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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.




Do No Harm

11 min read

This is a story about helping people...


I'm a bit of a work-in-progress. I was on a psych ward in Manchester after a suicide attempt - homeless, jobless, single, friendless (in terms of local friends) and estranged from my family (except my sister). Then, I was plucked out of that dismal life and brought into my friends' family life on a farm in Wales. My friends are aware of my suicidal distress; my depression; my wretched situation. My friends are helping me to get back on my feet.

To leave the psych ward was an immediate improvement to my life. To have a quiet room of my own; a double bed - these were luxuries not afforded on the psych ward, where I was in a 4-bed dorm with only a curtain for privacy. I was unlikely to make new friends on the psych ward - my fellow patients were profoundly unwell and I had no plans to stay in Manchester. I didn't really have anybody to talk to. Now that I'm embedded in my friends' family life I can chat to them and the members of their immediate and extended family - I've been welcomed into the fold... instant social life.

It was my choice not to be sectioned or have the home treatment team - part of the community mental health team (CMHT) - involved in my care. It was my choice to not take lamotrigine, sertraline, lithium or sodium valproate. It was my choice to travel 1,200 miles away on business, and to go back to work in London for an investment bank. I have my reasons for making these choices, but they put my life in jeopardy - the choices are hard to understand. It seems reckless, arrogant and irresponsible to risk my life.

I'm earning money and I'm dating. In some areas, my life seems to be improving a huge amount. In other areas things are every bit as desperate as they were back in September/October of last year. At least when I was on the psych ward I was relatively safe. When I was on the psych ward I'd put myself in the hands of the state - they were responsible for feeding me, housing me and keeping me safe. I didn't feel bad about relying on the state to look after me, because I was so vulnerable. Now, my friends must feel very responsible.

At face value, my depression looks treatable. At face value, my problems look trivial. At face value, I appear to be very functional.

To treat my depression could trigger mania. To protect me from mania - with powerful medications - could leave me unable to work. Without work I will never regain my self-esteem and independence, which will lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. Without self-esteem I won't be able to find a partner. Without a partner I'll be lonely and depressed and suicidal. To meet somebody special and start a new relationship could trigger mania, or bring a whole heap of feelings of inadequacy that could trigger me to seek medications - I want to be full of energy and happiness with my new romantic interest. For example, there's a feeling of pressure to have a rock hard dick and be able to have sex multiple times a night. How do I even function without medications? Uppers and downers, antidepressants and mood-stabilisers, antipsychotics and tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills, erectile dysfunction drugs and refractory period suppressants... things to help me feel good. I so desperately want to feel good.

There's another risk that I don't talk about so much: Relapse into drug addiction. This time last year I was pretty hopelessly addicted - in the clutches of supercrack. Foolishly, I was looking for some Bitcoins I hadn't spent and I found them... on the Dark Web waiting to be used to purchase narcotics. I resisted temptation, but I spent a few days thinking about self-sabotage. It's been 8 or 9 months since I was a drug addict, but that's not very much time at all - it was really recently that drug addiction was wrecking me and everything I held dear.

I've got a fairly simple strategy for avoiding relapsing into drug addiction: To kill myself. Addicts die as demons; despised; hated. Addicts are blamed for their bad choices - the architects of their own destruction. My solution is simple: Die while clean, sober and sane, so that nobody can demonise me. I just want to have some dignity. That's all I ask for really... some dignity.

So, my problems are not really mental health, but they're not really addiction either. I don't take drugs or medications, I'm not mad and I'm not bad. I'm just trying to live a normal life: to have a home, some friends, a girlfriend, a job, cat(s)... a few things. Not much; I don't ask for much.

My friends have helped me. I've met somebody who I really like, but it's early days... don't want to get carried away. I'm working and I've done a good job and the client wants to extend my contract. I've battled with my mental health and addiction demons, and to all intents and purposes I'm winning. I'm a bit of a success story, in a way - an example of what you'd hope would happen if you got involved in somebody's life, with the intention of helping them.

I have been helped. I am stubborn and I do things on my own terms, but not without good reason. I'm glad - for example - that I'm not doped up to the eyeballs on medications that would leave me emotionally blunted and anorgasmic. I'm enjoying the pleasure of a little oxytocin as I cuddle my sweetheart. I'm glad I'm feeling stuff.

There's been a suicide. I can relate to the victim. I also feel super bad that my friends are having to deal with the aftermath of that suicide when they know I'm a big suicide risk: it feels like they must be additionally worried about me, and I don't really know how to talk to them when they're dealing with that suicide. It's no secret that I'm having regular suicidal thoughts. It's surely too much for them. It's too much for me. My instinct is to withdraw; to remove myself from the situation.

I feel a bit ineligible for life. I shouldn't have friends; I shouldn't have a girlfriend; I shouldn't do anything, because I'll probably fuck it up. Whether I kill myself or relapse into addiction, either way I end up dead, so I'm not allowed to have nice things, like friends and a girlfriend; I'm not allowed to have self-esteem... I should just sit and rot on a psych ward.

I feel like running away. I feel like I should put every penny I've earned into extracting myself cleanly from the situation. Nice people don't deserve to get hurt and don't deserve to have to deal with the aftermath of unpleasant stuff.

That it would cause pain, whether it's suicide or relapse, is not something that's going to stop it happening. We can't beat people into submission. I need a reason to live - friends, a girlfriend, independence etc. I need my self-esteem and the natural endorphins that lift my mood, through healthy social contact, sex and other things like that. Nobody ever got better without those things. You can't 'get better' first and then build a healthy life.

My friends took a big risk trying to help me. Any girl who'd tangle with me is taking a big risk. The risk doesn't make me less likely to do myself harm. If anything, the risk I pose is something that adds a great deal of pressure, which is exhausting. What should I do? Should I exclude myself from society, just as most parts of society would very much like to exclude me? I'm a modern leper: The escaped mental asylum patient; the junkie; the tramp; the alkie; the washed-up loser.

I look back to September 9th, when I begged the staff at the Manchester Royal Infirmary not to treat me: No activated charcoal, no gastric lavage, no intubation, no resuscitation. When I lost consciousness, they helped me anyway, in the way that they're trained to help people. They saved my life, even though I made it explicitly clear that I didn't want to be helped - I wanted to die, in no uncertain terms. What if I go on to hurt my new friends? What harm would there have been in just letting me die? I'm going to die anyway, one day.

If I seem ungrateful for the help I've received, I'm sorry. This is the truth of the matter: I'm living a part of my life I didn't expect to have, but I'm not automatically grateful for it. It makes it harder, in a way - I didn't plan on being alive this long. I'm not sure who I'm alive for, because it's certainly not for me at the moment.

I'm one of the lucky ones. My situation is improving. It's quite hard for me to mess my life up any more than I've already messed it up. It's relatively easy to make improvements to my life. It seems as if I can fix things up quite quickly, depending on your definition of "quick".

I guess it seems short-sighted to kill myself when I don't know what tomorrow's going to bring. There's always a chance that tomorrow's going to be better than today. There's always a chance I'm going to wake up and feel glad that I didn't die on September 9th.

People kill themselves when they don't think their life is salvageable - there's too much damage: too many dashed hopes and dreams; too much shame and embarrassment; too much loss of status... too much disappointment. A person kills themself when they're a hard worker; a high achiever; they'd worked hard to get where they'd got to, but it seemed like it was all for nothing - they were potentially going to lose everything they'd ever dreamed of having. It can't be overstated, the devastating impact that it can have, re-adjusting our expectations when we're thwarted. You might say "it's only money" or "it's only a job" but you'll find that those things are pretty important in modern society. Try going anywhere without somebody asking you "what do you do?" and "where did you study?" and "do you own your own home?" and myriad other questions that will remind you that you've crashed and burned. Try doing anything when you're poor and you'll find it's really hard - money really helps, and you can get quite used to having it and not having to stress about it anymore. Who'd really want to go back to being poor, if you've experienced poverty and debt, and worked hard to get out of that pit of misery?

Every day I face the same thought that pushed me over the edge, causing me to attempt to commit suicide: I can't do it; it's too much work; it's too hard; I've reached my limit; I can never overcome this. Of course, we feel that all the time, but when there's an event that suddenly creates a huge problem to be solved, or something that's potentially going to be life-ruining, then it's too much to handle. We're all right at the limit. None of us has the spare capacity to deal with some mountainous pile of shit being dumped on us, when we're reached the maximum of what we can tolerate.

Of course, I'm a little fragile. It's only gonna take a few bumps in the road to cause me to push the "fuck it" button. I'm delicate; vulnerable. The only solution is to act positively - to go out there, work hard, keep trying, take risks and aim to regain the things I need and want, hoping that nothing super bad happens. It's luck. I just need a run of good luck. I have to hope my luck holds, because I don't have the spare capacity to withstand a whole lot of bad stuff happening.

It's Valentine's Day, and I'm aware that my sweetheart might read this. It's early days. She should run a mile. There's too much to handle here. I'm putting it out there anyway.

