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Paradoxical Rage

9 min read

This is a story about losing my temper...

Ruined shoe

I'm blessed with the ability to observe reality and analyse it using pure reason and logic; in fact it's a prerequisite of my chosen career - to be able to decompose the world into systems which can be modelled mathematically inside a computer. Computer science is good science, because in its very essence it's repeatable. If an experiment is not repeatable it's not science. So many experiments in psychology, biology and fringe pseudosciences are not repeatable at all - when those experiments are re-run, the supposedly statistically significant findings cannot be reproduced. Even many so-called scientists are prone to being led by their gut instincts and preconceived ideas - they draw completely incorrect conclusions from their data, and publish findings which are simply bad science because they're based on small sample sets and incorrect assumptions.

A lot of scientists invent a hypothesis and devise an experiment to prove or disprove the theory, then when they find that their experimental findings do not support their theory, they look at all the data and attempt to reverse-engineer a theory from the results. For example, let's say that it's my theory that people with red hair have anger issues, and so I go out onto the streets and ask anyone with red hair to complete a survey for me, as well as a number of control subjects. When I crunch the data, I find that there's no evidence that the redheads are more angry than the control group. Instead of abandoning the research as fruitless, I look again at the data and I find out that a lot of 18 to 24 year olds have scored highly on the "anger scale" based on the surveys they filled in. Thus, I conclude that this age group has anger issues, and publish my findings as if that was the original theory being tested. This is flawed science, because there was no underlying theory or hypothesis which existed before I did my experiment, and my experiment was not designed to prove or disprove the theory which I'm publishing. I'm pretending I've discovered something profound and important, when I haven't. If the experiment is repeated the results vary wildly - at prestigious universities, the 18 to 24 year olds are not angry at all, and in former industrial towns with high unemployment the 40 to 50 year olds are even more angry than the original group. Thus, the experiment is not at all repeatable and the published conclusions are worthless.

We are often so eager to reach a profound conclusion that we believe we have discovered a universal truth, when in fact we've discovered nothing. We are keen to talk in absolute terms and declare things to be fixed and immutable, when in fact the world around us is constantly shapeshifting, making it virtually impossible to tease out cause and effect - feedback loops obfuscate the fundamental laws which govern reality, so it's ludicrous to talk about macroscopic matters as if they can be examined in isolation and behaviour will be consistent no matter what the surrounding circumstances are.

Human mood, perceptions and behaviour are particularly fickle, and to believe that a person can be simplified to the point where they behave in a predictable manner according to a convenient model or label, is laughable. To say a person is "an angry man" or to damn somebody's character with a label like Borderline Personality Disorder, is not only useless but also leads to completely incorrect beliefs, in much the same way that the 12 signs of the zodiac tell you absolutely nothing about a person's character and temperament. Not only is each individual unique, but their character and behaviour will be different dependent on their ever-changing circumstances. It might be possible to corner a person and bludgeon them to death, but it really doesn't tell you very much if you limited their options and inflicted atrocities upon them. So desperate are a group of powerful elites to believe that their theories are correct, that they'll physically restrain and force vulnerable people to comply with their flawed belief system, learning only that the more artificial constraints a person suffers the more frustrated and dysfunctional they become.

Rage can be paradoxical, but so can positive reactions and behaviours. We might believe that if somebody draws a knife or a gun, our only response should be to draw a weapon of our own in defence, which will then neutralise the situation. It seems fairly obvious that in fact there are a range of available options, some of which will have much more positive outcomes than "comply or die" diktat. Of course, somebody can pull rank or badge and say that they are acting with authority in imposing their tyranny on another human being - claiming it to be in the best interests of an individual or society - but in fact we can surely see from the available evidence that this is not successful at all.

I've suffered bouts of paradoxical rage. I've become obsessively and disproportionately angry about things, and my anger has been completely misplaced. The crap on the side of my leather shoe - pictured above - was from a walk through a garden in winter time, so far as I could remember, but I suddenly became angry about it the following summer. I apportioned blame, becoming more and more entrenched in my belief that some compensation was owed to me. I got increasingly angry and frustrated about the issue, and I was soon completely consumed by an obsession that the matter had to be settled immediately. It felt at the time as if I'd suffered the most terrible injustice imaginable.

That the matter of the ruined shoe was resolved was somehow the very last thing I wanted. My rage was nonsensical and my demands were unreasonable; my blame was misplaced. I was completely in the wrong and I suppose I knew it all along, but my world had inverted and rational thought eluded me. I suppose I've lived most of my life with the burden of being the rational person who's been forced to suffer other people's illogical bulls**t, so very occasionally I flip out and cross over into the world which most people inhabit, where fuzzy-headed dunces perpetrate unspeakable acts of violence against anybody who doesn't do what they want.

I received a pair of replacement shoes, which immediately caused me to return to my senses. I was flooded with disbelief, shame, embarrassment, guilt and regret. Not only could I not believe that - for once - the world had bent to my nonsensical will, instead of vice-versa, but I was gobsmacked that I'd been so obsessed and insanely angry; my anger was completely ridiculous and misplaced. My logic and reasoning had evaporated and I'd behaved just like an average ordinary person; I perpetrated a terrible tyranny until the result complied with what I stubbornly believed; until I got what I wanted. As soon as I got the result I thought with horror "what have I done?". As soon as my point was seemingly proven, I knew with certainty that the very opposite was true - I had acted abominably and my thinking was plain wrong all along; my behaviour was outrageously unjustified.

If we step back and consider the bigger picture, we might consider that I was involved in an abusive relationship for many years, where rage and violence trumped logic and reason, and I was viciously tyrannised. I had never known known love, as my parents sought to impose their iron will over me and thought of me as an animal to be made obedient, compliant and robotic in its behaviour, through abuse. I spent about 8 years in a relationship with an aggressive psychopath who completely tormented, dominated and subdued me. Considering this, the shoe incident can be understood thusly: the most important relationships in my life had never contained any love or care for me or my feelings. The shoe incident caused me to completely reverse my stance when the reaction to my unreasonable behaviour was clearly an act of love and care; an act of kindness, the likes of which I had always hoped to receive but had never gotten from my parents or ex-wife. I had demanded proof that there are decent people in the world, and I had not been disappointed - at last - despite all the years when I had the very great misfortune of being tortured, trapped and tyrannised by abusive bullies.

My eternally optimistic hope that my strategy of being unguarded, open, trusting and loving, despite the very great risk of getting hurt, has been very successful since I cut my parents and ex-wife out of my life. I suppose I carry more baggage than I'm aware of, and it's certainly alarming that my behaviour has on a couple of occasions, mirrored that of the horrible tyrants who I suffered at the hands of. However, I on the other hand, respond immediately and positively to love and kindness, unlike my parents and ex-wife who's only objective was to subdue, control and abuse me... they never felt guilt or regret for dominating me and crushing me under their heel; they never saw their own behaviour as abhorrent, even though it was undoubtedly so.

My life's had maybe just three incredibly uncharacteristic fits of seemingly inexplicable rage, under the most extreme circumstances imaginable. Logic and reason eluded me and I fleetingly believed crazy things and acted in the most extreme and unreasonable way. My misbehaviour became quickly apparent to me - with sudden realisation - and has left me with nothing but sorrow, regret and guilt. I have no entrenched stubborn belief that my thoughts and actions could be explained or justified, unlike the total assholes who abused, traumatised, tyrannised, bullied and dominated me for far too many years of my life. If it sounds like I'm excusing my behaviour, I'm not. I live with my guilt, unlike those assholes.

I would say that alcohol and benzodiazepines play a very important role in disinhibiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which potentiates paradoxical rage. I don't think I would have meandered so far from the path of logic and reason, and been so stubbon and unreasonable - closed minded - if my brain chemistry hadn't been substantially destabilised by psychoactive substances.

I firmly believe that if you want to defend yourself you should lower your guard. If you want to de-escalate a situation you should be kind, not aggressive. If you want love, love.




1,243 Words Per Day for 37 Days

9 min read

This is a story about life goals...

Dusty keyboard

I seem to have a lot of competing priorities at the moment. The only thing I've got much control over is the day when I reach a million words on this website, which I would like to be on September 6th, precisely 3 years after my very first blog post. In order to achieve that objective I need to write 1,243 words every single day for the next 37 consecutive days. It sounds achievable considering I managed to write an average of 1,667 words per day during the month of November, for 2 years running. My daily average word count over the 1,058 days that I've been writing works out at just over 900 words, so I need to increase my output by 38%.

My other objectives are to pay off all my debts, rebuild my non-existent social life and get healthier.

In theory I can clear my important debts in 3 months, and I can clear some other less important ones in another 3 or 4 months, which frees me from the substantial burden of paying a huge amount of interest every month. Those don't sound like long timescales at all, but 3 months of sanity and stability in my life is a very rare thing, let alone 6 or 7 months.

