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

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

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nick@manicgrant.com

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My Sex Problem - Part Two

7 min read

This is a story about overcompensation...

Weymouth harbour yacht

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

There's something I need to talk about.

There's something I need to mention.

I'm not a fool.

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

What I know are the facts.

I only care about the facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you see how insecure I was?

Can you see how materialistic I was?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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My Sex Problem

3 min read

This is a story about feeling deprived...

Pink light

I have a hangup about sex. My hangup is this: How do I know if I'm getting enough sex, unless I'm having more sex than I actually want?

The logic is actually fairly simple to explain. If I ever wanted sex and couldn't have it, then that would be proof that I'm not getting enough sex, right? Do you follow me? So, by making sure I always have more sex than I want, I guarantee that I'm not missing out. I guess it's a FOMO thing (Fear Of Missing Out).

Where my sex problem stems from is my adolescence, which was rather ruined by selfish and downright disgusting decisions made by my parents. My parents were fully aware that their wholly selfish decisions would have disastrous consequences on me and my life, but they just didn't give a fuck about me. They didn't have to suffer the consequences, so they didn't care.

Ultimately, I did not go through the learning and development phase that most adolescents do, where they start having boyfriends/girlfriends and figuring out how relationships work. I did not have the same experience as almost every teenager. My own teenaged years were quite ruined by my parents, and as such, I now have trauma: I have a hangup.

In order to know that I'm never again going to have to re-live those traumatic childhood years, I act in a way which is a reaction to the damage that was done to me.

Never again shall I feel so singled out, bullied, alone, isolated, shunned and a pariah. Never again shall I be the odd one out. Never again shall I be the one who misses out. Never again shall I be the only one who was deprived of large chunks of normal, healthy life, growing up.

Because of my hangup, I overcompensate.

My sex problem is not a kink. It's simply that I want more than I really want, just to reassure myself that I'm getting the maximum amount I can possibly get. I need to know I'm not going to feel as bad as I did, back in those dreadful years which traumatised me.

It's fairly simple really, and I suppose I could think my way around the problem. I suppose I could 'cure' myself of my trauma, now that I've identified the source of it. However, when I feel vulnerable and afraid, the damage is still there, and my compensatory behaviour is always the same.

I'm proud I outgrew my identity as the bullied outcast; the undesirable kid that nobody wanted to be anywhere near, lest they find themselves subject to the bullying too.

Of course, I had friends. A few of us outcasts were thrust together, to suffer our awful fate together: perhaps 3 or 4 of us outnumbered by 1,200 bullies, quite literally. I'm sure I'm writing with some hyperbole, given how traumatic the memories seem when I poke at them and re-live them, but the point still stands: It's fucking awful being the subject of so much bullying; so outnumbered... especially when your own parents have played a very big role in creating and maintaining that intolerable situation.

It's a strange sex problem to have, but at least it's not something totally weird, like wanting to get urine or faeces on me... not that I'm gonna judge you if that's your particular kink.

So, that's me.

 

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Vicious Vile Vindictive Vendetta

7 min read

This is a story about axe grinding...

Graffiti

I tend to assume that nobody is going to rush to my aid if I'm in distress. I assume that nobody's going to stick up for me. I assume that I'm all alone; isolated. I assume that I'm the only person who's going to fight for justice. I assume that I'm going to have to defend myself. I assume that my enemies will close ranks and use their considerable advantages to pommel me into the ground; to destroy me. I assume that I have little hope of protecting myself: I'm an easy target.

When I opened myself up and made myself vulnerable in the past, it felt like people eagerly exploited the chinks in my armour. Where I had been honest, my disclosures were used against me. Things which had happened to me a long time ago were dredged up as ammunition to attack me with. My self-confidence and self-esteem were attacked and my happiness and contentment were replaced with insecurities which I thought I'd vanquished. The pride that I felt in my achievements was robbed from me and I was made to feel like a failure; worthless.

I tried to re-invent myself: to prove myself capable of leaving all the misery of my old life behind, re-asserting my value as a person. However, I was always afraid that my past might catch up with me: I was always looking over my shoulder and my insecurities remained.

At my lowest ebb I started to have a psychotic episode where I was hearing voices. The voices told me that all my friends, family, former work colleagues and other important people in my life, knew everything bad about me. "They know" said the voices.

At first, I was devastated by the idea that people who I liked and respected would know everything about me which I was ashamed of. This was my very worst fear: that my most shameful experiences were common knowledge.

Then, I shouted back at the voices: "do your worst, you cowardly bullies!" I yelled.

I refused to be blackmailed, threatened and coerced by those who sought to shame and embarrass me. I refused to hide in shame. I refused to give in to the bullies. I refused to let anybody have that power over me: to share my private secrets and be able to shame me.

A few months later, I started to write this blog.

At first, I felt like I was writing my own obituary. I felt like there wasn't a single person who could be trusted to speak about my achievements, and that it would be unfair if my tormenters were given an opportunity to tarnish my reputation because I was dead and not able to defend myself. I wrote about the things that showed me in the best possible light. I wrote about my proudest moments. I wrote about the positive things I wanted people to know about me.

Then, as I contemplated suicide, I realised that such an account would feel fake. It's natural that we tend to remember the good things about people after they're dead, and we don't talk about the bad stuff. It seems disrespectful to trash-talk somebody who's dead, but seeing as I was writing my own obituary, I started to think that I should write about everything: both good and bad.

As I admitted my faults, mistakes, misdemeanours, bad things I'd done, character flaws and numerous other things which painted me in a very unflattering light, I felt quite empowered by the process. Little by little I was taking away the power from the bullies; from those people who had betrayed my confidence and used my secrets against me. Little by little I was destroying the people who had robbed me of my self-esteem and self-confidence.

I used to be afraid about revealing unflattering things about myself, and I would feel regret and self-doubt about whether I'd made the right decision, for days after I made some new public revelation. I wondered whether I was doing the right thing, or whether I was making a foolish mistake that couldn't be reversed.

Then, it became a habit and an obsession to document every bad thing about myself - any secrets; anything which might bring me shame - and write everything down very publicly with unflinching candid honesty. I lost the fear and I lost the filter... I felt happy unburdening myself and there weren't any negative consequences.

My fear of the past catching up with me was replaced by a newfound pride in my identity. I became proud of my achievements again, and I even started to feel proud of things which I had previously kept secret. Telling the world about the adversity which I'd faced made me see that there was something to be proud of, even during my darkest moments. Yes, I was putting myself at huge risk of prejudice, but the more I wrote the more I knew that I was protecting myself from anybody who wanted to label me.

Yes, if you want to call me a homeless alcoholic junkie bankrupt with mental health problems, go ahead, be my guest. If you think you can shame me to the point where I'll allow myself to be marginalised and excluded from society, you simply haven't bothered to do the reading.

My reaction to anybody who patronises and insults me; who sells me short and can't see my full potential; who thinks the worst of me... my reaction to people who treat me like that is pretty strong and forceful. I'm fiercely protective over the pride, self-esteem and self-confidence which have taken such a substantial amount of effort to rebuild. I'm never going to let anybody bully and abuse me again.

I can react in a way that seems disproportionate. I can act in ways that seem very vindictive. I can become quite obsessed about my perceived mistreatment. In actual fact, the way I act is completely to be expected given how long people have been shitting on me and trying to destroy me, and how hard it has been to escape the bullying and abuse of those people and rebuild my life.

When I've gone on the offensive, because I've felt threatened, I've definitely acted in way which could be considered an over-reaction; I've gone too far. I've swiftly and brutally dumped people out of my life at the first hint of trouble, which may have been unnecessary and was done with a level of aggression which I'm not proud of, but it's a defensive reaction. Life's too short for me to get mixed up with any more bullies and abusers: if I decide you're doing me harm, it's goodbye and good riddance and it won't be pretty.

There's a question mark about whether I should hit back or not. I'm certainly asking myself whether it was the right thing to do, to make the bullies and abusers pay for what they did to me. I'd like to be the bigger person, and to just move on and forget the past; move forward positively. I think it's an unfortunate feature of my illness, that when I'm unwell I can get pretty vicious and weaponise my blog to hurt the people who've hurt me. I don't think I should do that.

I'm not claiming to be a saint... that's the whole point about my writing: I'm writing about my flaws and mistakes as much as I'm writing about anything. I'm trying to figure out how to get myself into a comfortable situation where I'm happy and confident enough to let any mean, unkind words just bounce harmlessly off me; rise above all the shit.

However, be warned: if you pick on the bullied kid thinking they're a soft target, one of these days you're going to get an explosive reaction; you're going to unleash hell.

 

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Am I... Evil?

12 min read

This is a story about seeing red...

Red alert

My dad had a fairly simple moral code for me, when I was a little boy: boys shouldn't hit girls or boys wearing glasses. That's about it. I remember guns were bad and I got in trouble (age 3.5) for looking like I enjoyed myself playing with a friend, who had brought his plastic guns with him. I eat anything and everything today, but I also remember being terrorised into eating rice pudding - which was slimy and disgusting in texture to me, before the age of 4 - so much so that I started throwing up with stress and anxiety, before every mealtime and lost so much weight I had to be hospitalised.

Perhaps it's clear, in retrospect, why I would turn to a hospital to protect me from bullies.

But, perhaps it's me who's evil, and needs to be locked away from the general public? Certainly, now that I've got chance to stop and catch my breath, I'm finding I've finally got time to examine the morality of the way I've acted in the past.

If you hit your kids or generally terrorise them to the point that they need to be hospitalised, trust me, they're not having a brilliant home life. At playgroup and school, I took this pacifism thing that my dad had been very angry about - a.k.a. playing with a friend with a plastic gun - very seriously and I got the crap kicked out of me by other kids... it wasn't until many years later that my dad suggested fighting back, which seemed somewhat odd given that I'd received these hippy lectures about being nonviolent. Anyway, I went down the path of pacifism and that's where I stayed. I was not having a brilliant school life - I was picked on every single day, to the point where, again, it would leave me collapsing in uncontrollable sobbing fits, while on the way to primary school.

Boo hoo! Get the violins out!

My first experience of domestic violence was me crying and being punched in the face, giving me two black eyes and a broken nose. I didn't even defend myself, let alone strike back... why would I need to? I didn't understand why I was being victimised like this, by somebody who was supposed to love me. I had to go into work with a bullshit story about having collided with a buoy while kitesurfing, to explain my two black eyes. It was the male extreme sports equivalent of "I walked into a door". I had to lie to her parents, when we went to see them for a planned visit soon after my face had taken that pommelling.

I'm 6ft tall (183cm), 13 stone (82kg) and I still retain some of my muscle bulk from rock climbing, kitesurfing and wakeboarding, although I'm obviously not in peak physical shape. I've got the mindset of a terrorised 3-year-old, ganged up on by two fully grown adults, but I'm in a body that can do some damage and defend itself now.