My friends are dealing with the aftermath of a suicide when they haven't even managed to 'fix' me yet. I am I going to remind them of the person who successfully committed suicide, every time I talk to them?

We can't 'fix' anything. All we can do is try to leave things better than when we found them. Should we help? It's hard to not do any harm when we try to help.




This Time Last Year I was F**ked

11 min read

This is a story about the hands of time...

View from the loft

I have a breadcrumb trail of images that allow me to retrace my steps and understand where I've come from and attempt to estimate whether I'm spiralling downwards or slowly recovering. If I look through my photo library at the images and videos that I captured exactly one year ago, there are three strange videos that I recorded, which clearly indicate that I'd had a major relapse. Three days later both my kidneys had failed, my left leg had ballooned to twice its normal size due to DVT and my blood was toxic enough to kill me at any moment.

Every year for the past four, I've had a Jinxed January. It's true that depression, hypomania and addiction have reared their ugly heads year-round, but January is a particularly awful time. I cured the November wobbles by writing novels. I cured the December wobbles by cutting my toxic parents out of my life. The next problem I've got is how to solve Jinxed January.

My present strategy is to shackle myself to my desk, doing a job that I absolutely hate and is completely incompatible with my mental health. If I can survive this January without doing anything stupid and self-sabotaging, I should have the wind behind me and a downhill stretch of road to help me coast into the spring. The odds will be increasingly in my favour as the days get longer and the weather improves.

I'm emerging from the fog of addiction, intoxicating medications and copious quantities of alcohol. It was impossible for me to really comprehend how bad things had gotten, while I had so much toxic crap in my body. I'd lost all perspective and ability to perceive reality. I struggle to relate to a lot of what I've written in the last few years, because that person who was under the influence of such vast quantities of drink and drugs feels like somebody else. I can read my own words, I can see the distress and I can remember the things that were driving my thoughts and emotions at the time, but not everything in my world was entirely real and grounded in reality. I'm not seeking to distance myself from the things that my body did - including saying and writing things - but it's a little bit hard to imagine that it was me. If you want to get obsessive about blame and responsibility, then f**k you, buddy... go read somebody else's blog you tiresome bore.

Of course, I feel very bad about the way I treated - for example - my lovely girlfriend who gave me a wonderful Christmas with her family, cared for me when I was in hospital, and was extremely nonjudgemental and understanding when addiction got its hooks back in me. I didn't treat her well in the end. I regret it and I'm sorry. I did that. I'm to blame. I'm responsible.

However, in the context of unpicking everything, I can see that there are repeating patterns and things that trigger other things - cause and effect are very complicated to understand. To fully understand the likely consequences and plan ahead, like playing a thousand simultaneous games of chess against grandmasters, is a completely unreasonable and unrealistic thing to expect of me.

Searching back through my photo archives, I can see that I obtained a prescription for an antidepressant - bupropion - shortly before one relapse. I can see that I obtained another - California rocket fuel - shortly before an episode of hypomania where I broke up with the aforementioned brilliant girlfriend. In fact, whenever I seek chemical relief from depression, that's usually an indication of a desire to feel better at any costs, having suffered weeks and months of suicidal thoughts. Am I to blame for seeking relief from my intolerable feelings of depression?

Scanning through my library of images, I can see how I become obsessive over sleeping tablets and tranquillisers, as I rely upon the pills in order to cope with dreadfully stressful situations, which would send even the least-anxiety prone amongst us running screaming in the opposite direction from the source of the stress.

This time last year I was about to start work doing yet more IT consultancy for yet another bank. I was not incredibly enamoured at the prospect, but I needed the money. Circumstances conspired to force me back into an unhealthy environment.

Sadly, I'm not rich enough to do whatever I want, and I'm not even financially comfortable enough to do something tolerable - I've got to do the thing which pays the bills, and that's IT consultancy for banks, unfortunately. It's a fact of life that sometimes we have to do things we don't like very much.

So, I've avoided the antidepressants this time, because they always seem to send me loopy. I'm white-knuckling it to the end of Jinxed January, because I just need to get through this god-awful month, come hell or high water. I'm constantly reminding myself that even to dabble with so-called recreational drugs or get mixed up with girls in a big way, is likely to be destabilising. I live like a monk - work, eat, sleep, repeat.

Because of the extraordinary quantity of benzodiazepines I was abusing, I have huge holes in my memory. It feels like such a short time ago that I was hooked up to my own dedicated dialysis machine, on a high dependency ward. It feels like only yesterday that I regained consciousness with a machine breathing for me in intensive care. I managed a spectacularly terrible sum total of just 11 weeks at work in 2017, and virtually all the rest was pure insanity. I spent about 7 weeks in hospital, so with that 11 versus 7 ratio, you can see that my year was pretty messed up.

This year is brutally drug-free and medication-free. My brain screams in agony at the unbearable levels of depression and anxiety, but I've seen that to reach for any kind of substance for relief is opening the flood gates to fully-blown addiction. I'll convince myself that whatever chemical I'm using to feel better is not effective, and I need to take more, more, MORE! Before I know it, I'll be back on the supercrack.

It might seem obvious to an outside observer that my cyclical life is due to bipolar disorder, and I should rush to my psychiatrist and beg to be given mood stabilisers immediately. However, those who superficially observe me would remark that I'm very stable: I get up, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, go to my job, spend my evening watching TV and writing and get eight hours sleep. To the casual observer, I seem like the most functional and stable person who you could possibly hope to ever meet.

The reality of my existence is one of continuous battle with depression, anxiety and a craving to spectacularly self-sabotage with addiction. Getting out of bed in the morning and overcoming debilitating anxiety are comparatively easy, having built up the mental strength to overcome the urge to take one of the most addictive substances known to man. I'm not meaning to compete with those who find their lifes to be completely unliveable due to depression and anxiety, but merely to say that I've found it easier to overcome things which would have kept me bed-bound, after having been through what I've been through. Every cell of my body screams in protest at the bullshit I'm putting myself through at the moment. Every bit of my brain yells in agony at the daily punishment I suffer, but what does an extra bit of suffering matter compared with the endless comedowns and drug withdrawals I've been through?

As I look back on the last year, I realise I've been through opiate withdrawal from tramadol, codeine and dihydrocodeine; through benzodiazepine withdrawal from diazepam and alprazolam; through stimulant withdrawal from crystal meth and supercrack; through withdrawal from pregabalin and alcohol; through withdrawal from sleeping tablets like zopiclone and zolpidem. In terms of detoxes, I've had the detox from hell. In terms of quitting addictive medications, I'm a Guinness World Record holder. I really do deserve a medal.

As I look back on the last year, I realise I've been through so many health issues, housing issues, financial issues, legal issues, employment issues, relationship issues and everything else that would wreck your head and rob you of your sense of stability, comfort, contentedness and happiness. I'm surprised I'm not sleeping in a cardboard box, just to escape the clutches of a society that wants its pound of flesh at any costs. I'm exhausted by the constant stress of it all.

If I make it through Jinxed January, I have little to look forward to. There's nothing jump for joy about. Anybody who tells you you'll feel better if you quit the booze and the drugs and the pills is a fucking idiot. Anybody who tells you that you'll have improved self-esteem and all the other good stuff, if you get yourself off the streets and into a job, is a fucking idiot. I'm an extremely rare example of a judge, policeman and a social worker's wet dream - a bankrupt homeless mentally ill junkie who's got themselves scrubbed down and gone back to civilised society, but I've got to tell you in no uncertain terms that it's awful and I hate it. My life is a living hell.

Perhaps this is the ultimate comedown. Perhaps all the chickens are eventually coming home to roost. Perhaps this is the payback, given that I somehow miraculously avoided prison, a criminal record, bankruptcy and permanent health damage. Perhaps I'm finally paying the price for all that partying.

But, I haven't been partying. It's not like I haven't paid the price every time I fucked up. It's not like I haven't tried hard to do the all the right things and contribute to society. It's not like I've robbed, and manipulated and been a parasite on society. I've already paid for my transgressions. Where's the reward for getting myself sorted out? Why did I bother?

As I look back, I have rose-tinted glasses. As I look forward, I see the world through a blue filter. The past wasn't so bad and the future looks bleak. Perhaps this is the final stage of recovery from addiction, when my memory of the horrors of the past is becoming faded and I fondly reminisce about the few moments that were OK in all that insanity. It was certainly an easier life, to be on a rocket-ride to hell.

I try to look back and remind myself just how bad things were, but I find myself smiling and laughing in a way that I just don't when I think about the eight hours I spent going through hell at my desk today. In my mind, I perceive the present unpleasantness as far greater than anything else I've been through in the last year. That's strange, isn't it? To have suffered multiple organ failure, loss of my home, loss of my job, a suicide attempt, incarceration, getting sectioned, psych wards, addiction, loss of my girlfriend and all the other atrocious things that I went through in the last year, and the very worst thing is my current working arrangements.