My sums exclude the lost income from any holidays I take or time off sick. My sums assume that I'm working flat-out as hard as I can every day for months and months on end. It's been over 2 years since I had a proper holiday so it seems reasonable to assume that I'm going to burn out really soon.

A social life and my health don't really figure in the equation. In order to earn money I'm working in a city where I'm only staying temporarily. There doesn't seem to be much point in investing heavily in building a social network near my workplace, because I have no plans to stay here any longer than I have to. I'm just here for the cash. I have no idea how to pay any consideration to my health when my objectives are so diametrically opposed to my wellbeing. If I was able to prioritise my health I'd be working part-time or not working at all. Everything about my life is completely toxic for my mental and physical health.

I have a short-term objective of being sober for a few days. Today is day 4. It's hard but I'm sure my liver will be glad to have a break from the non-stop alcohol abuse. Ideally, I'd substantially reduce my drinking for the rest of my life, but I don't see how I'm going to be able to do that when I've got 6 or 7 months horrible miserable slog stretching out ahead of me, and I can't take a holiday or sort out my social life because of the insanely toxic work and money demands which are placed on me.

I don't know how I got into this situation where the numbers look favourable but the reality of my daily existence is such unbearable misery.

A seemingly small bad thing happened at work today, but it's totally destroyed my hope and optimism. It's shocked me how quickly suicidal thoughts flooded back into my head, having had a period of respite which has lasted quite a while. Every way I look at my life, I can only see stress and intolerable living conditions; unsustainable demands. I can't see any way to fix things.

Somehow, my costs have spiralled and my income has fallen slightly. Somehow, I've ended up in a position where I'm potentially going to be forced back into spending the majority of my time away from home, in a place where I really don't want to be, doing a job which appears to be too boring to distract me from my woes. Somehow, the path to my goal which had appeared easy and well understood, now appears to be impossible; unachievable.

Of course, if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I'm making progress. All progress is good progress. Every little step takes me a little bit closer to my goal, but I'm acutely aware of how long it's going to take me to reach the end.

Perhaps I have summit fever. I can see what I think is the peak of the mountain and I've become obsessed about reaching the summit. Psychologically, it's a terrible idea to fixate on the summit too much. The important thing is to just keep steadily moving up the mountain at a sustainable pace, and try not to think about getting to the top. The psychology of how to suffer and endure the hardships of climbing a difficult mountain are reasonable to apply to my situation, but I'm not fighting a war of attrition... I'm trying to get rich quick.

Frustratingly, I know that I was happier when I dropped out of mainstream society and I was a homeless bum. I know that I'd be much happier if I declare that the demands placed upon me are too excessive and unreasonable, and I only accept my fair share of responsibility. I'm being a bit of a martyr. I'm being stubborn and trying to prove a point.

I presume that suddenly stopping drinking, after spending the best part of a couple of months drinking excessively every single day, is probably going to be a shock to the system. My brain surely doesn't know what's hit it, having been pickled in alcohol and now suddenly left high and dry. My days have been structured around getting drunk. Every evening after work. Every weekend after a certain time of day that seems resonable and respectable to start getting drunk. Getting drunk has been the highlight of my day for far too long. What's the highlight of my day now? Nothing.

I'm sure that given enough time I could re-adjust but the show must go on. I've got to do all the things that I can't stop doing, as well as making the other changes. I still need to get up and go to work every day. I still need to write every day. I still need to commute, pack my bags, wash my clothes, iron my shirts, do my book-keeping and make sure that the cash flows as it's supposed to. I'm spinning lots plates, even though my life is drastically simplified and paired down in an attempt to make it manageable. I don't exactly feel overburdened by competing demands... the problem is more that I'm powerless to influence almost everything in my life, except for the number of words which I can write each day on this website.

The one goal that achieves absolutely nothing - there's no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow - is the only one which I'm able to steadily work at in a sustainable way, and I feel confident that I'll reach the finishing line. All the other goals, even though they have obvious benefits, look to be impossible. How am I ever going to get my health sorted out when I'm so depressed, miserable and anxious? How am I ever going to keep working for as long as I need to, in order to repay my crushing debts, when my working day is so unbearably awful? How am I going to reduce my alcohol intake to a much more sensible and moderate level, when I am in such desperate need of something to ease my daily suffering; something to look forward to at the end of the working day and the end of each working week?

Even my blog, which at times I feel quite proud of, is getting ruined. I know that people don't want to read the same moaning and complaining repetitive rant about how I'm bored at work, my life is unsustainable and all I'm doing is churning out a million miserable words. I can see from my analytics that my readers are disengaging. What the hell am I writing about? What the hell am I doing?

It seemed to make sense to me, that I could live in a hotel next door to a pub, and I could get drunk every evening after work, then I'd get drunk all weekend, and the time would pass... soon the debts would be repaid and I could start to think - for the first time in 3 years - about what I want to do with my life which would be compatible with my mental health; my needs. I've been driven by necessity for so long. I do what I have to in order to survive, but after a long while surviving I'd rather be dead if I'm never going to be thriving.

How long has it been since I felt happiness and contentment? How long has it been since I dared to dream?

I'm not sure if this is coming across, but I'm trying to moan and complain my way to the finish line. Like people who grunt and groan as if vocalising their pain and the strain of their exercions somehow makes the task easier, I'm doing the same thing: I'm trying to make the time pass more quickly by whinging and whining.

Of course, I bore myself almost as much as I bore you. I cringe with embarrassment at what I've become, and the complete crap I'm churning out, but I just need to reach my arbitrary goal so I can at least say that I did one really hard thing, because it was within my power to influence the outcome, unlike the rest of my life which simply has to be endured.

Patience, patience. Perhaps all I need is patience.




Are People Just Humouring Me?

5 min read

This is a story about sanity...

Clinical psychology department

Some days I feel like I have very good "insight" - that is to say I'm able to discern between the thoughts and feelings which are caused by mental illness, and those which would seem sane and rational to a "normal" person. Other days, I'm quite clearly as mad as a box of frogs - some days I make terrible decisions and I'm absolutely convinced of things which later prove to have been quite illogical and irrational, perhaps even psychotic, delusional and even hallucinatory.

In the months where I was living with a doctor - although I was working away for most of that time - the doctor seemed particularly intent on picking me apart psychologically; psychoanalysing me. I should note as a caveat that the doctor was not qualified in psychiatry or psychology, which is probably why their conclusions varied from a firmly held belief that I had no mental illness whatsoever, to some pretty wild and random diagnoses.

When you're living with a doctor and they can't decide whether your 100% sane or 100% insane, it's pretty hard to know yourself where you are on the spectrum. I'm pretty confused.

Certainly, when economic necessity imposes itself upon me, I can work for fairly lengthy periods with my colleagues completely unaware that I've been living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder for the best part of a decade. When the wolf is at the door, I seem to be able to keep a lid on the madness, even though I'm completely unmedicated.

Does this ability to "pick and choose" when I'm "well" and when I'm unwell provide strong evidence that I'm not mentally ill at all? My own father is on record as saying that he doesn't believe I have a mental illness, but instead that I use it as an excuse for my [mis]behaviour... but then he's not a doctor, and neither is he sympathetic towards people who suffer from mental illness either.

I don't know if I do "pick and choose" anyway. I work whenever I can, for as long as I can. Sometimes the timing works out OK, and the very worst of my symptoms can be kept hidden so that my colleagues remain none the wiser to my diagnosed condition. More commonly though, I eventually struggle to keep my mental illness a secret, because it either causes me to be off work sick, or I'm manic in the office, which is never a good situation to be in.

Perhaps the obvious tell-tale signs of something being wrong with me are there all the time, but people are too polite to say anything: they're just humouring me. Sometimes I can't keep my mouth shut and I'm over-enthusiastic. Sometimes I literally cannot drag myself into the office. We all have good days and bad days, but I must be atypical in my working patterns, which would be a giveaway that there's something strange about me.

I was reluctant to use the photo of me not wearing my cunning and infallible disguise, but I decided to use it anyway. A colleague Google'd me and found my blog at the last place I was working. He didn't say anything, but one day he asked if I wear contact lenses. I wonder if there's anything inherently wrong with having a candid, honest blog out on the public internet for all to see. Certainly it was used against me by one or maybe even two unscrupulous bosses, but on the whole I've found that most people read looking for the best rather than digging for the dirt and thinking the worst of me.

I was tempted to do some blog-sanitising, given that I've managed to survive a period when it looked as if all my hard work was going to be destroyed by a period of illness, but I've come out the other side and I'm working again. I really need to have a sustained period of regular income, so that I can sort out my finances and get back on an even keel. It would be quite catastrophic if I was hoisted by my own petard: that my own website was the reason why I lost a lucrative job.

I haven't really proven my worth yet at the latest organisation I'm working for, but I certainly did at all the previous places, which makes me wonder whether I'm just as "normal" as anybody else, or whether I really have a serious mental illness which I'm only just managing to cope with. It certainly feels more like the latter than the former, given the stress, anxiety and struggles I feel I'm going through, even though I'm doing the same kind of work that I've been doing for 20+ years... it should be a walk in the park; easy-peasy, but it's not.

