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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

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

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Winter is Coming

6 min read

This is a story about the end of summer...

Fluffy seeds

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer and the hot sunny weather is being replaced by grey skies and rain. It won't be long before the shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops can be stored away again until next year, because it'll be too cold for summer clothes. It won't be long before the 9-month long miserable British winter is back.

Of course, I'm worrying about tomorrow's problems today. I should be enjoying the last of the summer, but I need to make hay while the sun shines. My health has been OK during the first month of my new job, but I never know when it's going to let me down. I need to earn as much cash as possible as quickly as possible, before I can relax and loosen the purse strings. I daren't take a holiday until I'm in a more secure position. I needed to make a good first impression at work and earn the trust and respect of my colleagues.

I wanted to go to Prague to see friends, but I'm postponing it until the summer holiday madness has died down. I wanted to go to Ireland to see friends, but I'm postponing it until I've got more energy for travelling. I need to have at least a 1-week holiday of rest and relaxation, somewhere peaceful with a pleasant climate. Everything has been put on hold while I re-establish myself and slowly refill my depleted savings.

The seasons can affect me horribly, but I haven't felt at all lifted by the summer months. I suppose I've had a whole series of summers where I've had horrific stress and upheaval, so I don't see summertime as a time to enjoy myself. Looking back over the past 3 Augusts, I've been working myself to the bone during each one, in a desperate attempt to gather enough cash to get through the dreadful winter months.

This year is unusual, because I've been working non-stop since December and I've got relatively secure income until next summer. In theory, I could relax a little bit, given that I now have a secure place to live and a small financial safety net. In practice, I'm so heavily debt-laden, exhausted and downtrodden from the demands of the past few years, that I daren't take my foot off the gas pedal for a single second - it's flat out all the way to the finish line, which is still a long way away.

I suppose if my health holds out until December time, I'll feel a lot of regret that I didn't enjoy the summer months at all, but if I manage to get to December without a major incident then I'll be quite comfortably financially secure, so I can take a luxury foreign holiday. It's hard to balance the needs of today with the huge prize of financial freedom, provided I can cling on by my fingernails for long enough.

I've worked full-time for 9 consecutive months without a holiday, and 25 consecutive months if we include periods where I was sick and unable to work. The relentless stress and strain of dealing with having to move house, change jobs and keep working, is taking its toll - my physical health is deteriorating. My skin is pale, I've put on weight, I'm unfit and I'm tired all the time.

September is a tricky time for me. In previous years I've attempted suicide, been hospitalised and lost jobs. It would be great if I could get through September without a major incident. I desperately want to jet off somewhere, but I think the most sensible thing to do is to keep up the rhythm and routine and try to break the curse. I successfully made it through Jinxed January this year, so I should be able to use my momentum to carry me through September.

On September 6th, I celebrate my 3-year blogging anniversary. On September 9th it'll have been a year since my most serious and near-fatal suicide attempt. On September 10th it's World Suicide Prevention Day. On September 19th it's my sister's birthday. If I can get through all of that without incident, and reach the end of the month, then I'll be really pleased.

In October the clocks go back and it really starts to feel like winter. I think it'll be impossible for me to get to the end of the year without a holiday, and I'll desperately need one by October. I might be stretching a little too far to manage to last that long without a break, but it would be amazing if I could have a 1-week break in late-October to lift my spirits and carry me to the end of the year.

November's just crappy. I've got nothing good to say about November.

The build-up to Christmas in December does improve people's mood, and things slow down at work - although that's not necessarily a good thing - but the festivities should hopefully carry me until the day when I can leave the country for a couple of weeks, in search of winter sunshine.

If I can reach December, I'll have been working full-time for a whole year without totally screwing up. I think it's important to know I can manage to work for an entire year without my health getting so bad I'm unable to work. Having more money means more security and less stress, so hopefully things will get easier and easier, although I'm dreading the worsening of the weather.

The important thing is to keep moving forwards and not to stop, because if I stop then I will lose my gains incredibly quickly. In the blink of an eye I'll be back in a financially distressed situation. In the blink of an eye all the hope and possibility will disappear. It's remarkable how hard I've worked and how much cash I've generated, but how little of it seems to have actually stayed in my pocket - it's all been hoovered up by debts and living expenses and otherwise greedily devoured by the vultures who prey upon me. I've got to run just to stand still.

Sure, the skies are reasonably blue outside and it's relatively mild, but I'm acutely aware that there are very tough times ahead.

