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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.

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Sorry For Not Replying

8 min read

This is a story about having a miniature nervous breakdown...

Blurry phone

I know it's offensive to say "I'm a bit OCD" just like you can't be "a bit in a wheelchair". However, I'm a bit of an authority on life implosions. It's not hyperbole to describe myself as on the brink of a breakdown and/or a suicide attempt. If anybody could know just how close I am to breaking point, I would be me, given that I've lived far too much of my life on the limit; I've had far too many breakdowns and brushes with death.

What do I mean by a breakdown?

There's the fairly tame stuff, like not going to work, not answering the phone, not answering the door, not opening the curtains, not getting out of bed, not washing, not eating, not socialising, not paying the bills, not opening the mail, not doing any kind of activities, sleeping all the time, unpredictable random bouts of uncontrollable crying, suicidal thoughts and plans... that kind of stuff. That's your common-or-garden depression tame breakdown stuff, which destroys your job, your finances and your relationships with friends and family.

I can pretty much manage to stay functional and not lose my job, even when I'm spending 40 hours a week at my desk plotting to kill myself. I can quite literally spend a whole day in the office thinking about what poison I'm going to buy, where I'm going to get it from, how I'm going to use it, which tall buildings I can access the balconies of, what pavement or other area there is beneath the balcony, how I would gain access, how I would get there... all the little details.

Nowadays, I plod along like it's ordinary to have those thoughts and feelings. That sort of stuff is just ordinary background noise to me.

There's other tame stuff like spending vast sums of money on expensive consumer electronics and plane tickets. Casual sex, alcohol and drug abuse; extreme sports, bad driving and other excessive risk taking. All of that stuff is part of my day-to-day existence.

I'm able to quell both my impulse to stay in bed and my impulse to run away, to such a great extent that I've given an excellent false impression of a highly functional adult human being, for 10 or more consecutive months. A large number of people have been fooled.

I've dragged myself to work after drinking 3 bottles of wine. I've dragged myself to work after a multiple-day drug binge without any sleep. I've kept the receipts for thousands of pounds worth of consumer electronics and mostly resisted the urge to walk out of the office and jet off to an exotic location with a fat wad of £50 notes in my pocket, yelling "SEE YOU IN HELL" and flicking V-signs at my colleagues as I exit.

It's the last part that's been my biggest success.

My brain mostly tells me I'm brilliant and other people are slow and dimwitted. I work with very smart people, and the less I say about my colleagues the better. Let's just focus on the me part, because it's a confusing issue. My thinking goes a little bit like this...

"I was a drug addict sleeping rough in a bush in a park, nearly bankrupt, and now I'm putting together this massive software system for a gigantic organisation, even though I'm as mad as a box of frogs, and yet everybody seems to respect my opinion, trust me and follow my leadership; they pay me an obscene amount of money"

So then I start thinking...

"Who else in my organisation is a nearly-bankrupt severely mentally ill person who was sleeping rough in a bush in a park and physically addicted to multiple dangerous drugs?"

When I arrive at the conclusion that my colleagues have not faced the same adversity, it fuels delusions of grandeur. Why would it not? It seems only logical that the reason I'm not destitute or dead and instead I'm earning big bucks and doing important work, must be because I'm special and different. I write this paragraph dripping with sarcasm, the reader should note.

On the matter of the success part: turns out that it's a good idea to keep your mouth shut most of the time, if you want to get along well with the literally hundreds of thousands of employees who work with you in some of the world's biggest organisations. It turns out that it's an even better idea to keep your mouth shut and not say what you think, if you're plagued with delusions of grandeur, brought on by the sheer ridiculousness of seemingly being able to drag yourself out of the gutter and reach the stars at the drop of a hat.

It's quite mind-fracturing to believe at the same time that you're worthless and that the world would be better off without you, while also believing the hard evidence that no matter how hard you try to destroy your life, you still remain eminently employable and in-demand; no matter how many times you walk out the office shouting "GO TO HELL FUCKTARDS" somebody somewhere still will offer you a great big suitcase filled with £50 notes to sit at a desk and think about killing yourself.

It should be noted that I like my colleagues and I think they're very smart people.

It should be noted that there hasn't been a "GO TO HELL..." moment for quite a while.

Like, there probably hasn't ever been a "GO TO HELL..." moment.

Not ever.

I get very worked up about the systems, the organisations, the politics, the structural problems, the inherent unfairness and absurdity of it all. I get very worked up about perfection, utopia and engineering elegance. I get very worked up about management incompetency. I get very worked up about the speed with which things get done, which feels painfully slow.

These opposing forces within me - the depression and the mania - seem to express themselves quite suddenly as an exhaustion which confines me to bed for many weeks, jetting off around the world or getting very angry with one particular situation. The anger one is probably the most destructive; the other two are recoverably destructive.

I'm particularly fearful of waking up one day and being unable to go to work, which is strange because that would probably be the least damaging of all outcomes. Yes, it doesn't look great to disappear and not answer your phone for weeks, but understood within the context of a major episode of depression, most people's reaction is sympathetic.

Past experience has taught me that becoming arrogant, cocky and full of myself leads to saying and doing stupid things in the office, which is far more damaging than being off work sick. As hypomania boils over into all-out mania, I know that I can be prone to say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time; patience and tolerance wear thin.

Somehow, I manage to navigate a path through both extremes, so long as I'm not too depressed or too manic. I build up some goodwill which carries me through difficult periods. I prove my worth and make myself useful, such that I get second and third chances.

Knowing myself very well, I feel like I've been skating on thin ice for far too long. I feel like I'm well overdue a meltdown; a major catastrophe.

I don't have any spare energy left to maintain my mask of sanity; I can no longer keep up my "game face".

The mask is slipping.

My main preoccupation should be remaining civil.

So long as I can remain civil, I'll probably be forgiven for having a breakdown.

I'm too outspoken, as usual. People are getting to know me. I'm super exposed.

Some poor bastard usually feels the sharp end of my tongue and I desperately attempt to apologise and take back the things I said in the heat of the moment. My regret and remorse are heartfelt, but it's usually too late. Gotta keep things civil, no matter how much pressure and stress I feel I'm under.

Perhaps worst of all are the lies and the boasts, which come at the very end of a long period of fake it until you make it when I actually no longer need to fake it anymore. Lolz. Irony.

The fear of being exposed as an imposter - having my secrets revealed - has followed me around for an incredibly long time, but now I'm almost-but-not-quite back on my feet. This is the very worst period.

I need to consolidate my gains.

But.

I'm so close to having a breakdown.

 

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Normal Service Has Resumed

7 min read

This is a story about a journey all the way to the bottom and back up...

The Ritz

The year was 2011. I fought with my girlfriend about relocating my startup. The year was 2012. Depression and destruction. The year was 2013. Divorce and drugs. The year was 2014. Suicide attempts and homelessness. The year was 2015. Getting better, but still very severely mentally unwell; quite insane. The year was 2016. Substantially recovered, but not quite; false start. The year was 2017. The worst of all the years.

During the last 7 years, a lot of the cohort from the startup accelerator program I attended in Cambridge, have all gone on to be spectacularly successful both in business and in their personal lives. They've strengthened their relationships, had children, bought houses, yachts and sportscars. They've become much in-demand conference speakers and widely respected captains of industry, with amazing reputations.

I went down.

I went down hard.

I went all the way to the bottom.

I had enjoyed a lot of the material success and achieved a bunch of life goals much earlier than most of my peers, but it didn't take long to undo all that hard work. It doesn't take much effort to give up all the gains you've made. It's a lot easier going downhill, than clawing your way back uphill.