It's hard to put into words the things I struggle with. If you've never experienced anxiety and depression, they're nonsensical to you; irrational. If you have no tendency for your moods to become unregulated and you've never experienced racing thoughts, flight of ideas, pressured speech and becoming completely obsessive about projects, then you'd probably struggle to relate to somebody who has to constantly monitor and alter their natural behaviour.

Sometimes I reflect on my actions and I can see that there are mental illness symptoms which are driving my behaviour, and I try harder to change how I behave in the office. Other times, my moods are just too extreme and I can't self-regulate.

The question always remains in my mind though... how obvious is it that I've "got problems" and how much to people humour me and ignore my weirdness out of politeness?

It's so hard to perceive yourself as others do. It's so hard to be objective about yourself and the thoughts and behaviour you exhibit.




All Work and no Play Makes Nick a Dull Boy

7 min read

This is a story about relentless monotony...

Sleepy Nick

I fell asleep at my desk today. I haven't had any time off since November. I spent November writing a novel, so I guess I haven't had any time off since October. I was in hospital in October and I moved house, so I guess I haven't had any time off since September. I was in hospital in September and I tried to commit suicide and I lost my job and I was evicted, so I guess I haven't had any time off since July. I moved house and started a new job in July, so I guess I haven't had any time off since June. I was selling loads of my stuff, trying not to go bankrupt, while also trying to get a job in June, so I guess I haven't had any time off since May. I was quitting supercrack, having an episode of medication-induced mania from California rocket fuel and breaking up with my girlfriend in May, so I guess I haven't had any time off since April. I was a drug addict in April. This is what I was doing back in April.

Dark Web

Here I am looking at the dark web a little over a year ago. I'm probably not buying anything that would be illegal because I already had enough supercrack to last me 2 years. The fact I'm wearing clothes and sitting in my lounge, taking recognisably normal-ish photographs suggests that a little over a year ago, things were going OK.

Night vision

Oh no I spoke to soon. This night-vision photograph indicates that I was going bat-shit insane while high on supercrack. I took this photograph only a couple of days after the one before, where I was sat in the lounge browsing the dark web. This photograph was taken about a year ago.

Barricaded door

What the hell is THAT? Well, it's pretty obvious that I've barricaded myself in my bedroom. This photograph was taken one year and one day ago. This photograph perfectly illustrates my subconscious fears of privacy invasion - that people are going to burst in on me, shame me and violently attack me. I don't come across as very paranoid in day-to-day life, but I'm very traumatised, and this is my reaction that that trauma: I barricade myself in to protect myself from my parents and ex-wife. It's bat-shit insane, of course, but this is my underlying psychology.

Tray of food

Looks like I was eating some food. I'd probably barricaded myself in my bedroom for days. I'd probably not slept for days. My life was a horrific mess a year ago. I had a virtually unlimited supply of supercrack and my addiction was raging out of control. Clearly I was paranoid because of drugs and sleep deprivation, but what was the seed of that paranoia? I wonder if it could have anything to do with having the rug pulled out from under my feet - being muscled out of my own home; being horrifically injured in my own home; being punched in the face or suffering a horrific injury to my leg, at the hands of my ex-wife and parents. I wonder if it could have anything to do with them. I was trapped in a corner for so very long, with no means of escaping my tormentors, who were demonstrably vile, violent and abusive. Fuck them. That kind of trauma has a lasting effect.

Bathroom barricade

My paranoia reached such ridiculous levels that I barricaded the door to my ensuite bathroom using my laundry bins and some clothes storage boxes. Clearly I just wanted to be left alone. Clearly I didn't feel safe. Yes, it's paranoia that's come about because of drug abuse and sleep deprivation, but there's got to be a seed too. Nobody gets this paranoid unless they have their ex-wife kicking doors in and screaming abuse at the top of her lungs. Nobody gets this paranoid unless they have their parents humiliating them and bursting in on them, and dragging them out of their own home. There's a seed for paranoia. There's always a seed.

Uppers and downers

Something to help me sleep (zopiclone) and something to help me cope and function (dexamfetamine). You can't end a horrific addiction instantly. There's no cold turkey when you're in as deep as I was. I was too dependent. To attempt to suddenly quit overnight would have caused me unbearable withdrawal symptoms and would have required me to be hospitalised. This is what I prescribed myself - two medications for harm reduction. Two medications that I used to wean myself off the dangerous and highly addictive supercrack.

I flushed that big bag of supercrack a year ago. There was enough to last me a couple of years, easily. I can't remember when exactly I flushed it, because my life was chaotic, but the evidence suggests that it was at this point I decided to get clean, using substitute prescribing.

Things didn't go smoothly, but it's very difficult to deal with a major addiction as well as mental health problems and all the practical problems that came about because my life had disintegrated. I needed to get money, get a job, get an apartment I could afford. I needed to move house, move city. I needed to get a new girlfriend and a new group of friends. I had a false start in Manchester, but I tried again in Wales... I'm trying again in Wales.

Maybe you think my life is easy and everything is sorted out, because I earned bit of money, which I spent renting an apartment and buying a car so that I can get to my new job. Maybe you think my life is easy because I get up and go to work every day, and I'm doing a good job and my bosses are impressed with me. Maybe you think my life is easy because I've 'bounced back' from losing two apartments, running out of money three times and being hospitalised twice. Maybe you think my life is easy, because I've made it look so easy, quitting supercrack, Valium, Xanax, tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodiene, pregabalin, zopiclone and zolpidem, which are all highly addictive. Maybe you think my life is easy, because I've gone 7 months unmedicated and I haven't had a single mental health episode that's caused me to commit suicide or do something else drastic to fuck up my life. Maybe you think my life is easy because my finances are improving and I've got a girlfriend. Maybe you think none of what I went through in the last year was very hard. Maybe you think none of what I've been through in the last year has caused any lasting damage.

I'm in my 5th consecutive month of full-time work without a holiday. I'm working my bollocks off. All I do is work work work, because I'm running as fast as I can to get myself into a position where my housing is secure - nobody can evict me - and I'm financially secure. I constantly have to ignore my physical and mental health, because I so desperately need to get myself into a position where I can collapse in a heap and have a minor nervous breakdown.

Yes, I can do stuff like this - I can save myself; I can come back to life; I can return from the brink of destitution and make it look very easy.

It's not easy.




Dick Pics

1 min read

This is a story about unsolicited photos...

Pill and injection

As I browsed through my photo library looking for a suitable image to accompany a boring blog post about economics, instead I noticed that I had a lot of photos that girls had sent me showing me what their preferred method of contraception was. I'm not a psychologist, so I don't really know the significance of them sending me pictures of their contraceptive method.

I really must re-iterate that these pics were sent to me without solicitation. I may have to create a folder to keep all the pictures in, in case I'm browsing through my photos and somebody was to see them.

If anybody's an expert on female psychology, they might want to drop me a line and tell me what it means when a girl sends a guy a picture of her contraceptive pill and/or the plaster when she's had a contraceptive injection/implant.

It's all rather mystifying.




Rigged Game

10 min read

This is a story about value...


You think this is money, don't you? You think this paper with numbers written on it has some value, don't you? You want more of it. You think that you can earn it by working, don't you? You hoard it. You protect it. You think it's money.

This is not money.

It's a rounding error.

Did you hear about that programmer who worked for a bank, who took all the little bits of money that just disappeared and collected them all? When a bank pays 1% interest on your savings and you've got £1.50 in your account, what happens to the half a penny that you're owed? It just disappears, of course. It's a rounding error.

Banks deal with quadrillions of dollars every year. A quadrillion is a thousand trillion, which is a million billion, or a thousand million million. You can write a quadrillion like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000. It doesn't mean very much, but put it this way... a quadrillion dollars divided up between every man, woman and child on the planet, works out to be about $143,000. Do you have $143,000?

All of the cash in existence - the banknotes and coins - adds up to about $7 trillion. $7 trillion is 0.7% of a quadrillion dollars. Imagine that. While banks are dealing with quadrillions, all of the banknotes and coins in circulation in the whole world add up to less than 1% of all the 'money'. Can you see now how worthless and ridiculous those banknotes in your purse or wallet are?

I imagine you played some board games when you were a kid, and one of the ways that you could see who was 'winning' was to see who had the most fake banknotes. The board game Monopoly famously has brightly coloured banknotes of different denominations. Perhaps you played Monopoly as a child, and this introduced you to the idea that the better players of a game would accrue more banknotes, and therefore win the game. Life's a bit different.

Unlike Monopoly, when we start life, we all start with different amounts of money. Whether you start life in a desperately poor family, in a desperately poor part of the world, or whether you're born into a fabulously wealthy family in a super rich country, is not something which we can influence ourselves. However, we have a reasonable idea what kind of life any prospective offspring might be born into, before we choose to get pregnant and deliver any babies into the world.

