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Pattern Recognition

5 min read

This is a story about AI...

Eyes passim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Slob

3 min read

This is a story about mess...

Kitten

I realised I haven't written about my adorable furry companion in a while. My phone contains nothing but pictures of cats; mainly my cat(s). My bengal seems to be lost forever, heartbreakingly - I suspect she was stolen, because there has been a spate of cat and dog thefts recently. My ragdoll, pictured above, is an amazing cat; she's healed my broken heart.

If you look carefully at the photo, and I really wish you wouldn't, then you'll see various bits of detritus - mostly crumbs and other bits of food; dirt. I've been a real slob for quite a long time.

I've got a demanding job, plus lockdown has meant being under the same roof 24 x 7, for many months. Of course, we're all in the same boat, but I've been struggling with my physical and mental health all year. I tried to kick the couch potato habit, but August has been incredibly punishing at work, and I've all but ceased doing anything besides working, sleeping and eating.

The one happy constant in my life - the stable part - is my cat. Of course, I had the heartbreak of losing my last cat quite recently, but my new cat is delightful. It's fantastic to have my fluffy friend to keep me company. Life would be intolerably miserable without a cat.

A plumber came to fix something in my bathroom, which prompted me to quickly clean. I don't really have many visitors, so why bother to keep my house clean and tidy? I hardly make any mess, except for a few dirty dishes, but I suppose the general dirt and grime builds up, which depresses me but not enough to do anything about it. The messiest thing is my cat, who regularly kicks her litter onto the floor. It sounds like she's trying to dig to the centre of the earth sometimes.

I guess I'll probably hire a cleaner, once this pandemic is over. Seems lazy and wasteful, but it's good for me, and it's good for them - I get a clean house and they get paid, which seems like a win:win situation.

My cat eats individually packaged pouches of cat food, which seems like a big waste of packaging, but she's super fussy about her food going 'stale' in her bowl, so I can't imagine she'd love food from a tin which has been open for days and days - she's only got a tiny appetite. I eat gourmet soups, which also seems crazy when it seems relatively easy to make a big batch of soup and freeze it, but I want and need simplicity in my life. I can feed my cat and I in the blink of an eye, which is what's needed when I'm working so hard.

Living in a clean house, or eating a freshly cooked homemade meal are things I enjoy, but I'm not prepared to do the work, when I'm already working super hard. Seems profligate and lazy, but I don't care - it's allowing me to be functional and stable.

Apologies for boring you with the rather domestic and uninteresting minutiae of my existence, but I wanted to try and write about something other than the agony of existence.

 

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Antisocial

3 min read

This is a story about FOMO...

Street art

Saturday night. Saturday night is supposed to be the highlight of the week. Saturday night is supposed to be special. For me, I dread Saturday night, and indeed the whole weekend. I used to live for the weekend. What happened?

In order to dig myself out of a desperately dire situation, I had to knuckle down and work super hard, for a very prolonged period. I was sick for 9 months out of 12, for a few years, which cost me a fortune in rent and bills, when I had no income to pay with. I've been paying a heavy price for simply being alive. I was being crushed under the enormous financial burden of breathing, sleeping and eating.

I've dug myself out of the hole now.

However, I'm still running scared.

In order to get well and truly out of the hole, I've not been on holiday, I've not travelled, socialised, or made any purchases. I've been living a monastic life.

Seriously.

In the space of nearly 6 months, I saw three people. That's about half a person per month. I've been seing less than one person every month, for half a year. That's crazy.

It's not that I haven't wanted to socialise, but my life got pretty smashed to bits, plus lockdown made things complex. Lots of people endured lengthy lockdowns, seeing very few people, but nobody's had a lockdown quite like me. Nobody who's working and seemingly functional, I must say... I'm sure there are lots of elderly people who have a greater claim to loneliness and isolation than I do.

Why aren't I doing anything about it?

Well, it gets difficult in later life. I moved away from London and Bournemouth, where I have most of my friends. Making friends in a new city is hard at the best of times, and worse still when you're 41 years old; worse still in the middle of a global pandemic.

