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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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Minor Discomfort

4 min read

This is a story about unrealistic expectations...

Cleaning cupboard

I'm not sure where this 'unrealistic' thing came from. Realistically, we will succumb to a horrible disease, and then die. This much, our parents knew for certain when they decided to have children. Realistically, our parents knowingly condemned us to a life of deprivation and want; disease and death. Realistically, our expectation should be to die in fear, agony and discomfort, after struggle and suffering.

Is there any point in counting our blessings? Why not count our curses? Either option is comparably meaningless as a mortal creature in a godless universe.

I wonder how frequently a minor inconvenience seems sufficient grounds for suicide, to me. Certainly in the past few years, I've been so consumed with horrendous anxiety over 'trivial' life events, that I've lived with near-constant suicidal depression. I've lost count of the number of times that I've promised myself that I'll end the suffering if a certain unfortunate event occurs. I've lost count of the number of times I've felt, for a moment, on a knife edge about to end my life, triggered by seemingly the most minor of things; the most inconsequential and hard to fathom, for those who aren't troubled with such extreme sensations.

It's hard to know if things are getting better or worse. Certainly, I overcame problems with moving house, potentially losing my income, some invasive background checks, plus the hurricane-strength headwinds of debt and other money worries, which completely eroded any hope and sense of wellbeing, constantly. I dealt with breakups, losing my cat, a car which had to be scrapped, another car which got crashed into, multiple organ failure... you know, that kind of stuff. Normal everyday ordinary kinda stuff.

I'm no fan of the contrived platitudes about counting blessings, or suchlike idiotic nonsense. However, it did occur to me that I'm grateful that, for example, I have no need to deal with doctors or dentists; I have no need to deal with solicitors; I have no need to deal, on the whole, with the general public. I suppose it's a somewhat charmed existence, certainly versus being one of the oft-mentioned starving African children, or indeed the one any only person on the entire planet who's got it worse than everybody else, and therefore by extension is the only person out of nearly 8 billion, who's legitimately entitled to complain or feel sorry for themselves: everyone else has to suck it up and "count their blessings".

I reserve the right. I reserve the right to complain. I reserve the right to feel sorry for myself. I reserve the right to kill myself, whenever I want. I reserve those rights.

It seems to me, that the only way that humanity's self-awareness can be balanced, along with the curse of intellect which allows the perception of the futility of existence, is with the ability to end one's own life. Sure, vast swathes of humanity are too stupid and ignorant to be cursed with the comprehension of the awfulness and meaningless of existence; afflicted by angst, ennui, anxiety, depression and other horrors visited upon those who are elevated above the level of rutting beasts. Sure, it would be soul-soothing to be swept up in the mass hysteria; too busily acting like a slug or a wasp, intent on passing on its genes, like a mindless beast... sure that would obviously be better, in terms of personal suffering, but it's unethical to knowingly inflict such awfulness on an innocent victim: namely those children who did not consent to be born, nor indeed should have been born into such a dreadful world. There is no excuse for the crime of bringing children into this world, to suffer and die afraid, in pain, after a life of struggle, discomfort and unmet want.

I suppose it's an incredibly unoriginal and banal observation, that organised religion provides a convenient but provably wrong fantasy for those who wish to justify and forgive their own wicked deeds. You might argue that morality is the sole preserve of organised religion, and in a way you are right: there are no supernatural entities who sit in judgement over any of us; there is no objective morality; everything is permissable, within the confines of the universal laws of physics.

So, in conclusion: commit suicide, or commit murder, or don't. Nobody gives a shit. Nothing matters. Life is meaningless and all human history will be obliterated such that any and all existence of humanity's existence will be utterly undetectable; totally and irretrievably destroyed.

 

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No Retreat

4 min read

This is a story about one-way streets...