"I haven't got any money but I really want to inflict misery on unborn infants" I hear you cry. Have you thought about just saying "fuck it" and having children anyway? Have you thought about pursuing your own selfish wants in the face of overwhelming evidence that you're a fucking idiot?

"But I want children because it'll make me feel good. It's mainly about me, you see. Fuck the fact the child's going to be miserable"

Yes, yes. You and slime mold both want to reproduce. Very good. Anyway, moving swiftly onwards.

"No. Wait. What about the fact that I could give birth to the next Einstein or Mozart?"

You really are a prize idiot, aren't you? Let's examine the Monopoly game again.

In Monopoly, all the players are given the same amount of money at the start of the game, and all the players are subject to the same rules throughout the game.

"Yes, so a player with more skill will beat a less skilful player. I'm going to give birth to a genius whose brilliance will conquer the day and they'll be elevated from poverty because they're so amazing"

Oh dear.

See what you've failed to understand is that life is not like Monopoly. The players in life sit down with different amounts of money, and those who have vast amounts of money use it to bribe and bully their way through the game. Speeding fine? No worries, just bribe somebody off. Sent to jail? No worries, just bribe your way out. Run out of money and can't afford to buy that property you just landed on? Never going to happen. In fact, some people have so much money that they can sit down at the playing table with weighted dice that roll sixes every time, and exemption from any rule that's not in their favour. Are the rich really playing the same game at all? Let's look at education, as an example.

We might imagine that with standardised testing, the rich and the poor are playing the same game, and the 'brightest' children are achieving their grades on merit. You'd be wrong.

If you think that preparatory schools, private tutoring and private schools are merely unlocking the hidden talent of a child, you're delusional. If exam grades are an intelligence quotient to measure the intellectual ability of a person, then why would vast sums of money be spent on education by the wealthy? Why is there a perfect correlation between the amount of money poured into a child's education, and their highest academic achievement? If you really believed you were having your kid because you thought they could be the next Einstein, you wouldn't have tried to queer the pitch, would you? You wouldn't have tried to rig the game.

The cash in your pocket bears as much relation to the hard work you've done, as your exam grades relate to your intellect. Those who are richer and have superior qualifications are simply better at cheating.

They tell us: don't have a childhood, because it's important to get good grades and don't have an adulthood, because it's important to work hard and save money. These are two of the most ridiculous follies of our modern times. The problem started when your parents selfishly decided to launch you into a life with no prospects.

"But my little darlings can be anything they want to be. They can follow their dreams"

No they fucking can't. Unless, of course, their dream is to work in a shitty office punching made-up numbers into a spreadsheet, in order to give all their wages to an unscrupulous landlord and sink deeper into debt, having already stressed themselves out to the point of nervous breakdown and run up huge amounts of debt just to obtain the worthless diploma that allowed your little darling to get their bullshit job in the first place. Unless your little darlings dream of having no financial or housing security, living on a polluted dying planet, contemplating their own mortality, the absurdity of existence and the immorality of perpetuating the cycle of misery, then no... no they can't follow their fucking dreams.

We might say that we could re-adjust our values so that money isn't important, but I'm pretty sure that most of us still want a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. You have to pay to play, and I'm afraid that art, poetry, music, acting and suchlike just won't allow for any following of dreams, while being able to pay rent and buy food.

The only ones amongst us who stand a chance of winning the game, are those who start with an unfair advantage. For anybody who cares to examine the mythology of the "man who started with nothing" and built themselves a business empire, or whatever trite bullshit you care to trot out as some kind of response to the bleak prospects, you'll find that those stories are utter horse-shit. Nobody gets anywhere without somebody underwriting their risk. Nobody gets anywhere without investment.

We only need to look at the lottery to understand that people's psychology is flawed. It might be you. It could be you. But, in all probability it's not going to be. Yes, people have won the lottery. What the fuck does that prove? Yes, somebody, somewhere at some time or other won the lottery. SO FUCKING WHAT? THAT'S NO FUCKING REASON TO HAVE KIDS. Just because a handful of people win the lottery every year, that doesn't mean that the system of wealth distribution isn't broken.

So, what about all this wealth distribution malarkey then?

Well, I imagine you think that hard work pays off, don't you? If you work hard, then you'll get money. No. No not at all.

If ever there was a case of inverse correlation, then it would be with wealth distribution versus hard work in a capitalist society. Those who already have wealth will accrue more, without a single day's work. Vastly more. Think about all the ways to earn money without labour: money lending, loan sharking, gambling, investment, interest, capital gain, rent, extortion, receipt of bribes, pimping, human trafficking, war, robbery, fraud and slavery. If you think you don't profit from those things, ask yourself what part you played in the building of your house and the growing of your food. Even if you built your house, the chances are that the slates on your roof were quarried in China. Where did the bricks come from? The cement? The plasterboard?

As you sit at home counting your money and thinking of yourself as virtuous for saving a few pennies here and there, one should be mindful that this is insanity. The money bears no relation to any supposed talent, intellect or hard work that you've put into life. Those banknotes are not a useful way of keeping 'score' to see if you're 'winning' because the game is rigged. How can you usefully use your pocket change as any kind of measure of wealth that's stored away, when it's quite meaningless. Is there any scarcity? No. The mint can simply print more money, and they do.

It might be easy to scoff at this essay, given your irrational attachment to received wisdom. There's also a certain smugness when you feel like you're winning the game, but you're not - get things in perspective. It might seem like I have little respect for money, and the difficulty with which people obtain and keep it, but in fact the opposite is true. I feel very sorry for those who toil and stress over money, when the very largest sums are obtained without effort for a tranche of society who have never known poverty. To criticise me for being disrespectful towards money is ridiculous, when wealth bears so little relation to anybody's efforts or the wisdom of their choices.

This is, perhaps, one of the most provocative topics that I could write upon, dealing both with the sad truth that wealth does not flow to those who deserve it, and the unpleasant but patently obvious fact that it's immoral to have children when unable to provide a good future for them; prospects. It's immoral to have children when we live on an overcrowded planet; it's immoral to have children when we can't look after the ones we've got. Are you no different from slime mold?

For the avoidance of any doubt, my tirade is directed at no one in particular. My attack is on existence and its absurdity, capitalism, banking and the unfairness of life. If you've felt something, then that might be your conscience, not a personal attack, I promise.




Happy Mondays

9 min read

This is a story about twisting my mellow...

Convict pyjamas

Here I am, in bed, wearing my convict pyjamas. I just woke up. Not looking too bad for 127 year old man. Mad for it.

Actually, I was woken up before 8am by the kerfuffle outside my bedroom door. On the opposite side of the corridor is the dispensary hatch, where the medications are dished out to everybody. It's quite lively at certain times of the day on this psych ward, which has some of the very sickest people in the North of England, receiving treatment for their mental health problems.

Have you ever thought to yourself "I can't go on" or maybe even "I wish I was dead"? Have you ever thought that you're going to have a breakdown and you need to be in hospital? In actual fact, you're tougher than you think. Very few of us will have an acute mental health crisis that is severe enough to require inpatient hospital treatment.

Am I admitting that I had a "nervous breakdown"? Don't be so ridiculous. I left the city where I have spent most of my working life and relocated to this Northern city, where I have no friends or family; I took on a very stressful new job; I tried to build a new group of friends and get a girlfriend... when that all came crashing down around my ears, doesn't it seem understandable that it would have destabilised my already fragile little life? I'm just an animal - like you - and I respond to the stimuli of my environment: if I'm being stressed by external things, then of course I'm going to have a reaction. Action -> reaction. Is that so hard to understand?

Of course, it might look like madness to have taken on so much stress all at once, but I did need to shake things up. I never quite reached the point where I was safe and stable, so it was sadly necessary to do something drastic. You might liken what I did to Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) which is also known as "shock treatment". In fact, I had multiple seizures on Saturday and Sunday, and maybe even Monday. To be honest, I'm struggling to remember much about the time that I was unconscious for some reason.

It's pretty terrifying that there's this big hole in my life, where I was having fits and was in a medically induced coma. The memories around those 12+ hours that I was under a general anaesthetic and having a machine breathe for me, are pretty hazy. When I came out of the coma, there was an intensive care team there to greet me, who explained what was going on and knew all the right things to say to put my mind at rest. The team - every member of the huge NHS organisation - at the hospital was amazing. From arriving in A&E resus, starting to have seizures and being taken to intensive care, being moved to a high dependency ward to look after my struggling organs - which were being destroyed by the massive overdose of tramadol I had ingested - to finally being moved to a general ward... the whole journey through a National Health Service hospital is incredible and I'm crying as I write this, because it's the most amazing example of the advancement of our civilisation, that I can possibly think of.