I guess a kind of rock-bottom moment was when I arranged to have high tea at The Ritz with one of my best buddies from the startup accelerator. I stood him up because I was in big trouble. Mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, debt, divorce, loss of assets, loss of my startup, loss of all hope conspired to rob me of all my self-esteem. My buddy is not the kind of person who'd make me feel like a failure or invoke any kind of shame and embarrassment in me, but I couldn't let him see me in the state I was in. I was a complete mess. I couldn't even be seen in public.

I slept rough, I lived in a hostel, I went into heaps of debt just staying alive. I wrecked my body and mind with prescription drugs, legal highs, illegal drugs, alcohol, black-market medications and a ludicrously high-risk lifestyle, which had been so punishing that it had hospitalised me multiple times for multiple weeks.

I managed to meet up with my buddy once, just as I was going through divorce in 2013, before things got really bad, but they were still pretty terrible. I saw him again in 2015, when I was having extreme mania and generally suffering with terrible mental health problems brought on by stress, pressure, exhaustion and sleep deprivation. I stood him up in 2016.

Somehow I managed to see my buddy in 2017, when he was celebrating the culmination of 6 years hard work on his startup, at exactly the same time as my life was well and truly beyond any hope of saving; my entire world was imploding. My dream of rebuilding my old life in London completely collapsed and I had nothing but debt and the threat of imminent eviction, which at least forced me to temporarily act with a little bit of self-preservation instinct, but I soon ended up in such a dire situation that I decided my life was over; I tried to kill myself. In summer 2017, the directions the lives of my buddy and I could not have gone in more opposite directions. I had failed. I was a miserable failure.

This year, what had been originally been planned as a holiday with my girlfriend turned into a bromance weekend with my buddy. Things were looking up. I'd been working for almost 7 consecutive months without a major disaster. My life was still pretty wrecked, but at least it was improving. I was in a bad state after a messed-up May, where I'd had a relapse, but thankfully it didn't ruin everything.

I had a bit of a lapse a little over a week ago. The instability which ensued prompted me to spend money. Some of that money got spent on a weekend visit to see my buddy again. Things have continued to substantially improve, although my life is still pretty wrecked, by all reasonable measures. Annoyingly, my buddy has seen me right in the middle of a period of bad mental health, immediately following a relapse. Annoyingly, I'm not seeing my friends when I'm at my best, but instead they're seeing me when I'm destabilised and a bit sick; exhausted and stressed.

It should be noted, however, that there is a significant difference between today and the time I decided to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Today is much more like the optimistic period I had in 2013 where it looked like I was going to get out of a bad relationship and start rebuilding my life. Today is not at all like 2017, which was a total train-wreck; I was a complete mess.

I feel like I must have trashed my brain. I feel like I must have fried my mind. I feel like my mental health is utterly wrecked and people are probably just humouring me, like I was ever one of their peers.

I would love it if I've gotten back to enough of a healthy state that I'm doing OK. I would love it if I'm somewhat getting back to normal, and not too much lasting damage has been done.

I know it's no use wanting to go back in time; wanting to get back to exactly how I was at some point in the past. That's impossible.

My biggest fear is that I'm some sort of washed-up loser; that I'll never recover any quality of life; that I'm irreparably damaged and any spark of brilliance which justified my presence amongst that cohort of 2011, has long since been extinguished. I fear I'm a has-been.

My brain feels sluggish and slow. I feel somehow inferior. Not just to the brilliant people I met in Cambridge, but somehow to almost everybody. I've spectacularly completely and utterly failed at life.

I'm about to board a flight back to the UK. I have a good job and my cashflow is OK. I have a holiday planned. I have a place to live and other life essentials. Things are not that bad but I'm aware that I've barely begun my journey back up from the bottom. It's worse than starting with nothing. What I'm talking about is starting deep in negative territory.

It's ridiculous and unhelpful to compare myself to the man I was in 2011 and imagine what might have been. I am where I am. I should be pleased I'm not destitute; dead.

I should be dead.

But I'm not.

My life has entered a very surreal phase now. I'm living a life which should lead towards health, wealth and happiness. I'm moving very fast in a positive direction, but the journey I've been on has been very extreme in every conceivable way.

Things are seemingly normal, but also not normal at all. Nothing ever was normal in my life. Nothing ever will be. I suppose at least things are abnormal in the right kind of way now, at the moment.

It's hard re-adjusting to the new [old] normal.

 

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Mania on the Move

4 min read

This is a story about itchy feet...

Kitesurf jump

It's traditionally said that risk taking, spending money, taking on big projects, working hard, not sleeping much, talking quickly, impatience, irritability, intolerance and a flood of creativity and ideas, are all hallmarks of bipolar mania. I say that these things are the result of being held back for years and years. I say that these are the which things happen when a talented and energetic individual finally 'snaps' and unleashes their abilities on the world, having been constricted and constrained artificially, to the detriment of their mental health.

I say that everybody should be able to go at their own natural pace.

I say that to artificially constrain people - with different needs and abilities - and to force them to conform to an accepted norm - to act as if they're perfectly average - is making people sick, and we call that sickness "bipolar" when it's actually just being different; atypical.

It's true that I spend too much money, take excessive risks, take on gargantuan projects, work excessively hard, don't sleep enough, talk too fast to be understood and I get impatient, irritable and intolerant of dullards, but this so-called "mood" doesn't have an origin which can only be explained in terms of a brain defect. A much more reasonable and rational explanation is that it's extremely difficult to fit into a world which seems to move at snail's pace. It's extremely difficult to live your life when many people are trying to slow you down, get in your way, thwart or otherwise frustrate and annoy you, quite deliberately. It's extremely frustrating to live your life not being able to go at your natural pace.

If this is starting to sound like I think I'm better than other people, that's not what I'm saying. We're just different.

The world needs steady eddies. The world needs people who struggle to understand basic concepts and have to be spoon-fed. The world needs people who are unable to work independently and who are completely unable to complete complicated projects. The world needs vast numbers of voice-activated humanoid flesh-robots, to perform simple menial tasks, and thankfully there are vast numbers of imbecilic dolts who are prepared to manufacture these brain-dead beasts in their wombs; too stupid and ignorant to be cursed with existential angst and racked with guilt about the unethical decision to create more sentient beings who are aware of their own mortality and the shitness of their pitiful existence.

Damn, I'm doing it again, aren't I?

Honestly, I really don't care if your main qualification is that you can keep an office chair warm for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I really don't care that your idea of a life is to keep turning up at the place you're told, doing what you're told to do, and otherwise keeping your brain in a pickle jar until the day you die. That's your choice, not mine. You do you, and I'll do me. It's not my place to tell you how to live your life. It's not my place to judge.

But.

When you get in my fucking way and force me to pretend to be just like you then you're really messing with my mental health. I can pretend to be just like you, for a while, but eventually I snap.

When I've been constricted and constrained unhappily and unhealthily for a long time, there are consequences. Like a compressed spring, suddenly releasing all that captured energy can cause an unpredictable rebound. It's difficult to safely and gradually release that pent-up energy. It's better not to let the energy build up dangerously in the first place, and the way to avoid that is to not try to hammer square pegs into round holes.

I'm spending money. I'm taking spontaneous trips. I'm doing wildly unpredictable things.

All of this should be expected because I've been artificially constricted and constrained for so long, which is incredibly unhealthy for me.

 

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Relapse

6 min read

This is a story about the easy option...

Pill packets

I took a sleeping pill last night. Sunday nights are hard and so are Monday mornings. Lots of people struggle but I've got a fairly legitimate set of reasons why I'm struggling: mountainous debts, soul-destroyingly boring and slow work, social isolation, mood disorder and having recently gone gold turkey on a zillion addictive drugs and medications. Normal people who've been through the ordeal I've been through - including the homelessness and the hospitalisations - are not working a full-time high-pressure demanding job. I find my job pretty easy, but it's still a lot of pressure and very demanding to turn up and appear like I've got my shit together as opposed to having just dragged myself off the streets and gotten clean.

