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My name is Nick Grant and I have manic depression. I write every day about living with bipolar disorder. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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Je Suis Fatty Gay

2 min read

This is a story about fatigue...

Unmade bed

I had planned on going out kitesurfing more than once, while I was on holiday in Mauritius. I had planned on spending some time in the sunshine today. I had planned on seeing my sister play roller derby.

In the end, I was too tired.

It's been a while since I was unable to get out of bed, but I think it's economic necessity and the opportunity to make hay while the sun shines, which means that I am just about able to force myself into an uncomfortable daily routine - working in an office 9 to 5 Monday to Friday - but the rest of the time I'm tired and I want to relax; to sleep.

My life is a bit boring, given that it consists of work, eating and sleeping, but it makes me more miserable, feeling duty-bound to do activities. I definitely need the rest, because my working days are demanding, and life's been very stressful in recent years, which has left me exhausted.

I'm writing this because I feel guilty about squandering some valuable quality time, but I feel so much better for having given myself permission to rest, instead of succumbing to a sense of duty.


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I Don't Think You Realise How Tired I Am

4 min read

This is a story about working...

Power nap

I work hard for long periods of time - very hard - and then I need a holiday. I don't mean sightseeing. I don't mean wandering round crowded cities. I don't mean rushing from place to place, catching planes, trains and automobiles. I don't mean having a packed itinerary of non-stop horse-riding, hiking, learning how to make stuff, guided excursions to sites of historical and cultural interest. What I mean is a holiday.

I work very hard and I get very tired.

It's very tiring working very hard.

If you do not work very hard, then you are not very tired, and you have plenty of energy to go off doing city breaks and travelling around, never staying more than one or two nights in any one place, taking local busses, doing lots of short internal flights. If you do not work very hard then you will have lots of energy to have a very complex itinerary and go off spending lots of money doing lots of things.

I work hard.

I get tired.

I need a holiday.

I cann't stress this enough: I AM VERY TIRED AND I NEED A HOLIDAY.

This is what a holiday is: go somewhere with nice weather, stay there, relax.

There. That's a holiday. A holiday is something you do so that when you go back to work you're less tired than when you started. I need a holiday. Is that clear?

Over the Christmas and New Year festive season, I did manage to lie on a beach lounger getting a nice tan and having drinks and snacks brought to me by a waiter. I did manage to relax. The weather was vastly better than it was in the UK and I was able to stay in the one place - no planes, trains, automobiles, busses, coaches, trams, timetables, itineraries, hassle, faff, stress, exhaustion - and I was able to go to the beach every day and enjoy the sun, sea and the sand.

It's been more than 6 months.

I'm exhausted.

I need a holiday.

I'm tired so I need a holiday. I do not need a complex multi-stop itinerary cultural activity tour with a thousand and one things to travel between, as some kind of non-stop torture for somebody who just needs to relax. That's not a holiday.

If I had tens of thousands of pounds and months and months without any rent or bills to pay, I could quite happily squander those tens of thousands of pounds ambling around doing activities, but I don't have that luxury. I work. I work very hard.

I don't get to sleep. I don't get to rest. I just work. I work really really hard. I cannot stress enough how tired I am.

I am tired.

Do you get this?

The solution to my tiredness is a holiday.

This is how I organise my life: I work hard and then I take a holiday.

That's how my life works: I use up my energy working very hard, and then I take a holiday to replenish my energy.

My energy is depleted - dangerously so - and I desperately need a holiday.

It's really quite simple when you understand these simple facts: I work; I work very hard; I work for very long periods without a holiday; I work on the basis that I will take a holiday when I need one, to recharge my batteries. My life does not and cannot function without the holidays which punctuate the periods of intense hard work. You cannot imagine how hard I work. You cannot imagine how tired I am.

I do not think you realise how tired I am.

 

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Packing Up

7 min read

This is a story about mechanical failure...

Box

How I expected to feel - physically - and how I am actually feeling, are out of alignment. There is considerable discrepancy between my anticipated relief from fatigue and discomfort, and the aches and pains which are unexpectedly and unpleasantly asserting their presence.

I suppose my mind has erased the memories of the suffering I went through repeatedly as a drug addict. I know that the comedowns and withdrawals must have been terrible, but my memories are very patchy. Perhaps mercifully, I can't recall that pain.

My body feels poisoned; toxic. I suffered plenty of hospitalisations when my organs were struggling and failing. There is a very real and tangible muscle memory that tells me that this unpleasant experience is not a new one. Indeed, I can rationalise that I've survived countless periods of immense dehydration, starvation, insomnia and physical exertion, beyond that which anyone of sound body and mind could and would withstand. I know that my addiction drove me to repeat the same stupidity countless times, always with more-or-less identically awful outcomes.

To my mind, I've done nothing to deserve this physical suffering, knowing what dreadful things I've put my body through in the past. Instead of being cautious and avoiding that pain, perhaps I came to regard myself as indestructible. Certainly, I had gathered a lot of evidence that my body could take a great deal of punishment and seemingly suffer no long-term consequence. Perhaps I have learned to take my body's resilience for granted.

I don't feel like I did anything particularly excessive, but my body tells me otherwise: My muscles and joints all give me a great deal of pain and I'm extremely fatigued.

It's distressing, but I have to accept the evidence as I see it. My body is telling me that I'm very sick. My body is telling me that I need to rest and recuperate.

I know that to proceed as if my body weren't signalling its distress, has led in the past to near-catastrophic medical emergencies, and lengthy hospital stays. It's only by the skill and hard work of the medical teams that so much of me has been preserved. I was under the impression that I was not in too bad shape; that my organs were functioning OK and that I'd somehow dodged a bullet.

Perhaps the doctors were just being kind - sparing my feelings. Perhaps it was kinder to tell me I'd been lucky and that I should take better care in future, as opposed to telling me that I'd inflicted irreparable damage upon myself. I heard what I wanted to hear anyway: I thought I got away with it again and again.

It was more or less 2 years ago that I realised that I had to pump the brakes.

The accomplishment of going cold turkey and completely rebuilding my life, is not something I've achieved just once. In fact, it's remarkable that from the supposed apogee of my life - a wealthy homeowner with a wife - I should have had multiple periods of homelessness and almost total destitution, at the hands mainly of drug addiction intermingled with mental health problems in the most destructive way; and also multiple periods of repairing the damage and attempting to rebuild my shattered existence, which have been successful but not for very long.

Each attempt to rebuild my life consumes considerably more time and energy than the last, and I suppose I never accounted for the wear and tear that the boom and bust existence must have been having on my poor broken body.

I'm disoriented. A breakup and moving house coincided with a very bad episode of mania, which resulted in a brief period when my body was very harshly abused. I seem to have survived, but I haven't been truly tested yet: I need to go back to work and pick up where I left on. There's a lot of hard work left ahead of me, and I will need to work with consistency and stability, and continue to attempt to be very conservative and cautious in the workplace.

I don't know whether I'm winning, or actually I already lost but I just didn't realise it yet: I'm waiting for overwhelming evidence that my fate is sealed, and that my body is giving up on me.

That's honestly how I feel right now - that my body has been pushed too hard for too long, and there's not much life left in me. I would not be in the least bit surprised to be told that some vital organ is failing and my days are numbered.

It's a little frustrating, because I made some health decisions that have not been easy to follow-through with, such as stopping drinking and eating more healthily, but I accept that it's probably too little too late.

I'm probably being a little melodramatic, but I do have an annoying habit of knowing the difference between a serious medical emergency and what is merely severely life-threatening but survivable outside of a clinical environment.

A couple of concerned friends are encouraging me to get blood tests done etc. but I can't see it changing the outcome much. If I've done myself in, then I've done myself in and I'm done for, and that's that.

I think I'm more optimistic than I'm perhaps letting on. I can imagine that I'll go easy on myself for a couple of weeks - ease my feet back under the desk - and then I'll start feeling a lot better. It does seem understandable that a very short sharp shock would cause me considerable pain and suffering. Perhaps I've just been over-optimistic about how quickly I could recover.

I plan on working from home tomorrow, which is part of my strategy of going easy on myself. I still literally bear the scars of the recent ordeal on my face and hands, so I'm not being entirely hyperbolic.

I think if my body does pack up, that would be an entirely fitting end, and I would probably have a good chuckle about the irony of it, given my body's refusal to give up the ghost at any point when I have been acting far less sensibly.

It's funny how people perceive me. They ask me whether I'm going to go jogging or cycling in the park, when in fact climbing a flight of stairs is an unpleasant ordeal at the moment. It's hard to comprehend what I've been through - many many lifetimes worth of boom and bust, replete with the agony and the suffering. You can't see that stuff from the outside - all you can see is a 39 year old body that's not in particularly terrible shape, on first inspection. I dread to think what my internal organs must look like, but I've got a lot of scars on my skin, which each tell a pretty gruesome story.

I'm going to look pretty silly if I'm full of the joys of spring and zooming around like a young man in a few weeks, full of energy, but anyhoo... this is the way I write; this is what I do.

 

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Hitting the Wall

3 min read

This is a story about having a breakdown...

Broken glass

This broken glass in my sink is symptomatic of whatever the hell is happening to me at the moment. I'm too exhausted to get out of bed. I sleep all night, then I sleep all day, then I'm sleepy and clumsy and I knock glasses into the sink, but I'm too exhausted to safely dispose of the shards of broken glass.

