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The world's longest suicide note

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

All opinions are my own

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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I Hate to Worry You, but You Should Worry

8 min read

This is a story about warning signs...

Night vision

One of the reasons why I write every day - and publish publicly - is because it's a healthy habit: I do it when I'm well, or at least not dreadfully unwell. One of the reasons I publish every day is because it gives a lot of clues about my state of mind, and therefore informs the reader about the risks to my life.

For example, I published every single day - without fail - while I was working in London, because I was on the brink of suicide nearly every day. More often than not, if I stop blogging, I'm either dead or dying. If you look at the previous blog posts leading up to the days I stopped blogging, then you'll see plain as day all the warning signs.

The problem is, people get used to hearing a struggling person casually saying "I wish I was dead" and they think it's part of their personality; they think that they're "crying wolf". Trouble is, many of those people will eventually kill themselves, or at least attempt to. There's a lot of bullshit about "attention seeking" and not having to worry about the ones who are talking about it: "it's the quiet ones you've got to worry about". Bullshit bullshit bullshit. There's a lot of bullshit - especially in the medical community - which equates to "I don't think you're really going to do it. Go on! Do it! Prove it! I call your bluff!".

The net result is dead people. Lots and lots of dead people. A man kills himself every 2 hours in the UK. When you visit a doctor and the number one thing that's going to kill you is suicide, and the doctor has the opinion that you're "probably not" going to kill yourself, they're arrogantly gambling with your life.

I get it. It's boring hearing about how awful people's lives are. I get it... it gets REALLY BORING waiting for a suicidal person to finally do it. DO IT ALREADY. I'M BORED OF WAITING. I'VE HEARD YOU SAY YOU WANT TO KILL YOURSELF SO OFTEN, SO I WANT YOU TO DIE SO I DON'T HAVE TO HEAR IT ANYMORE.

Thus, we arrive at the world's longest suicide note. 900,000 words and counting.

Nobody can say "I didn't know" or "we'd have done something if we knew" or "we don't understand".

I've documented in exquisite and unflinching detail, every single aspect of what makes me suicidal.

The photo above is taken using the night-vision mode of my smartphone. The photo is taken through the crack at the bottom of my door. You can see my bike in the hallway, but other than that the image is pretty hard to discern. This is a snapshot of psychosis - I was using the night-vision mode on my smartphone to 'peek' outside my bedroom and look into the rest of my empty apartment, but the psychosis was telling my that my apartment wasn't empty. I was looking for intruders: the shadow people.

My mental illness started as common-or-garden variety depression, meaning that I was planning to kill myself by sellotaping a bag full of pure nitrogen over my head, and asphyxiating. I bought the canisters of nitrogen gas. I bought the duct tape. I found an airtight bag big enough to envelope my head, and leave enough space so I could breathe in the nitrogen. Nitrogen is not a poisonous gas, but it's inert... if you breathe pure nitrogen, you're not breathing any oxygen, and you'll quickly pass out and die.

I bought potassium cyanide. I even put a picture of the potassium cyanide that I'd bought on Facebook and told people what it was and what I planned to do with it. The most notable reply I got was from a 'friend' who was angry that I had it in my house when he brought his kid over to visit... which I did not. It was triple sealed in airtight vacuum packaging, then placed in a hazardous chemical containment jar, then finally it was placed in a locked steel strongbox in my summerhouse - nearly 100m away from the house. His kid must be pretty special to be able to pick two locks, locate the container and open the packaging in order to ingest the deadly chemical. That was the most notable reply. THAT WAS THE MOST NOTABLE REPLY - anger that somebody's child might have died if they had the ability to time-travel and pick locks.

So... nobody gives much of a fuck.

I was immediately discharged as soon as I came out of my coma and my kidneys started working again, following my attempted suicide in Manchester, when I'd ingested enough tramadol to kill an elephant. They didn't transfer me to a psych ward. They didn't put me in a crisis house. They didn't do anything - they just discharged me, whereupon I had to go back to the apartment where I'd tried to kill myself, with its door hanging off its hinges because the emergency services had to kick it down to save me. The first thing I said to the ITU doctor when I came round was "I'm upset that I'm alive. I wanted to die. I told you not to treat me; not resuscitate me. I still want to die". What the actual fuck? Do the capitalists want to exploit me so badly that they'll keep me alive against my will?

There's an 'unsound mind' argument, but my mind is free from drink, drugs, medication and other mind-altering substances. My brain is working the way nature intended through millions of years of evolution. MY BRAIN IS FUCKING WORKING. If I'm depressed, it's because of depressing bullshit jobs, war, famine, climate change, inequality, brutality, bullying, people who don't give a fuck whether you live or die, and people who want you to stay alive so they can exploit you until the day you die of old age and exhaustion. My mind is perfectly sound. I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world.

If I'm not blogging, you should worry.

If I stop blogging, worry.

In a perfect world, I'd tell this fucked up world to fuck off and I'd become an artist. I'd quit my god-awful boring unchallenging piss-easy pointless bullshit job, and I'd go do something creative. I'd be a 'bum'. I'd be a 'loser'. I'd reject 'civilised' society and go have some damn fun. 21+ years in the rat-race full time, and 13+ years in full-time 'education' which was just bullying and absolute bullshit box-ticking for the sake of school league tables. I don't give two fucks about pieces of paper to wave around - they prove nothing - and I don't give two fucks about inflated job titles for work that is ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Take a long hard look at yourself - you're all talk and no action; you produce nothing; your job is completely and utterly useless; you're very busy doing NOTHING.

However I kill myself - quickly by jumping off a tall building, or slowly with drugs and alcohol - it's the same end result. We all die in the end anyway, so I really don't see the point in prolonging the suffering. Cut to the chase. Jump to the end. Skip the awful bit, with the commuting and the BORING BORING BORING bullshit made-up pointless jobs.

