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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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Adjustment Disorder

7 min read

This is a story about provocation...

Pathway

I suppose the reason why my episodes of mania synchronise perfectly with periods of high stress and exhaustion, is some kind of defence mechanism - perhaps an evolutionary adaptation; something deliberately left in my genes, because it's served a useful purpose during unsettled times throughout the history of humanity.

It's problematic for me to work in an open-plan office at the moment. It's problematic for me to be surrounded by so many mild-mannered and quiet individuals, who seem happy to spend all day looking at their email inbox, waiting for something interesting to appear.

How my colleagues manage to cope in an environment that's pretty stale and ultra-conservative, I don't know. Big personalities and loudmouths are not the kinds of people who become long-serving members of my organisation. In fact, a girl I dated from my office said she cried when she got her security pass, because its expiry date was 10 years in the future. "Nobody would choose to work here" she said.

It's not that bad.

I like it.

I'm just not so sure that everyone who's within earshot of me is my greatest fan. I have a foghorn-like voice in two situations: 1) when I'm scared and insecure, and 2) when I'm manic, like I am now.

I suppose I knew that mania was cropping up - rearing its ugly head - but it served a purpose. I needed to find a place to live and make all the necessary moving preparations. I needed to continue to work hard at my job, while also finding the extra energy and the motivation to do something I hate: Moving.

The mania has propelled me to move very fast, but it also causes my brain to speed up dangerously. A colleague told a joke about friction coefficients - a classical physics joke - and I said I could come up with a better one about quantum mechanics, in only a few seconds. According to my colleague, it took me no more than 15 seconds to invent a "XXX walks into a bar..." type joke, which was actually pretty good considering I thought of it on the spot AND it involved two really fundamental things about quantum mechanics. Nothing to do with Schrödinger and his cats, but actually to do with Planck and his constant... but I digress... both jokes have a very small audience who'd appreciate them.

I'm fizzing and crackling with so much energy at the moment that I'm physically uncomfortable to be around. I think I'm literally giving people near me headaches.

One of the first things I said this morning was "do chairs really exist?" which was supposed to be funny, but my colleagues reaction was to tell me it was too early to start talking about philosophy.

I didn't get to sleep until 3:30am or maybe even 4am.

Does the lack of sleep cause the mania, or is the insomnia a symptom of the mania? It's impossible to know.

It's not like I couldn't sleep, but I can't see how else I can fit everything into the 24 hours of the day, without some late nights. I know that I need regular bedtimes. I know I need lots of sleep. But, there's so much to do.

The busier I am, the more productive I am, strangely. Today I did all kinds of horrible jobs that I wasn't looking forward to, like buying a washing machine, booking a van to move my stuff, arranging to have broadband internet installed, arranging to have my post redirected and a zillion other admin jobs, but I also managed to do a piece of work that I'd been putting off for days and days.

Where I'm finding the energy from to maintain my daily writing, as well as the development of NickBot™ and the migration of my website from one hosting provider to another, I have no idea, considering that I also have a demanding full-time job and I waste at least 50% of my time saying stupid things out loud and distracting people.

I guess I was wasting a lot of time and energy on a bad relationship, so escaping that has released me from a lot of pointlessly exhausting nonsense. I was very trapped. I was very miserable.

I'm very stressed now and I felt momentarily like I was very alone, but perhaps that's what prompted me into a frenzy of activity, sending out lots of messages to people I care about, trying to surround myself with people who care about me. There's a horrible period of stress approaching rapidly - moving day, and subsequent days - but I'm pretty well prepared for it, which I'm surprised about, because I can often become too overwhelmed by anxiety to even leave my bed. I'm surprised that depression hasn't laid me low.

All of my psychiatric problems can be considered acute: i.e. they have been spontaneously provoked into existence by the extreme set of life circumstances that I'm simultaneously dealing with. This is adjustment disorder which is just another way of saying "your life is hell right now" and that quite rightly, my brain and body are compensating for the extreme demands placed upon me.

I'm pretty terrified right now, of screwing up the good relationship I have with my colleagues and my workplace. People have been patient with me, but that patience is wearing thin. It's unusual for a manic episode to last so long, but I've managed to keep myself sustained for periods of 6, 8 and even 13 weeks before... but it always led to a horrible crash. There have always been disastrous consequences for allowing too much of my mania to overspill into the open-plan offices which I work in.

I try to rein myself in. I try to put my headphones in and keep my head down. But, then somebody wants to ask me something. Then I overhear something and my red-hot brain which is travelling at a million miles an hour immediately sparks off and I'm talking - interjecting - with something which I think is profound, but nobody can keep up with me... I'm just acting a bit weird and annoying, from the point of view of my colleagues.

I'm working from home for a couple of days. I'm going to try to pace myself and remind myself that I've got a nice long overlap of my tenancies, so I don't have to move everything all at once. If I forget anything, I can always make more trips. There's no need for me to put so much pressure on myself.

I'm pushing hard in every area of my life, simultaneously. I want my colleagues to think I'm a brilliant genius who can do anything. I want my perfect house, fully furnished and looking beautiful. I want to feel instantly at home in a city which I've barely visited. I want my side project - this website - to make a giant leap forward, in terms of technology.

It's too much, and there will be a price to be paid.

I need to be super careful.

I can't afford to lose my job, for example.

I can't afford to lose anything, in fact.

Everything teeters dangerously on a cliff edge.

But, I've kind of gotten used to living on the edge.

If nothing else, at least this period is quite life-affirming and I'm coping remarkably well. Even when I got in trouble with the big boss the other day, I managed to rescue things very rapidly and get back on good terms. Even when I wasted days and days procrastinating, I caught up very rapidly. Even when I felt that there was too much to do in too little time, to move house without dying of stress and anxiety, everything seems to be falling into place.

I've written twice as much as I meant to, of course, because I can't quite rein myself in; I can't quite pump the brakes and slow myself down.

So long as I keep doing what my colleagues are doing, which is mostly killing time looking busy, then I'll probably get through this difficult period without doing too much damage. Less is more.

 

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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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Minimum Effort

2 min read

This is a story about the path of least resistance...

Messy desk

What's wrong with putting in the minimum amount of effort? What's wrong with cramming for a test the night before, instead of working hard every single day? What's wrong with only working when your boss is around to see what you're doing? What's wrong with cutting corners? What's wrong with any of it, provided the end result is the same?

Are the top grades I got in my exams any less valuable than the top grades achieved by the "good" students who always put in lots of effort the whole time?

Are the pay rises and promotions I get in the workplace any less valuable than the career achievements of the hard workers, who put in a great deal of effort that goes unnoticed and unrecognised?

The things that I didn't bother to do, that nobody really cared about anyway, so nobody even noticed that I didn't do... does it matter that I didn't do those things?

At the end of the day, the end results are the same. When I'm reduced to a piece of paper with my qualifications written on it, nobody has any idea how hard I worked - or didn't work - to achieve my qualifications. When I'm reduced to a job title, a salary and a few performance objectives, nobody has any idea whether I'm a productive, energetic, conscientious and diligent employee, or whether I'm a professional slacker.

In fact, isn't it better if I'm getting maximum pay for minimum effort? Haven't I somehow won at the game of life, if I've avoided all that pointless unnecessary work, and yet I get all the rewards which were supposed to be reserved for the hard workers? The ones who put in the effort should be proportionately rewarded, right?