Take a look at the people who are getting clean and recovering from a severe mental health crisis. Take a look at the people who are recovering from suicide attempts and addiction. Take a look at the people who are getting back on their feet.

Are they working full time jobs, miles away from home?

So I took a sleeping pill.

So. Fucking. What.

It's not the slippery slope. It's not the thin edge of the wedge. It's not the beginning of the end.

I will have a proper relapse at some point. I'm bound to. It's inevitable.

When I've finally got my debts paid off and I'm finally free, the relief is sure to be overwhelming. I've struggled so hard for so long to reach that milestone of repairing the damage of divorce and everything that went with it, that I think I'll be happy to sleep rough at least knowing that getting off the streets and working to earn money was the easy part which I've done a million times before. The hard part has been that it's been so unrewarding. I've worked so hard for so long and I've got nothing to show for it. Where's the payoff?

I took a sleeping pill and I slept well.

I woke up feeling refreshed.

It was easy to get up.

Dread = gone.

That was amazing to wake up and not be filled with dread about the day ahead. In fact that reduced feeling of dread lasted all day and I was reasonably happy at my desk, rather than bored out of my mind. Is that a co-incidence, or is it linked to the fact that my brain was getting something that it was missing?

I don't really want to go back to being dependent on all those pills, but I did go cold turkey very abruptly, and the re-adjustment has been brutal. So many little things make me stressed and anxious, which is not a choice to catastrophise, but a perfectly rational and logical thing for a person who's suddenly found themselves living life without copious quantities of nerve-soothing tranquillisers, sedatives and painkillers. Medication adjustments aren't something that can be done in days, weeks and months. It takes a very long time to adjust to harshness, and the world is a very harsh place.

It's so tempting to pop pills at the moment.

Pills don't have any calories. Good quality sleep is so valuable. Life without anxiety is so much better.

Why would I want to suffer?

I need to sleep well, wake up refreshed, not dread going to work, not be anxious and miserable at my desk and not feel hungry and wanting to comfort eat all the time. Of course I want pills.

The rebound insomnia and rebound anxiety were terrible, and it's still a problem, but without tea, coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes or some other vice to overcompensate with, I've snacked like crazy and put on weight. I'm stressed and anxious about my weight, which is a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.

The solution is to not have to get up at the crack of dawn every day and go to an office and be bored out of my mind. The solution is to not be in debt up to my eyeballs and unable to stop working as hard as I can. The solution is not to live with job insecurity, money insecurity, housing insecurity, social isolation and all the other problems which come about as a result of the pressure on me to simply chain myself to my desk.

Those options are not available to me.

Those solutions are denied to me.

Make hay while the sun shines.

I never know when I'm going to lose my job, lose my mind, suffer health problems or get fucked over by somebody. I never know when I'm going to get totally fucking screwed so I've got to work as hard as I can for as long as I can, because somebody always screws me in the end.

All I can do is take pills.

I take pills so I can keep going in the fucking miserable merry-go-round which is my life. I take pills to prop me up. I take pills to pep me up. I take pills instead of taking a holiday. I take pills instead of taking a break. I take pills because I can't afford to stop pedalling as fast as I can. I take pills to help me cope with this never-ending nightmare.

I take pills.

I hate taking pills.

I'd rather take a break.

But I can't.

Not yet.

The day never seems to come.

Always just out of reach.

Round and round.

On and on.

Forever and ever.

If I do come out the other side of this, I need to make sure I'm not too fat, not too addicted to things, not dead. It's pretty hard, balancing things. It's pretty hard judging things just right.

This is the last time I do this.

If this time doesn't work out, I'm through with life. I'm done. I've had enough. Either it works out for me this time or I'm checking out. I'm history. The end. See you later. Goodbye.

 

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A Streak of Arrogance

7 min read

This is a story about hypomania warning signs...

Cambridge Union Society

If I was pressed to justify why I have any self-confidence and why I think I add any value to humanity - anything useful or interesting to say - then I could reference a number of achievements which I'm very proud of, indicating that I'm not completely delusional and grandiose. My sense of self-importance and pomposity is not entirely driven by perturbations of my sick mind. There are a few little things which mean I shouldn't think of myself as a complete waste-of-space, I hope.

Of course there are plenty of people in the world who will shout and scream: "YOU'RE A SHITTY WORTHLESS WASTE OF SPACE WHO SHOULD SHUT UP AND MAKE ROOM FOR ME ME ME AND ONLY ME. GET THE FUCK OFF THE STAGE YOU TALENTLESS FUCKWIT AND LISTEN TO ME ME ME. SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND LISTEN TO THE IMPORTANT STUFF I'VE GOT TO SAY BECAUSE IT'S ALL ABOUT ME ME ME".

I've had to endure plenty of these sharp-elbowed puffed-up pompous idiots, in love with their own reflections; quite convinced that they're brilliant people. I'm not exactly the shy and retiring humble type, but there's got to be some kind of middle ground unless you're happy flipping burgers in a minimum wage McJob and otherwise being trampled by precocious little shits; being shouted down by fucking airheads and their entourage of sycophants who believe the world owes them a stage and an audience.

...and breathe...

I realise that an arrogant streak within me rears its ugly head whenever I'm stressed and exhausted; whenever I'm scared and insecure.

I'm feeling very scared and insecure at the moment.

I know that I'm good at my job and I make a big difference to the teams and organisations that I'm part of, but I can see that a nasty side of my personality emerges when I'm under extreme pressure and stress. I can start to believe my own bullshit and see those around me as dead wood. I can start to become irritable and impatient. I can start to treat people unpleasantly. I become horribly arrogant.

It's a reaction to circumstances.

I'm not comfortable. I'm not secure. I'm not happy.

I'm exhausted.

I'm tired.

I'm scared.

At work, I know that I've proven myself yet again. I know that I've gotten to grips with a huge complicated system and a gigantic organisation in record time, and I'm making myself useful. I'm highly productive. I feel needed and I feel like I'm delivering good value. That feeds my fragile ego. My ego is incredibly battered and bruised because of the rollercoaster ride I've been on during the last few years, and because I don't feel at all secure.

I can point to things from the past which hint at my potential and clearly indicate that I'm not an idiot or a nobody, but how far back do I have to go? The picture above of me doing a Dragon's Den style pitch at Cambridge Union Society is about 7 years old. It feels like my life has been a complete mess since then. I feel like a fraud. I feel like a washed-up has-been.

For all my achievements, I've also repeatedly had problems with hypomania, where I've become impatient and irritable and I've spoken to people really badly. My arrogance has raged out of control at times. There's no justifying that behaviour.

I'm acutely aware that I wrote a very boastful blog post yesterday, and that I'm starting to become quite irritable by the amateurish stuff I have to deal with in my day job. I have to try very hard to avoid being harshly critical of my colleagues' work, which is perfectly mediocre and acceptable in the humdrum corporate world. I have to frequently remind myself that although I'm right it doesn't matter; although I could build a much superior system and do things so much better, I'm just one team member on a big project in a huge organisation. I need to recognise that I'm prone to the cyclical pattern of being smashed to smithereens and ending up destitute, only to get back on my feet and able to become high productive again with unbelievable speed. I need to stop being so dazzled by my own remarkable ability to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, because it's horribly arrogant.

There's a mountain of evidence that proves I can achieve exceptional things, but there's also a mountain of evidence that shows that I can become a right pain in the ass and I can be thoroughly unpleasant to deal with, when I'm consumed by hypomania. I need to remember that it'll be beneficial for me and everybody who I work with if I can rein in my arrogance, keep my lip buttoned, be kind, be patient and be as humble as I can possibly be.