I have my cat. She's lovely. She's my companion; my furry friend. She keeps me company.

A friend invited me out on Saturday evening, and we met a mutual friend. It was extremely nice. Total surprise, to be out socialising on a Saturday night. I hadn't planned for it at all. I was at home getting drunk; drowning my sorrows. Poor me, poor me; pour me another drink... lol not really, I don't feel sorry for myself except the near-impossible task of digging myself out of the aforementioned hole, but at least I have the opportunity, unlike some.

I'm not antisocial, I'm just under a lot of pressure; I'm fighting for my life; I'm trying to get back to a position of financial security - health, wealth and prosperity.

I don't suffer from Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) because my life has been dysfunctional for so long. When I do go out socialising, I enjoy myself immensely, but I can't see an easy way to get a social life at the moment. I'm lucky that I have a handful of local friends who make the effort to invite me out, from time to time.

I'm not antisocial. I'm getting back on my feet, slowly.

 

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Emotional Burnout

4 min read

This is a story about stress...

Beans

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

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

We like our stories to be linear.

I have no idea where to begin my story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Get Help

4 min read

This is a story about treatment and therapy...

Crisis counselling

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

It's all been done to death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try writing. It helps.

 

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Easiest Way to Kill Yourself

9 min read

This is a story about dying with dignity...

Bottle of pills

Continuing on with the theme of giving my readers what they want, I've decided to write about the most searched for thing which brings visitors to my website.

I lied.

I'm not going to write about the easiest way to kill yourself but instead, I'm going to write a detailed account of when, why and how I'm going to kill myself.

***

UPDATE 20th October 2020: the latest thing I wrote about suicide is here.

If you came here looking for suicide methods, I wrote about that at length here.

If you still want more detail, have a read of this.

***

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that life can be pretty damn abysmal, if luck doesn't go your way. Sure, if you're reading this then you're lucky enough to have access to a computer, tablet and/or a smartphone, and you're able to read. For many, that would be considered a privilege, but in reality it's a curse: it would have been far better to remain stupid and ignorant, and not be troubled with existential angst.

Secondly, we need to acknowledge that there's no legal or moral requirement to continue living, if life is hell. There's no reason why we have to die of 'natural causes' in old age, which pretty much means dying in agony from cancer or some other dreadful disease, or otherwise dying when your body parts become completely worn out. Why would anybody go through life with uncertainty - a surprise death hanging over them at some unpredictable future date - and the inability to plan ahead?

Thirdly, we need to acknowledge that the freedom to choose is what makes us different from the beasts - the animals - who are driven by instinct; driven to survive at all costs. Why would we choose to act in a bestial way - barbaric and primitive; animalistic - when we are blessed with a huge brain and the tools of cognition and reason; advanced thought and language. We are able to plan, so why do we not plan our lives to include a predictable and known date of death?

Of course, my ideas are not original. There are plenty of dystopian novels, films and other art forms which depict fantasy worlds where euthanasia is part of those imagined societies. Of course, I'm not talking about euthanasia for you I'm talking about euthanasia for me.

If we recognise that the world is overpopulated, overcrowded, over-competitive, and that the natural resources of the planet are being over-utilised, then it seems like a very selfless and generous act, to quit living before becoming a burden on the healthcare sector. Of course, I'm talking about me and me alone here. I very much wish any older people who want to live as long as humanly possible, a long and healthy life. If you want to live, good for you... but I very much think that if you came to this website then you're not 100% sure that living is for you. Anyway, this is about what's right for me, and me alone.

As soon as I'm dead, my estate can be given to my sister and niece. My death frees up the resources that I possess, such as housing and a job, that could be utilised by a younger person. The money I hoard - arguably to protect myself from any period of unemployment, and for my retirement - can go into the hands of the living, instead of being hoarded in the hands of the dying. I can much more accurately plan for how much money I need if I know when I'm going to die.