I knew I was tired. I knew I needed a holiday. A proper holiday, which was relaxing and allowed me to recharge the batteries. I basically needed two weeks in a hot country, with no pressure or responsibility or guilt or financial stress or any of the other things which have completely and utterly exhausted me.

I knew I was close to breaking point. How long had I been complaining for? How long had the warning signs been present for?

I've started to screw up. I should be showing my face in the office. I should be attending work social events. I should be on top form and leaving a good impression everywhere I go. Instead, I'm making mistakes; I'm unreliable, clumsy.

When things start falling apart it can set off a domino-like chain of events. My life feels like it's imploded. Nothing's going my way and I don't have the energy to fix anything, or even clean up the mess properly.

It's strange. I don't feel as suicidal as I have done in the past, so it makes me think that this must be something physical. Maybe I'm just completely physically exhausted. Being stressed out is hard on the body, I think, being so tense all the time. I know I'm depressed, but I don't feel like the exhaustion is just a mental problem.

I feel like I've destroyed the good reputation I worked so hard to build, while also at the same time, I'm losing confidence in my own abilities. I've always been able to bounce back from setbacks. I've always been able to save myself from disaster. I'm worried I can't pull off those escape-artist tricks anymore.

I'm in a lot better position than I was this time last year, but it's been a year from hell. I'm in a lot better position, but that's not saying much. It would be pretty hard to be in a worse position than the one I was in last year.

Yes, things are not the very worst that they've ever been in my life, but they're still pretty dire by most people's standards.

The trouble is, I've started to go backwards; I've started to sink.

 

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Sugar Craving, Caffeine Addicted, Alcohol Dependent

4 min read

This is a story about shelf life...

Red bull cans

Objectively comparing feelings at different times in your life is a virtually impossible task. What you would have described as 'low' mood a few years ago might have now become your new standard for a 'good' day. All I can tell you is that I don't remember ever feeling as tired as I have felt today.

I spent 5 hours driving, 7 hours waiting around in airports and 5 hours flying, which was all exhausting. However, in the last week or so there's something else that's been quite different about my behaviour - I've been drinking coffee and energy drinks.

A couple of weeks I desperately needed an extra bit of 'get up and go' to get me through a tough couple of weeks. I reached for caffeine as a crutch. I gave up - although perhaps only temporarily - my many years of caffeine-free existence.

When I was away with my friend over the weekend, it was tempting to just move from bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant, café to café. We drank fizzy drinks, strong European coffee, had ice-creams and I drank quite a lot of beer. We guzzled sugar, caffeine, and I had plenty of alcohol.

Yesterday, because I had to drive home from the airport, I had to stay sober all day. I also didn't want to be wired and jittery from having loads of coffee. I was exhausted, so I wanted to sleep on the plane ride, so that I wouldn't fall asleep at the wheel while driving home.

I think to say "alcohol dependent" is an over-exaggeration, but having slept most of the day, and generally felt like everything was far too much effort, it was the lure of alcohol that finally managed to get me off the sofa and out of the house.

If you look at most of my behaviour, it's motivated by the tiny dopamine hits from sugar, caffeine and the mellowing effect of alcohol. I used to ride a dreadful chemical carousel when I was a lot younger, working in London: I would have 8 or more espresso shots a day, and then had to have a bottle of red wine at night in order to be able to sleep. It was a vicious see-saw of uppers and downers, that were quite legal and indeed the consumption of coffee and alcohol was quite ubiquitous amongst my friends and work colleagues.

I've felt like my sleep quality has improved and I find it a lot easier to get up in the mornings, since going caffeine-free.

I've never really managed to get rid of alcohol completely. I find that I suffer terrible anxiety and depression whenever I try to stop drinking.

Sugar is something I have a mixed relationship with. I crave it like crazy when I'm tired. When I'm well rested I don't have a very sweet tooth at all. I think I associate sugar with getting an energy boost, which in fact never happens. If I'm craving sugar I should probably take a nap.

There's nothing to say that caffeine is particularly bad for you, and in fact there's good evidence that it has a neuro-protective effect against dementia in older people, but anecdotally I can definitely report feeling improved mood, energy and sleep, since cutting my caffeine intake to zero.

Sugar is obviously fattening, and is very unhealthy, although an essential part of our diet - every cell in our body is powered by glucose, so any faddy sugar-free low-carb diets are pure idiocy.

Alcohol is fattening and seems to have a firm grip on me, even if I'm not physically dependent on it. The strength of the cravings I have for alcohol are quite shocking, and the regularity and quantity I consume is definitely unhealthy. I would like to cut down, or even quit for a while, but I'm never quite able to.

In short, I'm feeling really tired, old and unhealthy. My mood is dreadfully low, I'm lacking motivation and I seem to have lost all enjoyment of life.

I wonder if I'm past my sell-by date.

 

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Cry for Help

5 min read

This is a story about compassion fatigue...

Man on the edge

I imagine that the boy who cried wolf was probably telling the truth every time he raised the alarm, but the villagers just wanted him to shut up - they wanted him to quietly deal with the wolf on his own and to leave them alone. I mean, what kind of monsters would leave a little boy to protect sheep from wolves? The moral of the story is "don't complain" and "fuck off and die".

I'm sick and tired of explaining that my depression and suicidal thoughts aren't going to be cured by yoga, kale smoothies, exercise, mindfulness, whale song recordings or other quack cures. I'm sick and tired of explaining that I've had enough of swallowing a heap of different pills to try to level out my moods - one to counteract another, and so on ad nauseam. I'm sick and tired of explaining that my job is making me unwell, but I can't quit because I need the money. I'm sick and tired of explaining that my living and travel arrangements are toxic to my mental health, destroying any sense of wellbeing. I'm sick and tired of hearing simple solutions to an oversimplified version of my complicated problems. I'm sick and tired, and I want to die, because that's the only easy solution.

I was pleased to reach the end of Jinxed January. I was pleased to start dating again. I was pleased that money has started to flow again. However, it's all too little too late - the demands which have been placed on me are too great. The things I've had to battle through and overcome have exhausted me, and I've got nothing left to give - I'm spent.

In the last year I lost two girlfriends, two apartments, two jobs. In the last year I spent 7 weeks in hospital. In the last year I quit stimulants, opiates, benzodiazepines, neuropathic painkillers, sleeping tablets and a host of other pills, powders and potions. I moved between several cities and slept in so many different beds that I can't possibly count them all. You'd think that all the hard work would pay off, but it hasn't. For all the agony and anxiety, there's no reward at the end of it. For all the stress and strain, it hasn't got me anywhere. For all the self-denial and good behaviour, there's been no benefit.

I emerged from work this evening and the sky wasn't completely dark. Longer days are coming. Better weather is on its way. However, sustaining myself until the first warm days of this year is going to be impossible - I'll never make it to mid-spring, because I'm fucked right now. "One day at a time" is the problem - the days are unbearable.

I thought my suicidal thoughts had subsided, but this evening I had the strongest urge to end my life that I've had in quite a long time. My suicidal thoughts had turned into hopes and plans for the future, but this evening those hopes seemed too far out of reach. I've done the maths and the figures just don't add up. There's no way that I can carry on. The money's not coming in fast enough to stop the rot. I can't keep myself afloat like this any longer.

I found some Bitcoins I'd forgotten about. They're sitting there ready to be spent on the dark web. I'm not going to relapse, because that would be slow suicide. If I'm going to kill myself, I'm going to do it quickly and suddenly, not in the drawn-out and degrading way that happens with drug addiction. If I'm going to kill myself, it's going to be with pride and dignity, knowing that I tried as hard as humanly possible to rescue myself, but it wasn't enough. If I'm going to commit suicide, I'm going to be clean, sober and sane.

Life's not worth the aggravation. Life's not worth the effort. The rewards just don't match up with the stress, exhaustion, loneliness, isolation, boredom, trauma, suffering, grief and inevitable death.

Why bother?

I've worked a million jobs and delivered a zillion projects. I've moved house so many times, built fortunes, created companies and invented products. I've travelled. I've lived and loved. I've taken everything to the extreme. I've had enough. I'm sick of this shit.

Don't try to persuade me to live and don't be sad when I'm gone. I've lived a thousand lifetimes. I just can't stand having to live one more, when it's just repeating the same old bullshit I've done a million times before.

Don't ring the police or whatever. I'm not going to kill myself immediately. I just really want to die and I'm planning when and how I'm going to do it.

 

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The Closest I've Come to Suicide

6 min read

This is a story about the straw that broke the camel's back...

Skullface

You'd think that the closest I ever came to finishing this suicide note - and ending my life - would have been the time both my kidneys failed and an old ankle injury made it almost impossible to work. I also lost one of the best IT contracts I've ever had and became hooked on legally prescribed pain medication, which pretty much scuppered my ability to get another contract. I was running out of money fast, but struck down with physical and psychological problems - depression - I could barely function.

My girlfriend at the time was exhausted after spending weeks in hospital with me, while the survival of my kidneys was in doubt. She came to all my outpatient appointments. She helped me hobble around and get my prescriptions for my pain. Then, I dumped her. She was exhausted and she'd just been to Cornwall - Land's End - to meet her new nephew. I had a crisis while she was away and in her state of tiredness, she couldn't think straight. In the state I was in, I needed her help, but to me she didn't seem to care - that was my warped perception, at least. I immediately broke up with her, because what seemed like life or death to me didn't seem to matter to her due to compassion fatigue and physical tiredness. To my messed up mind it seemed as if she didn't care about me, when I desperately needed her help.

