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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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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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Bad Decisions

5 min read

This is a story about getting into debt...

Bike

I was desperate for a halfway-decent car when I was 17 years old. The car I had when I first passed my driving test was the most disgusting horrible thing you've ever seen in your life, and that was before my mum crashed it, and then a blind man was paid to repair it using household paint of the wrong colour, which was daubed thickly onto the crumpled bodywork, and left to drip and generally look worse than it would have done if somebody had simply lowered their trousers, curled out a shit onto the bonnet, and then smeared the excrement.

The car, absolutely, was not a gift. In fact, the car was a curse. Firstly it was extortionate to repair, because nobody has a disgusting shit car like that for their first car, so no insurer would offer me an affordable policy. That wiped out every penny I had. Then, it was ruined: my mother crashed it, and it was shit in the first place. It was so old, that basically, it was mechanically fucked in every conceivable way. So, the insurance financially ruined me, then repairing it left me with a gigantic debt to the garage. Then, after all that, it was a hideously ugly shit unreliable horrible, horrible, horrible car.

So, I was keen to have a car that was not shit.

I got a bank loan. I got a bank loan to buy a car, which wasn't a piece of shit, looked like shit, drove like shit... I took out a bank loan to buy a fucking OK-ish fucking car, alright?

In actual fact, it was a good decision to get that bank loan, because I was happy with my not-shit car. In fact, I was fucking ecstatic to have a car which wasn't a complete pile of shit, that was financially crippling me.

Predictably, my OK-ish car was not a pile of fucking horrible ugly shit, and consequently cost me far less in garage repair bills. Predictably, my OK-ish car did wonders for my self-esteem, and I was quite proud of my OK-ish car. My OK-ish car was very enjoyable to drive, and I was very glad that I had taken out that bank loan.

Of course, I hated being in debt, but I paid it off pretty quickly, especially as the garage bills were a fraction of what they were for the horrible ugly old piece of shit, which was good for nothing but the scrap yard.

So, where am I going with this?

Today is payday. Actually, I don't really have payday, to to speak. I don't have a salaried job, in any sense that you'd understand. I run my own company, so it's not like payday is really a thing for me. But anyway, for the sake of simplicity: imagine that today is payday for me.

I've been trying to buy a new bike for a little while. Pictured above is my city bike: designed for zooming through traffic in London. I love that bike. It's great.

I don't live in London anymore. I live somewhere where there's hills.

The new bike I've been trying to buy is a mountain bike. I don't live super close to any mountains - maybe 45 minutes away - but it's pretty hilly where I live, so I need gears. As it happens, I already have a mountain bike, which I bought on motherfucking credit, OK, motherfucker not long after I got my OK-ish car. My 22 year old mountain bike is brilliant and I love it, but I want one which is better for going up and down hills. I mean, that's what my old one is designed to do, but I want a better one.

So, I'm buying something that I don't need but I want and I can afford because it's payday. I can pay cash. I don't need to borrow money or otherwise get it on some kind of credit agreement. I can just walk into a fucking shop, hand over the cash, and walk out with the brand new mountain bike.

I'm getting one.

Actually, it looks like I'm getting one which is going to cost twice as much as I had budgeted for... but I don't care. I want the one that I want, and I want it now... or rather, I want it tomorrow, because the shop needs to build it for me.

It feels - having been relatively recently homeless, horrendously indebted, and almost bankrupt - to be an incredibly bad decision. Sure, it probably is, but I've got the money - surplus - and I'm going to spend it all on this thing that I want; this thing that I don't need.

For sure, I'm not spending money that I don't have; I'm not spending money before I've earned it. For sure, this could be the beginning of a spiral back into debt, but I really don't think it's going to be. Even if it is, I don't give a shit. I've put up with too much for too long, to fuck around any longer.

Sorry for the stream of expletives. I've had to justify myself and my very real human needs, for far too long. If you ask my dad, you can get a bike that's just as good as a £30,000 full-carbon Tour de France pro-rider bike, so cheaply that somebody will pay you to take it off your hands, and buy you a fucking house too for your trouble.