Life doesn't seem to work like that.

 

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I Lost 5 Years of my Life

6 min read

This is a story about the wilderness...

Endless desks

Why am I not more rich and comfortable? Why don't I have financial security and a home which nobody can evict me from? Why do all my years of experience and all the massive multinational corporations on my CV assure me a comfortable standard of living?

Conversely, why haven't I ended up with a criminal record? Why haven't I ended up in jail? Why am I not dead?

Why am I not bankrupt? Why am I not sleeping rough? Why am I not an alcoholic or a drug addict?

Why is my physical health OK? Why is my mental health OK?

I've picked up my life and carried on as if nothing happened, but something very major did happen.

Luckily I had a head-start of 3 or 4 years on my peer group, at least in terms of career progression and the accumulation of wealth. When we do the math, it seems I'm no more than 1 or 2 years behind where I should be, and I'm rapidly catching up again.

I get frustrated that it's going to take a couple of years before I'm back in the position - in material terms - which matches my skillset and experience. I get frustrated that there's no way that I can accelerate the process of clawing my way back to the position in society which I used to occupy.

I could have arrived back at a position of health, wealth and prosperity much sooner, but my experiences during my wilderness years have altered me for life. Most people live in terror of loss: Losing money, losing assets, losing relationships and damaging their reputation. I learned during the difficult wilderness years that the world is a big enough place that even the most madcap escapades go entirely unnoticed.

It is with great pleasure and pride that I am returning myself to a position of status which gradually begins to approach the status I held before my fall from grace.

Is it shallow and vain and pretentious, to wish to maintain our status in society?

Bullshit.

At first, it was an adventure to sell my house, sell my car, give away all my possessions, sleep rough and truly start my life all over again. I felt a great sense of relief that I was unburdened by the constant worry that what I had worked so hard to get and to achieve, would be stolen or damaged. It was liberating and I had the time of my life, truly free from any sense of responsibilities or duties. I entrusted my fate to good fortune, and a healthy dollop of my own wit and ingenuity.

Then, I realised that my wide-eyed innocence and trust in people laid me wide open to exploitation. I'm sure I hardly had any money stolen off me by other homeless people, but as I began to get my life back on track, I found that there are an entitled, spoiled, brattish, immoral group of people who've never known suffering or deprivation, and they see it as their birthright to dip their hand into my wallet, instead of paying their own way. I attracted a lot of freeloaders, who had no guilt or conscience, when it came to stealing from me - these were people who've never slept rough; these were people who've never known what it's like to lose everything, and they never will, because they're spoiled brats who can telephone their mothers and fathers and receive massive cash handouts. Those freeloaders will never have setbacks in their lifetimes, because they're from wealthy, generous, loving families.

It's a source of great shame and damage to my self-esteem that I drive a very battered and rusty old car, and that I live in rented home in one of the poorest areas of the country. It's a source of great shame and embarrassment that I have indebted myself in order to pay my rent and bills, simply to house myself and feed myself. It's a source of constant worry and anxiety that my work colleagues might wonder why one of their "superstar" consultants dresses in worn-out clothes and gives away other clues which hint that the wealth they would expect me to have, is not present: I'm poor.

It's shit being poor. It's shit being poor when you work in a world where everybody who does my job as well as I do is not poor. The loss of status should not be underestimated.

When a man loses status, he is highly likely to lose his life.

It's one of the hardest things to do, to recover from a major setback, which has ruined your finances, your secure housing, your material possessions, like your new car and your nice clothes. The hard thing is knowing that everybody can see that you fucked up and it takes years and years and years to put things right. Some people will never be able to recover.

My recovery is not about mental health. My recovery is not about alcohol. My recovery is not about drugs. My recovery is about self-esteem, which is damaged so drastically, and is so hard to repair, that for most people they will just give up and kill themselves. It's a fatal blow.

One of the reasons I keep trying and I keep writing, is because I want to be one of the few people who's lived to tell the tale of coming back from such a major setback. Plenty of people have survived, but few have gone on to thrive. I want to tell the story of regaining my pride and my dignity, and of being indistinguishable from a person who didn't spend 5 lost years in the wilderness.

This is our little secret. Every day I pay off a little bit more of my debt and I fix up a little bit more of my life. Every day I become a little bit more like the person I would've been, if it hadn't been for my missing 5 years. This is our secret, because the joke is on those people who have absolutely no idea what I've been through.

At work, I feel so proud that I'm doing valuable work and I'm almost back to being as good as I always thought I was going to be, by the time I reached the age I am. I'm so proud of the work I do. I'm so pleased that my brain and my natural aptitudes and the talents I was fortuitously given, are being put to good use and I feel as competent and capable as anybody. I don't feel damaged, and that's so important for my self-esteem.

This isn't about pride. This isn't about regret. This is about the damaging effect that loss of status can have on a man, with fatal consequences.

 

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Trying Not To Go Manic

6 min read

This is a story about corporate culture...

Motion blur

I've spent all year expecting my health to let me down, expecting my past to catch up with me, and expecting my mania to cause me to become intolerable in an open-plan office, curtailing my ambitions to return to a state of wealth, stability and all-round life prosperity.

Mania is a constant threat.

"You might want to keep your voice down and mind the swearwords" a trusted fellow contractor warns me in private. "You could hear me?" I ask - apparently my fog-horn voice was booming out as I was in my stride. I feel like I'm in my element, which translates to the sudden re-appearance of a cocky and self-assured version of myself who's too unguarded and outspoken to fit in well in a big organisation. This is what I've been dreading. This feels like nightmare scenarios of the past playing out all over again. This is what I hoped wouldn't happen.

There are a mountain of reasons why I'd be triggered into mania. After spending months living in a hotel, single and lonely as hell, I'm in a relationship now. After spending a whole year in desperate financial trouble, I've now almost repaid all my crippling debts. After the arduous task of getting through security vetting, credit checks, reference checks, and leaping over numerous other obstacles designed to trip people up - people just like me - I feel pretty well established at my workplace. Colleagues seek my opinion and applaud my work, but it all goes to my head and fans the flames of my ever-inflating ego. Any minor delusions of grandeur I might have been harbouring could quickly become all-consuming.

I have a quiet private conversation with another contractor. I wonder if I'm at all protected, if I reveal my mental illness. I assume that I'm not, because I'm a consultant, not an employee of the client who I'm working for. However, he reassures me that I'm afforded some protection in the law and I could consider disclosing my condition, in order to receive more lenient treatment if I can't manage to keep my big stupid mouth shut.

I take a tablet to sleep and a tablet to be able to get up and go to work - otherwise insomnia and anxiety would destroying my life and make me completely dysfunctional. Why don't I take a mood stabiliser?

I'm trying to tame the beast: I feel really physically unwell - run down - but yet my brain is fully focussed on achieving a spectacular thing at work; something I can crow about and something which will make a name for myself. I'm intent on proving a point to the world. It makes me happy, in a way, that I've dealt with enormous adversity and achieved a helluva lot in the space of 12 months. It makes me happy to travel at great speed. It makes me happy to rush along, even if I get a little burnt out.

The way that I perceive life can change completely overnight. It was less than a month ago that I thought life was pointless, boring, unfulfilling, absurd, and the task of repaying my debts, falling in love, finding a rewarding job and becoming stable and happy in a sustainable situation, was utterly impossible. Today, that dream seems to be tantalisingly within reach.

I have 4 short weeks until my next holiday.

