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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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Useful Idiot

5 min read

This is a story about technocrats...

Desk

I wish I could tell you more about my day job, but I can't. I can't even tell you who my main client is, or generally what the project is that I'm working on. I mean, technically I could tell you the organisation and project, but then anybody searching for my name and that project or organisation would be brought right here, immediately, which wouldn't be helpful. I can't tell you any detail about my day, because it would probably breach code of conduct, and possibly some laws too, depending on what I told you.

Anyway.

I hate when people try to be super mysterious, and generally allude to the fact that what they do for a living is exciting; like they're James fucking Bond, or something. No, it's much more boring than that, as this quote that I love explains very well:

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern." -- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

What I'm working on for the majority of my working week, is benign, most people would agree. A colleague reads my blog, openly, not secretly, and they said that they agree with me: the project, and indeed the work of the organisation is benign in their opinion too. It's hard to see how what we're doing is not benign, but we should explore the topic with a little more of an open mind.

Something which you might pay little heed to, but will be well aware of if you've ever been unwell, is that there is a vast mountain of administrative headache, which has to be ploughed through, simply for the privilege of being alive. Even though all my bills are paid via direct debit from my bank account, or auto-renewal straight from my debit card, or some other way of money disappearing constantly from my pocket, still that's not enough. The council will write to me demanding that I tell them who lives in my house, even though I already told them. The car insurance company demanding to see proof that I've never claimed on my policy, even though it is them who administers the policy. Somebody, somewhere, at all times, is expecting me to do something for them, on pain of fine, prosecution... prison even.

The United Kingdom is ostensibly a very difficult place to live, unmolested. If you were hoping to live here, simply paying your rent/mortgage and bills, and expecting that would be enough, you are very wrong: an endless stream of bureaucratic obligations will bombard you, every single day. There are reams of forms which need to be filled in in triplicate; numerous permits, licenses, notices and interminable obligations, which are met with extremely harsh penalties if these constant intrusions into your life are not dealt with immediately.

Each organisation which contacts you thinks that its demands are not onerous, which is true. Taken individually, each task is not particularly difficult or time-consuming. However, when all these small tasks are added together, the demand is huge: I really don't give a shit whether I'm doing my tax return or revising the electoral roll... both tasks are equally irksome; equally intruding into my time, effort and energy. For highly functional people, they perhaps don't notice this burden, but those who are sick - speaking from personal experience - will find it overwhelming, to the point of driving a person to suicide.

While it might seem ridiculous - improbable - that these 'easy' jobs might tip somebody over the edge, to the point that they'd end their own life, if you consider the harsh penalties which are attached to all of these things, they can all threaten to ruin your life. An unpaid parking ticket can lead to £15,000 of court costs and other expenses, which would bankrupt most people. Other minor administrative oversights, like failing to tell the council that your flatmate moved out, could lead to thousands of pounds of fines, and perhaps even a criminal conviction. Cumulatively, I'm sure that you could end up with a very big police criminal record, and be bankrupted many times, simply because you weren't able to open your mail for a few months, because you were sick.

The letters keep dropping on your doormat, and every single one is demanding money with menaces. Every single one of those letters is threatening to lock you up, take away your home, take away your livelihood, take away your children, take away your pets, take away your transport; threatening to bankrupt you, and wreck your chance of ever having a home ever again; having a job ever again. It's a pretty shitty state of affairs, that we can do that to people, who just want/need to be left alone.

 

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Virtue Signalling

4 min read

This is a story about Twitter boycotts...

Why so sad?

A loathsome gammon was abusing me on Facebook for anti-racist, anti-transphobic things that I was saying. I was accused of virtue signalling which is a ridiculous charge, when the very basic minimum of human decency is to not be racist, homophobic, transphobic or otherwise persecutory towards minorities. Sure, if I was lecturing people - unsolicited - on why they shouldn't eat red meat, and boasting about what a fine person I am for being vegan, then it would be possibly a bit much, but no... I was just sharing some very non-contentions opinions about the notorious transphobe, J. K. Rowling, and otherwise anti-racist sentiment; nothing that should have drawn a vicious personal attack.

Anyway, I need to break my routine for a couple of days and not post this on Twitter.

Why?

Well, it's not because of virtue signalling.

I'm aware that there's a widespread movement to boycott Twitter for 48 hours, in protest at the length of time it took Twitter to remove anti-Semitic content and instate a temporary ban on the account involved. It's not virtue signalling to see something abhorrent taking place, and take action against it. It's not virtue signalling, to call out hate speech, for example. It's not virtue signalling to agree that we need to be anti-racist and to eradicate anti-Semitism wherever we see it. It's not virtue signalling to participate in civilised society, where we all have a duty to police hateful extremism. Hate speech is not OK, but criticising racists, bigoted people, is more than OK; it's encouraged to criticise the hateful extremists.

I'm aware that there are lots of fads which people get swept up with, like when everyone was posting plain black photos as part of a social media 'blackout' but I fail to see how it's negative or otherwise worthy of criticism. Of course, if the only aim and objective is to appear to empathise with the plight of an oppressed minority, then it's a bit pathetic, but it's better than being silent or ignoring the world around us. I'd rather be criticised for a rather pathetically easy gesture, such as not tweeting for 48 hours, than be amongst the racist bigoted bunch.