By the way, I am not buying a £30,000 full-carbon pro-rider bike. I am buying a mid-range bike: not the cheapest, and not the most expensive. Mid-priced.

Okay?

Happy now?

 

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5 Year Blogging Anniversary

2 min read

This is a story about writing...

Platform 9.75

To date, I have written and published 1,357,076 words on this blog. Today is the 5 year anniversary of me starting this blog. I have published 1,086 blog posts, which is an average of 4 per week. I think many writers would be pleased to write and publish something at least 4 days a week. I'm quite proud of my achievement.

Here are some facts about the past 5 years, in chronological order:

  • I was homeless when I started, on September 6th, 2015
  • I was £21,000 in debt when I started
  • I rented a super cool apartment by the River Thames in late September, 2015
  • I was locked up for a week - voluntarily - on a secure psych ward in October 2015
  • I flew to San Francisco to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, at the end of October 2015
  • Hospitalised for a few weeks with kidney failure, caused by DVT, January 2017
  • Moved to Manchester in July 2017
  • Suicide attempt on September 9th, 2017. Hospitalised in a coma in intensive care
  • Sectioned and held involuntarily on a psych ward, waiting for an appeal for 12 days
  • Won my appeal, but stayed on the psych ward voluntarily for another two weeks
  • Became homeless again
  • Moved to Swansea in October 2017, still homeless
  • Lived in a load of AirBnBs in London midweeek, due to work
  • Debt reached its peak of £54,000. I only had £23 left to spend.
  • Rented an apartment in Swansea with lovely panoramic sea views, in March 2018
  • Moved to Cardiff in March 2019
  • Suicide attempt on December 18th, 2019
  • Hospitalised with kidney failure for almost 3 weeks - discharged January 2020
  • August 2020 my peak of £54,000 debt is fully repaid. I am debt free.
  • I have £300 of savings, having subtracted all taxes and other monies owed

Here are some other interesting facts about the last 5 years:

  • I've worked 44 months out of 60 (73% of the time)
  • I've earned £530,000
  • I've paid £240,000 in tax
  • I've paid £83,000 in rent
  • I've paid £50,000 interest on debt

The numbers are actually pretty impressive, for somebody who's been so sick, homeless and generally suffering a very chaotic stressful life. I'm surprised I've been such a generous contributor to the economy, actually. I've philantropically handed out vast sums of money to banks, governments and landlords. I am, truly, a ragged-trousered philanthropist.

 

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Pattern Recognition

5 min read

This is a story about AI...

Eyes passim

You might think that it's incredible that a chess grandmaster could look at a chess board for 30 seconds, and then be able to place all the pieces on another board, in exactly the same positions as they were on the board they only saw for a brief time. That they can do this is not a sign of intelligence, but of pattern recognition, which is an acquired skill, honed through thousands of hours of practice. That's not to say that it's not impressive, but it's the hardware - the human brain that we all possess - that's impressive, not the individual.

I don't think we can all become chess grandmasters, if we want to. For us to want to spend those thousands of hours to develop the pattern recognition in our brains, we'd need to be motivated. It's beyond the scope of this essay to explore why some people memorise wild birds, train timetables, telephone numbers, or a whole host of other useless trivia, but let's just say that it's personal to the individual; some people just really like trains.

The patterns I wanted to write about today, are not like the patterns that can be discerned on a chess board, telling a grandmaster the story of how that particular game developed, and where it is heading. The pattern I wanted to write about is the boom and bust cycle of my mood, which has been going on for enough time now, that I feel like I can somewhat second-guess where things are going.

An ever-present worry is that the possibility of escaping the cycle will slip through my fingers, as it has done so many times before. In fact, it seems - from past events - to be an inescapable cycle; I'm eternally doomed to never escape.