Having no girlfriend, no job, no money, bad health and a ridiculously expensive riverside apartment to keep up the rent & bills payments on, losing a loan that had been promised to me by my girlfriend, further compounded a dreadful situation.

I sold a lot of my most precious things, even though I knew that the money would barely cover a month's rent. Being a high earner, most welfare benefits were inaccesible to me and to have a black mark on my credit score would preclude me from ever working in banking again.

I became hopeless, resigned to a fate of eviction, bailiffs, debt collection agencies and destitution. The best option was to spend 28 days in hospital, said my psychiatrist - at least I would be safer there.

My trigger finger was itchy, but I knew that if I could beg a sofa or spare bed to sleep on, I would at least avoid another period of homelessness. One of my Twitter followers offered her spare bedroom and things briefly looked up, but then she changed her mind. One old friend offered to put me up in a bed & breakfast for 2 weeks, which would have been welcome respite. An old schoolfriend said if I was desperate I could couch-surf in his 1-bedroom apartment, where he has a 4-year-old daughter. Three offers, which gave me a momentary boost, but at the same time, it's somewhat depressing that of all the people I know on Facebook and Twitter who have generously proportioned houses, nobody else even offered to let me pitch my tent in their back garden... my experience of dealing with the local council and government benefits system means that you're just plain wrong if you think all those taxes you pay mean you won't end up sleeping rough, if life doesn't treat you well.

I always had a plan - 336 tramadol tablets - that would virtually assure me a swift and painless death, but I always felt a few steps removed from actually following through with it.

I'm so exhausted and unwell at the moment, in a stressful (but rewarding) job that it took hardly anything to push me over the edge to the most suicidal I've ever been. Losing my new local girlfriend and the accompanying social group, would be too much to bear, when I haven't the energy to grieve the loss and to pick myself up again.

There was no doubt in my mind about what the plan was. I could visualise the steps. It took every ounce of effort and willpower to overcome the urge to simply empty the 336 capsules into a small glass, add some other opiates that would cause respiratory arrest, and them simply get drunk until I passed out... probably less than 60 minutes, and I'd have departed from this world.

It might seem rash; an overreaction, but the rollercoaster ride I've been on has left me without a single percent of spare capacity. Even something minorly inconvenient or unexpectedly going wrong, can cause a seemingly disproportionate reaction.

I wasn't scared. I wasn't hesitant. It would have been done, and that would have been that. Call it a strength if you like - I can take bold fearless actions, even if they would certainly cause my life to be ended.

The scary thing is just how quickly I would have acted, having started the process. Less than an hour, to be a cold white corpse with purple lips and rigor mortis setting in. "Will I feel differently in an hour?" I asked myself, hypothetically supposing that I delay my deadly potion in order to see if my mood changed.

Luckily, I acted positively and pursued a more favourable resolution to what was almost certainly going to be a breakup. She said she wasn't going to pick up the phone or reply to my messages, which would perversely have only accelerated the commencement of my death ritual.

While it looks like a sudden thing to do over a very trivial trigger, things have to be seen in the wider context. I know how depressed and lonely I was before I met this girl and her friends. I know that the effort involved in courting her almost cost me my sanity, stability and job. I know how hard things have been at times during the umpteen years I've been diagnosed with clinical depression. At some point, you're so sick of a miserable life, that you'll gladly welcome the end of the suffering.

I felt a little bad about leaving the project I was working on unfinished, but I'd done the hardest bits, so most of it that was left to do was copy & paste.

I didn't feel any sadness or guilt, for depriving friends and family of the living version of me. Less than 1% of the people I'm in contact with, offered any kind of assistance when I was in a crisis. Basically, I mean fuck all to anybody, no matter what they say.

I'm sleep deprived and my brain chemistry just isn't right at the moment, but still, I know when it's time to go - you get sick of all the bullshit of living, Being alive is over-rated. It's been mostly suffering for me (boo hoo! get the violins out).

So, that was the time I nearly killed myself, deliberately... a close shave.

 

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#NaNoWriMo2016 - Day Twenty-Three

10 min read

Poste Restante

Contents

Chapter 1: The Caravan

Chapter 2: Invisible Illness

Chapter 3: The Forest

Chapter 4: Prosaic

Chapter 5: The Van

Chapter 6: Into the Unknown

Chapter 7: The Journey

Chapter 8: Infamy

Chapter 9: The Villages

Chapter 10: Waiting Room

Chapter 11: The Shadow People

Chapter 12: Enough Rope

Chapter 13: The Post Offices

Chapter 14: Unsuitable Friends

Chapter 15: The Chase

Chapter 16: Self Inflicted

Chapter 17: The Holiday

Chapter 18: Psychosis, Madness, Insanity and Lunacy

Chapter 19: The Hospitals

Chapter 20: Segmentation

Chapter 21: The Cell

Chapter 22: Wells of Silence

Chapter 23: The Box

Chapter 24: Jailbird

Chapter 25: The Scales

Chapter 26: Descent

Chapter 27: The Syringe

Chapter 28: Anonymity

Chapter 29: The Imposter

Chapter 30: Wish You Were Here

 

23. The Box

At the house, Neil's dad, Colin, was going through his son's stuff. There was a winter coat folded up at the bottom of the wardrobe on top of a pile of jumpers. Colin took the coat out, put it on a hanger and hung it up. He found some space in the chest of drawers and started to re-fold and put away the thick wooly jumpers. At the bottom of the pile, there was a shoebox shoved right to the back of the wardrobe. He took the shoebox downstairs and sat down with it at the dining room table.

The shoebox was nearly full to the brim with medication boxes. These were not plain white cardboard boxes that pharmacies gave out prescriptions in, but glossy retail boxes with logos of the pharmaceutical companies and drug brand names emblazoned on them in bright colours. The medications had smarmy names like Abilify and Effexor, suggesting they would confer abilities or be effective.

Some of the boxes had text that was predominantly in Arabic or Cyrillic script, and it was hard to tell exactly what the medication was.

As well as the boxed medications, there were also pills in blister strips that had their ingredients and dosage printed on the silver foil. Some of them had pharmacist's instructions printed in purple ink directly onto the unboxed strips, along with the price, in Indian Rupees.

Finally, there was a big plastic bag filled with mixed loose pills. Some pills were round, others were lozenge shaped, a few were in capsules and others were diamond or triangular shaped. All the pills and capsules had letters and numbers stamped or printed onto them. The pills were mainly white, blue, pale yellow, pink and aquamarine. The capsulses were half green and half yellow or half red and half white.

In a notebook Colin started to write down all the names and dosages of the boxed and blister packed medications. The boxed medications all had two names, but the pills in the strips mainly seemed to only have one ingredient printed on their foil. He then wrote down a description for each of the loose pills: "Round, light pink, GG925".

There were nearly 30 different medications in that shoebox, none of which looked likely to have been prescribed by Neil's doctors.

Going into the box room, Colin now located a small filing cabinet where Neil kept his old bank statements and credit card bills. He returned to the dining room table with a stack of paper that was dated within the last year. The bank statements mostly had recurring direct debit payments for things like mobile phone and Internet. A quick scan through the credit card bills found a few transactions in foreign currencies. It was wholly unclear what the payments were for from the various merchant names.

He went back to the filing cabinet and pulled out all the credit card bills for a two year period, ensuring he had every single one. Then, he found all the bank statements and credit card bills in a big pile of unopened mail. It was no surprise to find that there was no money spent on the credit card after Neil's disappearance.

Putting everything in chronological order, he marked any suspicious transactions on the statements. There were one or two foreign currency transactions on every statement for 6 consecutive months. Immediately after that, some payments to "Frog Eye Wares Ltd" caught Colin's eye. The transactions were all for the same amount - £27.90 - and there were 3 on one statement and 4 on the next: 7 in total.

The credit card transactions ended 6 weeks before Neil had disappeared. Going back to the bank statements, there were two payments to Western Union of circa £150 and daily spending that seemed to always be just over £55, as well as regular cash withdrawals for £50. In a little over a month, Neil appeared to have siphoned off nearly £2,500 from his current account, either getting cashback at local shops and pubs, or at an ATM.

Doing some quick calculations, Colin estimated that his son had spent about £1,300 in foreign currency transactions that he assumed must have been to buy medications from overseas. Neil also seemed to have diverted approximately £3,000 somewhere else, over a 6 week period. "Any problems with drugs or debts?" Lara and the family had all been asked by police officers and private investigators when he went missing. There was no way that this paltry sum of money suggested either. Neil's parents weren't rich, but they would have lent him a couple of thousand without a single question if he'd asked. Besides, Neil's bank account still had money in it and he only had a few hundred pounds of credit card debt.

When Colin was opening Neil's post, he'd made a pile for Lara, but he'd spotted another pile on a sideboard that Neil must have stacked up before he disappeared. Looking through the first few letters, they were all addressed to Lara, but he decided to go through the pile in case there was anything for Neil mixed in with it. He was questioning the futility of the exercise when he found a single piece of paper folded in half.

INVOICE

...

