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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

4 min read

This is a story about girls, girls, girls...

Sleeping kitten

Life is always so filled with trepidation and uncertainty. My employment contract expires soon. My housing contract currently stipulates "no pets". My relationship status is still very much "dating". I can picture some kind of nightmarish scenario where I find myself homeless, jobless, single and with a hungry kitten to feed - that would be the worst-case outcome, which is of course what I imagine will happen when I'm feeling anxious.

On the flip side, everything could work out nicely for me. My contract could get renewed. My housing contract could be amended to allow me to keep the kitten I'm getting. My romantic interests could develop into a serious committed loving relationship. All these things are within the realms of possibility.

You could characterise me as somewhat of a control freak. I like to have things nailed down. I like to have certainty.

Perhaps I should have made different choices. I could have chosen permanent employment, instead of doing consultancy. I could have bought a house with no covenants or other contractual legal sticks to beat me with. I could have married the first girl who'd have me. Perhaps all these things would give me more certainty in my life - more security - but in my experience it's not possible to use legal contracts to guarantee anything: Life is intrinsically uncertain.

Empirically, it's obvious that most marriages will end in divorce. "Forever" is not something that anybody takes very seriously when they say their solemn marriage vows, nowadays. Perhaps it's always been the case that most humans are liars and cheats, and it seems to me like there are very few guarantees that you're not going to get your heart broken.

Our lives are based upon an immensely complex and surprisingly fragile economic system, which is liable to threaten our ability to house ourselves at almost any moment. Most people live lives of economic precarity, with very little money saved up in case they lose their job - two missed paycheques and the majority of people would be in a great deal of financial difficulty.

Humans are incredibly adaptable creatures and things which seem like catastrophes are often not as bad as we initially think: we so often find a way of overcoming adversity.

A considerable proportion of my time is spent worrying about losing my job, losing my home and having my heart broken. I suppose I've already had everything bad happen that could possibly happen - losing my job, my money, my house, my wife - and it felt like the end of the world; something I'd never be able to recover from. My life is certainly not fully repaired but occasionally I dare to dream that I'm going to end up in a far better situation than I ever would have been if I hadn't lost everything and been forced to start again from scratch.

It's not particularly in my nature to be risk-averse and I think I'm happier that I'm not trapped in a bad job, a bad marriage or a bad mortgage. My life is kinda scary, which isn't great for my anxiety levels, but there's no way that I'd be in such an enviable position if I hadn't taken huge risks. I'm glad that I'm taking risks and they're paying off, although obviously I'm aware that the more risks I take, the more chance there is of something bad happening.

Empirically and anecdotally, I do seem to get everything I want though.

One week from now I should have a gorgeous bengal kitten, all things being well.

 

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Summer's Here

4 min read

This is a story about unseasonably good weather...

Sun tan lotion

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

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

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

Summer is my favourite time of year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Treatment

10 min read

This is a story about making people better...

Ward

I remember the days when I thought that there were magic buildings full of magic people with magic potions who could make magical things happen. I remember the days when I was naïvely optimistic about the abilities of people, institutions and organisations who make highly alluring claims: we can cure you!

If I had ruptured a major blood vessel, or my body was losing its battle against a bacterial infection, you can be damn sure that I'd want somebody to stop the bleeding or give me some antibiotics. If I had an operable cancer, you can be sure that I'd want somebody to cut it out of my body.

Some areas of medicine are comparatively new. Some areas of medicine don't have a great deal of success - the data doesn't show significantly better outcomes for patients who are treated, versus those who are untreated. Medicine is actively losing its battle to save lives in some areas, such as suicide and opioid addiction. Mental health problems and addiction have been declared medical emergencies; epidemics.

Sometimes I wonder if it's useful to think of myself as having a chronic illness, and to expect that problems are just around the corner. I can have a good day, a good week, a good month... maybe even a good year. However, it's probably dangerous to start thinking of myself as "cured" or "recovered" and begin to consider myself "normal". Complacency will no doubt lead to repetition of past mistakes, which can result in an incredibly fast chain of disastrous events, destroying every semblance of a normal life, which was so convincing that I and other people were completely convinced that I'm just another ordinary bloke... not some ticking time bomb.

I fought very hard to get treatment. There was a great deal of reluctance to diagnose me as bipolar, and there was further reluctance to treat me. I seemed very functional. My problems seemed acute. Everybody hoped that I'd go away and get better without intervention.

wanted treatment. I knew I was getting sicker. I knew that my situation was deteriorating. I could see the car crash that was about to happen.

I believed that treatment was effective.

I just had to find the right treatment.

I tried so many medicines. I also believed in the "magical healing powers" of hospitals and doctors. I was indoctrinated by the medical establishment's dogma: "we are the experts and we are the only ones who can cure you".

Of course, I'm not such a fool that I believe in alternative medicine. I critically examine all the claims of all charlatans, quacks, healers and others who promote themselves as miracle-workers. Desperate people are suckers. People are also lazy and gullible. Many of us will be scammed in our lifetimes, because we are so desperate to believe in the existence of things that are too good to be true.

It would have been good I could have avoided that period of my life when I was desperately searching to find the right specialist, hoping that a stay in hospital would be my salvation, or trying a heap of different medications in the hope that I would stumble upon the right one, but it was a necessary education. I needed to learn what was possible, and what was not possible. I needed to see with my own eyes and experience those things first-hand, to learn the limitations of psychiatric medicine.