Principally, I worry that I'm getting too cocky and arrogant; to certain of myself at work; too comfortable. Long gone are the days when I bit my tongue and tried to keep my head down. Long gone are the days when I was diplomatic and non-confrontational.

It feels a lot like a very regrettable period in 2015, when I felt certain that I was making an invaluable contribution to the organisation, project and team that I was a part of. While that might true, beyond a reasonable doubt, I was plagued with mental health problems. I suffered bouts of weird paranoia. I was emotionally fragile. I was unpredictable. I had some very strange thoughts about what was going on. I flipped wildly between doing a good job, and some rather odd obsessions.

Eventually, I broke down, was hospitalised, then suddenly decided to fly to San Francisco, then decided that I didn't want to come back, so I sent a series of really provocative emails, hoping to get sacked, which didn't work... until it did.

Perhaps it's unlikely that such an extreme set of events will ever repeat itself. I was hospitalised at Christmas and yet I bounced back from that, thanks in no small part to how kind and supportive my colleagues and the wider organisation I'm involved with, have been. My struggles with mental health have reached the point of colleagues needing to 'have a word' but I hope that things have quietened down since then, instead of continuing to escalate.

There's nothing I can particularly point to in 2015 which was driving my mental health to deteriorate, versus my present predicament. In 2015 I was homeless, and then managed to rent myself an apartment, which was - perhaps - an enormous stress, which finally caused me to lose my mind, temporarily. In 2015 my finances were much more distressed than they are today, although my situation is still not rosy: some debts and tax liabilities still hang over me like a dark cloud, although in theory I have the money to cover those costs.

In 2015 I knew I couldn't step off the treadmill for a single second, or else I would be ruined. This, of course, was too much pressure and I crumbled. My guardian angel was kind enough to avert disaster, but who could have foretold that a kind person with deep pockets would appear in my hour of need, to help me avoid bankruptcy, destitution, devastation, ruination and all the rest?

Today, I'm probably at break-even point. If I couldn't work tomorrow, or for the next few months, I might perhaps be able to avoid sinking deep into debt, but it would feel just as bad as 2015, because I've fought so hard for so long, to get back on my feet. I suppose things are a little different, because I've worked virtually non-stop for 3 years, without a major incident, except for the hospitalisation at Christmas, which - mercifully - hasn't completely derailed me.

I wish I could just put myself into "sleep mode" for the next 6+ months. Wake me up when the boring waiting game part is over. Wake me up when I have some financial security.

 

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Repeating Myself

4 min read

This is a story about being in lockdown...

Rat race

I didn't write during the total lockdown of the pandemic, quite deliberately, because I knew that I would get very repetitive, and that I would drive myself slightly insane. Having insight into my own mind, and being able to introspect, is a great gift - at times - but when artificially constrained, such as being in lockdown, it's difficult not to overthink, and to over-fixate on the discomfort of the situation; better to just go with the flow.

I'm still in lockdown.

Of course, I can now travel to the shops, visit a café or restaurant, travel, and do lots of other things, which I previously couldn't. That's correct in theory but in practice, I'm still in lockdown. I only leave the house to buy food.

It's not through choice that I'm in lockdown, although it appears, at first glance, to be the case.

Theoretically, I'm rich again; debt free and with some savings in the bank. However, the economy looks totally screwed, forcing me to consider the security of my future income, and of course my housing security and other important essential needs. Having been homeless and slept rough, I'm more reluctant than most to go back to living on the streets, especially after working so hard to get back on my feet.

So, I'm working as hard as I can, for as long as I can. Given the opportunity to earn money in a global pandemic, and a global recession, I'm going to fill my war chest as full as I can.

It's miserable.

Most people have got their "summer holiday" heads on in the Northern Hemisphere. Most people's moods are 'artificially' lifted by the warm summer weather, despite the backdrop of a rampaging pandemic and terrible recession. Of course, things have been artificially propped up, to temporarily stave off the wave of redundancies, evictions, bankruptcies and other cataclysmic economic events, which will hit like a tsunami in the autumn. Most ordinary people are overjoyed the lockdown is lifted and are enjoying their regained freedoms, with seemingly little regard for the bleak future.

