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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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Content Warning

4 min read

This is a story about shock...

Razor blade

Apparently, it's the done thing these days, to preface content with trigger warnings and content warnings. Many television programs will be followed by a message saying "if you have been affected by any of the issues covered by this program..." and accompanying telephone numbers and websites of charities which specialise in a particular aspect of human awfulness. I wonder whether it's making a difference or not.

Presumably, the issue is not comparable with, say for example, photo-sensitive epilepsy. I struggle to agree that the epileptic seizures which are caused by flashing lights, are comparable with content rife on the internet. It's routine for news-readers to warn viewers that "the next segment contains footage of flash photography" or "some viewers might find this next part distressing"... but, so far as I can tell, almost all of television is distressing in pursuit of shock value entertainment.

It's hard to reconcile the horror movies, adventure movies, action movies, celebrities eating creepy crawlies, nature documentaries and every other thing which we consume, willingly, as entertainment, with the apparent sensitivity of enough members of the public, that everyone needs to prefix everything they ever say or do with "content warning" as a preamble.

Of course, just like respecting a person's preferred pronouns, there's an element of reasonable social decorum. I do not, for example, drop my suicidal thoughts into casual smalltalk with my work colleagues. I do not, for example, regale my work colleagues with anecdotes about lying on the bathroom floor, slashing my forearms open with a razor blade; blood pissing out of multiple self-inflicted incisions. That would be too shocking.

I wonder, conversely, if I should have prefixed a simple message I sent approximately a year ago to my work colleagues, with a content warning: "my kidneys have failed".

It's hard to balance mental illness, with the unreasonable demands of civilised society. It's expected that I should behave like everything is absolutely fine, at all times, and otherwise keep my suicidal depression confined to a range of behaviour which is sanctioned by the Committee on Acceptable Conduct in Large Organisations, which is the authority on such things, making the ultimate decision on what is, and what is not, allowed in the workplace in terms of human existence expressed truthfully.

It makes sense, of course, that everybody should be so exhausted and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, all the fucking time, but nobody is allowed to talk about it. That makes perfect sense.

Not.

Content warnings and trigger warnings seem oppressive to me, in the same way as alarm clocks and the fact that it's apparently not acceptable to say "fuck off that sounds really boring" to your boss, when they ask you to do something. Things have reached a very sorry state of affairs, and I don't know why or how they got this bad.

Obviously, people who describe themselves as having "no filter" are probably just inconsiderate assholes. People who describe themselves as "telling it like it is" are insufferable twats.

We should probably try to tread a more subtle line, between making ourselves into corporate drones, masking all our our humanity, lest it make us less of a perfect career automaton, versus unleashing all of our violent mood swings and internal existential dread upon the world, 100% of the time. There's probably a happy compromise between the two extremes, which in my perfect world, basically encompasses an almost unlimited amount of duvet days. I'll happily accept buttoning my lip, provided I can stay at home and still get paid, when there's nothing worth doing and I can't face the world.

A colleague who's not spend much of his career attempting to climb the corporate greasy pole, was quite incredulous that he should have to curtail some of the more colourful aspects of his unique personality, lest his short spell in the organisation where we met, meet an untimely demise. My own working day is a near-constant battle, to bite my tongue, in order to preserve my income.

It seems reasonable that, if I was a broadcaster with a national or international reach, and millions of viewers/readers/listeners tuning in every day, then I would have to act in a more responsible manner. However, I'm just a ranting maniac who has turned his incomprehensible ravings into words published on the public internet, along with so many others that it's all lost in the sea of noise.

I'd like to say that it's all a deliberate defence mechanism, but the truth is that I really do need to vent like this, and it's mostly reflexive; automatic... very little premeditated thought goes into it, as it must be clear to see.

Oh, also: content warning.

 

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Winter is a Nightmare

4 min read

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

Snow

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

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

Poor me. Poor me etc etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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I Recant

5 min read

This is a story about irresponsibility...

Collapse

I did something which I knew was wrong. I looked at my website visitor data and it went to my head. I acted irresponsibly.

I'm just one guy, writing in my spare time.

Even if I worked full-time at this, there's a very finite limit of what I can offer people one-to-one.

With the power of the internet, I can reach vast numbers of people, but there's not a lot I can do for them as individuals. The power of a website is to broadcast, and the ability to meaningfully reply is a problem which hasn't been solved by technology yet: there is no machine which can pass the Turing Test, let alone provide effective crisis counselling.