Of course, I feel a great deal of guilt for the huge burden that I have placed on the NHS, which is UK taxpayer funded. I wonder to myself how much I must have cost, versus how much I have paid in. We can't all take out as much as we pay in. Obviously, we can't all take out more than we pay in either, but to spell that out is a bit patronising, no? Those who work in the NHS certainly wouldn't want me to feel guilty, but I do. I also feel grateful. Grateful to be a British citizen and resident of the United Kingdom, where world-class medical care is free at the point of use. Grateful, but indebted... guilty.

Another analysis might reveal that perhaps a stitch in time might have saved nine. I first approached a doctor about my mental health in 2008, and I was fobbed off within seconds of opening my mouth. Our general practitioners have very little time to understand their patients' problems and offer a diagnosis and treatment. Most of us would be unhappy to walk away from the doctor without a prescription for some pills. It has always been my stance, that I would decline any treatment that I didn't understand; couldn't see good evidence for the efficacy of;  I needed to see proof that the long-term outcomes were positive.

I remember writing passionately online, as early as 1998, about the analogy of putting a sticking plaster over a gaping wound. I wondered aloud, whether the psychiatric medications that are dispensed for mental health problems, are merely masking the symptoms and not treating any underlying problem. To this end, I applied to university to study psychology, and was granted unconditional offers for some of the best degree courses available in the United Kingdom. I decided not to go to university. I could see that clinical psychology was desperately underfunded. It's a helluva lot cheaper to give somebody some patent-expired pills, than it is to let somebody talk to a therapist.

Now, nearly 20 years later, I've seen enough evidence; I've done a meta-study of the literature. It's quite clear that long-term outcomes for the mentally ill are not at all improved by the medications that are commonly prescribed. It's also quite clear that we are in the midst of an epidemic of mental health issues. I use that word epidemic in its most precise sense - we are literally seeing explosive growth in the number of people suffering from mental health issues, and a dreadful decline in the prognosis for those unfortunate enough to be affected.

It's my firmly held belief that mental wellbeing is a function of our environment. In a world of Donald Trump, global warming, the threat of nuclear armageddon and a Conservative government who are determined to pass legislation that will allow them to hunt poor people, on horseback, doesn't it seem quite natural that we should all feel rather threatened and afraid?

One of my early childhood memories is of chatting to a U.S. Air Force base worker called Wayne, who drunkenly boasted that America could destroy all life on Earth with bombs that exploded with enough heat to vaporise a human being. Please, when you tuck your children into bed tonight, don't share this charming tale with them. I can almost remember the very moment that an 'irrational' fear of death sprang into existence in my head. If I had been born 30 years later, I might have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder - I became afraid of everything, from horses to fairground rides, to electric sockets. I don't really agree with the 'irrational' part of the fear though - it does seem rather rational to fear things that can kill you.

Doing extreme 'adrenalin' sports and training to be an electrician is actually very logical - one needs to face one's fears, if we are ever going to conquer our anxieties. Children who have allergies so bad that they face deadly anaphylactic shock if they come into contact with things like peanuts or dogs, have had their allergies cured by simply introducing their body to tiny trace amounts of the allergens that could kill them. If there's one amazing thing about the human body, it's the ability to adapt itself - the plasticity, if you like.

Now, I've taken the 'trick' of putting myself in hostile and extreme environments, to a ridiculous level. Most people would be psychologically disturbed by having their liberty removed and being detained on a psychiatric ward with some very unwell people. Most people would crumble to dust under the kind of pressure that I've been under. This sounds very boastful and big-headed, perhaps even grandiose and delusional. Well, yes, if the facts were not in my favour then I would agree with you.

Here I am, writing to you quite calmly and happily from a psych ward. Do you think you would be doing the same, trapped inside an insane asylum with people who are too dangerous to be allowed out into the community? There's the constant sound of shouting, screaming, slamming doors and alarms going off. Staff members - perhaps as many as two or three per patient at a minimum - run from crisis to crisis. One itinerant patient can have their entourage of mental health professionals, trailing in their wake all day and all night long, as they make their "obvs" (observations). Sometimes a patient must be cornered, captured, and dragged off to solitary confinement, where they are thrown into a soundproof padded booth. "STRAP ME DOWN LIKE THEY DO IN PRISON" screams one particularly unwell patient. Is this treatment or is this punishment?

My working hypothesis is that we used to be able to remove the 'bad apples' in order to have a functioning society for the rest of us, but that was never the truth - basically, we've been leading up to the mother of all crises, because the vast majority of people are stressed as fuck and eventually the masses were always going to stumble to their knees, under such immense pressures. Society is very sick, but it's only just coming to light, now that we can no longer sweep the most conspicuous problems under the carpet.

I'm the eccentric mad uncle, carted off to the insane asylum to keep me out of sight and out of mind. However, it doesn't work so well when I'm able to continue to be connected to the world, through the internet and social media. Perhaps one might argue that mental health problems are contagious, and are spread through words - written or spoken. There's certainly good evidence that a suicide will spark a whole bunch of copycats.

So, I'm struggling to wrap my head around the fact that I nearly died, but I'm finally in a safe place in which to recover, where I don't need to worry about paying rent, buying food or even cooking and cleaning. All of the chores of daily existence have been removed from my long list of responsibilities. I pretty much just need to make sure I remember to take my next breath, while I'm in hospital.

Jeepers creepers, it's been a long hard road to get "sectioned". What a relief!





25 min read

This is a story about treating every day like it's your last...

Climbing dolomites

My life plan was a fairly simple one: earn loads of money working in IT, marry an attractive & intelligent girl who was into outdoorsy stuff and live happily ever after. I lived by the seaside. I owned my own home. I had masses of savings. I owned everything outright: my car, my boat, the furniture... I paid cash for everything.

When it turned out that the girl I picked was, errr, 'incompatible' with living happily ever after - to phrase it delicately - I didn't really have a plan B.

To be honest, after my marriage went to shit, I hadn't really planned on living very long. I'm really rather surprised to find myself alive and in reasonable health today. I was warned that my new plan - to take copious amounts of drugs and die in a hedonistic blaze of glory - would drive me insane and I'd find myself permanently brain damaged and dying slowly and painfully as my organs shut down one by one, or perhaps I would just suddenly and unexpectedly drop dead.

"Suddenly and unexpectedly drop dead."

Isn't that a risk that we face every single day anyway? There's a certain chance that your heart is just going to stop pumping and go into cardiac arrest at any moment. If you have a cardiac arrest outside a hospital, you're 80% likely to die.

The biggest threat to my life at the moment, statistically - and this goes for any 37 year old man, not just the ones with bipolar disorder and substance abuse issues - is suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50.

If I made smart lifestyle choices like not taking copious amounts of dangerous drugs, riding my bike through central London in rush hour traffic with no helmet on, stopping eating and drinking to the point where my organs fail and I piss blood, you'd have thought that I'd be doing a pretty good job of minimising my risk of premature death. NOPE!

What about all those extreme hobbies of mine? Off-piste snowboarding, skydiving, mountain biking, kitesurfing, rock climbing and mountaineering. You'd have thought that it'd be a good idea to give up those dangerous sports, if I wanted to minimise my risk of premature death. NOPE!

I was trying to have this argument with the Royal London Hospital consultant in the Renal High-Dependency Unit, where I was being kept alive by dialysis. I basically said, look, you're going to have to discharge me and let me go and start my new job and I'll just have to take the risk that my kidneys get worse and I drop dead. "You're playing Russian Roulette with your life" she said. Not really. The biggest threat to my life is suicide, and it was inevitable that losing my job would leave me in a psychologically critical condition.

One thing I quite often hear is criticism of risk takers. "How can you climb that mountain and risk your life, when there are people who are terminally ill, who would give anything for just one more day alive?"

"Treat every day as if it's your last."

That fairly innocent sounding platitude actually backfires, when you realise that it's an incitement to maximise your risk in pursuit of hedonistic pleasures and thrillseeking.

Knowing that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 is just a meaningless statistic, until you lose a friend or a relative to suicide, or you become suicidal yourself.

That's me in the picture above. I'm stood on a pinnacle of rock that's nearly 3,000 metres above sea level. If I fell - and I'm not tied onto anything - then it would a very long freefall before I went splat into the ground. Why am I not tied on? Why haven't I taken the precaution of attaching myself to a rope? Is it because I was suicidal?

The more you climb; the higher you climb; the more steep and perilous things that you climb, you start to become used to the exposure. The constant threat of falling to your death is something that you just get used to. One slip and it's curtains... but you're not afraid anymore.

I've got rather a toxic mix of psychology. I've got the ability to manage my own fear, stress and adrenalin, so that I can throw myself out of planes or climb frozen waterfalls, but when I become suicidal, I'm acutely aware that I could act on a suicidal impulse very calmly and methodically.

What is this silly little dance we call life anyway? Is it about procreation? Is it about making money? Is it about looking after your grandparents and parents as they get old and die?