Balcony

An important reason why people commit suicide, which demands further discussion, is the way that life is set up so that retreat is almost impossible. Nobody ever asks for a demotion. Nobody ever asks for a pay cut. Nobody ever wants to pull their kids out of private school to put them into state school. Nobody ever wants to cut off their kids' allowance, or stop paying into a savings account for their university education. Nobody ever wants to lose their trophy partner, because they can't afford to keep them in the manner to which they have been accustomed. Nobody wants to downsize or move in with family. It's all a one-way street.

Taken in aggregate, a small bump in the road can easily be understood as something which would prompt somebody to commit suicide. While you might say to somebody who's lost their job "just get another job" it's actually much more complicated than that: most people are only one or two missed paycheques away from major financial difficulties. The whole house of cards can collapse very easily: everybody is leveraged to the max.

Of course, you might say that it's silly to get worked up about material things. "Of course" everyone would understand about having to sell the fancy car, not go on holiday, leave the fancy school, not buy the nice things, maybe not have the same opportunities. "Of course" so the saying goes "we've still got each other" except it doesn't work like that. When the money dries up, everyone fucks off, and then the vultures move in to pick any remaining flesh off the carcass.

Yes, we really do have to acknowledge that we all become highly leveraged such that relatively small problems are life-destroying, and as such, they are life-ending.

We humans are optimists by nature. We always assume that the stock market is going to keep going up, the housing market is going to keep going up, our salary is going to keep going up: everything must always go up, according to our human proclivity for optimism. It's not that people are stupid, although of course they are that too, but there's a fundamental hard-wired kind of specific stupidity I'm talking about: the tendency towards optimism, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If we were beasts of pure reason and logic, we'd kill ourselves as soon as we grasped our situation: a life of pain, depression, anxiety, suffering, hard work and other unpleasantness, met with an inevitable death at the end. Why put yourself through that? Our self-preservation instincts have evolved to counteract our higher brain functions, lest our species die out, but still... why bother? It's completely illogical to live your life hoping for anything: death is inevitable; illness, pain and suffering is almost inevitable. Almost nobody dies "peacefully" in their sleep: decades of slow, painful and uncomfortable dying await us all.

Obviously, we hope to achieve symbolic immortality through our genes, passed on to our children. Or rather, our genes hope to be replicated. We are, after all, just a vessel for genes to reproduce themselves, and it would be foolish - an anthropocentric arrogant delusion of grandeur - to try to convince ourselves otherwise.

In the eternally optimistic quest for a "better life" we strive to get a bigger salary, bigger house, more attractive partner, as many kids as we can realistically feed and clothe... then we move onto status symbols, like university degrees, professional qualifications/certification, fancy cars, luxury holidays... still we are not satiated.

At some point, pretty early on in our life, we become locked into a certain destiny. Pretty much, once you've got kids, you are locked-into a certain kind of life: although you might fantasise about selling your house and living in a camper van, you never will, because you are locked in, in so many ways. Even if you're wealthy and single, you're never going to sell everything you own and become a homeless nomad. You might have gone off on a gap year, you predictable tedious middle-class wanker, but you know that any more gaps on your CV wouldn't look good on your otherwise unblemished career track-record.

Those who are unlucky enough to suffer a misfortune most often go one of two ways: they're kicked out of mainstream life, and must accept their plight trapped in the underclass forevermore, or they commit suicide. There's no other line of retreat; there's no way back, for those who err or suffer a misfortune.

This might seem like a bleak outlook, but you know it's true.

 

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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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My Own Worst Enemy

4 min read

This is a story about self sabotage...

Bruise

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

No.

It's not enough.

Not for me, anyway.

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

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

I'm not able to choose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

High productivity has come at a high cost.

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

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

 

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How to Kill Yourself

8 min read

This is a story about an explicit step-by-step set of precise instructions specifying exactly how to commit suicide...