Obviously, I think that my perceptions must be warped by my state of semi-recovery from addiction and other mental health problems, but I don't think it explains everything. There is something awful about being all alone in an AirBnb, working a job I hate because it's boring, easy and doesn't bring me into contact with a single soul... it's so lonely and isolating.

I'm churning words out into the ether, because I'm in such discomfort and I'm so afraid.

It's strange that I'm not afraid of ending up back in hospital, isn't it?




Drug of Choice

8 min read

This is a story about cyclical patterns...

Me with pills

In 2014 I was homeless and addicted to drugs. I got myself a job at a bank, got myself a place to live and paid off all my debts. Then, I lost my contract. I went to a shop in Soho and bought two packets of a legal high powder and proceeded to undo all my hard work. Within a matter of weeks, I was back on the supercrack.

In 2015 I was homeless and addicted to drugs. I got myself a job at a bank, got myself a place to live and paid off all my debts. Then, I lost my contract. I went online and bought two packets of legal high powder and two packets of legal benzodiazepine tablets. Within a month, I was back on the supercrack.

In 2016 I had a lovely apartment. I was clean all summer. I went on holiday. I met an amazing girl who I was totally in love with. I wrote my first novel. I had a brilliant Christmas with my girlfriend and her family. Then, I got myself a job at a bank. My left leg swelled up to twice the size of the right leg, both my kidneys failed, I was put on emergency dialysis and I had to be admitted to hospital for a couple of weeks, on a high dependency ward. Then, I lost my contract. Within a fortnight I was back on the supercrack.

In 2017 I had a lovely apartment. I took supercrack. I tried to quit the supercrack. I got depressed. I tricked my doctor into giving me California rocket fuel - a combination of venlafaxine and mirtazepine antidepressants. I went hypomanic and split up with my amazing girlfriend. I bought enough supercrack to last me two years. I went insane with stimulant psychosis and was thoroughly beastly towards my amazing girlfriend. I ran out of money. I moved to Manchester. I got another girlfriend. We broke up. I tried to kill myself. I spent a couple of days with a machine breathing for me in intensive care. I got sectioned and got locked up on a secure psych ward. I moved to Wales. I wrote 42,000 words of my second novel. I got myself a job at a bank. There isn't enough time left in 2017 to get back on the supercrack. I'm worried I'm going to relapse in January. I haven't lost my contract yet.

Fluid in my leg

If we dip into each year a little bit more closely, 2014 was a really dreadful one. I was an inpatient for about 14 weeks. I lived in a bush in Kensington Palace Gardens and slept rough on Hampstead Heath. I was in two rehabs. I lived in a 14-bed hostel dorm, but that was actually one of the highlights. I abused a lot of benzodiazepines and amphetamines, as well as the supercrack. I got in trouble with the police. Twice.

2015 looks tame by comparison. Although I abused stimulants and 'downers', I had a couple of visits to a lovely family in Ireland, who looked after me. Strangely, it was working 12 hour days and working 7 days a week that exhausted me and tipped me into hypomania. I spent a week suicidal on a psych ward then suddenly decided to fly to San Francisco. I went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge, which I had contemplated jumping off. I was sober for 120 consecutive days. I deliberately got my contract terminated, because I had ethical objections to what the bank I was working for was doing. I started blogging.

2016 is unusual - perhaps there is no easy pattern we can spot - because I got myself clean and into work much earlier than I'd managed in previous years. I worked a whole contract - notably not for a bank - without going mad and getting sacked. I got a good reference and my team were really pleased with the way I ran the project. My life was quite stable. However, I was a sneaky bastard. I was using supercrack and benzos in secret, and lying to my amazing girlfriend to cover up my drug abuse.

2017 was off the charts. I've never been so sick. I've never been so close to death. For the first half of the year I had binge after binge after binge. I abused opiates, sleeping pills, tranquillisers, club drugs and stimulants. My drug abuse was definitely going to kill me. I had a physical dependency on benzodiazepines that looked impossible to cure - how was I going to escape from the death trap? I decided I couldn't escape, so I took a massive overdose. The hospital gave me a 50:50 chance of pulling through.

I'm worried that I'm repeating old patterns of behaviour. I always go back to the banks when I need money, because they pay so well and it's the quickest way of digging myself out of debt. I'm living out of a suitcase, moving from AirBnB to AirBnB. It's exhausting and stressful: factors that tipped me into hypomanic insanity back in 2015.

What is unusual is that I'm going into the New Year with a contract in place: I have my job and it's going well. I'm starting 2018 with money on the way, as opposed to the fear of bankruptcy and eviction. I'm going into next year with far fewer stresses than I've had for a very long time. Perhaps it's good that there aren't even any girls in the picture at the moment. Love and sex always have a bit of a destabilising effect on me.

Writing this summary of my hit-and-miss boom-and-bust crazy life, I wonder if I'm doomed to forever repeat the pattern.

One thing that's notably different this year is living with a family. I care about them. I imagine what it'd be like if the kids asked "where's Nick?" and the answer was that I was dead, or as good as dead because I'd relapsed onto supercrack.

This year, I quit supercrack, tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine, diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), zolpidem (Ambien), zopiclone and pregabalin. I was prescribed venlafaxine, mirtazepine and lamotrogine, but I don't take any of them now. I had 30 consecutive sober days during October. In fact, I was sober from more or less the start of September to early November. My brain has been completely drug-addled at times, but I'm clean as a whistle at the moment - I'm unmedicated and I'm not taking any mind-altering substances. I don't drink caffeinated beverages.

I'd like to tell you that I feel wonderful, but I don't. I have a cold. It's winter. Winter is shit.

You might look at all the times I've tripped up and conclude that I'm bound to trip up again. However, you might look at all the things I've fixed and conclude that I'm pretty good at fixing up my life when it's fucked. All I've got to do is bring together all the different elements: friends and family, work and home, money and rest and relaxation, stability and exercise and hopes and dreams, love and romance and sex. Easy, right?

If you're wondering what my drug of choice is, and thinking that it's supercrack, you're wrong. Look more closely at the picture at the top of this blog post. What's that thing in-between my legs? It's not my male member, it's a wine glass.

Hello wine my old friend

With closer examination of my entire adult life, we can see that alcohol features heavily. In fact my latest job came about as a result of being friends with a lovely guy who's an alcoholic. We spent a week getting pissed, when I was supposed to be finding my feet with the new job. Somehow, I've managed to drink my way through a very successful career. Without booze I'm somewhat out of kilter. Without booze, how would I self-medicate for my mood fluctuations?

Yes, without booze, my bipolar disposition rages out of control. I work too hard. I take everything too seriously. I fly off the handle.

I'm not genuinely suggesting that booze is harmless or the cure of all ills, but it's been such a big component of my adult life that I don't really know how to cope without it. How would I have survived the recent stresses and strains of a 2,500 mile round-trip, to go and gather money from the latest bank I'm working for, without alcohol? How would I square away my deep unhappiness with the work I do, with the need to earn money, if it wasn't for drowning my sorrows? Alcohol might be a terrible solution, but it's the one I've got and I know it works.

Is it lunchtime yet? I'm not an alcoholic, because I don't drink in the morning. I just make sure I lie in bed until it's after midday.





7 min read

This is a story about routine...

Hypodermic syringe

I used to write every day. Where did I go wrong?

It's been costly, not writing every day. I write because it allows me to keep more people informed about my fragile mental health, than would otherwise be possible through all conventional communication mechanisms. The phone is the worst: being tied up talking to just one person, and having to listen to what they had for lunch, just out of social etiquette. Email is not at all a good one for me: I tend to segue into angry rants about matters which I'm deeply unhappy about, but have managed to repress emotional wounds for the sake of everyday functioning. Texts/instant-messaging/direct-messages: these are so throwaway and only useful when both conversation participants are actively involved... do you know any greater frustration than seeing that your message has been read, but no response is forthcoming?

There are three things that are driving considerable self-censoring. 1) I live with friends who I love dearly, and it would not be acceptable for me to talk about that private life. 2) I'm working again and a friend helped me get the job - I can't risk losing the cash or letting my friend down. 3) I tried to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, while publishing the draft manuscript live... I haven't recovered from the exertion of the demanding feat yet.

On the subject of the novel, it was of considerable embarrassment to me to have failed. A mere 42,000 words in 30 days. Also, a sex scene crept into the first chapter and then the whole thing went totally berserk. Having told the world that I was going to write another novel in November, I had put considerable pressure on myself. It seems apt that I would have confused the homophones taut and taught, in the very first sentence - if ever there was to be a lesson in overhyping, I learned the hard way that it's so easy to turn your audience off. Those subtle mistakes that get picked up in the edit are glaring errors when somebody reads your quick-fire draft. One slip-up and your readers can decide that you're an illiterate idiot and move on.

Why didn't I write every day? When writing my blog, there have been considerable advantages to writing every day. A gap in my otherwise daily writing habit has tended to indicate periods when my life has become unmanageable. Writing daily has served usefully as a kind of 'heartbeat' for anybody to know whether I'm alive or dead. The gaps during my latest novel writing escapade were only due to genuine writer's block - I hadn't preplanned my novel carefully enough, and I was overwhelmed with the task ahead of me on the days I didn't write... there was no dreadful crisis that had consumed me.