I'm leaving the country.

Again.

In the past year I've been to Warsaw, Faro, Prague and Antalya. The more I travel, the happier I am. I'm going travelling during the Christmas and New Year holiday season, and I'm going away with my girlfriend, which is going to be incredibly nice. It would be churlish to complain about how lonely it was to spend a week in Turkey on my own, but it seems pretty obvious that I'm going to have an incredible time with my travelling companion.

It's important that I have a job to come home to in 2019. It's important that I don't fuck everything up.

Perhaps my paranoia is a little unjustified. I made it this far, didn't I? Even when I was sick in the first half of this year, I still managed to impress my clients and deliver their software projects. I've left a lasting good impression at the organisations where I've worked. I've impressed my colleagues. I probably shouldn't worry too much.

However, I must acknowledge that a little success can go to my head, and I can quickly turn into a maniac.

Need to stay sensible for the next 4 weeks. Need to keep quiet.

I could easily have worked 12 or 14 hour days all this week, but I resisted the urge. I could easily have worked today - a Saturday - when instead I should be resting and recharging my batteries. My body is physically sick, but my brain is buzzing. I'm limping along, because I need the money.

I'm paranoid because I see warning signs from years gone by. I'm paranoid because I know myself and I know my patterns of behaviour. I'm paranoid because there's a mountain of evidence that I'm spectacularly good at self-sabotaging.

I find it somewhat reassuring to look back through what I've written and published, and to see that I'm far less tired, strung out and outright bat-shit insane than I was a few years ago. I find it reassuring that I've learned a lot about my patterns of behaviour and how to manage my moods in a corporate environment. I've learned some skills for being part of a fit in or fuck off culture.

I hope I'm gonna be OK. I hope I can muddle through the next 4 weeks and go away on holiday feeling confident that I'm well-liked by my work colleagues, and they're going to welcome me back with open arms in 2019.

Can mania be bludgeoned into submission by sheer force of will? Can I use my mania to achieve what I want at work?

Only time will tell.

 

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Dear Diary

9 min read

This is a story about having too much to lose...

Indecipherable scribbles

I offer to you, the reader, a specimen of my handwriting which I liken to a form of shorthand. Having spent my adolescence and adult years in front of a keyboard, my brain forms words more quickly than my hand can move a pen on a page. I never learned the technique of neat, fast, legible handwriting, because it was always very clear to me that the skill was being made obsolete by technology.

It might surprise you that I can write at all, when my handwriting is so bad.

I'm genuinely mortified at my own incompetence at something which most grown adults managed to master as children. I'm a little hesitant to publish this unflattering piece of evidence.

I have no idea how many words I write per day. I'm a professional writer, in that I'm paid to write, but what I write is very technical so perhaps it doesn't count. Certainly I need a creative outlet during all those times when I'm not able to cut loose and let rip, in my rather drab beige corporate world, where artistic types could never survive and thrive.

I've almost fully abandoned my creative writing endeavours recently, because my time is neatly divided between my career and my attempts to fall in love. 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, 8 hours romance.

My blog is the lynchpin of my identity. Of course, my highly paid employment affords me the luxury of being able to plough vast amounts of time and energy into a project which generates zero income - pure art - but my chosen daytime profession brings back so many memories of being labelled a geek, nerd or bookworm, and subsequently bullied, that I take no pleasure nor derive any self-esteem from my paid job.

It occurs to me that if I cease to write every day, I will lose my regular readers. I could easily melt away like snow in the sun, and be forgotten. I've often written about how the internet is littered with abandoned blogs, where the authors were initially filled with incredible enthusiasm, only to quickly get bored and wander off to find something more instantly gratifying.

I persevered through a very difficult period where pretty much nobody was reading, which was tough going. I persevered and then I popped out the other side and felt like I was getting somewhere. I started to feel like I was letting readers down if I didn't write every day.

Not writing for a few days - or more - was usually symptomatic of me coming unstuck. If I disappeared off the grid it was usually sensible to start ringing round the various hospitals to see if I could be located, or failing that the morgues. I really needed my readers, because ultimately they saved my life last year, quite literally.

I now find myself in very different circumstances.

I like the people who I'm working with - I think they're smart - and I like the stuff I'm doing at the office. I'm challenged and entertained. I'm finding that my days in gainful employment are passing increasingly effortlessly and that I'm taking a great deal of pride in the work that I do.

I like the special person I've recently met - I think she's amazing - and I like spending time with her. I'm finding it very easy to swap out the very many hours I spent in a pit of despair, for hours spent kissing and cuddling. I derive an enormous amount of enjoyment from abandoning all self-preservation instincts; allowing my emotions to run riot; my heart and soul completely laid open and vulnerable in a very childish and immature way, as I'm carried along with the initial excitement of a new relationship.

A more calculating and shrewd fellow would not write this.

My writing could be the undoing of both my job and my girlfriend. My writing could easily cause me to find myself unemployed and single. My writing could get me into big trouble.

I write tonight, because writing came first. There was madness and sadness, then came writing. I had so much to say. I've still got a lot to say.

I'm predisposed to short-lived obsessions. I'm predisposed to boom and bust. I'm predisposed towards highs and lows.

I could very easily decide tomorrow that I hate my job and the organisation I'm involved with, because of the vagaries of my mood. I could very easily decide tomorrow that I'm horribly heartbroken and that I'm irreparably damaged. I live my life to the very most extreme that it's possible to do.

I write because it would be foolish to make any sudden changes. I write because it's a very healthy and useful part of my routine. I write because of the enormously valuable connection it gives me to people all around the world, to whom I owe my life, quite literally.

It's regrettable that I haven't been able to keep up my daily blogging. I regret every single time that somebody came to visit this website, hoping to find something new, but they didn't find the latest instalment in my egotistical escapades, because I was too busy wooing my new love interest; too busy courting.

I had hoped that I would be able to squeeze some writing into my working day, but the perfect storm arrived - as it does so often - such that I haven't been bored at work for a long while. It would be churlish of me to abuse my privileged position, having spent so long complaining about being bored out of my mind and unfulfilled during office hours.

As has been the case for most of my blog posts recently, I'm writing more quickly than ever, in a desperate attempt to decant the contents of my mind onto the page during a snatched moment when it feels like an opportune time to write. I'm writing with an urgency that exceeds even my completer-finisher obsession with reaching my million-word milestone. Nobody is stopping me from writing - I have plenty of spare time - but it would be very easy for me to abandon my good habits.

I know that I will ruefully regret ever skipping even a single day of writing, should disaster befall me. I know that I will be doubly sad about abandoning my readers if there are any hiccups or bumps in the road which ruin my present twin obsessions: work and love. My blog is my backup plan. My blog is the thing that's always there - the steady constant in my life; the thing that loves me unconditionally; my loyal friend.

I appreciate that I lazily aggregate together all the many people whose lives I've touched, by egotistically broadcasting myself in this mostly one-way stream. I appreciate that I have innumerable very real friends who I'm neglecting, by interacting with people in this very strange way.

I can imagine some future point in time - when it all ends in tears - when I might perhaps find myself feeling suddenly very alone and realising that it was a mistake to hurl myself so completely from one thing into another. It does concern me that I only tend to think about what I'm gaining and never about what I'm losing.

I was accused of wanting to please everybody; wanting to be loved by everybody. That accusation is pretty fair and reasonable to be honest. Why not chuck in wanting to be the centre of attention too, while we're at it?