If you see virtue in my actions, and you think I'm signalling, tough titties. It's perfectly possible that you see virtue because there is virtue there to be seen. Shouldn't we be aspiring - as a human race - to be more virtuous anyway? Why would you celebrate those without virtue? Why is it a good thing to be barbaric and uncivilised? Why would you think that unvirtuous behaviour is desirable?

Donating a tiny fraction of my wealth to charity, or doing something fun that I was going to do anyway, but sponsored, is something that many people do in order to salve their conscience. Because of said acts of charity, we can feel that we're doing something to address the horrendous inequalities in the world... but it's not true. Charitable giving benefits the giver... charities have proven to be completely ineffective at bringing about any meaningful change in the world; they're an abysmal failure. However, those who give charitably and those who work for charities are trying at least; their intentions are good, even if the main beneficiary is themselves, because they can feel smug and comfortable about their contribution, even though it's ineffective and often downright counter-productive. I approve of the sentiment, even if it's misguided.

Nothing will ever change for the better because of a Twitter boycott, but that's not a reason not to take part.

 

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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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God Bless The Police

5 min read

This is a story about law and order...

NYPD

My neighbour's burglar alarm has been going off continuously for over 24 hours. I spoke to my neighbour late last night who told me that she wasn't able to drive because she had drunk a bottle of wine. I said I would gladly pay her cab fare, but she refused to do anything about it last night. The alarm was still going off this evening, and I have been making attempts to contact my neighbour all day.

I phoned the police.

God bless the police.

They turned up less than an hour after I got off the phone to them. The police are very nice people. One policeman came in my house to hear how loud the alarm was and he said that he'd have broken into my neighbour's house and taken a hammer to the alarm, if it was him - he wasn't even joking.

In all seriousness, the police were pretty clear that I can't break into my neighbour's house - I would be arrested for breaking and entering. I can't afford to be arrested when my government security clearance is at stake, which is vital for the job I do - I can't afford to be on the wrong side of the law. My conduct has to be beyond reproach.

The police tried to contact my neighbour. Another neighbour tried to contact my neighbour. We managed to find my neighbour on Facebook, and the police managed to find an email address. We tried to figure out where she might be. My neighbours were out on the street, chatting to the police. It was all a bit embarrassing, but it's pretty awful being in my house with the burgular alarm blasting for over 24 hours.

I contacted the local council's noise pollution team and they told me that unfortunately the law changed, literally in the last week, such that the courts won't grant a warrant to break into a house and cut off the burglar alarm during "unsociable hours". Literally, if this had happened last week, the warrant could have been issued and the police could have gone in and cut the dratted alarm off. The lady I spoke to at the council was incredibly helpful and nice, and very apologetic about the fact that the law has changed so recently, so nothing can be done. Perhaps tomorrow I will have more luck with either my neighbour or the noise pollution team.

Meanwhile I found a better pair of earplugs which have rescued me from similar situations in the past, although they're so good that I could easily sleep through my own alarm clock and be late for work, if the alarm keeps ringing on Sunday night.

My neighbour's attitude sucks, but the response of the police and the local council has been great, and my other neighbours have been really great too.

It's really distressing to have this constant noise nuisance in my home, stopping me from peacefully enjoying my weekend, but I feel really glad that certain parts of civilised society are functioning so effectively. I would never have expected that dealing with the police and the local council would bring such swift action, and my admiration for the work of the police has only grown greater. I already held the police in very high esteem, given the difficult job that they do, and I felt bad to involve them in a matter which should have been quite easily resolved without their assistance, but I did try my best to handle the matter directly with my neighbour and the police agreed that the situation was intolerable, with the alarm going off for so long.

This whole episode has been rather tame and dull compared with other more colourful moments of police involvement in my life, but still, it's put rather a dampener on my weekend.

My new life in this new city is not taking shape as quickly as I hoped it would. My Saturday night has been a relatively dismal and disappointing affair. I was supposed to be going on a date with somebody who I really hit it off with last week, but she cancelled on me. I thought I would make the best of the weekend anyway, but instead I have been plunged into a terrible mood by this alarm situation and I was very nearly tempted to act in a very rash way which could have had dire consequences. I'm pleased I managed to remain patient and polite with my neighbour and I haven't let this relatively minor incident trigger me into doing something regrettable.

Not the most exciting story, but perhaps it's interesting in terms of how far I've come, dealing with things in an adult, mature, law-abiding and good-neighbourly way, when so often in the past I would have smashed things to pieces in moment of rage.

 

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Lost Cause

7 min read

This is a story about predictions...

Recycling

Bookmakers and actuaries are extremely good at predicting the future. The profits of these well-established enterprises depend upon accurate predictions, based upon a vast amount of historical data. Better statistics lead to better predictions, which lead to accurate odds and sustained profitability. If it wasn't possible to predict the future in this way, there wouldn't be a business model for life insurance or gambling.

Unfortunately for individuals, generalised predictions are fairly accurate while individual predictions are not. It is no use asking an actuary when you will die, so that you can plan your life accordingly. The actuary will not be able to tell you whether you'll die of a heart attack age 45, or whether you'll die in your sleep age 95. Those extra 50 years present a considerable problem for the individual, but the actuary does not care, because they spread the risk of having to pay out on life insurance across a large group. On average, the insurer will win. However, none of us can know whether we're going to die prematurely or live unusually long.