Suicide salad

I get a phenomenal amount of readers every day, reading what I've written on the subject of suicide. Mostly, they come looking for information on suicide methods. I know this for two reasons: firstly, my inbox is stuffed full of people asking more questions about how to kill themselves. Secondly, it's possible to see what kinds of things people are searching for on the internet: these are standard tools, which are used by advertisers, all the time, to decide how best to target their online marketing.

So, if I was a manufacturer of steak knives, for example, I might do some research to see how many times people search for "what is the best kind of knife to cut meat with?". While I was doing that research, I might also - if I was an unethical company - search for something like "what is the best kind of knife to cut human flesh with?". If there are more people searching for the latter than the former, I might decide to spend my advertising dollars selling my steak knives to people who want to use them for a purpose which they were not originally designed or intended for.

It was always my intention to drive a portion of suicidal people on the internet, towards my website, and my reasons were always - I think - ethical and reasonably well thought through. I know with certainty, that there are a large number of people who will end their lives without reaching out to any of the widely publicised and well known counselling services, which are available in person, on the phone, or online. I know with certainty that the reason why some don't contact those services, is because they're not stupid: turkeys don't vote for Christmas, and some suicidal people don't go to services which are explicit and overt in their intention, which is to stop you from committing suicide.

I've brought you here, and I've disappointed many of you, because I have never once given any explicit instructions on how to kill yourself.

But.

Here it is.

Here is one way to kill yourself:

1. Buy, borrow or steal a steak knife
2. Cut yourself so that you bleed

Not explicit enough for you? Okay, I'll try again:

1. Obtain a sharp knife with a serrated blade
2. Make as many sharp slashing aggressive fast cuts to the area of your neck, which is in-between the front and the side
3. Repeat step 2 until you either see blood gushing out at high pressure, or you lose consciousness; whichever happens first

I'm guessing you're probably more frustrated than ever now. Yes, I know that what people mainly search for is the most painless, quickest, easiest, and "best" way to kill yourself. I know what people are looking for. I really really know what people are looking for.

The knife method fails, because it's not at all painless, although it is quick and easy, and also really obvious. In fact, it's so obvious, that I don't know why anybody would go to the trouble of buying rope and tying it to a tree or something, when the knife method is so much quicker and easier.

If you want painless, which I know you do, the most common method - which has been popular for years - other than an overdose, is to poison yourself with carbon monoxide from an internal combustion engine, meaning most probably a car. The method is so simple that I can write it in just one line: pipe the exhaust fumes into the interior of your car.

Okay? Are you happy now?

No.

If you were happy, you wouldn't have been searching "how do I kill myself?" would you? The question is rhetorical. I KNOW YOU ARE SUICIDAL; KINDA THE OPPOSITE OF HAPPY.

So, the next question, and a very important one, is one which I'm asking myself as much as I'm asking you now, as you're reading this: what now?

I plan to commit suicide, when the time is right, so I would be a hypocrite - and a dishonest cynical horrible man - if I was trying to tell you to live your life differently from how I live my life; if I didn't practice what I preach.

Let me answer the question with a short story.

A little over five years ago, I decided to write my own obituary. I was a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic, drug-addict, with no friends, no family, and nothing in my head except guilt, shame, regret, anger, bitterness, resentment, trauma, depression, anxiety, paranoia and a whole lot of other bad stuff. My life was totally and utterly wrecked beyond belief. My brain and body were trashed. The obituary writing turned into a writing habit, which eventually became this website, which eventually became the stability I needed in my life. This website brought me readers, and those readers helped me, even though I didn't want to be helped. The writing helped me, even though I didn't know it would help me.

I expect that, when I commit suicide, I will be a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic, drug-addict, with no friends, no family, and nothing in my head except guilt, shame, regret, anger, bitterness, resentment, trauma, depression, anxiety, paranoia and a whole lot of other bad stuff... so don't go thinking that this story has a happy ending. IT DOES NOT.

But.