Not me.

I'm miserable.

Of course, if I've managed to "make hay while the sun shines" then I'll be somewhat better placed to ride out the storm than those ordinary people who are currently frolicking in the sun. On the flip side, they'll be happier and more well rested. I'm risking burnout and/or breakdown, pushing myself as hard as I'm pushing myself... but all I want is COLD. HARD. CASH. As much cash as possible AND I WANT IT NOW.

Waking up every morning, there's a finite amount of money I can earn, because time and energy are finite quantities. This is simultaneously a motivation ("I can earn a lot of money today") and a something which is quite depressing ("I can only earn a small amount versus what I need").

Perhaps if you saw my personal finances, you would think that my mentality is vulgar; privileged. However, my mentality is based on many years spent homeless; destitute. Of course, I'm fortunate that my life isn't ruined irreparably, and that I've enjoyed the occasional period of exceptionally high quality of life, in-between the chaos, trauma and near-death experiences.

Because it's a marathon, not a sprint, I am whinging and complaining the whole way. I try not to, but I'm not built for steady plodding. I want to get rich quick, or die trying... anything else is intolerable.

Of course the reality, compared with most ordinary people, is that I am getting rich quick. I'm absolutely sure that you would have no problem at all, thinking of really great ways that you could spend my so-called 'disposable' income. However, I don't look at that money as 'disposable'... I look at it with despair, knowing that it's not enough to give me the security I need, to protect me against homelessness, destitution, bankruptcy, and all the other things which nearly killed me.

Sorry for repeating myself.

 

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I Can't Afford to Dream

3 min read

This is a story about being stuck in a hole...

Concrete beds

Why did I get so angry and upset yesterday over something so seemingly trivial? I think I'm exhausted from 3 years of uninterrupted hard work, stress and struggle. I've been battling to dig myself out of the hole I'm in, so I certainly haven't had the opportunity to dream.

For those people who are surrounded by their friends and family, comfortably in their routine: paying their mortgages, kissing their husbands/wives and kids good night, working their steady jobs, stuffing money into their sizeable savings accounts and pensions... those people can dream, because they're in a position of security and stability. Their lives are predictable, so they're able to dream. Of course, they are somewhat trapped by domestic bliss, so they kinda have to dream, because it's unthinkable that they would ever cut loose from their comfortable lives... but also, they know they really don't want to have a life of stress and insecurity like I have.

"What do you want to do with your life?" people ask me. A seemingly innocent question, but it's not. The question presupposes that I have any choice, when I obviously do not. My choices are between what I have to do - I'm forced to do - or death. Well, perhaps not immediate death, but in fact a much, much worse death.

If I don't do what I have to do, then bankruptcy, eviction, destitution and exclusion from society swiftly follow: I'll be a homeless tramp, unable to get a job, unable to rent a place to live, unable to do anything, except die from the loss of dignity and the harshness of homelessness and sleeping rough.

I'm creditworthy, so of course I could get into heaps of debt, pretending like I'm able to live a certain lifestyle without consequences. That seems to be what students do in the UK, where tuition fees are £27,000 and maintenance loans add another £30,000... £57,000 of debt, living a lifestyle you can't afford; putting off today's problems until tomorrow. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to get myself into that much debt.

There's no point dreaming until I've got the money to pay for those dreams.

Sure, you go ahead and have your dreams. You can afford to dream. Even if you can't ditch your husband/wife, kids, mortgage and job, you can still dream, and it's harmless. You can dream about getting a new kitchen or bathroom. You can dream about re-carpeting your hallway. You can dream about whatever you want, because you're in a position of wealth and privilege; security.

My dream consists of getting enough financial security to be able to afford a nervous breakdown without capitalism destroying me; killing me.

