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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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I'm [Not] OK

6 min read

This is a story about keeping people updated...

Invert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Beach Body

6 min read

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

Flip flops

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

Unsurprisingly, I put on weight.

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

I put on more weight.

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

I didn't change my behaviour.

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

Then I stopped drinking.

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

I was teetotal for nearly 5 months.

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

Now, I'm trying to lose weight again.

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

I still don't do any exercise.

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

I should do some exercise.

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

I'm making good progress.

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

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

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

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

 

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Not Drinking Again

2 min read

This is a story about teetotalling...

Bottles

I have stopped eating breakfast, have stopped having large lunches, stopped snacking and have stopped drinking alcohol. This is all part of an effort to lose some weight before going on holiday.

It's surprising that a few simple lifestyle changes can cause me to lose weight, when I do no exercise whatsoever.

I've been hungry, but only in the evenings.

I've craved alcohol a little bit, but only occasionally.

There have been surprise bonuses, beyond the weight loss.

I have more energy. In fact, I have too much energy. I've been sent into hypomania. I've been staying up late at night, thinking about making random expensive purchases. I've been argumentative and combative. I've been short-tempered and impatient. I've been impulsive. However, on the whole I feel a lot better than I did last week.

Not drinking is, on balance, much better than drinking a lot on a regular basis.

My life had started to revolve around my next drink: where and when would I next be getting a glass of wine or beer?

Living my life alcohol-free, I've dealt with some pretty awful stuff this week, but I've managed. I've coped.

When I was mixing alcohol with sleeping pills and tranquillisers, I was getting into some very strange states where I was half-dreaming, but I was still somewhat interacting with the real world: I was talking, but usually it was nonsensical because it was related to what I was dreaming about. Sure, this was at bedtime - in bed - when I really should have been fast asleep, but my brain managed to fight the soporific effects of vast quantities of sleeping pills, tranquillisers, sedatives and alcohol. I have no idea how I'm able to maintain consciousness with so much crap in my bloodstream, but I can.

I think that going [almost] alcohol-free will help me to catch up on sleep and reclaim some energy. I think that being [almost] teetotal will enable me to do more than eat, sleep and work.

Anyway, it's early days, but I would very much like to be in-shape for my upcoming holiday. It's motivating me to "behave myself".

Change is hard and my life has a lot of stress, but alcohol is not a great crutch. I think I'll be better off without so much of it in my life.

 

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Home Improvements

4 min read

This is a story about nurturing...

Houseplants

My lounge is a place of contrast. I hate the style of the fireplace, but I love having a log fire. I love the parquet floor but it's completely different from the parquet in the rest of the house. The room is cold, but I wanted this room to be cosy - I spend a lot of time under a blanket, when the fire's not lit. My big sofas are super comfy, but I find all my furniture a little bland and generic; functional and practical. I hate the curtains: they're revolting and need replacing, but I do like to close the curtains and feel like I have good privacy.

Getting some houseplants has transformed how I feel about my lounge. Having some greenery really makes me feel many times happier about this particular room of my house.

The shelves were looking a little bare, as I lost a lot of my books during my divorce and many subsequent house moves. The weight of books that I was lugging around didn't seem to be worth it after I had moved for the millionth time, so the only books I have on my shelves are ones I've recently bought and read, or been lent.

I feel like it's a bit of a crazy idea to start accumulating more and more material possessions, including bulky items like furniture, and delicate things like houseplants, which can't be simply thrown into a box if I needed to put my stuff into storage.

However, I needed to put down some roots. I needed to feel settled and at home somewhere, at long last.

Did I mention I'm getting a kitten?

I've had enough of being young, free and single. I want to be comfortable and content. I want to be settled and secure.

This doesn't mean that I'm in some desperate hurry to find the woman of my dreams, marry her and start a family. I'm just enjoying simple domestic pleasures. I'm enjoying ordinary life. I like loading and unloading the dishwasher. I like doing my laundry. I like buying houseplants and other things to make my house look nice. I like mowing the lawn. I get plenty of novelty and pleasure from pottering around the house. That's not to say that I don't very much enjoy going on lovely dates, eating in amazing restaurants and watching arty movies, but I derive an unusual amount of satisfaction from making my house into a home.