I don't feel very sorry about anything, it has to be said. If I'm a show-off narcissist, so fucking what? If it's all about me me me then do you think I really care? Do you think I haven't noticed that most of my sentences have started with "I" in this blog post?

Does it make me a bad person? Does it make me a bad friend?

I don't know and I can't answer every question all at once, even though I very much want to try. I've written at least twice as much as I wanted to. I wanted to be short and succinct, to give my friends a flavour of what's going on in my world; to give a little peek behind the curtain. However, as per usual I've launched into an all-out egocentric monologue about nothing in particular, except my total self-absorption.

In short, I'm scared of losing my job and my girlfriend, but I'm also scared of losing whatever the fuck this is... this blog... this website... this digital anchor in a physical world. What is this? Why is it important? Why bother?

If I had to choose - and there's no reason to suggest that I have to - then I choose to connect with the maximum number of people. I choose the stable thing over the unstable and unreliable thing. It's a brutal thing to say, but jobs and girlfriends have come and gone, but my writing has been a constant companion, delivering continuous improvement to my self-esteem and sense of identity.

I need to be a little careful, because I don't want my colleagues or my girlfriend to feel like I'm not crazy about them, and totally obsessed, but I also want to protect something I've worked really hard to build - my digital identity and the relationships which it has enabled me to build and maintain.

I've written more than I intended. I've poked and prodded at things which could very well have been left alone.

I'm going to intentionally hold my tongue now, because if I keep writing I'm going to keep digging a deeper hole.

 

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Safe Socks

2 min read

This is a story about retail therapy...

Supermarket Socks

My latest addiction is sock-buying. I am spending almost £16 a week on socks. My sock habit is raging out of control.

I'm not buying socks like the ones pictured above.

I've become hooked on buying stupid childish socks in bright colours and with cartoons on them. I'm getting immense pleasure from buying socks with whimsical slogans on them. I'm totally addicted to the buzz I get from choosing, buying and wearing sills socks.

I'm not a morning person.

However, choosing the socks I'm going to wear on any given day, is something that's a real highlight of my day. For something so relatively inexpensive - costing an average of £2.67 per pair - those simple socks pack a surprising punch. I feel genuine joy and happiness every time I see my growing sock collection and I pick out the pair that I'm in the mood to wear.

I have socks with an English breakfast of sausages, beans and fried eggs on them. I have socks with foxes on them. I have socks with dinosaurs on them. I have socks with hamburgers on them. I have socks with sock puppets on them, as a demonstration of the meta-stupidity I've descended into.

I know that other members of my clan of geeks have huge T-shirt collections, but it would be inappropriate for me to wear a T-shirt at work, no matter how witty and hilarious I thought its design was. My choice to wear silly socks is my way of thumbing my nose at the establishment, while also recognising that it's a pretty good idea not to bite the hand that feeds me - I'm well paid, I like my colleagues and I find the work to be increasingly tolerable.

Given the vast number of things which I could possibly become addicted, and the harmful behaviours and bodily abuse which could ensue, the sock thing seems mostly harmless.

 

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Stash

10 min read

This is a story about drug dependency...

Pills

This is how I function. This is how I normalise myself. This is how I comply with society's demands. This is how I cope with social jet-lag. In our fit-in-or-fuck-off culture, this is how I conform. These are my crutches. I might appear functional and unimpaired. It might be somewhat insulting or offensive to describe myself as struggling in any way - perhaps I should instead talk about my wealth and privilege and acknowledge that since being born with a silver spoon in my mouth, my life has been uninterrupted gilded luxury; I've never known pain; I've never known suffering.

Think about the starving African children.

I comparison with the 8 or 9 bottles of red wine I was consuming every week - drinking alone - my use of a few sleeping pills and tranquillisers seems relatively safe and healthy.

This is all I have left.

I've had to eke out my dwindling supplies for far longer than I'd expected to. My opportunities to "re-up" have been constricted and constrained. I've been forced into drug withdrawal, which mercifully has been bearable because of my successful rationing strategies.

Insomnia has been the price I've paid for economising; suddenly cutting back on the medications I've become dependent on. Hypomania has been a very real and tangible consequence of the brain chemical destabilisation.

Perhaps I shouldn't meddle with my mind? Perhaps I should put my faith in the medical community? Perhaps there are people who know what's best for me?

Ironically, I'm using these medications - obtained on the black market - to plaster over the cracks and blend in with the very people who are specifically tasked with deciding what's best for you. I'm a member of the paternalistic elite. One should always remember that the people dishing out the advice and prescriptions are just as fucked up as everybody else.

My hypomania constantly threatens to boil over and create a disaster. My hypomania is a constant threat to all the health and wealth I've managed to accumulate this year. My hypomania is almost impossible to conceal, constantly attempting to sneak out from under the cover and camouflage I've carelessly draped over it, in the hopes of it being ignored and not talked about by my discreet, polite and extremely civilised colleagues.

Unable to sufficiently bludgeon my brain into submission to society's demands, using powerful psychiatric medications, my mask slips.

Exhaustion from the toll of 11.5 consecutive months desperately attempting to re-enter civilised society has reduced me to surviving on my instincts. I speak without thinking. It is only my well-practiced and well-rehearsed routines which allow me to continue to appear functional, when my mind has crumbled and descended into outright insanity internally. If I could only sit mute in my office chair at my desk, I would be fine, but unfortunately stuff pops into my head and pours out of my mouth before I have a chance to hold my tongue.

My medication dependency is a cruel mistress. My anxiety skyrockets in the late afternoon and evenings as my short-acting tranquilliser wears off. My insomnia robs me of refreshing and energy-replenishing sleep, leaving me almost paralysed by panic attacks about the simple task of getting out of bed, having a shower, getting dressed and going to work. Unless I take the right amount of pills at the right time, my mask of sanity quickly slips. The illusion of a functional productive member of society quickly evaporates, the moment that I skip a dose or start reducing my medication.

Of course, I'm hopelessly dependent. I admit it. So what?

My life revolves around my regular medication doses. So what?

Doesn't anybody's life revolve around cyclical things? Life and death, sunrise and sunset, summer and winter, weekdays and weekends, work and leisure, awake and asleep, hungry and satiated, horny and spent, love and loss. Some of the cycles are societally and culturally enforced to remain the same year-round, when it's clear that it's unnatural. Why the hell don't we sleep more in winter, when the days are shorter? Why the hell don't we sleep more when we're tired? Who the hell invented the fucking alarm clock and the 9 to 5 office job anyway?

I am quite literally tyrannised and oppressed - abusively coerced - into compliance with health-damaging social rituals, lest I be excluded from society; marginalised. It's in my rational economic self-interest to comply, but it's in the interests of my mental health to refuse to comply. Non-compliance will be met with harsh and intolerable economic sanctions.

Of course I seek out and consume the pharmaceuticals which 'normalise' me and allow me to cope; to function.

You might be surprised that I'm a junkie who needs his fix so that he can work a boring office job. You might think that junkies take drugs to feel pleasure and otherwise get high, but my drug dependency is mandated by the otherwise unbearable awfulness of the 9 to 5 grind.

You might think that people get rich off drugs by selling them. You might think that drugs will ruin your life, my drug dependency has been a mandatory part of repairing my life. Do you really think that it's humanly possible to achieve the kind of comeback - the recovery - which I've managed to complete during the past 11.5 months of turning up at the office and acting normal, without access to the full range of pharmaceutical options?

