only that I have successfully completed another billable week, earning myself a chunk of cash, which takes me a step closer to financial security. Given the choice, I would work 7 days a week, in order to achieve financial security 40% quicker. I do not look forward to the weekend, at all.

Of course, it doesn't help that my social isolation has increased, from one extreme to another: I never see another soul, at evenings and at weekends. The only people I see are strangers at the supermarket. The only words I exchange - in person - are with the cashier at the checkout. Given that I shop for food roughly every three weeks, that's an existence which is more extreme than almost anybody on the planet. A goddam Tuareg in the Sahara sees more people than me; has more social contact. A goddam monk who's sworn an oath of silence has vastly more social contact than me.

could theoretically do something about it. For sure, I could join a book club; I could become a train spotter; I could develop an interest in ornithology; I could dress up as a superhero and go to comic conventions: the world is my oyster, but - so it would seem - I'm not seizing any of the infinite opportunities open to me, to build a real-world social network.

Why not?

Why am I not out there in the big wide world, making friends and meeting people?

I have, for example, deliberately decided to be single for a while. All of the COVID-19 stuff seemed to be making dating very complicated, what with various lockdowns and restrictions on the lives of single people, and besides, I wanted to lose some weight: restaurant meals and alcohol were never going to allow me to lose weight. Also, there's nothing quite as crazy-making as people. Recently, I was the victim of a tirade of abuse, for example, which was completely unprovoked; unjustified. I haven't got the time or the energy to be abused by nasty crazies. I really don't need my inbox brimming with hateful abuse, which bears no relation to anything I've ever said or done in my life. I'm quite glad to be able to ignore that kind of unjustified abuse, because I'm not looking for a girlfriend, or indeed trying to make any kind of connection with anybody: I'm just trying to survive the winter.

The hours pass painfully slowly. It would seem like any sensible person would do something, if they were suffering as badly as I claim to be, but it's not true: in my circumstances, you'd do the same thing... eyes on the prize. You too, would suffer in the short-term, even if it seemed unbearable, because you would also know that there's only one route ahead; only once choice, although it appears to completely ignorant idiots as if there are more choices. There are not. There are no other choices.

I look around at the options, and all I see is futility. I don't want to pretend that I believe in a sky monster. I don't want to pretend that I like Salsa dancing. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in trains. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in birds. I don't even want to pretend that I'm interesting in boring and unintelligent, unambitious provincial hicks, who've never travelled and experienced other cultures, with no aptitude for free thought and certainly no capacity to entertain the notion that life should be lived in a way which is dissimilar to that of slugs, wasps and other simple beasts, like the pram-faced breeders spewing out an endless stream of pink screaming flesh into a life of misery and disappointment.

Eyes on the prize: I'll never have enough money to live out my natural life at an acceptable standard of living, but mercifully I can choose the precise day of my death, to co-incide with both what is bearable, and what is affordable.

 

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Raw Dogging Reality

4 min read

This is a story about taking the edge off...

Mulled cider

There's a popular meme which asks what's classy if you're rich, but trashy if you're poor. Among the answers is daytime drinking. Certainly, what gets classed as alcoholism for poor people, is just considered taking the edge off after a long hard day, for the wealthy.

Drinking and the United Kingdom go hand-in-hand. The weather is pretty atrocious for the majority of the year, and not in a Skandinavian way, with pretty snow and ice, but instead in a miserable grey-skied, drizzly rain kind of way. The UK doesn't get cosy during winter time, it just gets depressing. While the UK has a bad - but deserved - reputation for being the home of larger lout football hooligans, and horrendous rates of alcoholism, is it any wonder, considering the dreadful weather?

If we examine humanity's need for intoxication, we can see that it's well correlated with dreadful weather. The longer and more miserable the winter, the more people drink.

Looking at wider habits of intoxication, we can see that life is unbearable, for the majority of us, without something to take the edge off.

Why then do we fetishise brutal sobriety?

There's noting admirable about being teetotal. I've been teetotal for a month and a half, and I doesn't make me morally superior. I'm not a better person, just because I'm not imbibing alcohol. The only reason not to drink is pure vanity: that I'm dieting, and alcohol was contributing the vast majority of calories which I was consuming.

Without alcohol, I'm struggling. Without alcohol, I'm unstable and finding it almost impossible to plod along at snail's pace, bored out of my mind. I'm finding it impossible to get through the day: it's unbearably horrible.

I do not recommend experiencing raw unfiltered reality. It's awful.