It seems like I'm doing everything all at once: moving to a new city, getting a house, settling in, getting a pet, going on dates. Perhaps it seems like I have an end-goal that I'm rushing towards, like so many people do: either rushing towards having children, rushing towards their retirement and death, or both. I'm pretty content to have things settle down for a while. I really want to savour the next few years - I'm hoping that I can keep things steady and routine, enjoying the pleasure of foreign holidays, mini-breaks and fine dining. It might seem like I'm constantly yearning and striving, but as my quality of life improves, the pace at which I live my life is calming down.

Entering into an exclusive relationship might seem like I'm desperate to move my love-life forwards, but it felt like a very natural part of winding down from my rather frenetic period of activity, and was something I was overjoyed about given how crazy I've been about one particular special somebody.

All the things I'm really pleased about sound really ordinary and mundane, in a way: a slowly developing relationship, a steady working routine, minor home improvements. Getting a kitten sounds exciting, which it is, but I want the kitten to feel settled at home with me, and to become part of my day-to-day existence. I eagerly anticipate feeding the cat and watering the plants, as well as cooking ordinary meals for the object of my affections when she comes to visit; watching movies on TV, curled up on the sofa with the cat.

Have I lost my adventurous side? Of course not. I had a rough time when I lived a chaotic adrenaline-filled life without any structure or routine. I'm managing to gradually restore myself to sustainable health, wealth and prosperity. I'm bound to start doing lots of really exciting things - it's in my nature - but I'm going to be smart and keep my love life, my work life and my home life settled, secure, scheduled and sensible.

Future planned purchase: a watering can and some plant food. That pretty much sums up my attitude to life at the moment.

 

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How To Date Hot Women

8 min read

This is a story about second best...

Dancers

This isn't a story about dating hot women at all. This is a story about all the reasons why you shouldn't date hot women. I suppose I'm no sex-starved involuntary celibate (InCel) man who has little success with the opposite sex, but neither would I like to stray into the revolting world of being a pick-up artist. Of course, I've derived an enormous boost to my confidence and self-esteem from sexual conquests - to fail to acknowledge that would be disingenuous - but I've relatively recently become secure and content in the knowledge that my sex-starved frustrated and miserable adolescence is not going to return to haunt me; I have always secured an adequate steady supply of sex with relative ease, so I don't need to constantly pursue women purely to prop up my fragile self-esteem.

Apparently it's a common phenomenon that men will try to get women who are "out of their league". I find the whole concept of "leagues" to be thoroughly appallingly awful and abominable, and I have deep disdain and contempt for those who consider themselves to be "high ranking" in this imaginary "league".

Perhaps the source of my objection to the ranking of physical attractiveness on some scale, is down to my own insecurity that I might be in the middle - scoring 5 out of 10 - or perhaps even worse when I'm feeling a little unfit and carrying some unwanted extra weight. However, my experiences have taught me that I never feel lacking in female admirers, so I must be on the desirable end of the attractiveness scale, if such a thing could ever exist, or should ever exist.

I've heard it suggested that a man should be glad when he gets a woman who is "out of his league" and should simply trust her judgement - she knows her own tastes and can choose as she pleases - but this essay is about why it might not necessarily be a good idea to live daily life with a partner who you consider to be substantially more attractive than you are.

I have noted in myself a considerable amount of time and emotional energy spent worrying about what a very attractive (in my opinion) woman would see in me. Instead of being pleased to receive the attention of women who I find devastatingly beautiful, it has felt like a dreadful trap: what if I fall in love, and then their momentary blindness is cured - the spell is broken - and they can see my true ugliness? How terrible would it be to believe that I'd snagged a woman well "out of my league" only to be dealt a cruel blow by reality?

Firstly, how does one retain a "hot woman"? This may sound horribly possessive in a sexist, misogynistic, male chauvinistic way, but it's a question we have to answer: if you possess a woman who many man want to have for themselves, how do you keep her?

Secondly, how do you cope with the continuous challenge of feeling somewhat unworthy? If your own self-esteem is not great and you're dating somebody who you are incredibly in love with, this presents a considerable psychological problem. It would be easy to be driven mad by the sense of inadequacy: insecurity creates jealousy, paranoia and a whole heap of undesirable behaviours, such as over-protectiveness. It seems probable that an ugly man dating a beautiful woman would want to - if he were allowed to - lock her up somewhere so that she wouldn't fall in love with any handsome men and leave the ugly man heartbroken.