Psychiatry is young. Mainstream psychiatry - the prescribing of psychiatric medications on a massive scale - is an experiment that's barely a few decades old, which is no time at all, when we consider that anatomical studies of the human body and surgery are parts of medicine which are hundreds of years old. The present-day situation, where at least half of us will take a pill for depression or anxiety at some point in our lives, and so many of us have been taking psychiatric medications for years and years... this would have been unthinkable before Prozac successfully normalised the practice of dispensing mind-altering drugs to tens of millions of people across the USA and Europe. Nobody really knew what the long-term consequences and long-term outcomes would be.

I've lost interest in having any contact with doctors now. I've lost interest in any new developments in the field of psychiatry. I've lost interest in the idea that there will ever be a miracle pill to cure depression, anxiety or to stabilise moods. The brain has proven a far more complex organ than the blunt instruments of psychoactive substances are able to have any precise effect on. Pills are useful for curing a bacterial infection, but they are of no use in an organ which has been evolved to specifically resist attempts to alter it - the brain's ability to maintain homeostasis is incredible, and all psychiatric medications are fundamentally flawed, because they affect a plastic organ, which can simply adapt itself and return to its original state.

Hospitals can offer welcome respite - sanctuary - from the unreasonable demands of the world. Hospitals have their place as a controlled, safe environment, full of caring people. However, psychiatric care has changed radically in the short time that we have been practicing it as a branch of medicine. Those who are ill-equipped to cope with life outside institutions cannot expect to live in an asylum forever, which might sound like a good thing for those who believe that people can be cured and rehabilitated. However, in my experience, it is the horror of the "real world" which is the very reason for the epidemic of mental health problems, and it's often infinitely preferable to protected with the safe confines of an institution than to be fending for oneself in the big wide world. The idea of losing your freedom might sound terrifying and unpleasant, but for those who are struggling to cope - struggling to be functional - freedom is a small price to pay, for the comforting reassurance of life inside an institution.

When you are a child and you hurt yourself, you run to your parents to "kiss it better" but often the injury remains painful for sometime and there is nothing that can be done to alleviate your discomfort. We learn that sticking plasters, stitches and plaster casts can help our bodies mend themselves, but there is nothing to be done to speed up the healing process. There is little that can be done to take away our pain. There is little that can be done when we are suffering mental anguish.

Although my life was very badly damaged, I'm now part of a large organisation where I'm known to a lot of people, and they'd be concerned if I went AWOL. My home city is still very new to me - and I know very few people locally - but I also think that somebody would ring my doorbell and check on me if I went AWOL. I have a routine. I have put things around myself that are structured and stable, even if that rebuilding process is very far from complete.

I've been here before... so very close to a fresh start; a complete life. About a year ago, in the blink of an eye I lost most of my new friends, my new girlfriend and my new job. The year before I nearly died, and I regained consciousness to find I'd lost my girlfriend, my home and my job. I'm aware that my life is very fragile. I'm aware that my existence is precarious.

I wrote positively yesterday about my life and how far I've come since the very deepest depths I sank to, but I know that I have a difficult job trying to stabilise myself and find a way of living my life that's sustainable, and tolerable... pleasant even, one hopes.

It's strange that I've been so much and ultimately reached the conclusion that I was doing a reasonably good job of looking after myself, but I simply had some very stressful life events to deal with. I thought that I could turn to doctors and hospitals to make me better - and indeed my life was certainly saved when my physical health was severely damaged - but now I feel much happier doing everything on my own: I prescribe my own medications, adjust my own dosages... but mainly I just try as best as I can to create a tolerable set of circumstances to allow myself to thrive; I've come to recognise that my family don't care about me and have abandoned me. I've been incredibly lucky to have very loyal, generous, kind, caring friends and wonderful girlfriends, who've believed in me, and looked after me, and stuck by me through the difficult times.

When you see the finished product - a functional man - then we might assume either that he never had any major difficulties in his life, or that treatment was a success. I'm grateful for the hard work, effort and dedication of those who work in psychiatry, but my ultimate conclusion is that it's a flawed branch of medicine. Things could have ended very badly, but those friends who bothered to come and visit me in hospital, check on me when I went AWOL, look after me when I was sick, believe in me, support me... that's the thing that was the key to giving me a chance at getting my life back. Those who've read my blog and are kind enough to reach out to me - to be in contact - have helped me to feel like I have some value, and to feel some self-esteem.

My colleagues don't know how sick I've been, and they don't know how much it means that I'm able to be treated like a normal person at work. My colleagues don't know how important it is that I have the structure and routine of office life. My colleagues don't know how great it is for my mental health to have the social interaction that we have, even if it's just office chit-chat.

We might conclude that the doctors I saw 11 years ago were right - I'm not really very sick and I'm quite capable of living a fully functional normal life - but they're also wrong, because everything had to get smashed to smithereens and rebuilt from nothing, before I could reach this point. I nearly died so many times. Was it avoidable though? Probably not.

That's my conclusion: I've learned a hell of a lot, but it would be wrong of me to start telling people that I have the answers, because what I discovered was that I had to learn everything first-hand. If I had a time machine and went back to tell myself everything I've learned up until now, I don't think I'd believe myself and I'd end up making exactly the same decisions, much like children have to make mistakes even though their parents warn them about everything and try to protect them.

