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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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All The Suicide Methods

14 min read

This is a story about the control of information...

Poisonous Mushroom

As is often the case, something I have read or watched has prompted me to write. Today, I felt the urgent need to write about methods of killing yourself. I felt compelled to document every single method of committing suicide, which I could possibly think of.

The reason why I would write this down is that the thing which most often draws visitors to my website is something I wrote about suffocation - asphyxiation - as a means of suicide. People also come who are desperately trying to cure themselves of their problems with mental health, alcoholism and addiction. People visit my website for all kinds of different reasons, but as a source of information on how to kill yourself, my site is one of many millions. Our libraries are full of books which explain in exquisite detail how people have ended their own lives, since we took pen to parchment, or chiselled runes into rock. For those who seek, they will find.

I've noticed a lot of criticism of the owner/operators of forums where suicide is predominantly discussed, and prominent popular indviduals who have large social media followings have been criticised for their participation in the online discussion which has coalesced around their digital persona.

We have to be very clear about something here: people need and want to talk about suicide. Making it a taboo subject, and ridiculous fantasies about book burning and the modern-day digital equivalent - banning websites - fails to address any of the underlying causes why people take their own lives.

People don't kill themselves because they're encouraged by others, online. People don't kill themselves because they're able to easily find the information about the methods of suicide. The reasons why people kill themselves are as complex as the individuals who end their lives prematurely, and to point the finger of blame is pointless; futile.

While it might be true that we see 'outbreaks' of suicides which cluster together geographically, almost like a conventional viral, bacterial or parasitic infection, passed from person to person, this does not mean that newspapers, magazines, TV & radio stations and the modern digital equivalents, should never talk about suicides, or the methods. There is no evidence to prove that journalistic guidelines have in any way reduced the likelihood that fellow friends, classmates and other people in the vicinity of a suicide, will commit suicide themselves. We are missing the point: if one person in a particular area of the country, of a certain age, living a certain lifestyle, is compelled to end their life, then why should we be surprised that there are many others who are living on the edge too? It is absolutely untrue that the media and the internet is in any way shape or form responsible for pushing and/or prompting people to end their lives.

We also have to answer the difficult question: is it ethical to force a person to live a miserable and unbearable life? Is it unethical to force a person to endure unending suffering?

The documentary I watched particularly annoyed me when a so-called expert came onto the program to say that suicidal thoughts are usually fleeting, and quickly pass; they essentially said that depression is temporary - in a particularly dismissive manner - and that we should shut up and put up with it. This made me furious.

People don't end their lives whimsically. Suicides are meticulously planned. The formation of the idea of killing one's self is something that has taken place during years of terrible suffering. I say that it is unethical to act in any kind of way to prevent a suffering person from achieving relief from the terrible torments which they have decided are too unbearable. It's their life at the end of the day. It's selfish to ask them to keep living an intolerable miserable suffering-filled existence... for what reason? So that you don't feel sad? Get over yourself. Get a grip. Have some compassion. Show a little empathy.

I believe strongly that suicides are 100% preventable, and that we should aim for zero suicides - nobody should ever commit suicide. However, the solutions are well beyond the scope of this essay, and ask the reader to think the unthinkable, such as improving people's lives, instead of fobbing them off with cheap anti-depressant tablets and abysmal "behavioural therapy" courses developed and delivered by a group of people with the collective IQ of a slug. The evidence is clear: suicide is the number one killer of men under the age of 50, and the suicide rate in young girls and women is growing faster than ever before. Yet, the approach remains unchanged: ineffective medications and ineffective psychological therapies. Also, the circumstances get worse and worse: youth unemployment soars, personal debt soars, global warming and climate change rages out of control, and the chance of having a fulfilling happy life diminishes by a vast amount every single day.

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So, you came here for the good stuff, right?

OK, here are all the ways you can kill yourself, separated into some different sections.

Poisonings and Overdoses

Almost every substance which a normal person can obtain will result in a slow and painful death. Anybody can find a poisonous mushroom or plant - such as deadly nightshade or hemlock - which will kill you, but it will be extremely unpleasant. It's possible to purchase a large quantity of paracetamol, for example, which will easily cause fatal liver failure, but this is a particularly slow, painful and unpleasant death.

Deaths by overdose are hard to achieve with so-called 'safe' modern medications. Your doctor is unlikely to prescribe you enough opiates to allow you to kill yourself, unless you stockpile your supply, and slow-release formulas can make it hard to commit suicide using swallowed tablets. Barbiturates, which are the number one choice of doctors who wish to commit suicide, are never prescribed. There are deadly medications, such as warfarin, but to obtain them is almost impossible.

Were you able to obtain a poison such as strychnine or cyanide, your death would be surprisingly slow and painful. Potassium cyanide particularly, would not be a pleasant easy death, unless combined with a large dose of sedative and a painkiller, because it essentially induces a heart attack.

Blood Loss and Other Trauma

The body has developed very advanced mechanisms to cope with severe lacerations, and blood vessels will spasm and contract to contain loss of blood. The arteries are generally well protected by the anatomy which has evolved to keep us alive.

Generally speaking, cutting the jugular vein(s) is a reliable method of suicide, but there are many variables: the blade must be sharp, the aim must be true, and the cut must be made with force and certainty. It's more likely that you will end up with a profusely bleeding laceration than a lethal wound.

Cutting one of the carotid arteries must surely be the most reliable way of killing yourself with a knife or razor blade, but detailed anatomical knowledge and a willingness to undergo immense pain, while conducting this surgery on yourself, makes the task almost impossible.

Plunging a sharp object in-between your ribs and into your heart or one of the biggest blood vessels in your body will kill you very quickly, but the chance of you hitting your target is low.

The Japanese Samurai favour disembowelment as an "honourable death". Do not recommend.

Self-immolation would be incredibly painful, and your death would be caused by suffocation: the flames would consume the oxygen from around your body, and your lungs would be burned so badly they would not function. Definitely do not recommend.

Falls From Height

Yes, these will kill you. There is a well documented case of a man who survived a fall from the Golden Gate Bridge, which is about 67 metres (or 220 feet for those who prefer imperial units). In rock climbing terms, that's about 1 rope length, and there are lots of documented cases of rock climbers who have fallen from the top of a cliff and survived.

This is all about the height, and the surface you're landing on. Maximum height and solid landing surface = more certain death. I would say that 8 storeys or more, landing on concrete, rock or something similar like that, would guarantee 'instant' death. Bear in mind that you would need to jump and also endure the fall, which would both be very traumatic, but it would be a 'quick' death versus a poisoning or overdose, for example.

Hanging

Most people who have hanged themselves have died from asphyxiation, and have suffered an incredibly awful death. Death by hanging has a high success rate, but we should be mindful that the final period of that person's life was unimaginably terrible. To asphyxiate elicits one of our most primal panic responses - the hypercapnic alarm response - and we know that many people who have hanged themselves have taken 30 to 90 minutes before they have finally expired. This is one of the most unpleasant deaths I can imagine.

