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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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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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Sobriety Cost Me My Job

4 min read

This is a story about stability...

Coke bottles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Dark Thoughts

4 min read

This is a story about storm clouds...

Rain on glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why am I doing it then?

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

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

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

 

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

5 min read

This is a story about reckless misconduct...

Going up

To say that I have great power would be delusional and grandiose. To say that I'm anything other than another anonymous voice in an infinite sea of near-identical voices - constant background noise; static hiss - would be to lose all perspective on reality. I. Am. Nothing.

However.

It has not escaped my notice that ever more thousands of people are reading my blog every day. It seems that I've rather stumbled upon something which many people are searching for, which my website has the answers to. Alarmingly, it's on the topic of suicide.

Stuff I wrote without thinking a great deal about the consequences, now potentially could have very bad consequences. Woe betide me if something I wrote was sufficient to push a person who would otherwise have lived, over the edge and into an act of suicide. How awful it would be if I some how enabled or encouraged or unwittingly aided and abetted in any way - no matter how small - the avoidable death of a person, or indeed persons.

Suicidal thoughts are, sadly, very common. I personally suffer from suicidal thoughts on a daily basis, and suicide plays a very big part in my life; my plans. I have firm plans to kill myself at the moment; I live with plans to commit suicide, day in and day out.

When I wrote what I wrote - mainly the thing about suicide methods seems to be the most popular essay - I thought there was no harm in having a frank discussion about things, given that all forms of media - books, films, radio, TV etc - contain depictions of suicide, and it seems inconceivable that we could have gone through life and not encountered at least one method, even if we expressly avoided anything gruesome and unpleasant.

In the context of writing in obscurity, I could write whatever I wanted, safe in the knowledge that nobody was reading it. Certainly, I never had to consider any consequences of what I wrote.

Now, things are a little different.

Some people write to me. I left an open invitation for people to get in touch, and they do. They're in all kinds of different situations, but they're all suicidal... or at least they tell me that they are, and who am I to doubt them? I'm not a trained counsellor. I'm not a specialist in mental health crises, except by way of my own experience. I'm not qualified. I'm not a professional in the field of suicide... merely a person who's attempted suicide a bunch of times, and who has written over a million words on the subject. I very much feel that I'm the wrong person to get in contact with, for those who are looking for a more traditional crisis counsellor, such as the one you might speak to if you pick up the phone on the Golden Gate Bridge, for example.

Crisis phone

I know from personal experience, that sometimes you don't want to speak to somebody traditional who is going to say all the same old clichéd things. Personally, I've found it more useful to talk to people who genuinely understand what it's like to be suicidal; not in some abstract sense, from training courses and suchlike. I'm sure all the mental health professionals are super great at their jobs, and many of them do have personal experience of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, but there's something homogenous about their approach; there are no surprises and nothing useful - personally - in any of the things they've said to me, in the past.

It seems criminally reckless of me to perhaps venture into a world which is the strictly reserved for trained, qualified members of professional bodies, who are - in theory - the most competent and capable people in existence, able to deal with suicidal people.

However.

It's not working.

More people than ever are depressed. More people than ever are anxious. More people than ever are suicidal.

So, I'm making myself, and what I know, publicly available. I've written vast amounts on the subject of suicide. I've open-sourced my experiences. You can contact me, and I'll do my best to reply.

Will I talk you out of suicide? No.

Am I offering something better than counselling, therapy and medicine? No.

Why read what I've got to say? Why get in contact? Well, because maybe you don't want to hear yet more clichéd "don't do it... you've got so much to live for... think of the pain you'll cause" type BS. Maybe you want to hear from somebody who's experiencing what you're experiencing. Maybe you want to hear that it's OK to feel what you're feeling in a way, because somebody else is struggling too. There's a lot of guilt about wanting to die, and I think that's wrong. It's OK to want to die; it's normal... it's more normal than you could ever possibly imagine.

Usual caveats apply: I want to live in a zero suicide world. I do not encourage, endorse or otherwise want to enable and/or aid and abet suicide in any way, no matter how small.

 

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Drinking in Moderation

3 min read

This is a story about the insidious creep of alcoholism...

Fridge

I decided that I was putting on weight, and that I didn't like that; I wanted to get fit and healthy. At the start of the lockdown I was drinking every day - 7 days a week - and I started drinking straight after I finished work each day. I was drinking far too much; it was excessive.