I never promoted myself as a crisis counsellor, but I did very vociferously talk about the need for people to be able to talk about their suicidal thoughts, without being shouted down with "YOU'VE GOT SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR" clichés. I did write, at great length, about the vast numbers of people who can't find anybody to talk to who's going through what they're going through, and isn't some well-meaning busybody whose misguided good intentions are actually driving some suicidal people away. It's undeniably true: people are searching for stories which aren't bullshit fantasy make-believe nonsense about how everything's going to be OK and "this will pass soon" because people know that's not true: they've lived with suicidal thoughts for so long, that they know that it doesn't pass, a lot of the time.

However, I am not equipped. I am not equipped to read and respond to vast amounts of people's tragic stories, all day, every day. I very badly want to be able to, but my mood and energy fluctuates wildly, and so does my ability to read and respond. I can't promise to always be available to chat. I can't promise to always be able to read and respond in a timely manner.

I'm not sure if I ever made a promise to anybody, but I suppose I got carried away, and I had increasingly encouraged people to write to me. I don't discourage it, but I think it was irresponsible of me, to be reaching so many people in crisis, but yet to be so ill-equipped to deal with that deluge... it's heartbreakingly tragic that there are so many people out there in the world, searching for the "easiest" way to kill themselves.

I'm not a wishful thinker. I'm not an idiot either. Although I applaud those who say "if I just save one life, that's enough" and indeed that attitude is theoretically enough to save everyone who needs to be saved, if we all adopted that attitude... unfortunately, the statistics and data points that it is not enough. That's not to say that those who volunteer to work on crisis counselling phone lines aren't working hard enough. It's a simple statement of fact: whatever we're doing in the world of suicide prevention, is not working.

So, I'm taking an unorthodox approach. I'm writing about my struggles, without trying to create any Disney Hollywood fairy-tale fantasy happy ending. There's no happy ending to my story. My story doesn't have an ending like: "and they all lived happily ever after". Nope. This is not a rags-to-riches story. This isn't a story of recovery. If you came here looking for that, you came to the wrong place. In fact, I know why people came here, and they are not looking for saccharine-sweet sugar-coated false hope, because there's plenty of that already in the world. So many people write to me to tell me that they're so glad that they found somebody writing with honesty in a relatable way, that I'm never going to stop doing that.

My mistake; my irresponsibility... that's been in getting greedy and actively trying to get more readers. My crime is in letting the huge number of readers go to my head, and starting to think that I was doing anything more than simply telling a relatable story, with honesty.

In short, I'm sorry. I don't have anything other to offer you than my story. I'll stop being so arrogant and pretending I'm anything other than an ordinary guy, telling his own story of depression and suicide attempts, for anybody who wants to read it. I'm sorry I got big-headed and thought that I might be making a different. I'm sorry for my delusion of grandeur.

I'm going to now delete one of the blog posts I wrote, which was definitely straying into the territory of delusional; written when I was thinking that I was making a difference, in some way... when I thought I was doing something useful. Now I see that it was irresponsible.

I'm sorry.

 

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Minor Discomfort

4 min read

This is a story about unrealistic expectations...

Cleaning cupboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Grind

4 min read

This is a story about wishing my life away...

Jeep

As a child I wanted to be a grown-up so that I could drive a car and buy whatever the heck I wanted; eat whatever I want; do whatever I want. Life has, in fact, kinda worked out for me in that regard. Life has, essentially, turned out to be everything I expected it to be. It really is child's play in fact, provided you stay true to your childish ambitions: I do, in fact, enjoy driving, expensive toys, eating whatever I want, and doing whatever I want.

I don't think I was ever so naïve as to think that things didn't have to be paid for. In fact, if there's one thing which has been front and centre of my mind, since the moment that consciousness sprang into my infant mind, it's that everything has to be paid for. You have to pay to play: I've always understood this.

As with childhood, I know that there's no other route to get where I want other than waiting. I had to wait until 17 years of age to get a full driving license, to enjoy the freedom of the road on my own. I had to wait for everything else I wanted too. I'm waiting now. My whole life is mostly waiting. Waiting for the stuff I want.

Older people, and particularly parents, are somewhat idiotic in telling children and younger people to not wish their lives away. It's moronic to tell somebody who has no freedom and cannot get what they want, that they should cherish a time of misery, suffering, deprivation and unmet want. What is there to cherish about being homeless? What is there to cherish about being hungry? What is there to cherish about having the world flaunt everything in your face, while you can only look on jealously? What is there to cherish about the impotence of having your life controlled by others? What is there to cherish in the waiting?