Yes, at one point I had lots of lovely holidays and lots of friends, plus lots of material trimmings like sports cars, yachts, speedboats, hot tubs, summer houses, a house, a garden, a cat... then I said to myself "but I'm still depressed that my job is utter bullshit which doesn't do anything of any use for anybody". So I became an electrician. I can proudly say that lots and lots of families have lights, and power sockets, and electric ovens, and electric hobs, and electric showers, and power to their hot tubs, and power to their sheds and outbuildings, and power to their electric gates and power to a million and one other things. Work that I did is responsible for improving the lives of all the tons and tons of families for whom I installed the electrics in their homes. Trouble is 1) people begrudge paying tradesmen, expecting them to work for minimum wage, 2) the work destroys your health, because there's so much brick dust, asbestos etc, and 3) the responsibility for doing a safe installation to safeguard the lives of everybody who will ever be in those houses, is not reflected in the wage or the health damage aspect.

Pushing paper around my desk and pretending to look busy carries zero risk that a mistake of mine might kill somebody, but yet I get paid 5 or 6 times more money... but I'm intolerably bored.

I might as well be an artist. At least with the creative arts, you're paid fuck all but it's lots of fun, intellectually stimulating, free from responsibility, and nobody gets electrocuted to death if you make a tiny mistake... in fact, can you even make a mistake as an artist?

This blog is an artwork; it's a piece of evolving art - it's durational to use the wanky arty term.

But, when the art stops my heart stops.

If I stop blogging, you should worry about me.

 

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Career Limiting

5 min read

This is a story about disguise...

SF Trip

Far sooner than I expected, I've reached a point where at least one work colleague has found my blog and I'm also facing the possibility that I might have to undergo further security vetting, which may reveal the double-life that I lead.

I don't really lead a double-life, because my name is plastered all over the pages of the internet and I make no attempt to hide my identity. Nobody asked me about my mental health. Nobody asked me any questions about my rather turbulent ride that brought me to this point. I haven't told any lies, or even been economical with the truth. The truth is that nobody's really cared about what's gone on in my personal life, because I always do a good job and deliver high quality work on time.

I am facing a bit of a difficult decision. I might have to go through a whole load more gatekeepers and submit myself to a load of horrible scrutiny, in order to keep progressing with my career, and to get a bit of security and stability in my life.

I'm loath to delete my Twitter and Facebook accounts and take down my blog, because then I lose one of the most important parts of my life - my digital identity and my personal brand, which I've cultivated for the purpose of what, I don't know... but it's extremely good for staying afloat when my mood has been unstable and my life has been smashed to bits; I've been through some very rough times. Who would I be without all the people who I can stay in contact with via my blog and social media? Who would I be if I just had my job and nothing else? I'd have nothing to fall back on if my day job wasn't going well, for whatever reason.

I work a full day in the office, and then I come home and write. I suppose you'd say that writing is my second job, but in fact I put far more effort and energy into my writing than I do in my day job. I'm not lazy or idle in the office, you have to understand, but it requires so little brain power and creativity. I think it'd drive me nuts to not have a creative outlet which I can plough all my excess effort into.

Things are going well at work. I've been well received by my colleagues and the bosses are pleased; the client is happy. The projects I'm working on are going well and I'm making a useful contribution - I'm an asset to the team.

It seems dumb to take a chance. Surely it's insanity to risk getting sacked, by writing candidly about my mental health problems, and about the difficulties I've had during the last few years. To risk my livelihood; my income - that's nuts, right?

It was too exhausting to live a lie. I tried to cover up the fact that my mood fluctuates up and down. To try to pretend like I'm a perfect corporate drone who can plod along and be a steady eddie was making me sick. Far too much effort was expended by me, trying to shoehorn myself into a job that was made for an unambitious mediocre plodder, who can get up early and go sit at a desk achieving precisely nothing for 45+ years, until they retire. Yes, it's arrogant and primadonna-esque to presume that I'm capable of doing and achieving anything noteworthy, but it doesn't suit my personality at all to get some dog-shit job and then cling onto it with my fingernails for over 4 decades, doing very little. It makes me sick, being held back and thwarted by the plodders. I'm not made for plodding.

Of course, boredom is profitable and it's healthy for me to pace myself. I've found a happy medium at the moment where I work hard in the office, but I leave early every day and I don't take things too seriously - I'm not getting too absorbed in my work. I work to live, not live to work, and that's healthier.

So, I could tear down my digital identity, because it's soon going to become career limiting. Sooner or later somebody's going to take me to one side and say "errr... about your blog...". I'm not going to back down though, because I'm not doing anything wrong - I'm not breaching my code of conduct, acting unprofessionally, talking about anything confidential, risking security, privacy or anything else. All I'm doing is writing truthfully, openly, honestly, transparently and candidly about who I really am about what makes me tick.

It'd be a shame if who I am became career limiting, because I really can do my job, and I can do it really well. I hate that we're asked to pretend to be somebody that we're not, just to conform and earn money and get ahead in our careers. I hate that organisations have that power over us.

 

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Brain Damage and Personality Change

5 min read

This is a story about neuroplasticity...

Me on the sofa

Who even am I any more? Am I the same person my friends knew 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago? Have I changed beyond all recognition?

I suppose change is not important if you're happy with who you are in the present day. I wonder about who I've become. I'm very isolated and I'm so fixated on earning enough money to dig myself out of the hole I got in, that I'm not really making a lot of time for socialising or reconnecting with old friends. I don't speak to anybody on the phone. I don't speak to anybody via email. I only speak to a tiny handful of people via text message. I've got no local social network. There's hardly anybody I'm in regular contact with.

I had a very clear plan for a long time - get out of an abusive relationship, move to London and resume my career in The City. Moving, selling the house and divorce were horribly sabotaged by my ex and made unbearably awful, which derailed me. I ended up stuck in a never-ending nightmare cycle of getting sick, ending up in hospital, recovering, starting to get my life together, and then it all falling to pieces over and over again. I had one good shot at escaping from her, but she ruined it; she ruined me; she ruined my chance.

I woke up in hospital all on my own far more times than I care to remember. I was cut adrift. Nobody came to see me.

Then, a little over a year ago, one of my lovely ex-girlfriends organised a load of support for me when I was in hospital. I had LOTS of visitors and brilliant messages of support. That was amazing. That made such a big difference. That was a turning point.