It might seem prudent to avoid smoking, drinking and consumption of excessive calories. It might seem prudent to go to the gym every day. It might seem prudent to eat a balanced diet, containing a mixture of fruit and vegetables, full of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and other chemical compounds your body needs to repair itself and stay healthy. However, while we can say for certain that smoking and obesity will lead to health complications, none of us can make choices to assure ourselves of a long life.

One day you might just drop dead.

The temptation to use statistical analysis to make predictions for an individual is overwhelming in a world where we have discovered the classical laws of physics. We presume that we are able to predict the future as easily as we can predict the trajectory of a missile. Unfortunately, individuals do not follow simple parabolic curves. While there are statistically significant correlations - good predictors - this does not mean that we can know the future life of a human, after gathering a few crummy data points.

All we have managed to unearth so far about the mysteries of human life is that we can understand risk not destiny. You might have genes which appear to doom you to a certain fate, but those genes are not always expressed in the way which we expect. The sequencing of the human genome has failed to provide the crystal ball that it was promised to deliver, but instead revealed the unimaginable complexity of epigenetics. No clear genes have been found for things such as diabetes and depression. There is no gene which hard-wires our life expectancy into every cell.

Who could have predicted that smoking would be banned in public buildings and the workplace, drinking culture would become diminished, supermarkets would import food from all over the globe, such that strawberries would be on their shelves all year round, and the workplace would become so safe and so sedentary? Who could have predicted that mental health problems would reach such epidemic proportions that the leading cause of death amongst 20 to 40 year old men would be suicide?

Ultimately, the biggest thing affecting my life expectancy appears to be a choice which I'm free to make.

I've never smoked and I quit drinking 4 months ago. I eat a balanced diet and I'm a healthy weight. These things are happy accidents. Every afternoon my anxiety builds to an increasingly intolerable level and every evening I feel suicidal. I live alone and have no friends or family nearby. I have no children, pets or partner.

My life is on a knife-edge.

If you were going to bet on the statistically probable outcome of my life, you'd have lost a lot of money already. I'm afraid to say that I'm an outlier and I have refused to conform to the predictions. I'm a single data point and as such I'm not statistically significant on my own, but the significance of my own life and its outcome is, unsurprisingly, important to me.

It's a hard life being an outlier. Literally, almost everyone is betting against you. It will be harder to get an education, get a job, get a home, borrow money, find a partner, get life insurance, get a pension... all of these things are thwarted by people who believe that they are able to predict my destiny. I'm continuously confronting people who believe I'm a lost cause, and therefore not worth taking a risk on.

We can see that this attempt at prediction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When racial stereotypes become pervasive - for example - then we see that minorities are harshly and unfairly prejudiced, which harms their chance of success and reinforces the correlation between uncorrelated factors. Skin colour should not be a good predictor of socioeconomic outcome, but the data overwhelmingly shows that it is.

From the moment you enter the vast educational system, you are being sifted and sorted in a way which tests you and gathers data on you, in order to attempt to predict your future. Something as random as getting an illness will affect your school attendance data, which will be used against you as a predictor of supposed future failure. You are constantly at risk of flagging yourself as a "disaster waiting to happen" and suffering lifelong prejudice due to the systemic attempts to analyse individuals statistically.

I suppose I now revel in the fact that I'm a living contradiction. My problems with mental health, addiction, alcohol, hospitalisations, psych ward stays, trouble with the police and refusal to be sifted and sorted by the mainstream education system, are not in agreement with the predictions that I should end up bankrupt, in jail and/or dead, having lived a life with no useful contribution to society, and in fact having been a burden. I'm the guy your mother warned you about. I'm the one who isn't supposed to be allowed to freely roam the streets. I'm the one who all the gatekeepers have in mind - I'm the one they want to keep out, but yet I'm very much on the inside.

If those who think they can gaze into the future by studying my data had their way, I wouldn't have a job, a house, any money. The system has tried very hard to railroad me into certain outcomes, because it's what was expected and predicted.

I genuinely don't know whether I'm going to kill myself or if my depression is going to lift and life's going to become pleasant and bearable. I've lived with depression for long enough to know that my choices will have little effect on the outcome. No amount of prescription medication, therapy, yoga and other such things will have the intended effect. It has always been the least expected things in my life which have wrought the most important changes.

If I was betting on myself, I suppose I would bet that I'll die at my own hands. If I was betting on myself, I suppose I would bet that I won't be able to escape the debt trap. If I was betting on myself, I suppose I would bet that I will crumble and break, because that seems like the obvious thing I would do, from looking at the black marks against my name. If I was going to bet according to statistics, I would definitely bet against myself.

However, we know that fundamentally the universe does not obey classical physics, when we study the underlying laws, but instead there is inherent uncertainty. Outcomes are nondeterministic. Knowing my past does not allow anybody to know my future. There is a nonzero probability of every possible outcome, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

My day-to-day life is dominated by a single question - am I going to kill myself? - but despite being the best placed person to answer that, I do not know the answer. Events unfolding are as much a surprise to me as they are to you.

 

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Antipsychiatry

5 min read

This is a story about refusing help...

Pharmacy

If you spend enough time with general practitioners, general psychiatrists, specialist consultant psychiatrists, registered mental nurses, specialty doctors and all the very many other mental health professionals who are part of inpatient and outpatient clinics, community mental health teams, crisis teams and all the other apparatus which is supposed to treat mental health problems, one begins to realise a rather unsettling truth: there aren't very many treatments and they don't work very well.