For a hanging to be a quick death, the neck should be broken or the body should be decapitated - either outcome achieves the desired outcome, which is a quick death. It would be advisable - although I advise nobody to commit suicide, of course - to err on the side of caution, and ensure that the 'drop' is sufficient to break the neck at the very least, and if decapitation occurs, then it's far preferable to the alternative: a lengthy asphyxiation.

Electrocution

Most modern domestic and commercial electrical systems are fitted with systems to prevent electrocution, and as such you would be unlikely to be able to electrocute yourself by, for example, dropping an electrical appliance into the bath-tub while you were in it.

In the interests of a full and frank exploration of all the available suicide options, I must tell you that it's possible to obtain a live electrical current by simply removing the cover of your fuse box. In there are live parts which do not have the protections which you have throughout your house or other premises.

Touching a live electrical conductor will hurt, a lot, but it won't kill you. In order to kill yourself by electrocution, you must first grip something which is earthed - such as a copper water pipe or the earth clip for your house, usually marked with green and yellow striped insulation - and then touch the live source of electricity with your OTHER hand. Then, the electrical current will flow across your body, through your chest, and your heart will either be very badly damaged or at least enter ventricular fibrillation, where it is unable to pump blood, causing you to lose consciousness immediately.

It's possible that you might only receive a 'mild' electrocution, leaving you with very bad burns, tissue and nerve damage, but otherwise alive. For this reason, it's probably inadvisable for anybody except a trained electrician to commit suicide using this method.

Asphyxiation, Drowning, Suffocation etc

As I wrote before, the hypercapnic alarm response, which is your body's natural reaction to high carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream, will cause incredible panic and suffering. As such, drowning yourself by attaching weights to your body and jumping into water, would be a terrible, terrible death. Do not recommend.

To attempt to suffocate yourself, perhaps by putting a plastic bag over your head or other somesuch thing, would result in the elicitation of the hypercapnic alarm response and you would tear the bag off your head, driven by instinct. Your primitive survival instincts would override the neocortical modern brain, which we have unfortunately evolved, leading us to want to commit suicide in the first place.

In order to asphyxiate in the manner which we would all wish to die, which is painlessly and peacefully, the solution is simple: we must breathe a gas which contains no oxygen or carbon dioxide. To breathe the gas from your oven puts your neighbours and firefighters at risk, because a gas explosion will be the likely result. Instead, a bottle of helium can be purchased inexpensively, for the usual purpose of filling baloons. Instead, the helium should be used to provide a steady supply of gas to some kind of 'hood' which you wear. By breathing an inert gas like helium, you will quickly lose consciousness and death will follow within some minutes, as your body and brain are deprived of oxygen.

Other

There are things which might work, but are more likely to cause you incredible pain and injury, such as injecting yourself with a bubble of air.

You could obviously starve or dehydrate yourself to death, but this would be time-consuming and result in a slow and painful death, with much suffering.

For those who live in places where firearms are easily obtained, I don't know why you're even reading this: if I could get hold of a gun I'd already be dead, I'm sure. That's not to say that gun control is preventing my suicide; merely that there are easier ways to kill yourself in a country like the UK, but I foolishly have opted for methods which were unlikely to kill me, such as poison, overdose and cutting veins.

The number of ways to cause your body a traumatic injury are innumerable, but an example might be to turn off the airbag on your car and then drive without a seatbelt at 100mph into a concrete pillar which is supporting a bridge.

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As you can see, the options are multitudinous and you really don't need me to list them. You already knew almost all this stuff, and if you didn't, it was available on a million websites; it was one single Google search away.

As for the charge that I am encouraging, endorsing, glamourising or enabling suicide in any way whatsoever, you are barking up the wrong tree. Look again at the suffering. Look again at the causes of that suffering. Look again at the options available to the victim of that suffering. If it was possible for a suicidal person to endure any longer, they would. If there was an easy option, like a magic pill from a magic doctor who lives in a magic building, then we would see suicide rates falling not climbing. The medical establishment claims to want to preserve life, and it claims to be empirical and evidence-based, yet all the evidence shows that medicine is failing abysmally to deal with the number one killer of men under the age of 50; the fastest growing cause of death of young girls and women. Medicine can f**k off - it's had plenty of chances to do something about the suicide and mental health epidemic, but instead it has rested on its laurels and dished out useless pills, and allowed intolerable living conditions to grow, flourish and proliferate.

If you think my article is somehow dangerous and irresponsible, I suggest you seek your first recourse with those who claim to be practicing so-called medicine, when all the evidence shows that the medications and treatments prescribed are entirely ineffective, and the mental health epidemic and suicide rate are the number one public health emergency, yet your doctor is doing nothing about it - they have their head buried in the sand.

For those of you who came here looking for information on how to commit suicide, I empathise. I've attempted suicide several times. If you want to talk to somebody who lives with suicidal thoughts on a daily basis and has tried every conventional treatment you can possibly imagine, who won't try to "talk you out of doing anything" or otherwise patronise you, my Twitter DMs are open and my email address is publicly available.

If you're suffering, I'm sad about that. I wish people didn't have to commit suicide, but sometimes they do, because the suffering is too unbearable.

 

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An Apology

6 min read

This is a story about remorse...

My kitty

There's a lot of good reasons why we don't steal people's medication.

Firstly, theft is illegal. There is no defence against the crime of theft. You could rob a bank and claim that you were going to give the money to charity, but I'm afraid that's no defence. You could claim that you didn't know theft was a crime, but ignorance is no defence. You could claim that you were keeping somebody safe, by stealing something of theirs that was dangerous: perhaps you stole a fast motorbike, and your defence is that you wanted to prevent injury or death. Unfortunately, while these arguments might give the court judge cause to be more lenient in their sentencing, the crime of theft is a clear-cut thing: you simply need to permanently deprive the owner of something that they own, and you have committed a crime. No defence. It's a crime. It's that simple.

Secondly, some medications require you to have a prescription to have them in your possession. There are lots of medications which are controlled drugs and as such, to have stolen those medications would mean that you have committed a second crime: possession of a controlled substance, without a prescription. Again, there's no defence for being in possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, unless you have signed documentation proving that you are authorised to collect a prescription from a pharmacy, on somebody else's behalf.

Thirdly, some medications will cause seizures and death if the patient abruptly stops taking them. Many medications raise the seizure threshold, and when medication is stolen and the patient is forced to abruptly cease taking the pills, then the seizure threshold is lowered so substantially that the result is very bad seizures - grand mal - which can cause physical injuries as well as death. This would be gross negligence, or gross negligence manslaughter in the event of a death.