I went teetotal for a couple of months. My liver needed a break. In fact all of my brain and body was extremely grateful for a break from intoxicating liquor. I'd like to say that I felt great after a couple of months of non-drinking, but I didn't. However, if I had carried on drinking at the rate I was, then my health would have suffered immensely, and I would be very depressed about being overweight. As it stands now, I'm not happy with my weight, but I'm not unhappy either.

After my lengthy period of tee-totalling, I decided to try to drink in moderation. I was going to allow myself to drink 1 (one) bottle of wine per week, on a Saturday night, as a treat.

Keeping the amount of wine I have in the house to a minimum is a good idea. If I have it in the house, I'll drink it.

Soon, all my plans went out of the window. I decided I was allowed two bottles of wine per week - one on Friday and one on Saturday - but I foolishly decided to buy both bottles at once, and then ended up dipping into the second bottle on Friday night, and buying another one on Saturday.

The weekend just gone, I ended up drinking about 4 bottles of wine, although I did share some of it. I drank on Sunday too, which is against the rules.

I've paid a high price for heavy drinking. My sleep has been appalling. I've been tormented with invasive thoughts, stress and anxiety. I've had a dreadful tic - an involuntary vocalisation like Tourette's - due to the extreme change in brain chemistry. My brain is not in a good state to segue from stone cold sober, to very drunk, and back to stone cold sober - it's far too anxiety-inducing. I was stuttering and almost unable to speak at one point, due to the anxiety induced by abruptly stopping drinking. I don't get the shakes, for some reason.

But is it alcoholism?

Well, given that I am managing to minimise the harm that alcohol is doing to my health and my life, it is not alcoholism. I meet neither the medical definition, of physical dependence on alcohol, nor the other definition, which says that a person is an alcoholic if harm is being done to them by their alcoholism. Alcoholics are also not able to start and stop drinking at will, obviously.

I've definitely failed at drinking in moderation, though. Alcohol is definitely a crutch; a medication. I don't have a good relationship with alcohol, even if I am able to avoid its harm.

I need to find some other kind of [healthy] outlet.

 

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How To Kill Yourself - Part Two

12 min read

This is a story about worst-case scenarios...

The wall

I've brought you here under somewhat false pretences. Possibly you have read what I wrote on suicide methods and have decided to continue reading. Perhaps you haven't read anything I've written before, and an internet search has brought you here. Either way, I kinda lied: this is much more about why to kill yourself than how.

Why kill yourself?

Good question.

If you're reading this, then I'm sure you have your reasons. Perhaps you don't need me to explore the many reasons why, but I'm going to anyway, because you didn't need me to write about all the suicide methods in detail either, but I did and thousands of people read it every day.

It's because so many thousands are reading what I wrote about suicide methods that I felt I should follow up with something about why to kill yourself. I hope you will forgive me if you feel I have brought you here under false pretences, but anyhoo, let's begin.

 

Why Should You Kill Yourself?

You shouldn't.

The end.

 

Just kidding.

Unless we acknowledge that there are very real and valid reasons why people kill themselves, then we are gaslighting. We can't pretend that people don't commit suicide, and that those people didn't have good reasons for doing it. People don't just do stuff for no reason. To pretend like there weren't reasons - and there isn't justification - is disingenuous and unkind to those who have died, and unkind to those who are suffering suicidal thoughts.

So, excuse my jocularity. I'm quite serious. We need to talk about why you would kill yourself.

 

Breakup/Divorce

We've got to start somewhere, so why not with a relationship ending; a broken heart? There's little more gut-wrenchingly sad than losing the love of our lives. Many suicides will be prompted by a breakup, so we need to discuss this. I needed to start somewhere, so this is what I've chosen.

First, we need to acknowledge what love is: a combination of serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine that's released in the brain in order to foster human bonding, sex and produce children; it's a biochemical trick created by our genes, in order to get us to make more copies of the genes.

Is it sad when we get our hearts broken? Yes. Incredibly.

Is it the end of the world? Will we be sad forever? No. Get another girlfriend/boyfriend/significant-other and your heart will soon mend.

Of course, we need to acknowledge that it's absolutely terrifying - as well as a massive inconvenience - to be thrust back into the world of dating. As we get older and fatter, we feel increasingly insecure, and we fear dying alone. Of course, nobody wants to feel fat, old and desperate, fearful of dying alone. I can totally relate to the feeling that I'd rather die than suffer the agony of dating, and the knock-backs; to be thrust back into the crappy world of adolescence with all its accompanying awkwardness, uncertainty and insecurity. "Does he/she like me?" we wonder to ourselves, in seemingly eternal torment.