Psychiatry is a young branch of medicine and it doesn't have a lot to crow about. Since the days of asylums and lobotomies, psychiatry has been dogged by scandals, including the extrapyramidal side effects of medications which have left patients with lifelong irreversible unpleasant problems. The data do not show encouraging outcomes. In fact the outlook is dismal and appears to be worsening as the toxic conditions which create mental health problems, seem to be intensifying. Rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity... these are all soaring. Treatments are not effective and vast numbers of people are condemned to suffer with their illnesses AND the side effects of the medications.

I've been lucky enough to have access to private medical care, at times, and even with the very best professionals and medications, there is not a vast difference between what's available from the public healthcare system. It's all pretty crap and it doesn't work very well.

This is not a damning indictment of those who dedicate their lives to trying to treat mental illness, but simply a cold hard rational analysis of the facts.

The conclusion I've reached has been that there's an over-medicalisation of non-medical problems. The bulk of my problems have stemmed from the collapse of my relationships. I got divorced. I am estranged from my family. I've been forced to move to cities where I have no friends - no social support network - in order to work jobs which have been unsuitable for my health. I have the enormous pressure of having to work full-time, to pay rent, bills and service enormous debts, which is unbearable for a person who's having a crisis.

My mental health would be vastly improved if I had a partner, a social support network of local friends, financial and housing security and a job with reduced hours, until this crisis is resolved. Healthy diet, sleep hygiene, exercise, sex, physical affection, sunlight, fresh air, social contact, hobbies and interests... these things are all essential for human wellbeing. None of those things can be prescribed by a doctor.

During the worst days of my addiction and rough sleeping, I noticed that my fellow homeless alcoholics and addicts were not without some routine and social lives. Romantic relationships are not the exclusive preserve of those who live in houses and have jobs. The life of a homeless drug addict might be chaotic to the outside observer, but a less prejudiced analysis reveals no less structure, no less need for comfort, no less humanity. Those who have fallen into habits of addiction and homelessness might find the community of drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless to provide the social support network and sense of community, which they'd struggle to find living anonymously behind a front door.

Does anybody really know I'm here... in this house... in this city? In many ways I have found my contact with hospitals and the police to be of great comfort. I have found the nonjudgemental members of the NHS and police force to be incredibly kind and compassionate people. It's nonsensical, but I've been happy to be hospitalised or arrested. I've been happy to be in a cell or on a hospital ward, with somebody checking on my welfare. Behind my own front door I could be hanging by the neck, dead, and nobody would discover me for days or maybe even weeks.

My problems are mainly attributable to unmet basic needs: hugs, face-to-face conversation and a sense of belonging.

Because of the obvious things which need to be fixed in my life, it seems wrong to seek medical help, when my mood could be radically different if all the broken things were fixed. It might sound like a fun adventure, going to new cities, but the reality is very miserable and lonely. The reality of my present life is that I don't pick up the phone to speak to anybody when I'm feeling dangerously depressed - who would I phone? What would they do? It's not like anybody can nip round to check I'm OK.

Humans are social creatures, but I live on the periphery. I live on the periphery of life itself, always in danger of death or medical emergency. The state of being suicidal should be considered a medical emergency, especially in men of age 20 to 40, where suicide is the biggest cause of death. My perception of the danger is not warped, given my history of suicide attempts and hospitalisations.

There isn't a pill or some psychological therapy which would be effective... especially not when so much of my life is broken. It's not a medical problem. Sure, I have an underlying mood disorder, but the highs and lows of bipolar don't make me as unhappy as my social isolation does.

How I set about fixing things, I have no idea. The task seems insurmountable.

 

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The Achievements of One Week

6 min read

This is a story about post-traumatic stress...

Fire

Tuesday was a very bad day. Tuesday was a constant panic attack. Tuesday held nothing for me but relentless anxiety. Tuesday passed very slowly.

Tuesday is past.

Today is Friday.

Today is almost OK.

When I look back on today at some point in the future, I'll probably realise that today was pretty bad, in the grand scheme of things, but compared to Tuesday, today has been a doddle.

It might seem like I was making a lot of fuss about nothing, earlier in the week, but I assure you that I was suffering a very real medical emergency, which would have seen most people hospitalised.

The brain can render us very sick and needy, when it malfunctions. My brain was badly on the blink and even in a hospital I would have been very uncomfortable. Doctors could have eased my suffering with powerful tranquillisers administered intravenously, which would have been the ethically correct thing to do, but on Tuesday I went to the office, which was torturous beyond my capability to describe.

There simply are no words for the things which are at the limit of human survivability. Torture can make us lose our sanity. Trauma can lead to loss of life.

It might look on the face of it as if I'm an ordinary person doing ordinary people stuff, but the fact is that few of us live in perpetually precarious situation. We either fail and fall, or else we stabilise. We tend towards stable outcomes: Stable failure and stable success. I'm relatively unique in having not yet failed sufficiently to block my path from achieving desirable outcomes. Despite drug addiction, alcoholism, near-bankruptcy, homelessness, brushes with the police and debilitating mental health problems, I remain persistently employable and able to access goods and services which are normally denied to a whole swathe of society, to which I belong.

Nobody has realised I'm not supposed to be here.

Nobody has realised that all their vetting procedures and gatekeepers have failed to send me packing, back to the hell hole I crawled out of. Nobody has realised that I'm one of the ones that we're supposed to spurn and turn our backs on. Nobody has realised that I look, sound and smell like I'm one of the "OK" ones, when in fact I'm very much one of the "not OK" ones.