Of course, nobody does experience raw unfiltered reality. Everyone drinks. Everyone smokes. Everyone pushes their buttons in some artificial way or another. Everyone takes medications. Everyone finds a way to artificially alter their brain.

I suppose that when I said we don't have the Scandinavian kind of cosiness, with warm sweaters, open fires, great central heating, insulated houses and snow outside, we do have a British kind of cosiness: country pubs, with lots of British beer. The Britons have always been big consumers of beer, and never moreso than during the dark, cold winter months. The British adapt to their miserable British winter weather, by retreating to the pub, and drinking more.

The idea that we should be able to maintain a certain constant level, in all areas of life, year-round, is complete insanity. Of course we need to sleep more when the days are shorter, the nights are longer, and it's colder. Of course, we need to be less active in the winter. Of course, we can't work the same hours. Of course, we can't go outside as much. Of course, we're going to eat and drink more. The seasons are not constant - there is summer and winter - and neither can we, as biological creatures, be constant either.

Doing a very extreme diet at the same time as being teetotal, coinciding with the clocks going back, the nights getting longer and the weather getting colder: this is something which is awful to experience, raw and unfiltered. I'm tired, hungry, cold, and I'm hit with the full force of the horrendous anxiety which human existence induces. This world is fucking shit, to experience without anything to take the edge off.

While the whole world is drinking alcohol, smoking, taking tons of pills, drinking tea, coffee, energy drinks, eating super sugary foods, upregulating themselves with gym workouts and suchlike, and bombarding themselves with a ton of dopamine-inducing entertainment - film, TV, video games, news media, social media, internet, pornography - I'm struggling along, experiencing raw reality, which is truly terrible. Do not recommend. Stay with your trusty pills - you need them!

The phrase "raw dogging reality" is stolen from a Tweet I saw, but it very aptly sums up the horribleness of human existence, without pills, booze, drugs, cigarettes or any of the other vices which make life liveable.

 

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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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World Suicide Prevention Day 2020

4 min read

This is a story about survival...

Suicide method

If you're an intelligent-sounding posh middle-class chap, dressed presentably, who has the outward appearance of having their shit together, doctors trust you more than other more disadvantaged members of society. Because I appear, to all intents and purposes, like a functional, productive, fine upstanding member of society, I was able to obtain six boxes of the maximum strength of tramadol. Each box contained 112 tablets.

My need for the tramadol - a strong opiate painkiller - had originally been legitimate, but I had weaned myself off it and managed to cope with the pain, without these painkillers. Instead, I stockpiled my prescriptions, with the intention of killing myself.

I managed to accumulate 672 of these incredibly strong opiate painkillers, with 50 milligrams of tramadol in each capsule.

The lethal dose of tramadol, which will kill 50% of rats and mice in laboratory experiments, is 350 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Assuming that my body weight is 80kg, then the lethal dose which would give me a 50/50 chance of survival, would be 28,000mg.

6 boxes, with 112 capsules, with 50mg of tramadol, equals 33,600mg.

33,600 is a bigger number than 28,000.

672 capsules is a heck of a lot of capsules.

* * *

On the 9th of September, 2017, I swallowed 672 capsules containing 50mg of tramadol. It was a time consuming exercise. Filling my mouth with capsules and gulping them down with wine - because alcohol would increase the lethality - meant that this was a quite drawn-out exercise. With each mouthful of capsules I swallowed, I was acutely aware that I was slowly reaching a dose which would almost certainly be fatal, but I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing. If I was going to hesitate, there was plenty of time to hesitate.

I did not hesitate.

Then, I waited.

To be precise, I set a timer on my phone. I knew that after a certain amount of time had elapsed - at least an hour - then the capsule shells would be fully dissolved and their contents would be dumped into my stomach and intestines, where the tramadol would start to be absorbed into my bloodstream. I knew that if I could avoid being discovered for an hour, then I would almost certainly die.

After 45 minutes, I felt that I was beyond the point of no return. I was extremely overwhelmed by the powerful painkillers entering my bloodstream, killing me. I decided to send a final tweet, saying goodbye.

* * *

I woke up in a hospital intensive care bed.

I didn't realise I was in hospital.

I didn't know what the hell was going on.

I had been in a coma for days.

* * *

So, I survived that suicide attempt.

I've never felt that I was glad to survive that suicide attempt.

I've definitely felt that I wish I didn't survive that suicide attempt, on many occasions.