It might seem churlish to complain when I've had enough fortune to find myself still in a position to be able to potentially recover and return to a pleasant life in civilised society, but I've worked my ass off through yet another spoiled summer, and I'm going to be working very hard for the foreseeable future. It's hard to get excited about the prospect of yet more months of hard graft, with very few things to look forward to. Obviously, everything is super fragile and I'm very anxious that one little thing going wrong could spell disaster.

Things don't feel sustainable or realistically attainable. I feel sick and tired.

 

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London Keeps You Fit

9 min read

This is a story about declining health...

Bike tyre

My mental health can be tracked reasonably well by thinking about the periods when I was so extremely unwell that work became impossible, there are gaps in my blog and there's photographic evidence that I was having an episode of stimulant psychosis and sleep-deprivation induced insanity. The evidence of my naturally fluctuating bipolar mood is very obscured by other major events, including job loss, money worries and periods of relapse and addiction. There, however, periods when I've been functioning well enough to start getting back on my feet, although these have been quite short-lived and usually occur at some point between May and October.

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well as bipolar, so my tendency towards mania has started to become linked to the summer months. As my life became more chaotic and unmanageable, depression and drug abuse started to appear during the peaks and troughs. I've suffered winter relapses and summer relapses. I've also spent endless months with seemingly unshakeable and relentless anxiety and depression, which has been unbearable while working boring bullshit full-time jobs.

Through all the difficulties of divorce, selling my house, moving to London and attempting to get back on my feet - getting a new place to live and new job sorted out - I've suffered a whole series of seemingly catastrophic events which have always threatened to destroy me, but somehow every year I managed to do some good work and earn plenty of money.

By the time I arrived in hospital for the umpteenth time, I was completely burnt out by the demands of getting myself off the streets, into my own apartment and working on an extremely high pressure project for an incredibly demanding client. However, I was remarkably fit and healthy. My blood pressure and my resting heart rate both indicated an excellent level of fitness.

I suppose I knew I was fit. I had been lugging my luggage all over London, from hostel to hostel, because I was homeless. I cycled everywhere and I cycled very fast and aggressively - I loved the buzz of weaving through London traffic on my bike with handlebars sawn to the exact width of my shoulders. When there was a tube strike, I cycled all the way from North-West London to East London through the horrendous traffic jams. Cycling anywhere took me less time than it would have done by any other means of transport, with the possible exception of helicopter.

Even when I stopped cycling regularly I still did a lot of walking. To commute to my job in the City required a fairly long walk to my nearest Docklands Light Railway station, and a couple of times a week I had to visit a client in South London, which required even more walking. Seeing friends meant more walking. Going to the supermarket meant more walking. Seeing my girlfriend meant more walking. I maintained a reasonable standard of fitness through 2016, although not quite matching the preceding years.

In 2017 my health completely failed me and I was in hospital on dialysis for ages. Psychologically, I wasn't able to recover from the setback. I watched my savings dwindle depressingly quickly and I knew that I was going to end up evicted from my apartment; bankrupt and homeless. I knew that I couldn't face the exertion of pulling myself up by my bootstraps and getting back on my feet, yet again. I'd had a remarkable 2014, 2015 and 2016, where those years had horrendously bad periods, but also periods when I was productive and earning a lot of money. I hadn't been able to reach escape velocity at any point, and get myself back to a position of financial and housing security, with a dependable source of income. It had been an almost relentlessly shitty 3 years in terms of having the gains I had made smashed to smithereens. I had tried hard to make things work in London for a long time I'd run out of road - I had to leave to avoid total destitution.

Fitness tracker

I've amended the graph I made a short time ago to include 2015, so it can be compared and contrasted with more recent years. Every year used to look like 2015. It's quite plain to see how 2017 and this year are not showing my usual summertime boost at all. I'm having a terrible time in terms of fitness and physical health.

My brief stay in Manchester - August 2016 - was too short to say whether it could have been healthy, but I very much doubt it would have been. I didn't want to be there. The place was not inspiring.

Wales - as the data clearly shows - has not been a healthy move for me at all. The air quality is worse where I live than it was in Central London. There's little reason to walk anywhere - my local job was too far to walk and it was too easy to just drive everywhere. I live on a very steep hill, which is somewhat of a disincentive to walk to the beach, the shops or the pub, knowing there's such an uphill struggle on the way home. For 3 months I was commuting from Wales to London, which of course meant I was doing a lot of walking and carrying a heavy bag - I was starting to get fitter. The chance to work closer to home was too good to turn down, but when my mood wobbled and I had a rough patch, I've been very inactive since. I hardly left my apartment for the best part of two months.