Recovery is non-linear, and getting my life back on track back in London was impossibly hard. I needed to leave London, which meant a breakup with the aforementioned lovely ex-girlfriend. Nothing about that breakup was done right by me. Nothing about the situation was good. It was a big fat mess. Things got worse before they got better. Things got A LOT worse.

Between the seizures and the coma, I think that my latest suicide attempt reset my brain. I think all those seizures were like a kind of intensive Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) for me. My life certainly started to improve versus the destructive cycle I had been caught in while living in London. When I tried to kill myself, I was hopelessly trapped. My suicide attempt broke me free from something I could never have escaped otherwise.

It's strange: two breakups and a suicide attempt led me to a better life, inadvertently. Through that destruction has come new life and more prosperity; hope.

I'm completing my 21st consecutive month without a proper holiday, and I'm exhausted and stressed, but I get up every morning and I go to work. Whatever's going on with my mental health, I'm very functional. I'm in a healthy happy relationship. I'm getting on well with my colleagues. I'm staying on top of my adult responsibilities - paying my rent & bills, keeping my car road legal, washing, cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking and all the other stuff that caused me unbearable anxiety and difficulties last year.

I might be somebody completely different, but I'm still somebody. My personality might have completely changed, but I'm still me... just not the me I was in the past. If my work colleagues like me and my girlfriend likes me, and I'm a functional member of society, then what's the problem with me?

I'm paranoid that mental health problems are going to rear their ugly head, but it's been almost 8 months without incident. I don't want to get complacent, but that's a long time to be unmedicated as well as dealing with the horrendous stress of losing your home, losing your job, almost going bankrupt, moving house, moving city, starting two new jobs and everything else to boot. Looking at the evidence, I'd say that I'm one of the most mentally strong and stable people you're ever likely to meet, as opposed to an emotionally unstable lunatic, which you might wrongly presume from some of the stuff that happened before.

I think the lesson is that the brain is a homeostatic organ that's evolved to rapidly adapt to the ever-changing environment. If you trap me in to dreadful circumstances, I'm going to have a dreadful reaction - that's logical and reasonable; that's rational... a sane reaction to an insane world.

I do have my PTSD flashbacks - described as "Tourette's-like" by a close friend - and I do have to be extremely careful with my sleep, diet, stress levels and myriad other things, but my mental health problems are a risk not my destiny.

If I can just keep plodding through life, things will improve. Time is the biggest healer, giving my brain time to adapt.

 

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Boredom is Profitable

3 min read

This is a story about tedium...

Wristwatch

I left work at 4:15pm. I got home at 4:30pm. I'm lying on the sofa writing my blog at 4:45pm, having gotten changed out of my work clothes, fixed myself a drink and a snack and opened my post. This is the life, surely?

Night owls would hate my job. I aim to be at my desk at 7:45am.

Anyone who's a people person would hate my job. I can spend days, weeks and even months without having any human interaction - if the specification is clear, I can just sit down and churn out software without speaking to a single soul.

There is absolutely no room for creativity in my job. If you're a creative person, you'd hate my job. There's no room for artistic expression or artsy-fartsy waffling in what I do - it's binary. Right answer; wrong answer - nothing in-between. No shades of grey.

If you like being busy and you like variety; stimulation, then you'd hate my job. I've been solving the same few problems over and over and over again for the whole of my 21-year career. I already mastered all the skills I needed to do my job well before I started my career. In fact, I already mastered most of the skills I needed to do my job before I learned them in formal education.

If you want to work doing something you're passionate about, you'd hate my job. The kinds of things I'm asked to do will achieve nothing. Mostly, my clients want me to write systems that are just like their other systems, which have already demonstrably failed to effect any meaningful improvement to the human condition.

I like* money though. Money is good*. Money is useful*.

If you want money and you want it fast, you should definitely get the most boring job imaginable. Banking is boring. Accountancy is boring. IT is boring. Get a boring job and money will quickly follow. Where there's boredom there's money.

So, I've spent most of the day trying not to fall asleep at my desk, and I've been bored, but it's been a profitable day. There aren't many jobs where you can earn so much doing nothing.

I don't love my job but I don't hate it. It's a good job. I'm lucky to be able to earn money being bored.

Boredom sucks, but it's profitable. I'm paid very well to be bored.

 

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* - money is actually evil and completely useless. We should return to barter.

 

Conservation of Energy

5 min read

This is a story about working...

Phoenix rising

I want to be busy. I want to have the distraction of being engrossed in a project. I want to feel like I have a purpose and I'm working towards a goal. I want to feel like hard work will get me to the end result quicker. I want to feel like there's a relationship between the effort I put in during my waking hours and the net result. The rewards should feel commensurate with the energy expended.

I'm writing less and that's because I'm making some progress. In the absence of another outlet for my creativity, all my pent-up energy gets poured into writing. In the absence of another more productive distraction, I write a lot.

I've still got a lot to say but I don't feel the pressing need to write about anything at the moment. I have a huge list of blog post titles that I could use to get me started, but I'm actually feeling fairly content to have a period of lower output. I expect that if something upsets me I'll be pouring my heart and soul out, but I'm feeling alright at the moment.

Work is going alright. I'm in the process of renting an apartment. My cashflow is OK at the moment. Things are going OK with my girlfriend. I'm seeing friends and doing activities. My life's generally a lot healthier and happier than it was a few weeks ago.

Writing doesn't feel like it's very energy-consuming, but it's exhausting living with a lot of anxiety and in fairly dreadful and toxic circumstances. It's awful living without much hope of life getting better. I feel like things are improving and I've got some hope for the future, so I don't need to write so much. Things are not so desperate.

I need to learn how to take it easy and plod along at a steady pace. I need to stop working as hard as I possibly can and travelling as fast as I can. I've been rushing everything because I've been under so much pressure. I've been so close to disaster for so long that when there's a window of opportunity to fix my life I have to be quick. Things are going alright, so I need to back off the gas pedal and engage the cruise control for a while.

