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The world's longest suicide note.

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Don't be a Martyr

6 min read

This is a story about barriers to entry...

Crash barrier

I'll admit that as a child I took the path of least resistance. Instead of dentistry, which I realised was going to be monotonously boring - if you've seen inside one mouth, you've seen them all - I chose a route that would lead to getting rich quick. Soon, I had a wonderful lifestyle and I never really had to kowtow to any gatekeepers or doff my cap in deference to the slave-owners.

I thought about what I was going to write tonight and I thought I'd come up with a really great blog post title, but it turns out I already used it. In fact, I've written so much that somewhere there's something that perfectly captures everything I'm going through.

I wrote at length about the indignity of being subjected to external scrutiny, when I consider that my 20-year career should have now put me beyond the awfulness of such a process - who the fuck are you to judge me? Of course, if you were hiring somebody for their specialist skills, how would you be able to judge whether they are competent or not, unless you yourself are an expert? One does not have a dog and bark oneself, etc. etc.

Thus, we rely mostly day-to-day on a web of trust. Somebody who is recommended by a friend is much more trusted than a total stranger. Friends of friends are our friends. We stick together. Homo sapiens is a social animal.

What happens when our social network disintegrates? How do we ever rejoin civilised society?

Speaking from personal experience, re-entering the game is very difficult. It's nigh-on impossible to get anybody to take a punt on a talented nobody, versus a talentless fuckwit who knows how to play the game. I don't begrudge the fuckwits - so long as they stay the fuck out of my way - and perhaps it's me who's got things wrong. Many colleagues of mine are qualified for nothing more than keeing a seat warm, reading the news, listening to the radio, watching videos online and counting down the hours minutes and seconds until it's time to go home. If you were hoping to get ahead in life on merit, you're going to be sorely disappointed and frustrated.

It would be unfortunate if I was mischaracterised as somebody who's not a team player. I love my colleagues and I need human interaction, although it seems like my work has a kind of purity that means there's always a right answer and a wrong answer. I'm a fucking wet dream for greedy bosses, because I deliver early and under budget, which is unheard of in my industry, but perhaps it's me who's letting the side down - I should deliberately work at the pace of the slowest worker, because of worker solidarity.

I'm rambling, but I've reached the ragged limit of what I can handle. Either things go my way, or I feel like life's not worth living. I'm blackmailing life to give me what I want, using my own life as an expendable hostage.

Whether I deserve to succeed or not, given the rough ride I've had and the effort that's been expended... these are questions of worthiness that you should answer by having two tramps fight to the death over a half-bottle of wine, just for your own sick amusement. All I can tell you is that having worked my way back from the brink of death and destitution, all I've got to say is fuck you, buddy. You think I should curtail my efforts and scrub toilets for minimum wage, living in some shithole? Fuck you. I'd rather die.

There are matters concerning loss of status and loss of dignity - these are not trivial. If somebody lives the high life and they fall from grace, it's not realistic to expect champagne and sportscars any more, but what about some dignity in labour? What about being paid a wage that reflects a person's skills and experience?

Of course I'm raising the wider question about whether anybody is really paid what they're worth. Of course, we all know full well that the value that we deliver in terms of pure pounds and pence that we put into the pockets our slave-owning capitalist tyrants, does not at all reflect our effort and our productivity, but you know what? The question still has to be asked and has to be answered.

I might seem like some bleeding-heart left-leaning-libtard who thinks they're owed a living, but the evidence doesn't support your assumption. Through all my turbulent times, I've never claimed incapacity benefits, job-seeking benefits, housing benefits, tax credits or any of the myriad forms of state support that are supposedly available to me. I'm trying to play an honest game. I'm trying to play by the rules of the conservative politics that seem to rule the day. I'm trying to work my way out of poverty and back to a position of health, wealth and prosperity.

If I fail, what does it mean? Failure could be utterly catastrophic for me. Even though I have friends who somewhat underwrite my risk, offering to give me a roof over my head, can you imagine working your bollocks off through a 20-year career and having nothing to show for it?... not even some kind of state handout. I thought it would be awful to be dependent on the welfare state, but it's actually more awful to be dependent on out-and-out charity, which could end on a whim.

I don't want to hold a gun to my own head and make my demands, but I came a long way since rough sleeping in a bush. If anybody ever had any doubts about employing an ex-homeless, ex-junkie, washed up loser weirdo who's lost everything, then haven't I proved the case for my fellow unfortunates and myself? When's a guy gonna catch a break?

I'm not trying to elbow my way to the front of the queue. I'm no more deserving than the next person who's equally needy and in distress. To the casual observer, I enjoy a whole host of advantages over the struggling masses. It's not a competition. It shouldn't be a competition.

If you think life's all about survival of the fittest and "it's a jungle out there" then fuck off and de-evolve already, you knuckle-dragging c**t.

 

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Self Centred

1 min read

This is a story about sociopathy...

Stick man

How do I write anything at all without making it seem like I'm making everything all about me? How do I have thoughts or even exist, without relating everything to my own personal experience; my own perceptions? What am I, if I'm nothing except an audience member; an observer?

"You're out of tune!" shrieks the little girl, except she's wrong because the keyboard won't even play the notes out of tune - you can press any keys you want and the keyboard will *always* play in tune.

I woke up and I wanted to slit my own throat or to take an overdose. I need to go to sleep but I want to hurt myself. You know what? Fuck you. That's what - fuck you. It's not about you as much as it's not about me. It's not about *ANYONE* if you want to play that fucking game. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.

I've had enough. I've taken enough. I've heard enough. I'm fucked off.

 

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Burying a Blog - Part Two

7 min read

This is a story about cyberstalking...

Dirty Laundry

Things are starting to happen faster than I thought they would. I'm not prepared. I didn't think things would slot into place so easily. There's a slim chance I might get a couple of things I really want and need, but the very existence of this blog jeopardises those things. Being sensible, I'd just cut the power and abandon this blog, because the stakes are too high.

How much digging are people prepared to do? There's the best part of 825,000 words here, if you wanted to read it all. Would you be able to say that you reached the right judgement about me, unless you read absolutely everything? Is it really fair to judge somebody on the chapter of their life you walked in on? Can you claim that a small random sample would be representative of who I am?

The easy answer, for most, is not to make so much stuff public. It's simple: Don't write a public blog. Keep things so utterly boring that nobody would get any further than the first few words. I should write about what I ate for breakfast. I should write about things that nobody can relate to. I should write about things that nobody's interested in except for me... well, maybe I do that already.

I'm really badly exposed. I could lose a couple of things that are really important to me. I have the opportunity to build a nice quiet little life in anonymous obscurity, but the cat's out of the bag - my whole psyche is on display on the pages of the internet, for anybody who wants to take the time to Google me, although mercifully I'm a little bit buried thanks to a rapper who shares my name.

