Breakdown Of A Breakdown

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Mental Health | Posted on 05-02-2015


Trigger Warning: This is a first-hand account of suicidal despair. If you’re going through something similar it may help remind you that you’re not alone in how you feel, and I will do my best to answer any questions and support you if you get in touch below. But please remember that you can immediately talk with a trained professional any hour of the day or night, anywhere in the world, for free. These guys know what they’re doing and choose to do it, so I promise you won’t be wasting their time. Here is an international suicide support directory.

screaming-womanOn Thursday, March 20th 2014 I had a mental breakdown and I’m not supposed to tell you that.

Think of the damage it would cause: the way people would look at me; the whispers of “be careful around him, he might snap”; the potential friends, lovers and employers I’d scare off. That’s how dialogue around mental health goes: you might be comfortable enough telling people you’ve “experience of depression” or “know what they’re going through” up to a point – after all, everyone has some emotional baggage – but it’s talked about in manageable terms. The odd sick day or excuse for missing a social occasion. What you don’t talk about is when it gets so bad you need to be hospitalised.

If you’re off work with a broken arm you’re off work with a broken arm. There’s probably a story behind it that gets passed around the office and you can expect visitors and Get Well cards filled with friendly jokes about the injury. But if you’re off work with a broken brain you’re just “ill”. There’s no story. There’s not even a specific problem. The few members of staff who need to know more are told in hushed tones and feel they ought to keep the details secret from the rest of the office. If you get a card at all it’ll be humourless; no one’s going to add a quip about you being crazy or joke about moving your office chair away from the window when you’re back.

But why? Why are people so averse to talking frankly and openly about health the moment we stick the word “mental” in front of it?

I believe we need to end this culture of attaching shame and embarrassment to talking about mental illness, thus ending the discrimination, misinformation and stigma such an attitude breeds. We’re making progress, thanks in no small part to celebrities speaking publicly about their personal battles and the great work of organisations like Time to Change, but we’ve still a long way to go before calling in sick because you want to die is as easy as calling in sick because you have a migraine.

That talking about mental health can invite awkwardness is undeniable. Suicide in particular makes people very uncomfortable and many prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist. But I believe the damage of not talking about things is potentially far greater, even lethal. That’s why I’ve decided to tell the story of my breakdown. It won’t be pleasant and it certainly won’t be a quick read. I won’t sugar coat it or dot it with uplifting messages like “things will get better” which I know all-too-well fall on deaf ears to the depressed. I’m telling it to show that you can talk about mental health issues and that there is no shame in doing so. That these issues are actually quite common; you’re not as alone as you might think. And, perhaps most importantly, that such experiences – no matter how painful – might just save your life.

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Eulogy for 2014

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Mental Health | Posted on 01-01-2015


I’m not exaggerating when I say that 2014 has been the most painful year of my life. It was the year my depression finally caught up with me, proving I could never outrun my own thoughts or successfully drown them given enough distractions or Prozac. I had a complete mental breakdown which almost killed me. Every aspect of my life has been coloured by this event: work, finances, health and social life… it has defined me. I couldn’t work for months (and still can’t manage full-time). I missed out on promising projects and career opportunities. Most importantly of all: I lost friends. People I trusted and cared for – many whom I’d known for years – cut all contact with me without so much as a ‘goodbye’, let alone an explanation or an actual conversation. This was what hurt most of all and has been the biggest barrier to my recovery.

But despite everything – despite ten months of hell (and counting: believe me, I’m not out of the woods yet) – I wouldn’t change what has happened to me. Because 2014 is also the year I stopped running. If something mostly works you put up with its occasional faults; it needs to completely break down before you make a serious change. Being swallowed by that tsunami of despair was my breaking point.

That suffering has taught me more than a decade of cushy living ever could: I’ve grown as a person and am humbled at the realisation of how much more there is to learn about the world, about people, and about myself. To borrow the words of J. K. Rowling: “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Eulogy to 2014

To the friends and family who supported me through this year: thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You’re the reason I’m still here today. From turning up at my door when I was scared to be alone, to letting me bend your ear late into the night when I needed to talk. For helping me with basic chores I found overwhelming, for putting me in touch with professional help, and for your endless patience while I told the same story again and again, constantly and desperately analysing every detail to try and make some sense of it all. Whether it was once or a hundred times: thank you. I will never forget it.

To those who hurt me, from those who silently removed themselves from my Facebook friends to those who actively sought to get me fired: I’m trying hard to understand why you acted the way you did and to forgive you for it. I don’t believe in holding grudges and I know you all have a capacity for kindness because I’ve seen it. There are days when I reach a state of acceptance and forgive you – taking a step back and seeing you were acting ‘for you’ rather than ‘against me’ – but there are others when I’m paralysed by resentment, sadness or fear. But I won’t give in to them: as tempting as those thoughts and feelings are, I’ve made my choice; I won’t let negativity define who I am any longer. I’m taking control of my own fate and not letting circumstance dictate what I think or feel.

Bring it at me, 2015. I’m ready for you.