Fourthly, while incredibly ignorant people might think that they are being "helpful" by stealing medications, if their fantasies are incited by other people - abusing a position of respect and making misleading representations that they know what the f**k they're talking about - then those people become part of what's called a joint enterprise or common purpose crime. It doesn't actually matter who committed the crimes - all the parties in the conspiracy are equally guilty.

Fifthly, it does not even matter if the crime(s) are actually committed or not. If there was a conspiracy to commit a crime which was never acted upon, then that conspiracy can still be prosecuted as a crime.

In short, don't steal other people's medications, or even plan or advise to attempt such a thing, because you are breaking at least four laws. Criminal law is not based on precedent and interpretation. It's open-and-shut: you clearly broke the law, so you must be prosecuted and punished.

Because I suffer from Bipolar Affective Disorder, I am prescribed lamotrigine, which is an anticonvulsant. Epileptics are prescribed lamotrigine, because it raises the seizure threshold. It is extremely dangerous to stop taking lamotrigine abruptly, whether you are epileptic or not, because you are likely to have life-threatening seizures.

My ex-girlfriend, with incitement from 5 others acting in a criminal joint enterprise, conspired to steal a large number of different medications from me, with no fewer than 3 of the medications being likely to cause seizures, injury and death, when I discovered the theft and was unable to take my pills as normal. The theft was a smash-and-grab, where there was clearly no consideration for the immense harm that was likely to come to me, but also, medications were stolen in a manner that clearly proved that it was an act of incredible stupidity; utter recklessness and shocking ignorance.

Would you rummage through the drawers and medicine cabinet of a home in which you were a guest? If you were so incredibly rude and privacy-invading as to do so, and you happened to find items which were embarrassing, would you tell all your friends? Would you humiliate the poor person who trusted you to act with the duty of care towards their privacy, which they were owed?

It shocked me when a friend sent me a message asking about a particular medication - which it later emerged had been stolen - and was mocking and humiliating me about this. My most private, confidential, embarrassing, secret and sensitive medical information had been abused in the most horrible disgusting way. Without a single care about violating my dignity, humiliating me, embarrassing me and betraying my confidence, my ex-girlfriend carelessly boasted to her co-conspirators about the medications she had stolen from me. This medication can be bought over-the-counter in any chemist, without a prescription, has no abuse potential and has no potential to cause an overdose. Why steal it? Why boast to her co-conspirators she'd stolen it?

I did get an apology from my ex-girlfriend, but I doubt she feels any remorse. I suspect it would take criminal prosecution for her to realise that her actions were wicked and wrong, and there was no excuse for the risk she placed my life in, the violation of the sanctity of my private home, the violation of my dignity, the humiliation and embarrassment she caused me by violating my confidential medical details. She's a horrible person, although I will say that without the incitement of the co-conspirators in the criminal joint enterprise, she would have been less likely to commit the crimes - although this does not forgive her behaviour, nor absolve her of her crimes.

Getting an apology out of the ex-friend who was a co-conspirator in the criminal joint enterprise, who then began to criminally harass me, sending me numerous unwanted offensive messages, emails and letters, which caused me a great deal of humiliation and embarrassment, violated my dignity, and was particularly intimidating regarding the confidentiality of my private medical details.

My ex-girlfriend's mother did feed my cat while I was in hospital, which was very kind of her, and I want to thank her, but when I arrived at my ex-girlfriend's house and demanded the return of my keys, the atmosphere was not conducive to saying thank you for the mother's kindness, which she had shown to my cat.

I suppose when you are faced with an individual who has threatened to pursue criminal charges against your daughter, the parental instinct probably kicked in and she would have denied that her daughter was a murderer, even if she'd seen her plunge the knife repeatedly into the victim's body.

Anyway, this is a simple message: don't steal people's stuff, OK. Especially medication, which is a matter of life-or death. If somebody tells you that it's "OK" or "the right thing to do" then they're wrong - they are inciting you to commit a crime, and they themselves are co-conspirators in that joint enterprise crime too, and will be prosecuted equally under the law.

 

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World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day 2019

5 min read

This is a story about annual events...

Hampstead Heath

I sometimes forget that I have a 1.3 million word repository of 4 years of my life documented in exquisite detail. Given that I have chosen to manage my mental illness - bipolar disorder - without medication, it's extremely useful to have everything written down. Memories are easily corrupted. It's easy to romanticise the past. Past traumas can be forgotten. Pain fades from memory. By having everything stored digitally like this, it's easier for me to avoid getting stuck in a cycle of boom and bust; making the same mistakes again and again.

Mental illness combined with some dreadful circumstances which exacerbated the problem, like an abusive relationship followed by an inevitable divorce, plunged my life into utter chaos. I was homeless and slept rough. I was sectioned and kept in secure psychiatric institutions. I very nearly lost everything.

Today is both World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day. The two things go hand-in-hand, but the choice of day was a coincidence, I expect, although ironically it's quite apt.

There is a powerful relationship between mental health and other problems, such as being able to work, having money problems, having relationship problems, homelessness, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, self harm, suicide and crime, amongst other things. To say that drug addiction causes mental health problems, for example, is a mistake of confusing correlation and causation. To say that mentally ill people are more likely to become homeless is a mistake of cause and effect. As you might imagine, not having a secure, dry, affordable, pleasant place to live is toxic to good mental health - how can anybody be expected to have any kind of sense of wellbeing when one of their most basic needs is unmet or under threat?

We might dismiss housing concerns, believing that local councils and "the government" ensures that nobody goes homeless, but it's lazy and ignorant to believe that housing is not the number one concern of people in crisis. The root of all problems is not mental health or drugs, or Brexit... it's housing.

The proportion of people's wages spent on rent or mortgage payments, has steadily risen, while wages have fallen in real terms. Vast numbers of people are on zero hours contracts or work in the 'gig economy'. Unemployment figures do not tell the real story: millions of people live under constant threat of eviction; homelessness.

Do I really have to spell this out?

Living with the constant threat of losing your home is incredibly stressful.

People are working all the hours they can to try to make ends meet, and they are still only one or two missed paycheques away from being chucked out onto the streets. One hiccup and they'll be homeless. Living with that kind of daily threat creates intolerable anxiety.

If you put somebody under an enormous amount of pressure and stress, for a very long period of time, it will negatively affect their mental health. It's inevitable that the lack of affordable housing in the areas where there are job vacancies, would create a mental health epidemic.

In London, where there are the most jobs, the housing is also the most expensive, over competitive and overcrowded. Yes, there are lots of jobs in London, and they're better paid than elsewhere in the UK, but the housing is terrible quality and massively overpriced, plus there are heaps of people competing for the few place to live, and the nice places to live are virtually unattainable except for the mega-rich.

Where I currently live, I pay a fraction of what I used to pay in London, and I have a lot more space, but when my contract ends I will struggle to find another one nearby - there simply aren't as many jobs in the area, hence why far fewer people want to live here and why the cost of living is lower.