FRL-V4-0.5G £25.00

Postage £2.90

TOTAL: £27.90

Paid in full, with thanks.

...

 

A credit card card receipt for £27.90 was stapled to the invoice, with "customer not present" printed on it. There didn't seem to be a telephone number or an address anywhere on the invoice, just a website: For all enquiries go to www.frogeyewares.co.uk.

Back at the filing cabinet for a third visit, Colin pulled out Neil's mobile phone bills. Some really old ones were itemised with every number and how much the call cost, but the ones from recent years simply showed the amount for line rental and the total amount for call charges.

Unplugging Neil's laptop which was sat charging on a desk in the box room, he coiled the cables and took it downstairs. Returning the shoe box to the wardrobe upstairs, he turned off all the lights and left the house with the invoice tucked into his notebook, the laptop and its charger.

Back at the family home, Colin booted up the laptop and managed to log in using a password that Lara had suggested. She had suggested several of Neil's possible passwords, as well as some variations, but the first one on the list worked. Colin was no computer expert but his job in the civil service had required him to be reasonably IT proficient, so he was able to search for any documents on the computer, check Neil's email inbox and Internet browsing history. The laptop was completely blank, as if it had never been used from the day it was bought.

Using his own computer, Colin now started searching the Internet. The first thing he tried to do was to visit the website from the invoice.

"This website is now closed." was displayed in plain white text on a green background. Nothing more, nothing less.

Searching for "FRL-V4-0.5G" produced no results. Shortening the search terms to "FRL-V4" the Internet suggested a website about a seaport in France. This seemed unlikely to have been sold 7 times, and for less than £30. The acronym "FRL" turned out to have a multitude of uses, none of which offered any promising leads. It was a dead end.

Finally, searching for "frog eye wares" turned up two hits: one was a County Court website and the other was an article from a local newspaper from that area. The court website would not show the result when it was clicked on, displaying instead a "page not found" error message. The newspaper said that a local businesswoman and two of her associates had been arrested and were standing trial in connection with the frogeyewares.co.uk website. There were no details except the date of the article, which was 3 months old.

It was getting late and phoning the court or the newspaper would have to wait until Monday morning.

Now, searching for each of the names of the medications in his notebook, Colin found that the boxed ones were a mixture of antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics with antidepressant effects. The pills in the blister packs were medications more commonly prescribed for narcolepsy and attention-deficit disorders.

Finding out what the loose pills were was a much harder challenge, but there was a website with an excellent search facility that allowed the shape, colour and any markings on the pill to be input. For white round pills, the results were reliable, but for pills that were pinkish or greenish, or of more exotic shapes, there weren't any results. Searching for the markings alone found a lot of results, but Colin ploughed through the pages and narrowed it down to a likely set of candidates.

With a list of active ingredients from the pills, he then searched the Internet to find out what kind of medications they were. There were anxiety drugs, sleeping pills, painkillers, analgesics and more ADHD medication. There were also treatments for fatigue, lethargy and the promotion of weight loss through appetite suppression. A significant number of the active ingredients were listed as controlled substances.

Perhaps Neil did have a drug problem, but if so, why had he left these precious pills behind and how had he managed to hide and pay for an addiction so cheaply? Neil would have lied, cheated, stolen and gone into debt before he disappeared without a trace. Drug problems spiralled. The evidence was undeniable: Neil had been illegally in possession of a number of controlled medications with abuse potential. However, he didn't appear to have been buying them or taking them in great enough quantity to suggest drug abuse.

Not wanting to upset Lara and family with incomplete theories, conjecture and inconclusive evidence, Colin decided to keep quiet over the weekend and pick up his investigation again on Monday morning. He was frustrated and confused, but he was a patient and methodical man, calm and stoical in a crisis.

 

Next chapter...

 

Melancholy and the Infinite Madness

16 min read

This is a story about the descent into darkness...

Craft Motorbike

The first time I couldn't work due to depression, it came out of the blue. I had started a new job, and it was actually really interesting. I was quite enthusiastic about what I was doing, and empowered to grow into a new role. Spring was turning into summer, and so I had the seasons in my favour. What happened next was a surprise to everybody, including me.

One morning, I couldn't get out of bed. I'd had problems getting up early for work, but this was different... I couldn't face the day. As soon as I'd admitted defeat - that I definitely wasn't going to make it into the office that day - I was somehow a changed person. It was like a dam burst. This problem that I had been barely coping with was suddenly unleashed, after 11 years of steady 9 to 5 grind and reliable service in the name of the corporations I worked for.

People talk about nervous breakdowns, and I guess that's what had happened. All of a sudden, and with little warning, I was sick... but this was an invisible sickness. I felt it, and I couldn't overcome it, but I didn't believe it was real. I thought that it was fake. I felt like a fraud.

In the UK you can take up to 3 days off work without a doctor's note. After 3 days, I knew deep down that there was no way that I could possibly go back to work, but what was wrong with me? This was highly unusual for the dependable grey-suited regular 9 to 5, Monday to Friday office Joe Bloggs, that I was. 11 years of full time work and 13 years of full time education. All I knew was getting up and going to a dictated place, on the treadmill, in the rat race, following orders.

To summon the effort to go and see my doctor took the whole of those 3 days. I knew the problem was more severe than just not feeling very well. I knew it was more severe than a day off work was going to cure. I knew that something was seriously wrong, but I couldn't express it... I had no language to explain the brick wall that I'd hit.

It was so unlike me to be lacking in energy, in purpose, in motivation and to neglect my duties, my responsibilities. It was so unlike me to not do the work. I'd had a nearly 100% attendance record at work and at school and college. Bunking off wasn't in my vocabulary. Not doing things I didn't like wasn't something I ever considered as an alternative.

I went to the doctor. I sat down and explained that I was tired. I was more tired than I'd ever been in my life. I couldn't cope. I couldn't turn the pedals of the cycle anymore. I couldn't do what I'd always managed to do, which was to drag myself out of bed, and go to school, college or work, no matter what. It hadn't mattered whether the bullying was unbearable, or the stress was intolerable, the pressure relentless... I had been that guy, that perfect student or dream employee, who always turned up and did their work, like a good little boy.

Within a couple of minutes of me explaining my unexpected interruption in my perfect attendance record, and inexplicable fatigue, my doctor said "have you heard of Fluoxetine?". I had heard of Fluoxetine: it's the generic name for Prozac, which is an anti-depressant. Fluoxetine is a Specific Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) which was supposed to increase levels of Serotonin in the brain, or so Eli Lilly - the manufacturer - thought, and told the world that depressed people had unnaturally low serotonin levels in their brain. They were wrong.

Tightrope Walk

The theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, is ubiquitous. We are comforted to know that there is a medical problem with us, that can be corrected with medication. It's a neat little theory: depressed people don't have enough serotonin in their brain, and with medicine it can be topped up to 'normal' levels. Sadly, it's just not correct.

Measurements of the amount of serotonin metabolites in spinal fluid of depressed people who take Fluoxetine or other SSRIs are actually lower than supposedly healthy people. The theory was proven to be bunkum, but doctors and mental health professionals still share research that's 30+ years old and has been disproven. The theory was just too popular, as well as the SSRI medication, which millions of people had flocked to as their salvation.

I had read extensively in the field of psychopharmacology and had received unconditional offers of a University place at several prestigious institutions, to study psychology, pharmacology and psychiatry. I was probably better informed than my doctor.

I knew that SSRIs were associated with emotional blunting, anorgasmia (not being able to cum) and increased suicidal ideation (thinking about killing yourself). I knew that the long-term outcomes were actually worse than placebo, in several studies. I knew that an SSRI would take 6 weeks to take effect anyway, and that was no use to me. I needed to get back to work!

So, I declined the medication that was offered to me, within just a few minutes of talking to my doctor. I was shocked by how quickly I had been offered psychiatric medication from a general physician, which would take at least 6 weeks to take effect, and I could end up taking for a long time. I felt a little failed by the health services.

My doctor signed me off for a week, and I felt a little relieved to have some time to allow my body to hopefully revert to homeostasis, and I could hopefully get back to work. I felt like a real failure, and I started to feel anxious about the impression that my bosses and colleagues would have of me. Would I be seen as unreliable? Would my name be tainted?

The fatigue and lack of motivation, purpose, persisted and I spent a week in bed, sleeping for 16+ hours. I hardly ate. I didn't open the curtains. I turned my phone off and just curled up under the duvet. Where had this tiredness come from? I had always been in good physical shape and my body had never failed me like this before. I had always had plenty of energy.

I went back to the doctor after a week, and I was getting pretty desperate for an answer. I was looking for a diagnosis, a cure. I wanted the trusted men in white coats to make everything better again.

Moonlight Shadow

We did tests: blood tests, urine tests, thyroid function, kidney and liver function. We even did an AIDS test, as my doctor was at a loss to explain why I was so fatigued all the time. One week turned into three weeks. There was seemingly no end to my exhaustion and inability to cope with the thought of going back to work. There was no way I could face the day, for some reason. I had been housebound with the curtains closed, except for trips around the corner to the doctor's surgery.

My doctors remained convinced that I was suffering with Clinical Depression, and urged me to try an SSRI, but I still refused on the grounds that I didn't want another 6 weeks off work, while I waited for the medication to kick in. 9 weeks off work seemed ridiculous to me, and the side effects sounded unacceptable.