My life has become quite sensible all of a sudden. I go to bed early. I get up early. I'm in the office on time and I work less than 8 hours a day. I take my time and I don't rush my work. I'm working at a sustainable pace, rather than burning myself out.

It's been incredibly draining to get to this point, but hopefully I can limp along and I'll slowly recover from the ordeal that led me up to this point. To all intents and purposes my life appears to be getting fixed up very rapidly, so you might find it offensive that I talk about the struggles I've been through, but it's true - it wasn't very long ago that I was absolutely screwed and had no hope of fixing my life.

It's going to take months and months before I'm well and truly in a good position with an apartment of my own and a pile of money in the bank. It's going to take a long while before I prove that my stability hasn't been just a fluke. I can't really believe that I've managed the best part of 4 months at work without a major incident, despite it being the crappiest time of year and there being a heap of stress in my life. I need to keep going and get into a really good routine. I need to get back to position of financial and housing security and regular social contact, and maintain that for a good long while. I'm slightly nervous that I might be experiencing the calm before the storm, but I've managed 6 months without a destructive mood episode or any self-sabotaging behaviour, so it's a good omen.

The next challenge is to get the keys to the apartment I'm renting and move in without having some kind of breakdown. When I rented the place in London on the river it nearly killed me. I don't want to repeat past mistakes, but everybody needs somewhere to call home. No more sponging parasites trying to ride my coat tails and ripping me off for thousands of pounds of unpaid rent and bills this time. No more Klingons.

I'm optimistic. I'm enjoying my new job. My finances are in reasonable shape, although cashflow's going to be a little tight what with buying a car and renting an apartment in the space of a few weeks, plus buying some clothes I need for work and other unavoidable expenses. You have to speculate to accumulate.

I thought I was going to write just a few hundred words but I seem to have written much more than I was expecting to. Oh well. Better out than in.

It's Friday and I feel like I've worked hard to get to this point and I'm seeing some rewards. I know that I don't really 'earn' my money per se, because my job is very easy and I'm overpaid, but there are lots of ways that I DO work really hard, so I'm going to go ahead and pat myself on the back for what I've achieved. I know there's lots more hard work ahead, but I'm going to celebrate a little bit - another working week completed and more money on the way, hopefully. I'm digging my way out of the hole little by little.

It's frustrating that hard work often doesn't pay off, but I feel like I've always been rewarded for my efforts.

 

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Official Secrets

6 min read

This is a story about spying...

Clear desk policy

I'm not doing very well in terms of burying my blog. I've not been very successful at writing a load of non-contentious stuff that would bore any person who stumbled upon my website and decided to go digging in the archives. I've not done a very good job of being sensible and writing stuff that wouldn't be controversial if it was discovered by somebody connected with my work.

Where I live is a fairly small place. In theory I should be more careful, but I haven't been. It's been too difficult to change my habits. I've written candidly with authenticity and honesty for so long that it's become a habit. I'm unguarded. I'm vulnerable. It's been so long since I kept up the corporate mask and pretended like everything was A-OK for the sake of my job.

This Monday has been completely different from last Monday. I'm starting to become hopeful that life might become sustainable and pleasant. Happier times might be ahead - I'm really close to making a breakthrough. My life is more good than bad at the moment.

It makes me a little paranoid knowing that I've got some things that I want to keep. I'd be upset if I lost my local job and my imagined future crumbled into dust. Without money how am I going to get a place of my own? How am I going to be able to go out on dates and on mini-breaks with my girlfriend? How will I continue to escape from the circumstances that made my life so awful, without some means of bankrolling it? There's a temptation to hide my real personality; to hide my inner monologue; to bury my true feelings; to present a fake corporate-friendly mask instead of my honest self. I'm economically incentivised to become Mr Boring.

Obviously I'm not going to ditch my blog. I need my daily writing outlet. I need the stability; the security; the comfort blanket.

I'm very worried that mania is going to rear its ugly head and ruin everything. I'm really worried that I'm going to self-sabotage as soon as I get myself into a better position. It's been so long since I had all the pieces of the puzzle. It's really dangerous when I get everything, because I'm busting my balls and on the brink of a breakdown the whole time. I can imagine that I'll be hit with an emotional tsunami when I finally get the keys to a place of my own, for example.

I can detect a lot of unpleasant aggressiveness in my demeanour at times, due to the fact I'm so stressed about crossing the finish line. I'm super defensive and super protective over the progress I've made. I have so little tolerance for anybody who might stand in the way. I have no time for anybody who thinks they've got any ideas of how I should be living my life, because I've got such a clear idea in my mind of what I'm doing and where I'm going. It's so stressful to be so close, but yet so far.

I'm under so much pressure to make my struggles secret. I can't imagine that my work colleagues would understand the journey I've been on to get to this point. It's too mind-blowing for a corporate drone to think about an atypical path through live. It's too much of a taboo to talk about any off-piste moments that aren't CV-friendly, in the world of business and large organisations.

I'm going to keep the details of my working day secret, as is my professional duty, but it's too much to ask of me to bury my blog; to hide my identity. Yes, it's risky, but I need the stability; I need the consistency; I need the continuity.

By writing, hopefully I'm making myself more normal in the flesh. I think that without this outlet I struggle to deal with people face-to-face. Without this outlet, there's no way of getting rid of the bad thoughts and feelings and harmlessly de-fusing things that threaten to blow up in my face. Without this outlet, there's a greater chance of me losing my mind and screwing everything up. I just did 6 months incident-free. 6 months of stability is an amazing achievement, especially considering the toxic circumstances I've had to deal with. By writing, I hope that I can maintain the steady stable changes that have helped me to improve my life, working towards happier times.

I don't even particularly feel like writing today, but I'm doing it because it's part of my routine. Some days we don't feel like going to work, but we do anyway because we need the money. The routine is necessary. The routine is healthy even. It can be easy to give up and stop... to refuse to carry on.

Keeping secrets is a burden. I can't handle any extra burdens right now. I'll do my professional duty and avoid any situations that would infringe my code of conduct, but I can't afford to go stealth; to bury my identity.