* * *

If we want to prevent suicides, which I very much do, then we need to first understand why people commit suicide. We need to acknowledge that there are reasons and that very often there are not - in fact - any other choices available. Imagine if you met somebody suicidal and you asked them what's wrong, and they said to you "I'm thousands of pounds in debt", you wouldn't say, "well, it's your lucky day because I have thousands of pounds of savings". No. What you would say would be "have you tried phoning the Samaritans?". Nobody really wants to prevent suicide. Sure, some people would like it if there wasn't any suicide, the same way that people would like it if there wasn't any man-made climate change, but nobody's actually going to fucking do anything about it.

I've written one of these blog posts every year, since my suicide attempt, which almost killed me on World Suicide Prevention Day 2017. I write one of these every year, but nothing much changes.

Nothing much changes, but I do now have a million readers every year, visiting my website, looking for information on suicide.

Nothing much changes, but I do spend all my waking hours thinking about suicide. Not just my own suicide, but also other people who are suicidal: I think about how to make some real, meaningful, tangible changes in the world, which actually reduce the number of people committing suicide. Not just the usual bullshit about crisis counselling phone numbers.

 

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Sobriety Cost Me My Job

4 min read

This is a story about stability...

Coke bottles

In 2015, a bet with a friend, that I could stop drinking for 100 consecutive days, cost me my job. The story is a little bit more complicated than the simple summary I've given, but that's about the long and the short of it.

The brain has a tendency to rebound. That is to say, if you've been very calm, then your brain will rebound and make you anxious. If you've been very happy, then your brain will rebound and make you depressed. Well, mine does anyway.

Mind-altering substances can be destabilising - for me - but they can also be stabilising. For many productive years, I used a combination of stimulants and CNS depressants - caffeine and alcohol - to manage my mood. If I was going too high, I would drink booze to tamp things down, and if I was going too low, I could drink coffee to pep me up. It was a crude system, but it worked.

In terms of how my colleagues perceive me, they like me best when I'm hungover, because I'm quiet and I'm not argumentative. They like me least when I'm hopped up on caffeine, because I'm overly garrulous and quarrelsome. However, I've managed to get through decades of a very successful career in this manner, without any issue.

The issues have come when I've stopped using things like alcohol and caffeine to regulate my mood.

Stopping caffeine was beneficial. I sleep better and I'm more productive; more creative. Sure, if I needed to do a lot of very repetitive easy work, caffeine would help me concentrate, but most of the work I do is very difficult, requiring a lot of flexible thinking - caffeine is not the right tool for the job.

Stopping alcohol has been massively detrimental. I swing between periods of paralysis, where anxiety stops me from doing anything, and periods of irritability. If I'm hung over, I'm happy to coast along and keep quiet. With a clear head I often have little patience, when I'm particularly tired and stressed. Stopping alcohol makes me massively tired, because I don't sleep well.

Once the first couple of sober weeks have passed, I start to have too much energy, very much like when I've had too much coffee. My thoughts race and I'm irritated by dimwits who test my patience to the limit. I struggle with the glacial pace of large organisations, more than ever, when my brain is functioning particularly well, free from hangover or otherwise dulled by alcohol abuse.

It's hugely advantageous, if one must work with dimwits, to chemically lobotomise yourself using alcohol. It's too painful to drag dimwits along, or be held back all the time; it's too frustrating; too time-wasting. Without alcohol, the sheer incompetence and lack of productivity of most of the brainless idiots who bimble along in the corporate world, is unbearable.

Of course I'm somewhat plagued by an underlying mood disorder which predisposes me towards delusions of grandeur and irritability with dimwits, but alcohol really helps. Alcohol has helped me in my career for decades. Without alcohol, I would have gone of and done something interesting but far less lucrative, years ago. I'm extremely well paid, because I'm bribed to work with dimwits. I'm extremely well paid because it's excruciatingly boring waiting for the penny to drop in the hamster-wheel that serves as a brain in some of the dimwits that I work with.

In all honesty, I don't work with many dimwits. I do like my colleagues. There are just one or two who really try my patience and I have so little patience, now that I'm sober.

Sobriety sucks. Sobriety conflicts with my career; my employability; my likability. I need to take a break from drinking though, for the sake of my physical health. I'm about halfway though my month of sobriety, which I'm taking to give my body a break from the damaging onslaught of alcohol.

Hopefully I'll push through this difficult period and become a bit less irritable at work. Hopefully I won't lose my job, again.

 

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Dark Thoughts

4 min read

This is a story about storm clouds...