The problem - if there is one - is that if I feel bullied and attacked, and you managed to corner me, I'll smash my way out of the situation. I don't hit people - I'm still nonviolent. I don't get into fights. However, very occasionally I will trash something - more often than not it will be my own property - because the insanely horrible emotions just have to come out.

"Do you think that was the right thing to do?" a stern-faced looking policeman asks me. "Do you think there might have been a better way to handle that situation?" comes a second question, as if the first one - which I haven't had chance to answer yet - was not clear enough for me. Of course, I would have loved to handle things differently. Of course, I feel guilt and regret when I snap; when I can't take the onslaught anymore, and I've done something that I wish I hadn't - some property has been damaged.

She's asked me to travel out to the suburbs from the city centre; it's a considerable car ride away, including some travel on a dual-carriageway - the main road South, which turns into the motorway and would safely take me back to London, if we stayed on it. I get the cab to stop at a shop so I can buy some things for a romantic evening. I'm greeted with a hug, we lie on the bed kissing and cuddling... this is all how I hoped things would be; I'm relaxing and enjoying a pleasant evening; this is very nice. Then, she's hurling abuse at me, telling me I'm a terrible person... I'm sitting down while she's standing up, verbally attacking me and generally bullying the shit out of me. She suddenly asks me to leave... alright, no problem. I jump up, grab a rolling pin from the kitchen where it lies idle on the worktop and I smash her laptop to pieces, then I leave immediately. I regret it instantly and text her that I want to replace it, as I make my way to the nearest cab rank, to get a taxi to retrace the journey that I took hardly any time ago. Why had I been summoned to the suburbs for this abuse? Certainly, my loss of temper at the injustice of it all is in no way a justification for destroying her laptop - it was a disproportionate response.

I don't think people really see what's going on underneath the surface, even though I tell them.

Two police officers are interviewing me. It's 2am in the morning. I was just discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt, and my kidneys are still not fully functioning. My body is bruised as hell from where the emergency services had to kick in the bathroom door to get to me, slumped in the dark, dying. My muscles ache from the damage that was done to them by the massive overdose of opiates - prescription painkillers I had stockpiled. I answer the police questions. I admit smashing up that laptop - of course I did it and I want to replace it. The last messages I ever sent while still alive were attempts to get her bank details, so I could transfer her enough money to get a brand new replacement... although of course the destruction of her laptop must have been a shocking over-reaction in her eyes and upsetting for her, and I can never fix that.

Don't people see me as vulnerable? I feel like a 3 year old, being beaten up by grown-ups. I feel vulnerable; scared. People must see me as an easy target, because they certainly don't hold back when they're ripping into me. I find myself back in my trashed apartment at 3:30am on Wednesday morning. How did this happen? Why do people think I'm perfectly fine - OK to chuck out from hospital as soon as my kidneys are working a little bit? Why do people think I'm physically and psychologically indestructible? Why would the massive overdose that I took be seen as unimportant, and that I'm perfectly able to pick myself up and carry on with life?

I feel like I get a double-whammy. I feel that people take advantage of my good nature: my trusting and happy-go-lucky approach to life, where I try to be generous and loving. I take the risks - I make the first moves - and I put myself out there in the hope of getting something back. If I get nothing back, that's fine - let's just leave it there and move on. Why did I have to get dragged all the way out of the city centre and far from my home, simply to receive cruel and unpleasant treatment and be told to get out? My reaction was out of proportion though, so I also get the guilt. I'm guilty of smashing up that laptop. I'm guilty of seeing red, losing my temper, retaliating at the injustice of the situation, in a totally unjustifiable way. Now, I still carry that guilt and I always will - it stopped her hurling abuse at me, but that doesn't make it right. In fact, I can never make things right - I'm always going to feel terrible about her stunned silence, and the fact that it must have seemed like a crazy over-reaction to a bit of 'light-hearted' bullying and abuse in the place she'd dragged me out to, to do it - in the middle of fucking nowhere. If it sounds like I'm conflicted, I am. Where's the sympathy for the fact that I was taken advantage of, abused and left feeling totally abandoned in a strange city? Where's the consideration of the fact that it's obvious that I was on the edge: I very nearly succeeded in killing myself, as the very next thing that I did.

This whole traumatic episode has forced me to dredge up every 'bad' thing I've ever done, and reconsider whether I could have handled things better. What the fuck am I supposed to do? Turn down friends and girlfriends when they cross my path? Am I supposed to be negative and untrusting? Am I supposed to shut myself away, isolated behind closed doors and be anti-social, because I always end up just feeling like a mug... financially taken advantage of and cleaning up after my 'guests'. Should I not give people a chance? Should I be closed and negative, assuming everybody's out to get me? Certainly, everybody's come and picked my fucking pocket, quite gleefully.

I'm no angel. This is certainly not a piece that argues things in black & white. If you want to talk about black & white, then you have it in black & white: I smashed up her laptop with a rolling pin in a sudden fit of rage. My regret and remorse is meaningless - I did it, so that's that. I'm guilty of being an "angry man" right?

I wonder what percentage of my life I've been angry for. Certainly, most people who've known me for any length of time would not think "angry" as one of the first words that sprang to mind. Perhaps I just hide it very well. It's not really for me to judge anyway, what my personality is in the context of this tale and the wider issue of whether I'm some kind of crazed nutter, intent on smashing up the entire world.

I guess you could consider the nature of a dog, as an analogy. How much can you abuse the dog, before it bites you? Are the best dogs the ones that just whimper and maybe even shit themselves? Does a dog - even though it has sharp teeth and powerful jaws - only qualify as a good dog if it never turns on somebody who's abusing it? If you can answer that question, you might have gone some way to answering the question that fills me with doubt at the moment: am I a bad person; am I evil?

Frankly, I think we're all capable of saying and doing regrettable things, in the heat of the moment. The question is, how do you feel about what you did? Do you do horrible things on a regular basis? What's your predominant personality - are you a victim, victimiser or something in-between?

I don't want to fall into the trap of feeling too sorry for myself; feeling too victimised. I've said and done things I wish I hadn't. Also, why can't I stick up for myself? Why can't I avoid the people who think it's OK to pick my pocket? Why can't I tell those who would take advantage of me, to fuck off, before they bleed me dry?

I've seized upon this word "vulnerable" which neatly sums up me and my situation. I trust when I shouldn't; give when I shouldn't; take a chance when I shouldn't and generally end up fucked. Surely nobody would argue with the facts: I'm the one who ended up isolated and alone, dying of an overdose, losing all my property, losing a lucrative consultancy contract and an employment offer. I'm an example of the person that lawmakers had in mind, when they created laws that protect me from mental health discrimination and prejudice based on confidential matters.

There's a line in a song I've probably never heard, but I know the lyrics because my guardian angel told them to me. The song talks about how bullying a kid every day created a monster.

Am I a monster? I certainly seem to fight with monsters. Perhaps I would be wise to remember the words of Nietzsche, and be careful that I do not turn into a monster myself, if I continue to fight monsters.

It's not my instinct to fight. It's my instinct to be nonviolent. I only fight* when I've got nothing left.

 

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* - I don't mean fight her. She's got the money to replace her laptop now, I hope, and I really hope we can move on with our lives as best as we can, although I do appreciate that it was traumatic and seemingly an over-reaction from me. I feel very bad about what I did.

 

Crowd of One

5 min read

This is a story about ganging up on people...

Me, myself and I

I was born in late July. If I was born in late August, I would have been the littlest kid in my school year, but I was born a month earlier and I was probably the second littlest kid in the school year, for a long time. I gravitated towards kids from the year above, who adopted me as a kid in need of protection, or kids from the year below who were grateful to have an older friend. As school wore on, some kids put on early growth spurts, and I gravitated towards the tallest kids. I suppose I felt safer scampering around in the towering shadow of these giant figures. It wasn't until I left Oxford - where I had the bulk of my schooling - that I finally put on a late growth spurt and finally had the physical assets with which to defend myself.

Fundamentally, I'm a lover not a fighter. I'm a pacifist and non-violent at heart.

In my time in hospital, I've encountered two tiny little old men that I want to tell you about. I shan't breach their confidentiality, but they dovetail into my story and I think it's ethically OK to share.

The first little man was at a treatment centre for dual-diagnosis - mental health problems AND substance abuse combined. This little chap only had one tooth in his head, and his circulation was dreadfully affected by a needle fixation that meant he'd inject anything he could get his hands on. Not wishing to cast negative aspersions on a vulnerable person - my fellow patient - but I'm sure this chap was never the brightest, and a life of drug abuse had certainly done nothing to enhance his intellect. This might sound like the pot calling the kettle black, which it is, but fundamentally I'm not going around trying to pick fights with people who are taller than me, heavier than me and in much better physical condition, regarding fitness, strength etc.

I feel now is probably an appropriate moment to tell you about prison.

I've never been to prison, but I think it's like a scaled-up version of all the shittest bits of school. Basically, school seemed to me to be like a holding pen for a lot of kids who were destined for a life that was going to be in and out of prison - you could see it on their feral little faces.

In prison, there's far too much testosterone and far too few women, plus it's jam-packed with children who weren't loved enough when they were little or whatever it is that makes a violent bullying child. It's not something I've put a lot of thought into - yet - so I shan't wander further up a dead-end alleyway of speculation without a working hypothesis based on a reasonable set of facts.

What I can tell you about prison is that it takes violent men who are struggling to play by society's rules, and turns them into violent men who believe that violence is the only iron rule: you can almost pick out a man who's been in prison, by the way that he will escalate any situation into one of violent confrontation as quickly as he can, in order - presumably - to ward off a beating from bigger inmates. "COME ON THEN! LET'S FUCKING 'AV' IT!" scream men who presumably, have had their faces pommeled into pulp one too many times. Like a Chihuahua dog, yapping "don't tread on me!" these little men must've had to use some kind of psychological trick, to avoid becoming victimised.

The second little man is in a hospital in the North of England, on the psych ward with me today. This determined little fellow is in far better physical shape than the other guy I described, but he's still a very small person. My diminutive fellow patient has retained far more of his mind than the other guy, or perhaps it's that he started with a very impressive brain indeed - this guy managed to start a chain of adventure sports shops that is well known today, with at least one branch in every UK city. To this end, he waits until I'm about to turn the corner, at least 50 feet away, before he starts yelling aggressively at me. I note, that he does not yell that he himself is going to rain down any physical blows on my head, but instead shouts about how big his nephew or his cousin's friend is or something like that - I smirk to myself when I'm safely out of his sight... yes, that's the smart thing to do: to get somebody else to do your fighting for you.

So, do I think I'm a right smartarse? No. I'm just fighting for my life, even though you can't see what's going on under the surface, 99% of the time.

 

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A Sense of Entitlement

12 min read

This is a story about arrogance...

Sailor Boy

It occurs to me that many people might be offended by the vulgarity of me discussing - with candid honesty - the good fortune that has come my way, and decide that I feel entitled in some way to those things bestowed upon me by pure blind luck.