I've done the impossible: gotten off the streets, where I was sleeping rough, gotten out of the hostels, gotten off the terrible drugs, gotten out of the psych wards, repaid unimaginably huge debts, got myself a place to live of my own, got myself a respectable good job, held down that job, impressed my colleagues, delivered high quality work on time and on budget.

You think that was possible without performance enhancing drugs? Are there laws that say I can't use the very best of medical technology to allow me to function at my very best in a workplace environment? I'm not an athlete. I can use whatever the fuck I want and I have done.

It might seem logical to presume that I must now have a massive drug habit, because I've leaned so heavily on unhealthy coping mechanisms to get me to the point I'm at today.

I use the word "dependency" very carefully.

It's true that technically I am dependent on medications. It's true that abrupt cessation of the 2 or 3 medications I use on a regular basis would be catastrophic for my career, my reputation, my finances, my stability and all the other things in the house-of-cards which constitutes my life.

However, the doses I take are laughably negligible.

Instead of being in a horrible mess, the dose which maintains me in a functional and stable state is totally reasonable and acceptable. The problems I've stored up for the future - by becoming dependent on medications for normal day-to-day functioning - are pathetically tiny insignificant problems compared with the goddam mountainous obstacles I've had to tackle to get this far.

It concerns me that my stash is now critically low, because my whole happy healthy wealthy future hinges upon the continuation of the well-established routine for another 6 to 12 months, at the very least. If I can carry on with my dirty junkie medication dependency for another 18 months I will be rich as fuck compared to the struggling masses, which would be an unexpected result for anybody who's been brainwashed to believe that junkies like me are no-hope losers.

I don't go to the doctor. I don't have a psychiatrist. I don't have a psychologist. I don't have a community mental health team (CMHT) or a crisis team. I do what the fuck I want.

My experiments with being completely medication-free earlier in the year were a total disaster. I do hope that one day I'll be able to quit the pills, but I don't see how I'll ever be able to do when my health needs directly contradict capitalism's need to exploit me as an expendable commodity. There is a fundamental incompatibility between human needs and corporations' needs. There is a systemic inability to cope with anybody who deviates from the top of the bell curve.

I'm different, and I no longer expect society to accomodate me. I accept that I must alter myself - with pharmaceuticals - so that I can accomodate society's inflexible demands for homogeny and conformity.

I swallow a sleeping pill so that my social jet-lag is medically corrected. I swallow a short-acting tranquilliser so that the existential dread of working a pointless bullshit meaningless office job is bearable. I'm not overjoyed or happy to be doing it. In fact, I'm not happy at all about any of the situation. It would be fucking weird if I was artificially happy all the fucking time, because there's not a lot to be happy about during the death-throes of late capitalism.

You know what makes me happy? Spooning. Kittens. Holidays. Sex. Dreaming about going to live in a cabin in the woods. Delicious food. Binging on mindless entertainment. Extreme sports. Writing.

Should I be attempting to live the dream? Should I be trying to have it all? Should I mix work and pleasure?

Yes, I'm going to do all those things but you have to pay to play and it costs a fuckload of cash to make dreams come true.

I'll leave you with this quote:

"The power of inclosing land and owning propriety, was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murther their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or theeve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand, by the power of the sword; and so you justifie the wicked deeds of your fathers" -- A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England, Gerrard Winstanley

It's up to the reader to decide whether I'm a Lord of the Manor, born into wealth and enjoying inheritance from my ancestors who plundered and stole. The fact that you've persevered reading this text in English using a computer or smartphone puts you into a certain socioeconomic set and suggests a level of academic achievement, which might suggest you might have benefitted equally from "the power of the sword" although you did not "kill or theeve" yourself.

All I can say of myself is that I'm trying to play by the rules in a rigged game. Nobody said I wasn't allowed to use performance enhancing drugs. This isn't sport, it's survival.

 

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Playing the Long Game

10 min read

This is a story about sustained effort...

Mound of wires

I like to concentrate on one thing at a time. I like to be hyper-focussed and blinkered, and to devote all my energy and attention towards achieving a single goal. I like to live my life in an artificially simplified way, by aggressively cutting away anything which seems superfluous; a distraction from my main task.

Unfortunately, I have several concurrent tasks:

  • My work
  • My debts
  • My writing
  • My love-life

There are more - such as friends, family, health & fitness, hobbies etc - but I'm not listing those, because I've deemed them temporarily nonessential.

In fact, I had deemed dating to be nonessential, but my life had become too lonely and austere to be bearable. I was torn between investing in my [nonexistent] social life and looking for love. I chose the latter, because of how long it had been since I'd hugged or kissed anybody. Intimacy is important.

My work is arguably a task which will never be completed, but my debts have almost been dealt with. The sum total of my savings is £30,000 and the sum total of my debts is £29,000, so I'm finally 'in the black' although it will be some time before I'm able to release the money and free myself from the bonds of usury. Then, the question is how much money do I really need to live a happy life? I have to decide about this thing people call "work-life-balance" which I always thought was a myth. Without the millstone of debt around my neck, suddenly I gain enormous freedom of choice.

My writing has been the casualty, of late.

Hypomania was rearing its ugly head, threatening to destroy all my hard work building a good reputation in the office. I got a cold and my brain was horrendously sluggish. I suffered alcohol abuse, bad diet, lack of exercise and general neglect of everything in my life, because I was so single-minded in my mission to pay back my debts. My mind was telling me how brilliant I am, that I've managed to rescue myself from a dire situation, successfully deliver some software projects, impress my colleagues, work hard and generally function in society pretty well. I've been getting up early and going to the office. I haven't been taking time off sick. I haven't had much time off on holiday. I've just worked and it's paying off, but I'm so exhausted that I'm going a little crazy. It's hard to deal with the reversal of fortunes; my boom and bust real life triggers psychological problems.

During 3 years of writing my blog almost daily, I never start writing a blog post on one day and then finish it on another. My mind races so much and my feelings change so violently that the tone and content of what I'm writing can veer from one extreme to another, faster than I can pour out words onto the page. One reason for writing so much so quickly, is to capture the variety of my moods and give myself a fighting chance of being able to spot more general trends. In fact, I rely heavily on my regular readers to spot those trends - they're a far better judge of whether I'm swinging into a high or low episode, than I am myself.

To have skipped days of writing really upsets me. I feel really bad when I neglect my writing and my readers.

I have no idea where my writing will take me, especially when I suffer major setbacks such as a sudden loss of thousands of Twitter followers. These things shouldn't matter, but they're psychologically damaging. My digital identity does serve as a substitute for a lot of the things which are presently missing in my life, such as a group of local friends, social engagements and a healthy relationship with my family.

That my life is so damaged should come as no surprise when you consider the magnitude of the tasks which I've been set. Divorce, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, debt and all the accompanying loss of status, stigma and family estrangement - the sense of failure, disappointment and "letting everyone down" - can each be fatal on their own. In combination, those things are a toxic whirlpool; a quicksand which nobody could ever hope to escape from. I could be very upset and depressed about all the things which are broken in my life, but instead I struggle not to get carried away with the minor miracle which has happened: I've bounced back and re-entered civilised society, seemingly without any permanent damage.