Rain on glass

I often assume that after a lengthy period without abusing drink, drugs, medication and other mind-altering substances, I'll reap some rewards. I tend to think that a period clean and sober will bring good health, and in turn, that life will improve. It's certainly true that drugs have brought nothing but chaos and turmoil into my life, making it completely unmanageable, as my mental health problems are exacerbated. Eliminating most psychoactive substances has certainly turned my life into something which looks - to the outside observer - to be stable, productive, functional and indeed, at times quite enviable. To all intents and purposes, I look, smell, sound and act like a normal member of mainstream society.

Internally, there's nothing to help me cope with the intrusive thoughts; the traumatic flashbacks.

In the comfort of my own home, as I've already written about, I yell out, grimace and flinch, as I'm assaulted by all kinds of post-traumatic flashbacks. I have horrible nightmares. I suffer lengthy periods of skin-crawling agonising anxiety, where the hands of the clock are barely moving; it lasts for an eternity.

There are no rewards for being clean and sober; only suffering.

It's unthinkable, lifting the lid when there's so much trauma. It's insanity to have it all hitting me like a freight train, every single second of every single day, even when I'm asleep.

I like to think that my brain is mending itself. I like to think that by reliving those traumas, my brain is kind of re-organising itself and exorcising stuff. I allow myself to yell out, flinch and grimace, because it seems better to let it out than to fight it and attempt to suppress it.

Thinking about it, there's mountains of stuff. There's an unimaginable amount of stuff.

The memories - the bad memories - come thick and fast, intruding into whatever I'm doing, unless I'm really working hard; really concentrating on something. I have so few distractions that there's plenty of time for my brain to throw a relentless torrent of terrible, dreadful, awful traumatic memories at me, which are so bad that they're physically painful and cause me to cry out in shock.

I don't think I'd have been able to cope without medication, but now I've lost that crutch, it feels like I stored up years worth of terrible stuff without dealing with it properly. Now it's all hitting me, seemingly all at once.

I'm unusual, in that I'm one of the least psychoactively altered people - I don't have any tea, coffee, coca-cola, fizzy drinks, nicotine, cannabis, alcohol or medication. I don't eat, drink, swallow, smoke, inject, snort or otherwise ingest anything mind-altering. That's very unusual. To give you an example, out of hundreds of people I work with, I'm the only one who doesn't drink tea, coffee or other caffeinated beverages, and my teetotaling makes me even more unusual.

As a friend said to me, quoting a popular Tweet: I'm raw-dogging reality.

It's really brutal. It's really awful. I don't recommend it at all. It's not nice. In fact, it's thoroughly unpleasant and intolerable. Don't do it. It's not worth it. It's not healthy, it's hell.

Why am I doing it then?

I have the unshakeable belief that I can achieve mood stability by avoiding all mind-altering substances, including the things we don't usually bother to think about, like tea and coffee. I feel a lot more stable - mentally - having given up everything. I'm trying to regulate my mood by doing other things. I'm hoping that I develop some healthy habits.

Certainly, after a couple of weeks teetotal, I have a lot more energy and enthusiasm; I'm a lot more active; I sleep better. These are not things to be sniffed at. Alcohol and depression combined to create a very sedentary lifestyle, which was horrifically damaging to my health. I was drinking myself to death, even though I appeared very functional and otherwise doing very well in life.

So, I'm suffering the dark, horrible invasive thoughts, driven to find out whether my brain will eventually rid itself of the toxins and settle down. Certainly, there are health benefits, but I am suffering a great deal.

 

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Invasive Thoughts

4 min read

This is a story about Tourette's...

Surveillance owl

I struggle with invasive thoughts. The thoughts are so traumatic that they cause me to wince and yell. I shout out in pain and shock when the thoughts hit me. It makes me appear like I have a tic.

What is a tic anyway?

Somebody who suffers with Tourette's is able to suppress their tic for a brief period, but then they have to let it out; to scratch the itch, as it were. I'm not claiming to have Tourette's of course, but I have some of the symptoms.

I live alone - except for my cat - in a big old house with thick walls, so I can shout out when I get hit by the invasive thoughts, and I'm mostly not bothering anybody. Sometimes I go out for a walk and I can't control the thoughts, so I yell out and flinch - tic - while I'm walking down the road. If anybody sees me, they must think that I'm very strange.

I can control my tic - mostly - when I'm in a work setting. Sometimes it gets the better of me and I mutter something or flinch in the company of my colleagues. They mostly don't notice or comment, but sometimes they do, occasionally.