I'm changing mindset. In London there are so many people that you can do anything you want and nobody will recognise you or remember anything you've done. In London there are so many people that there's anonymity in the crowd, even if you're doing something that would ordinarily draw attention to yourself. I need to change my mindset to get into the small community mentality, where my face and my deeds are more likely to be remembered. I'm still an nobody; a nothing, but I want to keep it that way - there's no sense in making a fool of myself. I've gotten so used to saying and doing whatever the hell I want, because there are no consequences in London, but in a small town that's not the case. I could end up making myself undateable and unemployable.

I'm trying to tread a fine line between the humble assumption that nobody gives a shit who I am and nobody cares what I've got to say, versus the very real possibility that somebody somewhere might notice me - I really don't want to mix my blogging identity with my professional identity, for the sake of my career. I'm quite careful not to drop the names of my clients or any details of the projects I work on, but I'm not anonymous - I use my real name.

This blog is an experiment. I don't want to be anonymous, but London forced anonymity on me. I could have died in a ditch and nobody would've noticed. I wrote this blog because I wanted to raise my profile. I needed to raise my profile, because anonymity had led me to the point where I felt like nobody cared whether I lived or died, and nobody understood what was going on.

I have ethical objections to anonymity and the pressure to maintain a spotless corporate-friendly immaculate CV with no gaps, and a whiter-than-white social media image. I think it's too much pressure, to ask people to hide their faults. I think it's bullshit, to pretend like we don't have mental health problems, or have made any mistakes in our life. I think anonymity is a fate worse than death. Fuck anonymity.

I hope that one day, I can unify my dating profile with my CV and my LinkedIn and this blog. I hope that one day it's socially acceptable to announce my faults along with my achievements. I think that too many talented people; too many valuable lives are squandered because we insist on presenting such a bullshit image of perfection, when humans are anything but perfect. I think it's making us sick and anxious, having to wear a mask all the time, for the sake of our pathetic salaries.

It's me who's going to end up buried, potentially, if I'm not careful and I don't shut up. One slip, and you're labelled as undesirable, unemployable, undateable... the wrong sort of person. One slip, and you can find yourself shunted into the sidings. There are so many gatekeepers who are looking for a reason to reject you.

So, I challenge those who would skim a tiny fraction of what I've written and decide that they've read enough to judge me, to either read more, or not to bother trying to leap to any quick conclusions. If you want a synopsis of me, it's there to be found in the form of my CV, my LinkedIn and my other sanitised bullshit that you see every day. This is something special that you don't normally get to see, so treat it with respect. Everybody has a real life which doesn't fit onto 2 pages of A4 paper, and contains mistakes as well as all the good stuff, but you don't get to read about the bad stuff, normally.

I think what I'm doing is brave, and it helps me so I'm not going to hide it. I think that we should be moving towards honesty, transparency and authenticity. I think we've been living for far too long, with an encroachment of the workplace that forces us to present ourselves in the very best possible light. I think that society is facing an incredible amount of problems because we can't talk about our mental health problems; our stress levels, for fear of being seen as sick, weak and unreliable by our employers. I think that I'm living life the right way, even though it could potentially be very costly for me. Somebody's got to be brave enough to do it first.

This is my 'baggage up front' declaration, and I refuse to back down even though I'm scared. I'm scared I won't be able to get a girlfriend. I'm scared I won't be able to get a job. I'm scared that people will judge me and think that I'm a bad person. It's scary, to write down everything that goes on in my head like this, but it's also cathartic and helpful to me. There's an epidemic of mental health problems and most people are just about managing, and this seems to be the antidote to me - to write with candid honesty about what's really going on, rather than the usual "I'm great" bullshit mask we have to maintain. It's hard work, pretending to be a perfect human being.

So... let's see what happens. I might go broke and be single. If nobody does the experiment, we'll never know the outcome.

 

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Emotional Exhaustion

8 min read

This is a story about a functional nervous breakdown...

Collapsed bed

I'm sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day, yet I don't feel refreshed. I'm commuting and I'm working, but I'm spending less than half as much time in the office as I'm supposed to, and when I'm there I'm not productive. I reach the weekend and all I want to do is collapse in a heap. I get stressed out about seemingly trivial things - buying a train ticket, booking a hotel, buying some birthday presents, social engagements, the pressure to be a good friend, the need to stay in contact with people. I feel like I'm going to burst into tears when I'm in the shower, or just before I walk into the office. I'm a complete wreck, but to an outside observer I'm a picture of good health and a productive member of society. My colleagues seem to have been duped - they compliment me on the work I've done and they want me to stay longer; they want to give me another project to do.

I had prepared myself psychologically for 6 weeks work in London, but it's been 3 months. I had prepared myself psychologically to get to the end of the contract, but not a single day longer. I'm barely managing to cover up the fact I'm very sick - I arrive in the office at 1pm most days, and leave just after 5pm. I don't turn up for whole days. I sit at my desk endlessly skipping through music, trying to find a song that will lift my mood, but I can't. Life's pretty torturous, even if there doesn't seem any reason why it should be.

Everything feels like it's going to require the expenditure of more effort and energy than I could possibly muster. I get exhausted at the thought of speaking to agents, or challenging myself to do something "new and interesting". What sounds like fun to you, is something that makes me feel even more anxious and depressed. I just want to curl up in a ball.

Those who are happy and healthy say things like "you're only one gym workout away from a good mood" or they suggest things I could do with my spare time. It doesn't look like much of a life, working and sleeping... oh I do quite a lot of moaning and complaining too, but surely I must want to learn to weave baskets or dance salsa, mustn't I? The truth is that I'm 99% shut down - I'm in survival mode, clinging on by my fingernails as I attempt to earn as much money as I can, as quickly as I can, so that I can afford to have a nervous breakdown.

"Nervous breakdown" sounds really shocking and alarming, but I'm actually quietly having a breakdown. I've had persistent paralysing depression for more months than I care to remember, but I'm somehow forcing myself to keep going. "You can't be depressed if you're getting up and going to work" you might say, but you seem to have forgotten that I'm bunking off loads of days, and going in to work 4 hours late on the few days when I do make it. I'm working the very bare minimum I need to, in order not to lose my contract. If I just collapse in a heap and refuse to leave my pit of despair, I lose everything. If there was any way in the world I could just draw the curtains and convalesce, then I'd do it, but I'm trapped by circumstances beyond my control.

I have a week and a half left to go, and then I've finished my contract in London. I have to do 4 more 3.5 hour train journeys. I have to stay in two more AirBnbs. I have to suffer two more Mondays (although I'm planning on bunking off at least one of them). It might not sound like very long - just 3 months - to have been travelling all over the place and doing a job that's been mostly isolating and lonely, and has left me twiddling my thumbs a lot of the time, but the time has really dragged... the time continues to drag.

When you're not feeling good, it really takes an emotional toll. It's really not nice to spend weeks and months, hating your life; hating your circumstances. Yes, I'm very well paid and there's no such thing as a perfect job, but the money really has not been great compensation for the psychological suffering it's caused. I'm perfectly capable of making a mercenary decision to earn a lot of money doing things I don't like doing very much, but it's damaging to my mental health. I really am at my wits end with the London contract.