So I stopped going to the doctors. I stopped getting sick notes. I switched my phone off and went to bed, and I just tried to ignore the fact that I was going to lose my job. I didn't care because I couldn't care. There was no way I could go back to work, feeling so exhausted, so drained, so fatigued and unable to cope with even preparing food, getting dressed, having a shower. I just lay in my bed and slept two thirds of every day, and lay half-asleep, anxious about a knock at the door, with the curtains closed, for the rest of the time.

Everything seemed impossible, insurmountable. The idea of going to the shop seemed as insane as the idea of going on an expedition to the South Pole without any warm clothes or supplies. Clearly there was something wrong with me if I was misjudging the effort involved in things, but I also knew that I couldn't keep just doing the same shit, the same crappy 9 to 5 routine, and the same formula of working a job.

As the summer wore on, I started to get interested in the idea of doing some iPhone development work, and slowly I ventured outside into the sunshine in the afternoons, to learn how to develop software on the Apple platform. It seemed like a nice confidence-building exercise, as I had started to doubt that I'd ever be able to work again. I had started to feel like I'd be invalided out of the workforce for the rest of my days.

The more I worked, the more obsessed I became. My energy came back. Slowly at first. I would work for an afternoon, then an afternoon and an evening, and then soon I was doing full days of work again. But it didn't stop there.

By the time July had given way to August, I was working an 18 hour day. I was irritable and single-minded. Eating was a chore that would slow me down and get in the way of me working. I didn't want to waste time with my partner, my friends, my family. Nobody understood what I was working on and how important it was. Explaining anything to anybody was painfully slow and angered me to have to take time out from my work to even answer the simplest of questions.

I started to speak faster, in a rush to get the words out and not waste precious time speaking to people. I viewed other people as obstacles, standing in the way of my single goal, and as dimwitted fools who were sent to irritate and frustrate me. My thoughts raced, but I could follow them, but speaking was never fast enough to verbalise what was going on in my brain, so my speech was pressured... trying to will my tongue to be fast enough to keep pace with my thread of thought.

My work rang me up and insisted that we meet up. I saw my boss, and we agreed that I should give my notice. There was no way I was going back to that job. They were cool about things, but I didn't really have any explanation about what was going on with me.

Garden Office

I was free from the confines of the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday office routine. I was free from dimwitted bosses who had been promoted into positions of incompetence. I was free from bureaucracy and red tape and corporate bullshit. I just worked, and worked, and worked. I worked 7 days a week. I worked until I was falling asleep, and then I would start again as soon as I woke up.

At some point during this flurry of activity, I managed to get a couple of iPhone Apps to number one in the charts. Naturally, this brought in a lot of cash. I had done it. I had proven my point. I had unwittingly become a successful entrepreneur, off the back of becoming unwell and losing my job.

However, I failed to see it like that. What I saw instead was that office work wasn't good for me. I felt like office work had made me sick, and that I needed to find a new profession... well, a trade actually.

I decided to quit IT and software - the thing that I was really good at - and retrain as an electrician. I decided that the most important things to me were being self employed and working in a non-office environment. It took a couple of years before I finally realised I was wrong.

The same thing happened to me, except this time it was much, much faster.

The pressure on a small businessman, and a tradesman is immense. An electrician is responsible for the safety of everybody in the homes that you have installed an electrical system into. If anybody is electrocuted because of your shoddy workmanship, it's your fault. That's a lot of responsibility. Also, the public expect you to work for peanuts.

The sense of exhaustion and inability to cope with the pressure anymore, had hit me really hard in my cushy desk job. Now I had angry customers ringing me up because I had gotten sick. This was much, much worse, because they were ordinary people who I'd met and built a relationship with. Ordinary people were counting on me to wire up their homes, and I was personally failing them.

This depression was much deeper and darker, because I'd really run out of ideas. I felt completely useless, and that as a well known local tradesman, I'd ruined my reputation in my community. This was awful. I was actually afraid to leave the house, in case I bumped into somebody I knew, somebody who I'd let down.

I felt like I couldn't go backwards, and I couldn't go forwards. I was really trapped. How would people take me seriously as an IT professional if I'd previously been a lowly electrician? How would I ever work again as an independent businessman, when I had actually crashed a business due to my ill health? How could I ever be trusted again?

I started to think about suicide very seriously. I saw no way out of this cycle of depressions and failure. I couldn't see a way to earn money anymore, to work again. I couldn't imagine going back to my profession, or starting another business. Everything looked doomed to fail again and again and again.

I tried the medical route again, and finally got referred to a psychiatrist. It took a very long time before I actually met with the consultant, and the options were the same: SSRIs, SNRIs and NaSSAs. All serotonergic drugs. All with horrible side effects. All taking 6+ weeks to kick in.

I begged my psychiatrist to let me try Bupropion (sold as Zyban and Wellbutrin) which is very popular in France and is fast acting. He refused on the grounds that it was an off-label prescription in the UK and he'd have to get special permission from the NHS trust. It was more than his job was worth.

So, I resorted to self-medication.

Self medication worked... in the short term. I felt better, I could function. However, it took me down a path that led to the Dark Web, which led to drug window-shopping, and later to experimentation with just about every highly addictive hard drug known to man, including Heroin, Crack Cocaine and Crystal Methamphetamine.

Drugs don't work. The brain gets used to them, and then you have to increase the dose or switch to a more powerful drug. You can't artificially induce an organ that's designed to be balanced - homeostatically self-regulating - to be forced into an unnatural state.

What's the reason why those people who were taking SSRIs had lower serotonin levels in their spinal fluid? Well, it's because the brain realises that something is artificially out of kilter, and so it releases less serotonin to compensate, and puts you right back where you started.

In the words of The Verve: "the drugs don't work, they just make it worse".

Why do you think drugs from your doctor are good, and drugs from a drug dealer or the Dark Web are bad? Do you think your brain knows the difference? Of course it doesn't. Most of the drugs that are abused were developed by pharmaceutical companies originally, and used to be prescribed before newer 'safer' medications were developed. By 'safer' we tend to mean weaker and with such horrible side effects that taking bigger doses becomes unpleasant. In actual fact, the so-called 'drugs of abuse' have far less side effects than their 'safe' counterparts, at therapeutic doses. Anything becomes poisonous at high enough doses.

Does that mean I'm pro-drugs then? Am I soft on drugs, and one of these decriminalisation nuts?

Well, no, not really. Drugs are bad. They put your brain into an unnatural state and it's hard for your brain to achieve homeostasis when you are poking and prodding at it with the blunt instruments that are the chemicals that cross the blood-brain barrier.

Drugs can 'reset' your brain, in a similar way to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) which is also known as 'shock' therapy.

Medicine of the brain is very early in its development. Psychiatry has only really been a medical field since the 1950's and the true mechanism of action of medications is only very poorly understood, especially as the true nature of mental illness has not yet been revealed.

My personal view is that the destruction of families, clans and villages in favour of ridiculously long working hours in an isolated urban setting, has destroyed everything we need as humans in terms of our relationships with other human beings. Mental illness is a perfectly sane response to modern life. It's a sane response to an insane world.

The thing that's been most beneficial to my mental health has been connecting with a group of friends, while being homeless. Being relieved of the isolated silence of the commuter train, and the pressure of horrible work and job insecurity, coupled with the financial pressures of paying ridiculous rent and unattainable material goals... it was sweet, sweet relief. Living in a kind of commune, with other people who were living in close quarters with each other, sounds unbearable, but it was actually nice. It was humanising. It felt natural, and a sense of calm, relaxation and connection with the world, flooded back into me. I felt a warmth within me that I'd never felt, except maybe with Heroin.

The question now on my lips is: how do I get that again? How do I recreate the sense of community I had, either with tons of kitesurfing friends, or with tons of similarly dispossessed and dislocated homeless people, all thrust together out of necessity to stick together?

The need to belong to a tribe, a group, a commune... it's undeniable, now that I've experienced it. I place an importance on it above financial security, because without it I just feel suicidal, so it's actually essential for life in a way that money just isn't.

Human connection is the answer to the riddle of depression, suicide and addiction.

Sunset

I'm halfway betwixt and between. Half in the dark, and half in the light. My brain doesn't know whether to be suicidally depressed or hypomanically fixated on a single goal.

Tags:

 

I Need To Write

34 min read

This is a story about everything trapped inside my head...

Tick Tock

I'm lying awake and my mind is going at a million miles an hour, thinking about all the things that I want to write about, need to write about. There's a lot of my story that still needs to be told before the 13th/14th of May. I'm not sure why anniversaries are important to us humans, but we seem to attach significance to the passage of 365 days and nights.

I want to write an open letter to my Mum, for her birthday on the 13th, but I don't want that to overshadow something more significant that happened at around the same time: The Finsbury Park Fun Run. My parents have become quite irrelevant really, and I'd like to keep it that way. The further they are from my life, the more I feel within touching distance of restabilising, recovering, moving forwards.

My parents will tell you that I shouldn't be thinking about myself at the moment, when there's been a death in the family and another family member is seriously unwell. However, as I've alluded to before, I'm not exactly off the critical list myself. I took a kitchen knife to my forearm only last night, daring myself to open my veins, to end it.