In the UK, it's considered to be in bad taste to talk about money. However, we are given to flamboyant displays of wealth, which are obviously our way of screaming "LOOK AT ME!! LOOK HOW SUCCESSFUL AND AMAZING I AM!!" at the top of our reserved British lungs.

I once shared on social media a document that I had discovered that had the rates that a bunch of us banking IT consultants charge our clients for a day's labour. The amounts are obscene.

When I first started as an IT contractor at the tender age of 19, I was paid twice as much as I had been in my previous job, and it totally went to my head. I bought Harrods hampers as Christmas gifts and whisked my girlfriend and I off to New Zealand on a business class flight, chartered a yacht and stayed 5-star all the way. Take the bullied kid from school, treat him like shit his whole life and then shower him with wealth and he might just end up rubbing your nose in it, because it's sweet relief after 12 years of playground and classroom hell.

That first contract paid just under £40 an hour, by the way. I was living in Winchester and working in Didcot, near Oxford. It was good money for a non-banking project outside of London, even by today's standards. I offer you the precise number, because I want you to judge me.

Imagine the whole time you're at school is made pure hell by endless bullying. Imagine being a social outcast. Imagine not even being able to cultivate a teenage romance until you left school at age 17, because you carry too much of a reputation of being an unpopular geek. Imagine all those beatings and lonely times where you're singled out because you're quiet, sensitive and then simply labelled as a soft target. Once you become the bullied kid, you stay the bullied kid and nobody's going to want to know you because they don't want to risk becoming bullied too.

What do you do instead, if you're denied friends, popularity, girls, a social life? You stay home and tinker with computers.

So, if it appears boastful when I talk about landing a well paid contract for a major UK corporation when I was just 19 years of age, it's because I fucking paid a lot to get it. Remember your first kiss with your first girlfriend? Remember hanging out with your friends? Remember how fun your school days were? Well, imagine swapping all that out for 35 hours a week of being bullied around the clock, for 12 straight years.

I'm exaggerating slightly, because I got to do my final 2 years at a 6th form college, which gave me a bit of a chance to re-invent myself away from the image that my dad had destroyed by expecting me to cycle to school from fucking miles away on a stolen girl's bike, every fucking day, past all the other kids arriving at the school entrance. Kids don't forget shit like that.

Did I have friends? Yes, I was very grateful to have a small handful of other geeky bullied kids who I count as my friends. We stuck together, as the hated soft targets. We tried to take a stand. It only made us hated by teachers and headmasters/mistresses, because we made the bullying problem more conspicuous.

So, I became a young adult with hideous insecurities. My parents were c**ts. Almost everybody at school had been a c**t. Naturally, this mistreatment denied me any self-confidence that would have allowed me to get a girlfriend. Somehow, I fell into a couple of trysts with girls from other schools, and even managed to lose my virginity at 15, but this was through the artificial confidence that drugs gave me, the one time I used amphetamines in my teens.

I found my way into sailing, rock climbing and mountaineering, and those things gave me a bit of an identity beyond that of a geek, but there was so much damage to be repaired. It was only in the final couple of years at school that I was a member of Lyme Regis Sailing Club, Dorset. It was only during my couple of years at 6th form college that I learned how to rock climb, and went on a couple of expeditions to the Alps and the Dolomites.

Having money was the first vindication that I had value as a person. I bought a flash sportscar, and I'm ashamed to admit that it improved my confidence. I found it easier to talk to girls with the crutch of a fast motor vehicle. The status symbol worked as it was supposed to: a fanny magnet.

Of course, the more money I got paid, the more I felt that I was worth. I did become arrogant. I did think that I was 'worth' the money. Again, I ask you to consider the context: I was a young insecure geek, who suddenly had a cash windfall. Of course I was going to use money to prop up my fragile self esteem.

Today, if I tell you about the lovely apartment I live in, how I earn obscene amounts of money, or that I'm working on important projects, then you can infer this: something has wrecked my world to the point where I am slipping back into old insecurities. It's not boastfulness. What it is, is pure terrified protection of the last dregs of my self esteem.

Some pseudo-psychologist will tell you that it smacks of egotism. Not true. Over time, I have developed humility and come to recognise the complete disconnect between what I'm paid, what I do, and how much value I really have. I consider myself overpaid, what I do as trivial and unimportant, unnecessary even, and I've been humbled to see that I contribute very little of value to the world.

Every time I talk about this or that thing that I did... it's because I'm really suicidally depressed and I desperately want people to sit up and pay attention, and say "hey! He isn't just some expendable worthless piece of shit. Maybe it would be a bad thing if he died".

I'm desperately trying to see the value in myself, even though in pure pounds, shillings and pence, I can see that I'm very much 'valued' by my employers. However, I now no longer associate salary or contract income with value, because I can see no link between what I do and how much I get paid. It maddens me that I'm so much better paid than, say, your average artist who gets paid £10,000 per annum.

In-between my first contract and my second contract, I did my yacht skipper qualifications with the Royal Yachting Association. After my second contract, which paid £470 per day, I was able to purchase a yacht. Did I buy the yacht because I loved sailing? Partly. But the real reason I bought it was because I felt insecure. Owning a yacht is quite a big status symbol. It's also a massive waste of money. Just keeping a yacht in a marina costs thousands of pounds every year.

As each year passed after school, I maintained the advantage of the head-start in computing I gained at the expense of an enjoyable childhood. The bullies from school struggled, while the geeks inherited the Earth. It was hard not to become cruel towards those who I perceived as having persecuted me, and rub their noses in it.

The Square Mile has a certain macho culture, as well as encouraging vulgar displays of wealth. For a while, I was eating out in expensive restaurants, taking taxis and drinking in wine bars. Did I do it because I enjoyed it, or did I do it because I could at such a young age, and I knew that it was sticking two fingers up at the bullies?

What happened next is that I had a couple of nice girlfriends, and I started to feel less insecure. Everything was going my way, and I started to feel less like I needed to flaunt my financial success, just to prove that I wasn't scared of the bullies anymore. I started to feel less like I had to pack as much fun in as possible, to make up for lost time.

For a brief time, I was reasonably secure and happy in myself. I had developed my own identity. I had grown my self confidence. I actually felt popular for the first time in my life. My life was no longer about money and status symbols.

However, I was still desperate for love. I felt like I had missed out on having a childhood sweetheart and a university romance. Then an abusive partner and a messy divorce deprived me of my comfort and confidence I took from owning a house and having beautiful hand-picked things. By this stage, having a speedboat and a hot tub was about having wild fun with my friends, not about shoving my wealth and good fortune in anybody's face. I had a fast car because I enjoyed driving, not because I needed it for my fragile male ego.

Everything got smashed to shit during my divorce, and I found myself sleeping in my friend's guest bedroom, trying to rebuild my life, but having nowhere near the capital reserves to re-enter London society. My ex-wife made everything as stressful and destructive as she possibly could, and dragged out proceedings using every conceivably unpleasant and spiteful tactic she could, depriving me of even the collateral that was locked up in my home.

With nothing but a rapidly dwindling stack of money, I was in no position to start another business. I had to go back to IT consultancy. Some may say that it was hardly a bad option, but I had worked hard for 16 years so that I didn't have to do the bullshit rat race anymore. It was heartbreaking.

I let everything burn to the ground, and I got very sick indeed. 2014 saw me spend some 14 weeks in hospital and other kinds of inpatient treatment - I was dreadfully sick. That truly was an annus horribilis, even though I did manage 3 months of consultancy for Barclays at the end of the year.

2015 was pretty shit. I still had not managed to reach the escape velocity and launch myself into a stable orbit. It was a rough year, but I still managed to do 4 months of consultancy for HSBC in the summer/autumn.

2016 got off to a really shit start, but I should be able to do 5 months of consultancy for an undisclosed client before I absolutely lose my mind with the fucking rat race.

I have to be in some total shite part of Greater London for an 8:30am breakfast meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) and I already just want to jack in the job because it's predictable bullshit that's doomed to failure and is being hopelessly botched. However, it's easy money and in the context of the shitty situation I'm in I need the cash.

For context, I earn 28% more than I did when I was 20, which means I've been getting an annual pay rise of 1.75%, so excuse me if I'm not exactly thrilled to be getting out of bed in the morning. Especially considering the day job is even more boring than it was back then when I was young, fresh faced and inexperienced.

Of course, I'm able to see that I'm well off. I know that some people are getting pay cuts in real terms, and still others are out of a job despite their eagerness to work. I'm aware that in absolute terms, I get paid an eye-watering sum of money.

However, all my money is just going towards paying back the debts I ran up keeping myself alive. I actually paid for a great deal of private treatment, because it didn't seem right to burden the NHS with the costs in light of my potential earning power.

I am limping towards the day when I basically reach zero, so I can die with dignity knowing that my life insurance policy can be left as an estate for my sister and niece, and not be squandered on trivial debts run up simply because my own family and the welfare state offered me no assistance. Camden Council didn't offer me so much as a cardboard box to sleep in, let alone a hostel bed.

I simply don't have the energy to keep turning the pedals in such thankless pursuit of nothing. It will have been an exhausting marathon to simply reach zero again. Of course, with further months and years of IT consultancy for big corporations, I could in theory become rich again, but I'm at the limit of what I can stand. I've had enough. I'm ground down. I'm through. I'm done. Stick a fork in me, I'm cooked.

The pointless toil... for what?!?!

And so, if you think I'm entitled, arrogant and boastful, I hope you can see that it's simply because I'm exhausted and scared and insecure. Of course I see the value in the garbage collector and the nurse. I just don't see the value in myself, now that I am spent.

 

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Regression Therapy

10 min read

This is a story about hypnosis...

Many mes

Dredging up the past is meant to be unhealthy, but how are we supposed to move forward without letting go of things that are holding us back? How are we supposed to be secure and happy, until we find a stable base to build upon?

I've been going back through the memory banks, trying to figure out how I arrived here, today. I've been wondering whether I should repair and renovate, or whether to build anew, to start again afresh, from scratch.

As I've recounted my story, I realise there's a repeating theme: having to leave stuff behind and rebuild everything. Every time I do that, I feel like it's a test of true friendships - to see if they'll survive long-distance. It's insecurity that drives a lot of this, so please don't feel I'm actually testing people.

Thinking about it, I've actually become hypersensitive to feelings of rejection. I will now push people away, as soon as their commitment to friendship seems questionable. I've learned to not let people into my heart anymore, and to try and be a person who can withstand the shock of losing all my friends, at any moment. "I'll just make new friends" I tell myself, as I find myself feeling all alone, yet again.

The first times I lost all my friends, circumstances were out of my control. I was moved from school to school, and around the country. These were early, formative lessons in the value of human relationships. The message was clear: I don't deserve stable relationships.

Later, I lost groups of friends due to relationship breakups. This was part of the learning process of growing up. You need to have your own friends, or else you're too heavily dependent on your partner for your social life, and you have a double-whammy when you break up.