Why haven't I resumed my daily writing routine? Well, the obvious answer is that I've been zooming all over the globe with a new job; life's been pretty stressful and disrupted. Also, I disturbed my shoot-from-the-hip stream of consciousness; I disrupted my natural habit of sitting down in front of a blank sheet of paper and pouring out all my thoughts and feelings on whatever eclectic topic I happened to feel most compelled to write about at the time. In short: I got into the habit of hesitating.

I have some of the old habits. I still make notes about things I want to write about in more detail, when circumstances allow. I still wake up and immediately think about what I'm going to write. However, between work and travel and speaking to my friends, I'm not finding the time to stop and pour my heart and soul into these little snapshots of my state of mind.

If I had written every day, I think you would have seen how circular my thinking patterns are at the moment. My thoughts revolve around the paradox of me working, which brings money, but that I'm also running out of money, which brings stress - working will fix the financial problems, but it also causes them, as well as being incompatible with good mental health. It's intractable.

A lot of what I want to write about is in response to banal criticism. However, my critics are so repetitive and their points so invalid that I've started and then erased a whole series of blogs which would have added nothing to the literature. Who really wants to read about homeless people who have tried and failed to elevate themselves from poverty by economising? What is there to learn from those who have unsuccessfully failed to tighten their belts? Why would we imitate failures, when we are trying to succeed?

I write to you now, having polished off a bottle of wine and completed a boring day in the office. It seems impossible to separate one habit from the other. My day job is immensely lucrative, but its soul-destroying nature seems to bring an insatiable appetite for intoxication: how else am I supposed to make sense of the absurdity of the incredibly well remunerated work that seems to improve precisely nobody's life.

My daily habits include sleeping tablets and an anti-anxiety medication which I became hooked upon because of damage to the nerves in my left leg. My daily habits include a dressing-up game where I go to the office wearing a fancy suit and with a poker face that does not betray the contempt I hold for banking and IT. My daily habit is to question the absurdity of existence, from the moment of waking to the moment I lose consciousness.

It upsets me that I've gotten out of the routine of writing every day. It upsets me that I had a hit-and-miss month where I was writing fiction of dubious quality. It upsets me that I have disrupted the relationship which I had with my readers, where I had become part of their daily routine - "I wonder what Nick's doing today". Every time I've turned my back on my blog, it's been a mistake.

If this is an addiction - writing - then it's a healthy one. There's no doubt that writing every day is a good habit, where supercrack is a bad one. [NOTE: you can't take supercrack every day, because you start to get psychotic after about 10 days without sleep]

The story of a man who puts on a grey suit and goes to an office every day is not an exciting one. Where are the pulse-racing tales of police chases, addiction, homelessness, destitution, destruction, psych wards, madness and otherwise going bat-shit insane? Of course, my mind inundates me with imagery of all the most inappropriate things I could do; all the most ridiculously unacceptable things play on a show-reel in my mind, and it sometimes takes concerted effort to not act on my self-sabotaging impulses.

To write today has caused me to override my instinct to bury my blog, as I thought I was going to do earlier this year when I had an employment contract. In fact, it was a mistake to hold back. To own my identity is the most important thing I've ever done. Not writing so much made it easier for me to be exploited - I had deliberately held back, believing it was the responsible thing to do, but I was mercilessly taken advantage of.

My parting thought is one about the effort required to create versus the effort required to consume. While it may take you but a few short minutes to hoover up the words on this page, you should consider that it might have taken me some hours to craft them - there's a considerable disparity. While we live in a society where art seems to be in no short supply, that does not mean that art is worthless. Although I've been driven to a point where it's been impossible to avoid expressing myself, that does not mean that these words are cheap. In fact, I've earned the right to pursue my creative endeavours. I delayed gratification; I waited.

So, I'm considering re-addicting myself to writing. I'm considering a resumption of my daily writing habit.




Never Don't Not Give Up Not Never No Way

11 min read

This is a story about paralysis...

Suicide Button

I'm never really unsure of what to do. I generally have a very certain idea of what I want to do and how I'm going to do it. I have a really big problem when I can see all the way to the end, and life seems to be a bit of a paint-by-numbers exercise. I really struggle when life is predictable and routine.

I went to see a psychiatrist on Wednesday. I knew what I wanted from the psychiatrist: to see a clinical psychologist. I also knew what the likely outcomes were if I was honest: to have pills thrown at me and put myself at risk of being locked up on a psych ward. It was a situation that was so predictable, that I was able to forecast exactly which medication the psychiatrist would suggest.

Instead of allowing myself to be sectioned and swallowing the prescribed medication, I ran away. I'm currently 1,200 miles away from home and by the time I get back the system will have forgotten all about me. If I really wanted to get what I need - which is some talk therapy - then I'd have played a completely different strategy. Frankly, I can't really afford to be sitting on a therapist's couch - I've nearly run out of money.

So, I find myself away from my friends and my new home, in a strange city, in a new job. It's very stressful. I'm very anxious. However, it's also novel and therefore a little exciting. Even though I've done similar work a million times before, I'm still a little challenged by meeting new people and learning the particular nuances of the organisation I've just joined. There's a little novelty in the experience, even if ultimately I'll realise that it's the same old shit, and I'll be on cruise control until the end of the assignment.

I'm presently thinking about eating pasta from a plastic pot, having poured boiling water over it from a miniature kettle in my hotel room. I will need to stir and eat the pasta with a shoehorn, in the absence of any cutlery. This is the glamorous life I live.

You may wonder whether the stress of homelessness, near-bankruptcy, drug addiction, brushes with the law and general dysfunction in every area of my life, is something that I regret. No. No I don't regret it. Having been an adrenalin-junkie extreme-sports enthusiast all my life, you can't get more of a rush than playing "go for broke" in real life. It seems inevitable that I would push everything to the limit, including taking life-or-death chances.

It is a little hard to see where the reward is, when my life seems mostly miserable. I've had unbearable anxiety and depression for long periods during the last couple of years. However, I'm not rushing to the doctor and begging for a miracle cure. The deeply distressing feelings I'm having are doing very little to change my behaviour. I almost guarantee that I'll find the urge to self-destruct almost irresistible, if I pull through my latest episode of adversity.

Having lived in a bush in a park, it seems rather more preferable to be living in a hotel like I am now. Having nearly run out of money, it seems preferable to have a well-paid job, like I do now. However, I can't make any sense of life when I swing between impending doom and intolerable boredom. What's the point of living if it all ends in misery and disaster? I'm too busy moving from certain destitution to probable financial stability at the moment, to stop and have suicidal thoughts, but I know that the absurdity of the rat-race existence is already something that I'm not able to ignore - I'm completely unable to relax and enjoy trivial distractions.

Existential angst paralyses me. I wake up and I want to go back to sleep, but I can't because I have to go to work. I get to work and I want to walk out, but I can't because I can't lose this job. I should work but I want to scream "THIS IS ALL JUST UTTER BULLSHIT". Everywhere I look, I see needless complexity; makework. Existence itself is just killing time before our eventual death. Why go through the stressful and exhausting bit in the middle? Why not take the short-cut and just commit suicide?

It's strange to write like this, given that I've overcome the incredible stress of getting this job, travelling over a thousand miles and facing my first nervous couple of days in the office. Given that I'll avoid bankruptcy if I just keep turning up and keeping my mouth shut, why would I be writing about suicide? I'm not even suicidal at the moment. I've entered a strange kind of state, where I'm incredibly anxious, but I know that suicide doesn't make sense anymore. I know that I've gone to strange cities, started new jobs and rescued myself from financial ruin enough times. Why am I even writing about death and disaster?


It's been a very, very long time since I had a stable January. Potentially, I'll still have well-paid work in the New Year. Potentially, I don't have to start job hunting and worrying about money during the absolute shittest time of year. Potentially, I start 2018 with prospects rather than worries.

On the flip side, you might say that I'm stuck in a cyclical pattern and that I keep trying the same thing but expecting different results, except you'd be wrong. I'm trying something that's been staggeringly successful, and the circumstances are different each time. One of these days, there's going to be a combination of favourable factors, as opposed to badly-timed clusterfucks.

Money is a 'trigger' for self-sabotage, one might say. Also, finding myself trapped on a rainy miserable island in the middle of winter is also a 'trigger'. My coping strategy in the past was to jet off to Venezuela or Brazil for a couple of weeks. I had a long successful career doing that.

In order to survive, I'm going to have to orchestrate friends, work, money, a place to live, a passion and a girlfriend. You might scream with frustration at your screen, because we're all trying to get that perfect balance, and there's always one area of our life that's not going as well as we'd like it to. Erm, well... you don't know how good you've got it, actually. Try living in a bush in a park with none of the things I listed, then get back to me. This is not a boo-hoo story - I'm just explaining how dysfunctional my life got. If it helps you to say it's all my fault for making bad life choices or whatever, then knock yourself out, but I'm far too busy figuring out whether there's some way I can rediscover a reason to live to worry about shit like that.