Perhaps I seem reckless. Perhaps I seem like I want to have my cake and eat it. I certainly seem to be getting everything I want. I guess I should be humble. I guess I shouldn't take any risks. I guess I shouldn't take any chances. I should grovel and kiss arses, declaring my undying gratitude for a few crumbs from the cake, shouldn't I?

I've been put through the wringer to get to this point, but that doesn't make me want to hide my personality; it doesn't make me want to put the corporate-friendly mask back on. I think it was the fake corporate mask that made me unwell. It was so exhausting pretenting like I'm the perfect employee... a perfect CV; a blemish-free record - no black marks against my name.

So, the open secret is staying here. Fuck it. If you want to buy 100% of me - my brain, my body, my past, my future - then it's going to cost you a lot more than I'm being paid at the moment.

 

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Poets Day

6 min read

This is a story about the gravy train...

Ikea meatballs

If you think that I'm in a cyclical pattern that I need to break out of, you might consider that we are all in a cyclical pattern - Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, weekdays and weekends, morning and evening, summer and winter. Round and round we go.

It occurred to me that I'm repeating so many things I've done in the past - buying a car, starting a new job, renting an apartment, getting through the working week. The paycheques will start to get queued up and one month will look very much like any other. I'll be well and truly back into the never-ending cycle, but the 'good' one.

Renting an apartment is going to be stressful, and the last time I did it I was left exhausted and financially exposed, which tipped me over the edge - I presented myself at my doctor's surgery and said that I was afraid that I couldn't keep myself safe. I was hospitalised after 13 hours of waiting. Could I be risking a repeat of that?

How many times have I managed to start a new job and get myself into a place of my own without having some kind of breakdown? 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017... every year I managed to keep a roof over my head and enough money to pay the bills, although I got into debt when I got sick. I don't think it's the wrong thing to do, to get a job and rent an apartment. One of these days things are going to go smoothly for me. One of these days I'm going to have a run of good luck.

Yes, there's a lot of repetition in my life. There's repetition in your life too - you eat three meals a day, sleep in the same bed every night, drive the same car, go to the same job, sleep with the same partner. It's not the repetition that makes my life have repeated crises. In fact it's the disintegration of good things - social groups, stable accommodation, secure employment, healthy finances - that prompts and gets intermingled with the problems... cause and effect are hard to unpick, but you need a whole host of things if you want to have a sustainable and liveable life. You should try living in a hostel, losing your job, losing your friends, running out of money... those things are horribly stressful and destructive to anybody's mental health. When you get a whole clusterfuck of issues all at once, that's more than anybody could ever cope with.

I tried to focus on money alone, knowing that other things would slot into place more easily with money behind me. It was three months of hell, but I built up enough of a financial cushion to make some big changes, like getting a girlfriend, buying a car and getting a local job. Next is getting a place of my own and building up some more cash reserves. Life is more tolerable, now that I'm no longer having to work in London, live in AirBnBs and be isolated and alone. Life is more tolerable now that I work with a nice team of people who I see every day.

My week was very relaxed, except for the early morning starts. The early mornings have their perks - it means I can leave early and beat the evening rush hour. I was home by about 4:30pm this afternoon, which is phenomenally good. I'm very lucky.

A couple of weeks ago I dreaded going to work, I dreaded going to London and I had hit the wall - I couldn't go on anymore. I'd reached the limit of what I could endure anymore. Now, I've actually finished the working week feeling really good about how things have gone. It was a rough start to the week, but things have steadily improved. I can't quite believe how quickly and easily the week has gone. I've managed to work 40 hours instead of the dismal 16 that I was managing in the previous job, and the time has flown by. It was such a struggle in the previous job and the time really dragged, but this week's been so great in comparison to my working weeks in London.

Things are so damn relaxed in the new job. Yes, people get to work early but they leave really early too. My colleague left the office at 2pm. I left the office at 4pm. I've really not been working very hard at all, but yet I've achieved plenty - I'm exceeding expectations. I'm quite comfortably able to meet the demands of my job without much effort, which is actually a good thing. I could do with coasting for a bit. I could do with some easy laid-back living for a while.

Round and round I go, stuck in my cyclical pattern, but hopefully I'm getting into good habits now. I'm going to bed early so I can get up early to get to work. I'm cutting down my drinking and I've stopped taking sleeping pills. I'm socialising. I'm shopping and going to the cinema and having meals out. My life is very rapidly becoming quite pleasant. Monday morning was shockingly awful, but Friday afternoon has been every bit as good as it should be - a good job well done and a load of money earned... another step closer to getting back on my feet.

As always, I'm a little paranoid that something's going to go wrong. I don't want to be completely crushed if something doesn't work out. I don't want to be psychologically destroyed if things don't go as planned. I'm trying to be cautiously optimistic, and not allow myself to get carried away. "Don't spend it until you've earned it" is a mantra I've always subscribed to, but you don't get to be financially prudent when your life and your health disintegrates. I've always kept rainy day money aside and not over-stretched myself. I had a life that could withstand a lot of shocks, but so much stuff got broken that I've ended up in pretty deep shit, but I'm on the mend. I'm not going to relax until I have a substantial financial cushion again, plus the friends, girlfriend, job, apartment etc. etc.

So, it's Friday evening and my work is done for the week. I'm not dreading Monday morning, which is great. Maybe I'll get that sinking feeling on Sunday. We shall see.

 

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I Don't Miss London

7 min read

This is a story about life in the provinces...

Primrose hill sunrise

For four years I tried in vain to get back my old life where I was an eligible bachelor living in the Angel Islington, zone one, and I could walk to work in the City and all the trendy bars and restaurants on Upper Street or skateboard into the West End. I used to park my car right outside my flat and go kitesurfing on whichever beach tickled my fancy on any given weekend. I used to jet off to exotic locations for several holidays a year. I was living the dream, and I tried to recreate that dream but I failed.

The closest I ever got to being happy in London was when I was homeless. Sleeping rough in Kensington Palace Gardens will be a memory I'll treasure forever, as will the hostels where I made friends with heaps of junkies and alcoholics. I started to rebuild a social group amongst my fellow homeless, and that made me happy; secure.