This is capitalism in action. This is supply and demand. Capitalism is maximising how much money it can extract from our pockets, before we all go insane and/or kill ourselves. Capitalism is highly efficient at creating the maximum misery, in its pursuit of the maximum profit. Capitalism is not about freedom or choice. Capitalism is about the immoral destruction of human lives, in order to deliver relentless 'growth' at the expense of our quality of life.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I have emerged from that dreadful chaotic period of mental illness and homelessness, and I now enjoy a reasonable standard of living, but I am painfully aware of how insecure my existence is; how quickly I could be turfed out onto the streets again. I'm acutely aware that my mental health cannot be taken for granted, and the pressure to keep earning vast sums of money, month after month, to line the pockets of an idle capitalist, is incredibly toxic to my mental health.

 

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Step Three: Rinse & Repeat

6 min read

This is a story about repetition...

Bottles

Drug addicts and alcoholics know a lot about relapses. What dreadful consequences they suffer when they fall off the wagon. Am I immune from such things? Am I the first person in the history of humanity to outsmart addiction? No. Of course not.

Readers who have followed any of my story might wonder if I've started drinking again, or have become addicted to sleeping pills again. No. No I have not.

I went to the supermarket yesterday - a big fancy supermarket with lots of lovely things to choose from - and it was difficult to stay away from the alcohol aisle, but not impossible. The whole point about being an alcoholic or an addict is that you're powerless over the substance(s) that you're abusing. I do not offer my successful self control as evidence of my immunity to addiction and alcoholism, but it does prove that I'm in control, which cannot be said of those unfortunate wretches who are in the grip of active addiction and/or alcoholism.

Rehabs are full of charlatans who claim that they have a magic cure for addiction and/or alcoholism, but all recovery comes from within - how bad do you want it? I'm not saying that those who are killed by their addiction and/or alcoholism didn't want to be clean and sober, but they clearly wanted to be drunk and high more than they wanted to avoid their inevitable demise, or else they wouldn't have died. Unfortunately, the self-reinforcing draw of addictive substances can overpower the best of us, and although I do view addicts and alcoholics as "victims" of a disease, it's also demonstrably clear that people who have no problems with drink and/or drugs - including those people 'in recovery' - were simply lucky enough that the scales were tipped marginally in their favour.

My life has potential which would be churlish to deny. It's not fair for me to say "everything is ruined so I give up" when clearly I have high earnings potential, and with money comes opportunities to escape a miserable life and get a better one. Sure, I can get overwhelmed and decide that I don't have any energy left to keep fighting, and I would quickly be wrecked and ruined by our over-competitive coercive and exploitative society, which would dearly love to trample me underfoot, but I stand a better chance than most people of escaping the rat race.

Yep, I cheated a couple of times this week. I used a sleeping pill on a couple of nights to help me force my sleep pattern into the one which capitalism demands. I used a sleeping pill to combat the incredibly negative side-effects of social jetlag, caused by the toxic demands of office hours, contrary to human health and welfare.

Did I relapse? Nope.

What does relapse even mean for me? I've never been an alcoholic.

What does relapse mean in terms of mental health episodes? My mania-driven achievements are widely celebrated and cheered on by the capitalists who've been assisted by my immense productivity, which has been almost superhuman, but has come at great personal cost. My mental illness has been on public display for many years, yet my paymasters don't care because I'm delivering the goods - so long as I keep up the successful results, my violent mood swings are tolerated, and the results of my manic episodes are highly prized by all involved, especially by those who provoke me into doing high-pressure projects with unrealistic deadlines.

I hope - eternally - that the repeating patterns are not on a downward trend. I attempt to learn from each mood cycle, and to hold onto the gains and not give up so many losses. I try to limit the downright outrageous negative consequences of unrestrained mania, and I try to fight through the devastating depression that follows, forcing myself to keep inside the artificial constraints of some reasonable tramlines, knowing that it will be ultimately beneficial for me and help me to escape from the boom and bust... most importantly to escape from the bust!

Self medication with the occasional sleeping pill is infinitely preferable to routine intoxication with copious amounts of alcohol, although it's easy to convince myself that neither has any long-term ill effects, clearly my health will suffer if I drink heavily on a regular basis, even if my wealth and professional reputation are not impacted.

It's all a bit boring really. Uneventful. I'm very good at putting one foot in front of the other, I just don't like it very much, especially when going on a journey I've done a million times before. There's not much pleasure left in renting a house, moving my stuff, starting a new job, impressing new colleagues or delivering a project which is exactly the same as every other project I've ever delivered in my long and illustrious career. I just do it for the money.

Some might accuse me of being a dry drunk but they are idiots. Every day that I struggle through the rat race puts a significant amount of pounds, shillings and pence into my pocket. Every day that I force myself to do the intolerable shit that I have to put up with, is a large step closer to freedom. I have no need to adopt a significantly different life at the moment, because the life I have is staggeringly lucrative, which unfortunately means that it's the quickest route to financial independence and housing security, which is the most important thing for my health and wellbeing.

Sobriety between now and the end of October is something quite welcome - it will help my health immensely. Working between now and the end of my contract, on Halloween, is something that will help my wealth immensely. It's incredibly dull and boring, but it's got to be done. It's easy, but it's repetitive. When was the last time that you put up with a shit job that you hated? Probably never. When was the last time you spent years doing boring, repetitive, easy stuff? Probably never. You just wouldn't put up with it.

 

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Step One: Don't Buy Any Alcohol

4 min read

This is a story about non-linear progress...

The Bridge

Don't worry. I didn't buy or drink any alcohol. I just thought that step one should be repeated, because it's an important one. Why not make it step 3 and have 13 steps? Well, I thought it would be more like reality to have to repeat steps. In real life, we never follow steps one after the other - we have to go back and re-do things. It's snakes and ladders, although without the comforting knowledge that eventually you'll reach the finish, providing you keep rolling the dice.

Today has been surprisingly hard. Today I was supposed to feel the benefit of not drinking, but I didn't. I have been tormented by poor concentration span and anxiety today, which is an awful combination. I thought I was going to have to skip work because I wasn't feeling very well. I thought I was going to have to go home early, because I was feeling exhausted. I'm glad the working day is over.

I started thinking about how long it takes to feel like progress is being made. How long does it really take before a good lifestyle and health decision delivers any noticeable benefit?

A long time.

Sometimes I do a good job of setting my expectations, and sometimes I'm over-optimistic. Thinking back to when I was swallowing copious amounts of sleeping pills and tranquillisers, and I had a foreign holiday impending, it seemed impossible that I'd be able to quit all those addictive medications in order to be able to travel abroad. I must have suffered a great deal, but also I know that I dealt with that problem very quickly and I managed to get free from those addictive pills, and to enjoy my holiday free from medication. As well as quitting those medications I also quit alcohol, went on a diet and lost some weight.

How on earth did I achieve all that?