It doesn't help that two people who I very much admired and respected have left my team, leaving me as the de-facto top dog, but I work with smart people and I need to work as part of a team or else I'll burn out. I need to get into the habit of learning to be more tolerant of the mistakes which people have made and the "varying abilities" in a diverse team, which is diplomatic double-speak for learning to put up with dullards. It's an essential skill in the workplace I think, to accept that there are more people who are undoing your good work and generally thwarting your ambitions to build utopian perfection, and to recognise that there are a huge amount of advantages of being a member of a big team of people who really don't care too much about the gigantic heap of useless crap they're very handsomely rewarded for fucking up. Striving for perfection has really messed me up very badly in the past.

So, I need an attitude adjustment. I need to acknowledge that when I've been given carte blanche - a clean slate - I've been lazy and sloppy and cut corners. I need to recognise that even though I have single-handedly built great big complex systems and profitable businesses from nothing, it's always fucked me up and burnt me out. On balance, it's the same net result - the tortoise and the hare.

I want to work really hard. I want hard work to accelerate me forwards. I want there to be a direct relationship between how hard I work and how much money I earn, but there isn't. No matter how brilliant and ingenious I am, I'm basically paid for being bored and keeping my mouth shut. The more dumb and numb I am, the more I get paid and the more people love me at work.

It's a really tricky time, because my mood viciously see-saws between suicidal depression, extreme boredom, insecurity about my value as a human being and a mountain of evidence that I'm very capable and competent at pulling off death-defying stunts and overcoming very difficult challenges, which clearly hints at a kind of troubled brilliance... although I'm not wanting to pat myself on the back too much or otherwise pump up my already excessively over-inflated ego.

If I'm going to make it through the coming weeks and months without disaster, I need to remind myself of past mistakes and attempt to curtail my arrogance; I need to recognise the cyclical pattern of my mental health and remember that it's always disastrous when I start getting impatient, intolerant, irritable and generally full of myself.

I need to keep my arrogance in check.

 

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Paranoia: So Close But Yet So Far

8 min read

This is a story about being thwarted...

Social Media Training

If I was prone to paranoia, I could swear that I've had more than my fair share of bad luck while trying to get back on my feet. Things should have panned out for me several times, but I've so far been thwarted by some asshats.

In September 2014 I was beginning to sort myself out after my divorce. I took a quick holiday before starting a new job. I was making good progress with the new project, but a couple of asshats took offence to me getting ahead and conspired to screw me over. Mercifully I took 'em down with me, although it was a hollow victory.

In September 2015 I'd had an eventful summer but I'd achieved a lot and proven myself to be a valuable member of the team on the project I was working on. It was a friend who rather unreasonably expected me to help him get a job and get out of the dive he was living in, which pushed me beyond my limits and made me unwell. There was also excessive pressure on me at work, but I could have coped if I'd have had a more settled personal life, such as having a secure place to live and some financial assistance.

In September 2016 I was starting to believe that I was finally going to get back on my feet, but the project I was working on was cancelled unexpectedly. With hindisight I suppose it was obvious that the project was going to get cancelled and that it was a dead-end job. It's my own fault for taking my eye off the ball. It's my own fault that I didn't immediately attempt to get another job, but I'd been so bored and miserable, and I felt like I'd been de-skilled by all the time off work I'd had. I hadn't learned anything, gained any new experience or developed at all on the project, so my self-confidence was at rock-bottom.

In September 2017 I was sacked because I was in a coma on life support and the asshat I was working with thought that unconscious people are able to make telephone calls to phone in sick. He still owes me a lot of money. Obviously I had a lot of different problems that year, but successfully delivering software projects was not one of them - never has been and never will be.

I've been working for 10 consecutive months without a holiday and I've delivered two software projects successfully into production. I got sick in May, but I was given the benefit of the doubt because I'd proven myself to be a valuable member of the team, like I always do. I was sick in January/February time and barely limping along, but because I'd already completed my project in record time nobody much cared. That's the way I work - I'm blazing fast when I'm well, but I get sick too. You don't get to have me only on my good days - you've gotta take the rough with the smooth - although I don't charge my clients for the days I'm not productive.

Even with all the gaps in-between projects and time off sick, I've still delivered a hell of a lot of software in the last 4 years and I've impressed a lot of clients and colleagues. I've achieved a huge amount, despite not being very well. What I've managed to do in the workplace is all the more remarkable when we consider that it's set against a backdrop of homelessness, near-bankruptcy, drug addiction, mental health problems, hospitalisations, being sectioned and kept on locked psych wards, suicide attempts, moving all over the country, being estranged from family, social isolation and a whole host of other things which are toxic to a person's chances of succeeding in life.

I don't want to pat myself on the back too much, but I deserve a break. It's time I made a breakthrough. It's time I'm allowed to make a breakthrough.

Every time I get close to making a breakthrough, something goes wrong which is beyond my control.

It's making me paranoid.

If I can get to the end of the month, I'll have hopefully proven my worth sufficiently with my colleagues on my current project, such that I'll be able to relax and take a holiday in October. It would be incredibly cruel and unlucky if something went wrong, such that I'm not able to go away on holiday and relax, knowing I've got a job to come back to. That's what happened to me earlier this year, when I'd booked a holiday in June but then my project ended and I found myself looking for work again.

It's good that I've been able to work for 3 different organisations on 3 different projects this year, without any asshats screwing things up, yet. Not having huge gaps between projects has been crucial to my recovery. Also, it's important to note that this year I haven't - yet - been screwed over by anybody and I've been recognised for my talents and experience which I have to offer. It's nice to feel confident in my own abilities and to feel like I have proven myself to be reliable and dependable, beyond any doubt.

Obviously, I'm very exposed - my colleagues have seen the semicolon tattoo behind my ear and must have wondered if and when I'm going to get sick, but hopefully they've now started to see that I'm very capable and productive; hopefully they're enjoying working with me and they value me as a team member. However, if I need to take any time off work sick, it will obviously raise doubts again about whether my mental illness makes me a useless loser who should never be allowed into civilised mainstream society or permitted the dignity of getting back on my feet.

I'm probably pushing things too hard for too long. I should probably have a holiday sooner rather than later, before I have a breakdown; before I burn out. However, I also want to get to the end of the month, because it's a significant milestone and it puts enough cash in the bank to leave me safe from any unexpected bumps in the road. I'm so desperate to get back to a position of security as quickly as possible, having been on this agonisingly drawn-out journey with so many dashed hopes.

Everything is set up very well for me to be able to continue working and improving my life, but I'm paranoid that something's going to go wrong and screw everything up.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the consequences of a work colleague discovering my blog. I wonder if I might be the architect of my own destruction by writing this. There's nothing here that's unprofessional though. I'm not naming my client or divulging confidential details about the project I'm working on. I'm not guilty of misconduct of any kind.

As you can see from the screenshot above, I've been trained to be paranoid. I've been trained to keep my mouth shut and pretend like I don't have any problems. Despite the walls of the office being plastered with posters which proclaim "it's OK to talk about mental health problems" they really don't mean ME. I'm expected to be faultless. If and when my faults are ever revealed, it will be the end of me. The tiniest blemish is career-ending for those of us who work in the corporate world, where we must maintain a fake professional façade of perfection at all times.

If I'm feeling optimistic I like to think that my valuable contributions would outweigh the stigma and shock of realising that my colleagues have been working with a homeless, junkie, alcoholic, bankrupt with mental health problems all along - I should never have been allowed to get past the gatekeepers and rub shoulders with those who inhabit the fit-in-or-fuck-off corporate world.