Does this mean that I forgive my parents for abandoning me? Nope. If your kid is sick in hospital, you go and visit them. Period. No ifs. No buts. You don't abandon your children, no matter how old they are.

 

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Can't Talk, Dating

3 min read

This is a story about multitasking...

Plate of food

I like to be punctual. I think it's especially bad to bail on a date or be late, because it's often a time of some nervousness/anxiety for all except those who seem to be eternally dating. For 'the rest of us' there's a certain amount of fear of rejection, wanting to be seen as attractive, worrying about spilling something on our outfit just before we're about to leave, fretting about what to wear, wondering if we'll recognise our date and whether it'll be awkward - to kiss or not to kiss; one kiss or two; a little half-hug? How on earth are you supposed to greet a perfect stranger the first time you meet, when you are meeting for the express purpose of getting intimate with each other to see if you're compatible.

A big chunk of my day was spent buying new clothes, which I must admit was strongly motivated by the desire to make myself as presentable as possible - trendy and cool - when meeting prospective love interests. I got a little bit carried away and spent more money than I should have done, but I'm very happy with my purchases and I'm very much looking forward to wearing my new clothes.

I've spent the afternoon finally getting my house in some semblance of good order. My main lounge now has both sofas assembled and I have a bedside table.

Did I go so far as to change the bed linen on my bed? That seems a little presumptuous. Of course a part of me would love to "get lucky" to use a turn of phrase which I find quite horrible. I guess there's something which is very good for any insecurities about being attractive, to have somebody want to sleep with you, but I'm a hopeless romantic and that level of intimacy is not just sex for me... I'm not a one-night-stand kinda guy and I'm not into hookup culture.

I now have 30 minutes to shower, get dressed and catch a cab to meet my date. I must admit, I am not struggling to match with very attractive women who want to date, but it's all in the "getting to know each other" stages, which I find somewhat bothersome, especially when it's just a preamble to what I really want, which is to be in a relationship. I know that it seems prudent to choose carefully and not rush the process, but another part of me knows that I've managed to make relationships work with very different people, so I certainly don't have a "type" that I tend to go for.

I have 27 minutes now. Gotta go!

Wish me luck!

 

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Cutting My Meds

4 min read

This is a story about tapering off pills...

Weed

I'm not a stoner. Never have been. Never will be. However, it seems nigh-on impossible to endure modern life without something to 'take the edge off. Most people drink, smoke, have tea, coffee and/or indulge in recreational narcotics. Most people take antidepressants. Most people take things to help with anxiety. Most people take things to help with sleep. Life is pretty dreadful without mind-altering substances, prescribed or otherwise.

My office, which is filled with many thousands of people, functions on tea, coffee, cigarettes and vaping. There are probably numerous colleagues who are also secret alcoholics, swigging vodka from bottles hidden in their gym bag or perhaps kept in their car. I've worked for more than two decades in large organisations - I know what people are like.

At the peak of my stress and misery - just a few weeks ago - I was swallowing three times the recommended dosage of Xanax and zopiclone. I was heavily medication dependent. My sleep was greatly aided, but my alertness was drastically affected and my reaction times were probably impaired. I felt very strange: as if I was having an out-of-body experience. My anxiety levels soared as my working day wore on, and the afternoons and evenings were unbearably unpleasant.

I cut my dose by 33%.

It wasn't that bad.

Taking 4 pills instead of 6 is easy enough to do: two Xanax and two zopiclone.

To cut my dosage again was going to be more difficult, except I had the foresight to have obtained some half-dose tablets, so that I was able to cut my dosage by 25%: I swallowed one and a half Xanax and one and a half zopiclone.

It wasn't that bad.

Now I take one pill of each: one Xanax and one zopiclone. Cutting my dose by 33% again was aggressive, but I've managed to do it. My sleep was severely disturbed, but I soldiered through a difficult weekend and I've managed to just about manage to get enough sleep to not lose my job. My alertness has improved significantly and I'm very pleased that I've cut my dosage by 67% in the space of just 3 weeks, which is extremely rapid.

I have left myself enough of the half-dose zopiclone tablets to be able to cut my dosage by 50% at some point. The Xanax tablets break very conveniently into half and quarter doses. Xanax is evil - it's so short-acting that it's tempting to keep popping pills whenever the anxiety comes back, which it always does. I'm desperate to free myself from my dependency on Xanax.

The prospect of being released relatively soon from my chemical prison is incredibly pleasing. Although the pills served their function very effectively, allowing me to cope during some incredibly stressful times, it's a terrible habit to become dependent on pill-popping every time anxiety occurs. Anxiety is unbearable, but benzodiazepines are a terrible short-term solution, which ultimately leave the user worse off than they began. The low price of black market benzodiazepines and their ubiquity is shocking, but life is very unusual when it's structured around medications, and Xanax is probably one of the very worst medications to become dependent on.

Cutting my zopiclone dose by 50% is going to be the hardest, because it'll be the biggest drop that I've had so far. I will cut my Xanax from a whole 2mg tablet, to 1.5mg, then to 1mg, then to 0.5mg... and then I'll be free. However, zopiclone tablets are not particularly designed to be split so easily. Purchasing some half-dose zopiclone tablets was prescient, but I'm anxious about insomnia and struggling to get up in the morning to go to work.