Thirdly, can you even handle how hot this woman is? Will you be able to talk without fumbling your words? Will you be able to be witty and charming and cool, or will you turn into a gibbering idiot, simply because you are so overcome with the desire to impress her? What if you get her into bed? Will you be able to stop yourself from prematurely ejaculating when her beauty is so arousing?

Finally, how will you handle the continuous attention she gets? It might sometimes make you feel very good that every man who sees her is mentally undressing her and lusting after her - you'll be pleased that you're the lucky one who's dating her. However, there will be other times when you're aware that an unending stream of horny men are trying their luck with the girl you're dating. How are you going to handle that? She's spent her whole adult life being hit on by horny men, so she's used to constantly being told she's beautiful and having offers of sex, along with a lot of harassment too of course. How are you going to handle the fact that in public, at work, on the internet and just about anywhere, anytime, there will be a horny man trying to have sex with the hot woman you're dating?

I suppose the problem fundamentally lies with the idea of possession. We are very pleased to have institutions like marriage in our society, and we celebrate and encourage saying things like "my wife" and "my husband" and referring to each other using possessive language. If we believe that legal contracts and religious vows are enough to confer the answers to the above questions, because marriage implies fidelity - committed monogamy - then we might assume that marriage is the solution: find the hottest woman you can and marry her. However, human behaviour demonstrably does not obey legal contracts and solemn vows. In fact, we can see that people cheat all the time, and marriage is completely meaningless.

In Islamic countries, it's more socially acceptable to demand that your wife present herself modestly and keeps herself mostly away from men, perhaps under a kind of "house arrest" in the most extreme of examples. The very worst of Islamic culture sees women barred from working, barred from driving and insisting that women are not alone in the company of any man who might pose a threat, without a trusted chaperone. One might say that under Islam, men are able to achieve their fantasy of keeping their hot woman safely under lock and key, to address the problems I outlined above.

Clearly the demand for hot women outstrips supply, but we might counter that the pool of men who are "in their league" is probably approximately the same size, and thus we needn't worry about the scores of horny men who will continuously attempt to have sex with the hot woman you're dating, because she is used to fending off these unwanted advances. We could assume that coupling off is a relatively efficient process, where we hopefully fall in love with somebody who's equally in love with us. While we have an endless parade of models, actresses and porn artists projected into our eyes on every screen and magazine page, which warps our views on what is realistically attainable as a beauty standard, it's still quite possible to remain grounded in reality and not hold the unreasonable expectation that you're ever likely to date one of the world's most beautiful women.

Does this mean that we are settling for second best whenever we fall in love with somebody? While I'm deeply aware that relationships can bring out the very worst qualities in people, and that jealousy and insecurity are some of the most destructive and awful forces, ugly men get laid every day and some of them are not even extremely rich. Wealth and power are clearly the best route for a man to be able to date hot women, but there are numerous other ways in which men can make themselves more charismatic and desirable.

I've been accused of "downdating" in the past, which I suppose was either true, or it was an indication that women can suffer the same psychological problems, when they know that they're dating a hot man. I don't see any particular problem with "downdating" because we should date according to what we're psychologically comfortable with and able to cope with. Personally I find dating immensely more pleasurable when I'm untroubled by insecurity and other unpleasant feelings, so why would I choose to date somebody who made me feel inadequate, unattractive and insecure?

In conclusion, I view attention from "hot women" as dangerous: liable to tempt me to form an attachment where I'm likely to get my heart broken; liable to lead me into a situation where I'm having undesirable and unpleasant thoughts, feelings and behaviours. What does it say about me that I think: "yeah I'd love to date a hot woman, but she has to make the first move".

 

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Clean & Sober

5 min read

This is a story about prescribed medications...

Akira

After 4 months of sobriety I'm grateful for the weight loss. My liver must be very grateful for the break. It was exactly 2 years ago that my addiction peaked, when I had managed to obtain a stockpile of my drug of choice that would last me 6 years. Having that stockpile was a pivotal moment, because I knew that I would not survive for more than 6 months with a virtually limitless supply of the drug I was hopelessly addicted to. I knew that I had tested the patience of a very supportive friend - my guardian angel - and I announced to her that I would be committed to overcoming my addiction, which I have done.