At the moment, I'm managing to stay off alcohol, but I'm not managing much else. Sure, I'm still medication-free, but I'm comfort eating like crazy, by way of compensation. I know that I'm only a few days into my current mission to improve my health and appearance, but I feel like somehow I should be feeling a lot better.

I suppose for every 10 days of bad choices, it's gonna take 5 days of living a healthy life to pay back that debt. I had gotten into some super bad habits in the last month, so it's bound to take at least a fortnight before I feel any benefit, I imagine.

My perceptions are all messed up. I'm tormented by thoughts of doom and disaster, particularly around my reputation at work - having screwed up and said something dumb and unprofessional - and my prospect of getting a contract extension or another local gig. I've started to feel overwhelmed: that the stress of it is too much to bear, and that I won't be lucky... my hard-won gains will all be eaten up but the relentless demands of rent, bills and other expenses, until I'm plunged back into homelessness and financial ruin.

I am aware that I've swung from feeling like I've been making a valuable contribution, that I'm good at my job, and feeling OK about things (have I ever really felt that though?) to now feeling that I've undone all my hard work, and that everything's doomed to fail after the end of October, when my current contract ends. I had been thinking that I would be able to persuade the organisation I'm currently working for to take me on directly, and I would buy my way out of a contract clause which prohibits me from working for the organisation. I had been thinking that I had a sensible and straightforward way ahead, but now I'm thinking that everything is ruined: the organisation doesn't want me anymore, my reputation is ruined, nobody will want me, and I'll soon run out of money and end up homeless and penniless again.

To have such an extreme swing of mood and perception must be due to a combination of alcohol and bipolar disorder.

I'm aware of this, but I still feel these feelings so strongly, that it's hard to be rational.

Anyway, I'm going to carry on with sobriety, because I know it's good for my health and my waistline.

 

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Addicted to Sadness

8 min read

This is a story about being deliberately stuck in a rut...

Pills

It's fairly common for people charged with healthcare and wellbeing duties to blame the victim. "You don't want to get better, do you?" comes the accusation, when somebody's feeble attempts to help have failed in the face of an intractably difficult set of problems. "You like being depressed, don't you?" comes the victim-blaming response to the failure of a person whose profession is allegedly to help sick people get better.

I read an illuminating article the other day, which shed further light on the mindset which continues to perpetuate medicine and psychology's abysmal failures in the field of mental health. While claiming to practice evidence-based treatment, doctors and psychologists have no basic grasp of the evidence, which clearly shows an epidemic of mental health problems and dreadful outcomes - complete and utter failure, no less. However, in the face of this appalling failure, doctors and psychologists have decided to blame the victims, stating that the patients who don't get better - who are indeed the vast majority - are to blame for their own illness.

The charge, in a nutshell, is that depression and sadness have become a 'comfort zone' for the sufferer, and to attempt to get better would risk disappointment, so instead these untreatable people who are intent on remaining depressed, are competing with each other to see who can be the most depressed and miserable.

What a load of BS.

It's true that I have written endlessly about how depressed and anxious I am. It's true that I've written repeatedly about my certainty that I'm doomed to failure. It's true that I've felt hopeless and helpless; powerless. I've felt like my situation can never be resolved and that my life will never improve.

I've been convinced that my life will never improve.

I've been convinced that my life will never improve so does that mean I've made no attempt to improve it? Does the fact that I spurn medication and therapy indicate that I am intent on remaining depressed and anxious? Is my negative outlook a self-fulfilling prophecy? Am I to blame for my own misery?

Yes, doctors and psychologists would love to blame me for my own depression.

I say that it is them who are the defeatists, responsible for people's depression.

I say that it is those who do not listen and do not care, who only want for quick and easy fixes, who condemn the patients they claim to want to help, to a life of misery and depression. I blame the doctors and the psychologists for the epidemic of mental health problems, because they claim to offer effective evidence-based treatment, but the treatment is ineffective. All the evidence is overwhelming: the treatments on offer DO NOT WORK and often times make the patient's life much worse.

The solutions to the mental health epidemic are as complicated as our busy complex lives, unsurprisingly. The solutions do not come in the form of a pill or a simple cognitive therapy. The solutions are not simple, because the problems are not simple.

The world is addicted to my productivity. The world is addicted to my mental illness. The world does not want me to be well. The world wants me to be sick.

Yes. That's right. The world wants me to be sick.

The rat race is incredibly stressful and is tailor made to create mental health problems. Capitalism is incredibly toxic to mental health. Yet, we cannot discuss these things. Instead we must blame ourselves. Instead we decide it is us who is badly adjusted to society, and therefore it is us who is defective and needs powerful psychiatric medications to 'correct' our faults.

Obviously, when more than 50% of the population is struggling with some kind of mental health problem, then we can see that society is defective, not the individuals.

We ask mothers to leave their children in the hands of strangers, in order to commute long distances and work in offices. We ask fathers to miss out on seeing their kids grow up, because they have to spend so much time away from home, working. Our houses are a crippling financial burden. The lengthy commutes are stressful in rush hour traffic and jostling in crowds on packed trains and busses. We leave the peaceful rural countryside and journey into grey polluted overcrowded concrete centres of commerce, where the noise and the lights and the huge number of people is an assault on our senses.

We aren't supposed to live like this.

We aren't supposed to spend our whole lives fighting so hard; struggling. We weren't built to be so distant from our families and our communities, living lives of quiet desperation in concrete jungles, with so much stress about money. We were never evolved to spend so much time commuting, bored, working bulls**t jobs in offices. It's unnatural. It goes against our fundamental human nature.

We tell ourselves "it's not forever" as we attempt to pay off enough of our mortgages and save enough money into our pension pots to be able to quit the rat race, but the truth is that it is forever - we can never quit the rat race, and that's depressing.

I am making a little progress. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. My quality of life has improved an immense amount versus a year ago, when things were much more precarious. In a year from now, with a little luck, I might finally be enjoying a little financial security, and therefore be a lot less stressed.

My problems are simple enough, but not simple enough for those who think that there's a pill which can almost instantly cure all my problems. My problems are simple enough for anybody who takes the time to stop and think, but who has the time? Much easier to just suggest that an hour of therapy a week is adequate to solve my rational depression and anxiety about the unbearable unpleasantness of the rat race and the abysmally awful situation which capitalism creates.

I will have no hesitation in ceasing my misery-filled essays, once I have escaped the source of the misery. I am not addicted at all to feeling sad. How preposterous to suggest that I enjoy feeling depressed. How offensive to suggest that I'm to blame for my own unbearable feelings.

I choose not to feel sad, depressed and anxious. I choose happiness. I choose joy. However, these choices are not available to me: it is necessary for me to work long and hard, in intolerable conditions, in order to be able to choose happiness. At least I have an opportunity to achieve financial security, when most people do not.