Blanking, Blocking & Bitching

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Misanthropy, Rants | Posted on 01-08-2014




The act of intentionally (and often obviously) not acknowledging a person’s existence. Similar to ignoring and not speaking to, but without providing the recipient with a preface or explanation.

The Tautological Mantra of the Blanker:

“I’m not talking to you, but I’m not telling you why I’m not talking to you because I’m not talking to you.”

Her name was Kayleigh, and we shared a carton of Ribena at playtime. {Can we skip the anecdote? I’m in a rush.}

Blanking in Popular Culture

Blanking in Popular Culture

One day she wasn’t at our meeting spot. I waited patiently as I finished my half of the carton, then decided to look for her. I found her huddled amid a group of girls. Upon noticing me, her eyes widened and she quickly turned away. I found this behaviour rather baffling so I approached and asked the back of her head why she hadn’t been at our usual spot (to no avail). Then I offered her Ribena.

Perhaps it was the temptation of a sugary fruit drink that did it, but she turned her head a little bit and replied: “I can’t; I’m not talking to you.”

“You can’t TELL him you’re not talking to him,” snapped another member of the group.

“Oh, sorry.”

I felt confused and uncomfortable, feelings which stayed with me the whole afternoon. The grief of losing a close friend  compounded by absolute bafflement as to why  made it impossible to concentrate on my finger painting. Had I done something wrong? I racked my brains but couldn’t remember being bad; I certainly hadn’t been told off recently. How long would this last? Was it one of those things people forget about after lunch (like the time Cherry pulled Vicky’s hair because she wouldn’t get off the swing) or one of those BIG mistakes that ends a friendship for a whole week (like when Ben ate James’s Wagon Wheel)? I needed to understand. When the bell rang for hometime I ran up to her and bluntly asked: “Hi Kayleigh, why aren’t you talking to me?”

She bit her lip, unsure whether answering this question was also forbidden. She eyed the cloakroom for an answer but there was no sign of her posse. She caved:

“I can’t talk to you because you’re gay.”

I asked what gay was. She said it’s when other people aren’t supposed to talk to you, and explained that yesterday Morgan had been the first back in after lunch and had proclaimed “Last person who sits down is gay!” Unfortunately I’d been in the little boys’ room at the time of the announcement, which meant I was now gay and we were no longer friends. Before we parted ways I apologised for being gay.

The following day I knew what I had to do: I shoved lunch into my face as fast as possible, ensured I peed particularly early, then spent the rest of lunchtime hanging around the door to the classroom. I clocked Morgan and a few others doing the same as the bell neared, but enough of the class were busy playing to provide me with a winning chance. As I waited, I wondered whether I also had the authority to announce a contest determining someone’s social status. Fortunately it didn’t matter, as at that moment the bell rang and Morgan & Co stormed through the door screaming “LAST ONE TO SIT DOWN’S GAAAAAY!”

I raced inside and hurled myself painfully into my chair. I knew the pained bottom was worth it as I looked around the room, triumphant: there were empty seats galore. I gave a knowing smile to Kayleigh as she walked in, which she returned. Some other poor kid became ostracised that day (because only one person can be gay at a time) and my friendships and social status were restored. I ensured I wasn’t late after lunch each day until the game was forgotten, and I had my Ribena buddy back for the rest of term.

I’d love to be able to look back on that encounter as one of those silly things kids do because they don’t understand the world yet. Yet I see it as the maturest instance of blanking I’ve ever experienced.

While initially painful and confusing, through honest communication the issue affecting our friendship was identified, enabling me to take the necessary action to resolve it and give the story a happy ending.

Adult blankers don’t allow that to happen. They know that even brief communication is anathema to their plans and would never go so far as to give a reason for their behaviour. They are masters of illusion, putting waiting staff to shame with their skills at avoiding eye contact and pretending not to hear you.

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Weird Al Has A Big Dictionary

Posted by Dan | Posted in Pedantry | Posted on 15-07-2014


Just in case you weren’t aware: Weird Al‘s new album is out today.


{Although the line “you write like a spastic” made me feel pretty uncomfortable. In America that word carries quite a different meaning than here in the UK.}

As If You Needed Another Reason to Love Steam

Posted by Dan | Posted in Nerd | Posted on 23-05-2014


Microsoft: “So we’ve made Windows 8. Basically we took all the elements that made Windows 7 good and crapped over them so spectacularly Vista actually looks like a decent OS by comparison. If you’d like to upgrade it’ll cost you £100, which we’re sure you’ll agree is quite reasonable.”

Steam: “We’ve designed a way to let you play Far Cry 3 at maximum settings on a netbook. For free.”

steam-os-planet-steam-logoIf you own a gaming PC, update to the latest version of Steam immediately. Then dig out a crappy laptop, netbook, home theatre machine or whatever else you have lying around and install Steam on that.

The latest update allows you to stream the game to another device on your network while utilising your gaming PC’s hardware. You don’t even need to install the game on the other device. Consequently I’m now able to lie in bed and play Bioshock Infinite with max settings in 2560 x 1440 on the same netbook which previously struggled to run Monkey Island.

Do it. Do it now.