I'm just writing now. I'm brain dumping. I'm trying to write without a filter.

It's possible that I got caught in some thought loops before, and I needed to take a break from my usual blogging topics. It's possible that my blog wasn't helping me at all. It's possible that I'd lost perspective, because I'd been doing too much navel gazing. I took a break and now I've come back.

Now, I'm writing mindful of the fact that I have friends who I've been living with in Wales. I'm mindful of the fact that I've got a friend who helped me get this job. I'm mindful of the fact that I can't afford to put a foot wrong. I'm mindful of the precarity of my situation. I'm mindful of the fact that writing is actually pretty exhausting, and I need to devote quite a lot of my energies into doing a good job and impressing the people I'm working with. I'm mindful of the fact that I have repeated the pattern of boom and bust, and it looks pretty obviously cyclical to a casual observer. I'm mindful of the fact that my consistent perseverance in the face of a headwind might look a bloody-minded and stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality. That's not the case.

There's a prescription for an antidepressant waiting for me at my doctor's surgery back in Wales. Given the chance, I would be institutionalised by the mental health services. Instead, I'm pursuing a ridiculously optimistic and hopeful, yet extremely risky strategy, of attempting to avoid medication and the dead-end of financial ruin and the mire of pathetically paid jobs that're just as soul-destroying as the very well paid job I've got. I'm not happy about being unmedicated, but I wouldn't be happy popping pills either. I'm not happy about having to work a bullshit job, but I wouldn't be happy doing a so-called 'fulfilling' one either (there are none).

"What if you're still depressed and anxious in 6 weeks time?" the psychiatrist asked me. "Wouldn't you regret not having started taking medication sooner?" he asked. What happens if I don't give up though? Wouldn't I regret never finding out what happens if I stick to my guns and persevere? What am I going to find out, that nobody else ever would, because it's too hard?

I didn't mean to write so much, but I've uncorked some of the stuff I've been holding back. I've never regretted writing, despite the seemingly dreadful consequences. Writing has been financially disastrous for me, but yet it's got to be a healthier coping strategy than drink or drugs, or even going to the gym excessively, where I'll strain my heart and give myself arthritic joints.

I imagine that I'll meet a nice girl soon enough, and the pleasure of tactile affection will change my mood. I imagine that my lengthy abstinence from mind-altering substances will pay dividends soon. Already, some feeling has returned to my nerve-damaged foot/ankle. I must surely be somewhat more sharp-witted, now that I'm not taking heaps of pills every day. I must surely be on course to return to a more normal life, since kicking my addiction to stimulants.

I'm going to give myself a big pat on the back for reducing my alcohol consumption to a moderate level, breaking my physical benzodiazepine dependence, reducing my sleeping pill habit to almost nothing, getting off powerful prescription painkillers, staying 'clean' from supercrack for 6 months and otherwise living a pretty damn healthy life. It might not seem like I've done very much this year, apart from work three contracts, survive double kidney failure, survive a suicide attempt and survive a bunch of very traumatic events, but I'm damn well going to go ahead and congratulate myself on having spent a couple of days in my new job in what must be the very best mental health that I've enjoyed all year, even if I'm diabolically depressed and anxious.

Thinking about my achievements a little more, I'm going to give myself an imaginary medal for 30 days of not drinking, 30 days of writing a novel and spending more days clean and sober than I've spent intoxicated by medications, drugs and alcohol. Quitting a whole host of highly addictive drugs and medications, while in the throes of depression and anxiety, is something I'm going to go ahead and actually feel really proud of - sorry, not sorry. While I'm at it, I'm going to give myself another imaginary medal for not writing my blog for 30 days too. That was harder than you'd think.

My verbal diarrea is pretty bad, so I'm going to stop now, but I hope you can see that I'm not idle, even if you think I've been unproductive, lazy and self-sabotaging all year. It pisses me off that anybody might think I don't have a work ethic.

I'm not going to give up on my crazy experiment to see how my mental health is affected by my circumstances by just damn well being patient, consistent and relentless. I'm controlling the variables.




Winning Friends & Influencing People

15 min read

This is a story about trying too hard...

Coke can

"You've got to meet my friend..." she enthuses. "Can [my friend] stay at your place on Saturday?" she asks, well in advance of the weekend. "You two were separated at birth - you share the same spirit animal" she tells me. The pressure to get along with this new person - talked about in reverential terms - is immense.

She's planning a meal out. At the restaurant, I'm told that I'm going to be sat specifically next to this over-hyped friend, because it's assumed that we are going to get along like a house on fire. That's an arson joke, but we'll get to that later.

Friday - the night of the meal - all my new friends-to-be had signed a card to welcome me into their lives. There was a helium balloon on the table, like at a 5-year-old's birthday party. Nobody ever went to such elaborate lengths to make me feel a sense of belonging; acceptance. I was almost moved to tears, but I had a job to do that night: to meet & greet and make a good first impression.

We were eating dinner - Brazilian barbecue meats - and my 'spirit animal' was sat in the corner of our booth, not eating. It was announced - against her wishes - that she had been on a 4-day drug binge, taking what is colloquially known as "meow meow". Unsurprisingly, an exclusive diet of powerful stimulant drugs does not give you an appetite for anything of nutritional value. Sitting in a restaurant is probably the last place on earth I'd ever want to be after a binge like that. I decided to temporarily park any "getting to know you" chit-chat with her until a time that my spirit animal was in a better place, physically & mentally.

After dinner, the group began to fracture. There were some who wanted to go to a packed noisy pub selling lousy overpriced drinks, and others who preferred to come back to my nearby apartment, where we could all have a comfortable seat on my big couches, and converse without having to shout - a bona fide middle-class thirty-something cliché: the house party.

One reason for the success of the house party is that it's a far better environment for the consumption of recreational drugs. I'm not foresworn from drug use, but to me, addiction is not a social activity. My general personality and attitude - no fear & everything to excess - had led me to drug overdoses of supercrack that put me in hospital with multiple organ failure. My drug taking was not recreational - it was abusive, reckless and akin to playing Russian roulette with a 6-bullet revolver loaded with 5 bullets.

If you have successfully made yourself a comfortable wealthy middle-class life, it's your mortgage repayments and other household bills that keep you awake all night, not powerful Class-A narcotics. To lose just one night of sleep and have the mentally destabilising effects of recreational drugs, has a profoundly negative effect on the week that follows. I never noticed that my weekend partying had a negative knock-on effect on me when I was young, but now my age has now become a factor.

One of my new friends - who's the same age as me - did the sensible thing and headed home at a reasonable hour. He had his sister's wedding on the Saturday and he appointed me as the responsible adult, in charge of putting the girl who was going to drive him to the wedding, into a cab, in time for her to then drive a gazillion miles across the country. "How are you going to stay awake and concentrate on the road after partying all night?" I asked her. "Amphetamines" was her answer. I can't fault her logic - if it works for fighter pilots, then why wouldn't it work for an ordinary car driver.

Fighter pilots have "go pills" and "no-go pills" which are taken respectively at the beginning and end of a mission. I offered to make her one of my special "no-go" preparations, so that she wasn't wired as hell at the wedding and clearly off her nut on speed, but she declined.

At the first ever party I've thrown in my new apartment, it was snowing. When the "good stuff" started to run out, Billy Whizz came out for a run. The white dusting on a makeup mirror started to become a hybrid mix of different substances. Molly came for a visit too.

Predictably, like any party that Charles is invited to, the whole room was talking over the top of each other and making boastful claims. For some reason, my reaction to this was to admit that I'm a grower not a show-er. This prompted one of the guys to claim that he was both a grower AND a show-er. Having been dared to get my dick out and show him I duly obliged in front of my guests. This guy then took me in the kitchen to prove one part of his aforementioned claim: he did have a substantially proportioned soft penis.

I then asked the room for their opinion on a classic ethical philosophical dilemma thought experiment, knowing that it would provoke lively and entertaining debate. Soon, this prompted a couple to leave the party, almost without saying goodbye because they were still arguing about the 'right' answer to a question that divides legal, moral and scientific opinion. "Bullseye" I thought to myself.

With Charles still having a strong influence on the room, oneupmanship raged out of control. We ended up comparing scars. While the girls were not exactly thrilled to show off any evidence of self-harm, me and the guy with the big [soft] dick debated who had the better scar from an operation. This segued into "who's spent more weeks in hospital?" as I steered the competition towards "who's the most insane?" knowing that I would easily be the undisputed champion.

At this point I was getting a bit bored with the war of words, so I just rolled up my sleeve and slashed 3 or 4 cuts into my arm with a kitchen knife. I then became immediately aware that I was so desperate to impress my new friends that I had just mutilated my body in a sudden act of self-harm.