Finally, I tried to move out of London to live on the coast, and hoped that I would be able to have friends come visit from the city, to keep me going. In actual fact, the change wasn't so bad that time, as I made local friends through kitesurfing, plus my friends from London did come to visit quite often.

Unfortunately, my life completely collapsed, what with an abusive all-consuming relationship, that poisoned a lot of relationships and a malicious ex who campaigned against me and caused many of my friends to take sides, in a way that I've never experienced before. The place I used to live in was small, and rumours and gossip became unbearable. I needed a clean break from that microcosm.

In that instance, every area of my life was intimately connected to every other area. People from completely different areas of my life would say to me "I heard..." and repeat some vicious propaganda from my ex, that was completely one-sided. Because I was very sick, I couldn't stand it, I couldn't defend myself against the onslaught of a person intent on defacing my character, I couldn't match my ex's energy and I couldn't bring myself to stoop to the level of retaliation. Believe me, I could have dished the dirt on her, just like she did on me.

But, this is about moving on. I'm determined that I'm not going to let bitterness and regret overwhelm me, even though I feel terribly hurt, isolated, alone and treated unfairly. There's two sides to every story, but my side doesn't have to be told if it's just tit-for-tat. I'm bigger than that.

Pendulum

You know, you should go ahead and judge me. If you don't know and like my character by now, then I'm not going to try and convince you. I'm not going to twist your arm. I don't know why more people don't unfriend me on Facebook, block my number on WhatsApp and generally send the message that I'm dumped, as a friend... I've been judged unworthy, unpleasant, and having bad character.

A recent ex-girlfriend started throwing plates and knives at me in a stroppy rage, having a tantrum. I thought "here we go again" as I shielded myself from blows, with her screams echoing throughout the building. She stormed out of the flat. I didn't let her back in, it was over. I'm not going to be an abuse victim again.

I lost a whole bunch of friends, when I broke up with that girlfriend. Some of them even said that they didn't agree with the way I mistreated her. Errr, you mean, like, I should have allowed myself to remain a victim of domestic abuse? I was very hurt by the way that people took sides, and what was clearly a corruption of the truth of the reasons why we had broken up. Clearly, my ex had painted a different picture from the one where she was being violently abusive towards me. But, I guess I've gotten used to such bullshit. I cried and cried, but at least it was over relatively quickly.

Maybe there's something just unloveable about me? My parents could look at me and say "it's cool, he doesn't need his schoolfriends or any stability in his childhood". A couple of ex-girlfriends could look at me and say "that face really needs a couple of black eyes and a broken nose". A load of friends could say "well, we've heard one side of the story. I'm sure that's enough, and now our opinion of this guy's character is completely changed and we no longer want anything to do with him".

I was brought up to be a pacifist. I was brought up to turn the other cheek. I was brought up to believe that two wrongs don't make a right. Every time I ever lashed out in retaliation, it was always me who suffered the consequences, so I became passive. I've been everybody's punchbag and convenient dumping ground.

I've cast my mind back as far as I can go, searching for a memory of security, a sense that somebody is loyal, that they'd treat me the same as I'd treat them... clearly, I'm carrying a lot of hurt, a deep sense of loss and abandonment.

Round window

It's a new challenge for me, to improve not move. It's a new challenge, to repair, not throw away and start again. It's a new challenge, to stand my ground and refuse to let my character be defaced by horrible people.

I've got to learn how to defend myself in a more positive way. Just being a passive punching bag, and letting people say what they want about me, and paint me in any light they like, is not good.

My new approach has been to be brutally honest, about every tiny flaw, every little mistake I've ever made. I've tried to fess up to every regrettable action.

People told me I'm a bad person for so long, that I decided to live up to my character. However, I couldn't do it. I couldn't lie, cheat, steal or do anything to hurt anybody. I ended up hurting myself. You would barely believe how much I've beaten myself up, harmed myself and taken myself to the brink of death.

I've paid the price, plus surplus too. I don't give a fuck now, if people want to hold me to account for something I was never to blame for in the first place. If you corner a dog and beat it, and you want to put it down because it bit you, when it was cornered, frightened, beaten and suffering, with nowhere to go except through you... go right ahead.

I've examined my entire history, and I see a caged animal. I see a person who's been trusting, who's taken a chance on people, been brave enough to risk getting hurt. People have taken advantage of my trusting, innocent nature, my kindness and want to feel accepted, included. I've forgiven those who have hurt me, not that it makes the blindest bit of difference to me.

At least I can sleep at night. Those who bully, abuse, slander and take advantage of those who show the slightest weakness, must surely have a conscience. Those monsters must surely feel filled with regret at their abhorrent behaviour. At least I can put my hand on my heart and say that I never set out to hurt anybody or exploit the weak and the needy.

There's so much stuff that I'm dredging up, and I wish it could stop, but stress, pressure and the fragility of my situation, plus the dysfunction and neglect of all my relationships, mean that I'm pretty much trapped alone with my thoughts. I'm trying to write, to expel the toxin of all this hurt, but writing's all I've got. I sit at work, bored, unchallenged, while the thoughts and the feelings pile up like a traffic jam. When I get home, the words just flood out like a raging torrent, and I can't stop. I always write more than I mean to.

I have a friend who's stuck by me, even though he saw the very worst of my character, and was deeply involved through the death throes of my normal life and my long-term relationship. He caught some of the flak, as I thrashed around like an injured beast, blindly lashing out, due to fear and pain. Surprisingly, he is one of my biggest supporters, despite the fact that I brought a great deal of stress into his life, and dragged him though months of hell, as co-founders of a startup.

I have few examples I can hold up, to support my belief that my character is sound, and that I should remain living. Even my own parents have always made it clear that I'm a "bad kid" and that I'm worthless, a disappointment.

I've been digging and digging, to see if there's some evidence in my childhood history of an evil streak. Perhaps I committed a genocide when I was an infant? Perhaps I perpetrated torture on a global scale? Perhaps I murdered my real family, as a psychopathic toddler, before being adopted by an experimental cult where I was reprogrammed to believe I was worthless and to act passively when I'm abused?

Anyway, I'm going to leave it there. When I get into this trance-like state, I can just write and write and write (I know, right?) and before I know it I've written far more than anybody would have the time, patience and indulgence to read.

I'm going to start limiting myself again, to how much I write. It would be good if I can break out of this regression, this state of backwards-looking. It would be good if I can look forwards, and think positively, but there's no external trigger to do so. The world is stunned into silence, or the void is simply too cavernous to even care about the white noise, the hot air that spews forth.

Looking for some nugget of security in my past has yielded nothing. Looking back to see if I can remember some happy, stable, secure time has brought chequered results. Perhaps I might have found some compassion for myself, even if I haven't managed to elicit it in anybody else. Either that, or I just have enough accumulated evidence of mistreatment to assume that the world is nearly entirely hostile to me, and it's time to say goodbye.

Hanging

If I look at the trend, I appear to be spiralling downwards.

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Violent Communication

8 min read

This is a story about channelling energy into something positive...

The Globe

Buckminster Fuller was going to commit suicide, so that his family could benefit from his life insurance policy. After an epiphany, he found his purpose in life and went on to publish over 30 books.

In a month or two, I will have written the equivalent of 5 novels. Obviously, most of it is garbage, but I hope it serves as a warm-up. The point is to see if I have the discipline to sit down and write every day. Writing gives my life structure, routine.

I normally have 3 or 4 things I want to write about each day, and I struggle to keep under 1,000 words. Browsing statistics tell me that people read for between 3 and 4 minutes per day, on average... even when I've broken my rules and have written 6,000 words, which means that they're probably skim reading or getting bored and stopping reading before the end.

There has been real violence & venom in my words, as I've struggled with a sense of abandonment and real anger and frustration at being let down on promises at a really critical time, and when my life really hung in the balance.

My writing did nothing to sway the people who I targeted, to act with any decency, but now that I know they're no longer reading, I do feel satisfied that I have at least put my side of the story across.

In actual fact, I feel like I made myself look like quite a bitter and angry person, quite immature and unconstructive, negative. It might be well overdue, and the damage is already done to my image, my reputation, but now it's time to stop grinding the axe and start writing in a more positive way.

Behind every rant, every acerbic scalding word, was a lot of emotion, but it was all focussed & fixated on a few individuals. Not very healthy or productive. Unlikely to lead to pieces of writing that are interesting for people to read.

I've read a couple of posthumously published satires where the author's frustrations with the world are barely concealed. They are repetitive and almost cringeworthy to read, but the passion makes the books hard to put down. However, they are good works of literature, unlike me just slagging off my drug addict, alcoholic, loser parents and abusive ex-wife.

It's difficult to know how to act. My school days were dominated by bullying. My working years have been dominated by age discrimination and people who've been promoted to a position of incompetence, where they are completely useless and concentrate exclusively on stopping anybody else from getting ahead. My longest relationship was with an abusive bully. I've had relatively few good role models.

I've picked a few people who I like and respect, from around the world, and I've tried to learn what I can from them, and to emulate their life philosophies, some of their thoughts and teachings, to be interested in things they're interested in, to try and understand what is important in their lives, and how that makes them tick.

I'm a long way from where I'd like to be. I've made a poor account of myself, blathering on like a fool while in a messed up state. I've exposed my darker side: the rage and frustration has bubbled over and I've revealed human characteristics that are less than desirable.

It's good to connect with people but I've been very exposed. I fear that I've lost the respect of some people I really idolise, and others that I could learn a lot from. I fear that I have taken something that had a lot of potential to reach a broad spectrum of people I wanted to connect with, and I have corrupted it into a nasty weapon to try and beat up on just a few people, and that's kinda shameful.

Slings n arrows

You know what though? I don't have a healthy outlet, other than writing this, and nor did I learn any ways to deal with frustration and anger as a child and young adult. I was the one on the receiving end of other people's shit. I took the blame for my parents' shortcomings. I was the recipient of my ex-wife's viciousness. I was the victim of daily bullying and abuse.

I've soaked up all this shitty abuse for years and years and years and now it's all got to come out somehow. I'm fed up of being the punchbag. I'm fed up of being the scapegoat. I'm fed up of taking the blame for everything. I'm fed up of being the quiet keeper of secrets.

Yes, I've got to find a more positive way to channel this negative energy. Hitting back at the people who hurt me, in particular my parents and ex-wife, will never lead anywhere. The bullies and abusers never feel any remorse. They'll never back down. They'll never say sorry.

Retaliation & tit-for-tat... I know that it's a dark path to go down. I know that the secret is to rise above it all. It's hard to be the bigger person. It's hard to just let things go when you've been wronged, even if the hatred is destroying you from the inside.

Some of my friends' parents taught me to believe that two wrongs don't make a right. They're probably right, but the main problem is that retaliation is punished more harshly than bullying and abuse. We reward the bullies and the abusers and the bigger stronger people, and hand out trite platitudes to their victims.