Blending a 'normal' life with one of homelessness and fraternising with the homeless is not easy. Keeping regular office hours is hard when your friends work doing casual labour and as part of the gig economy. Living in a hostel dorm, but having to go to work suited and booted in a crisp shirt and sharp suit, is something that's quite difficult. In the end, I lost everything again.

I wouldn't opt for the high-risk, high-reward strategy again, in London. It's too much pressure to maintain a high-living lifestyle. It wasn't really my choice to rent a luxury riverside apartment... I asked a friend if he'd help me find a place to live - given that I was homeless - and he decided that 25% of my monthly salary didn't sound like too much of a big financial commitment.... except it was actually thousands of pounds a month that I *HAD* to keep earning after I signed the lease. I wouldn't do that again.

Everything's a little easier in the provinces. I can drive to work. I can park for free. The roads aren't congested as hell and I don't have to pay a congestion charge. People are more laid back and they work shorter hours. It's easier to impress the bosses and the work's really easy too. Things are less competitive. Things are less hectic; stressful.

I feel bad that my lifestyle's quite polluting, but I can drive into town and park to go shopping. I can drive to see my girlfriend and park outside her house. I can leave work at 4:30 and be home before 5pm. I can drive to the beach. It's not an energy-efficient global-warming conscious lifestyle at all, but it's a hell of a lot less stressful and exhausting than living in an overcrowded city.

I love the social aspect of London, where there are so many interesting people and fascinating cultural events, but I was always too stressed out and unwell to participate. I was barely surviving in London for most of those four years. I was able to hang out in my lovely apartment for two years, but I was completely withdrawn - I hardly ever left the apartment.

I never quite got back to having everything I needed in London - there was always one thing that was badly broken in my life. When I had the apartment, I lost my job. When I got a girlfriend, I ran out of money. When I had money, I lost my friends. It's really hard to get and keep the things you need in London, mostly because everything's really expensive and takes a lot of effort and energy. You need to run just to stand still in London.

I commuted home from work just now and I sat in a big queue of traffic, but it was moving slowly and it didn't take long before I got through it. The sun was shining and I was in my little car, which is actually thoroughly decent for the money I paid for it, and it was alright. I could've phoned somebody for a chat. You can't phone a friend for a chat when you're stuck on an underground train.

Life's a hell of a lot simpler outside London. Things are within the realms of possibility quite easily. It won't totally bankrupt me to rent a nice apartment locally. Buying, taxing and insuring a car hasn't completely bankrupted me. The cost of living is substantially cheaper than London, to the point where money should hopefully quickly accrue. Tomorrow I will have earned enough money to pay for 6 months rent, which is great because I'll soon get to the point where I have more financial security. I need to have more security. It's been too long that I've been hustling like hell, trying to get back into civilised society.

I wish I could've made it work in London because I'm a proud person and it feels like I failed, but I made a few wrong choices and mistakes are costly in London. Everything's costly in London. At least London's big enough that you can make some really big screw-ups and get away with it.

There's pressure in the provinces to not screw things up, because your nosey neighbour is gonna know about it and never let you forget if you make a mistake, but life's a hell of a lot easier. Yes, you might have to hide your face in shame; you might have people gossiping about you behind your back; you might become a 'known' face, rather than just an anonymous member of the seething masses, like you are in London. I'm glad I went through all my troubles in London, where nobody will ever remember me - in theory, I live my life without prejudice, because I've been able to leave that part of history behind. That's one of the reasons why I've not gone back to Bournemouth - because of my messy divorce and the fact my ex-wife still lives there... it's her place now.

My life's got the potential to be delightfully simple and straightforward. I can almost sense the possibility of having a work:life balance. Things might become sustainable - it's certainly within the realms of possibility. I earn bucketloads and the cost of living is so much less here in the provinces, there's a good chance I can quickly get back on my feet.

I've only worked a week in the new job, but I'm making good progress and I'm managing to cope with the early morning and the lack of sleeping pills. I've managed to get where I wanted - local friends, local girlfriend, local job, car, roof over my head, money in the bank. There are things that still need fixing, like having a place of my own and getting more job and financial security, but those things will come soon enough as long as I can keep turning the pedals; keep getting up in the morning and going to work.

The guy I work with works a snail's pace, but that's OK. It's a marathon not a sprint. It's good for me to learn to work at a slower pace - it's more sustainable. I can't believe that we've achieved so little in the best part of a week, but who cares? The pace of life is slower in the provinces. We'll get there in the end. No rush.

If things go wrong, I'll probably end up eating my words and rushing back to the capital, because there's bucketloads of easy money to be made there. Here in the provinces, there are fewer choices. Of course I'm going to go back to London, chasing girls and big money contracts if this provincial life doesn't work out for me. London has rich pickings, where the provinces have only a few options that you'd be really happy with. I'll try to make it work, but it'll be more heartbreaking out here in the sticks, where it's hard to be philosophical about things not working out - there are only a few companies that you'd want to work for, and there are fewer potential soulmates.

At the moment, I'm quietly optimistic. It's Friday tomorrow, and despite the dreadful Monday morning, the trajectory of the week has been one of steady improvement. It bodes well.

 

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Frayed at the Edges

7 min read

This is a story about being run down...

Pile of rusty bikes

I'm tempted to have a moan about the various ailments that have been hanging around for a couple of weeks, and the fact I'm really exhausted. I'm tempted to compare myself to my work jumper that was attacked by moths and is full of holes. There's something tired and tatty about me. My laptop has taken a battering, just like my poor body. There are plenty of clues that I've had a rough few years, but I'm feeling like I've gone on about it far too much. I've written so much about my distress that I'm reluctant to write any more - I'm aware that I've been a broken record for far too long.

I feel like I've overstated the case. I feel like I've protested too much. I feel like I have been unfair; unkind. I feel like my response has not been proportionate; reasonable. What about the starving Africans? What about the other people who have it so much harder than me?