Who knows what'll happen next. Maybe I'll have been made too unwell by the present contract to even think about the next one, until I've had some rest and recuperation time. You might think that I should be very well rested, because I've been having 3-day weekends and only working half days, but those things are a symptom of just how exhausted I am. It's very hard to explain how I'm emotionally exhausted, even though I seem to be physically rested. It's hard to explain just how draining things have been this year. Seasonal affective disorder, depression and a bit of residual rebound anxiety from medication withdrawal, have conspired to create a viciously awful low mood and sense of despair, which has been hugely exacerbated by being bored at work, with no colleagues to talk to or project to keep me busy.

Finding a new client locally is going to be stressful. I need to meet a whole load of new work colleagues and impress them. It's going to be exhausting. It's going to be destabilising. At the moment, I just want the current contract to be over, so I can curl up in a ball and not leave the house. I want to draw the curtains and turn off my phone. I want to collapse in a heap and yell "ENOUGH!"

It sounds to me like it's some kind of breakdown, but I don't understand why I'm still apparently quite functional. I don't understand why I'm not stripping naked and running through the streets, before smearing jam all over myself in the supermarket and talking in tongues, or whatever other image "nervous breakdown" conjures up in your mind. Perhaps you think of me uncontrollably sobbing, or going mute. Instead, I'm just kind of hollow and empty - I've got nothing left to give; the petrol tank has run dry.

The challenge, of course, is what I do next. Do I collapse and become so dysfunctional that there was no point in exerting myself? Do I lose all the gains that I've managed to achieve, because it was so costly to my mental health to push myself so hard? Have I stored up some kind of almighty breakdown, by limping along for so long?

I've been offered a contract extension. There's no way on earth I can do it, of course. Don't you understand? The money might be incredible, but I don't get paid if I'm not in the office, and I'm already almost at breaking point. Money's not going to get me out of bed. Almost no amount of money is worth the emotional damage that's being done; the emotional exhaustion of the situation.

Of course, there's an argument that I should have just taken medication to prop myself up artificially - to allow myself to be doped up and carry on with a job and a situation that's intolerable. There's an argument to say that it's me that's faulty, for not enjoying living out of a suitcase, working a project that I finished ages ago and just having to look busy, in an office all on my own with nobody to talk to. There's an argument that says it's me being a silly billy, and I should just pop pills and shut the f**k up and get on with life. That's life, right? Life absolutely sucks and it makes us want to kill ourselves. Life destroys every single ounce of happiness and wellbeing, and the only way to put it back is with powerful psychoactive medications.

On the flip side, I've been glad that I've kept my mouth shut and limped along to the end of contracts before, without making too much of a fuss. I'm going to get a good reference and I've earned quite a lot of money. This is the strategy: short-term pain for medium-term gain. I've left jobs on good terms before, and then found it's immensely improved my mood to free... free to do what I want; free from the oppression of a horrible job. I very much expect that my mood will improve massively when this contract is over.

There it is: I need to keep venting and complaining and whinging, because I've got another week and a half of hell to get through. It sucks, and I bet you wouldn't put up with it if you were in my situation.

 

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Short & Sweet

11 min read

This is a story about burnout...

Graffitti

There's a lie which we're all guilty of perpetuating: Work hard and you can improve your life; if you work hard enough you can achieve anything. It's not true and it's wicked to repeat the lie, because we end up blaming ourselves for our appalling living conditions. "If only I'd tried harder in school" so many of us wail, but "if only I worked harder" is not something that a dying person ever says on their deathbed.

It's obvious that there's a grotesque disparity between hard work, dedication, passion, productivity and personal wealth. If you're going to try and argue that the owner of a large property portfolio works harder than a nurse, then you deserve a punch in the face. If you believe that the beneficiary of a trust fund, who doesn't have to work at all, is somehow more deserving than the person who cleans toilets for a living, then you must be suffering from psychosis.

I've heard it said that life is fair, because it's unfair to everybody. Human afflictions don't care whether you're rich or poor - a billionaire still needs an ambulance and a cardiac surgeon if they have a heart problem, and money can't buy them immortality. However, this does not seem to consider the great injustice of the world: that our efforts and actions will make virtually no difference at all. It doesn't matter how badly you want to study at Oxbridge and enter a lucrative profession - if you were born into the wrong socioeconomic circumstances, you're not going to be able to achieve your potential. It doesn't matter how badly you want to elevate yourself from poverty, and how hard you work - you're trapped and you'll never escape.

The media love to shove folklore heroes in our face. The media work very hard to assist our willing suspension of disbelief. Little girls think they're going to be like Kate Middleton and marry a prince - the tale that we're told is that she's an ordinary girl and that any one of us could be plucked out of poverty, but it's bullshit... she went to a very expensive private school. Little boys think they're going to become 'self-made' men, and there are plenty of examples of entrepreneurs who claim to have not received any assistance in building their business empires, except that close scrutiny reveals that they had their risk underwritten by friends and family; they have access to wealth and connections that ordinary people don't.

You show me the success story and I'll show you the unfair advantages that the person enjoyed. Nobody got to the top on merit. Nobody gets anywhere by working hard - it's a lie.

In fact, to work hard and assume that it's going to lead to pay rises and promotions is a kind of mental illness: it's called "Tiara Syndrome". It's a bit like the fantasy of a knight in shining armour coming to rescue us - a person who has Tiara Syndrome is expecting that somebody will come along and put a tiara on their head, just because they work really hard and they're good at their job. Sadly, it doesn't happen.

Behind every fortune is a great crime. The only way to get ahead in life is to lie, cheat and steal.

"The power of enclosing land and owning property was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murder their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or thieve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand by the power of the sword; and so you justify the wicked deeds of your fathers, and that sin of your fathers shall be visited upon the head of you and your children to the third and fourth generation, and longer too, till your bloody and thieving power be rooted out of the land"

A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England (1649)

So, if we've been writing about this problem for the best part of 400 years, things must be alright, mustn't they? Don't fix what ain't broke and all that. Why rock the boat?

Life expectancies are starting to fall - people are dying younger. There's a mental health epidemic. There's an opioid epidemic. Living standards are declining. Billions of people live in poverty, and within our lifetime we'll witness a Malthusian catastrophe that will dwarf any other mass extinction event seen on planet earth. If you thought the Ethiopian famine was bad, wait until you see what the next few decades have got in store for us. With high-yield modern mechanised farming techniques, we have plenty of food, but we are staggeringly bad at sharing things fairly. If you believe that the present situation of wealth disparity is acceptable, then you're signing the death warrant for billions of people - a holocaust knowingly perpetrated on the human race, for no better reason than sheer unadulterated greed.

Remember that none of the Nazis were allowed to say "I was just following orders" as any kind of defence. To fail to act and to say that you're just doing what everyone else is doing, is immoral. To be passive and turn a blind eye, or to throw up your hands and say "there's nothing I can do" is not acceptable. Yes, it's our instinct to look after our own families, but the day is coming when that selfishness will backfire. Your kids are going to need a place to live. Your kids are going to end up in debt. Your kids are facing a shitty future, and your grandkids are going to inherit a completely hopelessly screwed situation - do you think they'll agree with you, that it was right that you sat back and did nothing?

