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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



6 min read

This is a story about muscle memory...


Anybody who says that muscles have memory is an idiot. Let's just get that out of the way, straight away. Muscles are controlled by the nervous system, but they are not part of the nervous system. It's true that some of our reflexes can happen without direct control from our brain, but the reflexive action is due to motor neurons not muscles. Of course, it is the muscles which contract, pulling on the tendons, which ultimately creates the movement, but the muscles themselves do not have any 'memory'... they are not part of the nervous system, as I already explained.

This essay is about the strange sensation of 'running on autopilot', which is to say, the performing of a complex sequence of actions, without conscious thought process; without 'thinking' or 'controlling' what's happening, in a conscious way which makes us think that what we are doing is due to premeditated, pre-planned and voluntary action.

If I was, for example, playing a game of tennis, when my opponent served the ball to me, I'd like to think that I analyse the flight path of the ball, predict where it is going to land, calculate where I need to stand, decide to swing my racket at the appropriate moment, and guide my racket head precisely to intersect with the path of the ball, such that I strike it not too hard and not too soft, so that it clears the net and remains in the court.


I mean, sure, a total beginner might try to do that, but everything happens way too fast. In fact, once you reach professional tennis - which I never will... I'm pretty bad tennis player - then the ball is travelling so fast that there is not enough time for the images coming from your eyes, to reach the part of the brain which would do the 'conscious thinking' and 'decision making' and then get the instructions to the motor cortex, to send the signals to your arm to move the racket, in order to return the serve. There. Is. Not. Enough. Time.

So, what's happening then?

Well, the more tennis serves you return, the more 'hard wired' the reflexes become. A smaller number of cues provide a greater, and more importantly earlier, response than a person who's never picked up a tennis racquet before. In fact, the ability of the human brain to respond to the subtle cues can become so fine-tuned, that a professional tennis player will lunge left or right at more or less the same time as the opponent's racquet strikes the ball... which surely means it's impossible for the receiving player to be reacting... doesn't it? Yes.

Yes... what you think very often is you exercising your free will - making choices and deciding to do stuff - is totally an illusion. If somebody throws a ball at your head, you'll probably catch it before your 'conscious decision-making' brain has had a chance to catch up. You'll find yourself holding the ball in the hand you caught it in, but you'll still be wondering where it came from... and you definitely won't remember making the decision to catch it, because there wasn't enough time to follow the longer thought process: "I see a ball travelling towards me, I think it's going to hit me, I should catch it, okay I'm going to move my hand so it's in the right position to catch it, okay it's in my hand now, I should close my fingers to catch the ball"... nope... doesn't work like that.

So, that's the simple sports example out of the way. What about more complicated stuff?

Do you drive a car? Do you drive 'manual' (also known as 'stick shift' in North America)? If you think about the process of driving a car, there's a lot of multitasking. In the UK, where manual transmission is the norm, we are controlling the clutch, gearstick, accelerator, brake, steering wheel, indicators, horn, and sometimes lights at night and/or windscreen wipers in rain or snow. In addition, we are often fiddling with the temperature, de-misting controls and in-car entertainment. Finally, we are usually having a conversation with our passengers, while also looking at the vehicles around us in 360 degrees, using our mirrors, glancing at our children buckled up in the back seat, eating, drinking and maybe making phone-calls and/or operating the GPS. Do you think all of that happens with a lot of conscious thought? Nope. It's mostly the opposite: you're on autopilot.

Do you ever get somewhere, where you regularly go, and you can't remember a single thing about the journey? Autopilot. I don't mean that you own an expensive self-driving car. I mean autopilot in the colloquial sense, meaning that your brain just magically did all the thousands of thoughts and actions for you, without you having to think: you had plenty of time to think about other stuff even though you were hurtling down the road many times faster than you'd have been if you were riding a horse or running.

Where does autopilot end? What is the limit of autopilot?

My personal opinion is that it's virtually unlimited. Chess grandmasters can win games without having to think at all: they can play entirely in autopilot mode, and beat almost any opponent.

We love to think of ourselves as thinking creatures - homo sapiens, the so-called 'wise' man - but the bulk of everything we do, day in, day out, is just a circus trick which we have learned by repetition. We do very little thinking at all. Even the most incredibly complicated looking activities, like playing chess, have been proven to be nothing more than pattern recognition and autopilot responses, which have been learned over the course of thousands and thousands of games; indistinguishable from a chimp that's learned to press a button to get a piece of fruit as a reward.





5 min read

This is a story about assisted dying...


Having spent an extraordinary amount of time thinking and writing about suicide, as well as receiving a massive amount of emails from strangers in crisis, contemplating killing themselves, I don't claim to be exactly the same as a doctor who has specialised in euthanasia, or a crisis counsellor, but it's quite possible that we might have spent the same number of hours contemplating the same subject. My ignorance is not better than anybody's knowledge, but we are, after all, talking about the unknowable. Anybody who claims to know the unknowable is a charlatan.