These two achievements are not to be underestimated, and are also set against a backdrop of great financial hardship and other averse circumstances. I've been forced to move around. I've been forced to work when I'm sick. I've been forced to go deeper into debt and to re-invest the money I receive, in order to escape from the horrible trap I found myself caught in.

It's not really possible to travel directly from the depths of drug addiction and alcoholism to clean and sober living. A person can't wake up one day and decide that they're going to stop taking drugs and drinking. There are consequences of such a decision.

My hospitalisation in 2017 represents the peak of the consequences of my decision to attempt to quit addictive substances. At that time, I was still physically addicted to one prescribed medication and four which I obtained on the black market. It seems obvious that I should have ended up on an intensive care ward, having seizures, in a coma, with a machine breathing for me. It seems obvious that the battle was too hard to win and I would capitulate.

Presently, I am physically addicted to one medication and psychologically dependent on another. In terms of progress, this is a vast improvement versus taking 5 medications every day - instead of three physical dependencies, I have one, and instead of two psychological dependencies, I have one.

I swallow one pill for anxiety. If I abruptly stop taking that medication, I risk having a fatal seizure.

I swallow one pill for sleep. If I abruptly stop taking that medication, I will have insomnia.

I don't drink, which is great news for my physical health.

I'm working, which is great news for my bank balance.

Everything seems to be under control.

However.

My dependence on the black market is problematic. I had attempted to stockpile enough medication to allow myself to taper my dosage down and free myself from the physical and psychological dependence on the tablets, but the disruption of a breakup and moving house was a huge setback. My stocks are running low and I'm having problems replenishing my supply.

Of course, my plan all along was to end up completely substance-free. I tried in 2018 but my drinking got out of control. Drinking alcohol as a way of compensating for the unpleasant withdrawal side-effects of stopping medications, is not something that's good for my health. I gained weight and became alcohol dependent. Having broken my alcohol dependency, I would like to remain mostly teetotal because it's better for my weight, fitness and general health.

If you talk to any doctor they will tell you that all their patients suffer significant discomfort when withdrawing from psychiatric medications which they have been taking for long periods. In fact, the doctors will tell you that it's virtually impossible to get their patients to quit the prescribed medications which they have become dependent on.

Why quit?

It seems to be in vogue to stop people taking medicines which humanity has used safely and effectively for a long time. It seems to be trendy to stop people from taking opiates, benzodiazepines, tranquillisers, sedatives, hypnotics, sleeping pills and a whole host of medicines which were greedily guzzled by many generations without any issues. It seems to be the way of modern medicine to offer 'safer' ineffective alternatives and refuse to prescribe effective medications.

I can attest to the great difficulty of getting off the addictive medications which doctors don't prescribe. I've been addicted to all of them, and I've successfully stopped taking all of them for lengthy periods, so I can describe in exquisite detail the very many agonies and unpleasantnesses associated with cessation of these medications. I can recall exactly what the withdrawal side-effects are like for the pills that your doctor won't give you.

I find it hard to find a good reason to quit and be completely 100% free from any mind-altering substances, but I'm certainly having difficulties in maintaining a reliable supply, which puts me at risk of a potentially fatal seizure. Quitting the medications which give my life enough stability to be able to hold down a well-paid job, is not desirable, but it seems necessary given the exhaustive efforts undertaken to thwart me - playing the stupid cat-and-mouse game with a bunch of people who don't care about the consequences, is a waste of energy and I would love to be free from the stress of dependency and uncertainty about the supply of something which I physically need.

Luckily, my physical dependency is something I have the capacity to alter - unlike type 1 diabetes - so I am following through with my plan to wean myself off the two remaining medications, hopefully slowly enough that it doesn't destabilise me so much that I lose everything.

My version of clean and sober might not seem very impressive to you, but I assure you that it is a considerable achievement to have beaten fully-blown addiction to every substance imaginable and restored some health and wealth to my shattered life.

 

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Lost Cause

7 min read

This is a story about predictions...

Recycling

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

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

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

One day you might just drop dead.

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

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

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

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

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

My life is on a knife-edge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Ignorant Of My Own Stupidity

7 min read

This is a story about benchmarks...