The longer I'm allowed to stay and warm myself by the fire, the stronger I get and the more chance is there is of me achieving stable success.

That's not supposed to happen.

Every societal system has in-built measures to toss people to the wolves. I'm not supposed to be in a big house with a wood fire and a fridge full of food. I'm not supposed to work in a fancy office doing brain-work. I'm not supposed to have any financial security, housing security or prospects. Society would like to see me dead in a ditch.

Society does however worry selfishly a lot about its own sons and daughters. Because I suppose I exude somewhat of a heady mix of intellectual poshness, combined with whatever youthful vulnerability still remains in a 39-year-old man with grey hair at his temples, I guess I confound expectations of what a junkie looks like. I'm not what anybody expects a homeless bankrupt to look like. I do not embody what anybody thinks of when they think of a psych ward patient. I do not look, sound or smell like the thing which I so obviously am, if we scratch beneath the surface.

Of course, my ruse is premeditated. I know that if I keep my mouth shut and my head down, nobody will pay me much notice, and I'll slowly be able to recover from the horrors of my past. I know that if I can go unnoticed and unfettered for long enough then I'll be able to have regained firm footing, to better enable me to flourish.

I'm aware that any period I look back upon as a period when I considered myself to be doing OK, with retrospect has turned out to be a false summit. Everything I've ever achieved has crumbled. It would be foolish to imagine that I'm doing OK at the moment, simply because I'm doing better than I was a week ago, a year ago or 5 years ago.

That's the really terrifying thing for me: 5 years ago I was very much beginning the descent. I attempted to dab the brakes, but then found that the brakes weren't working. I knew that I had to avoid long-term irreversible health damage, criminal convictions, damage to my credit rating, bankruptcy and damage to my professional reputation, but I still managed to find myself looking down the gun barrel of a heap of problems that were going to see me destitute on the street.

I'm not sure how I've managed to face down the threats to my life and livelihood and emerge from the thicket relatively unscathed, at least on the surface. I suppose it's all down to a handful of people who've conspired to assist me, in ways which run contrary to the conduct we consider ordinary and normal. A handful of people have taken risks with their lives and their money, to see me live with continued opportunities, as opposed to lasting and disastrous consequences.

I suppose in the popular parlance, I've been "enabled".

I hate that negative phraseology, to stigmatise those who help addicts and alcoholics. I hate the idea that an act of kindness is actually something bad; something foolish. I find the whole concept detestable.

I feel bad about how unwell I have been feeling this week, which should have been a celebration of how much the help I've received was a worthwhile investment. I feel bad about feeling bad.

The reality is that through the awful panic attacks, I still have a lovely house and a well-paid job, so I just need to stick to the plan - "home stretch" as my guardian angel said to me today.

My life follows a very nonlinear path. Of course I remember how bitterly I complained about living out of a suitcase, how pleased I was with a new relationship, how much invested I was in my Christmas and New Year holiday, how quickly my opinion changed about the relationship and how anxious I was to secure my housing situation. Of course I remember the highs and lows. I remember the devastation and the jubilation at many points along the way, with crystal clarity.

This is my very weird life. Suicidal depressed anxious thoughts, then white sand beaches and blue skies, luxuriating on holiday, then darkest blackness, then roaring log fires in a large period home, then more blackness. Why should this not be the case? Why would we expect any different?

Things were dire earlier in the week. Things are dire now, but dramatically less so.

 

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Rehabilitation of Offenders

5 min read

This is a story about second chances...

Victim care card

When I got home after work this evening, the burglar alarm was going off in my next-door neighbour's house. I didn't know it was the burglar alarm, but when I later went around to see if my neighbour was at home, I could see that the back gate was hanging off its hinges. I became suspicious. The lights of the alarm were flashing and it was clear that nobody had been home for a period of some days. I wondered if there had been a break-in.

I phoned the police.

Why wouldn't I phone the police? There was a reasonable amount of evidence that there'd been an intruder: The intruder alarm was going off and the back gate was hanging off its hinges. The house was obviously unoccupied to me - an ordinary law-abiding citizen - so I imagined that it must have appeared much more obvious as a target to anybody who practiced acquisitive crime.

In the UK we have a non-emergency number for reporting such things, which I didn't really hesitate to use. Why would I not do a good-neighbourly deed of reporting something suspect to the relevant authorities? Why would I not set the wheels in motion, so that anything out of good order could be set back straight again?

Selfishly, I really wanted the alarm to stop ringing, because it was really noisy inside my house.

The alarm is still ringing now.

I gave the police my name and date of birth. They asked me if I still live at my old address. They told me the street name. I told them I don't live there anymore.

So.

The police have got my name and data of birth correlated with my address on a computer system somewhere.

That's somewhat alarming.

I suppose I'm no stranger to the police, but still, I've got a clean criminal record. I've never been convicted of a crime. I've never been to court.

I don't even have any spent criminal convictions. That is to say, that I've never been a convicted criminal ever in my life.

In the UK, after a certain amount of years, a person is no longer required by law to disclose their criminal record to potential employers. In the UK we give people a fresh start; a second chance. In the UK we rehabilitate our offenders... those who learn their lessons and pay their debt to society are allowed to have their sins forgiven and forgotten... although of course we must remember that some crimes have victims, those victims have suffered, and those victims may continue to suffer.