So many parts of our society are set up with the optimistic presumption that people are capable of turning their lives around and being rehabilitated, but it very rarely happens. While those who work with addicts, criminals and the debt-laden are very keen to see lives transformed for the better, the reality is that most of the stories do not have happy endings. Most of the stories have sad predictable endings, which are quite tragic.

I'm terrified that I'm going to hit a glass ceiling soon. I will have a mental illness until the day I die. I will always suffer from social jet-lag and a personality which is incompatible with the rat race. I can't change the past - the stigma of addiction and the paper trail which got left in my wake, during an unfortunate period of my life, will follow me around forever. There is no limit on what the organisation I'm presently involved with is able to see: they have access to a vast database of unflattering things, which can never be deleted. My mistakes can never be expunged from the archives.

I could delete this blog, but then where is my reply to the opinions of me expressed upon records kept by organisations who I unfortunately came into contact with?

I would be so much more vulnerable to stigma, prejudice and discrimination, if I allowed other people to lazily sum me up in a few short sentences. Human lives are so much more messy and complex than any amount of words on a page could ever possibly express. It seems like the most natural reaction to being pigeon-holed, to do something like this: to create a document so large that it doesn't even fit in a goddam pigeon hole.

It might seem obvious that I'd be quickly identified as a nut; a crackpot; a madman. That seems like an easy label to attach to me.

However, my long and successful career, the vast sums of tax I've paid, the wealth I've generated for the economy, the tangible products of my labour and intellect - all of these things contradict any attempt to lazily dismiss me as a ranting madman, of no use to anybody, who should be quietly nudged towards the fringes of society until I'm completely marginalised.

My writing is the only thing in my life I have complete control over. I can write as much as I want. I can publish as much as I want. Every act of writing and publishing is an act of rebellion - a protest at the excessive burdens of life - as well as an addition to a growing cache of proof of my productivity and usefulness. I write because it will frustrate and contradict any attempts to write me off.

On paper, I was a write-off.

Nobody would touch me with a barge pole.

If you were presented with a list of all the unflattering things about me - my mistakes; my debts; my problems - as a bullet-pointed list, then you'd have dumped me straight onto the "no hope" pile.

Technically, I don't exist, because my existence is too improbable; my problems were too insurmountable. I should not be alive. I should not be debt-free. I should not be clean. I should not be working. I should not be housed. I should not have money. I should not be out there in the big wide world, walking around like I'm a regular normal member of mainstream society.

I could place put my faith in those who have sworn to make decisions without prejudice or discrimination. I could entrust my whole future - my happiness and my livelihood - to people who've never met me, who will judge me based on a few bullet points. That seems pretty risky to me though.

This is what I anticipated would happen. I knew that sooner or later, if I kept telling my story, I'd reach a point where the rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches-to-rags cycle would either conclude - in my suicide - or else I would finally get a chance to have a liveable life. This document contains a vast number of mistakes and unflattering things about me, but it also charts the course of a stupendously unlikely journey, which was almost certainly doomed to failure. If somebody in a position of power is going to thwart me, I want them to do so with a guilty conscience, because they were too lazy to consider all the available information. I'm so much more than a few bullet points on a page. I cannot be dissected with a 66-page form.

Of course, it's terribly teenage angsty to think of myself as a misunderstood character. It's horribly conceited and arrogant to think I'm special and different. I try not to concern myself with such judgements and instead to concentrate on my continued efforts to produce tangible things: to create.

Lots of people have written lots of novels, journals, diaries, blogs, newspaper columns, magazine articles and all the very many other works of printed words. There are quite a lot of prolific writers, who have churned out vast quantities of prose. Does that mean I shouldn't bother? Does that mean I shouldn't even try?

I haven't been very productive during the past couple of weeks, but it doesn't matter because what I've produced is cumulative. Every little effort is slowly adding up to create some big achievements. It's painfully slow, but the progress appears to create sudden overnight success. Nobody really notices all the hard work and nobody can see where it's headed, until one day a huge milestone is reached and everything all makes sense.

The relief of having more-or-less reached one of my most important goals, is highly destabilising and is triggering hypomania: it's hard not to get carried away with the perceived magnitude of my achievement. It's hard not believe my own bullshit - that I'm invincible and that I can overcome any obstacle. It's tempting to act recklessly, believing that I'll always be able to rescue myself from disastrous situations. It's hard to keep reminding myself that my luck will run out eventually, if I keep tempting fate.

I've missed this blog and I've missed writing. I've been destabilised, but I'm going to force myself to continue with my routine, because I think it's very healthy and stabilising for me.

Sorry for the gap in my regular writing.

 

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NSFW

6 min read

This is a story about my big mouth...

So many screens

I have had a pretty simple game plan for my re-entry into civilised society: keep my damn mouth shut. Every time I think I've got something interesting to add or that I'd like to join in a conversation, either because I'm bored or maybe just because I'm feeling left out, instead of doing that I say to myself "that's a bad idea" and I attempt to busy myself with my work.

I'm trying to keep my head down.

I'm trying not to be noticed.

I don't do a very good job of keeping my big mouth shut sometimes. When I'm tired, sick and otherwise destabilised, I over-compensate for my insecurities by talking loudly and confidently about things I know almost nothing about. So far I've been patiently tolerated, and managed to luckily say things which have not been altogether wrong, useless, offensive or otherwise completely revealing the true extent of my imposter syndrome.

Sometimes I'm very good at quietly getting on with a difficult piece of work. Sometimes I'm able to do exactly what I need to do, which is to concentrate on producing a lot of high quality work, and staying out of trouble.

I'm highly opinionated and I've got a lot to say. I have a lot of thoughts and ideas. The office is not the place to explore those ideas. The best colleagues in a large organisation are the ones who don't rock the boat. If you get too many people in an organisation who think they're hot shit, the whole place becomes hell on earth very rapidly. It only takes a few arrogant assholes like me to ruin a lot of people's day. The best possible thing I can do in the office is to rein in my motormouth.

Writing without a filter every day has gotten me into the habit of engaging my mouth before my brain. When I write, I do so without considering whether I'm making myself look like a dickhead, whether I'm upsetting anybody or generally thinking about the consequences of what I write. I generally assume that what I write is harmless.

At work, the tiniest slip of the tongue could be disastrous. There are things which are simply unspeakable at work, and it's best if you don't even hint that you might have an opinion. Gender, politics, religion and other emotive topics are best avoided in their entirety. To express liberal-minded sympathies with the wrong thing could cause your colleagues to assume that you're in favour of legalising murder, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, terrorism and the distribution of syringes filled with heroin to newborn babies.

It's best to say nothing.

Although it's very difficult to do, I avoid looking at any websites which are not work-related. I don't want to take the chance that somebody might even glance over my shoulder and assume from the title of the Wikipedia article that I'm reading, something about who I am.

Obviously, it's a patently absurd situation, where I spend a very great deal of time writing and publishing a public document which explicitly declares every single weird thing which goes on inside my head, as well as my unflattering mistakes of the past. How can I go to so much effort at work to present a bland beige nondescript and mostly absent personality, entirely designed to obfuscate any identifying features, and yet at the same time put so much time and effort into making every minute detail of my entire life publicly accessible?

I suppose if I didn't write like this, I would struggle a lot more to keep myself contained at work. My inner turmoil would express itself in unhelpful and unprofessional ways in the office, through the way I speak, write and interact with my colleagues. I often have the impulse to sneak a little bit of my real personality into the dry technical work that I do, but I'm able to resist that urge, because I have a creative outlet.