Crossed wires

There's no way for me to really know how much permanent brain damage I've inflicted upon myself. There's no way to know how much cognitive impairment I've caused. There's no way to know how many brain cells I've killed and how much grey matter I've destroyed. Most of the time I feel fine - no change - but sometimes I have a sudden panic that I've lost a lot of my ability to think.

My concentration span is ruined, but I think that's a pretty endemic problem given the ubiquity of smartphones and social media. The reasons for my brain damage are pretty obviously down to neurotoxicity of chemicals I've put into my body, but it's hard to know what I'd be like if I hadn't lived through that period of drug abuse. I feel dumb, but maybe I'd have been made dumb by other stuff anyway, like the steady stream of mind-numbing entertainment which is available over the internet.

I learned some new things in the past 15 months, so my ability to learn doesn't seem totally ruined. I achieved some difficult projects, so my ability to deliver complex pieces of work also seems to be functioning OK. This is a relief - at least my brain is functioning OK in a professional capacity. The demands seem relatively light on my brain - not too taxing - except for the concentration issues and the boredom. The boredom has always been an issue.

I think about the incidence rate of me saying or doing stupid stuff. Sometimes I worry that I'm saying just as much dumb stuff as ever, but then I look at the frequency of the really bad dumb stuff, and I realise that my spectacular own-goals are becoming less and less frequent. When I screw up, it's not as long and protracted and it doesn't cause as much damage.

Of course, I haven't done the data-collection and analysis, but I'm usually right. My hunches are usually correct, because I do collect data as I go along and I regularly compare periods of time using hard numbers.

Still, I can't quite shake the feeling that I've made myself pretty dumb through my abuse of drugs.

I think it's useful that I don't drink caffeinated beverages. I think that caffeine gives me a kind of false sense of security and overconfidence. I'm sure that caffeine is to blame for tipping me into a manic state.

It's kinda useful that I don't drink alcohol. When I quit drinking once in 2015 it was followed by a bad period of mood instability that ultimately cost me a job, financial security and then ultimately resulted in going back to square one. I'm undecided about the role alcohol has in my life, but at the moment I'm glad to be getting my intoxicants in the form of a measured dose, which is not fattening or otherwise damaging to my physical health.

I feel a little stupefied by medication. I feel quite drugged and intoxicated. I have no idea what I'm going to feel like once I finally manage to wean myself off all the pills.

It's very hard to judge where I'm at.

I look at metrics such as my average earnings. The data is very positive.

I look at metrics like my step count. The data is very negative.

I look at things like the tightness of my belt, and things are very positive again. I look at myself in the mirror when I get out of the shower and I can visibly see the improvement. There's no denying the substantial physical change - I'm losing weight and looking healthier.

I combine everything into a generalised view and I can see that this summer is likely to deliver a continued decline, which the step count data robustly supports, as well as my general perception that I've had a couple of terrible years in a row. However, the future is somewhat in my own hands, so I can choose in advance to make plans for the summer which will be something to look forward to. I can plan to succeed, instead of waiting to fail.

I know that having a girlfriend would make life more bearable, but I also know that it has always provoked instability too. I know that breakups have been the catalyst for the most self-destructive behaviour in my life. I find myself wanting some validation that I've done well. I find myself driven by insecurity a little - wanting to reassure myself that I'm still attractive.

I find that my addiction hasn't been cured. I've had thoughts which have resisted suppression, surfacing from my subconscious. I'm experienced enough to know exactly what part of my brain is plotting. I can see all the warning signs. However, I think I've proven that I'm disciplined enough to resist and get through difficulties. It's been too hard to get here - I'm not going to screw things up.

It's difficult to live with so many episodes of boom and bust. There's so many examples to analyse. I can see all the things that have worked very well, and I can see all the things which have been utterly disastrous. It should be good to have so many experiences to draw upon, but it's actually a bit frustrating. Theoretically, I know all the right moves, but linking them together into a dance is not at all easy.

I endlessly analyse everything. I extrapolate. I predict.