The original charlatans would have been witch doctors and shamen, I suppose, claiming to have magical powers. Later, with the decline of magic and the rise of organised religion, the charlatans were, and indeed still are, priests. Debatably in modern times, there are [some] doctors who are charlatans. Anybody who says that doctors are scientific and evidence-led, has not met [enough] doctors, and truly understood their role and behaviour in society.

Of course, it's incorrect to say that the practice of witch doctors, shamen and medical doctors can be dismissed as equally groundless. In fact, we can ignore the obvious stuff - surgery, effective treatment for infection, life-support techniques - and look instead at what's common between the voodoo conjurers and your family doctor: neither of them will save your life, or the life of your child[ren], but both enjoy high social status, and we believe that they possess a power which they do not, which perversely can have a positive effect on our superstitious human psychology.

We must, for a minute, acknowledge that it is better to be soothed by a priest, telling us that we don't have to be afraid of death because we are going to heaven, or indeed soothed by a doctor who is telling us that everything is going to be OK because 'medical science'. Neither, in fact, possess the means to ease the burden of mortality, nor any knowledge to transform the human condition, beyond assistance in invoking a person's own capabilities of inducing a delusion: namely that life is anything other than a meaningless, godless existence, which ends with pain and terror.

Most of us will be so frantically pounding on life's treadmill, that we will scarcely have a moment to contemplate mortality, and if we do, it will be in the context of soothing the anxiety of our elderly relatives, and young children. The contemplation of our own individual mortality is a rich-man's hobby, and therefore something which only a very small percentage of the earth's inhabitants will ever have the wealth and privilege to do.

I might be such an idiot that I'm unable to correctly perceive and comprehend the depth and breadth of my own stupidity and ignorance, but, you would be foolish to deny that I have not had a lot more time to consider things than you, given that I have not been spending the majority of my waking hours attempting to shovel baked beans into the face of my grubby progeny.

It's banal and routine to ridicule first-semester philosophy majors, in the North American parlance, for thinking they just solved all philosophical problems at the first attempt. However, once you've figured out that we all end up as worm food, and all of human history and evidence of any human existence, will be obliterated so completely it will be as though humanity never existed, frankly, then at that point, all philosophy starts to look the same; equally absurd and meaningless.

Of course, subscribing to a certain life philosophy, or indeed a collection of different bits of philosophies, can make the difference between bearable or even very pleasurable periods of existence during a short mortal life, versus the unspeakable horror of experiencing the futility and meaninglessness of everything, raw and unfiltered, until you finally, gratefully and gladly expire.

Human inventions, like the wheel, sprung up independently in different times and places. No one human can ever claim to have a monopoly on, for example, a particular philosophical thought, because that thought can be arrived at independently.

To claim that religion and medicine - or at least, doctors who don't practice any medicine, but merely occupy the high-status role, dispensing ostensibly worthless advice - are totally and utterly without value to humanity is entirely wrong: they are valuable. The church keeps a great deal of humanity occupied with futile pursuits, but we must ask ourselves if it's truly futile, if it occupies people when they might otherwise become, like me, preoccupied with their own mortality. Many medical doctors practice a new form of religion, where we worship them and elevate them well beyond their capability to forestall or otherwise arrest our inevitable death, but is their value over-estimated, if our irrational belief in them eases the passage of our lives.

I wish, very often, that I was stupid enough to believe in god, or doctors.




Humble Opinion

4 min read

This is a story about keyboard warriors...


You might be surprised to learn that I feel shame and regret for over-eagerly volunteering an opinion in the company of those who are more qualified, experienced and wise, who must surely have looked upon the ignorant tosh which I spouted as beneath contempt; the unintelligible gibbering of a moron.

My career has been exceedingly technical: I don't deal with the grey areas in life. My work is either right, or it's wrong. What I produce is either correct, or it's garbage. There's no "blagging" in my area of expertise: you either know what you're talking about or you don't.

Of course, most areas of life are not as black and white as my chosen career is. Most people do not work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and as such, they are not used to having to be correct; they have no use for right answers, because they can get away with wishy-washy rubbish, which isn't provably garbage; they can blag their way through life.

One of my favourite TV shows is called Scrapheap Challenge which is known as Junkyard Wars in the United States. On the show, contestants must build massive metal contraptions from old vehicles, rusting in a pile. It's a geeky show for geeky people. I can't speak on behalf of mechanical engineers, but I do know a former contestent, and one assumes that those who are engaged with building and fixing things for a living, would find it fun and interesting. I mention this show because sometimes there's a software engineer contestant, and I have observed - anecdotally - that they are pretty useless. The main skill required for being a good contestant, is being a good welder. I do very little welding, as part of my job as a software engineer.