Of course I would love to solve the world's problems. I can see that society is producing an epidemic of mental health problems - the evidence is overwhelming. I would dearly love to be doing something to improve the human condition, end climate change, end poverty and generally allow people to live happier and more fulfilling lives, but I realise that it's impossible. I assure you that I work extremely hard, attempting to improve my own situation, but it takes a lot of time. I've made extraordinary progress, but there is still a long way to go, and there are regular setbacks.

In some ways I wish that my situation was more hopeless, so that I would feel enabled to do whatever I wanted. I feel as though I am duty-bound to pursue the great opportunity that has been presented to me. I am lucky enough not to held back by black marks against my name, such as a bad credit score, a criminal record, a bankruptcy or other things which condemn so many people to a life of poverty - they will never be afforded the opportunity to earn large sums of money, and therefore to be able to escape poverty by the conventional route. It would be somewhat immoral of me to throw away my good fortune and allow myself to be eaten by the vultures, when I still have the opportunity to work my way out of my intolerable situation, although it's incomprehensibly awful to work your way back up from the bottom, with the constant threat of failure.

I most definitely do not live in the 'comfort zone' of hopeless depression. Instead, I live with the unbearable anxiety and stress of trying and struggling, knowing that all my effort might be wasted, due to a single setback. Yet, I do struggle. I do try. I most definitely am ploughing every ounce of energy that I possess into attempting to escape my dismal plight.

Please stop blaming depressed people for their own depression.

 

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Fish Eye Lens

6 min read

This is a story about a negative outlook...

Drowned mouse

I've been staring at the cursor for about five minutes, unsure of quite where to begin. I know that it would be wise to avoid conflict and destruction - deliberately looking for trouble - but my mind continuously prompts me to write about the situation which is causing me the most stress at the moment, which is the obscene amount of money I've spent on a holiday for my girlfriend and I, and the horrible flashbacks this is giving me from the time when I was taken advantage of and left for dead.

There's no need to publicly attack my girlfriend. She seems well-meaning enough. If I give her the benefit of the doubt, she hasn't got a bad bone in her body. However, the reality of the present situation is that she's spent a vast amount of my money and has no credible means to pay for her share. I know that the fault is mine, for getting carried away, but the situation is indisputable - she has profited handsomely from my vulnerability, which is something I've been harmed by in the past.

My brain feeds me a constant stream of negativity, because I have made overly-aggressive medication changes. I'm tormented by nightmares in my sleep, and from the moment I wake up until the moment I finally get to sleep, I suffer from invasive thoughts and an incredibly dour outlook on the future. My brain feeds me constant doom & gloom. My brain instantly leaps to the most negative possible outcomes.

I'm disappointed and frustrated that I might not get the opportunity to finish the project I'm working on. My contract is being terminated early, through no fault of my own. I had worked very hard to build a great reputation with the organisation I work for, but it's all for naught. A colleague gets paid more-or-less the same amount and has more-or-less the same job title, but that person has a fraction of my productivity - why did I burn myself out? Why did I work so hard? Why did I bother? It doesn't bother me so much that my colleague is useless and in some ways I find it kind of admirable when somebody gets paid so much for doing so little, but it bothers me that I might not get to finish what I'm working on - I like working hard and I like completing projects. It bothers me when somebody gets in the way of a successful project, by being thoroughly useless. It bothers me that I have to work much harder than I would have to if the under-performers were simply sacked. I have plenty of time and patience for my junior colleagues, but I have no patience for highly paid colleagues who're supposed to do the same job as me, who are not up to scratch and who are jeopardising a project.

I can see that my irritability and intolerance - my lack of patience - is symptomatic of burn-out. I've worked for too long at too high intensity. I've lost all balance in my life. I've lost all perspective. I've lost my health.

My colleague has the right idea. It was a mistake to get emotionally invested in my work. It was a mistake to become excessively obsessed with the project. I hate that I'm being bitchy behind my colleague's back. I hate that I hate my colleague's ineptitude.

I want to go back to the version of me who handles stressful situations with a smile.

I've faced very dangerous situations so many times that I'm usually cool and calm in a crisis.

Why am I so irritable?

I'm losing my grip.

I find myself in a precarious position. Perhaps not more so than other times in the past, but it feels more precarious than ever, maybe because I'm aware that I've got a winning strategy, but I'm still a long way from security. I've got a nice place to live and I've feathered the nest a little, but I don't feel very well - I have no idea how I'm going to avoid a breakdown and keep working at the same intensity, in order to cement my gains. I feel certain that the combination of luck and hard work is too demanding, given how burnt out I am. I needed better luck - I needed my contract to be extended, not cut short. I needed to reap the rewards of the hard work I invested into the current organisation and project... not to be having to prove myself in some new organisation; starting from scratch.

Every morning and every night I have a huge amount of dread: I have the uncertainty of a very invasive security vetting procedure hanging over me, and I have the uncertainty of the local contract market to face. I know that psychologically I'll be destroyed by relatively minor setbacks. I know that I'll find work in the private sector if the public sector won't have me. I know that my skills will be in demand somewhere but I'm sick of living out of a suitcase.

I know that my health is failing. I know that exhaustion is catching up with me. I know that when depression takes hold it will be long and destructive, leaving me unable to work, unable to get out of bed, unable to answer the phone... completely dysfunctional. I know that I'm completely burnt out.

I need to pack bags and travel. It might seem like a nice problem to have, but the holiday will leave me worse off financially and worse off in terms of relaxation. I need to spend 6 weeks in bed with the curtains closed, but instead I'm bankrolling somebody else's dream holiday; for me a living nightmare of stress and hassle.

Perhaps a lot of my perspective comes from medication withdrawal. It makes sense that I would be overcome with anxiety and insomnia, given that I was so dependent on sleeping pills and tranquillisers. It makes sense that my view of the world would be coloured by the destabilised brain chemistry, having abruptly stopped taking strong psychiatric medication.

I wonder what will happen - whether my relationship can withstand this dark mood; whether my colleagues can tolerate my irritability; whether my fragile health will collapse completely and leave me unable to work. I'm not coping at all well, and unfortunately I need to be able to cope with ludicrous amounts of extra stress at the moment. Things will get a lot worse if they're going to stand any chance of getting any better.

 

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I'm [Not] OK

6 min read

This is a story about keeping people updated...

Invert

It's been nearly 2 weeks since I wrote last. I know I've had gaps but this feels like a really long one. Gaps are usually a very bad sign. It's worth worrying about me if I'm not writing. Things are probably going badly if I'm not writing.

I was coping by using a combination of alcohol, sleeping pills, tranquillisers/sedatives and a heck of a lot of comfort eating. I've been teetotal and medication-free for a while now. I'm dieting too. I'm slimmer but I feel awful. Stopping taking all the pills has been brutal. Not having anything to 'take the edge off' has been horrible. The anxiety has been unbearable.