My lifestyle now involves hardly any walking at all. I jump in my car on a Monday morning and park outside my office. I drive to a hotel where I stay 3 nights a week and I always eat in the pub next door. I drive home and I don't leave my apartment, except to walk to the nearby corner shop to buy wine and unhealthy snacks.

What people don't realise about London is how far you have to walk to get around. Walking to the tube station, then walking up and down the steps and through the various passageways that connect the different lines. I would always be prepared to walk further to get to my preferred places to eat and buy groceries. Dating in London always seemed to require quite a lot of walking. I'm not particularly inspired to socialise, date or in any way engage with the place where I live in Wales. I just stay at home, drinking wine and watching TV.

I've made a concerted effort to cut down my drinking to 3 nights a week or fewer. I'm changing a lot of things all at the same time, which is very intense and hard to deal with, but I think I feel a bit of improvement. When I started my new job 4 weeks ago I was having panic attacks and hating most of the time I was in the office. I felt like walking out and killing myself. I was drinking a bottle of wine or 4 pints of beer every single night, and twice that amount on Friday and Saturday nights. I was abusing prescription painkillers and sleeping tablets and tranquillisers, in a desperate attempt to cope with the stress and anxiety.

Now I've stopped taking the sleeping tablets and I've stopped drinking midweek. I've managed to get through a couple of weekends where I've limited my drinking to less than a bottle of wine each night. It might still sound excessive, but it's a huge positive change from where I was.

I went out for a walk a week ago, and this weekend I went for a longer walk and I socialised with friends. That's a big change from a few weeks ago, when I hated the idea of leaving the house for any reason except to buy another bottle of wine from the closest shop.

In London I stayed fit and healthy simply because of the amount of walking I had to do to get to my job and drag my groceries home from the shops. In London I stayed fit and healthy because of the intensity of the place; the buzz I got from travelling around the place.

I had feared that I'd completely slumped recently, and I was destined to become a fat blob of a couch potato. My drinking had gotten out of control and I didn't want to do anything other than lie on the sofa getting drunk.

I don't exactly feel motivated to join a gym or start doing sports, but we have to consider the relative improvement. Things are a lot better than they were.

I have my cerebral preoccupations. I work with my brain not my body and I have my writing to do every day after work, which is surprisingly exhausting. I hope that when I reach my million-word target in a couple of weeks, I'll be more relaxed about my writing. I'm starting to regain my confidence at work and I'm getting more relaxed. Hopefully I'll be able to have a holiday or two in the coming months, without too much worry about jobs and money - hopefully I now have reasonably secure income for the foreseeable future.

I'm going to have to take some more pro-active steps to get fit and healthy than I'm used to. In London I got fit just doing the things I needed to do, like getting from A to B.

In theory, I should have more time, money and energy to spend my leisure time being fit and active, because people work fewer hours outside London and the cost of living is a lot less. In practice, I'm struggling to re-adjust.

I know that getting fitter will be hugely beneficial for my physical and mental health. Baby steps though - it's important not to try to do everything all at once.

 

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Progress

9 min read

This is a story about climbing mountains...

Cumulative word count

Look how close I am to my target of 1 million words in 3 years. I've got about 33,000 words to go. 42,000 words I published on Medium.com as an experiment to see if I'd get more readers if I used it instead of my own website, which accounts for the step at around 750,000 words. I'm ahead of target, because I've been averaging 1,838 words per day and I only needed to average 1,243. If I continue at the rate I've been doing for the past week then I'll reach my goal in 18 days, which will be about 2 weeks early.

Of course I'm aware that the quality has been extremely variable. In one single day I wrote 10,000 words of very dubious quality. My second novel is unfinished and I'm really not very pleased with what I wrote at all, so should I really include those 42,000 words in the total?

What does it even matter anyway? Hasn't it all been a stupid waste of time and effort?

I used an anonymous internet connection with a browser which didn't have any cookies in it in order to check which page of Google I'm on and it was page 3... and page 4 if I search from outside the UK. Obviously "manic grant" comes up as number one, but I was disappointed to see that my appearance on page 1 or 2 was only because Google knows who I am and where I am, and was tailoring the search results to flatter my over-inflated ego.