Do I 'owe' anybody anything? Do I 'owe' it to my parents to treat the fact I'm alive with respect because they 'gifted' me a life that I didn't ask for? Do I 'owe' it to terminally ill people, to treat my life with respect, because I'm lucky and they're not? Do I 'owe' it to my friends to struggle on through the misery, because they'd be a bit sad if I committed suicide?

There are a couple of families - one in Ireland and one in Bletchley/Suffolk - who have been there for me during my darkest moments. There's a friend who I would've seen over the Christmas break, except for an unfortunate bout of illness laying him low. There are a handful of people in the world who've seen what my friend Laurence calls 'The Horrors' and they've protected me; stuck by me; defended me and been loyal friends. There have been people who've appeared unexpectedly - most welcome - back in my life. I'm not the most predictable of people, having decided to visit an old school friend in San Francisco, booked a flight and boarded it, within the space of just a few hours.

That's how it goes. Here today; gone tomorrow.

The speed with which my kidneys failed was shocking, even for me. The fact I needed dialysis was shocking, even for me. The length of time it took my kidneys to start working efficiently again was shocking, even for me.

Does that sort of stuff make me think "oh wow! that was close!" and "I better be careful and treat my life with respect"? You're asking the wrong question. My suicidal thoughts drive my reckless risk taking behaviour. Suicide was, and still remains, the biggest threat to my life. The shitty stuff that happened was all a consequence of my flirtation with death. I don't quite have the nerve to take the active steps to 'pull the trigger' as it were, because I know that I'm psychologically strong enough to just do it, without hesitation.

My trip to the Golden Gate Bridge was a metaphor for just how quickly, impulsively and with single-minded determination I can reach the point of no return.

My friends who hosted me in San Francisco read some of my recent blogs and asked if there was anything they could do to help. These are some of the people I admire and respect most in the world. They have super busy stressful lives raising little kids on the other side of the Atlantic, on the West coast of America.

What can anybody do? Everybody's got their own problems. Everybody's got their own money worries. Everybody's got a lot of shit on their plate. We've built a society where we are isolated, alone, overstretched by ordinary life to the point where we're just about managing. Who can afford to shoulder part of the burden for somebody who's struggling? Who can afford the time? Where are you going to find the energy when life is already so exhausting? Who has the financial means to help every fuckup with their begging bowl held out?

More fundamentally, under what kind of terms am I prepared to help myself? Arguably, I've thrown away 3 very well paid IT contracts for 3 massive banks, doing work that I can do with my eyes closed. Why the fuck would I do that?

I'm a complex beast. I feel guilty about my role in building systems that were pivotal in the financial crisis of 2007/8. I hired a development team in Mumbai, India, and I led that team to create a trade confirmation system for derivatives that handled over a quadrillion dollars in volume, in its first year. That's immoral. I knew what I was doing. I was busily fixing my own mortgage rate, knowing that there was a credit crunch coming. I invested my money in physical gold, because I had so little faith in the banking systems that I helped build.

I also had a taste of what it's like to own and run my own company. I outsourced. I ran software projects. The only difference was that it was my money and nobody could tell me "no". I could do whatever I wanted, and the ego rub from holding the job title "CEO" is a hard place to come back from. I now wander from company to company, pointing out the things that are on fire, fixing them if they let me or otherwise getting into conflict or suffering incredible boredom and frustration as I try to keep my mouth shut about the impending disasters I can see unfolding. Sure, I get paid a buttload, but it upsets me. I still spend money like it's my own.

That last project I was working on had an annual budget of about £25 million and was handling 30 customers a day. Basically, the cost of customer acquisition was over £2,000. These were not high-net worth individuals. They were simply ordinary banking customers. The project was not very complicated, but the waste was incredible.

What the hell is wrong with me? Am I a prima donna? Am I Goldilocks? Everything's got to be 'just right' for me? Do I consider the kind of work that's available to me to be 'beneath' me?

Certainly, I struggle with the prospect of having to do the kind of job that I mastered 10 or 15 years ago. I sometimes laugh out loud in interviews when somebody asks a question that's the equivalent of asking a master builder if they know what a brick is. Is it arrogant? I don't give a fuck... it psychologically destroys me, running projects for dinosaurs who pay top dollar for the best consultants and then don't listen to them.

I remember quite distinctly in 2001, I was deciding whether to learn a new(ish) computer programming language. I read a book about it. I was already learning another programming language at the time. Then it hit me: I had become a polyglot, somewhat by accident. I was able to read any code and understand its function - its intent - no matter what the actual specific implementation technology was. I knew that me and software had reached the end of the road. I asked my boss for a sabbatical while I considered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

It's kinda hard to change career direction and it gets harder with age. You not only have to bankroll yourself through training and getting started in whatever new thing it is that you're doing, but if you're turning your back on one of the most lucrative careers there is, you'd better be pretty damn certain that you picked the right alternative.

I bump along the bottom, being dragged back into god-awful, boring, unambitious, ill-fated and badly run IT projects, whenever my bank balance reaches danger point. But the hardest thing is the dread: the dread about selling my soul; the dread about having to keep a straight face when people are panicking and running around like they've never seen some mundane issue before.

I can't escape. I'm in a deep hole. The hole isn't deep at all for an IT consultant, but for almost any other job, it's an inescapable pit of doom. The reason why I got in such deep shit is divorce, mental illness, and being smeared all over the streets of London, in and out of hospital. Like I said earlier, it's a miracle that I'm still alive.

I hadn't really planned on living this long and that's a bit of a problem. Because I'm so suicidal and trapped, I guess there's an easy decision to be made. I know that I have absolutely no problem following through and overcoming any psychological hurdle that might stop most ordinary people from killing themselves.

I wrote this, while I was working my last IT contract:

Once he had started, he knew there would be no stopping until it was done.

That's why it had taken him so long before he started his final journey; because he could picture every single step of it. He knew that he would just methodically follow the steps, and then it would be over. He could be cold and clinical when required; rational and calculated; measured in his approach. There would be no panic, no rise in pulse, no hyperventilation. To all outward appearances, there would be nothing that would cause alarm or alert suspicions in anybody, until he was at the very brink; in the final moments.

The imagery of the bridge was so ingrained in everybody's mind, because it was such a major landmark. The bridge had featured in so many films. The bridge had been photographed so many times. The bridge was a prominent part of company logos and corporate branding. The bridge was something you could close your eyes, and picture it in exquisite detail. If you were asked to draw the bridge from memory, you'd be able to make a passable sketch of it. Even if you'd never been to the bridge before, it felt like you had been there.

That's why he had never been to the bridge. He could never be sure if he was there just in his imagination - where there were no irreversible consequences - or if he was there in real life. It would be so easy to follow through with his day dream - his fantasy - in real life. He'd played it all through in his head so many times.

Staring up at the spot on the centre of the bridge, where it was highest above the river below, he could imagine himself walking up to that spot, knowing that when he reached that point, only the chest-high barrier would separate him from the edge. He knew that the hardest part would be the bold step of climbing over the barrier. It would be so easy to peer over the edge, while safely protected by the barrier, and then chicken out. That's why mental preparation was important. That's why visualising the whole thing in advance was important.

He wasn't unfamiliar with the psychological battle of overcoming your fears and hurling yourself over a mental obstacle. Stepping off an edge was something you did every time you stepped off the kerb and into traffic. Vaulting a barrier was something you did when you climbed over fences as a kid, playing with your friends. He had done bungee jumps, where it was up to you - free will - to actually jump. He had done skydives and parachute jumps, where it was up to you, whether or not you hurled yourself out of a perfectly good aircraft. He knew he could overcome the psychological challenge of cutting loose and falling. Falling, not attached to anything, tumbling free in space. Nothing to grab onto. No second chances. No way to change your mind once you throw yourself out into empty space.

People talked about cowardice, selfishness, but they missed the point. People didn't understand that have to be brave to choose to put your life in danger, especially when falling to your death is one of the obvious risks. You also have to be brave to choose death. Who knows what happens when you die? Fear of the unknown is why people cling to life: self-preservation instincts.

He'd been a leader in the mountains and on rock faces. The leader always took the biggest risk of falling. At some point, falling became inevitable. If you roll the dice enough times, your number is going to come up eventually. If you take risks, you have to accept the increased chance of injury and even death. He'd had friends who had been killed or permanently disabled. A certain amount of "it could never happen to me" bravado and gallows humour stopped people from losing their nerve. At funerals, people would say that "he/she died doing what they loved" which was true, but this was mainly to distract from the reminder of our mortality, while doing the things that we - the living - love.

Those psychological skills, as a rock climber, mountaineer, bungee jumper, skydiver... they all now worked against him. He knew what it felt like, to be on the edge of a perilous drop, with nothing holding him safe except his own grip, and his own sanity: to not hurl himself over the edge.
At the top of tall buildings, on a mountain, or at a cliff-top, it troubled him how easily he could just jump off. He had to stay away from the edge; not because he wanted to keep himself safe, but because he didn't know if he could trust himself to not just jump. It would be so easy. It was the ease of it that troubled him. The proximity to a fall that would deliver a swift death called to him like a siren. Instead of being appalled by the fear of death, there was an allure.