My predictions don't make for comfortable reading. I can see that my improvements are only marginal, while the long-term trend is pretty dreadful. I can see that there's a lot of hard work ahead with very little reward. However, I do know that for every year that I'm well more than I'm sick, my situation will improve and my quality of life is much better. For every year that I work more than I don't, my finances improve, which opens the doors to a world of possibilities. Better finances means better living conditions, which means better state of mind, better self-esteem and a whole load of things that I want become easier to get.

I'm not so stupid that I can't see my mistakes and the damage I've done to myself. I'm not so stupid that I can't take premeditated steps to try to change my own future and improve my ultimate outcome. However, I do admit that my intellect has thus far never been something that's stopped me from doing dumb stuff.

I've retreated into my own mind, so it's very hard for me to ask other people whether they can see me improving or declining. My perceptions have been very badly impaired in the past. It's virtually impossible to know whether I'm on the brink of breakthrough or disaster.

It's kind of a make-or-break time. Either the universe gives me everything I want, at long last, or I really have been banging my head against a brick wall all this time. The next few months will determine whether I'm bouncing back or whether I'm doomed.

I've seen a few documentaries about people recovering from traumatic brain injuries, and I see that they can achieve remarkable recovery, but personality change and some impairment seems to always linger. I suppose these things don't matter, in my world where I've successfully re-invented myself. Nobody much remembers who I was and what I was capable of anyway, so perhaps it's helpful that there's no benchmark for me to get depressed about.

 

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My Sex Problem - Part Two

7 min read

This is a story about overcompensation...

Weymouth harbour yacht

I wrote yesterday about having a sex problem. Not a sex addiction, or anything kinky, but that I have too much sex because my fragile self-esteem depends upon it. I use sex as a form of reassurance, that I've banished my unhappy adolescent and late teen years, as well as my early twenties, safely into the past. I use sex as a form of proof that those bad times are never going to come back to bite me. I can never go back to those unhappy times.

There's something I need to talk about.

There's something I need to mention.

I'm not a fool.

I'm not so stupid and gullible that I believe every boast and every lie that was told, at school and at college, about how much sex everyone was getting. I'm not swayed by the common misconception that everybody else was at it [fucking] like rabbits. I'm not convinced by the gossip and the bragging and the boasts of sexual conquests, which circulated widely in the pressure-cooker of the school and college environment.

What I know are the facts.

I only care about the facts.

I don't really give a shit how much sex, how many blowjobs and how many hand-jobs were being had by my peer group. I don't really care how many sexual acts were actually carried out. These are facts that I'll never truly know.

What I DO know, without a shadow of a doubt, is that the vast majority of people's adolescent schooldays included having boyfriends/girlfriends, and all the associated relationship learning and development that's associated with that. The vast majority had crushes, thought they'd fallen in love, sent love notes, asked each other out, declared themselves to be couples, were known to be couples, called each other boyfriend and girlfriend, and had at least kisses and cuddles... intimacy and a relationship status.

What I DO know for a fact is that the vast majority of my peers learned about jealousy, cheating, breakups, reconciliations, relationship arguments and all the other things which turned them all into well-rounded average people: One giant homogenous mass of people who've all had a more-or-less identical experience of teenage love.

What I DO know for a fact is that my parents blocked my opportunity to go to university, where I might then have had the opportunity to start playing catch up. At school, there were too many thick-skulled knuckle-draggers, but at university I would have been amongst my own kind: The academic high-achievers; the bookworms; the geeks and the ones who were bullied outcasts, because our brains were highly developed, but something about us painted a target on our backs, making our lives a living hell, when mixed in with a vast number of no-hopers, with no aspirations.

School was simply a holding pen, before prison for the guys, or pram-pushing for the girls. Those savages needed to be left behind, and university would have been my opportunity to heal some of the trauma, but my parents blocked and sabotaged my attempts to go, despite the ease with which I obtained generous offers from very highly regarded academic institutions.

I'm incredibly bitter that I was separated from my dear friends in Oxford - a hyper-intelligent bunch who have achieved great things - and I was dumped into a school in the middle of fucking nowhere, where the best career opportunity was some kind of unskilled minimum-wage seasonal employment. The place we moved to from Oxford was a backwater dead end, because my parents are selfish dead-end loser alcoholic junkies, who never gave a shit about the consequences they were inflicting on my life; the opportunities they were actively denying me.

The picture of me is of me aboard my yacht, age 21, with my girlfriend.