When I came to listen to all my old voicemails at the beginning of this week, there were heaps of messages from my Mum, berating me for not being emotionally available to her. I couldn't believe how I'm supposed to be the responsible, reliable, dependable member of the family, there as emotional support and as a punching bag, for my flakey drop-out loser parents. Ok, so I've thrown off the shackles of wearing a grey suit and being the career-minded sensible and conservative member of the family, after the best part of 20 years in financial services technology and 9 to 5 office humdrum. However, I reject both roles: punchbag & outcast.

I can't be both left out in the cold when I'm having a hard time, but yet supposed to be there for my family when they're having a hard time. Fuck them. Fuck them to heck.

Anyway, I've kept my safety barriers up. There's too much at stake at the moment. I'm under too much pressure and stress as it is, and things are too fragile, the green shoots have only just appeared. I'm not going to have it all go down the shitter because of my damn parents again, rearing their ugly heads at precisely the wrong moment, because they want something.

I already occupy a convenient space for my parents: a talking point. They are friendless, isolated, unhealthy and unhappy. Their abusive relationship is toxic, and the only way that they know how to function is by picking holes in other people, sitting in smug judgement over the world.

Anyway, enough about my damn family already. The sooner I'm disinherited the better. I may revisit the topic of my Mother, in an open letter, but otherwise it should be case closed. The open wound that was my horrible childhood will never heal while I'm still dragged back into that sick, unhealthy family.

END OF RANT

So, what else is going on inside my damaged little noggin? Well, I feel like I haven't really bridged the gap for my readers, between the happy me who had my shit together, and the drug addict homeless guy. There's a period of time that warrants further examination.

I appreciate that what I'm doing - picking at the scab, committing public reputational suicide - is rather strange, hard to deal with, almost impossible to comprehend. If you think about the damage that I'm trying to undo though, and how close I've come to death or permanent insanity (perhaps already there, ha ha!) then you might be able to see why I have to take such a bold step.

Somebody who has been through what I've been through should be suffering much more permanent and irreversible brain damage. I should be attempting to swat invisible insects, perhaps picking off my own skin to get to invisible bugs underneath. I should be shouting at unseen people, hearing voices. I should be consumed by paranoia... convinced that something or somebody is out to get me.

I've certainly unseated my mental health, which has always had dubious stability. I was clearly suffering from a mood disorder before I started putting copious amounts of powerful narcotics into my body. The two things really don't mix well and play nice.

It's hard to be self-aware, and it was certainly surprising when I was told that I was slurring my words and talking really slowly, back earlier this year, when I was swallowing loads of legal benzodiazepines and suffering the cognitive impairment of drug withdrawal from long binges on powerful stimulants.

I'm quite familiar with the brain-killing sluggishness of stimulant withdrawal. Normally it means I'm really sleepy and struggle to hold a coherent conversation or thread of thought. When writing, I might drift in and out of consciousness, and it'll take me ages to finish what I'm writing, which ends up flitting from topic to topic. You can see it in my writing, but it's masked by the fact that you have no idea how long it took me to write.

The benzos leave big gaps in my memory. Rohypnol, the famous 'date rape' drug is a benzo, and the amnesia-inducing effects are presumably what the would-be rapists are looking for, when they're spiking drinks. So, I guess I was spiking my own drinks. Who would do such a thing, and why? Well, another effect of stimulant comedowns is horrible panic attacks and anxiety, as well as disturbed sleep and appetite. Benzos help to calm everything down after a big stimulant binge.

But anyway, I'm getting waaaay ahead of myself. How did it even come to this? How did I even get off the rails in such a bad way?

In actual fact, you don't realise this, but things have improved massively. Things were much, MUCH worse. That's the thing about your journey downwards... you don't even know where you're headed yet. People talk about rock bottom, and I think that's a lot of nonsense. I never reached a rock bottom, but I can tell you that things started out slow, crept up on me and then got the better of me. No rock bottom, but I had to learn some pretty brutal lessons before I got the upper hand.

So, let me give you a little insight into how I became a drug addict. It starts with sex.

SEX ADDICTION

I've written before about experimenting with drugs to enhance bedroom antics, but what I haven't had a chance to write about yet is just how much of an addiction sex was. Perhaps it wasn't an addiction, but it was the yardstick by which I measured happiness and security. If I wasn't getting sex, my life felt pretty meaningless.

A few of my relationships were built on an almost purely sexual basis. One girlfriend, I really didn't find at all attractive, but at least I was getting regular sex. It was somehow important to me in my late teens and early twenties to get a lot of sex. I felt like I was making up for lost time, that I had missed out on a lot of those great experiences of first girlfriends, childhood sweethearts, school crushes etc. etc. I felt like I was 'owed' a debt of sexual gratification.

One of my close friends talks about notches on the bedpost as a way of warding off the relentless bullying endured at school, and it was this exact thing that I was trying to do myself, except I was just doing it with the one girl, rather than being the heartbreaking rogue that he is. Fact of the matter was, my self confidence was probably damaged, not enhanced, by being with somebody I really didn't fancy, and actually felt ashamed that I had 'sold out' and decided to date.

The truth is, I'm actually pretty vulnerable. Very vulnerable in fact. I'm so desperate to be loved, liked even, that I'll accept all kinds of mistreatment and being pushed into things that are really not in my favour. There are desperately needy things, like being friends with people who are just taking advantage of me. Then there is the sexually fucked up thing of having sex with girls I don't fancy, just because I don't want to be alone.

My ex wife was different. I did actually fancy her. I mean, I do kind of corrupt and twist myself though. I found her attractive, but in truth, I also tried to dump her when I realised she wasn't a nice person. I also realised that I wasn't even that compatible with her, the more I got to know her. However, there was one thing that we stuck together for: the sex.

I'm not sure what your relationship with sex is, but mine used to be like this: I felt I had to have it. If I thought I wasn't going to have it, I used to get stressed, upset, anxious. I had more of it than I really wanted, just because I was fulfilling some kind of ritual, reassuring myself that I could have it whenever I wanted. When I couldn't have it, I'd react badly, getting upset or threatening to go off to find it elsewhere.

Basically, I'm pretty sure I had all the hallmarks of a psychological addiction. When my ex mentioned she'd have to be away for a period of time, the pit of my stomach would feel sick. What about sex? Where am I going to get sex? When can I have sex? Will I be able to have enough sex? What if I want to have sex and I can't? This was a major issue for me.

I must be clear: I used seduction rather that coercion to ensure I had a steady supply of sex. I worked my arse off in the bedroom to ensure my ex wanted it as much as me. In a way, I addicted her to sex. I was a sex pusher. I gave her a great time in the bedroom, but my motives were not pure. I wanted her to be available to me, whenever I wanted. It took time, it took effort, but slowly I was building a co-dependent relationship based around sex. It's all we had.

There were other reasons why sex became such an unhealthy fixation in our co-dependent relationship. Namely, she was a really mean person to me. She isolated me from friends and activities I loved, criticised everything about me and generally dragged down my self esteem to the point where I was trapped by a sense of worthlessness and loneliness. All alone in a flat in the middle of nowhere that she insisted we move into. I was miserable as sin.

I'm covering old ground here a little, but it's important to go over this, as this was the groundwork for the really destructive stuff that was to follow.

CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP

It was always clear that the relationship was unhealthy as hell, and really needed to end, but it was virtually impossible for me to back out of it, because I had so little in my life except for the sex. So many friendships had been damaged and fallen into disrepair. Even my work was suffering because of this all-consuming fuck up of a relationship.

Eventually though, I found a reserve of strength and finally managed to break up with her. This was the catalyst for me forging a more entrepreneurial path. Mingled in with the breakup was some career changes, some business ventures... basically a lot of my pent-up creativity and strength came out in much more positive directions, around the time that we broke up, the first time.

Then, when things were going really well in my life, I decided to try and get back with her. Things were different. The relationship was less destructive, but the way that things quickly developed was deepening co-dependency, with the introduction of sex-enhancing drugs.

Yes, the introduction of drugs into our relationship brought a kind of stability. I've written before about swathes of time at weekends being taken up by the drug-fuelled pursuit of sexual ecstasy. I felt like drugs would bring us closer, and they certainly reduced the arguments, the agression and abusive nature of the relationship. However, it wasn't healthy. It was co-dependency taken to the next level.

With drugs, it's sometimes only a matter of time before you take things up a gear, if you're chasing a high. What started out with some MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly) and GBL/GHB then turned into rampant experimentation across the spectrum of available legal highs, before fatefully arriving at a compound nicknamed NRG-3.

MY FIRST DRUG ADDICTION

This is where the slowly-slowly creeping up thing happens. You feel like you're in control, with your accurate measuring scales and strict rules about dosages and keeping things limited to weekends, but you're playing with drugs that erode your self-control, willpower. I was the sensible one, but I was also a lot of the driving force too... this new level of co-dependency felt a little bit like we were in love and had a stable happy relationship, with me as the architect.

It would be me who carefully researched each chemical, measured doses and made sure we stayed safe. The problem was, I hadn't yet found my nemesis: my drug of choice.

NRG-3 was deemed by me to be too dangerous for us to try, and it remained an unopened packet, a closed Pandora's Box. I was right to treat it with respect... it turned out to be every bit as dangerous as my research had led me to believe.