I lost 6,700 Twitter followers overnight quite recently, due to Twitter doing a big purge of bots. I didn't realise I had so many bots following me, but I was rather inundated with followers which were part of a big scam to get people to click on a dating website link. "Click the link in my profile" these fake followers tweeted, with borderline-pornographic profile pictures as the bait. Later, these followers tweeted "click the link pinned to my profile" and their profile claimed that they were interested in "cosplay" whatever that is. In some ways it was good to lose all those fake followers, because it was always a bit disappointing when I thought I had a new follower and it turned out to be a bot. However, the damage done to the 'headline' number of followers really upset me and took the wind out of my sails.

When I moved to Medium.com for a month and stopped writing my blog it really damaged my momentum in terms of regular readers. It didn't help that live-publishing a chapter per day of my experimental novel, which was of very dubious quality, was quite off-putting for those visitors who were expecting to find another instalment of insanity and miserable moaning.

Visitors

You can see from this graph of my website visitors that my experiment with writing something that I thought would be popular on Reddit worked exactly as well as I thought it would. You can also see that my suicide attempt - which I tweeted about - and my subsequent coma, life support in critical care, getting sectioned and being locked up on a psych ward, generated quite a lot of visitors... not that it was my intention that time, of course.

You can see that my annus horribilis of 2017 is perfectly reflected in the graph. I wasn't writing regularly and the quality of what I was writing was negatively affected by ill health, addiction, drug abuse, sleep deprivation and stimulant psychosis.

Of course if I just wanted to pump my numbers up and have as many visitors as possible, I know what's popular and how to get people to click, but I've tried really hard not to be led by my analytics and vanity metrics. I try to ignore the data as much as possible and just write whatever I need to write about, as a form of brain-dumping therapy.

I set out to write about mental health problems - specifically suicidal thoughts. I didn't mean to write so much about my innermost private thoughts and feelings. I never intended to write a whole series of opinion pieces on subjects, when I was feeling insecure; desperately trying to prop up my fragile self-esteem by publishing my thoughts on current affairs during a period when I was very unwell and running out of money very quickly. I definitely didn't intend to weaponise my blog to grind my axe and take out my frustrations on people who had upset me.

Readers respond very quickly to the changes in my mood and the not-too-subtle direction I'm dragging my blog in at any one time. If I'm messed up, irregular and erratic, then I lose my regular readers. If I'm bitter, angry, vicious and vengeful then readers are turned off; revulsed. If I'm distracted and pursuing some other goal - such as writing a novel - then readers are confused by that change of tack, and they wonder what happened to the regular daily stream-of-consciousness brain dump. If I get too wrapped up in current affairs and start to get on my high horse and pontificate about whatever's in the newspapers, then it's a big turn-off for readers.

I feel really bad about every single period where I lost focus and wandered up one of the many dead-ends I'm prone to ending up choosing when things aren't going well in my life.

The main thing that's really clear from the graph is that when there's stability in my life, there's steady growth in the number of regular readers I have, who are engaging with my content. Also clear is that when there's a huge crisis in my life, there's a brief period when people who care about me are reading, but those readers quickly drop away when the danger has passed.

The period from December last year until now perfectly mirrors what has been happening in my life, in terms of getting back on my feet. I've been steadily working, earning money, getting important things in place like a place to live and a car. My financial situation has been improving rapidly. The graph shows really clearly just how stable my life has been in a visual way, which is both pleasing and encouraging.

Step count

Looking at my average daily step count really shows just how bad 2017 was... or at least the first half of 2017 anyway. Each year of my life follows a very seasonal pattern, with hardly any activity in the winter months, and lots of activity from May to September, reaching its peak in July. My cyclical nature is obvious when you look at the step count graphs... but 2017 was a terrible year and it's caused my cycle to go haywire. As you can see from the graph, things are erratic, not cyclical. What you can't see are all the previous years where I had summers packed full of activity.

The trend regarding my physical activity is most alarming. The trend is clearly downwards.

If we were to do a graph of my net worth, it would mirror my blog activity and it would mirror a graph of the number of hours I spend in the office. If we were to graph the number of times I wrote the word "bored" we'd probably see that it's anti-correlated with periods of stability, work and high income. When we look at my step count, it's usually the case that it increases when I'm working, except during winter. I'm hoping that my lack of activity this year is a result of struggling to recover from the horrors of 2017. I'm hoping that my physical activity levels climb out of the low point they're in. I'm really not enjoying miserable summers.

The graphs tell a really cool story which completely correlate with my memories and perceptions.

I remember the period of spring to summer 2016 as being particularly productive, and although I was very bored at work, I was earning a lot of money and my life was stable. I went on holiday for my birthday at the end of July 2016, which correlates perfectly with the big peak in my website visitors.