Yeah, that's right, I bought a yacht when I was 21 years old.

I worked for a bank in Canary Wharf, London, earning £470 a day. I was 21 years old and I was earning £2,350 a week, and I owned a yacht, and I had a girlfriend. I was earning over £10,000 a month and I had a red sports car, a yacht... and most importantly, I had a girlfriend.

Can you see how insecure I was?

Can you see how materialistic I was?

For Christmas presents I used to buy people Fortnum & Mason luxury hampers. I flew business class and stayed in 5-star hotels. I was 21 years old.

I was a massively insecure, damaged, insecure person. I overcompensated by spending vast amounts of money on status symbols and living a making vulgar demonstrations of my wealth, because I was still a bullied kid... I was still a lonely bullied kid. I was still the kid who didn't have those kisses behind the bike sheds at school. I was still the kid who didn't ever have a girlfriend at school. I never asked anyone out, got asked out, fell in love, cheated, broke up.... I never had any of that, unlike almost everybody else in the whole entire world.

I used my brain to get a good job. Then I used by brain to get a better job. Then I used my brain to get an even better job, until the point where I was earning six-figures annually and I got all the status symbols to pro-up my fragile self-esteem. I got a "penis extension" red sportscar. I got a yacht. I ate in fancy restaurants and went on luxury holidays. All of it was a massive "FUCK YOU" to those awful years when I felt so unlovable; so unwanted... so rejected.

I don't even care about the sex, but it's symbolic for me. I have sex when I'm not horny - not in the mood - because it's a test... I want to know I can always have it, because it proves that I'm sexually attractive. It proves that without the sportscar, the yacht, the luxury holidays and the other status symbols, that somebody loves me. I need proof beyond all reasonable doubt that I'm now a person who people want in their lives, as a lover, as a boyfriend... as a husband.

Becoming a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic, drug addict with mental health problems was a bit of a problem, but do you know what happened? I had some great relationships. I was homeless and living in a 14-bed hotel dormitory when I got together with an extremely attractive Italian girl, and we had a passionate romance. I was sleeping rough in a park when a wealthy Parisian woman fell in love with me and took me back to her fancy home in Notting Hill and nursed me back to health, despite my chronic drug addiction and incredibly unstable mental health.

I present myself now as exactly what I am: a penniless, mentally ill, recovering alcoholic, recovering drug addict, who lives a very precarious existence. I'm never far away from becoming homeless again, or being consumed by drug or alcohol abuse. I have no wealth anymore. I have nothing to offer. I'm not a 'catch'.

Because I feel so insecure about being 39 years old and not owning a luxury home, full of expensive furniture, with a sportscar parked on the driveway and a speedboat moored in the marina, all I'm left with is some kind of physical proof that I'm loved: does somebody want to fuck me, even though I'm a loser. I'm not even young and hot anymore. My hair is going grey and I'm carrying a few extra pounds of weight. I feel like I'm every woman's idea of a worst nightmare date: No cash, no assets, no flash car, no house... nothing to show for my 39 years on this planet. Why would anybody fall in love with me?

Sex is the only thing that gives me any certainty at the moment. Sex is the only thing that props up my fragile self-esteem, because my life has fallen to pieces.

I don't care that I missed out on sex as a teenager. I care that I missed out on love.

 

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Not Drinking Alcohol

6 min read

This is a story about life on the wagon...

Leftover booze

At more-or-less the same time as one of my best friends drank himself to death, I stopped drinking. I'd like to say that I decided to stop drinking because it seemed like the right thing to do, given how alcoholism had destroyed the health of my friend and pretty much killed him, but it was actually due to more complicated, and much less noble reasons.

Alcohol comes in 'portions' more or less: Beer comes in cans or bottles and wine comes in a bottle. Portion control with beer seems like it should be easy enough, because one or two beers don't contain very much alcohol. Portion control with wine is a little harder, because a bottle of wine contains the same amount of alcohol as six and a half cans, as pictured.

The calculations, if you're interested, are based on the 750ml bottle of red wine, which has 14.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and the 330ml cans of beer, which have 5% ABV.

I bought all this alcohol, even though I don't drink.

I bought the red wine, because it's an ingredient in a dish I make with red cabbage. The alcohol is evaporated during the cooking process.