But, addiction needs a catalyst. Me leaving Cambridge and facing the stress of how to grow my little company to be big enough to employ at least 2 people full time, plus resolve the intractable issue of where to locate the office, reached crisis point. A busy summer of relentless weddings taking up whole weekends was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Me and my ex were absolutely paralytically drunk at her brother's wedding. We had an absolutely almighty row in front of her whole family, and I ended up back home, alone, suicidally depressed. It seemed like the perfect time to try NRG-3.

People talk about drugs being near-instantaneously addictive, and I don't think that's correct. However, the circumstances under which I tried NRG-3 certainly conspired to create brain conditions that were almost perfect for addiction to flourish. I disappeared into the depths of my first ever drug binge. All the rules about dosage and measurement went right out of the window.

So, the rest is history right? Wrong.

Chronic drug addiction still doesn't happen overnight. At the end of my binge, I had an almighty panic attack, got really scared by it, and then life kind of got back to normal... except it didn't. There was now a little devil inside of me that wanted to repeat the experience, and was just waiting for an appropriate moment.

Enter the era of the 'secret drug habit'. My ex talked about my 'drug habit' during our divorce. What utter nonsense. By the time we separated, 2 years later, I was a raging drug addict. There was no hiding a 'habit'... I was actively turning parts of our home into a crack den. However, there was a period of 18 months where I tried my very best to keep the devil at bay, and hide my habit.

I'm actually putting myself in an excessively bad light here. I had no idea that addiction had taken hold so firmly. Yes, sure, it was me who played with fire and got burned. It was me who made bad decisions that led to an ever-worsening situation. However, as I've tried to explain above, one thing leads to another. It's impossible to separate my decision making from my state of mind and the circumstances surrounding it.

So, I started to try to use NRG-3 in secret, which wasn't a problem at first as my company was going down the shitter, so I could use drugs at home when I was supposed to be working, and my ex was at her job. Whether the drugs were the reason why my startup failed, quite possibly, but actually you could say that a terrible relationship was the reason why I did a startup in the first place, which later led to unmanageable stress that was the catalyst for my drug habit... one thing leads to another!

Within a month or so, I thought I was going to die. I was carrying a letter around with me at all times, that basically confessed that I was addicted to powerful stimulants. This letter was going to be given to the doctors at Accident and Emergency, in the event that my heart started giving out, or I went insane or something.

I was a little more proactive than this, and did reach out to community mental health services as well as addiction support specialists, but when I met other 'service users' I felt that my case was unworthy of their time. Meeting child prostitutes who'd had their children taken into care, and had poly-substance abuse issues as well as alcoholism, and grinding poverty... versus me, with my health intact plus a big pile of savings still in the bank. I felt like I was taking the piss by taking up the time of those treatment centres.

This is what I mean by saying that there were lessons I had to learn. I sensed the danger, but I still felt in control. The main problem was a recurrent lie that a lot of addicts tell themselves though: I thought I could use in moderation, and I thought I was better off hiding my problems and trying to fix things on my own, which actually turn out to be contradictory things.

There's a lot of times when drugs are talked about, not as something inanimate, but actually as if they have a life of their own. It's the drugs that are to blame we say, as if they have legs and walked right into your bloodstream all on their own. It's certainly hard to unpick the strange behavioural changes that addiction has on you, from the supposed free will that we all apparently exercise.

What happened to me, during my descent into chronic addiction, was the re-programming of my brain. Whenever my ex would say she was going away or she would be doing something, my brain would instantly say "great, more time to use drugs". When I wasn't using drugs, I was planning the next time I would be able to, anticipating it, aching for it, willing the time to pass more quickly so I could get to my next fix. This didn't happen overnight.

I used to be able to go for a week between getting a fix. Then it shortened to about every 3 days. Then of course, it started to be a daily habit. Then it came to the point where I would pretend to be staying up late to watch TV or something, but just stay awake all night taking drugs. Then it progressed to 'secretly' dipping into a bag of drugs when we were actually in bed together. By the time it gets this bad, you're not exactly hiding your 'habit'... you're practically a chronic drug addict.

Two things happened to significantly worsten the addiction: firstly, I started getting signed off sick for periods by the doctor, which in my mind were to be used 80% for drug taking, and 20% for recovery. I remember when I got signed off for 5 weeks, my very first thought was "great, that's 4 weeks drug taking and 1 week to recover". It had become automatic by then... I didn't choose to think like that... that's what addiction does to you. It changes your subconscious, your priorities, the way you think and act.

Secondly, conflict erupted between me and my ex, and my response was to corner myself. I would go into the spare bedroom, and she would kick and punch the door and scream at the top of her lungs. I was always afraid of her aggressive, violent, abusive side, and this was particularly harrowing when under the influence of powerful drugs or on a comedown, so I tried to barricade myself from these attacks.

THE PRISONER

Being barricaded into a corner, with somebody raging and snarling and raining blows on the only physical barrier that prevents you from being the object receiving the beating, is not conducive to good mental health. Siege tactics were employed, but hunger and thirst don't have the intended affect on somebody so psychologically traumatised, and under the influence of anoretic drugs.

Eventually it got so bad, that my ex could finally see that she was killing me. You can't leave somebody backed into a corner with no food, no drink, no toilet, and not see that your aggression is the reason why somebody is so physically wrecked. It was being cornered that destroyed me, as much as the drugs. It was being cornered that affected my mental health, as much as anything.

By the time we separated, we had entered a dangerous dance, where it was almost routine for her to spend entire weeks keeping me entombed in my sarcophagus. It was unrelenting, the screaming, the shouting, the hammering of fists and feet on the door. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that I felt shellshocked. I was hypervigilent: I could never relax for a second. I was in a state of constant fear, agitation.

If you'd like to blame the drugs in isolation for this, you're wrong. It's quite possible that the addiction would have developed in a different direction, without this mistreatment, but it's certainly true that what I went through was inhumane. I was a prisoner in my own home. Drugs just facilitated this, made me an easier target for abuse. I can barely convey to you the awfulness of being subjected to around-the-clock abuse like that, when so weak and so vulnerable.

Finally, our parents stepped in and enforced a separation to spare my life. I was fucked, and had made a desperate appeal for my release from captivity, to both her parents as well as mine. Mercifully, they arrived and stopped the relentless vigil at my flimsy barrier.

Am I being melodramatic? Well, find yourself a tiny room in your house and lock yourself in there with no food, water or toilet for days on end, with people coming to hammer on the door and scream abuse at you around the clock. See how long you last for. See how your mental health holds up, without even the amplifying effects of a drugs.

Why didn't I run away, go somewhere else? Well, this is where the illogical bullshit that addiction spews into your brain comes in. In my mind, my drug use was still a 'habit' that could be hidden, and it was only when a weekend or holiday arrived that this folly was exposed for what it was. The arrival of a weekend can even come as a surprise to somebody completely in the depths of chronic addiction... it was only the screaming and the yelling and the kicking and the punching that I had any means to mark the passage of time at all.

You have to remember that I was the weakened one here, I was the one in trouble, in distress, cornered and traumatised. You don't fight abuse with more abuse. Nobody's psychological problems were ever cured by screaming at them and cornering them. I had enough on my plate with drug addiction to deal with, let alone an abusive partner.

I did need to quit drugs, get cleaned up... addiction was consuming me and fucking up my life... but, abusing me only prolonged the agony. I learned nothing from being cornered and abused. All it did was to leave me with deep psychological scars.

Separation only opened the door to these psychological issues being resolved, over time. When some friends in London invited me to live with them, I was paralysed by fear of somebody hammering on the door, shouting at me. When I went to stay with my parents, they actually did hammer on the door and shout at me, which is what I had spent days anxiously anticipating... deepening my sense of threat, confirming my worst fears. Obviously, these feelings were irrational, however I had been traumatised to the point where serious psychological damage had been done.

London was chaotic and traumatic in whole new ways, but at least I was eventually released from the prison cell of being trapped in a room with no food, water or toilet. My life imploded to the point where I was actually in full public view, either in hostels or sleeping rough. All privacy, dignity was stripped away from me. I was laid bare for the world to see.

But London led me to social reconnection. Having interactions with people that weren't screaming, shouting, punching and kicking... it started to bring me back to the real world. As I built a network of friends at one hostel, my life started to stabilise. The more human contact, the more friends, the more ordinary conversations and interactions I had, the more normal I felt again, the more my dignity and self-esteem were restored, the more my chances of recovery increased.

RECOVERY

Johann Hari, writes that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but human connection. Addiction is about forming a bond with a drug, when healthy human relationships are not available. I had fallen back into the clutches of an abusive co-dependent relationship, miles away from my fellow startup founders, investors, mentors, family and in a part of the country where most of my friendships had fallen into disrepair due to the all-consuming and destructive nature of the relationship I had with my ex.

Of course I was going to get sucked into drug addiction. It replaced my ex perfectly. It was actually a superior relationship. I had everything that a co-dependent sex addiction gave me, in a convenient powder form. It was this drug - NRG-3 - that allowed me to finally break the habit that was my ex. We finally broke up once and for all, and I knew that it would be easier to quit drugs than to break up with her, so I felt relieved even though I was deep in the hole.

When me and my ex wife separated, I was using heroin, crack, crystal meth, cocaine, speed, diazepam, alprazolam, zopiclone as well as my drug of choice... NRG-3. Within a few weeks, I had cut it down to just some pure Dexidrene, which I was using to get over the worst of the depression and fatigue that would be inevitable after a lengthy period of addiction.