In my opinion, a breakup is no reason to commit suicide, because - although inconvenient and awful - it's possible to mend your heart by meeting somebody new.

 

Bereavement

Okay, so I didn't really cover the death of a loved one in the breakup/divorce section, so I'll cover the death of a partner in this section. The answer is pretty much the same, but I do make an exception for childhood sweethearts who've lived into old age. I'm not suggesting that everyone who's been in a super long-term relationship should be in a suicide pact, but it's understandable that after a certain age and many decades of happy marriage/civil-partnership, that life could continue with somebody new is almost unthinkable. Where to draw the line is not up to me, but I feel certain that being a geriatric widower is not how I plan on spending the last years of my life.

Am I advocating for suicide for bereaved older people? Absolutely not. I'm just saying that I can totally understand why heartbroken seniors might decide that their reason for living expired when they lost the love of their lives.

Death of a pet. Sad but no.

Death of a friend. Sad but no.

Death of a parent. Sad (most of the time) but no.

Death of a child... oh damn. Where to begin? Well, we must acknowledge that the grief would be exceptional, and the guilt no doubt. The thing which would never be uttered, but must be discussed, would be the feeling that time's run out to make another kid, mixed up with all the same fears about fertility, carrying the baby to full term, giving birth, having a healthy child etc. All those horrible emotions would have to be re-lived, with the accompanying magnifying effect of knowing how devastating it was to actually lose a child, or - god forbid - children.

It seems quite understandable to me that some horrendous combination of bereavement, such as losing your whole family in some kind of accident, would be far too much to bear. Sure, plenty of people have had tragedies in their lives, and gone on to rebuild their lives with somebody else. That's not to say that everyone can or should. I can totally understand why bereavement(s) would be a reason to commit suicide, and although I can see that many people have been able to get over the tragedy, I don't think it's right to say that suicide should never be considered.

Usual caveats apply: I don't condone or encourage suicide, but I do understand why people kill themselves, although I desperately want a zero suicide world.

 

Debt, Financial Ruin; Destitution etc

It feels a bit wrong to put debt on a par with the death of a child, but it's also right - debt can destroy lives just as effectively as a road traffic accident. We need to acknowledge how life-destroying debt is, because it can wreck so much more than a person's credit rating.

First, let's talk about the very real, and very devastating consequences of financial difficulties: loss of status, loss of home, loss of relationships... loss of freedom; agency. To have a bad credit rating is to become a leper - unable to buy or rent a house, buy a car, get a job. "Get a job?" you ask... yes, that's right - many jobs will check a person's credit rating and/or ask if they've ever declared bankruptcy. Bankrupts are shunned from almost all parts of society, such that they're ruined for life; unable to get a decent job and therefore shut out of every aspect of ordinary life. That's a bad deal. That's a rough gig.

Without your house, your car, your job and the other accompanying status symbols, how are you going to provide for your family? It follows that you'll be ditched by your partner and your kids; labelled as a loser. This is how people lose everything, not just their credit rating.

Debt is life-destroying.

Okay, so I'm probably laying it on a bit thick. However, this is all the stuff that is on the mind of the poor suffering individual who is struggling with debt, and has decided to commit suicide. Having been hounded by debt collectors, bailiffs and other parasites/vultures, people are driven to end their own lives rather than suffer any more stress, loss, ruin and distress. I empathise.

Although bankruptcy and financial ruin are devastating, the process of being financially destroyed is worse than being destitute. Being destitute is quite liberating. Having struggled with debts for years, being hounded by creditors and other leeches, once the bankruptcy process - or some other kind of insolvency procedure - is in motion, the creditors can't harass you anymore. You'll get an opportunity to rebuild yourself, albeit with the impediment of the black mark on your records. Plenty of people function without credit cards, car loans, mortgages and other financial instruments, and many of them are very successful. In fact, many entrepreneurs talk about their bankruptcies as badges of honour; they're proud of their failures.