 

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Something to Take the Edge Off

5 min read

This is a story about crutches...

Office chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Lockdown Improvements

5 min read

This is a story about the Coronavirus pandemic...

Lighthouse

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

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

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

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

Things had to change.

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

I bought a desk and an office chair.

I weaned myself off the sleeping pills and tranquillisers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Fool And His Money

5 min read

This is a story about wartime thrift...

Paradise

There are a couple of sayings which really annoy me, because they are untrue and misleading. The first is "if you watch the pennies the pounds look after themselves" and the second is "a fool and his money are easily parted". The people who quote these sayings most often are terrible advice givers whose own wealth - if they have any at all - has not come from thrift or lack of foolishness. The people who quote these sayings are absolute idiots.

We can use other common sayings to demolish the idiocy.

"You've got to speculate to accumulate" and "buy low sell high" are both pretty obvious and self-explanatory, aren't they? These sayings are far more useful than the former ones, but there's a problem: most people don't have any spare money.

I placed a sizeable bet yesterday which looked as if it was going to provide a decent return on my investment. In fact, I lost the bet, but I was able to hedge my position and as such I didn't lose more than I was prepared to risk. In no way was my betting foolish. In fact, my betting was very smart because I was in a position where I stood to make a considerable capital gain, and my risk was hedged. The main thing we should remember though, is that I was not only able to afford to place the bets, but I was also able to afford to lose the money. Most people do not have the luxury of being able to speculate like I can, because they don't have the 'disposable' income.

Other things I've spent substantial sums of money on in the last year include my house, the furniture within it, a bengal kitten and a lot of cat supplies, a holiday to Turkish Disneyland and a holiday to Tulum in Mexico. I consider none of this money to have been wasted.

It probably seems pretty whacky for a 39-year-old single man to go on holiday to a theme-park resort, but what the hell is wrong with you if you don't want to ride rollercoasters, water slides, surf artificial waves as well as enjoy some winter sunshine in a place which was created with precision engineering to bring absolute delight to its visitors? I laughed with joy at so many of the little surprise things on that holiday, including the delightful theme-park hotel which was designed very much for children, but I assure you can be enjoyed just as much by any adult. That whole holiday was perfect, except that I felt a little lonely and out of place as a single man in a family resort.

My decision to go to Tulum in Mexico was taken on a whim, because my [ex-]girlfriend had told me that she had dreamed of going there for years, but she didn't possess the financial means for that trip to ever come to fruition for her - she would never have been able to save up enough money to visit one of the most desirable holiday destinations on the planet. The arrangement worked well for me, in that I was able to get some more winter sun and do some kitesurfing, plus all the Mayan ruins and stuff were very cool. Some people might say that I was taken advantage of financially, given her complete lack of monetary contribution, but it was a manyfold times more enjoyable trip because I had her company and I took pleasure from taking her to her dream holiday destination.

I've been spending lots of money eating out in restaurants, getting takeaway deliveries and I just booked another holiday. It's been over 6 months since my last holiday, so I think I've earned it.

I spend a lot of money.

Money flows in-between my fingers, as if I was grabbing handfuls of fine white coral sand on one of the beautiful beaches where I sometimes take my holidays. Does it bother me that I spend vast sums of money instead of hoarding as much as possible; living like a miser? Does it bother me that all I have to show for the money I've spent is an amazing house, a beautiful kitten and some incredible memories of unforgettable experiences? No. I'm no fool.

I've ploughed money into seemingly lost-causes, such as donating small sums of money to a friend who I'm trying to financially support through a difficult period of his life, to the point where he can hopefully be self-sufficient. It's damn hard escaping poverty. I feel as though it's my duty to spread the wealth. I feel as though it's very unfair that I can make lots of money because I already have plenty of money. Those who have the most money make the most money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That's unfair.

I think it's victim-blaming to say that the poor would become rich if they were more careful with their money, and I find that kind of thinking very offensive.