With the theme returning to dares again, my 'spirit animal' dared me to suck my own penis. I explained that without an erection, it would be a difficult act to fulfil, but in the spirit of the dare, I asked if she would be content to see me lick my own foreskin. She confirmed that it would satisfy the conditions of the dare. Without hesitation, I dropped my trousers and got my soft penis as close to my mouth as I could, and then pulled my foreskin until I could touch it with my tongue - it was actually easier than I thought it would be. Obviously, there are not that many people - especially growers not show-ers - who would drop their trousers and suck their own dick for the amusement of their guests. This was a far more impressive feat of courage than cutting my arm with a kitchen knife.

After that, the number of crazy anecdotes that I could tell were stories that all revolved around a similar theme: being hospitalised or locked up in police cells. The stories that drug addicts tell are not that varied or interesting.

I decided to demonstrate my culinary skills in the kitchen. With an unspecified secret ingredient - some of the snow that was falling earlier in the evening - I gave a practical demonstration of a chemistry experiment. Namely the conversion of a salt to a "free base" where water, carbon dioxide and sodium chloride are isolated as 'useless' byproducts. This chemical reaction allows a salt with a high melting point - which would combust in the presence of a naked flame - to be altered into a crystal with a low melting point, allowing it to be vaporised without burning.

With sodium bicarbonate mixed with the mystery ingredient, in a spoon, a few droplets of water were added. The carbon dioxide fizzed away in a delightful effervescent chemical reaction. A few pinches of sodium bicarb later and we reached the point where the fizzing stopped. Then, I heated the spoon and boiled away the salty water, leaving only the "free base" crystals.

What would you do with this crystalline substance, one might ask?

Well, first, you need to take an empty beer or soda can and make an indentation at the opposite end from the bit you drink out of. Then, perforating the thin aluminium of the can with a pin, you can create an area where air may enter the can, when you to suck on the end you'd normally drink out of. Another option - if you can find such an object - is to take a hollow glass tube and put wire wool (Brillo pads work well for this) into one end.

Having allegedly made this concoction and strange contraption - which was all part of me showing off what a badass I am - I had allegedly demonstrated how to make crack cocaine and a pipe to smoke it. There couldn't have been a more "fuck you - I'm fucking hardcore" demonstration of how 'streetwise' I am, unless I'd whipped out some rubber tubing, a thin aluminium spoon, clean pins (hypodermic syringes), a small ball of cotton wool and proceeded to 'cook' a batch of heroin and prepare it for injection. I've never injected heroin by the way, although I did have fentanyl - which is 1,000 times more powerful - injected into me in hospital. Most people are afraid of needles and associate needle use with people whose drug addiction has led them to a completely dysfunctional life that consists of a miserable merry-go-round of theft/robbery/prostitution, 'fencing' stolen property, scoring herion and then getting high until there's no drugs left and there's only 4 hours until you get "junk sick" and have to repeat the whole exercise again.

Before I put the last of my party guests into a taxi - my friend who was driving to the wedding - at about 6:30am, three of us insufflated a few final lines of white powder, allegedly.

My spirit animal had a nice time until the drugs started to wear off, and then cognitive impairment, a drug-induced panic attack and akathisia (inability to stop twitching/tic'ing and/or jiggling of legs) left her in a rather sorry state where it was pretty clear that she was suffering from an unpleasant ordeal. I tried laughing at her. I tried telling her to stop being such a wuss, given the relatively 'mild' binge that she'd been on - just 4 or 5 sleepless nights, and relatively low doses of very impure drugs. In the end, I took pity on her and made her a little shot glass with things to cure her anxiety, replace lost dopamine and serotonin, and basically put her to sleep - there's no 'magic bullet' for insomnia and sleep deprivation, but sleeping pills damn well help. I threw all manner of things into my special 'comedown cure' that would ease her suffering. She was talking gibberish; she couldn't understand what I was saying, and I had to spend 20 minutes trying to maintain her concentration and eye contact for long enough that she could swallow what I'd prepared for her. Then, finally she fell asleep with a look of calm on her face. I don't mind babysitting the occasional person who's going through the consequences of 'self-inflicted' shit, but it would have been inhumane to let her suffer unnecessarily.

Saturday night, I made her another concoction that would prevent "the Sunday from Hell" where the consequences of an outrageous drug binge were brought into sharp focus by the need to start work again on Monday. "I want to order a pizza" she announced at about 11:30pm, having swallowed the curative remedy only 10 minutes earlier. "You have 10 minutes to get into bed, otherwise you're going to pass out on the floor" I warned her. My earlier good work had moved her out of binge mode and into a state where her appetite had returned, but 8 more hours of quality sleep was vital for both of us. The die was cast.

10 minutes later, I pulled her mobile phone out of her hand - the pizza company's number half-dialled - picked her up from the floor where she had collapsed in a most unladylike position, and carried her to bed. I was so tired that I could barely see straight to send a couple of texts before I passed out too.

After 9 hours sleep, we both awoke feeling pretty damn refreshed, considering the way we'd abused our bodies. I'd improved her average daily sleep time for the week, from 2.5 hours to 5.3 - more than 100% better. Ideally, we would all have perfect sleep hygiene and get 8 hours a night. I needed to end her drug binge, save her from many hours of unnecessary suffering and let her catch up on desperately needed sleep. I was giving her a fighting chance of not losing her job, thus spiralling even further downwards. This is about the best you can ever hope to do for an addict until they're ready to acknowledge that their addiction is rampaging out of control. Addiction always leads to complete & indiscriminate destruction of your entire life, health and will prematurely kill you.

I incurred the wrath of my 'spirit animal's' best friend for not condemning her addictive behaviour. Do I have the moral authority to lecture anyone on their lifestyle? I know better than anybody else I've ever met, how you can go from riches to rags. Supercrack was the paving stones of the road to Hell - hospitals, police cells, hostels and sleeping rough. I overcame my addiction to one of the most powerful drugs on the planet, as well as dealing with the total destruction of my life - divorcing my wife, selling my house, losing my job. So it would seem that if anybody's got an opinion that's worth respecting, it'd be mine. However, humans' relationship with drugs & alcohol is way more complex than "this is bad for me so I'm going to stop"... otherwise nobody would take drugs, get drunk, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee or energy drinks.

We live in a world where we try to find somebody with anatomically opposite genitals to us, squirt some love snot into them, and then spend the next 18+ years looking after our blood and mucous covered alien-like midget progeny, that was painfully ejected from the girl's sex hole. Human behaviour does not follow purely rational rules.

Human use of intoxicating beverages and preparations of plants that contain bitter alkaloids - with the intention of seeking psychoactive effects - is behaviour that's almost as old as cave painting, making fire and sharpening pieces of flint to make spears.

My kidneys are over 50% recovered from my last hospital visit. The facial tic that was caused - quite literally - by brain damage, has now repaired itself. The people and places that are no longer in my life because of supercrack addiction, have been replaced by a new city, new home, new job and new friends. Yes, it could've been worse, but believe me... nobody needs or wants to be told the bleedin' obvious. If it was just a case of saying "fire is hot and will burn you" and "knives are sharp and will cut you" then we'd see a 100% reduction in those injuries, by the bullshit logic that we need to nag and shame addicts into fixing their dirty little habits.

Often an addict is conveniently labelled as a black sheep, and becomes entertainment for the group that surrounds them. Lots of concerned hand-wringing and "we need to do something" empty talk goes on, but all that really happens is that the addict becomes a pariah, with nobody nonjudgemental left to turn to - it's the loneliest thing... lonelier even than being a homeless person injecting heroin under a bridge. Trust me: to spend time in the company of addicts and alcoholics who make no secret of their loss of control and the destruction of their lives, is to gain a nonjudgemental social support network that can make the difference between life & death. Fuck any condescending prick who thinks they're a moral authority who can sit in judgement and save you from yourself. Even with my stories of drug-induced insanity, hospitals, police cells and psych wards being by the far the most extreme you've ever heard, I can't tell an addict or alcoholic what to do with their life.

To hear the same hectoring, lecturing bollocks from people who [do or don't] know what it's like to realise you've overdosed and you've got 30 seconds to dial 999, or just let yourself die... it's not working, is it? I don't know if you've seen the stats, but only Portugal is winning "the war on drugs" and the way they're doing that is to destigmatise and decriminalise drugs, despite immense pressure from the United States to stop saving lives and improving the wellbeing of the Portuguese people.

So, that was the weekend that was full of drug-fuelled insanity that would supposedly trigger me to relapse back onto supercrack. Bullshit.




Judge a Book by its Cover

7 min read

This is a story about pulling the wool over somebody's eyes...

River view

Every day, between 6pm and 8pm, I get a visit from a different stranger. They all belong to Tower Hamlets' Community Mental Health Team, and specifically to the home treatment Crisis Team, but it must be a big team because I almost never see the same person more than once. Everybody's reaction is the same when I let them in: "wow! look at the view!".

The fact is, I have enough money to last me 2 more weeks, but then I'm not just skint... I'm actually insolvent. I have a lease that doesn't expire until September and I have to service various debts that I ran up, just trying to stay alive.

"Oh, you probably spent all your money on drugs" I hear you say.