When I'm feeling paranoid I feel like I'm only tolerated because I'm reasonably good at pretending to be a regular guy - any hint of who I really am and what I've really been through, and I'll be swiftly ejected onto the street to suffer destitution and homelessness.

It's so frustrating right now, because I've almost but not quite got enough money to complete my transformation from homeless, junkie, alcoholic, bankrupt with mental health problems, back to somebody who's indistinguishable from any other corporate drone. I'm so desperate to prove that it can be done - to get back on my feet from a terrible situation. It'll crush me if I'm thwarted.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. The next few weeks are crucial.

 

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Nick Grant

6 min read

This is a story about secret identities and alter egos...

Nick Grant's glasses

I'm Nick Grant and these are my glasses, which are my cunning and infallible disguise to protect my real identity. It would be a disaster if anybody found out my real name - Nick Grant - because this blog is pretty unflinchingly honest and contains a lot of very unflattering things about me. I'm pretty damn exposed, hence why I wear my disguise.

Today I'm celebrating 3 years of blogging. I've been writing every day for 3 whole years, with only a few gaps due to sickness and near-catastrophic events in my personal life, which have threatened to see me bankrupt, evicted, homeless, penniless and destitute. To have kept writing regularly throughout all the ups and downs of the past 3 years is a huge achievement.

To date, I've written and published 1,013,091 words in that 3-year period.

The last 36 months could be summarised thus:

  • September 2015: working for HSBC, living in a hotel, dating a BBC journalist. Rent an apartment on the River Thames.
  • October 2015: working for HSBC. Suicidally depressed. Hospitalised. Fly to San Francisco.
  • November 2015: fly back to the UK and deliberately get sacked from HSBC. Dating a PA to one of the directors of a major investment bank. Meet my guardian angel.
  • December 2015: protesting against bombing Syria. Sober for 100 consecutive days. Relapse back into abuse of legal stimulants and benzodiazepines.
  • January 2016: self harm and drug abuse. Start drinking again. Destroy my bed.
  • February 2016: abuse of sleeping pills and tranquillisers
  • March 2016: poly-drug abuse, combining legal highs and medications
  • April 2016: holiday to Southend with my guardian angel. Start dating again
  • May 2016: working for undisclosed major multinational organisation, with 660,000 employees worldwide. Replace destroyed bed.
  • June 2016: working. Suicidal. Bored.
  • July 2016: holiday to Fuerteventura for my birthday with my guardian angel.
  • August 2016: working. Suicidal. Bored.
  • September 2016: project cancelled. Meet love of my life. Minor relapse. Lies. Antidepressants and tranquillisers.
  • October 2016: in love. Mini-break to the New Forest. Weaning myself off tranquillisers.
  • November 2016: in love. Drinking a lot. Writing my first novel.
  • December 2016. in love. Christmas with her family. Eating and drinking a lot.
  • January 2017: DVT and kidney failure. Hospital and dialysis. Working for Lloyds Banking Group. Neuropathic pain from nerve damage. Taking tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine and pregabalin for the pain. Abusing large amounts of Valium and Xanax. Lose contract
  • February 2017: fully-blown supercrack relapse. Completely addicted to prescription opiates.
  • March 2017: supercrack. Abusing sleeping pills and tranquillisers. Quitting prescription opiate painkillers. Drinking. Still in love.
  • April 2017: supercrack. Still in love.
  • May 2017: attempting to quit supercrack by staying at girlfriend's and taking dextroamphetamine. Not succeeding
  • June 2017: drug and insomnia-induced mania, paranoia and general insanity. Break up with love of my life. Regret
  • July 2017: run out of money. Get a job in Manchester. Put all my stuff into storage. Leave London. Fling with girl from work.
  • August 2017: working for a startup in Manchester. Dating a different girl. Still physically addicted to painkillers, tranquillisers and sleeping pills.
  • September 2017: breakup. Suicide attempt. Hospitalised. Sectioned. Locked up on psych ward.
  • October 2017: move to Wales.
  • November 2017: writing my second novel.
  • December 2017: working for undisclosed bank in Warsaw and London.
  • January 2018: working for same undisclosed bank in London. Dating a Welsh girl
  • February 2018: bank. London. Girl.
  • March 2018: working for undisclosed government organisation. Rent an apartment in Wales.
  • April 2018: successfully quit all drugs and medications. Job, girlfriend and apartment all in Wales and very close.
  • May 2018: relapse. Breakup.
  • June 2018: government project finished. Mini-break to Faro, Portugal to see old friend.
  • July 2018: working for another undisclosed government organisation. Living in a hotel.
  • August 2018: government. Hotel. Single. Depressed.
  • September 2018: still working for same government organisation. Dating again.

By my calculations, 27 out of 36 months have been relatively OK, but 9 months in the past 3 years I've been a complete and utter train-wreck. The damage that's been done in that quarter of the year where I've been struggling with addiction, has been enough to completely screw up my life the rest of the time, but not quite bad enough to lead to me becoming unemployable, bankrupt and homeless - I always find a way to bounce back.

Somehow I've managed to fit 5 serious girlfriends and 5 major IT projects into the madness of my day-to-day existence, as well as 3 hospitalisations for major medical emergencies, being sectioned, two psych wards, an arrest, two evictions, moving 5 times, 6 cities, 5 countries, 13 powerful prescription medications, 5 street drugs, 121 consecutive days sober, 56 consecutive days sober, 799 blog posts, 1 million words, 14 thousand Twitter followers and a couple of hundred thousand pounds... and all I've got to show for it is this poxy blog.

The story of Nick Grant and his ups and downs might be a bit repetitive, but I'm sure it's not boring. I would argue that it's pretty remarkable that I'm still alive and kicking, and able to string a sentence together. It's remarkable that I'm reasonably mentally stable and I'm working full time on quite an important project. It's remarkable that my colleagues don't suspect a thing. It's remarkable that I haven't made myself unemployable or otherwise ended up excluded from mainstream society. It's remarkable that I'm unmedicated and yet quite functional and productive.

Along the way, I managed to lose my original pair of glasses, but I had a new identical pair delivered today, which I'm wearing now. I had no idea when my replacement glasses would be delivered, because they were being hand made to order, so I find it deliciously wonderful that they were delivered on the day I'm celebrating the 3-year anniversary of starting this blog.

When I think back to my very first blog post 3 years ago - Platform 9.75 - it's amazing to reflect on the journey I've been on and marvel at how effectively my daily writing habit has functioned as a stabilising influence. I very much doubt I'd have been able to recover and continue my journey without the huge amount of help and support it's brought me. I feel really proud of what I've achieved, which gives me some all-important self-esteem in the times when I need it most. I'm sure I'd have killed myself long ago if it wasn't for the people who've engaged with me and what I write, and encouraged me to keep going. I feel loved and cared for even during some very dark and dismal days.

Obviously what I've written is not particularly palatable or compatible with dating and my professional life, but they'll never be able to find me - Nick Grant - because I've been so careful to disguise my identity and make sure that nobody could just Google me and find out all my closely guarded secrets. Nobody will ever be able to make the connection.

My next objective is to get through September 9th - the anniversary of my most serious suicide attempt - without incident. I plan on phoning a couple of the people who managed to get the emergency services to rescue me in the nick of time, to thank them for saving my life.

 

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Thinking Clearly

8 min read

This is a story about delicate senses...

Doggo nose

My preference for sweet or salty, my thirst and my sense of smell are all altered by alcohol, but I'm not able to perceive those alterations to my senses in any given moment. It's only when I carefully analyse my behaviour that I can see I drink more water and eat more sweet things when I've been sober for a few days, and I begin to see food as something worth spending time and effort on, instead of eating as a chore.