I bought the beers, because I needed to replace some that I had 'borrowed' from somebody, back when I was drinking. The reason why the carton is open and some of the cans have gone is because my girlfriend also 'borrowed' some cans - she drinks whenever she wants, unlike me.

I want to drink.

I get home and I see this bottle of wine and these cans of beer, and it's very difficult not to allow myself a single glass or a single can, at the end of a long working day, or perhaps as a weekend treat. It's very difficult to justify my sobriety to myself.

I must remind myself of why I stopped drinking.

I stopped drinking because I couldn't stop drinking. One evening I drank all the beer I had bought for myself, then I drank all the beer I had bought for my girlfriend, then I drank some of the beer that didn't even belong to either of us. Then I smashed some stuff up and passed out. Apparently I did other stuff too, but I don't remember many of the details. I was blackout drunk. My memory has holes in it, although I do remember that it was enough for me to decide that I shouldn't drink anymore.

I didn't drink at all, except Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, and then I went on an outing to the beautiful Georgian spa town of Bath. In this picturesque setting, a group of us proceeded to embark upon an all-day drinking session. I was careful to only have one alcoholic drink for every three that they had, but later on in the evening they stopped drinking, while I carried on. I didn't drink much, but I was a little hung-over.

It's probably no co-incidence that I had little patience and a short temper following that drinking session, and while I was nursing my hangover I lost my cool and broke up with my girlfriend. I struggled to emotionally regulate and stay calm, while being somewhat provoked. I completely failed to defuse and de-escalate the situation, and instead I found myself packing my bags and storming off into the night.

I'd like to say that I've felt the benefits of sobriety, but I don't think I have. I've lost weight and I feel better about my appearance because of that weight loss, but I don't feel much healthier or that I have more energy and enthusiasm to be fit and active. I don't feel like my mood is improved. I don't feel like my sleep is improved. However, if I had continued to drink heavily every day, I expect that I would have continued to put on a lot of weight, and that my health would have slowly deteriorated.

It's the middle of winter, so it's hard to measure the benefit of being sober. Perhaps come the summertime, I will feel my mood lift and my energy levels will be elevated, such that I feel like getting out and about. Certainly, if I was drinking heavily, I would be in no mood to make any travel plans or spend any time doing anything except watching TV and films, with a steady supply of alcoholic drinks.

Another thing to consider is that I heavily sedate myself with Xanax and use sleeping pills, so that I can remain functional and cope with the demands of my job, while also dealing with a mood disorder and a hatred for my profession which dates back as far as the very beginning of my life in corporate hell, over 20 years ago.

Perhaps when my debts are paid off, my housing is more secure, I'm more financially comfortable and I feel more settled at work and in the place where I'm living, then I'll be able to give up my chemical crutches and feel a lot healthier and happier. However, for the time being, I am getting what I need to cope in the form of a handful of calorie-free pills, which do far less health damage than the gallons of toxic alcoholic liquid which I used to guzzle.

Temptation is less of a problem than you'd think it would be, having realised that my body's natural thirst could be quenched with non-alcoholic fluids. I had programmed myself to associate wanting a drink, with wanting an alcoholic drink.

I successfully de-programmed my brain, so that I no longer craved hot drinks, which was surprisingly difficult but I managed it.

I suppose if I was very strict and disciplined I could completely de-program my craving for alcoholic beverages, but I know that it was a very long and hard process to eliminate tea and coffee from my life, as well as energy drinks and even coca-cola, which all contain caffeine.

I've even been slightly tempted to try fasting, allowing myself only water to drink for a period of a few days, because I often eat when I'm not really hungry, and I'd like to lose even more weight.

Ultimately, it might be vanity which provides the motivation for healthy living. I don't want to be fat with red-wine stained teeth and lips. I don't want to have a beer belly.

I'm happy knowing that I've "stopped the rot" to some extent, but I must admit that it's very hard to resist allowing myself to have a glass of red wine or a can of beer, after a long hard working week, on a Friday night. Would I be able to stop after just one though? Historically, I've never been able to drink in moderation.

As an epilogue, it should be noted that at my friend's funeral, a group of us, who used to drink heavily with the deceased, all got absolutely blind drunk until the hotel we were staying in refused to serve us any more alcohol. It's what my friend would have wanted.

 

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