We have taken a choice as a society. We have decided to let ex-convicts be given second chances.

I'm a non-convict.

It was coincidence that I was driving home and I was thinking about the grilling I'm potentially going to get over the data that the police hold on me. My employer is entitled to see all the data that the police have. My employer is entitled to ask questions that nobody else in the country is, because it's in the interests of national security.

I have to be thoroughly vetted.

My background is thoroughly checked.

My data follows me around. My data will never be expunged. My data is held permanently on record.

Perhaps I'm asking too much - asking to be too close to the inner circle. Perhaps it's an unreasonable request, to be accepted into every single part of society as a law-abiding obedient servant of the Crown, fine upstanding member of the community and citizen of the United Kingdom. I know that I have erred in the past, but the nature of my errors is something that lives on only in the memory banks of the police computer databases. No court has ever found me guilty of committing a crime. I've never set foot in a courtroom. However, the data records show that I have had some contact with the police, and I expect I'll have to explain that to my employers.

The police telephoned my neighbour and she returned home to check her house and her belongings were secure. I have ingratiated myself with my neighbours - obtaining the telephone numbers on both sides - and done a good deed. Is my dark past behind me now? Have I now re-entered civilised society? On balance, do I owe a debt to society or have I contributed amply?

It does concern me that my past behaviour might be used as a predictor of future behaviour, and as such prejudice my career progression and perhaps even deny me things such as housing, but that day has not yet arrived. I am anxious about what the future has in store for me, given what's plainly visible to those who have access to my data, but I proceed on the assumption that if there has been one thing clearly established in my adult lifetime, it's that I've been dedicated to my job, not breaking the law.

I assume that I'm going to be given my full set of opportunities. I assume that I will not fall afoul of any prejudice.

It's kind of a scary time though. I have to trust the system.

 

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Some Of My Problems Are My Own Fault

5 min read

This is a story about responsibility...

Suction cup

Why does it matter that the toilet roll holder in my house is held onto the wall with a suction cup? Why does it matter that somebody cut some corners somewhere? Why does it matter that somebody did a sloppy, careless job? Why does it matter that people act without concern for the consequences? Why does it matter that some of us want to be idle?

We bring up our children on a diet of propaganda about everybody having to pay their way in society - nobody getting a free ride - when our intention all along was to propagate sufficiently to be idle in our old age. We imagined that the older children would raise the smaller ones. We imagined that the more mature and adult members of our family would feel some responsibility towards their DNA donors, as they reached the end of their lives.

I guess we hope that our children won't know any different. If they're born into a terrible world, they won't be able to imagine a better one, so they'll accept their terrible fate. Is that the logic? Somebody needs to explain it to me, because I don't understand.

My life lacks meaning and purpose.

What if I met someone so amazing and beautiful that they convinced me it was a good idea to have children, because I knew how much happiness and satisfaction - peace - it would bring me as an animal, although very much in conflict with my own human consciousness.

My body was evolved for the propagation of my genes. My body's sole purpose for existence - in evolutionary terms - is for sexual reproduction. To act in defiance of my basic instincts is physically painful, like putting my hand in a fire.

I stopped following the instructions at some point.

I've lost my way.

Loneliness and isolation should drive me to be social. Horniness and reproductive instincts should drive me to impregnate. Fear of death and extinction of my genes should drive me to seek to protect and replicate as many copies of my genes as possible. All the many millions of years of animal evolution have led to this point. Everything in my genetic programming tells me to carry on doing what every ancestor has ever done, since the dawn of life itself.

However.

I've gone off-script.

I think that filial affection, sibling bonding, family ties, clan association and a genetic predisposition towards hostility directed at those of significantly differing DNA makeup - a wish to see those who don't share common genes perish - somehow bypassed me. The thing that's far louder in my head is the conscious voice that sprung into existence, perhaps as an evolutionary accident, but which has managed to narrate things to the point where that voice directs my behaviour far more than my bestial instincts.

I suppose I'm what you'd call anti-social. Perhaps criminal and deviant. Society has generally decided that I'm dangerous and should be shunned and marginalised.

Born into a household full of addiction and alcoholism, not feeling planned or wanted and not seeing any good role model in my parents, I found myself always somewhat the odd-one-out at school and in other social situations. I think I decided very early on that I'm unlovable. My life goals were always confused. The hedonism I saw my parents practice, with no regard for societal norms, conflicted with the nonsense they spouted in their state of intoxication, which claimed to be motivated by higher ideals: Values. I never saw any values, but I came to understand - conceptually - what values there were in the world, and why a person might hold a certain set of values.

I can simultaneously hold in my head all the various reasons - such as social cohesion - that a group of individuals might subscribe to a common set of values, whilst also knowing the payoff for breaking the rules. I knew, for example, from a very early age that getting a drink or a drug into my system must be worth any amount of societally imposed consequences, for that is what I saw throughout my upbringing.

My father talked openly about his criminal conviction for drugs, while my mother boasted about drug smuggling and encounters with the police, and both seemed proud and happy to have flouted the law and earned the disdain of wider society. They seemed to revel in their place as societal outcasts, earned because of their deviant behaviour and refusal to change their wicked ways.

Yet, it seems better if I imagine myself to have been immaculately conceived and have lived my adult life with no unconscious bias left-over from childhood. It seems as if I should be judged on the basis that my values are identical to everybody else's. It seems that every choice I've made should be viewed as having been made with complete free-will, and without the influence of my upbringing.