But, it's true, I am the bigger person. I know the chain of violence and abuse has to be broken. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.

I always thought that society would cleave itself in two, with the sensitive and intelligent beings creating a super-race that would have all the best technology, while the thick-skulled idiots would just slowly devolve into some more basic animal creature, which is quite well physically endowed but only uses its muscles to fight over food scraps and compete for other similarly dumb animal mates. These creatures would obviously very easy to herd and to keep separate from the elite.

When life was going well, I lost all the bitterness about my shitty childhood. At last, I was tasting the rewards for that abuse... I had risen above the herd of idiots. Sadly, as a horribly ironic twist, I ended up dating and then later marrying a bully, and she dragged me down to her level. It's taken me a long time to realise that I need to distance myself from such people as soon as I can, and to get myself back into safe space, away from the herd of idiots.

It's really hard to not be bitter & twisted, when you know you've got to rebuild so much. It's really hard not to be angry and resentful at people who have profited from your labour, your industriousness, your ingenuity, your trust, your kindness.

I'm remarkably close to either a breakthrough or capitulation, suicide. Things are on a knife-edge. I have the opportunity to earn 3 or even 4 times what I could have done, weighed down by the abusive numbskulls. With money comes opportunity. With opportunity comes the benefit of all those tough experiences.

Now, I'm so passionately against bullying and abuse. I'm so passionately against living miserably. I'm so passionately against brutality and cruelty.

It would be easy for me to become cruel and bullying, as a result of having suffered so much shit myself, however my future hasn't been written off by a few horrible and small-minded people. There's a glimmer of an opportunity, and every chance I might rise above the herd of idiots once again.

I've got 6 months ahead of me before any kind of sense of security will return to my life. 6 months living under threat. 6 months where one thing going wrong could screw everything up. That's a lot of pressure to live with every day. Everything has to go right, during the next 6 months, or else it takes me beyond the limit of what I can handle. There is no contingency. There is no safety margin. There is no excess fat.

As you can imagine, that makes me very tense, very highly strung, very anxious. That pressure comes out in a negative way sometimes, directed at those who dumped me in the shit, but I know that's no use. That pressure comes out as hopelessness sometimes: a sense that I can never overcome the obstacles, and luck will never be in my favour for long enough to break free again. The hopelessness leads to suicidal thoughts.

So, tomorrow I start something that has real tangible value, to rebuild my life. However, don't be surprised if the pressure is unbearable, and I fly off the handle at seemingly minor setbacks. Don't be surprised if I'm still not quite able to bury the hatchet and stop being so aggressive, so violent in my communication towards my persecutors.

I'm a long way from breaking free again.

Gunmakers

The geeks will inherit the earth

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Loss of Confidence

8 min read

This is a story about getting out of practice...

ZX Spectrum

My friend Ben taught me how to program a computer when we were kids. I floundered on my own for a while when our family moved away from Oxford, to Dorset, but eventually I had managed to write a couple of computer games before I even had any proper lessons at school and college.

I've been a professional programmer for the best part of 20 years, but my recent ups and downs really hurt my confidence, and also meant that my skills got a bit rusty. It is a little bit like riding a bike, but the jargon changes and the syntax of what you have to type looks subtly different, but it's all still the same binary ones and zeros underneath the covers.

I nearly had a meltdown today, when I was set a programming test that's the sort of thing that you'd give to a first year Computer Science student. I feel a little insulted that I'm being asked to do things like that, when I've got such a strong CV. However, IT is riddled with managers, architects and other people who haven't touched code for years and years. I guess it's a test to see if you can roll your sleeves up and get hands on or not.

I'm getting really worried that there's a tech bubble that's going to burst, and bring down the whole economy. When I think that there are so many jobs that are centred around social media marketing, digital campaigns and mining the vast amounts of data that are gathered about website users and their browsing habits... it's all a lot of bullshit. At the end of the day, people have lost sight of the fundamental principle of creating products and services that add value to the real economy.

Why is it that a company can have a massive valuation and raise loads of money, just because the number of people using their website is growing exponentially? Why is it that a bank, or other financial services company, can be one of the most profitable enterprises in the world, when they don't actually produce anything of tangible value? The markets are just supposed to route money efficiently around the real economy, to grease the wheels of commerce.

I started to get panicky all of a sudden, and worry that I won't be able to get myself into a position to weather the storm before it hits. But then, when you think about it, it doesn't matter unless you're just coming up to retirement and hoping to cash in your casino chips and sit on your arse for the rest of your days until you die.

I don't begrudge people their retirement, but considering the huge population growth, the massively extended life expectancy, plus the low birth rates, retiring at the same age as the previous generation is just not feasible.

It is really sad when somebody retires, and they're so burnt out that they hardly get to enjoy it. It seems that life is very much lived backwards. When we are young, fit, healthy, energetic and full of life, we are also heavily indebted and have to work as many hours as we can just to pay the rent and try to keep a car on the road so we can get to work. Then, when we retire, we have heaps of time and money (hopefully) but our health is failing and death is stalking us.

Java Roots

But I'm only talking in abstract terms, because something different happened to me. I didn't quite catch the ultimate wave, but I caught the tail end of a pretty wild ride. For those lucky enough to get into IT at some point from the 1960s to the 1990s, we have enjoyed boom times that seem to have kept rolling.

Perversely, I was a little disappointed when the millenium bug didn't cause every computer in the entire world to explode, as the clock struck midnight and we rolled into Y2K. By the year 2000, I was already bored and disillusioned with programming, and I had even applied to University to retrain as a Clinical Psychologist.

It seems churlish, to be dissatisfied in my position. At the age of 20 I was an IT contractor, taking advantage of the fact that there was a huge brain drain, as most of the best programmers were working on fixing the millenium bug. I had a 20 minute phone interview, and then started work a few days later... doubling my salary in the blink of an eye.

In a way though, you have to consider the bigger picture. How many years of my life were spent locked away indoors, hunched over a keyboard, because I was unpopular and ostracised at school? The bullying I endured was pretty relentless until I finally got to college, so in a way, I have always felt some entitlement to the wealth that compensated those miserable years.

Money doesn't buy you maturity though, and it doesn't repair low self-esteem. It does, however, broaden your horizons. As the year 2000 rolled into 2001, I was taking 5-star luxury holidays around the world. I didn't rub people's noses in it, but I hadn't yet begun to feel that the debt of karma that the Universe owed me had started to balance out.

I bought a yacht and moored it in an expensive marina in Hampshire, age 21, but this still didn't seem exceptional to me. I still felt that I had somehow missed out on a lot of what other people had done: to feel popular, to feel fashionable, to feel loved, and have girlfriends that you really fancied. I still had crushing inadequacies and a poor self-image.

Getting into kitesurfing gave me work:life balance and brought me a social group that finally meant I started to feel like I had friends I'd chosen, rather than just the group of geeks, thrust together for strength in numbers, against a world hostile to us outcasts.

The dead time at work, when I had previously just been struggling with boredom, was now filled with planning kitesurfing trips and chatting with my friends on the kiteboarder forum. My bosses were still happy that the work was getting done, but I was spending 80% of my time and energy looking at wind and tide forecasts, reading and writing forum posts.

Software Badge

Moving to the coast meant access to the beach every day, and eliminated the need to experience kitesurfing vicariously midweek, through an internet discussion forum. However, it also meant I no longer had anything entertaining during the boredom.

Eventually, the boredom led to me obsessing about my job, and pushing hard for promotion, and then to burnout. Work:life balance is important.

I've been trying to piece everything back together again in a way that's not simply hopelessly nostalgic for bygone years. If I can get on an even keel again financially, of course I can start going on kitesurfing trips again, but the really important thing that I lost was the social aspect, and having another passion as well as work, that could keep me busy midweek.

A lot of my fear of getting back into the working routine is that I know that simply living to work is not healthy or sustainable, and I really have very little passion for IT anymore... it's just a job, and a job that I can do blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back.

I am sorry if I come across as ungrateful for my opportunities, but there's more to life than a well paid job, and I have so few of the other elements that make up a happy little life.

Would you believe that some of my happiest times in recent years have been when living in the park or the hostel? There was at least a group of other no-fixed-abode bums like me, and we formed strong social bonds. Having a group of friends turns out to be a lot more important than a healthy bank balance.

So, getting back to work is a necessary evil, but it won't stabilise me and give me any quality of life, you might be surprised to learn.

I overcame that fear, and did that technical test, and I impressed myself that I can still apply myself when I need to. However, it seems a shame that our modern lives drive us to live to work, rather than work to live. I feel certain that this must be behind the mental health epidemic that is sadly getting worse and worse.

Revolution is Coming

I'm going to grow carrots, come the revolution

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Advent Calendar (Day Seven)

12 min read

This is a story about being a scapegoat...

Black Lambs

There's one simple rule to follow in life: don't be an arsehole. If you're bully, criticising, undermining and generally destroying somebody's character, you're an arsehole. People are basically good. Billion dollar companies like eBay have been built on positive not negative stereotypes.

If you assume that everybody is out to rob you, hurt you. If you assume that everybody is bad and you're the only good person on the planet, and treat people according to this negative worldview, then you're going to be isolated and lonely.

It's important to listen to somebody's story, and consider all things with an open mind. There is no shorthand for somebody's life. You can't just hear one negative label and think "yeah yeah yeah, I know the rest". You know absolutely nothing about a person.

I've been advised by mental health professionals, psychologists and amateur psychologists to avoid labelling myself. However, creativity loves constraints, so I have labelled myself and I'm owning that label while I tell that story, knowing that it will be strongly emotive.

My dad joked that we should name our black & white cat "Ginger" because it would challenge people. It would literally blow people's minds. People would fly into an irrational rage, just because a black & white cat was named "Ginger". Yes, some people are so brainwashed, that they feel pure terror and anxiety at the smallest thing that doesn't meet their expectations of conformity.

We are very programmed to conform. We are groomed, massaged, browbeaten, into a kind of group conformity. Kids in school and adults at work are a lot easier to deal with as one homogenous blob, a sea of blank grey faces, rather than a bunch of individual humans. It's much easier to command & control if there is groupthink and uniformity.

Bizarrely, I hankered after some conformity in my life. I wished that my parents were married, I wished that my Dad was into football like the other Dads, I wanted to wear the right trainers and tie my school tie in the 'correct' way, rather than the way that an adult would wear a tie.

Subcultural phenomena are immensely important as a means of indicating to people that you belong to their tribe. Wearing the right clothes and having an interest in the right things makes the difference between an easy life, or a life as a weirdo, an outsider, a spare part, an alien.

You might not understand why something's so important to somebody, but they do. They understand the difference it makes to their daily life, being singled out as 'different'. They have to deal with the daily consequences of being marked out as not belonging to the clan. Not wearing the right tartan, so to speak.

Clock Cake

If you are forced to be trapped into a place where you don't belong, or you're not accepted into the group, to the community. If there is constant friction, resistance, then you have to find survival strategies.