The low-point in my activity in June 2017 correlates perfectly with the lowest point of my life, when I'd broken up with the love of my life, run out of money, had to leave my amazing apartment and had to leave London. As I wrote a few days ago, that was probably my rock bottom period, although it's only with hindsight that I see that now - at the time it was very stressful and miserable, but I was too busy fighting to survive to stop and consider how awful things were in the grand scheme of things.

In terms of pure progress, there's still so much work to do. I've got to clear all my debts, complete a whole year of work without a major incident, and I've got to finish my 1 million words to some reasonable standard of quality. For my own sense of achievement, I need to have a period when I'm writing short, concise pieces which I'm pleased with, and not just churning out the raw words to pump up the word count and achieve the arbitrary goal. I want my readers to have a period where the quality justifies the vast amount of time wasted perusing the pages of this particular and peculiar publication.

The graphs don't quite do justice to the journey I've been on, and a number like 1 million is seemingly trivial in a world which has racked up debts in the trillions. However, I assure you that the project has been every bit as hard as scaling an 8,000m+ peak, such as Mount Everest.

Ah yes, that's the other work that's still to do: I need to get more fit and active.

On that note, I'm going to the pub.

 

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Suddenly Summer

4 min read

This is a story about the pleasant months of the year...

The park

I was psychologically prepared for a miserable winter. I was psychologically prepared for seasonal affective disorder to lay me low after the clocks went back and the days were short, dark and full of drizzly cold awful weather. I was psychologically prepared to knuckle down and work hard during the unpleasant British winter. I achieved a lot, especially considering how suicidal depression, intolerable anxiety and unbearable stress were constantly with me as I attempted to avoid bankruptcy and tried to get myself back on my feet.

Yesterday I was at the marina looking at a yacht I'm going to be sailing soon. Today I took a walk along the seafront and had a picnic in the park.

Theoretically, I have a source of income that lasts until the end of July.

I have a holiday planned in June.

My life is awesome.

Well... my life looks awesome to an outsider. There's nothing too much to complain about except for my crippling debts, the uncertainty about the future, I'm bored and unchallenged at work, I'm still struggling with depression - desperate to feel hopeful about the future, but knowing that things have been quite unsustainable. I've been getting up too early - because my work colleagues are all early birds - and I've been finishing my work too quickly. I hate being bored, but I hate pacing myself too - I'm not capable of deliberately going slow.

I knew winter was going to be hard, but I imagined summer was going to be easy. Perhaps I mismanaged my own expectations. Perhaps I didn't psychologically prepare myself for the whole long slog to freedom. I'm 6 to 9 months away from getting my life sorted out, and that assumes that nothing goes wrong. I could lose my source of income at the end of July. I could lose my source of income sooner - I have no idea what I'm going to be doing after the end of the month.

I shouldn't complain, of course.

I shouldn't complain.

My life is awesome.

So I keep telling myself.

It certainly makes a difference, the pleasant weather. I'm more motivated to leave the house and enjoy the nice things in the local area where I live. I'm planning on going sailing. I'm planning a holiday.

However, uncertainty looms large. My income is insecure. My mental health is quite dubious - I'm struggling to get to the office and get through the days. My job is a lot better than the last one I did in London but I can't cope with being bored and having nothing to do: I've got to be busy busy busy.

It seems churlish to complain. I'm not really complaining - it's a statement of fact. Summer is here but life's harder than I expected... things are still a struggle, although I guess things are a lot less of a struggle. The problem is that I've struggled for so long and I really need a break to recharge my batteries, so that I can carry on without having a nervous breakdown. I haven't had a proper holiday in 21 consecutive months.

The warning signs are there - I had to take a couple of days off sick last week. I'm having an extra-long weekend, because I'm spent; I'm exhausted. It's taken so much to get to this point and there's so much potential for me to really make some good progress now, and start to get my life sorted out, but it's been a ridiculous journey during the course of the last year. The last year has been hell.

Yes, some really nice great stuff is starting to happen. Yes, my life is really improving loads. Yes, I'm really knackered from all the effort I've put into getting myself to this point. Yes, I'm exhausted and I'm struggling to carry on at the same pace; to work as hard as I worked to get me to this point.

This is a bit of a churlish whinge-fest, but I wanted to write about my divided feelings: so happy that summer weather has finally arrived, but also really worried about how much hard work still lies ahead.

I just feel like I should be further ahead than I am, given the suffering and effort involved, but I guess a lot of people feel like that. At least I'm getting somewhere I suppose... I do feel sorry for people who get nowhere, no matter how hard they try.

 

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