Some concerned friends have sent me messages, but I've felt too swamped to reply. Work is exhausting and there has been the looming holiday, which has caused added stress rather than being something to look forward to: How am I going to afford the loss of earnings as well as the expense of the holiday? My work situation is looking very uncertain for when I get back from holiday, which is a horrible situation to be in, worrying about money instead of enjoying some well-earned time off.

My relationship is good but it's caused some sleepless nights. I'm desperately trying to avoid worsening my exhaustion and sleep deficit, but it's almost impossible to catch up. Stopping the sleeping pills has caused my sleep quality to deteriorate. It's a miracle that I'm still reasonably productive and functional.

The last thing I want to think about is the travel and logistics of going abroad. Buying holiday clothes sounds like fun, but it's another item on a todo list which makes me very stressed out. I'm struggling to figure out when I can fit in all the things I need to do between now and my departure date from the UK. I suppose as long as I've got my passport and a buttload of cash then I can figure things out, but it's not pleasant to be so ill-prepared for a trip.

I'll be 40 years old in exactly one week. I decided to have a barbecue at my house when I was feeling somewhat more buoyant about the way my life was going. Now I feel like cancelling the gathering, because I'm stressed about the extra unnecessary hassle. Having guests over to my house reminds me that I've still barely moved in - I don't have much furniture and the place is a bit of a mess. I don't feel well placed to make my guests comfortable. I have a lot of anxiety about it being a really awkward occasion, with a handful of my long-suffering friends having made the long journey to the provinces, in order to make smalltalk with strangers... a real chore for them.

I'm working as hard as I can in order to feel proud about my contribution to the project I'm working on. I'm desperate that my contribution be remembered as something valuable and that my colleagues recognise the effort I've ploughed in. Work's become a bit of an unhealthy obsession and I'm significantly over-invested, emotionally. I can picture myself getting very depressed when I'm forced to leave the project because of contractual shenanigans, and through no fault of my own.

My life is deeply unbalanced; unhealthy. I'm not drinking alcohol and I'm dieting, so I've lost weight, and I've managed to get a bit of sun, so I look quite healthy, but inside I'm very sick. The stress of the past years seems to have ratcheted up as my life has become more 'normal' and 'stable' recently - things were easier when I was living out of a suitcase, in some ways, although I appreciate that I was very miserable and living much more unhealthily.

Readers who've followed me for any significant length of time will probably have a better idea than me as to whether I'm in a better place today than I was a few months ago, a year ago, several years ago. Things feel terrible but they probably aren't.

The stresses seem to be the same as ever, particularly concerning my security vetting. A colleague contacted me to say they were reading my blog. They seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of working with me, despite what they'd read, and the feedback seemed generally positive. It's the first time that a colleague has been brave enough to tell me that they've been reading my blog. Of course, the security vetting people have been reading too. I wonder if the security vetting people are as sympathetic to my stresses, and look favourably upon my ability to maintain an impeccably high standard of professionalism in the office, whilst undergoing some horrendous chaos in my personal life; struggling so much with my mental health. I wonder if all the talk about being sympathetic towards mental health issues is just hot air.

I wanted to write a short update, because I know people are worried about my uncharacteristic quietness. I've kinda failed. I'm doing OK, but I'm also really struggling too. Plenty of reasons to be concerned, but things are not completely ruined and on collision course with disaster... in fact I might even weather this storm and emerge in a reasonably good situation.

I'll try to write a little more regularly, but I don't want to be a stuck record, endlessly moaning about how unpleasant the effect of stopping medication is. I don't want to wallow in misery.

It's summer. I have money. I have employment for a little while longer. I have an awesome holiday booked. I have a very nice girlfriend. I have a cute kitten. I have a big house. Things are not terrible.

I'm not taking any medication, not drinking, dieting. I'm losing weight and my brain is getting back to a stable state without any alien chemicals. It's good to be free from the shackles of chemical dependency.

If I can push through this tricky period and keep the wheels turning, then I think my forties are going to be a much better period of life than parts of my thirties. It does feel good to be turning a corner as I reach an age when I should be growing old less disgracefully.

I've written more than I wanted to but I hope you'll forgive me. You're all up to date now.

 

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Gas Leak

7 min read

This is a story about todo lists...

Gas meter

My list of simple mundane and relatively easily-achieved tasks seems to keep growing, despite the frenetic pace with which I am doing things. Most of my energy is ploughed into the project I'm involved with at work, which is reaching a critical juncture, but there are also other deadlines bearing down on me.

My car's roadworthiness test must be completed within the next fortnight. I had few problems with the car last year, but it's getting very old so I am not expecting to be so lucky this year. Certainly, there is a wheel bearing which needs replacing and the dashboard tells me that it's 5,000 miles overdue for a service. I would be very surprised if it did not cost me several hundred pounds and leave me without my car for a few days. The timing is not good, because I really need to be in the office every single day of the working week at the moment.

It might sound silly, but my hair needs to be cut twice in the next month. My hair is well overdue being cut - especially in the warm summer weather - but I will also want to get my hair cut again soon before going away on holiday. I'm planning on spending quite a lot of time in the sun, so it makes sense to have my hair cut short before going abroad, otherwise my skin will be pale under my mop of hair.

For a whole week of the holiday, I will be expected to wear quite smart clothes - a collar and trousers with some smart shoes - instead of the casual beachwear which is my usual attire when on holiday. I like to spend my entire holidays wearing a T-shirt, board-shorts and a pair of flip-flops, but the resort where I'll be staying insists on outfits more befitting of a golf clubhouse or country club. I usually stay in laid-back surfer crash-pads, and I'm not a member of a golf club or a country club, so my wardrobe lacks chinos, polo shirts and other clothing items which are de rigueur in the kinds of places where rich old men hang out, flaunting their wealth. Therefore, I need to go shopping, to buy a whole bunch of clothes which I only really need because of the dress code at the holiday resort where I'm staying for a week.

My clothing situation is generally pretty bad. I only have one pair of jeans which are not completely worn out, and wearing board-shorts to work would be unprofessional. I wear a smart dress shirt every day along with a fine-gauge knitwear V-neck jumper - it's a kind of uniform for me. However, the weather is improving and the office has no air-conditioning, so I would like to have a lighter pair of trousers to wear and some other shirts, which will look smart and professional without a jumper. My summer shoes are falling to pieces. Some of my colleagues wear sandals, but I've never seen any colleagues wearing flip-flops and I think it would be unprofessional of me to do so.

In order to pay for the most ludicrously expensive and over-the-top ridiculously luxurious holiday I've ever had in my life, I will have to do some quite clever accounting: juggling money around the place, so that my cashflow is not impacted. There are lots of parts of the holiday with a balance to pay, and I need to be careful to make sure that I don't use up more than 50% of the credit limit on any of my credit cards, which would adversely affect my credit rating.

My credit rating is super important right now, because I'm undergoing security vetting which is an incredibly invasive and exhaustive examination of every aspect of my life, including my credit history. It's important that I manage my money well so that part of the vetting process proceeds in an unproblematic fashion.