If you think you're helping your kids by instilling some kind of 'work ethic' in them and getting them to study hard, you're making a mistake. Remember: nobody ever got anywhere by working hard. Hard work can be a useful thing, but we must consider what our labour is being used for - if it's making weapons and oppressing people, then hard work is immoral when it contributes to the war on humanity. Sometimes the best thing to do is to withhold labour - to deprive the tyrants of the manpower they need to conquer and achieve world domination. Sometimes the best thing to do is conscientiously object; to nonviolently protest.

I've thought long and hard about how I can make a difference. I thought about medicine. I thought about law. I thought about politics. I thought about science and engineering. I find myself in technology, and I'm desperately disappointed. No amount of smartphone apps and websites is going to address the problems at the root cause, which appears to be competition. Why must there be competition? Why do we have to measure and grade people, and declare that some of us are not worthy of consideration? Why do we have artificial scarcity and force people to fight over an artificially limited amount of so-called 'money'? Why do we put artificial limits on the numbers of people who can pursue a certain professional discipline? Why do we want to have elitism? Why do 99% have to be told they're shit and they don't matter and they're expendable, so that the 1% can feel special?

I was on the fast-track. I was made unconditional university offers and allowed to skip entire academic years. I got onto a graduate training program 3 years sooner than any of my peers. I got pay rises and promotions so quickly that I was earning six-figures by the age of 20. I'm an example of one of those success stories that you might read about, that are supposed to make you believe that with enough hard work anyone can reach the top of the pyramid - be a CEO or a prime minister or a president, or a king or queen. It's bullshit. Why would I turn on the system that's given me everything I've ever wanted? Why would I bite the hand that feeds me?

No amount of houses, sports cars, yachts, speed boats, luxury holidays and all the other trimmings of a wealthy life can ever make you quite feel like you're content with the way things are, because you can never fully insulate yourself from the suffering and poverty that surrounds us. The fact that you're reading this on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone, means that you're one of the lucky ones - you're somewhere that has electricity and the internet, which means there's probably clean drinking water too. If you think about those less fortunate than yourself, they're probably considerably well below your standard of living. Wherever you are in the pecking order, there's always some unfortunate who's desperately in need of help, because we've set up society to fail people - the very process of succeeding ourselves means trampling others underfoot to get ahead in life. It's a zero sum game - for somebody to win, there has to be a loser.

Life doesn't have to be like this - so adversarial. There's no limit on the number of "A" grades we can give out, or the amount of money we can print. There's no limit on the number of doctors we can have. We live in a world that's been artificially constrained to create winners and losers. There's no need to have competition so inbuilt to society. Yes, we might see that nature is full of competition - survival of the fittest - but we're not beasts. We've become super-intelligent and capable of producing vast surpluses of everything we need. With high-yield farming techniques and agricultural mechanisation, we can feed ourselves until we burst. With mass production and factories, we can have a virtually unlimited amount of goods - clothes and shoes and building materials, as well as pointless consumer crap that we arguably don't need.

Like the many utopians who I studied while doing the research for my second novel, I can see a world that's jam-packed with all the technology that we need to improve the human condition, and elevate half the planet out of poverty. I can see that we already possess everything we need - we don't need nuclear fusion or flying cars or any other sci-fi fantasies... we already have the means at our disposal, to improve our lives.

As a person who wants to make a positive difference - to effect meaningful change - I find it very distressing that those who are working very hard to improve the world are being thwarted. Imagine all the effort put in by doctors, nurses, politicians, charity workers and myriad others who do what they do because they want to make the world a better place... but it's not working, is it? The world is getting steadily more and more fucked up.

If you think I'm seeing the world through a 'blue filter' and my depression tinges my perceptions, we only need to look at the hard data - homelessness, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty, crime and all the other indicators we have of the health of our society are telling the same story: Things are getting worse, not better. Your kids will have to get into heaps of debt to obtain their education, and then they won't be able to afford to buy a house. Your kids are going to struggle to find work. Your kids are going to struggle, full stop. Your grandkids are absolutely fucked. It doesn't take a genius to extrapolate from the data and see where we're headed. Things aren't just going to magically improve without anybody doing anything. Don't look to politicians to cure society's problems. Don't look to charity to cure society's problems. Don't look to the church to cure society's problems. If any of the existing status quo members were going to do something to fix things, they'd have done it at some point in the last 400 years, wouldn't they?

I haven't figured out what I'm going to do yet, but the best "not in my name" protest I can think of is to kill myself. The best way I can think of to register my objection with the status quo, is to end my life.

Maybe I have a lemming-like instinct to kill myself because of overpopulation. Perhaps my genes are telling me to kill myself for the good of the species. Certainly the self-preservation instinct feels much weaker than the powerful emotions that tear through me, thinking about the futility of the oft-tried ways of making a difference.

If there's no opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, why go on?

 

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Why do I Write so Much?

11 min read

This is a story about brain dumping...

Hospital bed

I wish I was writing short and sweet think-pieces, but I'm not. I wish I was writing on a variety of topics, but I'm not. I wish I had all day long to compose something, edit it, improve it and give it some quality, but instead I come home and unload - I spend all day chained to my desk, hating every second, so when I finally sit down in front of my computer all I can do is pound out thousands of words that need to be unleashed, because I've been driven crazy alone in the office all day.

One of the reasons for writing so much is fear: Fear of dying misunderstood. If you felt like you had to write down everything you ever wanted to say, because you were going to die, then you'd write lots too, wouldn't you? What would you want to say to your family? What would you want to say to your partner? What would you want to say to your kids? What would you want to say to your friends? What would you want to tell the world? When you start to think about all that, then you might find that you've got quite a lot to say.

Isn't it so painfully embarrassingly teenaged angsty to be saying "I don't want to die misunderstood" and writing a diary where I go on and on about how the world is out to get me and grown-ups are awful? Isn't it super-duper immature to write like I've got all the answers and I'm the first person in the history of the universe to ever experience a few bad emotions and get a bit grumpy about having to work for a living? Shouldn't the shame of realising that I'm making a fool of myself cause me to shut the hell up? Can't I see myself? Don't I know how I'm coming across?

I guess I got into this writing habit when I felt like I was writing my own obituary. Then, over time, I've felt more and more comfort from knowing that I have uploaded as much of my mind into the cloud as I possibly can. It would be ridiculous to think that I'm somehow immortalising myself by spewing words out into the ether, along with all the trillions of others - every man and his dog has a blog, and believes what they're writing is profound. To think that I'm in any way original or making any kind of useful contribution, would be complete stupidity.