Today was not a good day.

I've been tired and unwell, which compromises my ability to think before I speak. I've been procrastinating, because I've got a difficult piece of work to do and my brain hasn't been fully functioning. I have some interesting and eccentric colleagues, who are truly delightful to spend my working week with, but I've been unable to resist the temptation to keep myself to myself and stay out of trouble. In short: I've been far too outspoken and unguarded.

I'm not such an idiot that I haven't carefully considered most of what I've said. I've managed to deliberately stay out of conversations which almost definitely should never be held within the four walls of a respectable organisation. I've managed to remind myself to be evasive and vague most of the time but when I left the office this evening, I was suddenly filled with regret that I was not more secretive and opaque.

It's hard to resist the temptation to have an unguarded social interaction with somebody, when they genuinely seem interested in who you are and what makes you tick. When colleagues are showing a genuine interest in my life outside work, beyond simple nosiness, it's flattering and makes me feel wanted. I have such a desperate need to belong and to be accepted, that it's hard for me to maintain my defences and keep my mask in place.

I fear there may be unexpected negative consequences. I'm paranoid that I'm damaging my reputation and weakening my position. I'm more worried than ever that my spotless image is being tarnished, by my own words.

I live constantly in the exposed and vulnerable position of having more than a million unflattering words easily accessible to anybody with an internet connection and the ability to use Google, but it's the comparatively few words I've uttered in the office which trouble me the most.

Perhaps I should feel heartened that my colleagues want to know who I am but I'd almost prefer it if they read my blog, rather than got to know me through my thoughtfully considered and highly sanitised words, designed to be safe for office consumption.

I feel like I'm repeating the mistake I made in 2014 and 2015, where I was so confident in my technical abilities, the quality of my work and the value of my contribution, that I relaxed too much. Being myself in the office was not a good career move.

It's hard work, putting on a corporate mask, but it's financially rewarding. I really don't want to be the architect of my own destruction.

 

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Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

4 min read

This is a story about feeling overwhelmed...

Rare steak

My favourite movie is Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. I am almost able to recite the script, verbatim, from memory. I don't re-watch films. I don't re-read books. This movie is my one exception. I've seen it dozens of times.

I don't tend to use a lot of quotes or epigraphs in my writing. Why would I borrow somebody else's words when mine say exactly what I want? I'm confident enough in my own thinking and writing abilities to avoid the insecurity of believing that my own words have less value than somebody else's.

I do however offer this one quote from my favourite movie:

"Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another." -- Captain Willard, Apocalypse Now

Having spent vast parts of this year tormented by extreme boredom, I am now swamped. I have something to get my teeth into at work, which also has quite a lot of pressure associated with it. I have a creative writing project - my novel - which I've been struggling to write due to poor preparation. I have my blog. I have dating. I also need to get fit, resume some of my hobbies, collect my mountain bike from the other side of the country and make some new friends. My work routine is well established and I'm making excellent progress financially, but it's time consuming and exhausting.

I wanted to be busy.

Now I am.

Never a dull moment, presently, but there's always something or somebody I'm neglecting. Sleep and a stable routine are early casualties, as I flit between many competing demands. Of course I'm having a lot of fun and I have boundless energy at times, but I crash down and become paralysed by anxiety.

Earlier today I thought it might be easier to just kill myself, rather than have to get two taxis and a train, wash and dry all my clothes for the week ahead, and drive to the office at the crack of dawn. It was only a fleeting moment of suicidality and it wasn't particularly serious because I didn't start to plan the act, but I definitely couldn't face the heap of tasks ahead of me. It depressed me that my novel and my blog were going to potentially become casualties - so much writing to do.

I'm somewhat regretting having asked for so much, and been given it all eventually, all in a short space of time. For a while almost none of my needs were being met, and then suddenly I've been swamped by everything all at once.

I can't quite figure out how to balance all the things I need. Money, challenging work, sleep and intimacy are probably my top four priorities, but each one brings a swathe of other complications. The more things I add into my simple life, the more destabilised I become. I worry that I'm going to end up repeating the mistakes of previous years, when I became over-tired and over-stressed, which pushed me into a state of mania. Mania will be fatal to my career. Mania will be fatal to my relationships. Mania will be fatal to my financial stability.

I wondered to myself if I've made a mistake in being unmedicated. I think I was just desperately sleep deprived though.

My life violently see-saws between the dread of Sunday night and Monday morning, binge drinking on a Thursday and Friday night, stopping my sleeping pills and tranquillisers at the weekend and suffering dreadful insomnia and anxiety, and some other rather destabilising things, such as dating. I swing between the fear that my life is going to become over-complicated and stressful, and the fear that I'm going to die alone. I know that my simplified life brings vast financial rewards, but the lack of kisses and cuddles is almost unbearable. Living out of a suitcase is awful. Drinking alone is unhealthy. Changing my routine is destabilising and exhausting. Other people are unpredictable.

It's a difficult balancing act: trying to live a sustainable and stable life when I'm naturally prone to mood instability, and I am dealing with a number of things which are dreadfully broken.

This sounds like quite a whinge-fest. On the whole, I have lots of things to be very grateful for. A lot of my problems are nice problems to have.

I shouldn't complain.

I'd rather be busy.

I wanted a mission.

 

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Workload

4 min read

This is a story about métier...

I'm on a bus

It never rains, it pours. I had envisaged being able to quietly beaver away at my novel during my working day, in order to make the torturous hours in the office pass more easily, but fate has conspired to deliver me a delightful challenge in my day job at exactly the same time as I embarked upon the ridiculous task of holding down full-time employment, writing a daily blog and completing a short novel within 30 days.

I love it.

I have heaped pressure upon myself, like I always do, but not as much as I did last year. I was unemployed and homeless last year, so I was desperate for something to cling onto for my fragile self-esteem, and I had pinned a lot of hopes on creating a passable novel as a way of feeling as if I was using my time productively. This year I've managed to avoid over-hyping my writing abilities and over-estimating my potential as a fiction author. However, I still secretly hope that I'll be able to bash out another finished novel.

I had quite an exhausting day at work today. I'm a little burnt-out.

I'm in the enviable position of having something to do at work, which is right up my street.

The reason why you'd hire me is not because I'm a steady dependable guy who can be relied upon to churn out an endless stream of predictable results, but because I'm the sort of freaky weirdo who'll keep on plugging away at a difficult problem which has been declared "too hard" to fix by everybody else. There'll be no shortage of people queuing up to create something brand new on a blank canvas, but almost none of them will want to stick around to complete the job. There's no shortage of people who'll say "we should throw everything away and start over". However, the devil is in the detail and finishing the job is the hardest thing. Hardly anybody will stick around to deal with the unglamorous task of tying up all the loose ends and dealing with all the crap that got brushed under the carpet.

I'm already feeling overwhelmed with the workload of having a full-time job, commuting, living out of a suitcase, writing my blog, dating, staying on top of social media and writing a novel. It's day two and I'm falling to bits.

My life is pretty weird. Family and friends don't really figure in my daily life. My life had become completely dysfunctional for more years than I care to remember, so I exhibit none of the patterns of behaviour that normal people do. I don't have many face-to-face interactions. I hardly ever speak on the phone. I don't socialise. I don't spend my time in good company.

I spend my life in front of a screen.