I pretty much only have one strategy for getting out of a bad situation, and that's to work. Most of the time I'm not able to work at work - I'm underemployed - so I write. I write a lot. The amount of writing that I do is inversely proportional to the amount of actual paid work that there is to do. The more I'm writing, the more indicative it is that I'm distressed and trying to keep myself occupied. It might not look like a useful endeavour, but it's a kind of productivity that I can derive some satisfaction from, even it it's a bit counter-productive at times.

I wonder how run-down I've got. I sleep a lot, but I also have lengthy periods where I'm in a state of anxiety that's very exhausting. To be on high-alert all the time demands a lot of energy - it's draining. I can't explain it. I don't have much to do at work, but somehow that's worse than being really busy. I don't know why I've arrived at a point where I feel so run-down, but there's plenty of evidence - my immune system's really low, I'm prone to random bouts of crying, I'm tired all the time, I'm not coping.

I'm tired of being miserable. I'm tired of writing about depression and anxiety. I'm tired of worrying my friends. I'm tired of writing the same old things. I'm tired of the repeated themes; the monotony.

Some things are better. I have a lot more people to talk to at work. I'm managing to get through 7 or 8 hours and it's bearable for quite a lot of the day.

Some things are worse. I have to get up early. I have to prove myself in the new job.

Some things will get worse before they get better. I'll rent a place of my own soon(ish) but it will be stressful. I'll take a holiday, but I need to get through the first few weeks at work before I can have some time off.

I know that the days are getting longer and spring is on its way. I know that I have a huge head start this year, versus all the terrible winters I've had in previous years. I know that I'm very lucky that multiple important things in my life are going alright at the moment. In theory, things are looking up.

In practice, I'm battling to get into my new routine and get my body clock used to early morning starts. I've started from a run-down position, due to a rough couple of months working in London. I shouldn't complain, but it's a bit of a struggle.

Versus Monday morning, things have improved. Monday morning was dreadful. Every morning is dreadful, but hopefully things are going to improve day by day, provided I keep going. It feels tough but I'm sorry for whinging. Hopefully the really bad moments - like Monday morning - are becoming more infrequent.

I worry about tomorrow morning, as I do so often. I worry that I'm going to hit the wall and be unable to face the day. I worry that if I'm unable to face the day, I won't be able to face making my excuses either... I'll just abandon everything and turn my phone off. If I abandon everything then I won't be able to face the world again - it's been too hard to get to this point. I worry that I'll abandon hope, and life. I don't feel hopeless presently, but I worry that I will feel hopeless and that my hopes are dashed. Hopelessness is what leads me to feel like I should end my life.

I'm not sure how I feel about tomorrow - if I can get the horrid morning bit out of the way - but I think it's a little bit hopeful. I'm not exactly looking forward to going to work, but I'm not dreading it in the same way as I was with the previous job. I've got some stuff to do, which is better than having nothing to do. I speak to people at work now, so that makes the day more bearable. I don't feel useful, or that anybody's depending on me, which are reasons to get up and face the day. Perhaps things will improve though. The fact that I think that things might improve shows that I have hope, which is progress - maybe it'll make things a little easier tomorrow.

With lots of tiny marginal improvements, like not stressing so much about arrangements for showering and work clothes tomorrow, and my commute becoming more routine, the anxiety and dread is diminishing. It's mundane but it makes a big difference. I had been routinely bored out of my mind, isolated and lonely at work, which was causing me a great deal of distress, but things are changing. I need to get out of the habit of feeling anxious about the working day, because it's not going to be as awful as it has been in the past couple of months.

It's a shame I'm run down and in danger of hitting the wall, but if I can just muddle through the next few weeks then I should establish a healthy working pattern - things will become sustainable; tolerable.

There have been moments during the last three days that have reminded me of what I've been so desperate to get away from. I've thought that I'm broken and I can never work again. I've thought about getting up and walking out. I've thought about quitting and never going back to work. I think it's just going to take time to re-adjust from a job where there was nothing for me to do, and no way of filling the time that I could cope with, to a new paradigm where I at least have people to talk to. The last job was unbearably toxic to my mental health. This job is gonna be alright probably, but it'll be a little while before I'm busy and into the routine - there are going to be moments where I feel a little bored and isolated, but things will get better because I'm part of a team of people I can chat to.

I'm so reluctant to speak optimistically because I'm scared that I'm going to hit the wall. I feel like I have so little in reserve. I feel like I'm running on an empty fuel tank. On the other hand, I'm getting on with it - I'm managing to take things one day at a time.

Time is the healer. That's what I keep telling myself - if I can just keep creeping along one day at a time, then time will do its work. I just need to keep getting through one day at a time and then easier times will arrive, provided I don't hit the wall and give up.

 

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Comorbidity

10 min read

This is a story about a sick man...

Psychiatrist letter

I didn't drink last night or tonight. I've stopped taking sleeping pills. I've stopped taking anxiety medication. I've stopped taking tranquillisers. I've stopped taking sedatives. I don't take antidepressants. I feel very unwell.

I woke up and I thought about getting some rope and going to find a tree to hang myself from. I've not really thought about hanging much, but it's been on my mind. I think about a last minute change of heart, where I might try to take the weight off the noose, but it would be futile - I would try and I would fail. I think about the uncomfortable final couple of minutes, where I'd be panicking as the hypercapnic alarm response would make me thrash around, trying to get air into my lungs. Hanging would be a brutal way to die, because I imagine that I'd be conscious for quite a lot of it, then I'd lose control of my bowels and some poor sod would find me strung up with soiled underwear. Somebody would have to cut down my lifeless body. Anyway, that seemed like one of the options this morning.

This should be a happy period of my life. I'm not homeless, I have friends, a girlfriend, money and a car. I'm not a drug addict. I'm highly employable. I have my physical health, mostly. I've got a local job which is very well paid.

What's going on? Why am I so depressed?

I'm trapped. I can't go backwards. I can't stay still. I can't go forwards. I need to keep moving forwards, but I've run out of rope; I'm at my wits end.

I should have taken some time off in-between the last job and the new one, but that's not the way things worked out. Make hay while the sun shines, they say. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, they say. Somebody opened a briefcase of money, tempting me with it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It is a good idea. It's a really good idea to have a really well paid job that's a short distance away from where you live. The problem is, I've got nothing left to give.