I've now reached the point where the steam of consciousness is seemingly endless, if anybody were to dig back in the archives. Any new reader would quickly tire of reading my boring dross, so it's almost as if I've been writing since the dawn of time. I write so much that it has to be skim-read - the themes are so repetitive; my points are so laboured. Like measuring the height of a child every single day, there seems to be very little progression - to the naked eye, I'm going nowhere with this, yet if we look back in the archives we can see that my life today is remarkably different versus 3, 6 or 12 months ago. 3 months ago I didn't have a job. 6 months ago I didn't have a home. 12 months ago I was a drug addict.

The archives don't chart my turbulent existence very well, because I don't write regularly when I'm sick and dying. It's hard to continue writing when you're in hospital, for example, so there are gaps. The gaps themselves tell a story. I have access to my photo library, which fills in some of the blanks, but I need to tell the story of what happened because otherwise people would never be able to guess from my photos. I write so much at the moment because I'm fearful that I'm going to lose my mind, kill myself or relapse into drug addiction. I write now, for fear of not being able to write later.

Just to write words like "drug addiction" or "didn't have a home" conjures up images of injecting heroin under a bridge. I write so much because I could easily be dismissed with a lazy label: Addict, for example. I write because things aren't as simple as they would seem to the casual reader. I write because there's complexity. I write because there aren't any easy conclusions that can be quickly drawn.

There's a process of reconciliation - those who know me are trying to reconcile the person they know with the story I'm telling of the more unfortunate events in my recent life; those who are getting to know me through only the pages of this website, are trying to reconcile what they understand of drug addiction, homelessness and mental health, with a story which seems to feature these elements in an atypical and non-stereotypical way. I deliberately write factual things - "I was a patient on a locked psychiatric ward" - knowing that it's shorthand for describing a person who serves no useful function in society, and should be kept in the asylum forever. When I write "drug addict" I do so knowing that it conjures up images of syringes and crack dens. I write because I'm an educated middle-class white guy who works for an investment bank, and I don't take drugs and I'm not homeless. Every preconceived notion you've ever had is going to be challenged, if you were to read my whole story. I don't think I'm original, special or different. However, my experience of addiction treatment services, homelessness, mental health and other public services, has shown that I'm an outlier - I'm even suspected of being some kind of hoax, or otherwise just a tourist passing through.

"It's not all about you" I'm often reprimanded. If you think I'm selfish and self-centred and conceited and vain and narcissistic and anything else of that ilk that you want to throw at me, you can f**k off and read somebody else's blog. This is where I write "Nick woz ere" in the hope that I either get better, or at least I made my very best attempt at explaining how difficult life is when you're laid low by depression, mood instability, abusive relationships, averse childhood experiences, divorce, loss of status, loss of home, addiction, mental health problems, suicide attempts, hospitalisation, institutionalisation, police, fire, ambulance... you name it!

To have built a Twitter following around one topic, and one topic only - the many trials and tribulations of Mr Nick Grant - seems incredibly narcissistic. I promise you that one reason I'm NOT writing, is to simply to shock and entertain... I'm not writing to be popular, even though I must admit that it helps my self-esteem a very great deal that people are reading what I write.

There's a very great temptation to give my 'fans' what they want. I can see that there are certain topics that create a great deal of engagement with my readers, and I could become addicted to the buzz of feeding that desire. I know what gets 'likes' and retweets. I know what gets chins wagging (virtually). I know that I could easily seed a thread of discussion, or otherwise troll in order to feel that I'm noticed and I'm making some ripples in the pond. Like many relatively early pioneers into cyberspace, I've spent enough time online to know what courts controversy and what kind of online persona I project... but that's not the way I play things. What I write comes from an earlier period in my childhood, when I used to write a journal for a cherished English teacher of mine to read - it was a formative experience.

I write because I'm a sensitive little soul in a world of bragging and bravado and bullshit. I write because I'm not going to win at sports, or even some kind of memorising-regurgitation exercise. I write because it's non-competitive and it's the only way I know to express myself - to dump out all the emotions that surge in my heart.

I'm aware that I have a bad case of verbal diarrhoea, but I don't care because my life is otherwise ascetic - I work, sleep and eat, and I have little outlet for self-expression and the pursuit of things that tickle my academic fancy; I have little opportunity for interesting discourse with fascinating people. It seems horribly self-indulgent to write so much about myself, but nobody asked you to read, did they?

I often think about the ears:mouth ratio, and that I should use them in the correct ratio. If you meet me in person - and I hope we do get to meet in person - then you might see that since I started writing, I've stopped the dreadful habit of just waiting for my turn to speak. I hope I'm a good listener. I hope I'm more engaged than I appear to be, writing all this god-awful stuff about myself. I've learned a lot about other people since writing so much about myself, because I don't feel so pressured to defend myself and otherwise present myself in the most favourable light that I can. I don't feel the need to tell you much about me at all really, in person, because it's all written down in a lot of detail if you really want to read it (which I don't recommend).

I'd ideally like to be writing high quality pieces on a variety of subjects, that take no more than a few minutes to read. 700 words is the sweet spot, I think - not too short, and not too long. As I write this, my rambling has just passed the 1,600 word mark. If ever you thought that writing a 2,000 word essay, a 10,000 word dissertation, 40,000 word MSc or 80,000 word thesis was a torturous task, then I'm just going to laugh at you because I've blogged 821,000 words to date and I'm aiming for a million by the end of the year. "Yes, but they have to be the right words" says a friend... she forgets that I've also written tens of thousands of lines of computer code in the last year alone, which have to be right otherwise they simply won't work - there's no wiggle room when a computer's involved, because it either works (true) or it doesn't (false)... it's binary.

I'm now writing utter horse shit, you realise, because I can't bear to be parted from the page. This moment - writing - is when I feel connected and switched on. It's like I've had the brakes on the whole time, and suddenly they're let off and I can just flow. If I wasn't writing, then I'd be getting up to mischief, so it's great to be able to write about whatever I want... just pouring words out onto a page.

Of course these are the insane ramblings of an unhinged man, but that's why you came here, isn't it? If I'm writing, it means that I'm still in the land of the living. If I'm still stringing together a coherent sentence, there's a little bit of me left on this earth - I haven't departed for the next life yet.

Do I cringe with embarrassment when I think about things I've written? Of course. If I could go back in time and stop myself from writing publicly about all the gory details of the inner-workings of my mind, would I do it? No way. If I could stop myself and go back to living a life of quiet obscurity, would I? No - I much prefer to document what's really going on with me, in a place that's readily available for anybody to come and peek into my mind.

I feel like I should write an obligatory bit of self-deprecation, saying what a self-centred idiot I am, but you know what? I can't be bothered. Yes this is all meaningless waffle - and so much of it - but the internet is not going to run out of bytes anytime soon... better out than in.

There we go... 2,000 words of nothingness. Just as meaningless as your uni dissertation that nobody will ever read. Just as meaningless as that thesis, that book, your entire life... whatever it is. It's easy to write, and it's also hard.

 

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Do No Harm

11 min read

This is a story about helping people...

Dialysis

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.

 

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Trigger Warning

7 min read

This is a story about copycat suicides...