Knowing one's limit is important. It's difficult though, not to extrapolate from expertise and mastery in one specialist area, and assume that success will be forthcoming in any other area. After a long while of continuously learning new technical skills, it's hard not to get carried away and assume that anything can be quickly learned and mastered. For sure, working in tech teaches us to continually learn new things; things which are hard and technical and can't be blagged.

Obviously I don't "know my limit" or indeed "know my place". I have opinions on almost everything, but I must say that those opinions are not the usual ill-informed ignorant gut-feel of the morons who plague the comments section on the internet. In order to have an opinion, I have to have at least read the Wikipedia page, or suchlike. Also, I have to be interested in the subject in question, sufficiently to have done some cursory reading on the subject. I like to think - arrogantly - that my opinions are grounded in reason and logic, given that my whole working life and a lot of my childhood has also been grounded in formal logic; I'm literally paid to think logically. My whole career has been quantitative and as such, my opinions are qualified with hard numbers, most of the time.

A lot of what I do could be considered quite a dark art, I suppose. I'd be lying if I didn't use gut feel and intuition to make decisions, during my working day, but I can guarantee that my decisions are backed by experience, and that experience could be expressed as statistics which bolster my claim that my decisions are data-driven. Sometimes I'm challenged to provide the firm numbers which allowed me to reach an opinion, and I can do that: I can prove why my opinions 'add up' to reach the answers I give.

There is an overlap between the black-and-white world of data science and technology, and the fuzzy world of human emotion. If I say that something can't be done, on a project, I'm often challenged to prove that 9 women can't have 1 baby in one month, for example. Sometimes, whatever being asked could be done, technically, but it would be bloody awful for all involved; sheer misery. For sure, at some point, the limitations of our biology - and even psychology - have to be considered.

I have opinions and I will not stop sharing them.




Superiority Complex

5 min read

This is a story about delusions of grandeur...

Thought bubble

The problem with slinging pseudoscientific mud, is that sooner or later you're going to come up against somebody who knows what they're talking about; they're able to rigorously follow the scientific method, and they can see right through the dumbed-down pathetic attempts to create popular ideas, which prey upon our preconceived notions, our biases, our vanity and our insecurities.

If we look at applications for university places, there are vast numbers who want to study arts and humanities subjects. Then, the social 'sciences' are the next most popular. Bottom of the pile, in terms of popularity, are the difficult, dry, technical subjects: mathematics, engineering, chemistry, physics, computing. You cannot 'blag' that you know what you're talking about in a technical subject: there are right answers and wrong answers, and no amount of blagging will convince anybody that you're right, when you're wrong, and you're provably wrong.

The social 'sciences' - anthropology, sociology, psychology etc - are not sciences. Science follows a strict prescriptive methodology, and anything which doesn't adhere is not science. The social 'sciences' produce nothing but worthless crap, because it's not science - the results of experiments cannot be reproduced. Any experiment which doesn't have reproducible results, is a non-experiment; a waste of time; absolutely useless.

In an attempt to appear like real medical science, psychiatry has attempted to apply statistical methods, to make the diagnosis of pathologies of the mind, into a supposedly objective exercise. In theory, the patient's symptoms are all that are needed in order to make an accurate diagnosis, via the power of statistics - so, in theory, there's no need for psychiatrists any more. We should, in theory, be able to diagnose ourselves and then simply obtain the required medication from a pharmacist: no doctors required.

No. No. No. The psychiatrists say.

You need us to interpret these hard statistics, and add our own opinions. Say the psychiatrists.

So, what happened to this being a scientific process, driven by data and statistics?

The truth is that everyone will use their knowledge and position of authority in order to pursue their power games. Psychiatrists will never use a scientific statistical method, because then they become redundant.

Unfortunately, psychologists have latched onto psychiatry's attempt to become more scientific, and lend some credibility to their profession. Psychologists are probably more obsessed with statistical methods for 'diagnosis' than psychiatrists are. Psychologists, who, let us remember, were not clever enough to become doctors, engineers, mathematicians etc, opted for a profession where there are no right or wrong answers; anything you say is equally dumb and meaningless. Of course, psychologists would want to pretend like there was any kind of rigour, any kind of methodology, data or statistics, behind their work.

There isn't.

The problem with psychologists latching onto the work of psychiatry, is that they try to import theories and apply them. Psychologists - especially amateur wannabe psychologists of the armchair variety - love to throw around labels like "psychopath", "sociopath", "narcissist" etc. when in fact, those labels were only intended to ever apply to the tiniest fraction of humanity. How can it be meaningful to call every man you've ever met a "pathological narcissist"? How have rare medical conditions gone beyond that of an epidemic, to now become things which affect the vast majority of humanity?

It hasn't happened.

Only a tiny fraction of the human race suffer from pathologies such as narcissism and sociopathy.

You can't just label people you don't like with psychiatric pathologies.

It's dumb.

Amateur psychologists are dumb.