I've often written about this, but if I could take a pill and wake up ten years from now with no memory of the intervening decade, but all of my earnings in the bank, of course I'd take it. There's nothing I want from the present. I only want the opportunities which money can buy, which are locked up in the future, with nothing but grinding standing in the way.

Grinding is a well-understood thing, amongst younger people. In the absence of any realistic prospect of being able to afford to buy a house and start a family, it seems obvious that virtual worlds would flourish. Starting with games like The Sims, and then the infamous World of Warcraft, there has been an enormous explosion in popularity of games which aren't won per se, but instead offer a virtual reality where achievement and progress are possible, in a way which is not possible in the real world. No amount of supermarket shelf stacking will enable a young person to escape from their socioeconomic predicament - their preordained doom - and as such, it's little wonder that their tiny amount of disposable income would be frittered away on virtual objects; purchasing power so inadequate as to acquire any of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as shelter.

The gamification of life is all-pervasive. School is not about learning, but about grades to get into university. University is not about learning, it's the only route into a career without a ludicrously low glass ceiling. Jobs are not about passion or vocation, but each one a means to an end: a stepping stone on a career path towards... towards what? Towards a pension, and death hopefully. At least, hopefully, a long, painful, uncomfortable, illness-ridden, but not impoverished retirement, hopefully. At some point along the way, a partner will be acquired - whose looks and intelligence will be scored - and later there will be children who will also score points for their academic achievements. Everybody is keeping score.

The grind seems necessary, somehow. A means to an end, perhaps. Except, the summit is never reached. The goals are never achieved. There's no winning this game.

 

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Treatment for Social Jetlag

4 min read

This is a story about alarm clocks...

Kitchen garden

How many people start the day, jolted from their pleasant slumbers by their alarm clock, repeatedly pressing the snooze button because they want and need more sleep? Is it 50% of the world's population? Is it 75% of the world's population? Is it 95% of the world's population? Certainly, in Europe, North America, New Zealand, Australia - and a bunch of other 'westernised' societies - the figure will be exceedingly high. That's an incredible amount of unnecessary human misery and suffering, in my opinion. Why the hell is society functioning like that, with its most productive members so exhausted?

I do not subscribe to the rat race, insofar as accepting that social jetlag is an inevitable part of the prime years of my life. I do not accept decades of torturous suffering. I refuse to be part of that.

Many years ago, I was unable to get out of bed, one morning. I lay in that bed for weeks, paralysed by depression. But, I don't think it was depression: it was my body's natural reaction to an abhorrent situation. Nobody should have to get up in the morning, against nature. It's unnatural. It's an offence to human existence. It's toxic to human health and wellbeing. No. No way. Not doing it.

But.

It's almost impossible to fight against the established order of society. Even though almost everybody is exhausted and socially jetlagged, because of the rat race, nobody wants to flinch first; nobody wants to be the person who gives up, lest other eager competitors steal their place in the rat race.

In an arms race, eventually, the only outcome is the destruction of human civilisation. This is the point that we've arrived at: life has become uncivilised in the extreme.

So.

What are we going to do about it?

Let me tell you a little bit about my life. I go to bed at the same time every night, and I always fall asleep quickly. Then, I always wake up before I need to wake up. I never set an alarm clock. I'm never woken up unnaturally: I always wake up, doze peacefully a little longer, start thinking about my day, read a little news on my phone, then get up when I'm ready. I'm almost always among the first of my colleagues to start my working day. Sounds too good to be true? Well, yes, certainly this can't be achieved without a little cheating.

How do I cheat?

Well, that's really easy, so I'm not going to beat about the bush. The answer is obvious: sleep medication.

Yes, that's right, sleep medication is the obvious treatment for social jetlag.

Sleep medication.

It's that simple.

There are two problems: firstly, your doctor will not give you any effective sleep medication, because otherwise society would be a happier, better rested, and a less miserable torturous place, and we couldn't possibly have that, could we?!?! Secondly, getting a great night of sleep every night, and waking up naturally every morning feeling refreshed, starting work early without need in alarm clock, is really great so it's hard to want to go back to being tired all the time, and hating every single morning when the alarm goes off. Obviously, you need a virtually unlimited supply of effective sleep medication, to last you until retirement.