I think loss of status is not to be underestimated. If you're used to having a nice house, car, and being a provider for your family, there is an incalculable amount of shame, bitterness and regret, which is almost impossible to deal with. Losing everything is not easy, and we should acknowledge how fatal it can be; how it can be the worst thing in the world to have your life fall apart. Saying stuff like "it's only money" is profoundly unhelpful, because money is such an intrinsic inseparable part of modern life. We shouldn't forget that wealth and status are the things which allow us to get an attractive partner, as well as to feel good about ourselves.

Killing yourself because of bad debt or financial problems seems like the most ridiculous thing to do, but in fact it's one of the hardest things to deal with, because it's such a taboo to talk about financial difficulties and debt. Debts are so toxic to our mental health, keeping us awake at night, and causing us untold anxiety, as we fear the domino-like collapse of our entire lives - job loss leads to defaulting on our mortgage, leads to our house being repossessed, leads to bankruptcy and destitution, as sure as night follows day.

Yes. Debt and financial difficulties cause suicides, in vast numbers. We need to acknowledge that's true. I wish it weren't true, but it is.

The solution? Be prepared to be destitute. Treat it as an adventure. Be a tramp. Enjoy the freedom of it.

 

Injury, Sickness and Disability

Chronic illness, chronic pain and other lifelong conditions - such as diabetes and kidney failure - have a devastatingly detrimental effect on our quality of life, and to pretend otherwise would be dishonest. However, we are notoriously bad at estimating how bad it's going to be. For example, people with type one diabetes, who are insulin dependent and who must closely monitor their blood sugar, are able to adapt and report far higher quality of life than their initially pessimistic outlook. However, people who require dialysis because of kidney failure, often vastly underestimate how badly their quality of life is going to be affected.

Many people would say that they would want their life support to be switched off if they were paralysed - quadriplegic - but there are well documented cases of people reversing the decision in their advanced directive such that they have indicated that they wanted to be kept alive by machines, most famously by a man who was only able to blink in order to communicate.

However, we must be realistic. In the vast majority of cases, people who are suffering incredibly awful lives, because of chronic pain and other suffering, who've had their reasons to live snatched away by some cruel twist of fate, which has rendered them incapable of ever enjoying a minimum quality of life, are absolutely entitled to reserve their right to die. I must make it absolutely clear: I am pro-euthanasia.

Another thing I must make clear is that I'm well aware that there are very many people who live full and happy lives, despite sickness and/or disability. I am absolutely not an ableist who believes that only the able bodied have a reason to live, and everybody else is somehow less worthy of life and happiness. I am absolutely not saying that - for example - being unable to walk is always a reason to commit suicide.

Nothing could be more personal than weighing up the pros and cons of our own unique situation, and arriving at a decision of whether it is better to be dead or alive. I can't make that decision for anybody, but we should definitely consider that it is very difficult to face a life which promises nothing other than pain and suffering, and regret, sadness and resentment, that we are no longer able to enjoy the things which we used to, in the past.

 

Everything Else

There are an infinite number of reasons why we might kill ourselves, which might include things such as martyrdom, infamy, to hurt people and other motivations. Suicide can be weaponised, and it often is, especially by marginalised, oppressed and otherwise powerless people.

A completely exhaustive exploration of all the reasons why we might commit suicide is beyond the scope of this essay, although I feel as though I have made a decent attempt.

* * *

As always, I must remind readers that my personal stance is that suicide is understandable but absolutely undesirable in all but the compassionate circumstances, where it is intended to give relief to a person whose life is unbearable; unliveable; intolerable.

We must distinguish the temporary - the acute - from the permanent; the chronic. We must avoid permanent solutions to temporary problems, although I am aware that agony can feel eternal when we are in the grips of it. I am very sorry that people are suffering and I wish they weren't.

This essay is intended as something thought-provoking, and as an open and honest discussion-starter, so that people who feel that they can't talk about their anguish and pain - that suicide is the only option available to them - might feel as though it's OK to talk about the things which are bothering them.

If you choose suicide, I won't judge you or tell you that you're wrong, but I hope that you think about everything, and choose to live in the end... although of course you might decide - based on your personal pros and cons - that life will never be tolerable and pleasant ever again, which is very sad but I understand that people need relief from their torment.

I do not encourage, endorse or recommend suicide.

 

Want to read part three? Here it is.

 

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Lockdown Improvements

5 min read

This is a story about the Coronavirus pandemic...

Lighthouse

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

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

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

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

Things had to change.

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

I bought a desk and an office chair.

I weaned myself off the sleeping pills and tranquillisers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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