Spending 17 nights away from home and skipping 12 working days poses a big problem for the project I'm working on. The timing is less-than-perfect, putting it mildly. I need to take a holiday - I'm exhausted - but I also need to ensure some very important milestones are not jeopardised, plus my job is under threat and the loss of income is a source of stress. I will not be returning from holiday feeling relaxed, because I will need to secure myself a new contract as quickly as possible.

My todo list also includes difficult things, such as tapering off medications which I no longer want to be dependent on. There's relentless pressure on me to keep cutting my dosages, so that I'm medication-free by the time my holiday starts.

I need to get ready for a barbecue I'm planning on throwing to celebrate my 40th birthday. This requires the purchase of an actual barbecue, plus charcoal and all the food, of course. Further, I will probably have to make sure I have adequate beds and bedding for any guests who are staying over. I have plenty of time to prepare, but it's another deadline that is looming.

My kitesurfing equipment really needs some TLC before I go away on holiday and I need to purchase her a kitesurfing harness for my girlfriend if I'm going to teach her how to kitesurf while we're on holiday. Some of my kitesurfing equipment is more than a decade old and likely to break, unless I replace the worn-out parts. Having an equipment failure in a remote part of the world is likely to be expensive and/or cause me to lose valuable time on the ocean.

None of this is beyond the wit of man, but it's very hard to take care of all these odds and sods when I'm extremely time poor and quite exhausted by my very demanding job. I suppose things will happen at the last minute and everything will be alright, but I also anticipate that the next two months will drain every bit of energy I possess. I suppose there will be the occasional moment - on holiday - when there is nothing pressing in the complex itinerary: a flight to catch, a long drive, or indeed a smart outfit to be donned in order to simply grab a bite to eat.

These are almost all first-world problems, and indeed wealthy middle-class problems. I know that many British people on low incomes will struggle to get their decrepit old cars through their roadworthiness tests, but at least I have the financial means to pay for any unexpectedly high garage bills, although at some point it's not economical to spend hundreds of pounds on a car which is worth less than my smartphone, and I would be better off buying a new car, which at least I am fortunate enough to be able to do... although I would question whether it's a smart move getting a new car when my future employment is uncertain.

As you can see... I've got quite a lot going on at the moment, and not enough hours in the day.

 

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Beach Body

6 min read

This is a story about going on a diet...

Flip flops

571 days ago I decided that I was allowed to drink heavily and eat whatever I wanted. I had at least a bottle of wine every day and ate mostly fast food. I decided that this was my reward for working virtually non-stop: to guzzle gallons of alcohol and devour mountains of fatty food. My evenings were spent in McDonalds, KFC, curry houses and pizza places. My evenings were spent drinking glass after glass of red wine.

Unsurprisingly, I put on weight.

I was living in a hotel for a while, which was next door to a gastropub. I lived on calorific food, like lasagne & chips, washed down with large glasses of red wine. When I got back to my hotel room, I would continue drinking large glasses of wine. I decided that it was my reward for the miserable life of living in a hotel, to eat and drink with gay abandon.

I put on more weight.

Then, I noticed that I was putting on weight. I noticed that I had a tummy. I got out of the shower one day and I saw my own reflection in the mirror, and I realised that I had gained a belly. I've never really had any problems with my weight, so I was kinda shocked, although by this point I had been gaining weight steadily for roughly 9 months.

I didn't change my behaviour.

I did stop living in the hotel. However, I lived on takeaways and beer. I had a takeaway almost every night of the week, and I washed all that fatty food down with vast quantities of beer. I was going to the supermarket on an almost daily basis to re-stock the fridge with beer.

Then I stopped drinking.

My alcoholic friend killed himself. He drank himself to death. His alcoholism had raged out of control for a long time and hadn't claimed his life, but health complications quickly began to create a compounding problem and he knew that he was going to die; his quality of life was rapidly deteriorating. This event, coupled with my unhappiness about being a little overweight, was enough of a catalyst for me to quit drinking.

I was teetotal for nearly 5 months.

Then, I started drinking heavily, eating restaurant food and having takeaways on a regular basis. I drank loads of white wine and ate lots of very rich gourmet food. I had lost some weight by simply being teetotal. I had reached a point where my weight was under control and I felt better about my appearance, but then I quickly undid that by drinking and eating so much.

Now, I'm trying to lose weight again.

I'm not trying very hard to lose weight. All I've done is cut my daily calorie intake. I've stopped drinking - mostly - and I've stopped having takeaways and restaurant food - mostly - and I've stopped having large lunches. I've stopped eating breakfast. I've stopped snacking. On average, my weekly calorie intake has been cut pretty drastically.

I still don't do any exercise.

I joined a gym at one point, but I never actually went. The circumstances of my job changed and I found myself living in the hotel. It was hard to motivate myself to go to the gym when I had the miserable existence of living in a hotel. The highlight of my evening was my gastropub meal and red wine, so I can't imagine that there'd have been much point going to the gym.

I should do some exercise.

I'm making some very big changes to my medication at the moment. I'm tapering off high doses of tranquilisers and sleeping pills, in order to be medication-free by the time I go away on holiday, the day before my 40th birthday. I have less than a month to rid myself of physically addictive benzodiazepines and highly psychologically addictive sleeping pills. I have a horrible month ahead of me, filled with rebound anxiety and rebound insomnia. It's not easy to stop taking medication and it's extremely unpleasant to rapidly stop. Going cold turkey is not even an option - I could have seizures.

I'm making good progress.

Apart from last night, where I got extremely drunk and ate a gigantic burger and chips, Friday night where I drank two bottles of white wine, and Monday evening when I had a takeaway, I've not been drinking, eating takeaways or eating in restaurants. I've also managed to reduce my sleeping pills by 33% and my tranquilisers by 50%. I'm changing a lot of things all at once. It's very difficult to change so many things all at once, especially while I'm going through a very stressful high-pressure period at work, with some very demanding tight deadlines.

It'd be wonderful if I was superhuman and I could work full-time, have very little sleep, write every day, look after my kitten, keep my house clean, quit drinking, go on a diet, stop taking addictive medication AND do some exercise, but I'm afraid that it's too much to ask - the exercise will have to wait until life gets a little easier.

I know that I'll get more enjoyment out of my holiday if I'm fitter and in better shape, but the holiday is the respite I desperately need; the rest and recuperation; the reward for 571 days of almost continuous work, with the exception of a week-long jaunt to Turkey and two weeks in Mexico. My last holiday was nearly 7 months ago, and I've been through a house move and a breakup, as well as working exceptionally hard.

The beach body will have to wait, although my small lifestyle adjustments will help. The weight isn't just going to magically disappear, but I shall have to content myself with stopping the rot - I simply haven't got the bandwidth to be able to exercise on top of everything else on my plate.

 

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