Psychiatric language is ubiquitous in our culture. We use terms like "crazy", "mad", "loony", "loopy", "wacky" and every other flavour of term for 'insanity' to mean everything on the spectrum, from upset and angry, to schizophrenic psychosis. We call ourselves "OCD" when we just mean neat, tidy and clean. We call ourselves "bipolar" when we just mean moody. Meanwhile, depression and anxiety are so common, and so many of us are medicated, that we hardly even bother to talk about the fact we've been diagnosed with those illnesses anymore - we make memes about killing ourselves; we make memes about how dysfunctional we are.

To talk about a 'superiority complex' in the present day, is like giving out speeding tickets to the competitors at the Silverstone Formula One grand prix race. To talk about 'narcissism' is something that you really should do on your YouTube channel, or on your Instagram Story, or on your Facebook page, or one of your TikTok videos. Utterly nonsensical. Unhinged. Mad.

Yes, there are people who are so affected by the Dunning-Kruger effect that they are unable to comprehend the limitations of their abilities: they will never be a mathematician, engineer, chemist, physicist, software engineer or suchlike; they're not clever enough. Those over-confident people's ignorance is not as good as my knowledge. We are, unfortunately, living in an age where vast numbers of people think that their 'life experiences' and 'gut feel' qualifies them to opine on subjects, which they are utterly, dismally ignorant about, exposing their appalling stupidity, much to the chagrin of anybody with half a brain.

So, anyway, I'm sick of pop-psych 'magazines' (especially online) publishing articles about narcissists with superiority complexes. They don't exist... you're just pedalling word-salad, put into the mouths of your readers. Your readers will use that word-salad to attack people they don't like.




My First Jobs: Defence and Banking

5 min read

This is a story about guilt...


The ethical benchmark by which I try to judge myself is that of a schoolfriend who's a renowned thinker and writer, and an exceptionally clever and thoughtful person; a real inspiration. I'm occasionally reminded that he reads my blog, which is an incredible privilege, but also makes me more acutely aware of my shortcomings in the ethical department.

As the title of this essay suggests, my first job was in defence. In my defence - pun intended - I was 17 years old, and my motivation was to achieve some degree of independence such that I might later be able to choose what I wanted to do with my life. I don't feel like I ever had the opportunity to think "what do I want to do with my life?". It seems fairly commonplace amongst the sons and daughters of middle-class families, that their children find a subject that they find interesting, which they pursue academically at university. I never had any financial support from my family, to pursue any dreams, so I was forced to make pragmatic decisions. There was the opportunity to study for a degree while I was at my first job, but a job's a job... I had no passion for making weapons of mass destruction, so I wasn't motivated to study the subject academically.

I distinctly remember imagining a day when I might find out that a vessel had been sunk by Spearfish or Tigerfish torpedos, and I considered how I would feel if there was loss of life, directly attributable to my work. I suppose I should have thought about it beforehand, but I didn't - I just wanted and needed a salary; I needed to pay my rent and bills.

In all honesty, I didn't quit my job in ethical protest at the defence industry. I quit because I was getting ripped off - I was very underpaid for my skills and experience, and I resented that.

Where could I get paid the most?


I'm not proud of it, but my thought process really was as simple as asking myself: where can I get paid the most?

I suppose just about anybody would think "investment banking" when quizzed on where a person might find the highest salary. The late 1990s was not quite the loadsamoney heyday of the yuppies, which was ushered in by Margaret Thatcher, but the City was still awash with money. My motivation was pure greed and avarice, one might say. I put little or no thought into the ethics of my career decision, I freely admit.

In my defence - pun still intended - I was leaving the defence industry, so surely anything I chose would be more ethical than that; more ethical than designing and building weapons of mass destruction.

With hindsight, usury inflicts as much misery and suffering as war.


It would take many years before I understood that.

My first job in the City of London was everything you would expect it to be: an extremely macho and male-dominated environment, with plenty of booze, drugs, strippers and escorts. Awash with cash, our lifestyles were offensively lavish. It was pure vulgarity, writ large.

I was still young, of course... only my second job, but you must also remember that I skipped university because I couldn't afford it when I was 17. But then... but then... I was wearing golden handcuffs.

I kept thinking about going to university to pursue a subject I was interested in. Psychology or psychopharmacology, perhaps. I applied and was offered a place at some very prestigious institutions. However, I couldn't face being poor again. I couldn't give up the lavish lifestyle, once I'd had a taste of it.

It was several more years before I found myself working on a project related to the confirmation and settlement of credit default swaps for the investment bank which processed 70% of all trades. Quadrillions of dollars of credit swaps flowed through systems I designed and built. I didn't really think about it too much, as I was too busy being an engineer: Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department.

I was laid low with depression, which kicked in at the exact same time as the credit crunch and the global financial crisis of 2007/8. I often say I was at ground zero, because it's true.