I've decided that it's too expensive to buy a house and have a pension. I had a series of major setbacks in my life, which wrecked my finances, and now it doesn't make financial sense to plough all the money I need today into things which I might need tomorrow. If I'm going to live until I die of natural causes, I might need a lot of money, and in order to ensure my pension pot goes as far as possible, it'd be better if I owned my house and wasn't paying a mortgage or rent anymore. Having a pension and a mortgage-free house would rob me of money which I need now while I still have my health. Why do I want to have housing security and financial security during a period of my life when I'm old and senile, in pain and discomfort; dying?

Also, suicide is a form of protest. Why should my parents enjoy dying before me, when they ruined my childhood, and consequently my later life? Why should my parents' generation die without seeing the horrors they have inflicted upon the younger generation? Why should the capitalists continue to delude themselves that capitalism is a good system, when clearly it exploits people and the natural resources of the earth, to the point of irreversible devastation and destruction of our only habitable planet?

There's nothing worse than playing by the rules of the game, when everybody else is cheating. Being an honest player in a rigged game is torture.

I've done the calculations. There's no way I can keep playing this stupid game. I quit.

Did I mention dignity?

Dignity is important.

If your parents and the wider world have not given you the opportunity to have dignity - to live as an independent adult with an acceptable quality of life - then personally, life is not worth living. Sure, if your parents are neglectful, abusive, selfish, narcissistic shits who took no interest in helping you achieve an acceptable quality of life - helping you to live independently - then you might still have the opportunity to pull yourself up by the bootstraps; you might have the opportunity to work hard and get yourself to where you deserve to be, through sheer force and determination. However, you need to do the calculations. If your calculations tell you that you'd need to work 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, 13 months a year, for the next 250 years, in order to achieve financial security, housing security and other basic human needs, then you are playing a rigged game. This is not a case of petulantly blaming everything on our parents, although it's undeniable that they deserve the lion's share of the blame. No, this is not about expecting that the world owes you a living. This is simply saying that no matter how hard you work you have to run just to stand still; the game is rigged and you won't accept it; you won't play a rigged game anymore.

So that's the why.

When is easy: my career spans four decades. It'll soon be time for me to have a long-overdue career break. In the absence of any new route to earn money, which is not part of the capitalist society which I refuse to prop up any longer, I refuse to continue to play the game. Therefore, I just need to do the calculation to work out how long I can maintain an acceptable quality of life; how much does my minimum standard of living cost? With that number calculated, I can then set a very precise date for when I need to be dead by.

What about the how?

How is probably easiest of all. I often thought about cutting a carotid artery or jugular vein, but it seems far easier to simply swallow a deadly poison, such as cyanide, which is easily obtained. The how is really the most boring part of it all. Swallow something highly toxic, and it's done... easy!

It gives me a great deal of comfort knowing that the remaining period of my life will not fall below a minimum acceptable quality. It's greatly comforting to know that no poverty or destitution awaits me in old age. It's great to know that pain, discomfort, illness, senility, incontinence and other dignity-robbing ailments of old age, will be completely avoided.

I know that some people want to live as long as possible, in order to see their children and grandchildren growing up and experiencing major life events - births and marriages - but not living so long that they see their houses get destroyed by rising sea levels and hurricane force winds, and other destructive effects of man-made climate change. I know that some people want to live as long as possible, but not so long that they see their grandchildren selling their bodies in order to fund their education, and killing themselves because their zero-hours contract McJob doesn't even pay enough money for them to feed themselves, let alone live with any dignity.

Nobody's ever going to look me in the eye and ask "why the fuck did you decide to have kids, when you knew that the old people fucked up the planet good and proper, and robbed all the money and property, and expected to sit idle in their massive houses while all the young people killed themselves because they have no prospect of ever living independently with any dignity and an acceptable quality of life?". I'll just be dead.

Of course, suicide's not for everyone. My essay is only about why I - personally - am planning on committing suicide. I absolutely - and without exception - discourage anybody and everybody from doing what I'm planning on doing.