I'm very good at zoning out, putting myself into a trance-like state. I can transport myself to another time, another place. I can transcend my body and just wait it out. If you think I'm impatient you couldn't be more wrong. I'm probably one of the most patient people you'll ever meet.

I had such a good grasp of time at school that one of my party tricks - that gained me a little oddball popularity - was being able to count down 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... and then the school bell would ring. I had a natural sense of good timing, given how important the end of school was in my life.

My entire soul yearned for the brief freedom from the bullies that came after school, at weekends and during holidays. The entire structure of my personality was reshaped by time, the clock, the timetable.

I would be down all termtime, and then I would go absolutely bezerk during holidays, trying to pack all that missing fun into those short periods. I would be very tired and lethargic and not enjoy very much of anything during termtime. I would be sad and crying about the bullying. Then, when the holidays arrived, I would hardly sleep, get ridiculously overexcited to have been released from the chains of relentless bullying, and I would launch myself at things with unbelievable enthusiasm and energy, because I knew that the holidays were short.

You might say that I'd be depressed for 6 or 7 weeks at a time, and then hypomanic for 1 or 2 weeks. Yeah, you could say that there were two extremes in my life. You could say that for 13 years there were two poles in my daily existence. You might say that my entire time at school, I had to be very bi-polar, because of the enforced structure of my life. It was the only way I could survive.

When I started work, I was 3 or 4 years younger than everybody else in the company. I was 17 years old and doing a graduate job for BAe Systems. The graduates tolerated me, but I was just a schoolkid to them. I hadn't yet been to University or done much growing up, so I was immature and obviously, I was a bit weird.

Sure, I made friends, but I was always a bit of an oddball. I was always doing something embarrassing or stupid, because I was going through the transition from childhood to adulthood. I was doing the growing up that my peers all did together at University. I made the mistake of accepting every drink that was bought for me, including the 'dirty pint' that I was tricked into drinking and throwing up in front of my colleagues, for example.

Greenwich Mean Time

Time is the only thing that can change things. There is no short cut to growing up. Yes I was mature for my age in some ways, and I had to fight against ageism, but I also made mistakes that were purely down to immaturity. The best thing I could do was to sit tight and wait until my face matched my experience. I was never taken seriously when I was younger.

Respecting your elders is a mistake in technology, computing, IT, software. If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got. Technology is disruptive, it's innovative, it's fast-paced and ever-changing. You can learn as much from the 'script kiddies' as you can from the key-man-dependency 'oracle' type character who think's he or she is the font of all knowledge.

Technology is truly meritocratic. I really don't care how many years you've worked in software. How many websites and apps have you made? How many users have used your software? How many trillions of dollars has your software processed? Those are the objective measures, obviously.

The grass roots are taking hold. The pyramid is starting to look like it's built on shaky foundations. The bullied kids, who spent all their time on computers as a form of escapism, are now running your company. You might think that because you did an MBA at some business school and were generally academically bright, that you command & control your company from the boardroom, where you puff out your chest and feel terribly important. You're wrong.

The thing about old companies is that they do things in old fashioned ways. They are not modernising fast enough, because of all the gatekeepers and people who have an over-inflated view of their self importance. Customers pretty much care about only two things: price and quality. Brand recognition is a function of consistent quality over many years of using a product or service. People won't stay loyal to a company forever, if they're getting inferior quality or paying over the market rate.

Challengers are offering innovative products, higher quality at a cheaper price. When it comes to technology, the challengers are offering a delightful user experience, rather than just the bare minimum for an older company to remain competitive. Old companies are all about cost cutting and keeping costs low. New companies are all about investment and offering something that puts them head & shoulders above the competition. New companies can't rely on a monopoly, so they have to try harder.

We live in a highly regulated world, so there's no risk associated with switching to a different product or service. They all have to adhere to the same standards, and they're all underwritten by the same guarantees. You have the same consumer rights, whether you've bought a product from an old company or a new company. You have the same rights as a consumer of a service from an old company or a new company.

The difference with the challengers is that they're hungry. They're enthusiastic, passionate and energetic. They're not sitting back, farming their monopoly and expecting the good times to roll forever. They're trying to nip and bite the ankles of the big players, and take a slice of the big market share pie, by delivering superior products and services.

Gold Apple Watch

My watch wasn't made by some amazingly skilled craftsman in Switzerland, who had to spend many many years learning the art of horology. No, it was 'assembled' in China after it was designed in California. It cost a fraction of what a Patek Philippe would have cost and it does a lot more stuff. I can pay for stuff with it, travel on busses and the underground, monitor my heart rate, receive directions when I'm driving or cycling, ask it questions, get reminders of stuff I need to do, check my diary, see who's phoning me before I get my phone out of my pocket, and read my messages and emails. It has seamlessly blended into my everyday life.

Monopolies don't last forever, and if you dig in and refuse to listen to what the disruptive young whippersnappers are saying then you will find yourself stuck out on a limb. You'll be sat there in your boardroom in your massive headquarters, wondering where all your customers and your profits went. The challengers are no longer coming. They have already arrived and they're disrupting your industry, and word is spreading amongst customers that there's a better way.

The geek will inherit the earth. The meek geeks are taking over everything. Chances are, you don't run a product or service company anymore. You run a software house that happens to specialise in a certain product or service. It's the software and systems that run your organisation, not your people and processes. You're mistaken if you think your best sales rep or most amazing manager are your most important assets. Those individuals just won't scale up like a software system can.

Automation and mechanisation is changing the whole world. There are still plenty of examples where we can industrialise. Where we can get the benefits of higher production and lower cost. We can eliminate human error and the limitations of workers ability to work fast and concentrate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The more that we allow machines to do, the more efficient industries become, and the more delightful the customer experience.

Have you ever noticed how it feels as if you're getting to your destination faster, if you see a queue of traffic and decide to nip down a back alley, to take a rat run? You might not actually be moving any faster, but at least if feels like you're travelling rather than standing still. You might take this analogy with supermarket kiosks. Now that you scan and process the payment for your own groceries, it feels faster, because you're not stood in line waiting for the cashier. Really, you're just saving the grocery store the cost of having to have extra checkout cashiers to cope with the demand, but the cost saving means they can deliver higher quality groceries for the same retail price.

Economies of scale do work, and retailers are very good at scaling things up, because their margins are very aggressive. In the marketplace with price comparison technology, consumers will vote with their feet if your prices are not competitive. Banking hasn't really got its head around that yet. Many people still bank with their original current account, because they haven't seen the benefits of being a 'rate tart' or finding a higher quality online or mobile app experience yet. However, as Apple Pay becomes more and more prevalent, your bank is becoming less and less relevant. Having access to a branch is irrelevant if you live in a cashless society and you have a good mobile app.

We are witnessing a changing of the guard. Out with the old, in with the new. Long live the Queen, cash is not king.

Automated Warehouse

Robots are going to pick out your Christmas presents and despatch them to you. One day, a drone helicopter will deliver your packages. Change is coming. Don't fight it. Geeks don't like fighting (June 2008)

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Advent Calendar (Day Five)

12 min read

This is a story about my cyclical nature...

Green Witch

When my tale is finally told, I hope you will understand why people enter a mood disorder cycle. It's not about broken brains. It's about abused children.

Does abuse have to mean being kiddy fiddled by your uncle? Does abuse have to mean being touched in private places? Does abuse have to mean sexual abuse? Well, everything links back to sex in some way, but the web of life is incomprehensibly complex, so I suggest you just listen for now.

I went to playgroup from the age of 3, went to school at the age of 4, and stayed in school until the age of 17. It was horrific. Every single year, my Dad did something to f**k up my chances of having any self esteem and avoiding relentless daily bullying.

Yes, I'm singling out my Dad, because he's a total cunt. My mum is loving, and has tried very hard to make her children feel loved, but she's got the shittest taste in men imaginable. My surname - Grant - comes from her ex-husband, who was a heroin addict. That's lovely. Instead of being Nick Newton - perhaps a descendent of a famous physicist - I'm Nick Grant, named after a heroin addict. Brilliant.

Keith - as I very clearly remember him telling me - does not want to be called "Dad"... "who's Dad?" he would say to me, when I was only about 3 years old and learning to talk. "I'm not Dad, I'm Keith" that's a lovely thing to say to the little boy you're looking after isn't it? That's definitely going to make them feel loved and secure. What a cunt.

I think the main problem is that my parents were never outnumbered, until my sister gave birth to my niece. The penny hadn't dropped until then, that my parents lives and disgusting lifestyle needed to change, because children had arrived. Keith was so lazy, that he sat around in a house that my Mum's Mum bought for them, drinking and smoking, and sending my Mum out to work full time in order to pay for his lifestyle. What a cunt.

Yes, my mum was the breadwinner, while my Dad was at home, telling me how resentful he was at having to rear a child. He thought he had solved the riddle of life the universe and everything, and got to take drugs, get drunk and have sex with my mum. Sadly, sex leads to children. Denying that you're a Dad isn't going to get you anywhere, except making little children very sad.

My Mum and my Granny were lovely, and I do have lots of happy memories of time spent with them. Sadly, if you're a full time working mother to pay for your lazy drug addict partner, you don't spend as much time with your child as they'd really like, especially if the main childcare is hungover or on a comedown, and saying "who's Dad?".

I wasn't really prepared for social interaction with other children. I didn't used to go on playdates or have friends over. My parents had their friends over instead. And they sat around taking Cocaine and doing jigsaws. Yes, drug taking and getting drunk were my parents passtimes, not doing things with their kid. By their own admission, they used to stick my carrycot on top of the jukebox when they were down at the pub. They definitely weren't going to let a little accident like a child get in the way of their big ambitions to be drunks and drug addicts.

What happens next is you go to school, and you don't have a frigging clue how to relate to other children. All you know is how to interact with adults who tell you to fuck off because they don't want you to interfere with their high, or they're cranky because they're hung over or on a comedown. You know how to speak relatively articulately, because you've been trying to make yourself heard and understood in an adult way - because all you know is fucked up adults - but you don't know the rules of the jungle.

If you're going to be a drunk and a drug addict, at least have a bunch of kids, so that they can play with each other when you're getting high and drunk. Being outnumbered might also make the penny drop a little earlier, that your life is now fucked, and you're going to have to make some lifestyle adjustments unless you want to fuck up innocent lives too. Is that too much to ask?

Boy at Play

Playing on your own is no fun, and you're not learning how to socially interact with your peers. It's not normal, for the development of a child, to have no other children of similar age. Humans are social creatures. We weren't evolved to sit around getting drunk and taking drugs, which is why people's lives are destroyed by those things. We were evolved to be part of a clan or a tribe that was socially cohesive. Drugs and alcohol don't glue things together, they make things fall apart.