I still don't ask myself whether what I'm doing is ethical: I'm an engineer, and I like to build stuff; it's only with hindsight that I see the ethical problems. A schoolfriend suggested I sabotage the project I'm working on, which is 'big government' stuff, but it seems benign to me... perhaps I'll see things differently, when it's too late.

I absolutely do not pass the ethics test. I feel like my defence is a flimsy version of: "if I didn't do it, somebody else would have done". I feel like I'm a Nazi saying "I was just following orders".




Step Seven: Every Time Is Different

5 min read

This is a story about learning through doing...

Supermarket basket

The difference between an artist and a craftsman, is that a craftsman is honing their skills towards the most perfect and repeatable incarnation of a repetitive task, whereas an artist is honing their skills in general, in order to be able to express whatever they want with an intuitive fluidity. If you or I were "bad at drawing" as so many of us characterise ourselves, then we would spend most of our time grappling with the pencil and paper, instead of drawing the desired thing. The craftsman would be content to produce ever improving facsimiles or the same image, faster and faster, and with less pencil lead used. The artist would not even be aware of the pencil or paper, but instead would be free to express themselves increasingly exactly as they intended.

A reader challenged me to write about what I'm learning, as opposed to writing in my lecturing tone which features quite regularly. Unfortunately they deleted their reply, so I only have my hazy memory as a guide to what their original suggestion was, but my guess would be that they wanted me to write about my experience of learning as a way of teaching.

Every day, I am learning.

Every time I write, I am learning.

This entire exercise, of writing down my stream-of-consciousness, is a learning exercise. I write because it helps me therapeutically, but it also helps me to learn to be a better writer; to express myself in a [hopefully] ever-improving manner. Slowly, the keyboard, the screen, the website - all of this melts away and I'm able to express myself in exactly the way I intended; I put my point across as well as I could ever hope to, although I continually strive to do better.

I'm also learning to be a craftsman. There is a craftsman's psychology, which a person should possess - there are habits to develop, and you must strive towards perfecting repetitive tasks. The tiny details matter. You should attempt to iron out the imperfections and master your tools.

I promise you I am not giving a lecture, again. I'm merely telling you the things that I'm realising - learning - as I'm going along. Right now, as I pen these very words, I am having a learning experience, which I am simultaneously sharing with you.

Of course, the big piece of learning that's happening right now, is that I'm going though yet another period of sobriety. Each time I stop drinking my experiences are different. I am not writing to tell you that I have perfected the art of sobriety. I am writing to share with you my experiences of being an on/off drinker, who has spent relatively lengthy periods as a teetotaller. A member of Alcoholics Anonymous might scoff at my 121 consecutive days of sobriety, but of all my friends and work colleagues, I would be hard-pressed to find another who had equalled that record in their adult life. We might dismiss my present objective of "approximately 6 to 8 weeks of sobriety" as something insignificant and easy, but because you will probably never try to do it and if you do, you will find - as I have - that it's not as easy as it looks, it's important that I document these periods of time.

Of course I am not writing a prescriptive guide on how to stop drinking. Only charlatans and con-men promise that they have a magic cure for alcoholism. The entire rehab and detox industry thrives on its spectacular lack of success, and of course, if there was an easy way out then there wouldn't be such an insatiable appetite for addictive substances, and the corresponding so-called 'cures' for these afflictions.

I note that vast numbers of people stumble upon my website while searching desperately to see if they can quite literally "drink [themselves] sober". I kid you not.

What can I report today, of interest? I've had the perfect storm of a heavy workload at the office, combined with my car breaking down, some horrible administrative tasks which have been very time consuming, and then there is the usual ongoing financial difficulties that I face, and the prospect that my troubled relationship is likely to be dealt a fatal blow, due to the difficulty of two people finding well paid work anywhere except London... and I don't think it would be a good idea for me to move back to London, when my life in Cardiff is going quite well, and is certainly easier and less stressful than it ever was in the capital.

None of what I've written has much to do with [not] drinking alcohol. It's Friday night and I've had a very hard working week, but perhaps my instinct to reach for the bottle to celebrate the commencement of the weekend, has been slightly de-habituated. I have found myself binging on cakes, crisps, biscuits and other salty, fatty and sweet foods, by way of compensation for my otherwise bleak existence. What human being does not reward themselves, either with sex, chocolate, shopping, or something less tolerated by civilised society, and probably more health-damaging?

It feels as though the season to be merry is fast approaching, plus I have social occasions soon where I will absolutely be partaking of an alcoholic beverage or two. I'm quite looking forward to having a cold beer with friends and/or colleagues, and there's nothing wrong about that at all. I'm quite looking forward to rewarding myself with a glass of wine after a hard day at the office, and again, there's nothing wrong with that at all.

What have I learned on my journey today? Nothing really. Except that every day is completely different, and my coping skills are constantly improving.




Addicted to Sadness

8 min read

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


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.




So Embarrassing

6 min read

This is a story about over-sharing...