My life is made so much more bearable by having the ability to alter my body clock to suit early-bird culture, when I'm naturally a night owl. My life is made tolerable by having the ability to medicate away the worst of my anxiety, when it becomes unbearable.

I have no idea how I'm going to function without my tablets, and I fear that I might be tempted to eat and drink more by way of compensation, which would adversely affect my physical health, but I do want to applaud my progress so far this year: I've been virtually teetotal, while also cutting down my meds by 67% so far, which is a big deal.

Kind of a boring story... but I wanted to report on some progress I feel proud of.

 

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Blur

9 min read

This is a story about trying to do too much...

Ceiling fan

I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want and what I need. I think I've got enough experience to know what makes a happy, fulfilling, complete and stable life. I think I've been through plenty of difficult periods when my life has been incomplete, to know what was missing. I've been through very happy periods when I've been full of joy and contentment, and I know the things that created those delightful episodes.

There aren't any short cuts.

It's a strange situation, knowing what my life would contain if I could cherry-pick all the things I needed from all the years I've been alive. I'd choose the huge group of friends I met in the kitesurfing community, and the exotic travel locations we went to. I'd choose living in a city by the beach, where I could have barbecues and play volleyball on a random weekday evening after work. I'd choose garden parties, dinner parties, pool parties, eating out, board games nights and sitting around drinking wine, with a house full of great friends. I'd choose a stable long-term loving relationship with somebody kind and caring, with an incredible career and fascinating educated opinions, who dazzled me with their intellect. I'd choose to have loyal friends nearby, who'd do anything to help me, and I'd do anything for them. I'd be surrounded by people. I crave company and affection.

I hate being single. I hate that all my friends live far away. I hate that I don't have a pet.

I hate not feeling settled, secure, in love with my home city and in love with my house.

I think I'm going to love Cardiff. Soon enough I'll buy a place of my own. I'll make friends. I'll meet a special somebody. I'll probably get a cat. I'll get back into kitesurfing and wakeboarding. I'll build a social network around me, which will make me happy - my gregarious and extroverted side will come back again, and I'll feel like myself; I'll feel glad to be alive.

I don't tend to do things slowly and steadily.

I want everything immediately.

I've set about trying to have a lovely house in a lovely area, meet people, fall in love and meanwhile carry on with all of life's daily demands, such as working my job and paying my bills. It might sound like the regular stuff that we're all trying to do, but you have to understand that my life was profoundly dysfunctional. Every facet of my life was incredibly damaged in some way, and I have found myself starting from scratch, more-or-less.

Of course, there are people whose lives are decimated and they don't enjoy the many advantages which I do, such as being able to find well-paid employment anywhere in the world. My health is good enough that I can work with limited impairment. My experiences have prepared me, such that I'm able to deal with just about anything and everything that life throws at me. I live a very charmed existence.

As it stands, my life is very incomplete, but I'm no longer paralysed by depression, anxiety, indecision and hampered by financial problems. The feelings of unhappiness are prompting me to take action, and I'm pursuing every avenue simultaneously to fix-up my life.

One year ago, I had a very lovely girlfriend, a great home with gorgeous panoramic views of the sea, and a well-paid job which was a short drive away. I might sound like Goldilocks, but that city was not somewhere I could fall in love with. The friends I made there who had cared very much about me, and I adored, had vanished as quickly as they had arrived in my life - an argument which exploded, and ended the relationships I had with an entire family. My house of cards collapsed, and I was jobless, single and sick, in a place where I only had a couple of friends left... and neither were particularly well equipped to help me.

Today, I have a big empty house. I love my job and I love the people I work with. I'm becoming wealthy again. I'm in a city which I find jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Some parts of my life are absolutely perfect.

The parts of my life which are broken and dysfunctional are being fixed. I'm meeting people. I'm no longer trapped in depressed isolation.

Being single is particularly horrible. I haven't had a hug in far too long. I've had nobody to cuddle me when I've been feeling terrible. For a time, I felt like I had nobody in the world who I could phone in a crisis, but slowly my life improves: a friend from work has been in contact, for example, making me realise that I'm not completely invisible... there are people who care about me.

I know that there are people who care about me all around the world, but I promise you that it's pretty awful being in a city you've never visited before, where you don't know anybody, and you're living all alone in a house full of cardboard boxes and unassembled flat-pack furniture. My clothes are all still in suitcases, because I have no furniture to unpack into yet.

Of course, we must consider the great potential that my life holds. In a matter of months, the scary alien city where I'm completely unable to find my way around, will become my home and I will feel attached to the place. My empty house will be filled with my things and I will make it comfortable, and pleasant to live in. I'll make friends and my social life will no longer be something painfully absent. I'll meet somebody special and have a companion to share life with. All of these things will happen, at some point in the future.

Because I'm used to living life at breakneck pace, doing everything all at once, of course I want to do as much as humanly possible. My life is a blur. I'm not doing things in a methodical, measured and sustainable way - I'm charging headlong into every problem, attempting to get what I want overnight.

I should have been in bed a long time ago, getting as much sleep as possible before another punishing week at work on a highly stressful project where I'm under a great deal of pressure. I should be protecting the things which are the essential enablers for everything else: without a job and money, my life will collapse like a house of cards, again.