So when I went to playgroup and school, I really wasn't properly prepared for social interaction with other children. I remember whichever toy I picked up, somebody would indicate they wanted to play with it, and I would hand it over of course, because I could understand English and adult interactions very well. After a while it became very confusing. I didn't understand that the other children enjoyed taking toys away from me more than they enjoyed playing with them. They wanted to fight with me, to test boundaries, but I was used to the adult world of co-operation. I lost, they won, and I didn't understand why.

Yes, I 'played nice' from the very outset. I just couldn't understand why other children didn't. I expected them to be little adults like me. They'd call me names, and I'd say "why are you calling me that?" and get upset rather than calling them names back. I took things right in the feels, because I never learnt tit for tat. I never learnt retaliation. I was raised to be a liberal adult pacifist hippy, by spending all my time in the company of adults.

My Dad very much discouraged friendships. I wasn't allowed to be friends with Andrew, because he was a picky eater. I wasn't allowed to be friends with the little boy a couple of houses down the road, because he was too immature. Too immature? Are you totally fucked in the head? HE WAS A FUCKING CHILD, OF COURSE HE WAS IMMATURE.

Throughout my childhood, I was reprimanded for anything approaching childish behaviour. Yes, it's good to teach your kids good manners, but they really don't understand the subtle nuances of adult society, and things get very confusing indeed for them when you're abusing drugs and alcohol, because those things are forbidden to the child and you have surrounded these revered substances with mystery and lies.

Children are naturally inquisitive, and ask questions. When I asked my parents questions about their drugs, they lied to me, and they told me to lie to teachers and other children about their drug taking. Being the keeper of your parents secrets is very confusing as a child. It's not a responsibility that you should put on a child.

Cannabis Greenhouse

You think that photo's cool? Grow the fuck up. Drug dealers go to prison, and my Dad already had a criminal record for drug possession, so the courts were not going to go easy on him. The children of criminals often go into foster care. Being such a drug addict that you're prepared to go to prison and have your children taken into care is fucked up.

Am I building up a clear enough picture of what my parents life priorities were? Am I spelling it out in plain enough English for you to understand what the consequences of fucking with your child's life are? Am I laying out my case for where a big chunk of responsibility lies, where the proverbial buck stops?

Yes, I'm shaming my parents, but why the fuck shouldn't I. I had to guard their secrets and lies throughout my miserable childhood. Why so miserable? Well, you try being bullied every day for 12 or 13 years and see how you like it. You try having your friendships destroyed and self esteem taken away, by a total cunt of a Dad. You try dealing with selfish self-centred drunks and drug addicts instead of sisters, brothers and friends of a similar age.

I changed schools 6 times. That's 5 times more than is supposed to happen. You just can't disrupt a child's life that much without fucking up their life. Especially if you do extra stuff to fuck them up too.

Four Eyes

Lots of kids have to wear glasses, but do all their own fathers bully them about it? How many Dads out there think it's a good idea to call your kid "4-eyes" and "brains" and take the piss and laugh at your son? Let's have a show of hands. Hands up if you think it's a good idea to bully your own children, in the same childish way that they're going to get bullied at school. Nope, wrong answer, Dad. Get to the back of the class, in the corner, wearing the dunce hat. See the headmaster after school. Very disappointed with your behaviour.

All kids get bullied to some extent, or at some time or other. When it's relentless, at home and at school, around the clock... yes, life is fucking shit. I can't express to you just how shit life is when you're being bullied. I used to look forward to getting sick. I used to be overjoyed when I was throwing up such vast quantities of projectile vomit that it was pretty clear that I wouldn't be able to be in school without getting chunks of half-digested carrot all over the classroom.

I used to cry and cry and cry, when I got well. I remember breaking down crying on my way to school, after a day or two off. I was so upset that my parents actually decided to let me have another day off, which I clearly remember with crystal clarity as one of the moments of my childhood where I felt pure relief flood my entire body. I felt a 100 tonne weight of anxiety be lifted from my entire body.

One thing that my Dad used to do, was to price everything in terms of bags of drugs, rather than pound notes or the abstract measure of child happiness. Yes, child happiness is hard to measure, especially using bags of drugs. Let me give you an example. At primary school, it was close enough to cycle there as a little boy. My Dad is very clever, and he figured out that girls bikes are cheaper than boys bikes, because lots of Dads want their little girls to be like little boys, and they buy them bikes that they never ride. This oversupply of girls bikes creates a great opportunity to save the price of a bag of drugs, for merely the immeasurable cost of childhood happiness.

Yes, my Dad has done that a few times. Don't give your kids enough pocket money to be able to buy a bike, because pocket money is the same money as should be used to buy bags of drugs. Instead, you can save the money and buy more bags of drugs by simply buying the cheaper girls bike, or stealing bikes. Yes, stealing bikes is the cheapest way to get a bike of all, and it leaves the most money for bags of drugs. Drugs come first. Childhood happiness can't even be measured on the all-important drug bag scale.

Do you know what happens when you send your kid to school riding a stolen girls bike? One of them even had a FUCKING BASKET ON IT FOR FUCK'S SAKE. What a cheapskate drug addict cunt. It's a reasonable presumption that mature adults might think it a little eccentric, or even consider it to be a conversation starter. For children IT'S THE END OF YOUR FUCKING LIFE. Do you think kids forget that kind of shit? The bullies at school certainly didn't FOR THE ENTIRE FUCKING TIME I WAS AT SCHOOL YOU CUNT.

If a trick's worth pulling, it's worth pulling a couple of times. Yes, my Dad managed to pull this stunt a few times and RUIN MY ENTIRE FUCKING CHILDHOOD.

It's a Catch 22. Without a bike you can't go and see your friends and get to school independently. But then the FUCKING CUNT hasn't even thought about how you need to get to school anyway. Did I tell you that the FUCKING CUNT bought a house at the top of a massive hill nowhere near any fucking busses, in the middle of fucking nowhere?

But it's OK, because I'm not upset about having had to go through living hell. It's not affected me at all. On the surface, everything seems absolutely cunting fine. I look, to the untrained eye, like I'm well adjusted, successful, happy and content in life. Cunt.

Hmmmm. Could edit this. Not going to.

Smug Cunt

There's the smug prick. I would only piss on him if he was on fire because he seems to be an OK granddad to my niece. What a piece of shit. He only finally sorted his fucking life out once and for all when my niece was born (photo circa 1995)

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Hump Day

8 min read

This is a story about determination to succeed...

Chamonix Mont Blanc

When I finish this blog post, I will have written 50,000 words in two months. My aim is to write 300,000 words this year. I'm on target, but just hitting 100,000 words will be hard... that's the length of a novel.

So, I'm re-centring myself for the next push ahead. I know that I have rambled and lost my way, and confused myself about why I even started writing this. However, I have continued putting one foot in front of the other, in the hope that I will reach some unseen summit at some point in future.

Why do people climb mountains? "Because they're there" is the usual response you will get from a mountaineer. For me, I like the view and I like knowing that at the very moment I reach the top of the peak, I'm amongst a group of people who are similarly blessed or cursed with the desire to put themselves through great hardship and work very hard to achieve some abstract goal. Very few people in the world will be enjoying such great views at that moment in time, as a reward for their efforts.

Sometimes work is its own reward, and I certainly feel a bit of premature pride, knowing that I have produced half a novel already. Ok, so it wouldn't be a very good novel, but if I can write 3, then with some aggressive editing, there might be something readable there.

Even if I throw away everything I've written and start again, after a year, at least I will know that I have the stamina and discipline to sit and write every day. I will have some ideas about what kinds of things I'd like to write about, some themes. I can then structure and guide my writing, to produce something that is more coherent.

Ok, so writing about oneself is conceited, and nobody cares who I am because I'm not some Z-list celebrity who's famous for being an idiot on a reality TV show or whatever it is. I don't actually care who reads this now. In a lot of ways this is an insurance policy.

I wrote before about how I had written my own obituary. When I read it back, it was barely a few bullet points. I often think of that Nina Simone song that goes:

Well I'm just a soul whose intentions are good; Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

I'm actually crying as I write those words, because it feels as if I have now re-centred on why I am writing all this stuff. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm very upset about the idea of being buried as some kind of black sheep. A convenient dumping ground for other people's guilty conscience.

I've been fighting to be heard and understood my whole life and unfortunately, when you are sick and tired and exhausted, the bullies and the abusers find it very easy to drown you out. Yes, the weaker you get, the easier you are to quietly brush under the carpet.

The problem with character assassination, is that if the person still lives and breathes, they can still call you out on your preferred version of history. They can still raise their voice and say "Hey! I'm not dead yet! You didn't finish me off, despite your best efforts to bury me!". That's inconvenient, embarrassing.

I want to do something called hedging. I'm not sure if I'm going to live or die young, so I want to have some kind of life insurance policy that is more than monetary. I want to make sure that I leave some kind of useful legacy beyond cold hard cash.

So, I want to speak out on the topic of bullying, and the abuse of men. I want to speak out on the topic of depression and suicide. I want to end the stigma of being a little boy who cries at sad films. I want to end the acceptance of bullying as a "fact of life" and instead get the world to recognise it as abuse, plain and simple. I want to raise awareness of depression as a sane response to an insane world, and deal with the root causes of it: loneliness, isolation, stress, pressure, abuse, bullying, war and every other kind of human suffering.

Does this all sound ridiculous? Yes, it's rather silly, eh? Of course I'm not going to make a blind bit of difference to the world. It's set in its ways and there are problems everywhere we look. One wide-eyed, naïve, over-optimistic, non-celebrity, non-rich, non-famous 36 year old man who came from nowhere and is going nowhere... what could he do?... nothing!

I don't actually give a damn. I know how to do a few things reasonably well, so I'm just going to do them to the very best of my ability. I'm going to use all my wits and cunning and hustling abilities, combined with my lack of fear, and my strong feelings of empathy towards humanity, and just put myself out into the world and push hard.

I'm going to do what I do when I climb any mountain. I'm just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and not think about the summit. I'm just going to keep grinding and grinding the trail. I'm just going to keep gaining altitude little by little, knowing that if I keep going up and up, I will eventually reach the summit.

Portland Climbing

I've always been a natural climber. I can't help climbing. I just want to get high, naturally or unnaturally. Actually, just being alive is unnatural. Well, highly improbable anyway.

The universe doesn't like tall buildings, peaks. It doesn't like things to fight the forces of nature. The highest mountains in the world - The Himalayas - are also some of the youngest. The Universe has a property called entropy which can describe the tendency of things that are structured and ordered to decay and be ruined.

Entropy is busily trying to tear down Mount Everest. Meanwhile, mountaineers are taking on the entire Universe and sticking two fingers up at it, by climbing 8,848m, while it still remains so high... in millions of years time it will be nothing more than a pile of broken limestone fragments.

If you think I overestimate my position in the Universe, you're wrong. I've considered everything in context, from our best estimates of when "time" began, to just how "large" the known universe is (those things are in quotes, because space and time are actually much more complicated than we experience in our day to day life on Earth).