I can't fail. I can't falter. I have to succeed. I can't go back. I can't stand still.

I'm so desperate to feel better, but I know that the answer doesn't lie in pills. I know that to take antidepressants would send me manic. I know that pills aren't the answer. I'd love to feel a bit better though. My bank balance would love me to feel a bit better. It'd be nice if I didn't keep writing things that worry and upset my friends and girlfriend. Such is life. These are the cards I've been dealt.

What's important to me? It seems like it's all about work and money, but that's a good place to start. Without work and money there can be no future. Without a future there's nothing to hope for - I might as well just give up. This is the strange situation, where work is making me unwell, but without work I'll get unwell because I'll get into financial difficulties and I'll have nothing to look forward to except bankruptcy.

Just a little bit longer... if I can just work for a little bit longer...

How much money did I lose in January and February to ill health? Was it £10,000? What does it matter? I worked as hard as I could.

I've managed to buy a car. I've managed to get a local job. I've got a girlfriend. I've got some money in the bank. These are major milestones; major achievements. Things are looking up in my life.

I need to impress some new people; prove myself. I've got a new routine to get into. I've got a load of new stuff to learn, and not the fun kind of learning - this is stuff I'm expected to know already. I've got to give a good first impression - I can't turn up to work hours late every day; I can't let on that I'm not very well.

I'm sick but I can't afford to be. I'm sick but there's too much at stake. I'm sick but I don't want to lose the amazing opportunity that's fallen in my lap. I'm sick but my life looks perfect in a lot of ways - why am I sick?

I don't want to accept that I'm sick but the anxiety and depression are unbearable. It's enough to drive me to drink, drugs and/or suicide. I want to run away from the source of stress. I want to hide under the duvet for a couple of months. I need to recover but I can't - there's too much work to do. I need time off but I can't afford to lose everything.

I'm the epitome of functional. I'm getting up and doing the things I need to do, even though it's destroying me. Somehow I keep putting one foot in front of the other. Somehow the things that need to happen keep happening. I'm keeping the plates spinning even though I'm sick. At times, I'm quite happy and contented. At times I'm a picture of good health and carefree joy.

I've worked hard - even if you don't think I have - to give myself some easier times. I've put up with horrible situations because I knew they'd pay off in the end. There has to be some reward, otherwise it wouldn't have been worth the stress and aggravation at all. It would be a lie to say that my life is purely miserable. Misery kind of stalks me though - I know it lurks just around the corner at all times.

"Cheer up... it might never happen!" somebody might say, but I really wish it would happen, because I can't stand the constant anxiety. I can't stand the fact that it is happening, and I know exactly how long it's going to keep on happening for because it's not very difficult to work out such things. I know exactly what to expect. I know exactly the way things are going to go. I know exactly what has to be done. I know exactly how awful it's going to be.

My mood would be a lot better if I could abandon all responsibilities and follow my mood. I know that time passes incredibly slowly when I'm having to kill time and suffer horrible periods with nothing to do at work. I know that it's incredibly toxic to my mental health to be solving the same problems I've done a million times before, but with a load of constraints that artificially limit me from being able to work and occupy myself - to keep myself busy. I know that isolation - working alone - is really unbearable. The last place on earth I should be right now is twiddling my thumbs, bored but chained to a desk with nothing to do and nobody to talk to.

I'm going through a difficult transitionary period. I should have taken some time off. I'm emotionally exhausted. I'm trying to switch mindset, from the isolation of the last job to the possibilities of a new opportunity. I know that I need to give it a few days, or a couple of weeks, to get settled.

Everything's so stressful and unsettled. I've got a new commute to get used to. Somehow, I've got even less of a home than I did when I was living in AirBnBs. I can't get changed. I can't have a shower. I can't take a shit. I can't make myself something to eat. How did I end up like this, with a stressful job and no place to call my own... no bedroom; no privacy. It sounds ungrateful, but it's just a description of my current situation, at times. It could be worse, perhaps - I could be homeless; destitute. I could be additionally isolated and lonely, living alone. It could be worse... it could be worse... it could be worse. There is gratitude, but there is also a heap of stress and anxiety that's beyond what I can cope with. I am grateful, but I'm also struggling.

What do I want? Do I want everything to be perfect right now? Do I want easy solutions, like swallowing pills? Do I think somebody should gift me everything I need, all wrapped up with a bow? Do I expect somebody to just give me the keys to a place of my own and wave a magic wand to move all my stuff? What about friends? Should I just snap my fingers whenever I need them, and snap them again when I don't want them around?

I don't know about any of this stuff. All I know is that I woke up and I thought about finding some rope and a tree to hang myself. I thought about walking out of the perfect opportunity that's fallen in my lap. I thought about letting everything go to hell in a handcart, because I've reached the end of my tether. I don't know why I think this stuff. Maybe I'm a bad person. Maybe I'm an ungrateful little shit. Maybe I should just fuck off and die.

I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to have another alcohol and sleeping-pill free night and hope that these awful feelings subside. I'm going to hope for a better day tomorrow. I'm going to grab my black holdall and take the show on the road.

I'm sick, but do I have to be? I think I know where the problems are. I think I know the solutions. I know that nothing's going to be perfect. I know that life is full of compromises. All I can think to do is to keep trying to set things up so that the very least number of things are causing me distress. I keep reducing the number of things that are unpleasant and broken, in the hope that at some point things start becoming a bit easier, because at the moment there are too many times when life's unbearable.

Maybe I need to quit drinking. Maybe I need a drink. I don't know. Too much change and too much that's unsettling. I've lived out of a suitcase for far too long.

Yes, underlying mental health problems are the obvious thing to point to, but what's the solution? Of course the little bit of me that's got some survival instinct left thinks that being medicated up to the eyeballs, living in a council house, supported living or institution is preferable to death. Is being alive without dignity or hope preferable to this life that's a fate worse than death? Isn't it all the same anyway? If the rewards aren't there and the suffering is unbearable, why bother?

I managed half a day in my new local job, and I felt sick, sick, sick.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. If it's not, I don't know if I can carry on.

 

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