I fess up.

I done it.

I done a bad thing.

It's all my fault and I've got nobody to blame but myself.

There. Happy now?

 

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Thing my brain told me to say

12 min read

This is a story about being an observer...

Life through a lens

Regrettable social media rant number 4294967295.

Mushrooms.

If you don't like them, then don't eat them. Agreed?

We can sell them. We can have them in our supermarkets. We can have them in convenience stores. We can can find them on amazon dot com.

We can tolerate the buying, selling, cooking and consumption of mushrooms. Agreed?

We can see that mushrooms grow everywhere - they spring up in surprising places. Mushrooms are deliberately cultivated, because so many people enjoy eating them and choose to have them as part of their diet. We also regularly see mushrooms growing wild, i.e. not due to any deliberate human action or inaction.

Nobody needs to sow any seeds. Nobody needs to do anything.

Poppies and hemp are ubiquitous species that most laypeople would recognise as a cash crop farmed in a monoculture: Massive fields full of the same thing, planted and being nurtured by humans. Mushrooms are different because mushrooms grow wild all over the many islands of the United Kingdom.

We can tolerate the existence of mushrooms. Agreed?

We have not embarked upon any eradication programs to rid ourselves of a popular edible foodstuff that grows wild in our environment, without any human cultivation. We have not tried to wipe out a source of human nourishment which many people choose to have in their diet because they enjoy the flavour, texture and smell of mushrooms.

Yet.

Bizarre as this sounds...

I picked an edible foodstuff from where I found it growing wild, and I ate it. During the briefest of moments, when the mushroom was picked and was being transferred to my mouth, I was breaching the law.

During the few elapsed seconds it took me to pick a wild mushroom, put in my mouth and swallow it, I could have been arrested and prosecuted for a very serious crime that carries extremely harsh punishments.

That's weird, right?

Weirder still is that once the mushroom was in my stomach I was no longer arrestable or prosecutable. If I had lowered my mouth over the mushroom, bitten it and swallowed it, arguably no crime was committed at all. If somebody else had picked the mushroom and dropped it into my open mouth, then I didn't break the law.

Even weirder is that the punishment I might have received for picking a wild mushroom and moving it to my own mouth to be swallowed, appears to imply that my actions were very gravely deleterious to society and the wider human race. The maximum punishment I could have received as a sentence for my crime would be 7 years in prison and be to fined an unlimited amount of money.

There are only x trillions of pounds sterling equivalent of all global currencies in circulation worldwide, but the law would allow for me to be fined quadrillions, quintillions or indeed an infinite amount of money. Why not fine me a googol pounds? Why not fine me a Graham's number of pounds?

What for? What did I do that was so bad? What was wrong about my behaviour? Please explain it to me.

Usually with crimes, there are victims. If you perpetrated a crime where there was a victim, harm was caused to property, or there was antisocial behaviour, then you need to be punished. That is obvious.

For example, if I killed somebody, injured somebody or raped somebody - or otherwise caused harm to a victim and/or their property -  then I would need to be punished. We democratically decided what the punishments for crimes should be. We made our own laws via the democratic system. We have elected to have a justice system, policing and punitive institutions. Our laws are an approximation of what the majority of people would deem unacceptable behaviour in our society. We each individually differ with our opinions on what is right and what is wrong, but collectively, we have agreed upon one set of laws, which apply to almost all of us.

Let's just take a second.

To digest.

Let's now try to swallow all of this.

 

Pause.

 

Possession of mushrooms is considered to be exactly the same as possession of crack cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and other "class A" controlled substances.

Cannabis plants haven't spontaneously started growing all over the United Kingdom. Somebody had to plant the seeds. Somebody has to cultivate the cannabis plants. Deliberately grown cannabis plants, which required so much human effort to bring to these islands where the plant varieties do not naturally occur, incur only the wrath of the law we reseve for "class B" controlled substances.

Nobody is selling cannabis leaves in my local supermarket. Nobody is making TV cooking shows where cannabis leaves are considered to be an edible foodstuff included in a meal.

Cannabis leaves don't really need to exist - have no need to exist - because they're not a common part of people's diet.

Even if you selectively bred and cross-bred cannabis varieties with the aim of creating a more palatable leaf, you would struggle to persuade many people to eat the leaves.

If we study all recipes for appetising food that have occurred anywhere since the we first started making intelligible marks onto things - beginning with cave paintings and carved objects - we see no evidence of cannabis leaves as an ingredient that you'd want in your salad.

This is an assumption, based on observable human behaviour over countless millennia, but the overwhelming evidence indicates that we collectively agree that cannabis leaves don't belong in our mouths as part of our diet.

I would ask for you agreement, but I think you should be allowed to eat a cannabis leaf to decide for yourself whether you like the taste. However, I can assure you that all the countless recipe books aren't wrong: cannabis leaves taste bad.

Once again: cannabis leaves taste terrible, hence why they have not become a popular meal ingredient.

Cannabis leaves have no place alongside the other leafy vegetables we consider to be human nourishment.

Agreed?

Mushrooms aren't to everyone's tastes, but they are an ingredient in recipes which predate written language. Mushrooms were known to be food before humans even invented the word "food". The human animal finds the taste of mushroom flesh to be appetising. The human animal always prefers to eat mushrooms not lemons. Although a diet of lemons might technically sustain you, I suspect you would be hard-pressed to find a single person in 7.6 billion who chooses a diet of lemon-like foodstuffs as a significant source of their daily calorific nourishment requirements.