This is my damn story now. I'm in control. I'm the one who writes the narrative, not the people who would gladly see me buried, and talk shit about me literally over my dead body.

So, ask yourself this: what are people going to say about you, after you commit suicide? Are they going to call you crazy? Are they gonna call you a drunk and/or a druggie? Are they going to say that you were bad with money, or a bum; a loser? Are you going to let those despicable scumbags write the ending to your story, or are you going to write it yourself?

Obviously, I'd like it if nobody felt like suicide was their only option, but unfortunately, so many people do feel like that... so we have to address that.

Of course, we all have different reasons for wanting to kill ourselves, but we all want the same thing: the pain and suffering to stop. Tell the damn story. Tell people why you're suicidal. You don't have to do it like me, so publicly. You don't have to do it to an expensive therapist. Get a diary. Get a notebook. Get it the hell down on paper, at least, so it's not a bloody mystery to the people left behind.

I know, often, we are so desperate for the pain and suffering to stop that we don't care what anybody thinks of us anymore; we don't care about any of that... we. just. want. it. to. stop.

Sure, yes. I get it.

But, so many people write to me, and they all tell me a little about their story; their own personal reasons for wanting to end their lives. I mean, they don't have to. Sure, a few don't say much. Sure, lots of people read and never write to me. I don't know everything but nobody does. With the incomplete information, which is still a heck of a lot more than almost anybody you know, I'm able to say that almost everyone has something to say; wants somebody to know something.

Anyway, my inbox (and DMs on Twitter and Facebook etc) are open, but apologies if I don't write back quickly, or maybe even at all, because I have to say, every single one of your personal stories is devastatingly heartbreaking, but I'm glad to be kinda there still, as much as I can be... receiving, reading, even though I'm struggling to stay on top of replying.

You wanna kill yourself? Fine. But write to me first. I want to kill myself too.

* * *

A brief summary of what I've written already on the subject:

First, I listed out every suicide method I could think of.

Then, I wrote an essay all about the reasons I could imagine which would drive a person to kill themselves.

Most people, as I said, are interested in the 'easiest' and most painless suicide method, which I kinda wrote about, talking about my own plans to commit suicide.

 

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Second Lockdown

3 min read

This is a story about a broken record...

Names

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Superiority Complex

5 min read

This is a story about delusions of grandeur...

Thought bubble

The problem with slinging pseudoscientific mud, is that sooner or later you're going to come up against somebody who knows what they're talking about; they're able to rigorously follow the scientific method, and they can see right through the dumbed-down pathetic attempts to create popular ideas, which prey upon our preconceived notions, our biases, our vanity and our insecurities.

If we look at applications for university places, there are vast numbers who want to study arts and humanities subjects. Then, the social 'sciences' are the next most popular. Bottom of the pile, in terms of popularity, are the difficult, dry, technical subjects: mathematics, engineering, chemistry, physics, computing. You cannot 'blag' that you know what you're talking about in a technical subject: there are right answers and wrong answers, and no amount of blagging will convince anybody that you're right, when you're wrong, and you're provably wrong.

The social 'sciences' - anthropology, sociology, psychology etc - are not sciences. Science follows a strict prescriptive methodology, and anything which doesn't adhere is not science. The social 'sciences' produce nothing but worthless crap, because it's not science - the results of experiments cannot be reproduced. Any experiment which doesn't have reproducible results, is a non-experiment; a waste of time; absolutely useless.

In an attempt to appear like real medical science, psychiatry has attempted to apply statistical methods, to make the diagnosis of pathologies of the mind, into a supposedly objective exercise. In theory, the patient's symptoms are all that are needed in order to make an accurate diagnosis, via the power of statistics - so, in theory, there's no need for psychiatrists any more. We should, in theory, be able to diagnose ourselves and then simply obtain the required medication from a pharmacist: no doctors required.

No. No. No. The psychiatrists say.

You need us to interpret these hard statistics, and add our own opinions. Say the psychiatrists.