Twitter likes

I'm not really a self-conscious person or else I'd never write and publish anything, but I did have a moment of panic yesterday when I realised what a plonker I was going to look like, for writing about my most vulnerable insecurities, innermost sensitive thoughts and feelings, laying myself wide open for a moment of stunned silence, which would have been very embarrassing.

I thought about deleting my tweet which accompanied the blog post. It's been ages since I thought about deleting something. I very rarely self-censor.

Being single transports me back to my frustrated and unhappy teens. Despite modest success in the world of dating and relationships, I still carry a huge amount of insecurity. I've never felt like "God's gift" to women or that I have any particular attractiveness or charisma that means I don't have anything to worry about. I've been told on plenty of occasions that I don't have anything to worry about - that I'm good-looking - but I suppose whatever wounds were inflicted in childhood still haven't healed.

I'm basically one big twisted knot of overthinking and over-isolated overgrown man-child. Growing up without any siblings until the age of 10 was hell. Being stuck in the company of my parents as they dragged me through 8 different schools and all over the bloody world was hell on earth. I have plenty of reasons why I should struggle to form normal healthy relationships with my peers.

I guess I got into technology because it seemed like a perfect microcosm that I could control. However, reality has asserted itself so fully that I can see that life is messy, and my reaction is to collate and publish all that mess for everyone to see. I'm using technology to gather together everything that I'm embarrassed about and really don't want to be teased about.

What I write is an absolute goldmine for anybody who wants to poke and prod at my insecurities, to antagonise me.

The thing is, I write about this stuff as a pre-emptive step, so that it's less of a big red button that people can press to get a reaction.

I've been relatively successful at positioning myself so that I'm never on the back foot like I was when I was a child. I refuse to ever be somebody's plaything. If I'm going to act predictably, it's going to be in accordance with my own predictions, not anybody else's.

Pleasingly, the world has somewhat complied with my wishes. I've been able to enjoy social change, enabling me to be the passive one who has the enviable position of being able to reject, taunt, bully and tease, if I should so choose. It's every bit as pleasant and comforting as I thought it would be, to have the tables turned and be the one with the power.

Am I applauding the existence of the patriarchy? No.

Am I very weird geeky guy who had a particularly disrupted childhood, which held me back from having a number of formative experiences, such as girlfriends at school? Yes.

The net result is that things that are normal for you have a different level of importance in my life. My entire self-esteem is based on whether I'm getting laid or not. If I'm not getting laid, then I assume that I've been plunged back into my unhappy adolescence. I assume that I'm once again the awkward social outcast that I was during my schooldays. I assume that I've lost all of my adult development and I'm doomed to live out my days in lonely singledom.

The net result is dating some very unsuitable women and having a lot of unwanted sex. The sex is symbolic. I have as much sex as I can get now, today, as over-compensation for the lack of it in my teens... as if I can somehow alter the past.

It's strange psychology, but also very basic and simple.

Also, I shouldn't write about it, but I do.

I sometimes forget that I pour my heart out like this. The process of emptying my brain out onto the page has become normalised. The fear of embarrassing myself in front of the entire world has long-since been forgotten. The concept of a world that hasn't seen every flaw and downside of my character is long gone.

You'd think that my exposure would be problematic, but I find it easier to remain quiet and keep my mouth shut when I need to - such as in the office - by brain-dumping all of this stuff out publicly. I enjoy the open secret of it, although it does stress me out that one day I'm going to get into trouble.

Dating with this level of exposure is problematic. Dating is a thing that puts people in a very vulnerable position, and having a large resource of vulnerabilities published publicly makes me doubly vulnerable. I have no idea whether to offer up this blog as part of the package of information made available during the early stages of dating, along with photos and descriptions of what I do for money etc. which are usually expected.

Without too much digging, it's possible to see me in a very unflattering light, but I also know that it takes bravery and courage to make yourself vulnerable, and I know that it's rewarding to be brave and take risks.

For now, I'm just going to proceed as normal. I was very reassured to see that some people who I really like and respect had acknowledged what I'd written yesterday, but I must admit that I was seriously thinking about deleting it, because I felt like I'd made a fool of myself.

I find the world to be adversarial and hostile and I don't like it. My reaction is not to be defensive, but in fact to do the un-intuitive thing and to lower my guard - making myself extremely vulnerable. "Do your worst" I incant.




How The Other Half Live

5 min read

This is a story about the life of riley...

Camp bed

It seemed to irk a multimillionaire friend that I didn't consider myself to be in the top 2% of the world's wealthiest people. In terms of cash, assets and in terms of income, I meet none of the test criteria which would consider me to be one of the top 2% of the world's richest. However, we should think about how we perceive ourselves, no matter what the hard numbers say.

Most people I know consider themselves to be "working class made good". That is to say, they have very many anecdotes about "how hard" they "had things as a child". The claims are very reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch, where a group of men attempt to outdo each other in their boastful claims about how well they've done for themselves, from humble beginnings.