When learning to climb, people clung to the rocks with white knuckles. They kept their bodies pressed as close to the cliff face as they could, as if being flat against the surface would mean that they were somehow safer from the pull of gravity. Most people were not psychologically prepared to be climbers or mountaineers. People on mountains collapsed on the flat ground, when sheer drops to either side of them overwhelmed them. Our instincts tell us to lower our centre of gravity, but when you are up high, gravity can only pull you down. It doesn't work, putting yourself closer to the cliff or the ground. You will still fall to your death.

There was something different about him. Sure, he wasn't the only one with the strange mutation of the mind, that allowed him to overcome the self-preservation instincts, but it was rare. Most people dislike heights. Most people are scared of falling. Had he always had this ability to put himself in a position of peril, and to overcome the instinct to simply freeze, to overcome the instinct to not jump out of the aeroplane, or climb up high where you could fall.

Possibly through repeated exposure to perilous situations, he had become immune to the threat of death. He had become comfortable, being in situations that put your own mortality as the immediate and most pressing concern. Sure, you could die crossing the road, but most people aren't thinking about that. Those first few times that you jump out of a plane, you most certainly are thinking "what if my parachute doesn't open?".

But the what ifs can be set to one side. What if I end up in Hell? What if I change my mind, in the split second before I die, when I'm past the point of no return?

Death is the great unknown, and we intrinsically fear the unknown. He had become well practiced at entering the unknown, in mortal peril. Who knows how you're going to feel, plummeting towards the ground at terminal velocity? He knew.

In a way, he had answered too many questions that previously had comforting answers dreamt up by priests, shamen and witchdoctors. The answers of the unknown, and of the intrinsic fear of death that dwells within all mortal creatures, for the purpose of self preservation instinct, had been given by those who sought to profit from believable fairy-tales for simple minded idiots. His rejection of organised religion gave him little comfort, in an uncaring universe.

Science tried to give answers, but it could offer no meaning. Why was anything the way it was? It just was. Even science broke down at some point, demanding that those who studied it just accepted the cold hard equations that revealed themselves in the mathematical patterns that were observed in reality. However, science had nothing to say about how to adjust to the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, the insignificance of existence and the seeming finality of death.

Science demonstrably showed that there was nothing after death. After the neurons of your brain ceased in their electrical dance, you were gone. There is no soul. A person is nothing more than the quantum potential, held in a brain. Consciousness is nothing more than an illusion, an unintended consequence of the vast complexity of an organ belonging to an organism that was only intended to allow genes to replicate.

What had he done, opening Pandora's Box by studying theoretical physics, and all the applied sciences that were derived from the fundamental rules that governed the universe? It was if by pulling back the curtain, and shattering the illusion of the theatre that played out in front of his eyes, he had of course ruined the enjoyment of life.

The willing suspension of disbelief was necessary to get any enjoyment out of any theatrical presentation. For sure, the sets were made of wood, and the birds were painted onto the background and never flapped their wings. For sure, it wasn't really snowing when a stage-hand in the rafters tipped a bucket of white polystyrene balls from above, but the illusion was passable if you didn't pick it to pieces.

He had picked everything to pieces. By relentlessly asking "but why" until the question made no sense anymore, nothing made any sense anymore. When he had reached the realisation that he was nothing more than an insignificant speck in a universe that was as good as infinitely huge, and incalculably complex, it was hard to return to a simpler, happier time, when there was some mystery and joy in things. When you can reason everything from basic principles, there is no more magic in the world. When the magician's trick can be picked apart by logic and reason, he turns from an entertainer bringing joy and delight to his audience, to a con-man.

Everything had turned to shit for him. With a Midas touch, he now applied sharp reason and logic to everything he saw, and the curtain was permanently pulled back. He saw humanity's ugliness. He saw people fighting and fucking each other over, and just vast numbers of total idiots, everywhere he turned. His heart was broken. Where had the beauty and mystery all gone? What questions were there really left to ask, when it seemed like all could be answered on his own, using base principles.
Through extrapolation, he saw no more point in continuing his life, than a scientist would in repeating an experiment that has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt to yield the same results time and time again. Only a fool does the same things expecting different results, he was often fond of saying. If you keep putting garbage in, you'll keep getting garbage out.

The world had exhausted him. In love with ideas of building a utopia as a child and young man, he now accepted that there was no shortage of good ideas, but there was also no shortage of people who didn't want to see them implemented. There were too many vested interests. People had too much to lose. He couldn't fight the world anymore, with reason and logic, and arguments about the greater good. Nobody wanted the greater good. Most people just wanted to be at the top of the pyramid, king of the hill.

Perhaps that's why men climbed mountains, because for a brief moment when you stood on the summit, you could count yourself amongst just a handful of people who had faced great adversity to be higher than almost everybody else on the planet at that moment. Standing alone on the top of Mount Everest, anybody else you could see, with solid ground under their feet, would be literally beneath you. The air passengers and astronauts in the International Space Station don't count: they didn't walk there, on their own legs, and they're not standing on Earth.

That was a brave thing, to get into an aeroplane or a rocket. We have become desensitised to it, now that jet travel is commonplace, but imagine those first adventurers in space flight and aeronautics. Imagine again, how mad it is to put yourself in a position where you could fall to Earth.
So, he supposed it was apt, that he should end his life in this way: falling.

He walked up the steps, to where the bridge departed from the land, crossing the chasm below, held in space by the tensioned steel structure that towered above. He started to cross the bridge to the opposite side, that he had no intention of reaching.

In a dreamlike state now, his vision narrowed. His hearing was dulled. The fine detail of the universe around him seemed to fall away. He no longer noticed the cars driving across the bridge: their engine noise, and the rush of air as they went past. He no longer noticed the people, who were photographing themselves, talking to each other and headed to their own unknown destinations. He no longer noticed the rumble of a jet passing ahead, or the blast of a horn on a giant ship, that passed under the bridge, on the river below. He was now living his daydream, with everything playing out exactly has he had pictured it so many times before.

Reaching the centre of the bridge, he turned to the barrier. He couldn't hesitate for a single moment. If he hesitated, then doubt would enter his mind, and he would start to have thoughts: rational thoughts. He would start to re-analyse things. He would start to talk himself out of what he was going to do next. He would start to think about the "what if?"s He would start to enter some unknown situation, out of control from the destiny he had chosen. Things could easily get out of his hands. Some kindly good Samaritan could step in. The police could become involved. Psychiatrists. People to save him from himself.

He threw his leg over the barrier, and lowered his foot to the little ledge the other side without a pause. He then brought his other foot to meet the other on the ledge. He was now stood with his back to the river, facing onto the bridge, but on the outside of the barrier. He stared dead ahead for just a second, steeling himself to make the final moves.

He twisted his body 90 degrees, and swung his left foot out into space. Now, he swivelled on his other foot on the little ledge, and reached behind himself, grabbing the handrail of the barrier, with the bridge now at his back. He returned his left foot to the little ledge, with his feet now pointing outwards.

Pausing to look down, he didn't really see anything. His vision had glazed over. He knew that to focus on what was below him, and to consider the height that he was at, would be to invite a sense of peril into his mind. He had put himself into a trance-like state. All of the mental rehearsals beforehand had prepared him for this. All of the times he had pre-visualised these steps, meant that he was now following a dance routine, and his mind was quiet and calm. All he had to do was exhale, and make his final move.

His stomach rose in his chest, constricting in his neck, before he even released his grip. His body anticipated the weightlessness, before he had even stepped off the ledge. He knew he was going to jump, before he had even done it. He knew he had passed the point of no return - psychologically - before he had even physically started the process. The decision had been made in his brain, and the signals were being sent to his muscles, but he was already conscious that he had done it. He had jumped, even though his hand still gripped the barrier and his feet were still on the ledge.

Now, he was just a passenger. He felt himself let go of the handrail, and let his arms drop to his side. He felt himself squat slightly so that he could launch himself off the ledge. He felt himself straighten up, springing forward and away from the bridge. He brought his arms up, above him and pushed out his chest, forming a 'Y' shape with his body, as he cut through the air.
He didn't tumble. He fell fairly flat, with a slight incline towards the ground, as he gently rotated towards a head-first plummet to Earth.

He felt the air briefly rushing past his face, and heard the noise of wind get increasingly loud. He didn't see the ground coming towards him. It was all too quick, in the end.

Then, blackness and silence.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.




Escaping the Rat

4 min read

This is a story about bullshit jobs...

Rat Attack

In the east end of London, sandwiched inbetween Hackney and the area that used to be responsible for producing clothes and shoes, is the tiny oasis of Silicon Roundabout. The concrete mostronsities that sprung up in the postwar era, after the factories were bombed to shit, are now home to the darlings of the UK's tech industry.