I almost skipped writing for two days running, because I'm spread so thin, but I'm forcing myself to write now because I don't want a single part of my life to be neglected and left to rot and wither on the vine. I have ploughed a significant amount of time and effort into this writing project, and I'm loath to lose something which is such a consistent and central part of my identity, especially when my embryonic new life is just a tiny seed - it hasn't even begun to sprout green shoots yet.

The problems I have are nice problems to have. I write to you, happy that things are clearly improving, even if I haven't yet claimed any triumphs since successfully moving to Cardiff. It's slightly more intangible to say that things are getting better, when the gains are so imperceptibly marginal; the changes are so slow and none of the major milestones have been achieved yet. However, I had a nice weekend.

As always, I'm very hard on myself and I feel like I should be succeeding in every area of my life, overnight, but things are taking time and effort, and I will have to sustain my efforts if I want to get the things I need. It sucks, but at least I'm starting to have yet another attempt at rebuilding my life. I've had setbacks, but on the whole I have to say that there's more positive progress to report than negative things which have happened.

I seem to be finding reserves of energy that I didn't think I had. I seem to be more capable than I thought I was. The amount that I've achieved in a single weekend seemed inconceivable to me, and was causing me some anxiety, but in fact everything went very well and I'm very pleased.

Of course, there is a great deal of peril and uncertainty in my life, which will remain for some time, while I cement my gains and secure my future, but I've done pretty damn well at coping with setbacks recently, and I hope that I'm able to continue without any major disasters. I hope that I can keep control of my own propensity to self-sabotage. I hope that I can subdue my underlying mood disorder, such that I can plough through the depressive episodes and suppress the manic episodes, and emulate the behaviour of those who are fortunate enough to be blessed with mental stability.

My life has been a blur. My frenetic activity is so fast that my movement is a blur. The amount that I'm trying to do all at once creates a blurry picture, as all the different activities all blend together and I find myself continuously in strange novel situations, attempting to make sense of what's going on: mostly a passenger on a rollercoaster ride.

Life is certainly interesting at the moment, although I am always afraid that I will burn out or break down at any moment. I'm probably over-investing in the wrong things, as always, but that's me: a blur of activity.

 

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Reading Newspapers Makes Me Depressed

8 min read

This is a story about correlation and causation...

Headline

I read with interest that the number of prescriptions for antidepressants had skyrocketed to an all-time high in the United Kingdom. 70 million prescriptions were written for 65 million people, meaning that for the first time, there were more packets of pills dished out than there are men, women and children in the entire nation. Unlike Sweden where national records are held, which allow statisticians to understand what percentage of the population are taking medications for anxiety and depression, the UK has to guess based on the number of prescriptions, but it would appear that it is undoubtably normal to be swallowing pills to correct for serious psychiatric conditions.

I read with dismay that doctors believe that the surge in prescriptions is believed to be due to bad things in the news. This is faulty thinking, because we are the news. It's impossible to separate ourselves from the events of the world - the media simply holds up a mirror. The media reflects what we can see around us with our own eyes: the destruction of the natural world, overcrowding and poverty. We know that we live in a very different world than the Baby Boomers grew up in. The many cushy things that previous generations took for granted - free university education, affordable housing, secure jobs - are now so hard to obtain that tiny children are coerced into studying hard from the moment that they can form words, in the hope that their sharp-elbowed parents can barge them to the front of the long queue.

If we look at suicide statistics, we can see that the "it's the news' fault" argument doesn't hold water. The number one cause of death of men age 20 to 40 is suicide, and those deaths are preventable, yet medicine's answer is to blame the newspapers. This is a scandalous situation, that those who are tasked with responsibility for public health would shrug their shoulders and point to the symptoms, not the cause of the disease.

To use myself as a case study, it seems unethical to start a family when the prospects for those children are so dire. What a dreadful thing to do - to bequeath a child a planet which has been irreparably wrecked; to so knowingly and wickedly create new life when the existing life is already having such a miserable existence and is so doomed to meet a horrible end. Life seems very pointless and purposeless, when there is very little hope of living a life which doesn't compound the errors of generations, and hasten the demise of the human race.

For many generations, they were content to build houses, grow crops, keep livestock and have food in their bellies. For many generations, it was a lifetime's work to meet your own basic human needs, and the needs of the children who were born in the absence of contraception and abortion. Today we have a virtually unlimited supply of high-calorie foods and almost none of us build our own homes, grow our own food, or have any dealings with farm animals. We do not know hunger, but we do know boredom, purposelessness, apathy, angst and learned helplessness.

I see people who become obsessed with fitness and toughening themselves up to seemingly cope with a disaster which never comes. Nobody is ever going to need to outrun a wild animal. Nobody is ever going to need to carry rocks or toil in the fields or forest to get enough food for their family. There are a huge number of people who are "prepping" for doomsday scenarios, even though their efforts are futile in the face of the enormously violent events which smite us.

It seems obvious that anxiety and depression are natural reactions to a world that is devoid of any opportunity to use our enormous brain for the ingenious problem-solving which would have been very useful 100,000 years ago, when humans had to continuously adapt to the ever-changing seasons.