So, what happened to this being a scientific process, driven by data and statistics?

The truth is that everyone will use their knowledge and position of authority in order to pursue their power games. Psychiatrists will never use a scientific statistical method, because then they become redundant.

Unfortunately, psychologists have latched onto psychiatry's attempt to become more scientific, and lend some credibility to their profession. Psychologists are probably more obsessed with statistical methods for 'diagnosis' than psychiatrists are. Psychologists, who, let us remember, were not clever enough to become doctors, engineers, mathematicians etc, opted for a profession where there are no right or wrong answers; anything you say is equally dumb and meaningless. Of course, psychologists would want to pretend like there was any kind of rigour, any kind of methodology, data or statistics, behind their work.

There isn't.

The problem with psychologists latching onto the work of psychiatry, is that they try to import theories and apply them. Psychologists - especially amateur wannabe psychologists of the armchair variety - love to throw around labels like "psychopath", "sociopath", "narcissist" etc. when in fact, those labels were only intended to ever apply to the tiniest fraction of humanity. How can it be meaningful to call every man you've ever met a "pathological narcissist"? How have rare medical conditions gone beyond that of an epidemic, to now become things which affect the vast majority of humanity?

It hasn't happened.

Only a tiny fraction of the human race suffer from pathologies such as narcissism and sociopathy.

You can't just label people you don't like with psychiatric pathologies.

It's dumb.

Amateur psychologists are dumb.

Psychiatric language is ubiquitous in our culture. We use terms like "crazy", "mad", "loony", "loopy", "wacky" and every other flavour of term for 'insanity' to mean everything on the spectrum, from upset and angry, to schizophrenic psychosis. We call ourselves "OCD" when we just mean neat, tidy and clean. We call ourselves "bipolar" when we just mean moody. Meanwhile, depression and anxiety are so common, and so many of us are medicated, that we hardly even bother to talk about the fact we've been diagnosed with those illnesses anymore - we make memes about killing ourselves; we make memes about how dysfunctional we are.

To talk about a 'superiority complex' in the present day, is like giving out speeding tickets to the competitors at the Silverstone Formula One grand prix race. To talk about 'narcissism' is something that you really should do on your YouTube channel, or on your Instagram Story, or on your Facebook page, or one of your TikTok videos. Utterly nonsensical. Unhinged. Mad.

Yes, there are people who are so affected by the Dunning-Kruger effect that they are unable to comprehend the limitations of their abilities: they will never be a mathematician, engineer, chemist, physicist, software engineer or suchlike; they're not clever enough. Those over-confident people's ignorance is not as good as my knowledge. We are, unfortunately, living in an age where vast numbers of people think that their 'life experiences' and 'gut feel' qualifies them to opine on subjects, which they are utterly, dismally ignorant about, exposing their appalling stupidity, much to the chagrin of anybody with half a brain.

So, anyway, I'm sick of pop-psych 'magazines' (especially online) publishing articles about narcissists with superiority complexes. They don't exist... you're just pedalling word-salad, put into the mouths of your readers. Your readers will use that word-salad to attack people they don't like.

 

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Agony Aunt

3 min read

This is a story about pen pals...

Inbox

I invited people to write to me, and they do. My DMs on Twitter and Facebook are full of messages from readers. My email inbox is full of emails from readers. This is good. This is what I asked for. This is what I got.

I agonise a lot about whether it was the right thing to do, to write so candidly and brutally honestly about suicide. Some people would expect a massive content warning, trigger warning, or some other kind of disclaimer. Some people - including most responsible journalists - wouldn't even grapple with the topic at all. There's a widespread fear that suicide is contagious, which is not a wholly unwarranted fear, given that suicide does seem to occur in clusters; there is fear of copycats.