TechHub, which is just a stone's throw away from the Old Street roundabout, prides itself on not having a proper ceiling to conceal its air conditioning ducts. The desks are battered and constructed from scaffolding. The urban decay of the whole area is part of the appeal. I mean, you can work in a disused underground train carriage for fuck's sake... some kind of hyper-trendy modern office.

And yet, this hipster village borders the City of London, where the world's investment banks and hedge funds headquarter themselves. Money is made hand-over-fist in London's financial districts, and all of the profits are enabled by smart tech people. There isn't a single cent that lines the pocket of a capitalist without some computer geek having written some software to make it possible.

There are two kinds of brain drain in operation.

Jaded City workers jack in the corporate humdrum of suits and 9 to 5, to head into the world of Hoxton, Shoreditch and Silicon Roundabout in order to grow a ridiculous beard and ride a bicycle with fixed gearing. Meanwhile, the very smartest are poached from the digital agencies and other parts of the thriving software community, in order to build the backbone of the financial system and re-architect the whole world economy.

Sadly, the main conduits for smart people still deliver the bulk of those graduating with first-class degrees and 2:1s from the best institutions, straight into the hands of bloodsucking parasites.

What was your degree in? Chemistry? Geography? Psychology? English? History? Epidemiology? Medieval iconography?

Who fucking cares?

If you're smart enough to have risen to the top of your classes, you're going to be hoovered up by the financial services sector, which dominates 80% of the British economy. Sooner or later, you're going to find yourself working in a towering phallus of glass and steel, which is a monument to the stupendous stupidity of man.

While red-braces wearing men fill their wheelbarrows with worthless paper, the rest of the world rumbles on, but is seen as unimportant compared with the "masters of the universe". It's obvious that you can't eat a futures contract, or a derivative, but yet the bulk of the 'money' in the world is derived from legal contracts that are almost impenentrably complex. Clever little cunts just coming up with clever schemes to scam the 'real' economy out of their labour and productive output.

How did it all begin?

Well, at the Royal Exchange, a farmer decided to sell his crop of wheat before it had been even harvested. This was the original futures contract. From this grew options, swaptions, interest rate derivatives, exotic credit derivatives and every flavour of cuntery inbetween. It's utter horse shit.

Now, you work all fucking day and your salary isn't even a rounding error on a balance sheet somewhere.

The amount of cash in circulation is nothing. It's meaningless. Financial services and the abolition of the gold standard means that the bankers are just adding extra zeros onto the end of everything just to prop up an utter horseshit system based on perpetual growth. As long as the masters of the universe are getting more zeros on their salaries and bonuses. That's the real reason why anybody has to suffer austerity.

Sorry about that.




Attention Whore

8 min read

This is a story about my secret diary...

Narcissist Test

Now that my friends have responded so brilliantly to my distress, I feel quite bad. I feel like I've taken up people's time, worried them and been self-absorbed. However, I guess that's partly because I now see light at the end of the tunnel, so I feel less panicked and in danger of something pushing me over the edge, back into suicidal thoughts.

I was thinking to myself about my motivation for writing so much private and personal stuff. The fact is, I want people to like me. I want to feel understood, and that people can empathise with me.

Where do we draw the line between somebody with dangerously low self esteem, and somebody who is egotistical and self-centred? I centred in on one particular phrase:

"I think people like me"

Why should that be so controversial? Well, in lots of literature that deals with psychology, thinking of yourself as likeable is linked to pathological conditions, like narcissism. From things I've read, I'm actually supposed to think of myself as unlikeable, or else I'm a narcissist, I'm dangerously self centred and egotistical.

But, if you think you're unlikeable, worthless, not worth knowing, then this is the basis for low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. If you think that nobody likes you, then the world would be better off without you. We all consume a great deal of precious resources - food, energy - so why should I stick around wasting oxygen if I'm somehow unlikeable? This is how I arrive at the decision to kill myself.

Clearly there's a contradiction here. We're telling people not to like themselves and not to feel liked or loved, or else they're some kind of horribly self obsessed, preening egotistical narcissist. However, without feeling like you have some value in other people's lives, you think that you might as well be dead.

I look at the precocious children, the ones who were loved and popular, showered with praise from all quarters... the ones who had their egos polished every day... the ones whose parents told them that they were special, talented... the ones who felt loveable, and as if the world was interested in their talents and ideas. I look at those children, and instead of feeling envy, I simply see the glow, the smile, the cotton wool that surrounds them, and I think that it's a good thing.

Life is going to be brutal. How do we even know we're alive, unless there is sadness to help us appreciate the happiness? Without darkness, we could never appreciate the light. However, it makes no sense to me to add extra shit to the life of a child. Why tell them they're a bad person, worthless, selfish and stupid? The world is going to do that for their entire adult life. For god's sake let them have a childhood.

So, I've grown up with this ridiculous idea of 'original sin'. I've learned to feel guilty about feeling happy. I've learned to feel guilty when luck goes my way. I've learned to feel guilty when somebody shows me love or affection. I've learned to feel guilty for craving friendship, companionship. I've learned to feel guilty for wanting any kind of external validation that I'm alive. I've learned to feel guilty for wanting to feel that there's a reason for living.

River Selfie

Nothing crystallises the issue quite like selfies and Facebook/Instagram. Do you have friends who post endless pictures of themselves up on their social media accounts? What do you think about them?

For pretty girls, they must get an ego boost, putting on their selfie pout and photographing themselves, with lots of 'likes' from horny boys. But surely things can be a little more innocent than that, or even mask deep-seated psychological issues.

Parents like to see photos of their kids. Families like to see photos of their relatives. Friends like to see photos of their friends. With the collapse of local communities, the geographical scattering of families, the decline of villages, clans & tribes... we need photo and video services to have any social bonds over these unnatural distances. Human evolution hasn't caught up with the automobile, the train, the boat and the airplane yet.

Equally, we know that glossy magazines, advertising and hollywood, paint a picture of perfect glamour. The most attractive people on the planet are paraded in front of our eyes, throughout our waking hours. How can we avoid comparing them with ourselves, and feeling inadequate?

We just don't measure up, and we feel ugly. We dislike our mis-shapen noses, sticky out ears and unruly hair. We look in the mirror at our spots and birthmarks, our pockmarked skin, our crooked stained teeth, and we know we can never measure up to the airbrushed beauties who are shoved in our faces.

For me, selfie culture is like grass-roots activism. Publishing directly onto the web takes away all the power and control that the newspapers and book publishers have, and allows anybody to become a writer. Putting pictures of yourself onto Facebook and Instagram allows anybody to become a glamour model, a famous face. It's reclaiming your sense of self-worth, from powerful media forces that parade unrealistic body images in front of us.

I've obviously wrestled with the idea that only rich, famous and powerful people are allowed to publish memoirs and biographies. Who would want to read about the life of a thirtysomething white middle-class IT consultant who went to state school and doesn't know any celebrities? Who would want to read about the very ordinary trials and tribulations of trying not to run out of money, getting a job and finding a place to live?

Am I supposed to feel guilty about the fact that I've been clamouring for my friends, and strangers from the Internet, to engage with me and give me even the tiniest indications that I'm being heard? Should I feel bad, when I admit that it's had a profound psychological effect, having a flurry of people 'like' my content on Facebook and Twitter, and getting a load of comments on Reddit and in the comments section below?

I'm not coercing people to continue to read, and to give me more 'likes'. I kinda feel like writing this has achieved what I wanted, which was to feel noticed. When you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, a big component is that nobody seems to care whether you live or die. The more you wail in distress and get ignored, the more it reaffirms your belief that the world would be better off without you.

I had a big response when I told people I was in hospital, and that was super nice, but I've been wary of spamming Facebook. People are often accused of being attention seeking, when they share shocking stuff on Facebook. Is that fair, if they're genuinely in danger of committing suicide?

To be admitted to a psychiatric hospital in the UK is not easy. You don't just turn up and say you need to be 'committed'. The number of places in hospital are very limited, and "care in the community" is always the preferred option. I had 4 or 5 section assessments, but I've never been 'sectioned'. It's really rare to have your liberty taken away, and be put into a secure facility for the protection of yourself and others.

My point is, that if mental health professionals thought that it was safest if I was admitted to hospital, then my life was in very real danger, and I have independent confirmation that I'm not just an attention whore. Surely it's OK to reach out to the world and say "I don't feel good. I feel alone. I feel unloved, unliked. I don't feel like I have any value. I feel worthless" no matter how you do that?

Personally, I think we should be paying attention to the drama queens, attention whores and people who seem self-obsessed. In actual fact, they probably have very fragile mental health, and are desperately trying to connect with the world and feel that they have some self-worth.

I'm not going to feel guilty about posting the occasional selfie.

Beach Cock

I drew a big cock & balls on the beach, and nobody told me to "stop showing off" but I did hear those words in my head.