Recently, I was on the dark web, looking for something for a friend - something to relieve pain that wasn't on offer on the NHS. Having located some vape oil, containing medical cannabis, I then couldn't resist the urge to continue window shopping. To my alarm, the worldwide supply of supercrack had dried up, due to the Chinese very effectively banning the production and sale of it.

There was one supplier - in the whole world - selling his remaining stock of supercrack. 10 grams. That amount of good quality cocaine might cost you £900. For 10 grams of supercrack, I paid the princely sum of $134.

How long do you think 10 grams of supercrack lasts? Well, we can work it out. A severe addiction might consume as much at 15 milligrams per day - that would be enough to not sleep for a whole day and night. So, easy maths then.... 10,000 divided by 15 = 667 days. One year and ten months, of daily drug abuse for $134. No. I did not spend my money on drugs.

So, back to the strangers in my home each evening. I sit them down on the sofa, next to the patio doors that lead onto the balcony.

Still somewhat wowed by the view, they can also see a number of expensive electronic trinkets lying around. The conclusion that is instantly drawn is that I'm not really in crisis, but in fact I'm wealthy, successful and totally in control of my life. They couldn't be more wrong.

Empty bottles

I wrote about this the other day, but lurking behind the door into the kitchen, are a load of bottles for recycling. In theory, I've stopped drinking, but that's just a technicality. If you're in the grips of a mental health crisis or drug-induced behaviour, then you don't tend to have a glass of wine in front of the TV. Remarkably, I've had a bottle of white wine in the fridge, unopened, for over a week.

"Why don't you just have one glass and stop?" a psychiatrist asked me. I replied that oxygen would make the wine go off, so I needed to finish the bottle once it was open. She suggested a vacuum pump wine preserver, to which I replied that I bet I'd never be able to find one. The penny dropped, and she realised I was taking the piss. The reason why I don't stop is because I don't want to. Alcohol is an effective way of getting intoxicated, so you don't give a fuck about your problems... except I do seem to give a fuck in a strange way, because whenever I get ridiculously drunk, I punch my bathroom door so hard that it makes a hole in it. Then I wake up and think "why did I do that?" and I'm filled with regret.


Strangers who come in my house don't see my bedrooms. My main bedroom with the ensuite has got blood spots all over the floor from some accidental injury or something. There's lots of evidence that I imprisoned myself in that room, for some reason. In fact, there's lots of evidence outside the communal areas, that I've absolutely lost my mind at times.

Recently, being in possession of quite a good set of tools, as well as a box of screws, I set about attempting to screw a desk to the door of my spare bedroom, or something like that. The plan wasn't even clear to me. Once you lose more than about 3 nights of sleep, your priorities are quite corrupted. Instead of hydration, food and sleep, my focus switched to barricading the bedroom door. If you have a dark sense of humour, you may chuckle at the fact that as soon as I had completed my task, I then needed to undo my work because I needed to use the lavatory.

These are the kinds of things that are quite important if you want to understand just how sick I am, but the 'window dressing' which is my lounge, balcony and view, rather distracts from the piles and piles of dirty dishes, and overbrimming laundry baskets. The home visit team members walk away thinking "I must tell my colleagues about that awesome view", rather than "I must tell the doctor that the patient looked like he hadn't slept for days, or eaten much".

Can I fix things? I've pretty much given up hope. There just isn't time.

10 grams of supercrack certainly doesn't help, and I knew that a relapse would be one problem too many, on top of a giant shit sandwich. However, the things I've tried that are a sensible and realistic approach, have brought in way too little cash for way too much effort. I'd rather have my MacBook Air and iPad Pro, than a few pennies, even if they're surplus to requirements most of the time.

I could keep up appearances for friends and family, but I lived in fear of my work colleagues discovering that I suffered from mental illness for so long, that the exhaustion became unbearable. It was an open secret that I would be late to work during periods of depression, or not turn up at all. Everybody knew that I liked a drink, but I surrounded myself with other heavy drinkers. The problems worsened, and I had to run twice as fast to just to stand still. I came to London, knowing I could burn a bunch of bridges, and never exhaust all the options open to me, but it's bullshit, having to interview for jobs when you've got a 20 year career behind you and countless people who know you're good at what you do. Also, why shouldn't my friends know what's going on in my life. If they're true friends, they'll see that I'm still me, but I'm in crisis - they won't suddenly change their opinion of me, because of prejudice, although one close friend did and it broke my heart.

Don't lift up the rugs or look under anything: I've swept so many things under the carpet. Out of sight out of mind. I don't bear close scrutiny, but nobody looks very carefully anyway. First impressions count for everything.

After the insanity comes a further insanity - a paranoia that my flat is trashed and I'll never be able to bodge it up good enough to escape hefty bills for repairs that are completely over-inflated by the unscrupulous letting agents.

Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? The fact that you're asking those questions is the clue as to why I might wish to escape into alcoholic oblivion, or take supercrack. There are no easy answers. I know I keep going on about it, but the whole hospital/dialysis/job loss fiasco has left me questioning what the f**k I'm doing, working IT contracts in London, except for the staggering amount of money that it brings in. It doesn't compensate for the up-front stress, followed by the abject boredom and misery.

You'll probably find me sidling up to you in a bar in 20 years time - the known local drunk - and saying to you "I remember the time I lived by the River Thames and worked for the world's biggest companies" and you'll think that I'm some delusional twat.

I hope I just die before I suffer that indignity.




Unfinished Wine

5 min read

This is a story about habituation...

Wine bottle

What a surprise! There's a small glass of wine left in the bottle today. How did I end up missing that? I normally drink the house dry, every single night. I've stopped buying gin, Pimms and other spirits, to avoid the temptation of a strong early-evening drink, to take the edge off the day; the nightcap that sends me to bed completely sozzled.

I'm not saying I've become some pious teetotaler who rather too proudly proclaims their abstinence, as if it makes them a better person somehow. I respect former alcoholics who know that once they pop they can't stop, but anybody who chooses not to eat or drink something because of their beliefs and values can bloody well keep it to themselves.

The French - during a water shortage - put up public notices saying "SAVE WATER: DRINK WINE". I fucking love the French.

I've been having my rocket fuel antidepressants for a few weeks now, but I'm sleeping 14 hours a day and I'm almost completely incapacitated by depression. The doc told me to take two pills a day, so I'm taking four, trying to speed things along a bit. The timing could not be worse. I need to be up and about, earning money, enjoying our all-too-brief British summer. Instead, I'm in bed with the curtains closed.

The friend who challenged me to 100 days of sobriety now takes 3 day breaks from drinking. I can't remember the last day where I didn't have any alcohol. Probably when I was in hospital, or maybe the day of the London Marathon, when I momentarily relapsed onto the really hard stuff: supercrack.

Perhaps that's one of the main reasons why I'm still depressed - it was only a month ago that I was convinced the sound of helicopters and yelling crowds, was an angry mob and the police, out to get me. Paranoia like that is awful. Supercrack is a Hell of a drug.

What a year. Starting well with a contract for Lloyds, but then suddenly my foot was numb and swollen. By the time I made it to Accident & Emergency, my whole left leg had swollen up. Acute kidney failure meant two weeks on dialysis and an operation to put a 25cm long rubber tube into a vein in my groin. Managed four days work then lost the contract - too sick to work. My flatmate had buggered off and owes me thousands of pounds in rent & bills; made a complete mess of my spare bedroom. Nobody knew why my foot was numb and I couldn't move it very much, despite being poked and prodded by various doctors. I was taking huge doses of opiates to manage the pain, and had to endure horrible withdrawal - nausea, cold sweats, diarrhoea - when I decided to try and get off the painkillers.

Gawd knows how long I've been taking Xanax and Valium for. I probably need a benzo detox. Opiate withdrawal is unpleasant but benzo withdrawal can kill you.

But, one step at a time. I'm going to try and only drink half a bottle of wine tonight. She wants to drink early and then stop; I want to drink late and then go to bed. It's going to be a test of my willpower, which is severely compromised by alcohol.

If tonight goes well, I'll try and do three consecutive days with no booze; see if it helps my mood. I'm sure my liver will thank me - it's already pretty busy trying to process all those chemicals I put into my body; all those pretty pills.

It's true, the more someting is ubiquitous, the harder it is to abstain from it. I hadn't dabbled in drugs for a decade, when the Dark Web brought a drug superstore right into my living room. Little packages of joy coming through the letterbox, allegedly. It's easier to get booze though. If you really have the thirst for it, you can nip to your local convenience store or even have it delivered to your door in London, 24 hours a day.

They tell recovering addicts to delete all their dealers' numbers from their phone; avoid friends who are still using drugs; change your lifestyle to avoid reminders of the places you used to use drugs. But what if you only ever did drugs on your own? What if you never met a dealer in your life? What if you could never forget the steps to access the Dark Web?

Why am I so hard on myself when I'm dealing with so much? Addiction, hospitalisation, psychiatric wards, mental health conditions, painful injuries, money worries, people owing me lots of money, need to get another contract, need to get a new flatmate, need to fix stuff up, need to stabilise and get into a sustainable position.