Box of tramadol

I took this photo on the 10th of August 2017. I had three boxes just like this, each containing 112 capsules of tramadol. I had deliberately stockpiled these capsules over the course of a 3-month period. A month later I wrote a blog called The Closest I've Come to Suicide. Only a matter of hours later I very nearly did succeed in killing myself.

I'm repeating myself. Why?

I've kept the photos. I've kept the blog posts. Why?

Why am I thinking about this stuff? Aren't I deliberately triggering myself? Am I not tempting fate? Shouldn't I try to forget; pretend it never happened? Shouldn't I think positive thoughts, abandon my blog and decide that I'm going to be cured and happy? Am I not deliberately keeping myself depressed and suicidal, by continuing to have this link to the past?

People kill themselves all the time. Suicide kills a lot of men like me. In fact, suicide is the thing that's most likely to kill me. I'm not unique - if you're a man under the age of 45, suicide's the thing that's most likely to kill you too. Suicide's more likely to kill you than a car crash, cancer, a heart attack, a brain tumour, a drug overdose, a freak accident or anything else you can think of. You should be worried about suicide - it's the #1 risk to your health.

Technically, I'm not really allowed to write this. It's too soon - there's been a recent event. I can't talk about the event, but it happened. It's not about me. I shouldn't write about me. I shouldn't write about how it affects me. I'm not allowed to do those things - to write about it; to feel things. It's not me who's been affected. I'm impossible to affect.

My thoughts are with some other people who are more directly affected, but there's something else. I can't talk about it.

I'm safe, but if ever there was an example of a trigger, this would be it. I can't explain what the trigger is, which is part of what makes it so dangerously triggering - when people can't talk about stuff, that's when they're in danger. When people stop talking, that's when they're in danger.

Arguably, you might say that my blog didn't help me to stop following through with my plans to kill myself. However, it was also through my Twitter followers that the emergency services were able to get to me in time and save my life. My blog was never really supposed to be a cure - it's a suicide note. I started writing this because I didn't want to die misunderstood. I think it's had therapeutic benefit, but it's clearly not been curative, because I still tried to kill myself and very nearly succeeded.

The more I have to self-censor and worry about who's reading and how they're going to react, the harder it is for me to use my blog therapeutically. The best thing for me is to write without a filter, but that has consequences. There are things I want to write about, so that I'm fully publicly accountable and I've stayed true to my mission to document absolutely everything that's happening to me in unflinching detail, but I've got to balance that with the need to tell the story in the right sequence, otherwise people will leap to the wrong conclusions. I also jeopardise relationships and my job when I write so openly. I need to write with pure honesty, but human lives are complicated - there's no synopsis that allows anybody to effortlessly understand who I am.

My mood was dangerously unstable last week. This week I'm exhausted and stressed, but my mood is not so low. I was going to skip work today, but I didn't, and more importantly I didn't feel suicidally desperate about it. I felt like hiding under the duvet and never leaving the house, but that's completely different from feeling suicidal. There's a whole load of stuff that's hit me all at once at the start of the week - good and bad - but I'm feeling considerably better than I was this time last week, when I wrote Cry for Help.

I've had a week where there have been a number of 'triggering' things, most of which I'm not prepared to write about at the moment. I've had a week where there were at least 3 disastrous courses of action I could've embarked upon, but I got through it.

It feels horrible to be going through a period where I'm constrained in what I can write about. It feels dangerous to be living with things that are distressing, but are too difficult to tackle without compromising decisions I made about privacy and things that I don't want to share [yet].

I'm not a keeper of secrets. I don't want to be a man of mystery. I don't like having things that are off-limits to write about. I think it's dangerous - I don't want to have things that are bothering me, that I haven't alerted anybody about. I'm a lot happier - and safer - when I'm allowing pressure to escape from the safety release valve. I need to blow off steam; to vent.

Clearly, I'm being antagonised. Some of it is me, some of it is circumstances beyond anybody's control, some of it is other people. As a coping mechanism, I'm trying to write about it without making things personal; I'm trying to write about stuff that affects me personally, and also be some kind of superhuman who always thinks about how everyone else is feeling too, and attempts to put my own feelings into perspective.

I'm compromised. My blog serves a purpose. My blog is mine. I'm in a weird situation where I've got to watch what I say. How do I deal with something that's triggering, while also being mindful of other people at all times? This isn't supposed to be like a regular social situation, where I have to be mindful of other people's feelings. This is supposed to be my place where I come and deal with the thing that's most upsetting - triggering - to me.

Should I switch to a private journal, I wonder to myself. But, then I lose my all-important public scrutiny. If I write about my most desperate struggles in private, I won't be discovered until it's too late, if there was a repeat of what happened last time I tried to kill myself. I'm not planning on killing myself, but it's something to bear in mind - my social media friends are there for me when it's life-or-death. If nothing else, this blog has plucked me out of some very sorry situations. I can't really abandon it, just because I get too much earache from a handful of people who think they've read enough already.

I feel like I've got to write a caveat: that my thoughts are with somebody I really care about, arguably more affected than me by an event. It's not a competition, but I can't pretend like what's happened is not 'triggering' for me though, for reasons I can't go into. It's such a damn pain when I can't speak freely because I'm boxed in by a whole load of considerations about other people. It's stopping me from being raw and honest, which is stopping me from being able to cope in the usual way: to write without a filter; without self-censorship.

I'm sorry this is so repetitive and cryptic.

I don't know how to proceed. I think I'm going to have to continue my story. I'm going to have to be selfish and self-centred and get what I need out of writing. I'm going to have to be true to my mission, which is to be authentic and honest. I'm going to have to be brave and put everything out there, because the alternative will lead me to being isolated and alone with my terrible thoughts and feelings which could drive me to attempt suicide again.

Half tempted to scrub this and write about what's really going on, but I'm not going to. I'm going to see how I feel about things after I've had some more time to think.

 

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Men's Work

6 min read

This is a story about intolerable pressure...

Lipstick kiss

I have to start this piece with a lengthy preamble. To write about the difficulties faced by men in modern society could be misconstrued as sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic and unsympathetic towards the suffering and struggles of women. To breathe a word about the struggles that men face, could be seen as a slap in the face to women who receive unequal pay, or suffer sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and far greater rates of rape, murder and assault perpetrated against them by men, than by women. In short: I am not writing in any way to perpetuate the inequality and suffering that women have to deal with every day. My piece is simply about the pressures that modern men are dealing with.

Further to my list of caveats, I write from the point of view of the experiences and knowledge I've been able to gather up to this point in my life. I accept that I will never know the agony of childbirth. I'll never know what it's like to be pregnant. I'll never know what it's like to be a woman. This isn't a piece about women. I'm not seeking to address ANY of the difficulties faced by women. I know nothing about being a woman, and I'm not going to write about it. I'm not depriving anybody - man or woman - of their opportunity to share THEIR story and have equal airtime and consideration. I'm not shouting anybody down. I'm not shutting anybody up. I'm not offering a viewpoint that says that what I think is more valid than what anybody else thinks. These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone, shaped by my experiences as a white, middle-class, hetero man, in no way intended to compete with the experiences of any non-white, poor, LGBTQ+ women, who are obviously going to have a remarkably different set of views from me.