Being in touch with so many people who've read what I've written, is somewhat reassuring. Nobody is saying "I wasn't going to kill myself, but now I am, because of what you wrote". Of course, you might say that the ones who think that don't get in contact, but that's a preposterous idea. I have an ever-growing dataset, and almost without exception, people get in touch because they're already suicidal.

Of course, you might say that if I push just one person over the edge, that's one too many. I agree. I'm not pushing anybody. If anything, I'm trying to nudge people back in the other direction. If they want to research suicide methods on the internet, they're going to find the information they need. At least what I offer isn't a dry step-by-step instruction manual. I'm genuinely just saying "yes, suicide can be achieved by these methods, and it's OK to feel like you want to end your life, but I'm upset that anybody feels like life is not worth living; I feel like life is not worth living a lot of the time"... and that's OK. I'm allowed to say that, because I feel it, and it's not doing anyone any harm. I'm not trying to inspire or provoke anyone into committing suicide. People die in darkness and ignorance, not in a world of honesty and openness.

Will I one day have angry friends and relatives contacting me to accuse me of being to blame for their loved one's suicide? Probably, but they should probably ask themselves why their loved one was driven to searing the internet for suicide methods and other information on self-murder, instead of finding whatever they desperately needed from their loved ones. I didn't invent suicide. I'm not in charge of suicide. I'm not telling anyone to commit suicide. I simply exist, sharing my own story, which people tell me is relatable, for those who are in crisis.

Anyway, I've got to go... I've got emails to answer.

 

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Emotional Burnout

4 min read

This is a story about stress...

Beans

We all experience periods of stress. Most of these are short-lived. There's a natural limit to how much stress we can take, for a given period of time, before we have a breakdown.

This snapshot in time - eating beans directly out of the can using the business card of a lawyer specialising in mental health cases as a spoon - tells an interesting nonlinear story.

We like our stories to be linear.

I have no idea where to begin my story.

If I start my story on the day when I first slept rough, I would say that things got worse before they got better. Sleeping rough was not "rock bottom" at all, and I find the whole notion of "rock bottom" to be ludicrous and unhelpful.

If I start my story on the day when my homelessness ended, again, the arc of the story is complicated. Although I never slept rough again, I would say that my life was - at times - a lot worse than when I was no fixed abode; homeless.

If I start my story on the day when I got myself into my latest period of employment, uninterrupted for 3 years as of today, then the photograph above is a confusing one. Why the hell was I eating uncooked beans directly out of the can, in the dark, using a business card as a spoon?

I can't think of any good time to start my story. This year started with a hospitalisation for kidney failure and a breakup. There is no time which I can point to and say "THERE!" to indicate the point where my life got steadily better and better.

The problem with a precarious existence, is that it's incredibly draining. I live in a hypervigilant, hyperalert, super focussed and energised state, where I haven't been sick for many years, except to be hospitalised in a near-death state... although frankly I would have carried on working if I could. I just want to dig myself out of the hole.

Perhaps I've done OK at times, allowing myself to have a few holidays in recent years, which has been awesome for my health and sense of wellbeing. The prospect of a sustainable life has seemed more within grasp, having granted myself the luxury of a few holidays, but also we must accept the facts: security continues to elude me, despite many years of hard work; my life still hangs by a thread.

Thinking back to when I first escaped homelessness, the first time I recovered within a matter of months; unencumbered by debt or other problems. The second time, I seemingly bounced back quite quickly, although my finances never really recovered. The third time was bound to sink me - without a trace - but a few lucky breaks and I've been able to cling on by my fingernails for a few years... but I always ask myself "was it worth it?".

We shouldn't underestimate the toll that the desperate attempts to regain stability, health, wealth and prosperity, have cost me. To live on the edge of losing everything, and being cast out from mainstream society, is an unbearable burden that nobody should have to endure; yet alone for years and years on end, unrelenting.