If alcohol can alter those senses so profoundly, I wonder what other subtle effects it has on me. The sleep I get seems to be of much lower quality when I go to bed drunk, although I don't perceive that at the time because I find it much easier to fall asleep when I've had lots to drink. When I have a break from drinking I notice that I have very vivid dreams, bordering on nightmares, which reveal a lot of things going on in my subconscious. Having used alcohol as a crutch for so long, it's amazing how much trauma I've repressed and not dealt with.

I made a prediction earlier in the week that I'd have increasingly better days, not because we're getting closer to the weekend, but because I'm sobering up. It's hard to quantify, but I found it much easier to get up this morning and although there were periods when I was bored and miserable at work, I found myself far less inclined to give up and walk out.

There was a leaving do at work and my colleagues invited me out drinking tonight. There's an open bottle of wine in my cupboard and I bought 4 more because there was an offer at the supermarket. The temptation to drink and the social pressure to get drunk is hard to escape. Alcohol is a social lubricant and can be especially welcome when making smalltalk and getting to know people. This week has felt long and difficult and it's hard not to reach for the bottle as a reward for putting myself through the misery.

Which came first? The misery or the alcohol?

I find it easy enough to stop drinking when I want to, but I wonder if I've simply become habituated into experiencing and putting up with awful feelings. Alcoholics can begin to enjoy the sensation of neat liquor burning their throat as they glug it down, and junkies can get needle fixations and enjoy injecting themselves. I wonder if my brain has become confused by my cycle of highs and lows; boom and bust. I wonder if I'm simply unable to tell when I'm half-drunk, hungover, withdrawing, completely intoxicated or stone cold sober, because there's nothing extreme enough to register on my scale. The highs and lows which I've experienced have ranged by such an exceptional amount that I've become used to never feeling very good at all. Earlier this year I didn't even notice that I had a bad chest infection, except that my ribs were so tender I couldn't sleep and it was agonising to sit up in bed in the morning, or to cough. Depression and anxiety are just things I live with, without medication.

I know that my brain is a homeostatic organ which will attempt to return itself to equilibrium. If I put stimulants into my body, I will make myself more tired. If I put depressants into my body, I will bounce back the other way. Everything has an effect for a short while before my brain readjusts and it becomes normal. It shocks me how functional I can be when full of drink and drugs, or under an incredible amount of stress and in very bad circumstances.

I'm attempting to control the variables. I'm attempting to clear my brain of drink and drugs. I'm creating a pharmacologically unpolluted state, where I'm free from nicotine, caffeine, uppers, downers, medications, hard drugs, soft drugs, legal highs and every other thing we normally use in our daily lives to tweak our moods hither and thither.

I stay in an identical hotel room and eat in the same place every night, normally choosing one of only a handful of my favourite dishes. I'm doing the same work I've done my whole 21+ year full-time career for an organisation which is ostensibly similar to all the others I've worked for, solving exactly the same problems I've solved a million times before. It's an almost perfect experiment. I can't imagine that it would be possible for almost anybody else to experiment on themselves in the same way, because so few of us are capable of giving up things like tea and coffee, or of sticking with a job which makes us excruciatingly bored and thoroughly miserable.

So far, my conclusion is that alcohol does not make the time pass any quicker, reduce anxiety or aid sleep. My conclusion is that alcohol makes it harder to concentrate and cope with the boredom. My conclusion is that alcohol is not very helpful, but I'll tell you what is helpful: money. Despite being almost continuously drunk for the past 9 consecutive months, undoubtedly the biggest changing variable has been my ever-increasing wealth. I can't say whether it would have been easier and more pleasant to reach today without alcohol, and whether I'd have been more inclined to improve areas of my life which are completely absent, such as a social life, but I can say that alcohol was ever-present. Is it possible that I might not have made it so far without alcohol? I really don't think it's likely that I would've made it through the roughest patches without alcohol as a relatively inexpensive coping mechanism, even if it's a very poor medicine for reducing anxiety, fighting depression, stabilising my mood and helping me sleep.

If we consider that a year ago I was suicidally depressed, manically high, abusing drugs, addicted to medications and generally in a dreadful state with little or no hope of escaping that situation, I don't see how it would be possible to resolve everything without something to use to self-medicate.

It's impossibly unlikely that anybody's going to gift you £100,000 and a year off work to get your life sorted out, which is what it would take to rescue somebody whose entire world has imploded spectacularly, leaving them crippled with mountainous debts, homeless, jobless, single, estranged from their family, mentally ill, alcoholic, addicted to drugs and dependent on medications.

As my head clears, I realise I've pulled of an impossible feat. I've come back from a clusterfuck of issues which should have buried me a million times over.

It's hard to avoid the pitfall of marvelling at the miraculousness of my recovery, such that I start to believe I'm special, different and perhaps even immortal. It's hard to see the evidence and to not draw the conclusion that the clearly exceptional achievement must mean I'm destined for greatness. At least I have a clear enough head to see that I've fallen foul of that before, and that it's important to keep my brain intoxicated just the right amount to stop it from overheating. Going teetotal in 2015 caused me to swing into mania, so I'm not going to make that mistake again.

I'm also aware that I'm no longer a young man and that the past few years have been very hard on my brain and body. Ultimately I can't keep pushing myself as hard as I have been and taking extreme risks. Sooner or later my luck is going to run out, even though all the evidence seems to indicate that I'm immortal.

As my thoughts start to wander towards topics which have always been a little too hot to handle - such as quantum mechanics - I now start to realise that there's a lot to be said for being a bit of a drunk, at least until I'm filthy rich again.

I've managed to avoid drinking again tonight. I'm going to see how I feel tomorrow, but I must be careful to preserve the good progress I've made this year, even if that means continuing to drink because it's my tried-and-trusted means of keeping my mania at bay. Better the devil you know.

Physically, I have a runny nose, a sore throat and a headache. I feel terrible, which I imagine is because I'm at the 3 or 4 day sober mark and my body is seriously protesting about the lack of alcohol. If I continue my sober streak I'll feel physically better, but there's always the risk that mania will rear its ugly head and I'll screw up everything I've worked for 9 consecutive months without a holiday to rebuild.

September is coming. September is my nemesis. If I can get through September smoothly, that will be a huge milestone.

 

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The Journey

11 min read

This is a story about three years of my life...

Hotel room

I was living in an ultra-modern hotel in Canary Wharf and working for HSBC at their head office. I was a member of the team working on the bank's number one IT project. Shortly beforehand I had been living in a 14-bed hostel dorm and I'd narrowly escaped bankruptcy and destitution. I was working 12 hours a day, 6 or sometimes 7 days a week. I was exhausted and the tiredness, stress and unsettled life was driving me literally insane. I was suffering with delusions of grandeur, paranoia and my behaviour was erratic and unpredictable; I was extremely tense and irritable. I was on the brink of having a breakdown.

River panorama

I rented an apartment on the River Thames near the office. The rent was obscene - £500/week - but I was earning great money working for HSBC and I was working very hard, so it seemed affordable at the time; it seemed like a nice reward for all the hard work. It felt like justice that I'd been able to get myself off the streets and into such a lovely place to live; to have gone from homeless and sleeping rough in a park, to having a luxury Thameside apartment with panoramic views over London.

My glasses

I was dating a BBC journalist. I was rapidly gaining a Twitter following. I felt like everything was happening for a reason. I felt like it was my destiny to do something important. I was consumed with mania; I was obsessed with the idea of a grand gesture. I had been deeply affected by my homelessness and near-bankruptcy and destabilised by the exhaustion of sleeping rough and in hostel dorms. The IT project was very stressful and I was under a great deal of pressure from HSBC management. My mind was a mess. I was very severely mentally ill.