I don't particularly try to control my tic when I'm with my girlfriend. We're usually in a relaxed private setting anyway, so I don't have to concentrate on controlling it as much as I can. The invasive thoughts, yelling, yelping, flinching, grimacing and other things too, happen all the time. It's fairly disconcerting to anybody who's not spent time in the company of somebody with the particular neurological complaint.

I won't be seeking any medical help for the problem. It seems to be exacerbated by alcohol, or rather by withdrawal from alcohol, so the solution is to either drink all the time, or not drink at all. I need to lose some weight and get healthier, so I am choosing the latter at the moment. It's not a severe and debilitating enough problem to seek medical help.

You know when you lie awake at night and you start remembering lots of embarrassing memories? Imagine that, except that it happens from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, and the memories are so traumatic they feel like they're causing you physical pain. That's what my invasive thoughts are like.

I might have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It seems likely. Given the severity of the trauma I've experienced, and the long-lasting problems I'm having as a result of it, it seems like the most probable thing. It's well beyond "embarrassing memories".

The thoughts don't particularly bother me; they're fleeting. Of course, I'd rather that I didn't yell, grimace, flinch and otherwise react to the severe traumatic flashbacks, but the damage is done and there's nothing much I can do about it. My life is - on the whole - unaffected by the invasive thoughts, given that they are short sharp shocks and not bothering me except for those unpredictable but frequent instants.

I wonder if I've got brain damage, but the question is a bit of a non-sequitur. The brain is a plastic organ, so it's continuously adapting; I definitely don't have a traumatic brain injury or any impairment to suggest any lasting permanent physical damage which my brain hasn't been able to adapt to, and doesn't continuously continue to adapt to.

There have been plenty of incidents which are bound to have damaged my organs, but my physical health seems mostly OK. Of course my kidneys and heart are a worry, and my general fitness levels have dropped to a really bad level, but I'm working on getting fitter.

In the course of writing this, I haven't been bothered by invasive thoughts at all; they only bother me when I'm bored. I like to keep busy. I like to keep my mind occupied. If my brain is active then it doesn't have time for invasive thoughts.

 

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Bi-Polar

3 min read

This is a story about Kim and Kanye...

Mood swings

This is not a story about Kim and Kanye. I don't know anybody called Kim and Kanye. I wrote the title of this essay and the little introductory line because apparently it was newsworthy that somebody wrote something on Instagram. Anyway, I realised that I haven't written much about bipolar recently.

I have a diagnosis of bipolar, but I don't particularly have any symptoms which are bothering me. I've been unmedicated for years and yet I'm fully functional. This is not to say that I think anyone who does use medication to help them with their bipolar is wrong to do so, but it doesn't work for me.

I sure as hell have a mood disorder. I'm suicidally depressed a lot of the time, but I also have periods of extremely high productivity. Sure, I'm very good at managing my condition, such that my friends and colleagues don't really know I've got a major mental health problem, but it doesn't mean it's not causing me any difficulties, despite appearing symptom-free.

I suppose the main problem I'm dealing with is the risk to my life. Being suicidal so often is pretty dangerous, and it's landed me in hospital - in intensive care and high dependency wards - a whole bunch of times. Still, I don't want to be medicated. If I die, I die. I'd rather not have the side-effects of powerful psychiatric medications.

Did I mention how functional I am?

Until I'm not.

I can cruise along just fine for very long periods of time, but then I crash. I always crash. Crashing is inevitable.

I don't think medication is the solution to the crashes. "Mood stabilisers" do not do what they claim to be able to. In fact, "mood stabilisers" can be highly destabilising, as I've found many times from bitter and unpleasant experience.

Certainly, anti-depressants are destabilising, always pushing me manic or at least hypomanic. I want them - obviously - because it's so horrible to be suicidally depressed all the time, but I know they're too destabilising and will cause my life to become chaotic and unmanageable.

So, I struggle along with commonly available mind-altering substances, like alcohol, which is a dreadful substance but I've become very experienced with using it to limp along through life.

I'm persevering with so-called "clean living" where I use a number of techniques to achieve more mood stability, naturally. I keep very strict bedtimes. I keep very strict meal times. I eat a balanced diet. I exercise. I limit my alcohol intake. I avoid all drugs and medications. It seems to be a winning formula. Also, money. Having plenty of money, a low-stress job and secure housing, are all very important pieces of the puzzle. If any one single thing is wrong, it throws my world into chaos and instability; it makes me unwell.

It's pretty dull really, the current story of me and my bipolar. Things are kinda under control and the things I'm doing to keep myself stable are - by design - super boring.

 

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