So if it's a choice between mushrooms or starving to death, you'd eat the mushrooms. Agreed?

If it's a choice between eating lemons, eating mushrooms, or starving, you'd choose the mushrooms. Agreed?

If ever there was a more ludicrous example of an approach to what is legally referred to as "The Misuse of Drugs" then it would be criminalising the possession of mushrooms.

We had better build a whole lot of prisons to hold all the farmers, greengrocers, supermarket employees, cooks, chefs, restauranteurs, diners - practically every person in the entire United Kingdom - for having some mushrooms.

Mushrooms are quite literally everywhere: Growing everywhere. We can't control them.

Having a law that talks about "controlled substances" and "Misuse of Drugs" whilst also classifying mushrooms as "class A" - the very most harmful substances to society - is beyond ridiculous.

If ever there was a better example of nature refusing to be controlled by human laws, then it would be mushrooms.

Mushrooms stubbornly refuse to be controlled, even though they are specifically referred to in law as "controlled". They are literally called a "controlled substance" when our own eyes confirm that mushrooms do not care about human laws and refuse to be controlled by any statutory instrument. Mushrooms act in contempt of our courts. Mushrooms spitefully flout our laws.

Mushrooms wilfully refuse to comply with the wishes of Her Majesty the Queen, resisting and obstructing the Crown's agents. Mushrooms have no respect for the individuals who have been elected to represent their constituents as Members of Parliament, sitting in the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster by virtue of the democratic system of governance, as self-determined by the citizens of the United Kingdom.

Ha ha ha.

Joke's on you suckers.

You literally voted for mushrooms, in so many ways. With your pounds. With your electoral ballot. With what you put in your shopping trolley. You voted with your mouth, in so many ways, but mainly by putting mushrooms into your mouth.

You wanted mushrooms. Most people want mushrooms.

Yet, you also allegedly wanted mushrooms to be so very criminal, that their possession, dealing, cultivation and trafficking would deprive UK citizens of their liberty FOR LIFE, detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. However, I suspect that is not what what most people want.

You want mushrooms in your shopping trolley, but the law considers them to be EXACTLY THE SAME as crack cocaine, heroin and crystal meth.

Are you high?

Will somebody please come and lock me up, because I bought mushrooms, cooked them and ate them.

When should I expect the police?

Or should I just hand myself in at the nearest police station?

What should I do with any mushrooms I have left remaining uneaten? Should I put them in my compost bin, like the local council tells me to do, or should I hand them over to the police as evidence?

What would be the learned opinion of any Queen's Counsel who I retained the services of? What would the opinion of the Attorney-General be? What would the right honourable Geoffrey Cox think about my mushrooms? What about the countless mushrooms which continue to exist in flagrant disregard of the statutory instruments which control them, the judiciary, the courts, the police and the other Crown institutions which seek to enforce the laws of the United Kingdom?

Is this what "take back control" looks like? Apparently that's what 51.9% of the UK population democratically voted to do.

Assuming that we regain full control, do you think mushrooms will begin to care about the laws controlling them?

Fundamentally, isn't there just one set of laws we can all universally agree upon?

You can't legislate in contradiction to the universal laws of physics.

You can't just write something down on a "special" piece of paper and expect the universe to comply.

Again, for those who are slow learners: The only laws are the universal laws of physics, which are immutable.

The laws of physics are universal and have existed - and will always exist - while there is a universe.

You can dress up in fancy wigs and robes and prance around in grand buildings. You can put shiny things that you found in the ground onto your head if you like. But you know what? The universe thinks you're an idiot if you do that. The universe thinks you're absurdly insignificant and finds it perversely hilarious that its laws quite literally predicted your existence and your behaviour, but yet you do do not properly perceive what is so obviously observable all around you.

If you think humans make and enforce laws, you are an imbecile, as illustrated by the humble mushroom.

Humans and their behaviour were preordained from the moment of the universe's conception, along with the immutable and universal laws of physics. The laws of physics predicted and explained literally everything.

If you think that mushrooms can be controlled by statutory instruments created by Acts of Parliament, with Crown agents of Her Majesty The Queen enforcing those statutory instruments, then you my friend, have overlooked almost the entire observable universe.

Through simple observation, we can plainly see the irrefutable evidence of the existence of a set of fundamental and universal laws, which are immutable.

In short: Mushrooms exist. Deal with it.

Deal with it by understanding and accepting what is observable.

Do not "deal with it" with acts of human behaviour that the universe doesn't care about. The universal immutable fundamental laws of physics predicted all your BS well before you even thought about it.

Deal with it.

Deal with it all.

Accept it.

You cannot change the laws of physics, no matter how badly you want to. Irrespective of your genius or how you manage to collectively conspire, no individual, group or entire species can ever change or avoid the fundamental universal immutable laws of physics which govern all things for all time.

I know it's a lot to take in, but I suggest you make a start by opening your eyes.

Then, just observe.

Mushrooms exist and we should stop having a tantrum about their existence, because that behaviour is ludicrous, absurd and also totally hilariously predictable. Yet, the majority of us are unforgivably ignorant and act petulantly and arrogantly, whenever we assume that WE make and enforce the laws, when in fact the [universal] LAWS [of physics] MADE EVERYTHING, including us and mushrooms: We're made of the same stuff.

 

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