Alcohol's probably the most health-destroying drug; the most dangerous to quit if you're dependent; the most ubiquitous; the drug I've been abusing for the longest.

One step at a time.




My Other Girlfriend

10 min read

This is a story about infidelity...


Yo ho ho and a bottle of Xanax. We're off to take a sailing trip across the Atlantic to New York. I'm nervous, but she's with me - she's also an experienced sailor - so I'm excited and I'm sure that between us we can manage the voyage. At first we are heading towards Dover. Why are we travelling East when we need to be sailing West? Then, we are becalmed and a fog descends. The water is glassy and flat and the sails flap uselessly. A road sign appears and it becomes apparent that we are in London, on a road. We are towing the yacht on a trailer. I rack my brains, trying to think of the best marina with a hoist to lift our yacht into the sea. I can't think straight.

This is a dream, obviously.

Next, I'm approaching a nightclub, skipping the queue outside and heading straight for the entrance. I present my left hand to the bouncer, who shines a torch on it. I brush past him so confidently, and he's not really paying attention, so he doesn't notice that I don't have an ink stamp that says I'm allowed in. Nobody challenges me. I go past the dance-floor and into another room. I notice somebody sucking on a glass tube with what looks like shards of gold, or maybe honeycomb, being ignited with a lighter. Then, an old schoolfriend wants to show me something he's making. He's pouring chemicals into a large jam jar. He's making shake-and-bake methamphetamine. The crystals aren't perfect shards of ice, but instead they're a milky mess. I know the drug will be potent, but the solvents and other chemicals used are deadly. I'm afraid, but also drawn to it, like a moth to a flame. Somebody has prepared some lines of a white powder; it's being passed around. I wake up.

My doctor warned me that my new depression treatment - California rocket fuel - would lead to vivid dreams, but I've always had a lot of dreams.

In a way, my new dreams are better than the old ones. When I used to dream before, they were basically all the same: I have some supercrack and I'm trying to find a private place to take it, but every time I think I'm safe from intrusion, and I'm about to snort a line, somebody interrupts me. Then begins a stressful game of hide-and-seek where I'm trying to escape the voyeurs who wish to intrude on my private drug use. I never actually manage to get any drugs up my nose before I wake up.

Of course, drugs are still my mistress. I've got a virtually unlimited supply of opiates, in the form of tramadol and codeine. I've got stacks of benzodiazepines, in the form of diazepam and Xanax. I've got loads of Z-drugs in the form of zopiclone and zolpidem. I've got pregablin, venlafaxine and mirtazepine. I've got Viagra and Cialis. None of these chemicals seem to make the blindest bit of difference to my depression, and they're certainly not my drug of choice: supercrack.

I go to the chemist, and I have to give two signatures, because they're giving me medications that are controlled substances - they're illegal to possess without a prescription. I'm handed a carrier bag that's bulging with boxes packed full of blister strips containing capsules full of chemicals, or pills that have been pressed into certain shapes and sizes, with numbers and letters imprinted on them. Everything is so colourful. If I lose a pill on the floor by accident, I can identify exactly what it is.

I get confused at night, as I swallow 6 pregablin capsules (white with black lettering), 2 venlafaxine tablets (round and dark orange), 2 mirtazepine tablets (small lozenge shaped, light orange), 2 zolpidem tablets (tiny white lozenges) and a Xanax (an oblong with "XANAX" imprinted on one side). Sometimes I also take a zopiclone if I can't sleep (round white tablet). When my leg was in pain, I would also take 2 co-codamol with 30mg of codeine in each tablet (large white lozenges) and 2 tramadol capsules (green and yellow). Trying to remember if I took everything, and make sure I don't take anything twice, is quite difficult. I'm almost at the point where I should prepare all my tablets and check I've got everything before I greedily gulp them down. I can now swallow 6 tablets at once, easily.

My real mistress, and the beast that's out to kill me - supercrack - is tamed at the moment. I know that a lapse would be disastrous in my financially precarious situation, but I'm also so doped up that my libido and craving for supercrack is under control... for now. I'm not a superstitious person, but I feel like I'm tempting fate just writing these words.

I don't bother keeping a tally of how long I've been 'clean'. It's a ridiculous idea. If a person quits one thing, they start doing something else. A former gambling addict might become obsessed with fitness and go to the gym 7 days a week. A smoker who quits will probably start eating more, to compensate for the loss.

It might seem logical that the longer you're addicted to something, the harder it will be to quit and stay 'clean' but nobody seems to realise that the more times you quit and have periods of abstinence, the better you get at quitting and resisting temptation. Medically, the binge & quit cycle of drug taking is the most damaging, because the binges are so extreme: days and days without sleep or food, and huge doses of really harmful drugs, when your poor body has just about recovered and was starting to get back to normality.

Of course, the really harmful stuff is to relationships. She doesn't mention it very often, but she's worried about the next time I just disappear off the face of the Earth, and reappear skinny, sleep-deprived and suffering from all the nasty side effects of supercrack: paranoia, obsessive-compulsive behaviour and panic attacks; not to mention tachycardia, malignant hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis. I'm no stranger to hospitals and psych wards.

If you meet me in person, I seem polite, well presented, somewhat smart and certainly confident and self-assured. I can make smalltalk and feign interest in other people's lives. I remember the tiny details that people tell me, which I can see are important to them, so that I can bring them up if ever there's a lull in conversation; an uncomfortable silence. There's no chance you'd peg me as a 'druggie' or a 'stoner' or a 'junkie'. I take perverse pleasure in contradicting and confounding the stereotypes.

Despite my ability to confidently bullshit my way through life, I do wonder if I'm as seriously sick as my doctors tell me I am. They can't make their mind up whether I have treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder or some dual or triple diagnosis of all of them, plus the substance abuse, of course.

On top of the chemical cocktails, there's a bottle of wine every night, just like every other middle-class professional. Lots of people would say that alcohol is part of the problem, but the last time I quit I quickly went hypomanic and lost my contract. Seems to be the story of my life: losing my contracts through ill-health. All the evidence points to chronic illness that makes me unfit to work, but my confident and upbeat attitude - plus my employability - has got me stuck in a groundhog day loop, where I work enough to pay the bills for a year, but then implode spectacularly and find myself without gainful employment, yet again.

Undoubtedly, my affair with supercrack wreaks havoc across every area of my life, but what about the depression? What about the hypomania? What about the fact I see everything in black and white, and I either love you or hate you? Even when I'm 'well' and functioning, I've still gotta be right: intellectual pride and arrogance.

I've committed to a new regimen of antidepressants, for the first time in years, so maybe my mood will improve if I can keep taking the pills regularly for 4 to 6 weeks... then we'll see if these blunt instruments of brain manipulation actually fucking work for once.

Meanwhile, money pours out of my bank account and the end of the runway gets ever closer, but the wheels of the aeroplane are still on the tarmac. If I can't psych myself up to overcome the depression, stress and anxiety enough to hide my problems and tackle the arduous task of getting another contract, I'm fucked. The house of cards will collapse quicker than you can say "fuck my life".

It's remarkable how much time I spend thinking about setting my affairs in order: making sure my life insurance pays out to my sister, making sure I've left instructions so that friends who've helped me out get repaid, making sure I've thrown away everything that's of no value, making sure that I've listed the details of all my bank accounts and creditors, making sure I've left enough money in my company so that my accountant can wind up the business and he gets paid, and also making sure that at least a teeny bit of my legacy is preserved: I've written a novel and this blog has about 600,000 words, plus photos. I always said I wanted to leave a smoking gun, in case anybody wanted to investigate how stress - mainly financial worries - can destroy a person and drive them to suicide. My biggest fear is being written off with a simple throwaway label: "mentally ill" or "substance abuse" or whatever... things are never as simple as that.

While most people are planning summer holidays and extended weekend breaks over the bank holiday weekend, I'm paralysed by the ever-approaching end of the runway, combined with debilitating stress and depression. Things look straightforward, because I've made life look like a walk in the park so far, but in fact I'm just very good at hiding the deteriorating situation, when my back's against the wall. Just because I can rescue myself in the nick of time, doesn't mean I can always do it, forever. I feel physically sick at the thought of the effort involved in doing what I do, all over again, even though it's a well-practiced tried-and-trusted formula.

Time just gets frittered away, which is fine when you're getting your regular salary and you spend most of your time at your desk just counting down to the weekend or your next holiday, but when you're in my situation, in a way, I'm dying. How do you think you'd feel if you were left penniless, homeless and with a bunch of vultures trying to take the clothes off your back? How do you think you'd feel if you know you can make everything alright again, if only you were well enough to work, but you feel sick and the thought of going back to the office caused you severe stress, anxiety and paralysed you; unable to cope or deal with the situation?

Tick tock goes the clock, and it doesn't stop. You have to run just to stand still. This is why it's so attractive to run away with my mistress and pretend my problems don't exist: escapism.

I want to escape this invisible prison.