I was using 5mg of Dexidrene per day, to combat fatigue, cravings and poor concentration that would have ruined my recovery. It was a remarkable turnaround, but unfortunately it all got ruined by a complete lack of care for my wellbeing and future survival prospects, in favour of my ex's unreasonable demands to have the divorce processed her way or the highway. I wanted her to just take everything and leave me alone. My life and my health were the most important things. She continued to make my life hell.

Not that it matters, but today I've been abstinent for 7 and a half weeks, but not only that, I'm not drinking any caffeinated drinks or taking anything to help me sleep. I'm 100% drug free, and I'm not suffering unmanageable fatigue or cognitive impairment. I have no motor tics, and I don't have any psychosis or paranoia. This is quite remarkable. Considering how long and how deep this gash in my life has run, it's quite remarkable that I should be as close to normal as I am.

Anxiety and depression are unspeakably horrible forces in my life at the moment. I guess when I think about it, it's to be expected: withdrawal from benzos gives horrible rebound anxiety, and withdrawal from stimulants can trigger deep depressive episodes. The fact that I'm chugging along through a very stressful period of financial problems and job hunting, with very little support from friends & family, while going completely abstintent from all drugs... this is a big deal. It's not every day that people pull through things like this.

I'm sorry that last paragraph ended up a bit back-slapping, self-congratulatory. Certainly, any kind of complacency will lead to relapses. I've fallen foul of thinking "I can quit anytime I want" before, but the next challenge is to try and sustain recovery and put in place all the pieces that make a proper life. Everything was so temporary and fragile before.

Anybody who says "oh yeah, heard it all before" doesn't have a fucking clue what they're talking about. Every relapse has been due to either excess stress, or a collapse of the things I worked so hard to build. Losing all my hostel friends due to the pressures and stresses associated with the life change of moving from an unemployed homeless bum to being a guy working 9 to 5 in an office, plus a breakup with a girlfriend, plus the loss of a contract. Then, facing financial armageddon with a rent to pay and no means to do it, deep in a hole of debts, ridiculous pressure on the project I was working on, and bad mental health problems due to the sustained anxiety and stress I had been under relentlessly for so long, losing friends as well as colleagues when my work contract was no longer sustainable and I had to leave a job quite abruptly and inelegantly.

We've all faced bumps in the road, and these hiccups, these hurdles are inevitable. Part of sustainable recovery is once again being able to cope when things aren't going great. However, expecting somebody who's been through hell to be able to cope with an absolute clusterfuck as the challenge to their fragile, delicate, green shoots of recovery... I've got to say... what sort of cruel fucked up world would wish that upon somebody who's trying so hard.

That's fundamentally the driving force behind so many of my bitter, angry rants. I'm just incredulous that I'd be left to flounder by so many of my nearest and dearest, when the distress flares have been going up and the opportunity to rescue an entire ship before it sinks below the waves has been there for the taking. Raising a wreck is hard, when it's at the bottom of the ocean. Better to step in when it's just a little leak in the hull, rather than after the captain and crew have drowned and the boat's sunk.

It's not anybody else's responsibility other than my own, but you can fuck off if you're going to ring me up and leave me shitty voicemails saying I'm letting friends and family down. You want something from me now? Well, where were you when I needed support?

I know that a lot of friends have been there with support at the most unlikely of times, and in the most dire circumstances. I know it's seemed a little thankless, and that friends have even felt a little used or that trust has been abused. It's really not like that.

Yup, I've made some mistakes along the way. I'm still making mistakes. However, the tip of the iceberg conceals the great mass of the shit that I've been through, and yet, I still maintain some ethics, some sense of a debt of gratitude. I have a functioning moral compass, and I'm honest and acting purposefully towards repaying my friends for their help and support, showing them it was worthwhile, aiming to restore some semblance of a will to live to my shattered life.

That's what you're doing if you help me: you're saving a life. Don't believe any bullshit about 'enabling'... it's true that's possible if I'm wrapped up in active addiction, but I have the ethics, the sense of right and wrong to not ask for anything of my friends that would be squandered on addiction. The truth of the matter is that there are plenty of times, like now, where I'm not an addict. I'm just somebody who's struggling to rebuild their shattered life. I'm less of an addict than you, given that I don't drink tea or coffee, or even take headache tablets.

Yes, you could say I was reckless, I was irresponsible. Not really. I always paid my own way. I always covered my bets. I've kept track of where any debts or favours need to be repaid.

It's true, I felt a little entitled to have a complete breakdown. I felt entitled to lift the burden of responsibility from my shoulders for a time. For a time, I didn't feel guilty for being a risk taker and for the consequences that followed. Most of the consequences were suffered by me anyway.

CONSEQUENCES

Consequences, consequences. I've felt perhaps less than I should have done, but perhaps I have paid in other ways. I certainly feel like I don't want to rack up any more consequences. In fact, I'm back to the position of wanting to end my life quickly and cleanly if it looks like everything's going to go down the shitter again, rather than prolonging the agony and creating more problems for the world to mop up after I'm gone.

I feel a little bad that I would be depriving my sister of a brother, to be there to support her and my niece after my parents are gone, but at the same time I'm aware that I need to keep my distance from my niece, in case I don't make it. An uncle she hardly knew who's now gone is no big deal in the grand scheme of things, and certainly better than a drawn-out endgame that's just continuous "will he make it? won't he make it?" heartache, until the inevitable day that luck runs out.

Maybe you think I'm being melodramatic again, or using emotional blackmail. You think I talk about my suicidal thoughts lightly? You'd seriously call my bluff on this? I really think you'll regret it when I'm dead. I'm obviously not going to feel anything when I'm dead, except sweet sweet relief from a world that's been indifferent to my suffering and pain.

It'd be so easy for me to just decide, and act. I'm a very decisive person. I'm determined, stubborn, brave... everything that could quickly snuf my life out, if the scales tip just that bit too far. I'm keeping score, and if things get too unfair I'll just tip the whole boardgame onto the floor, along with all the playing pieces, dice and cards. You might think it's childish, flippant, knee-jerk, but it's actually cold hard rational, logical.

I feel like the writing I did when I slipped back into addiction doesn't make a fine account of me. I feel like the bitterness and anger towards unresolved issues with my parents made me come across as very unpleasant, as well as obsessively stuck in the past, and even launching tirades against people who only share some of the responsibility. I can't lay everything at the door of my horrible childhood and irresponsible and unpleasant parents. At some point, I have to draw a line that indicates where the division of responsibility lies.

The fact of the matter is though, that you've got to live with yourselves after I've gone. Coulda, woulda, shoudla... that's not going to mean jack squat when I'm gone. There's a smoking gun here. It's going to be hard to say that it was inevitable that I'd meet my untimely demise, when there's a record of periods of opportunity to step in and help, before things got too unmanageable for any human being to endure.

We should be fucking celebrating somebody coming back from the fucking dead. This is a fucking big deal, where I'm at right now. I shouldn't be here. The way I've been treated thus far in my life, I've been left for dead so many times. Aren't you going to fucking learn?

BACK FROM THE DEAD

It's not right to write people off, and leave them for dead. It's not right to nickel and dime people. It's not right to let the bystander effect be your excuse for not stepping in: let somebody else make the first move, surely it's somebody else's responsibility, not mine?

What the fuck happened to collective responsibility? What the fuck happened to a sense of community? What the fuck happened to helping each other out?

Where the fuck did this every man for himself bullshit come from? Are we Darwinian beasts, duking it out in the jungle, or are we a supposedly advanced race living in a modern civilisation?

I watched the film Se7en (Seven) again the other night, and I was taken by the similarity between me and the psychopathic killer. He had filled books and books with his thoughts, and then wanted to make a grand gesture to the world, culminating in his death. He thought that his actions would be studied, that they would make a difference in an indifferent world.

In a way, I'm drinking poison, hoping to kill somebody else. Everything I've done and written since I reached breaking point has in some way hurt me more than it's hurt anybody else. I threw away a very lucrative contract, I destroyed my professional reputation with a large number of individuals, I have spread word about my personal and private problems all over the internet and throughout my network of contact. If you search for my name and any company that I've worked for on Google, there's me.... right there on the first page, for all to see.

Here I am, with my guts hanging out. All my internal organs are on display. All my gory detail is right here, on these pages, for anybody to see.

What's worse, to die with some kind of false reputation? Your friends and family could always hold some mistaken belief about what your life was really all about, in the end. The more lurid details could be discreetly swept under the carpet, to save the blushes of your family, and to preserve your memory in some slightly more wholesome light. Seems like bullshit to me. I want people to know what drove me to the brink and beyond. I want people to have the facts, and decide for themselves. I want a world where we see that the only difference between people are the circumstances that conspire around them.

To say that this writing, this journal, this log, is a gift, that it serves some useful purpose... is grossly arrogant, deluded. However, it's all I've fucking got at the moment. Perhaps I am fighting to clear my name a little. Perhaps I'm not going down without a fight, and I'm taking hostages, taking some people down with me.

It's up to you, dear reader, to decide. I present you with my side of the story. It's up to you whether you dismiss me easily, as a madman and an addict, with no worth to my words. It's up to you whether you remember me as having the potential to be good, or the destiny to be bad.

Personally, I think it's immoral to make bets on living people's lives.

 

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