Presently, the situation is particularly unbearable, because I am seemingly on the "home straight" where everything seems to be within my own power to succeed; the only person who can screw things up now is me...  or so it seems. In reality, it's not like that. The demands of recent years are catching up with me. You can't put a person under such extreme pressure for such a very long time, and not expect them to crack under pressure eventually.

My worst fear - of course - is that I will crumble before I reach escape velocity. Many people feel this, but few have a story to rival my own.

It's strange. Seeing the finishing line is worse than when I was just plodding along with the vague hope that at some future point I might recover. Living eternally in a "nearly but not quite" state is unbelievably exhausting.

 

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Get Help

4 min read

This is a story about treatment and therapy...

Crisis counselling

I write about my own personal experiences of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suicide attempts, because that's what I would want to read if I was in crisis. There's a mountain of material on the web about the symptoms of mental illness, dealing with a crisis, coping with suicidal thoughts, counselling, crisis support, mental health teams, crisis teams, doctors, healers, witch doctors, shamen... and all the rest of it.

It's all been done to death.

So, here's what I'm doing: I write.

I've tried absolutely tons of medications, and all of them have undesirable side-effects, and ultimately didn't bring me a good long-term outcome. I refuse to accept that I simply haven't found the right medication, at the right dose, in the right combinations: personally, I've exhausted that avenue, and found it to be a fruitless exercise. That's not to say that medication won't work for you, and you shouldn't try it, but it didn't work for me.

I tried counselling and behavioural therapies. Nope. Probably OK if you're just 'a bit sad' but if you're reading this then you're probably well beyond being 'a bit sad'. That's not to say you shouldn't try therapy. Everyone's different. However, for me personally, I don't think 45 minutes a week is going to fix all my problems, sorry.

It's important to acknowledge, though, that following the treatment routes which have been resoundingly proven to be ineffective, can be a useful distraction which will eat up a few years of your life. Although I can say with certainty that the long-term outcomes are not attractive, in the short term, there's a lot to be gained from the process of learning about all the different medications and trying them out: it'll keep you busy!

Also, we shouldn't underestimate the power of having a kind non-judgemental person, listening to your traumatic story. Being heard is super important; super healing. Having somebody tell you that you did the best with the hand you were dealt, can be incredibly important, to forgive yourself and start to feel better about being unwell; not so guilty or broken.

I write because it's unlimited free therapy. Instead of only having 45 minutes a week with a therapist, my therapist - the blank page upon which I write - is available 24 x 7 x365, and I can spend as long as I want in a therapy session for free. The free part is not to be underestimated: therapy is really expensive (although it might be money well spent if it works for you). Also, the blank page is the world's best listener: it never interrupts, misunderstands, disagrees, challenges, contradicts, argues or otherwise talks back, which is *perfect* as a therapist.

Given that therapy is pretty much just guided introspection, there's no reason why you can't learn the techniques to explore your own thoughts and feelings, without a guide. Now I'm in the habit of sitting down in front of my blank page every day, I find it really easy to explore whatever's bothering me, or to dig into baggage from the past... whatever I want - it's my time and I'm paying for it!

From personal experience, not professional qualification, I really urge you to write on a regular basis, therapeutically. It's helped more than anything else I've tried, by far.

Of course, we would all love to find an authority figure - a doctor or similar high professional status person - who we can put our faith in to 'cure' us and take care of all our problems, but the reality is that depression and anxiety are modern epidemics, and medicine has failed to provide effective treatment; the problems are getting worse, not better. Ultimately, we are - unfortunately - personally responsible for our safety and wellbeing. Much though I wish there was a magic person in a magic building with magic beans, like a doctor in a hospital with some pills, it's turned out to be a massive disappointment... we're on our own.

Of course you should phone the crisis hotline if you're on the brink of committing suicide. Of course you should go to your doctor and take their advice. Of course you should seek professional help. However, if - like me - you've tried all that and found it to be a dismal disappointment, then I imagine that's why you're here, right now, reading this.

Try writing. It helps.

 

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