Good news though: capitalism plans on continuing to manufacture goods and services, for as long as there's demand. Also good news: while you continue to be useful to capitalism, you will be given tokens which you can exchange for goods and services. More good news: while you have needs and valuable tokens, and capitalism produces goods and services, there will be people willing to facilitate the exchange of those tokens for the goods and services, in exchange for a profit margin. Good news all round: while capitalism demands that you get out of bed unnaturally early in the morning, there will be a plentiful supply of sleep medication, to allow you to cope with the social jetlag.

Of course, when capitalism collapses, I'm going to have some pretty bad insomnia, but maybe that's advantageous. When everybody else is sleeping, overcome by exhaustion, I'll have plenty of extra hours awake to scavenge the looted supermarkets for scraps.

Don't waste your time with your doctor: capitalism has already created efficient markets, where you can procure whatever you need at a highly competitive price.

 

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No Retreat

4 min read

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

Balcony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Raw Dogging Reality

4 min read

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

Mulled cider

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

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

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

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

Why then do we fetishise brutal sobriety?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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My Own Worst Enemy

4 min read

This is a story about self sabotage...

Bruise

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

No.

It's not enough.

Not for me, anyway.

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

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

I'm not able to choose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

High productivity has come at a high cost.

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

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

 

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A Life of Significance

4 min read

This is a story about having skin in the game...

Signpost

While I often spew words of harsh derision for those who seemingly make foolish decisions, or otherwise exhibit - in my opinion - extraordinary fuckwittery, wasting astonishing amounts of time and money, I must acknowledge that almost everyone I work with does care to some extent about delivering a good outcome. I don't have the misfortune of working with anybody, who absolutely doesn't care a single bit about their work. It's unkind, unfair and untrue to represent things that way.

Conversely, I have decided to hang my hat on the particular project I'm working on, because it somehow seems worthy of my precious attention. If that sounds arrogant, that's exactly how I intended it to come across. For sure, it's arrogant as heck to assume that I would have anything worthwhile to contribute to anything. How arrogant of me to assume that my worth is anything other than zero. In fact, I spent a long time feeling worthless. I spent a long time feeling that there was no opportunity to feel anything other than worthless. Then, one day, the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself: an opportunity, in my mind, to make a mark; to prove myself valuable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Psychologically, I have pinned all my hopes and dreams on the outcome of one particular project. I have decided that if I can play a role in making that project successful, then I will be somewhat vindicated. This is my opportunity to prove that my troubled past is well and truly done and dusted, and I'm back on my feet, in no uncertain terms. If I can make this project succeed, as much as is possible within my powers, then my achievement will be great enough to deflect, defeat, repel and reject all nay-sayers and doubters; all my critics will be crushed by my almighty victory.

Of course, I acknowledge the toxic soup which whirls in my brain, combining delusions of grandeur, inferiority complexes, guilty conscience, shame, regret and a catalogue of horrendous blunders. I acknowledge that really, being a very small cog in a very big machine, changes nothing. My involvement could never be great enough to absolve me of my sins. My contribution could never be great enough to elevate me from the stinking gutter, which I sank into due to my own flaws and depravity; my own evilness and patheticness; my own uselessness and poor choices have doomed me, and there's no escaping the consequences of my own actions.

However.

I've never let reality get in the way of a good story before, so why would I start now? The project has given me a reason to live, when I had lived without reason for so long. Why shouldn't I fantasise about the importance of the project, and in turn, my own importance, if it keeps me alive; if it gives me purpose and self-esteem? Why shouldn't I have a reason to live, purpose, motivation, self-esteem, pride and all the other things which other people have enjoyed their whole lives? Why shouldn't I have those things?

We could easily sit back in our armchairs sneeringly and cynically criticising, saying that everyone who ever wanted to feel proud about something was a monster; saying that it's vanity and conceit which motivates me; saying that - basically - I'm just a bad person with nothing to offer the world, and any attempt I might make to contribute does nothing of the sort... I'm incapable of contributing and I shouldn't even try; I should just shuffle away into some dark hole and die. Yes, that would be very easy to say that. Yes, that's what all those armies of critics are saying, cynically, sneeringly, from the comfort of their armchairs.

Sure, yes, I'm conceited and arrogant for wanting to feel like I made a meaningful contribution to something great, before I died. Sure, yes, it's an idiotic fantasy; a delusion of grandeur. Sure, yes, you're right, I'm a horrible human being, with nothing to offer. Sure, yes, you're right, I should just shut the fuck up.

Also, no. No I will not. No I will not shut up and no I will not stop.

 

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