I am sympathetic to the plight of women. I'm unlikely to be equally sympathetic, because I have an inbuilt bias towards being able to empathise with those who've had broadly similar experiences to me, because they're also white, middle-class hetero men. I don't choose to feel less gut-wrenching sympathy when I hear about - for example - unequal pay in the workplace... it's just not as emotive for me, because perhaps I haven't been affected by it. If I'm not part of the solution, I must be part of the problem, but my writing is not about how guilty I feel for the circumstances I was born into; my writing is about things I can directly relate to. I do not seek to discredit, devalue or otherwise detract from some very real issues faced by women. I mean only to comment in an area in which I feel qualified to do so.

So, 500 words of preamble. Now I can write with a little more precision on the topic that concerns me.

I decided that I wanted to write a bullet-pointed list of all the things that a guy - someone like me - faces during their life, presenting significant problems. I'm trying to add up all the little things that whirr away in a man's psyche, driving his behaviour and causing him distress. I'm just going to write these things down in the most succinct way, because I want to explore everything I can possibly think of.

Here we go:

  • "Boys don't cry" / "man up"
  • Inheriting the family name. Following in your father's footsteps
  • Mummy's boy / suffocating
  • "You're the man of the house" - expectation of maturity
  • Boys develop more slowly than girls, both physically and academically
  • Oldest & biggest boys in school year bully and physically dominate
  • Societal obsession with sports and sporting achievement
  • "Get married and start a family" is not a career choice
  • Breadwinner
  • Provide for the family
  • Protector
  • Boys can't hit girls, even in self defence / retaliation
  • Encouragement of violence - bullying, boxing, fighting, sport
  • Discouragement of sensitivity - "soft", "wimpy", "homosexual", "effeminate"
  • Hypocrisy and contradiction - violence is both heroic (e.g. war) and vilified
  • Hooligans / vandals / gangs - provide fraternity, but demonised
  • Lack of sporting ability = social exclusion
  • Interest in sport a necessity for social bonding
  • "Make the first move" - guys do the chasing - "ask her out"
  • Knock-backs / rejection / misread signals
  • Assertiveness, persistence - important to "pull" a girl
  • Sexual conquest is seen as adversarial - a game
  • Impotence concerns - "can I get hard?" / "will I stay hard?"
  • Premature ejaculation concerns - "can I last long enough?"
  • Bedroom performance concerns - "can I make her cum?"
  • "Treat 'em mean" - appearing aloof and unattainable
  • Neediness and vulnerability - insecurity and need for security
  • Peer approval - bragging and bravado
  • Status symbols - the car, the house, the job
  • Professional identity - coveted job titles, doctor/lawyer etc.
  • Fear of failure - bankruptcy, homelessness, joblessness, redundancy
  • Fear of rejection - loneliness
  • Doing stupid things to show off / impressing others
  • "All men are rapists"
  • Suspicion / trial by media / allegations
  • "Men are violent"
  • "Men are dangerous"
  • "Men are paedophiles"
  • Get rich, or die trying
  • Risk of homelessness
  • Low-priority for help - considered not vulnerable
  • Identity issues; body dysmorphia - use of steroids, huge muscles
  • Need to look masculine, avoid gender ambiguity
  • Weight of expectation. Assumption that advantages will lead to great success
  • "It's a long way down" - falling from grace; loss of status
  • Hide pain. Don't talk about problems
  • Self reliance
  • Isolation - man is an island
  • Most idolised and revered men are athletes - worship of physique
  • "Loser" - no job, no money, no career, no skills
  • Thief / junkie / criminal / bankrupt / dosser / tramp - always a man
  • "It's all your own fault" / personal responsibility; accountability
  • Passivity = homosexuality
  • House-husband = not an option
  • Succeed or kill yourself

That's all I can think of for now. The list is all over the place, but I wanted to cover as many different things as I could think of in a short space of time. To see it written down like that is somewhat alarming, because it doesn't seem to convey the struggle that I believe men face, and that causes so many men to end their own lives. It's strange that I can write a single word like "provider" and that succinctly sums up a whole heap of pressures and responsibilities that a man shoulders, but it's just one word.

So, I'm going to leave it there. Half words of caveat and half words that are powerfully charged for me, as a man. I leave it to you, dear reader, to expand each bullet point and decide whether it's all a lot of fuss about nothing. I had to write this today, because of an event today that I can't write about. It's complicated.

 

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Stubbornly Refusing to be Cured

12 min read

This is a story about being bloody minded...

Hospital wristband

I've been subjected to the most bizarre accusation: That I can "get better" anytime I want; that I enjoy being depressed or somehow need to have a mental illness because it's part of my identity; that I want to be unwell. Part of the accusation hinges on my Twitter following - I'm accused of being two-faced: Writing blog posts and tweets which don't somehow manage to convey that sometimes I'm not suicidal.

I'm a bit confused to be honest. I don't think I could be any more authentic. I don't think it would be possible for me to be any more candid and open. My blog isn't supposed to be a diary, accurately recording the day's events. My blog is therapy for me - I write about the things that are upsetting me the most; the things that are causing the most pain and anguish.

Perhaps I'm being given credit where no credit is due. Perhaps I'm perceived as intelligent enough to be able to rationalise away my problems and force my moods to bend to my will. Perhaps the decisions I've taken out of desperation have been mistaken for choices. Perhaps my determination to stick with a plan which will boost my finances and continue to give me a lucrative career, is seen as deliberate self-sabotage: I'm purposefully making myself sick, in the eyes of my accuser.

I can see the positives and the negatives of different "choices" without assistance from somebody else to help me 'see'. I'm not so cognitively impaired that I need somebody to point out the bleedin' obvious to me. For everything that I moan about because it's making me ill, there are many benefits which make my choices worthwhile. My work, travel and living arrangements are not conducive to good mental health, but neither is poverty and hinderances that would make me less employable. The playing field is not level. I do not get to make unbiased choices - I've got to do what I've got to do, even if it's unpleasant.

I'm accused of being the problem. It's not the job, it's me. It's not the commute, it's me. It's not the lonely AirBnBs, it's me. Apparently, everything's all my own fault and I can choose to be healthy and happy any time I want, according to my accuser. Personally, I think that life's a lot easier when you've got money behind you and you've got a stable home life. Personally, I think that we are healthier and happier when we get the pieces of the puzzle in place: friends, family, a home, an income, financial security and something we're passionate about. Let's leave aside the blame game of how I ended up in the present situation. We can even assume that everything's all my fault if you want to, but that doesn't change the fact of the matter: I am where I am and I need to get back on my feet. Blame doesn't change my needs. Blame doesn't change my situation or my mood. To accuse me of fucking up my life AND deliberately keeping it fucked up is dumb. One of the big reasons why I'm suicidal is because I've tried so hard to fix the things that are broken, but it's been a miserable exhausting experience and my life's still pretty messed up. I really am trying very hard to get things sorted out. It's a lot easier said than done, I'm afraid. Sorry about that.