Psych ward terrace

I woke up one morning and I couldn't go on. I couldn't face the office. I wanted to kill myself. I went to my doctor who sent me to hospital. 13 hours later I was admitted to a secure psych ward. I explained that I was financially distressed and very stressed at work. The psychiatric team recommended I stay in hospital for at least 2 weeks, but I needed to be back in the office if I was going to keep my job, to be able to afford the rent.

Golden Gate Bridge

I discharged myself from hospital after a week and flew to San Francisco. I figured that if I was going to kill myself I might as well do it somewhere iconic. A friend picked me up from the airport and I borrowed a bike. I cycled straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. Seeing old friends, however, made me change my mind about committing suicide.

Sleep out

I lost my job with HSBC and I "slept rough" in the shadow of the head office skyscraper in Canary Wharf. I thought that this would be the pinnacle of my journey. I thought that having been used and abused by HSBC then unceremoniously dumped out onto the streets to suffer bankruptcy and homelessness - having managed to get myself a job at the bank while of no fixed abode and living in a hostel - would be deliciously poetic. It was, but my journey had barely begun.

Self harm

I quit drinking for 121 consecutive days. I starved myself. I thought that I would go on hunger strike. I thought that I would sleep rough on Christmas Day. I was really angry and upset with the world. Self harm and substance abuse dominated my life for several months. I got into heaps of debt just staying alive.

Cruise ship

I survived the winter. I got another job. My life was OK except for persistent suicidal thoughts. I hated the project I was working on but I persevered because I was in a lot of debt. I loved where I was living - every day in my apartment was like Christmas Day because the view was so awesome. Living by the river was an incredible privilege. I took a holiday and went kitesurfing. My quality of life was improving slowly.

Cooking with bath salts

I met somebody very special and fell totally in love. She accepted me for who I was, including the all the bad bits, such as my prior issues with substance abuse. She was the first person I'd been in a relationship with who'd been able to read everything about me on my blog and to understand my flaws. We had a good relationship. The project I had been working on came to an end and I was jobless again. I wrote and published my first novel - she proofread it and helped me with the ending and other ideas. She was very supportive and I was confident I'd find work again easily.

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve watching the fireworks over London, sipping champagne on my balcony with the woman I loved - it seemed like the New Year was full of promise, but I was worried about getting another job and I was still in a lot of debt. There was a lot of pressure.

DVT

Disaster struck. I got deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my left leg, which swelled up to twice the size of my right leg. My kidneys failed and I ended up in hospital on a high dependency ward having many hours of dialysis every day. The potassium in my blood spiked to a life-threatening level and I was constantly at risk of cardiac arrest. I was very sick.

Drug shrine

My stay in hospital caused me to lose my job. Losing my job caused me to collapse psychologically and become very depressed and despondent. The DVT had caused terrible nerve damage and I had a lot of neuropathic pain, as well as a numb left foot. I started to become dependent on painkillers. I sought powerful antidepressants for my low mood. Pictured on the table are: codeine, dihydrocodeine, tramadol, diazepam, alprazolam, mirtazapine, venlafaxine, dextroamphetamine, zolpidem, zopiclone and pregabalin, which are all highly addictive. Because of this cocktail of prescription drugs I suffered an episode of medication-induced mania - temporary insanity - and broke up with the love of my life.

Manchester flats

I ran out of money. I had to pay a huge tax bill and I had to go even deeper into debt. I was virtually bankrupt. Out of desperation I was forced to put all my worldly possessions into storage and leave London to take a job in Manchester. The job in Manchester included an apartment as part of the package, which was lucky because I didn't have enough money to pay rent or a deposit - I was totally broke. Moving house and leaving London was incredibly upsetting and traumatic. The new job was extremely demanding and exhausting. I was very lonely and isolated in an unfamiliar city with no friends or family; no local connections.

Psych ward fence

I tried to commit suicide. I took a massive overdose: I'd been stockpiling my prescription painkillers and I knew that 8+ grams of tramadol was likely to be fatal. I sent a tweet when I believed I was beyond the point of no return. I thought nobody knew where I lived. I thought there was no chance anybody would get to me in time. I was wrong. I regained consciousness a few days later in a hospital's critical care ward on life support. I was later sectioned for 28 days and admitted to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Hay bales

A doctor from Wales discovered my blog and invited me to live on their farm in a converted garage. I had no money, no car, no job. I had nothing.

Rat race

I almost went bankrupt but a friend got me some work in Warsaw and in London. I was living in AirBnBs and working in the Square Mile from Monday to Friday and living in Wales at the weekends.

Keys

I bought a car, I got a local job, a local girlfriend and I rented an apartment. Briefly, I had everything I wanted and needed, although I went even deeper into debt. The pressure, stress and turmoil which I'd endured to get to this point was unimaginable; just to get to a position which most people would take for granted as the minimum acceptable things for a normal ordinary liveable life.

Papered windows

The local project ended and I was jobless again. The relationship ended. I papered over my bedroom windows and withdrew from the world. The journey had destroyed me. I was spent.

Cashflow

An obscene amount of money flows through my hands, but it all ends up in the pockets of those who I owe money to. I'm desperately trying to keep my head above water. The financial pressure is immense; unbearable. The journey has been incredibly long and arduous. There's still a very long way to go before I reach security and stability; before I'm comfortable, happy and content.

Empty wine bottles

In the last year alone, I've managed to move house 3 times, work 4 different jobs, travel to 4 different countries, date 2 girls, survive a suicide attempt, be admitted to 3 different hospitals, quit addictive painkillers, sedatives, tranquillisers and sleeping pills, be arrested and locked in a cell, buy a car, rent a place to live, stay in 17 different hotels and AirBnBs, and somehow stay on top of my mountainous debts, not go bankrupt and even pay some of that crippling amount of money back. My only remaining vice is wine. I'm completely unmedicated and I don't abuse any substance other than alcohol. It's a remarkable journey for just 12 months, but the journey has been much, much longer than that.

In the last three years, I've written and published a million words and connected with thousands of people all over the globe.

To be precise, to date I've written exactly 1,001,020 words and counting, on this blog.

It's the world's longest suicide note.

If you want to understand why I'm suicidal you just have to read it all - it's all written down in exquisite detail. To save you the trouble of reading all 1 million words I've summarised the last 3 years for you right here.

The pressure; the stress; the exhaustion. Where is my reward?

I've travelled so far and I've achieved so much but yet I feel like it's gotten me nowhere. I should be rich but in fact I'm up to my eyeballs in debt. If you want to know where that debt came from, I just explained it to you. I didn't get into debt buying frivolous things and being profligate. I didn't make particularly bad choices. I'm not stupid. Where's the payoff for working so hard? Why did I bother?

My name's Nick Grant and I drink too much but otherwise I'm an ordinary regular guy. I do my job to a high standard and I'm liked and respected by my colleagues. I pay my taxes. I pay my rent and bills. I contribute to society as a productive member. I do ordinary stuff and have ordinary needs.

I'm 39 years old and I have nothing but debt. I have nothing much to show for my 39 years on the planet.

I'm lonely. I live a double life. The person I am in the office is different from the person I am in the comfort of my own home. Nobody at work would ever suspect that I've slept rough, been in trouble with the police, been hospitalised many times, been sectioned and had horrific problems with addiction. Nobody would suspect that my mental health has caused me horrendous difficulties when exacerbated by stressful life events, like divorce, moving house, losing jobs and everything else that's happened to me in the past 5 or so years.

My solution to the instability in my life was to create a backbone that has run consistently through my ups and downs: my daily writing. To have been able to write a million words has been immensely stabilising and has brought me into contact with so many wonderful kind and caring people. I quite literally owe my life to those who've followed me and my blog, especially via Twitter. Without this connection to the world I would be dead.