I can think back to a time when I was obsessed with the wind and the waves, not in any negative way, but in fact I would relish the arrival of a large North Atlantic depression. I studied the weather forecast on an almost hourly basis and I would drive to parts of the country specifically to seek out storms which would cause trees to topple and buildings to be damaged. I had no control over these violent events of nature, but being part of the storm made me happy. I harnessed the wind - quite literally - and I revelled in the awesome power of nature.

Today, I have a ghoulish morbid obsession with the news, half-hoping that some catastrophe strikes and civilisation is plunged into chaos. I find the waiting to be quite intolerable. I find that my anxiety and depression levels are highly correlated to my boredom and lack of stimulation. My life is very stable and secure, but it's also unbearable. I yearn to be freed from the crowds of people who trudge co-operatively from place to place - why do they not scream and throw their briefcases away, and run off to live in the woods? Why does nobody flee from the concrete jungles and seek out a life which has more uncertainty, hunger and threat to life, but also provides some challenges and obstacles for the brain to tackle?

It strikes me that the source of my anxiety and depression is rooted in the restrictive nature of modern society, where I am unable to build anything or do anything, without considerable restrictions. My forebears were able to build their own houses, fence off some territory, cultivate their crops and rear their livestock - all of these things required a combination of physical and mental effort. For me to get a house and some food, I don't have to do anything - I'm just required to sit in a comfortable seat for a certain amount of hours every day, keeping my mouth shut.

Of course it's seemingly childish to romanticise simpler times, when disease and hunger were rife, but as anybody who's suffered anxiety and depression will tell you: these things are so bad that you want to kill yourself.

Living a life where you want to kill yourself is not great, and I don't think that refusing to read newspapers or watch TV is the answer, just as much as I think that pills are not the answer either. The solution lies in living a different kind of life altogether.

You tell me that I wouldn't be happy if I was cold and hungry, but you're wrong. I've been plenty cold and hungry, and I can tell you that I was vastly happier than I am today in a warm house with plenty of food in the fridge and cupboards. I was happy because I was free to do something about my situation. If I was cold, I could shelter. If I was hungry I could seek food. As I am presently, I can do nothing except sit at my desk, mute, waiting to die. I have no available options to improve my situation. I have nothing to challenge my brain and body. I have no purpose, except as a decorative lump of flesh and bone sat in an office chair.

Of course I follow the news avidly, but the news does not depress me or make me anxious. My lack of participation makes me depressed and anxious. Why am I just a spectator? Why am I passive in everything? If I was caught in a rainstorm I would look for some object to shelter beneath, but as a member of modern society I am expected to let everything lash down upon my head without flinching. The food and the housing which I enjoy are a byproduct of my inaction not my actions. If I was to act instinctively, I would only make things worse for myself and end up sleeping rough on the streets, hungry and cold. The situation is absurd.

Not taking antidepressants is a political statement, as much as anything. It's not me who needs to be adjusted to fit into society, but instead it is society which is unbearable to live within - there's not enough space for me to do anything other than keep my mouth shut in an attempt to fit in. I refuse to be medicated into a state of glassy-eyed passivity, like a cow chewing mindlessly on the cud.

Of course, if I spawned an infant by accident, then I woud surely be glad of every amenity available in modern society. I'd be cramming high-calorie foods into my child's face and indoctrinating them in the ways and means of staying in the top-half of humanity. However, as a thoughtful, considerate and ethical person who's considered the prospects for any theoretical child, I have decided that it would be cruel to the child and wickedly selfish to not avail myself of reproductive choices, choosing to avoid creating any more miserable mortal souls.

The stability and security of modern life are at the root of our unhappiness, not the state of utopia that we thought it would be. We are hard-wired for adverse conditions, and without that adversity we are nervous and twitchy. Without any route to gaining contentedness that is not morally wrong, we are depressed. The logical conclusion is that we should kill ourselves.

 

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Indoor Voice

6 min read

This is a story about shouting...

Dafodils

I find myself in the thick of the action at work and I'm failing to keep my head down and my mouth shut. It would be better if I gave my opinion quietly and infrequently, after much careful consideration, but instead I shoot from the hip and engage my mouth before my brain. Most of what I say has a solid basis and imparts some useful expertise, but it would be better if my voice wasn't so often ringing out loudly across the open-plan office.

I'm not sure how received I am. I'm loud, outspoken, quick to respond, decisive, but I'm also like a flame sucking all the oxygen out of the room. I wonder how little room I'm leaving for other people.

I know that I'm not a bad manager - I'm not prone to micromanaging people or being too fussy about the details, such that there's no room for my underlings to think for themselves - but I wonder if I'm a bad team member at times. I know that I'm patient and forgiving with junior members of the team and I invest a huge amount of time in knowledge sharing and training, to help them, but I'm pretty scathing with my words when I see bad quality work done by people who call themselves fully trained and experience professionals. I sometimes wonder what my colleagues do with all their time - how do they entertain themselves if they're not busy?

I often wonder who has the right approach: my colleagues who don't do much so that their projects are never completed, or me finishing projects early? My colleagues would argue that you can make yourself redundant if you do a good job and finish your project to a high standard, such that it doesn't need much more ongoing work to maintain it. I would argue that you're not a good engineer if you never finish a project.

I went home yesterday feeling as though I'd been too outspoken and that I should apologise to one of my colleagues. My brain was badly affected by anxiety and flooded with thoughts about myriad things which needed considering. I bombarded my colleagues with a whole host of things to consider, which probably overwhelmed them and I certainly didn't make a single clear and concise point - I simply couldn't stop words from spilling out of my mouth.