 

That's all about me, me, ME! I wrote some other stuff about suicide methods and how to kill yourself and the first part which I wrote second, also about suicide. if you're in the mood to keep reading. Please keep reading or get in contact if you're in crisis... or do something to pass the time. I find it incredibly therapeutic to write: it's kept me alive (by a whisker) for many years.

 

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Sobriety Cost Me My Job

4 min read

This is a story about stability...

Coke bottles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Dark Thoughts

4 min read

This is a story about storm clouds...

Rain on glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why am I doing it then?

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

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

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

 

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All You Have to do is Nothing

4 min read

This is a story about boredom...

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What if I offered you a six-figure salary to do nothing? Would you take it? Of course you'd take it, right? Think of all the great stuff you could buy with a six-figure income. Think of what a great house and car you could buy. Think of all the holidays you could have. Think of all the lovely things that money would buy.

Wrong.

Firstly, going on holiday is not "doing nothing". If you're on holiday, you won't be earning your six-figure salary: you're only paid for the time you're doing nothing.

Fine, you say.

But.

You're going to have to spend some time doing nothing, in order to get your hands on the money. How much time do you think you could spend doing nothing in any given year? Assuming that you spend about 5 weeks each year on holiday, that means you'll have to spend 47 weeks doing nothing. That's achievable, right?

Wrong.

It's a lot harder doing nothing than doing something. You might not realise this - because you've never had to do nothing - but it's the hardest thing in the world. Perhaps if you work as a security guard or a solidier, you might be able to legitimately claim that you've got first-hand experience of doing nothing, but that's not true. It's well known that doing nothing is impossible, so security guards and soldiers get paired up or given 'lone worker' tasks to do, in order to break the monotony of the task.

In fact, every time you were bored, you just walked out of that job and went and got another one; every time your situation was uncomfortable, you changed it. Your entire life consists of chatting to people, making cups of tea/coffee and undertaking a variety of tasks. You never do nothing.

Doing nothing pays the most money.

Boredom is directly proportional to remuneration; the more boring a job is, the more you get paid (with the exception of being a security guard, perhaps). Maybe it's like a 'U' shape actually - there are really badly paid jobs which are boring, and the best paid jobs which are boring, and the jobs in the middle are the interesting ones.

The best thing I can do at the moment is nothing. The more I keep quiet and keep my head down, the better. Far better if I avoid trouble and don't do anything - do nothing - to earn loads of money.

It's unbearable.

Most people are led by impulse and instinct, but I have to fight my gut every step of the way. If I did what 'felt' right then I would quit what I'm doing and just figure things out - anything's better than being trapped doing nothing, bored. Of course, I would miss the 'easy' money, so I keep going, because my head says it's the right thing to do. I know that the suffering will yield vast financial compensation, even if the means of achieving it are intolerable.

I suppose you think that it's a nice problem to have but you'd be mistaken. We can all prostitute ourselves, or otherwise do work which is toxic to our dignity, sense of wellbeing, sense of achievement, mental health etc. Of course, some sex workers are happy doing what they're doing, so use your imagination: you could earn a lot of money doing crime if you wanted to.

If you think what I'm writing is entitled and whingey, fuck off. If you're thinking "we all have to suffer a little boredom occasionally" then you're right... "occasionally". When it becomes your full-time job to be bored out of your mind, then it goes beyond 'normal' and moves into the territory of an extreme health hazard; a threat to life.

Of course I can see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I can also see the broken glass and razor blades I have to crawl over to get there. Sure, I probably will get there in the end, but I'm going to whine and complain the whole way, because it's a ridiculous waste of time, energy and talent, to have a person tormented - in agony - with insufferable boredom.

 

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

5 min read

This is a story about reckless misconduct...

Going up

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

However.

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

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

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

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

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

Now, things are a little different.

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

Crisis phone

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

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

However.

It's not working.

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

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

Will I talk you out of suicide? No.

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

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

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

 

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