Eventually the boasts become rather dubious:

I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down t'mill, and pay t'mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.

The point of the sketch is to mock reverse-snobbery and the exaggeration of how hard things were "in the olden days".

I think there's something innate in us which assumes we're in the less fortunate "half" of those who we have everyday interactions with. We feel more in common with the supermarket checkout assistant than we do with somebody we see driving a supercar. When we see somebody who is undoubtedly on a modest wage, we assume our own income and assets are closer to that person, than to a person who is making a vulgar display of their wealth.

This is something I wrestle with every day: am I rich, or am I relatively - compared to my peers - quite poor?

My friends all own houses (or at least the mortgage companies own them) and they all drive quite new cars (although they could be on hire-purchase). My friends go skiing from January to March. My friends can be seen sunning themselves in luxury holiday destinations on a regular basis. It's easy for me to form the opinion that I lost all my money, and I'm pretty much starting from zero. In fact, I'm starting from a highly indebted place.

Then, I have a wake-up call and I realise that some of my school-friends who do exactly the same job as me have not enjoyed a fraction of the cumulative career earnings, which I have. I've had those ski holidays and those luxury trips to exotic locations, and nobody can ever take those experiences away from me.

Sometimes my life flatly refuses to give me all the things I need at the same time. If I have a house, then I don't have a job. If I have a girlfriend then I don't have any money. If I have friends then I don't have my sanity.

The getting of the things - the difficult things - is more difficult than you can even imagine. In fact, it's better not to imagine, to plan and to worry. Be one of those people who drifts along aimlessly. Making hard things happen is too stressful.

I'd love to say that I'm genuinely disadvantaged and held back, but the truth is that despite my very best attempts to ruin my life and destroy my future, things keep happening which are quite good; enviable.

Gathering together my boxed belongings dating back 20 months, during which period I very nearly died in a city which was completely alien to me, and denied any visitors (although I was in a coma anyway) and the strange way with which I've wended my way back into civilised society, via a doctor who read my blog, via an alcoholic who recently committed suicide, via a kitesurfer who I've never worked with and via an army of friends who ceaselessly keep me in the land of the living, via the ethereal world of the internet... that's not easy.

My body started to protest before I even lifted the first precious box of my belongings into a van. I live betwixt and between the land of the fully conscious, and the land of the intoxicated: Those whose senses have been dulled with pills, powders and liquids.

I feel greater affinity for the afflicted ones - the alcoholics and the addicts - but it would be churlish of me to count myself amongst their number, as I lay my head down on a pillow in a house worth half a million pounds (I'm just renting it BTW).

I expect you've made your mind up, whether you're better or worse off than me, but be aware that your perception can be warped, and you're more likely to consider yourself less fortunate, than more fortunate - it's a common feature of human psychology, no matter how illogical it is.

In closing, I would say that I am very very tired and I am in a lot of pain, with some obvious problems with my muscles and kidneys which might require medical intervention, but I'm also walking around my gigantic house, unable to believe that rolling the dice has made this happen for me. I'll curl up in my sleeping bag in a minute, and wake up in the morning like a child when Santa Claus has been to visit. I definitely think of myself as one of the lucky ones.




The Supercrack Diet - Part Two

8 min read

This is a story about body dysmorphia...

Christmas photo

It's strange to look at a photo of myself with an old friend from not-too-many-Christmasses ago - at least according to my faulty memory - and not really recognise the face looking back at me as my own. It's not that I'm younger. It's that I can clearly see in many features of my face that I'd failed to escape from an abusive relationship and an acrimonious divorce unscathed. My life reboot had been sabotaged and it seems as plain as day to me that I was very sick.

My eyes appear at first glance to be bright and alert, but in a stimulant-induced way, so I wear a glassy stare into the distance, not looking at anything in particular. On closer examination, there are tell-tale signs around my eyes that I've been sleeping both too much and too little.

It surprises me how easily I can see from my face that I have hardly any body fat. In 2013 I had my body fat very precisely measured at circa 2%.

The body I'm in today feels very alien to me.

But the face in the picture above is also a different person, I feel.

Every couple of weeks I start skipping breakfast, having light lunches and smaller, healthier evening meals. Every couple of weeks I take a break from drinking alcohol. It doesn't make any difference.

For more years than I care to remember, I've woken up and I've dreaded going to work, and I've felt oppressively burdened by debt. My life is very simple, and in many ways very enviable, but it's also thoroughly awful. Theoretically the awfulness is only a temporary situation, but somehow it's turned out to be a nonstop nightmare lasting half a fucking decade.

The nightmare could be lazily attributed to drug addiction, but you might be surprised to learn that the truth is far less conveniently simple.

Having spent more than two decades trapped in the rat race, being a very stoic, quiet, boring, obedient and subservient tiny cog in a massive machine, and suffering the incredible boredom of going to bland beige offices, attending endless interminable meetings about nothing, shuffling paper around a desk and pretending to look busy, it was fucking exciting to go insane and embark upon a drug-fuelled rampage.