 

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Suddenly Everything is OK

5 min read

This is a story about overnight recovery...

Flip flops

One day you can't feel your leg. One day a leg is twice the size of the other one. One day your kidneys have stopped working. One day you're in agony from muscle and nerve damage caused by DVT. One day you're in hospital on dialysis and you're very sick. One day you're physically dependent on a medication which you've been buying on the black market, and you'll have seizures if you stop taking it. One day you're so addicted to a drug that you won't sleep, eat or drink, because you don't want to stop your binge for a single second. One day you're virtually bankrupt. One day you're homeless. One day you're jobless. One day your mental health is so bad that you're hearing voices, seeing things and you're paranoid about everybody and everything, to the point where you think even the person who loves you the most in the world is your enemy.

Then, overnight, you recover.

Overnight, all your physical health problems are cured.

Overnight, your mental health problems are cured.

Overnight, all your substance dependency - addiction - problems are solved.

Overnight, you have a house.

Overnight, you have a job.

Overnight, your debts are repaid.

Overnight, you have lots of money.

Nope.

Just nope.

I was rummaging in the boxes of stuff which managed to survive the chaotic years of my life and I found a pair of flip-flops with a piece of string tied to them. The string is there because I couldn't feel my foot and I couldn't control its movement - I couldn't walk properly. When I was walking in flip-flops, the left one would just fall off after ten or twenty steps, because I didn't have enough feeling in my toes to be able to 'grip' the flip-flop properly. The string was my improvised attempt to be able to wear my beloved flip-flops during some nice weather.

My attempt at using a piece of string to fix my inability to wear flip-flops was a lovely metaphor for the attempts I was making to solve all my problems, overnight.

That was two years ago.

Things got a lot worse before they got better.

Things were so bad that on the very worst day of my life, I woke up in an hospital intensive care ward, with a tube down my throat forcing air into my lungs, a tube up my nose and into my stomach, forcing activated charcoal and other things into me, 6 canulas all for pumping me full of various things, an arterial canula for measuring my blood pressure with incredible accuracy, plus I was attached to an 8-cable ECG machine, a clip on my finger measured my blood oxygen and I had been catheterised - I noticed that a tube coming out of my penis had been taped to the inside of my leg. The worst thing was that I was alive.

I did not want to be alive.

I had tried very hard not to be alive.

Physically I was alive, but I was still very sick - my kidneys and other organs had shut down and I had been in a coma - and I was also going through benzodiazepine withdrawal, which is both life-threatening and thoroughly unpleasant.

I was alive, but it turned out I didn't have a job or a home anymore.

I was single and without any friends. I was in a strange city where I didn't know anybody. I didn't have enough money to rent a place to live and support myself until I got my first paycheque. I was utterly screwed.

So, of course I still very much wanted to be dead.

Now, I have a nice house, full of nice things. I've made some friends and I've met some women. I go on dates. Sometimes those dates go really well. I have a job. I earn a lot of money. My finances are sorted out. I'm no longer addicted to drugs or physically dependent on medication. I hardly even drink - perhaps once a week, socially.

I can wear flip-flops.

Weirdly, the nerve damage repaired itself enough so that I have enough sensation in my foot to be able to wear flip-flops, run, go kitesurfing and do the other things I always used to do.

I don't know if I'm happy - there's still a lot of insecurity in my life; I live with an unacceptable amount of jeopardy for a person to have to suffer. I don't have enough friends in the local area. I don't have a girlfriend. I haven't established myself in my new home city. I've barely even started to unpack my stuff.

Compared with two years ago, my life does look like an overnight success. I'm good at my job and my colleagues are grateful for my contribution to the team and the project. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fit together, and my life is beginning to look viable.

It's strange how people expect to be able to 'save' people who - on closer examination - have such a clusterf**k of issues that it's easy why some would think they're a "lost cause" and abandon them.

I'm grateful to that handful of people who didn't give up on me; who didn't write me off and abandon me.

 

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