This week, some ideas that I've been nursing for 6 months are coming together. A piece of work that I did in a flurry of manic activity is taking shape as something tangible, just the way I had planned it would. It seems unusual that I should have done all the hard work so long ago and then rested on my laurels, but I needed to have a holiday and move house, which were a huge distraction. The festive season is a bad time to try and do anything important. As it happens, the timing has worked out perfectly, although I have been very bored at times this year.

Having sat quietly at my desk for a very long time, thinking, I now find that I struggle to regulate the volume of my voice. I struggle to hold back in meetings. I struggle to remain quiet for the benefit of the whole team. I'm struggling not to be loud and overbearing.

I would be well advised to put my headphones in and confine myself to my own thoughts for a few days, to give my colleagues a break from the sound of my voice. It would be a good idea to make a promise to myself to say nothing in meetings, except the very bare minimum required, to make a bit more space for my colleagues. I'm like a liquid poured into a mould, filling every square inch of space and leaving no air pockets.

Having unmedicated bipolar disorder in an office environment is problematic. I trample on toes and speak too much, too loudly. I must be very annoying.

I'm aware that I can get carried away with my productivity and ability to solve hard problems, and I can start to see other people as deadweight, which can lead me to saying unkind things and being very rude and dismissive. I forget that people take pride in their work - even if it's rubbish - and can be offended when I bulldoze my way straight through it inconsiderately, in pursuit of my goals. I'm aware that my future employment depends on playing nice with others, and I should calm myself down during these periods of mania-like frenetic activity.

I forget that I'm no longer managing huge teams all across the world. I forget that I'm no longer CEO of a startup that I founded. I forget that I'm no longer the boss, but in fact I'm a consultant who's been hired for my expertise and opinions, which need to be tactfully given to the client. I forget I'm not in charge of the project. Often, my loud authoritative voice can lead to people getting into the habit of looking to me for leadership, when I'm not in charge of anything, which is a mistake on my part, because my strength is in my knowledge and experience, and my ability to solve hard problems - it's not my job to lead the team, but I always find myself naturally providing some degree of leadership, although I don't actively seek to gain power and control.

It's strange. Sometimes people are very relieved to have me working on their project, because I always have a clear sense of direction and I provide a reassuring level of seniority - people trust that I know what I'm doing - but I continuously jeopardise my job by doing things which could very badly backfire if they didn't work.

I have a colleague who's close to retirement who's been hired to do pretty much the same job as me. We couldn't be more different. He spends his days listening to the radio and reading the news. I think there's a lot I could learn from him about plodding along as slow as possible, without getting sacked. Sometimes I find the attitude to be loathsome, but what's the real harm in it - isn't he getting a lot better deal out of life than I am? What use is all my hard work? What good will it do?

I need to calm down. Arrogance will flare up and I'll start being disrespectful to people, and that will be the beginning of the end.

 

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Clean & Sober

5 min read

This is a story about prescribed medications...

Akira

After 4 months of sobriety I'm grateful for the weight loss. My liver must be very grateful for the break. It was exactly 2 years ago that my addiction peaked, when I had managed to obtain a stockpile of my drug of choice that would last me 6 years. Having that stockpile was a pivotal moment, because I knew that I would not survive for more than 6 months with a virtually limitless supply of the drug I was hopelessly addicted to. I knew that I had tested the patience of a very supportive friend - my guardian angel - and I announced to her that I would be committed to overcoming my addiction, which I have done.

These two achievements are not to be underestimated, and are also set against a backdrop of great financial hardship and other averse circumstances. I've been forced to move around. I've been forced to work when I'm sick. I've been forced to go deeper into debt and to re-invest the money I receive, in order to escape from the horrible trap I found myself caught in.

It's not really possible to travel directly from the depths of drug addiction and alcoholism to clean and sober living. A person can't wake up one day and decide that they're going to stop taking drugs and drinking. There are consequences of such a decision.

My hospitalisation in 2017 represents the peak of the consequences of my decision to attempt to quit addictive substances. At that time, I was still physically addicted to one prescribed medication and four which I obtained on the black market. It seems obvious that I should have ended up on an intensive care ward, having seizures, in a coma, with a machine breathing for me. It seems obvious that the battle was too hard to win and I would capitulate.

Presently, I am physically addicted to one medication and psychologically dependent on another. In terms of progress, this is a vast improvement versus taking 5 medications every day - instead of three physical dependencies, I have one, and instead of two psychological dependencies, I have one.

I swallow one pill for anxiety. If I abruptly stop taking that medication, I risk having a fatal seizure.

I swallow one pill for sleep. If I abruptly stop taking that medication, I will have insomnia.

I don't drink, which is great news for my physical health.

I'm working, which is great news for my bank balance.

Everything seems to be under control.

However.

My dependence on the black market is problematic. I had attempted to stockpile enough medication to allow myself to taper my dosage down and free myself from the physical and psychological dependence on the tablets, but the disruption of a breakup and moving house was a huge setback. My stocks are running low and I'm having problems replenishing my supply.

Of course, my plan all along was to end up completely substance-free. I tried in 2018 but my drinking got out of control. Drinking alcohol as a way of compensating for the unpleasant withdrawal side-effects of stopping medications, is not something that's good for my health. I gained weight and became alcohol dependent. Having broken my alcohol dependency, I would like to remain mostly teetotal because it's better for my weight, fitness and general health.