I'm well versed enough in General and Special Relativity to know that most questions about our place in the Universe are more unfathomable than any mind could possibly comprehend. Time and space are such elastic and supermassive things, that it's just laughable to even talk about one tiny speck of an organism being less or more important than another one.

If anybody says that I should shut up because I'm not very important or interesting, they should perhaps consider that in the context of the estimated 13.82 billion years that the Universe has had a concept of time. Assuming that person has an above average lifespan of 100 years, that'd be 100 years in 13,820,000,000, which makes their lifespan equal to 0.0000007% of that time... they're hardly important enough to make such a pronouncement, surely?

Yes, you really are a drop in the ocean:

The oceans of the world are estimated to weigh 1,300,000,000,000,000,000,000kg. You perhaps weigh 100kg... that means you are not even as much of a "big deal" as a raindrop in a swimming pool.

So, when you start talking about which human life is more or less valuable than another, you should get a grip of yourself. You need to have a reality check. Not reality TV. You need to get your textbooks out and actually look at your significance in the Universe. Then you might start realising just how arrogant and stupid you are, if you think you are a superior being.

Things start with good science, and from base principles, not with egos and guesswork. Certainly not with a cult of celebrity and hero-worship. Remember that Einstein was a patent clerk who was not very good at maths. All men are created equal.

Think big.

Mountain Man

Halfway up Mont Blanc on my 18th birthday, enjoying a snack above the clouds (August 1998)

 

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Kindness Costs Nothing

4 min read

This is a story about being a better person...

Monkey See Monkey Do

There's really no excuse for not being nice, polite, kind. These small things make a big difference. This 'mutual grooming' affects the whole of society. If you think you are exempt from the need to treat people with decency, you need to take a long hard look at yourself.

Why would you not strive to always be polite, courteous, kind and considerate in every dealing with another human being? Why would you not always seek to address and communicate with a person in a respectful way? How can you ever justify being unpleasant, horrible, towards one of your fellow human beings?

What have you got to lose?

I'm rather baffled by people who snarl and bark and yelp at me like an animal. Why do they think that would get results, when they have not tried a human approach? Why would you start with aggression and unpleasantness and then go from there?

I have studied Game Theory so I'm aware that it might be a form of low intelligence that causes a person to always play the lose:lose strategy, in the hope that somebody will just hand them the reward that they demand. No. Doesn't work like that. You have to speculate to accumulate. Sorry, idiot, you can't just take take take.

If you are a leech, you will either destroy society or you will eventually be excluded. You might think you are cleverly getting away with things, but it somehow shows on your face, if you're a wrong'un. You might be telling yourself that you're a good person so much that you believe your own lies, but be careful because that won't wash with the world.

I'm going to continue exposing my own guilty conscience. That's an important part of my public life laundry. If anybody thinks I have been blaming anybody for things, they're wrong. I've been explaining why I think and act the way I do. I've been explaining who I am, and how I became me. We are all animals that react to our environment, our nurture (or lack thereof).

I'm sick of people talking about choice. Why don't you go and corner a rat and berate it for its choice when it bites you. Why don't you trap a scared dog, and then call it a dangerous animal when it attacks you? The animal should choose more wisely, when it's tired, hungry, stressed, upset, beaten and abused, with no escape, right?

Clean Sweep

The photo above is a meal I received in hospital. It's funny how hospitals and the NHS and all the superbly talented and caring people who work to save lives tend to try and be kind and help people. It's funny how that works. It's funny how being abusive, mean and unpleasant to people puts them in hospital. It's funny how being kind and caring makes them better. Funny that.

If you want to kill somebody, you can murder them, or you can rob them of their dignity, self esteem. You can attack them. You can take away everything they have to live for. You can isolate them. You can tell them over & over again that they're a bad person and they should blame themselves. Yes, if you do all those things, you will quite often kill them. It's funny that the NHS doesn't do those things.

I've tried to shield myself from toxic people in my life, and every time I do that, my life gets better. My recovery and wellbeing is a direct result of excluding the toxic people who made me sick and made me blame myself. My sickness is directly proportional to whether people around me care about me living or dying.

What sickness is it, that means that people would put their own prejudice, hatred, bitterness, unpleasantness, selfishness and general lack of human decency, ahead of killing somebody? What's wrong with people?

Imagine this: there's a knock at the door, and when you open it a man clutching a wound to his stomach falls into your hallway. He gasps "phone me an ambulance, please". What kind of horrible person responds "you are getting blood all over my carpet you selfish scum, get out of my house"?

That kind of response baffles me. In fact, it alarms and disturbs me. Where did the humanity go? Was that person born without an empathy gland? Was their ability to feel an emotional connection with anything but their own selfish f**ked up world, somehow not present due to a birth defect or genetic condition?

How do some people sleep at night?

That is all.

 

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Consequences of Bullying #AntiBullyingWeek

5 min read

This is a story about being imprisoned...

Prison Cell

You might think that bullying is OK. You might think that it toughens children up. You might think it's character forming. You might think that it's a fact of life. You'd be wrong about all those things.

Whether the bullying is taking place at school, at work, or at home, the victim becomes a prisoner in that place, and inside their own mind. The victim has tried all rational and diplomatic channels to try and stop the abuse. They might even have made emotional pleas for the abuse to stop. It hasn't stopped and they are out of ideas. The victim is trapped.

The consequence of these actions can be escapism and extremism. Escapism can take the form of daydreaming, fantasizing... quite often about taking your own life, so that the pain and sufffering is over. That's nice, isn't it? Your bullying victim is imagining killing themself... that's really "toughened them up". Well done.

The other alternative - extremism - is dangerous. Even small weak boys can grow up to be strong aggressive men, and if they're angry about years and years of abuse, they might be out for vengeance on a cruel world that allowed them to suffer. They might commit seemingly horrible crimes, as a reaction to the pain and suffering that they were put through during the formative years of their childhood.

Essentially, we are teaching children that it's OK to abuse children. We are teaching that there are no consequences for physical, verbal and mental torture, perpetrated against vulnerable members of society. That's pretty f**ked up.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, is Newton's third law of motion. If you bully or allow bullying to happen when you are in a position of responsibility for a child, then don't be surprised if there are consequences. You are clearly mentally unwell if you think that kind of barbaric behaviour is acceptable.

We are supposed to be living in an enlightened age, with morality and a code of law. If bullying is OK, then society is completely f**ked. We might as well regress to bashing each other over the head with clubs and just raping and pillaging as much as we want. We might as well go back to living in caves and eating raw meat. Why stop there? Why not resort to canibalism?

Want to die

Can you see the continuum that the perpetuation of bullying takes us along? Can you see that by teaching children that bullying is OK, we are creating idiotic adults who think that abuse and violence is OK. It will also create repressed angry adults who have a grudge with the world, and may take out that grudge in extreme, violent ways.

Did you know that Einstein's theory of Special Relativity predicts that a compressed spring will be heavier than an uncompressed spring? Simpy by squashing a spring, it will store that energy, and because energy and mass (weight) are equivalent, the sping will therefore be heavier. You can apply that analogy to people. If you squash and subdue and repress a person with violence and abuse, they will become a coiled spring, full of gravity and energy... ready to uncoil in a sudden dangerous explosion at any moment.

Teachers who sympathise with bullies, not the bullied children, are not fit to do the job. We need to start with the right culture. We need cultural change if we are going to improve society. We need more enlightened minds if we are going to stop war and human suffering.

Do you want to live like an animal, fighting and f**king and smeared in your own excrement and with your hair matted with blood and other bodily fluids? Yes, I thought as much. Yes, you're definitely the kind of person I want teaching my children. Well done.

A more positive outcome of bullying is that we create some very intelligent, resourceful and resiliant individuals. You would literally have to kill me to stop me from fighting back against bullies and bigots and backwards animals. I'm so full of rage and I've been oppressed for so long. I'm a pretty dangerous person to pick a fight with, but luckily I'm not looking for a fight. I'm looking to make the world a better place.

You know, I could easily join a boxing club. I could easily go out 'happy slapping' or get involved with football hooliganism. I'm a good leader, and the passion that I exude is dangerously inspiring to angry young men. Plus, there are lot of people who are so cowardly that they like to pick on people who are weaker than them. They are absolutely obliterated when they come up against somebody who really hates that kind of bullying, from the nucleus of every atom of their entire body.

I feel super dangerous right now. Not particularly safe to be around. I've got no idea who's going to trigger my rage, by thinking they can act like they're king of the playground. I really don't want my rage to boil over into violence. I'm trying to rise above the base, animal instincts.

That's what is meant by consequences. That's what happens inside a person when you bully and abuse them.

That is all.

 

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Role Models

3 min read

This is a story about setting a good example...

Yogi Bear

If you take drugs in front of your children, you are a sh1t parent. Period. No ifs. No buts.

If you are high on drugs, drunk or otherwise intoxicated, stoned, coming down, craving drugs or generally in a f**ked up state because you are abusing drugs and alcohol, then you are an inconsistent parent, and this sends very mixed messages to your children, which affects the development of their personality.

Your children are like sponges. Little rabbits have big eyes and big ears. They can pick up on the variations in your mood. They can sense the instability caused by drink & drugs. It affects them.

If you smoke your drugs or cigarettes in a confined space with your children, even worse. Drugs are measured in the body using a unit called mg/kg. That's milligrams of drugs in the bloodstream per kilogram of body weight. I don't know if you've noticed this but children are a lot smaller than adults.

If two adults are smoking in a car, and there is a small child present, that child may be forced to smoke the equivalent of several boxes of cigarettes for even a short car ride. Nicotine is a horribly addictive drug. Imagine addicting that child and making them go through nicotine withdrawal over and over and over again, when the child doesn't have a clue what's happening to them or any ability to explain what they're going through.

My friend's parents used to call me Nicotine, as a nickname, because I used to stink like an ashtray. My parents were always driving somewhere, smoking. I was just part of the baggage being lugged around. I felt like a burden. My parents just wanted to get drunk and take drugs. I was an accident. Oops.

If you are a sh1t role model for your children, they will want to run away from home as soon as they can and never come back.

I don't know if this is coming across, but I don't think my parents are very responsible. I don't think they are very good role models.

It's unbelievable, but they actually think they are cool for taking drugs. That seems rather immature to me, but then I've always felt like I have to be more mature than them, because they're not very responsible.

Greenhouse

I left home as soon as I had a job and enough money for a flat, age 17. I couldn't wait to get away from such bad role models. They are liars and hypocrites and they are lazy and project their inadequacies onto their children, who are hard working and mature and responsible.

I don't know if this is coming across, but I'm very disappointed with their behaviour.

Parents must try harder. All my friends in my generation are very responsible parents. I think the baby boomers could try taking a leaf out of our book. Don't try and roll it up and smoke it though, like you usually do.

Did you know my own father refused to read anything I write? Pretty p1ssed off about that.

"La la la, I'm not listening" I imagine him saying while putting his fingers in his ears. How childish.

And parents wonder why their kids run away from home and never want to come back. Tsk!

That is all.

 

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