I think there's a lot of ego involved. People want to be helpful, but then they start thinking like they've understood me and I can be 'cured' with simple solutions. When the simple solutions to an oversimplification of my problems don't work, then the 'helpful' people get annoyed with me... like I'm deliberately messing up their useless suggestions. I seem to have really frustrated my accuser, that I'm so determined to be a real living person, with a real life, instead of some simple little thing that can easily be fixed. "Oh I'm so silly! How brilliant of you to point out the completely obvious solution to an easy-to-solve problem that I don't have! Thank you!" I'm expected to say all the time, on top of dealing with real life.

There aren't any quick fixes. Things take time and effort to get better, and it's exhausting. Things have to be done in the right sequence. Sometimes, it costs a lot of money to make changes. Sometimes we have to wait for the things we want and need, because we can't get them immediately. I can't - for example - switch jobs until I have a financial cushion to give me some runway to make the change. Every change I make brings with it a whole new set of problems, so I need to deal with things in a step-by-step way. There's a plan, even if somebody thinks that I can just teleport straight to the end goal. Sadly, life doesn't work like that - we have to suffer in the short and medium term, to achieve our long term objectives. You have to pay to play.

I'm not short of ideas for what to do when I have surplus time and money. I'm not short of ideas of what I'd do if I could do anything, because money's no object, but it's bullshit to suggest I'm able to just abandon my current source of income and go off and do something else. I can't be a student again. I can't be a poet or a dog walker or a sculptor or a circus clown. Life doesn't work like that. Even if I took a shitty McJob, I would still need to afford to travel to work every day for a month or so until I get paid. How do you think capitalist society even works? I'm making smart economic choices which are painful at the moment, but will give me the financial means to pursue something more rewarding and better for my health. I'm giving myself the working capital to be able to pick and choose my next options.

I might have spent some of today playing like a big kid and enjoying myself, but that doesn't mean that my mood can't be plunged dangerously low when reality bites: Monday morning will come around, along with the realisation that almost nothing in my life is quite where I want and need it to be. There's so much unpleasant hard work ahead, and so little reward in the short term, that it's quite understandable that I'd get worn down and decide to reject life altogether. What looks like a few short months of hard work to you, is somewhat of an insurmountable obstacle for me, because of the journey I've been on. I've fought my way back from nothing, and I'm still fighting, but yet it feels like I'm getting nowhere. Where's the reward for my effort? Why is life still so miserable, most of the time?

In the company of my friends, or going on a date with a girl - for example - life can briefly seem wonderful, but the bulk of my existence feels like packing and unpacking bags, moving from place to place, sitting at a desk and hating every second... unsettled and unpleasant. The dread of the rat race - the treadmill - is enough to cast a dark shadow over other times. When I should be enjoying the last few hours of my weekend, I'm already depressed about another week shackled to the job I do out of economic necessity. I make a fuss, but it's not over nothing and it's not me. I'd pick up dog shit if it paid as well as my current job... at least it would feel like I was making a real tangible difference to my local community, if I was doing something like that.

There are a whole raft of issues at play, including my desire to be free from medications. It might seem obvious that my depression could be 'cured' with pills, but it wouldn't be a cure - my depression is a reaction to my toxic circumstances. I don't want to become medication dependent, when I've worked so hard to wean myself off so many different pills. I'm quite close to being 100% substance free.

I want to plan a holiday. I want to buy a car. I want to dream, but dreams require money. The dreaming part is the easy bit. Life's a lot more complicated than it seems for a casual observer. It's easy to come up with a million "you should do..." ideas, but they're infeasible if you don't have the time, money, company, energy, motivation and a million other things that are the product of getting some building blocks in place: a home, a girlfriend, some friends, a tolerable job, some money in the bank, disposable income etc. etc.

There are myriad broken things in my life, and no quick fixes. If I haven't fixed something yet, it's not because I want it to be broken. I'm not choosing to be depressed. I don't want to be sick. I'm perfectly capable of imagining a life that would be healthier and happier, but it takes time, money and energy to make it happen.

Moaning on my blog is what I do for therapy. Moaning on my blog is what I do, because it's cheap and it helps me to limp along while I'm getting the cash together to be able to do whatever I want to do next. Moaning on my blog is not my identity - it's my outlet because there isn't any other healthy way to cope. I'm trapped by circumstances and there's no escape, except through the path I've "chosen". I do not choose to be depressed, miserable and suicidal.

I don't know why I'm accused of being the architect of my own depression, when I'm working so hard to fix my life. The accusations don't even make any sense - they just seem to be an egotistical version of "have you tried being more simple so that I can solve the problems that you don't have?" and "have you tried being me instead of you, because I think I'm great?".

I've exhaustively documented the challenges that I'm facing. It upsets me that somebody would want to oversimplify things, just because of their own ego and a desire that I should blame myself and generally feel like I'm lazy and stupid, despite the fact that I HAVE TO LIVE 24 HOURS A DAY WITH SUICIDAL DEPRESSION and I'm the one who does all the actual hard work fixing my life. Pointing out the blatantly obvious is not a hard thing to do. Leaping to incorrect conclusions is not a hard thing to do.

There is a prerequisite condition for having an opinion on "what's wrong with me" which is to have read what I've written. If you want to know what's wrong with me, I've exhaustively documented everything I'm going through right here. If you want to tell me what I should and shouldn't do with my life, it needs to take into account the reality of my day-to-day existence, which I have accurately explained the most challenging parts of on this blog. If you want to give me "you should..." type instructions, then they need to be grounded in reality or else I'm just going to ignore them. Please don't get upset when I ignore your unhelpful suggestions. Please don't accuse me of wanting to be miserable and depressed.

I've written more than I intended to. I'm wondering why I'm writing. What's the point? But, that's what this blog is. It's not an attempt to manipulate sympathy out of my audience. This is a living document that records my distress in unflinching detail. This is where I pour out all the stuff that's really upsetting me. Here's where I work things out that are going round and round in my head. This is therapy for me.

One other accusation that I've faced is that my blog is making me sick - my blog is causing me to get stuck, ruminating on things that I'd otherwise let go. I think that's bullshit. My blog is where I've been able to finally let go of things that have been upsetting me. It's taken a long time, and I've repeated myself A LOT but that doesn't mean it's not working. If you take a lazy glance, you might think that I always write about the same stuff and that I'm therefore stuck in a rut, but if you look at the full story, you must surely see that I've been through some pretty traumatic stuff and this blog has helped me to cope. Writing is my healthy coping mechanism. People don't often pull through the things I've been through, and go back to being healthy happy productive members of society. I give credit to this blog for allowing me to deal with things that would otherwise have caused me to lose my mind.

I could probably edit this down, or just delete it and rewrite it, but I'm going to publish it because I want the public scrutiny. I want to document what I'm going through. I want to capture a piece of my consciousness, without censorship.

Yes, I'm lashing out, but I don't deserve to be accused of not helping myself, when I'm working so hard.

 

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