You might think that police, paddy wagons, Accident & Emergency, high-dependency wards, psychiatric hospitals, police cells, intensive care, sleeping rough and hostel dorms would be the worst thing imaginable - and those things probably were terrible at the time - but you need to understand the psychology of a person who wants to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and plummet towards the ground at terminal velocity. If you think that only stupid people get addicted to drugs, it's you who is stupid, because you haven't appreciated the value in calculated risks.

I would thoroughly advise every person on the planet to avoid supercrack like the plague, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge some attributes of my experiences of the last 5 years, which might be considered surprisingly beneficial.

Weight. Loss.

We'd all like to be a bit skinnier, wouldn't we? We'd all like to lose a bit of that hard-to-shift belly-fat.

I look in the mirror at the slight gut which has appeared in the ten months which I've been working, without the interruption of a drug-fuelled rampage, and I think "where the fuck did that gut come from?"

It depresses me that I've put on weight.

It depresses me that my appearance has changed.

I'm not fat. I'm not overweight. I'm just kinda 'normal' for a 39-year-old bloke, but that fucking sucks, because I took for granted the fact that I was as skinny as a racing snake on a diet. There's something attractive about an 'athletic' body, and that's not the body I have anymore... or rather, that's not the body I have at the moment.

One of the reasons I kept ending up in hospital, is because my body ran out of fat to break down to keep itself alive, so it started breaking down my muscle. When my muscle was broken down to provide energy to keep my cells fuelled and save my life, there were a lot of toxins released too, which totally fucked my kidneys. Basically, I was starving to death but dying of kidney failure faster than I was dying from lack of glucose, because I was so unnaturally lacking in body fat. My body made a very tough decision at a certain do-or-die moment, to destroy muscle allowing my heart to keep pumping for a little while longer, at the expense of my kidneys.

I eat.

I eat a lot.

I drink.

I drink a lot.

I eat and drink whatever the fuck I want and however much I want. I have juicy fatty steaks with butter sauce, washed down with lashings of red wine, every single night of the week.

I'm a disgusting old man.

I've been so depressed and oppressed by my awful circumstances, that I've barely been outside all summer. My skin is pale. One of my arms is covered with ribbons of self-harm and suicide attempt scars. One of my wrists has a big lump where a bone was broken by police who were kindly assisting me in getting to hospital. I've got this gut. This fucking gut. Where the fuck did it come from?

Have you heard of DNP?

It's a fat burner.

I'm highly tempted to take a week or two off work and just burn off the fat using this drug which increases your metabolic rate. Of course, a side-effect is malignant hyperthermia, but that's nothing I haven't already experienced a great deal of, as a supercrack addict. Also, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, tachycardia, organ damage and death... all risks I'm prepared to accept in order to be skinny and gorgeous again.

Although I'm crippled by mountainous debts, I drive a wreck of a car which is worth less than my phone, I live in rented accommodation and my body is covered with scars from drug-fuelled insanity, self-harm and suicide attempts, the most damaging thing to my self-esteem is what I've done to myself during this period of so-called health and wealth. While I've been earning megabucks for massive organisations and being mostly abstinent from supercrack, my life has materially improved massively - I've earned an absolute fortune - but psychologically it's been awful, and my body has suffered far more than even the very worst days of my supercrack addiction insanity.

I don't think supercrack is a solution, although the weight-loss is arguably a very desirable side-effect, in much the same way as a bout of explosive diarrhoea or a tapeworm infestation might be. Unfortunately, society worships the skinny, just as much as it worships the bipolar, even though those people might not be very healthy people at all.

As a single man - and rapidly approaching 40 years old - of course I want to feel sexually attractive. While girlfriends have always said "I like a bit of meat on your bones" fnarr fnarr, they have had a vested interest in my health and robustness as opposed to my raw attractiveness, in terms of a skinny athletic body.

The temptation to restore my athletic figure with a week or two of unpleasant suffering, taking a fat-burning drug and feeling like shit, seems like a small price to pay for the prize of being more sexually attractive. With the insecurity of feeling like I'm a washed-up has-been loser, dirty old man filthy pervert, useless debt-riddled, asset-less waste-of-space, with nothing to offer womankind, it's sorely tempting to take some short cuts. What happened to my house, sports-car, yacht, speedboat, cash pile and other desirable material things, which would be highly coveted? What value is there in a 39-year-old who's pale and average build? I'm ten a penny.

This is the calculated gamble. Presently, my gamble is to get rich quick, or more precisely, to pay off my debts incredibly quickly at the expense of my health, social life and mental wellbeing. The price I pay is my appearance: I eat and drink too much; don't exercise.

Of course, I have no plans to resume my supercrack-fuelled insanity, but to not acknowledge the rewards and unexpectedly positive benefits of better living through chemistry would be disingenuous.