Today, I've crossed a seemingly arbitrary imaginary finishing line, in having written and published a million words in less than 3 years. It might seem ludicrous and pointless, but if you consider it in the context of the journey I've been on, you can see why I've wanted to document it.

If you've followed me on some part of this journey, I'm really grateful to have had your support. Thank you.

 

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Poseur

9 min read

This is a story about seeking the approval of strangers...

Black and white

I've made it my mission to write a blog post every day which begins with "this is a story about" and has a photograph. My photographs are not edited in any way - usually - and my writing is as candid and raw as I can possibly dare to be. The whole thing is supposed to be unfiltered in an attempt to give an insight into my troubled mind, as I navigate mental health problems, addiction issues and suicidal thoughts. The guiding principle is that I could quickly wind up dead, so I need to document what's going on.

It occurs to me that what I'm doing might seem a little contrived. Indeed a BBC journalist told me that I seem to have engineered every part of my story as part of some masterplan; a publicity stunt to draw attention to the issues of homelessness, addiction and mental health, as well as austerity, poverty and my other pet subjects. If I've lived my life in an attempt to provide a real-world demonstration of the difficulties which so many members of society are struggling with, I promise you that I've been doing a high-wire trapeze act with no safety net. It's not as if I've ever been able to scuttle back to some comfortable existence when things have gotten particularly unbearably awful. I surely could never have known that I'd survive a suicide attempt which should have been fatal, could I?

I was watching a BBC documentary last night and decided to send out a tweet about Stopping Male Suicide[s]. I genuinely felt like it would be met with the 'usual' response which greets my daily blog posts - a handful of die-hard regular readers would 'like' it and that would be that. I was feeling desperately lonely, because I'm currently living in a hotel for several nights a week, and my weekends are spent alone in a place where I only have a couple of friends. I spend the vast majority of my evenings and weekends all on my own. I rarely speak to anybody on the phone. To be precise, I've spoken to 3 friends on the telephone and I've met up with 2 friends in person, in the last month. That's pretty damn isolated and reclusive. So, perhaps I could be forgiven for feeling a little as if I don't really exist on anybody's radar.

The response I received on Twitter was breathtaking. My phone kept pinging and pinging. I was gobsmacked.

I guess I'm writing this because I feel bad; I feel terrible that I was feeling so sorry for myself and so alone, when in fact I'm extremely well connected via social media. I'm very fortunate that I've managed to make the acquaintance of so many people via the internet, and so many people read what I write and care. So many people were prepared to take the time to reach out; to send messages of support. I have that and perhaps I'd taken it for granted, because when I sent that tweet I genuinely didn't think many people would read and respond. I suppose I shouldn't feel bad, because people sent messages to try to make me feel better - which I did - not to make me feel guilty.

Is it really terrible that it gave me a huge boost, that I received a great big flood of messages of support? Is it terrible that my sense of isolation and loneliness was almost instantly replaced by the sensation of being cared for by a seemingly vast number of people all over the world? Is it awful that the attention made me feel better?

I really promise you that my behaviour wasn't attention seeking per se.

There's something vulgar about overtly seeking attention, isn't there? There's something we find distasteful about it. Perhaps it's because I genuinely felt so lonely - in that drab and dreary hotel room - that my tweet resonated with people; it had a ring of truth about it. If I'd put up a selfie with the hashtag "new profile pic" or whatever it is that people do when they're feeling a bit unloved and glum, then it would have been a turn-off. I feel really bad when I see social media posts which are perhaps designed to elicit a response, going ignored. I wonder how damaging it must be for a person to seek attention and not receive it.

"The world's longest suicide note" is attention-grabbing. My blog didn't start out life as such. I started writing about "fighting stigma" and "raising awareness" of mental health issues, before realising that I was very sick and my life was in danger, forcing me to change tack. I am, however, aware that it's quite a deliberate and premeditated act to write and publish so publicly. I wouldn't say that my struggles are a literary device and the whole debacle is conceited, but it would be disingenuous of me to claim that I never think about how what I write is going to be received. I could, after all, simply keep a private journal if the writing was the only important thing, not the publishing.

I wrestle with the conflicting parts of my cultural upbringing. The Brit in me is stoic and has a stiff upper-lip; emotionally reserved and regards gushing oversharing as somewhat gauche. However, I'm also a netizen - I've lived my life online since my teens and immersed myself in the world's online communities. There's a bold optimism on the 'net which seems to be everything I've ever admired about the USA and the North American people; a kind of New World attitude which eschews the stuffy 'know your place' subservience instilled in ordinary Europeans who've known so many centuries of monarchic rule. On the 'net it's OK to be yourself and to share your innermost thoughts and feelings. Indeed, the 'net thrives on the emotional spectacle that's created when we cast aside our inhibitions and our carefully crafted masks.

Whatever I write will never be good enough in civilised British society, filled with sneering public schoolboys who'll pull you up on your bad grammar and guffaw about your lack of knowledge of the dead languages of ancient antiquity. The British have an incredible knack of giving a person a withering look, which expressly conveys the message that you should get back to the factory and the slums where you belong, pleb.

On the 'net anybody can be somebody. While Penguin now famously will not even consider a book manuscript from an author without a degree, anybody can publish online without having to kowtow to elitist whims. There's a meritocracy to the 'net which allows the ordinary likes of you and I to reach an audience and to be heard, if only we're bold and brave enough to share our creative output.

I fret that I've got no style and I've got no substance. I worry that although I've built my social media following, I'm abusing it for egotistical reasons or even taking it for granted. I worry that I might be a fake. I worry that I'm wasting people's time when there are other far more talented and deserving folks out there, who are desperate for their slice of airtime.

I worry that I'm just an attention whore.

Out of the vast number of wonderful messages I received in a great avalanche during the past 24 hours, the theme that stands out to me, is that I've far exceeded the reach that I ever dreamed possible and now I need to decide: do I make things all about me and abuse the attention for the benefit of my own ego, or do I attempt to exert a positive influence in the lives of others, given my privileged position?

I've written with casual disregard for anybody. I've written because I needed to write. I've written because it's served me very well, to dump my brain down onto a page and get my thoughts into a more structured and ordered form.

I don't feel as if I'm able to start producing well-written articles which would serve as a roadmap for lost souls. I'm still very lost myself, but I definitely recognise that it's useful sometimes to stumble upon something which puts into words the way that you're thinking and feeling; relatable content. Somehow, we discover voices which echo our own, and people who've had similar life experiences, and it makes us feel better. There's a great reluctance to write and publish our most unflattering things publicly, so when we discover somebody who's writing with raw authenticity, it can be greatly comforting to know that the world isn't entirely populated by people with perfect lives. I imagine that the best thing I can do - for now - is to keep writing with as much candid honesty as I can.

I feel a great deal of pressure to follow up on the enormous flood of support that I received on Twitter, with something quite meaningful and profound. I've spent quite a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to write today, although that might not be particularly discernable from the text.

Having beavered away in relative obscurity writing - to date - 997,340 words on this blog, there's a huge temptation to ditch the comparatively unrewarding task of creating lengthy blog posts in favour of milking Twitter for attention. I've been accused at times of keeping myself in a mentally ill and suicidal state, for reasons of attention seeking, which I find pretty offensive but I guess I need to answer my critics. I guess it's up to the reader to decide whether I've spent 3 years of my life writing so much, simply for the quick thrill of getting a bunch of likes and comments on a tweet, or whether I've actually been genuinely fighting for my life the whole time and I just happen to have documented the whole thing as a survival strategy.

It's quite a depressing thought, to imagine that somebody's so conceited that they'd write a million-word suicide note and actually attempt suicide, just for a bit of attention.

In closing, though, I must say that the attention really helped. I feel so loved and cared for. I'm really grateful for all the lovely messages of support. Thank you.

 

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