If you talk to any doctor they will tell you that all their patients suffer significant discomfort when withdrawing from psychiatric medications which they have been taking for long periods. In fact, the doctors will tell you that it's virtually impossible to get their patients to quit the prescribed medications which they have become dependent on.

Why quit?

It seems to be in vogue to stop people taking medicines which humanity has used safely and effectively for a long time. It seems to be trendy to stop people from taking opiates, benzodiazepines, tranquillisers, sedatives, hypnotics, sleeping pills and a whole host of medicines which were greedily guzzled by many generations without any issues. It seems to be the way of modern medicine to offer 'safer' ineffective alternatives and refuse to prescribe effective medications.

I can attest to the great difficulty of getting off the addictive medications which doctors don't prescribe. I've been addicted to all of them, and I've successfully stopped taking all of them for lengthy periods, so I can describe in exquisite detail the very many agonies and unpleasantnesses associated with cessation of these medications. I can recall exactly what the withdrawal side-effects are like for the pills that your doctor won't give you.

I find it hard to find a good reason to quit and be completely 100% free from any mind-altering substances, but I'm certainly having difficulties in maintaining a reliable supply, which puts me at risk of a potentially fatal seizure. Quitting the medications which give my life enough stability to be able to hold down a well-paid job, is not desirable, but it seems necessary given the exhaustive efforts undertaken to thwart me - playing the stupid cat-and-mouse game with a bunch of people who don't care about the consequences, is a waste of energy and I would love to be free from the stress of dependency and uncertainty about the supply of something which I physically need.

Luckily, my physical dependency is something I have the capacity to alter - unlike type 1 diabetes - so I am following through with my plan to wean myself off the two remaining medications, hopefully slowly enough that it doesn't destabilise me so much that I lose everything.

My version of clean and sober might not seem very impressive to you, but I assure you that it is a considerable achievement to have beaten fully-blown addiction to every substance imaginable and restored some health and wealth to my shattered life.

 

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Making A Fool Of Myself

4 min read

This is a story about safeguards...

Mr Happy

There is an oft-quoted statistic about 93% of communication being non-verbal. When I write, you cannot hear my tone of voice and you cannot see my body language or facial expressions. When I write, I do so in advance of your reaction, so I am unable to tell whether what I am saying is being well received or whether it is causing people to recoil in horror and disgust.

It's damn hard being live-wired into the fabric of the internet. It's not easy using public writing as a coping mechanism.

I get home and my anxiety levels are sky-high having spent a whole day in an office trying to act normal and keep my mouth shut. I get home and I've usually spent the bulk of the day trapped in my own skull with my thoughts bouncing around inside my head. I get home and I'm suddenly very alone, but I'm in an environment where I can somewhat relax and be myself. The net result is an outpouring of jumbled thoughts and feelings, which get typed and published onto this website, for the entire world to see.

Because of the incredible disruption of moving house and things which have greatly disturbed my brain chemistry, I have an ever-increasing amount to say, in a desperate attempt to occupy my mind and bring some structure to my life. My routines are sacrosanct to me but I have little control in my work environment, where I must conform to bland office mediocrity and keep my head below the parapet, so my writing is the part of my routine where I blow off some steam. Unfortunately, there's a great deal of pressure to be released.

I'm aware that my daily word count has been creeping up little by little, to the point where I'm easily blasting out 1,500 or 2,000 words at a sitting. Nobody wants to read that much. Instead of writing short sweet little blog posts, I churn out disturbing half-formed thoughts from the depths of my subconscious, which reveal a side of me that nobody ever directly acknowledges in themselves, let alone writes about at length.

Instead of finding a dark corner of the internet to lurk in and turning my insecurities into hate-filled invective directed at a common chosen target, replete with the jargon of a particular online community, instead I have developed a reflex where if I think it, I remember it and I write it down. My daily writing reflects all the unspeakable things which any person might think but never say. I say the things because of my increasing isolation.

I'm lucky enough to have a great number of friends online who I could chat to, but I feel as though I'm poisoned and that I must cut off the limb which the venomous snake bit. I feel as though I have to purge myself of toxicity. I feel as though I must try to vent all the terrible things I'm feeling, in order to feel better.

I write out of sheer desperation.

I doesn't seem to matter how much I write - it doesn't make things better, but sometimes it makes things worse. I write because it's a well-established habit and pattern of behaviour. I write because it helps me to get my thoughts in order. I write because it helps me feel in control of my life. I write because I'm proud that I'm creating something. I write because it gets a reaction. I write because it gives me a connection to people. I write because people respond. Sometimes, however, people don't respond and the lack of reaction is distressing.

I push very hard. I push myself. I push others.

I'm not sure if I'm pushing people away, but I certainly stopped engaging properly with people.

I feel so overwhelmed with the enormity of the task of getting my life back in good order - financially for example - that I've whittled away everything which doesn't fit to a very austere and minimalistic routine. I eat, sleep, work and write. Most other people have their families, friends, kids, pets and other such things in their lives, but my life has been reduced to a crude cartoon.

I reached 700 words and I promised myself I wouldn't write any more.

Please, tell me if you're still listening; still reading.

 

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