I thought that I would be re-invigorated after a holiday. I thought that I would feel energised after reaching the point where I'm finally owed as much money as I owe: break-even. I'm worth literally nothing, which is a huge relief after having spent so long being more valuable dead than alive, thanks to a life insurance policy which would have paid out enough money to settle my debts and leave a decent chunk of surplus cash for dispersal.

I'm definitely a writer, but I'm pulled between three competing demands: to write concise and efficient code for my employers, to write my daily blog for my readers and to write another novel, to satisfy my deep yearning to scratch my creative itch.

I was writing a chapter of my novel today and I realised that I could express the whole thing in 10,000 words or fewer, which might be a little too condensed and concise for the average reader to enjoy. I know it's arrogant to say this, but I thought about Buckminster Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and wondered what the hell I'm doing writing a work of fiction, when my purpose in life is clearly to write instructions for idiots (i.e. computers in the most part).

Often, I think that if I start writing a manifesto or a prescriptive guide on how to live life, I'm heading down the rabbit-hole of madness. Too many psychopaths have written manifestos. I don't wanna go there.

I'm going to deliberately cut myself short here, because I'm enjoying the rare privilege of perceiving the value of the finite commodity which is time itself. For once, I'm not bored at all.

 

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Condescendingly Oversimplifying Highly Complex Life-or-Death Issues and Trivialising my Achievements

7 min read

This is a story about perseverance...

Tree in winter

Despite the exhaustive lengths I've gone to in order to make myself understood, surprisingly few people have any appreciation of my achievements in conquering insurmountable odds. It shocks me that there is a complete lack of comprehension of the magnitude of the task, of starting a journey of recovery locked up on a psych ward, unemployed, homeless, £54,000 in debt, physically dependent on addictive substances and having just survived a suicide attempt that was very nearly successful. "Have you tried yoga? Have you tried kale smoothies?" people still write to me.

Yes, I take offence to being patronised.

still take offence to being patronised.

"You're only one trite platitude away from complete recovery" people seem to think.

Oh. My. God.

Drop everything.

A fucking meme saved my fucking life.

Said nobody ever.

A self-help book saved my life.

Said a bunch of idiots who failed to establish a causative relationship.

I'm a fucking computer scientist so I don't hold a lot of sway with superstitious beliefs in sky monsters, fate, karma, astrology, homeopathy, acupuncture, healing crystals, tarot cards and all that other mumbo-jumbo. I believe in cold hard cash. I believe in empirically proven theories which have been peer reviewed, with reliably reproducible experimental results.

In a way, my whole life has been conducted in a very scientific manner, which should come as no surprise given that my career has been dedicated to working in a logical and rational field, governed by rigid formal rules. There's no room for airy-fairy hand-waving nonsense bullshit in my professional field. There's a right answer and a wrong answer, and it's not possible to put your faith in god to fix your goddam code. It's not possible to put your faith in god to fix your goddam life. There are no higher powers. There is no supernatural. No amount of exercise and good diet is going to repay your £54,000 debt.

If it seems like I'm labouring the same points over and over again, and telling the same miserable story which appears to have changed very little in the 13 or so months since I was in an utterly fucked situation, you're a total fucking moron.

Of course my story is repetitive.

Of course my story is miserable.

Of course my story is boring.

Of course my story has changed very little.

From the start of December until now, I've lived out of a suitcase in hotels, working a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job. All I do is work, sleep, eat and write my blog.

I'm paying back £54,000 of debt.

I didn't start with nothing. I started with less than nothing. I started at a considerable disadvantage.

Starting with nothing would have been a fucking dream.

Most people in my situation would have declared bankruptcy. Most people in my situation would have given up.

I'm not most people.

Most people would never have had the opportunity to get £54,000 in debt. Most people would never be able to repay £54,000 in debt. It costs £10,800 a year to service a debt of £54,000, assuming a credit card interest rate of 20%. Do you have a spare £10,800 kicking around every year?

Remember that I also started this journey locked up on a psych ward, jobless and without a vehicle.

How do you think you'd get out of that particular sticky situation?

"I'd get a job"

Yeah? How much would that job pay? Would you also need a place to live? Would you need to pay transport costs to get you to the fucking job?

It's a hard problem to solve.

No amount of inspirational quote memes can solve the problem. No amount of exercise and good diet can solve the problem. No amount of being patronised as fuck by people who don't have problems will solve the problem.

If I sound angry and that I'm raging... you're damn right.

It's been ludicrously difficult and stressful to get to this point.

I might sound like a scratched record. You might wish for me to be telling a happier and more uplifting story, but the truth is that it's hard damn work to dig yourself out of a very deep hole. I'm sorry that in reality there are no quick fixes. I'm sorry that the real world is not at all like the fantasy world. There are no overnight successes. There are no sudden improvements. There is no solution in the form of a goddam inspirational quote meme.

If your life is sorted, well fucking done. Big congrats.

If your life is sorted, please don't think that you can jump into my world and quickly figure out what I'm doing wrong. Please don't fall into the trap of seeing yourself as some sort of saviour. Please don't patronise me by assuming that I'm overlooking some easy short-cut.

My story sucks because my life sucks, but my life is improving very slowly.

It takes relentless patient persistent perseverance to fix a fucking shit-tonne of problems. I don't tell the story to entertain and amuse you. I tell my story because it's real and I don't know how it's going to end. I tell my story because I think it's important to bear witness to the struggle - the reality - of people who are trying to re-enter civilised society, having been marginalised and excluded.

If you're getting impatient for the good bits, fuck off. I'm impatient too. There are no short-cuts and it's me who has to put up with the daily misery of the painfully slow progress.

Yes, at some future point I hope to sum up this whole rotten period in an executive summary; a short synopsis. When the dreadful task is finally completed, I can change my story to something different. For now, the story seems to be the same miserable repetitive depressing crap, because that's the reality of my life.

I think there's a lot to be celebrated in my achievements of the past year, but of course we have been reared on a diet of Hollywood and Disney movies, so the feeble-minded are encouraged to believe that every story should be a simple fairytale. Reality doesn't care about your desire for easy-to-understand, linear and uplifting tales of overnight success. Reality is an absolute bastard that needs to be bludgeoned to death with sheer determination; force of will. Reality is boring as fuck, most of the time.

Of course my day-to-day tale is mostly banal, hence why my debts are being repaid with exceptional speed. I have sacrificed pleasing fantasy for real achievement, at the cost of childish fantasies about following my dreams. I sell my brain and body to the highest bidder and put myself through an ordeal of misery, because it brings in a lot of cold hard cash.

It offends me when people who've enjoyed wealth, privilege and fucked about doing whatever the fuck they want, talk to me about how I should be living my life. They followed their dreams and indulged their selfish wants, but I don't have that luxury. I am forced to inhabit reality. I live in a capitalist plutocratic society dominated by global corporations, and I have to work for a living because I was £54,000 in debt, jobless, homeless, without a vehicle and locked up in a psychiatric institution. Do you understand?

I don't get to dream. I don't get to live in a fantasy world. I'm forced to inhabit reality.

 

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I Work Hard: The Proof

7 min read

This is a story about brainwork...

Graphite piano

In 2008 I became suicidally depressed. I'd been part of the project which had been at the centre of the global financial crisis: namely the trading of quadrillions of dollars worth of credit default swaps (CDS) which had grown in notional book value to be manyfold greater than the aggregate value of all the tangible things, such as precious metals, rare gemstones, property, factories, oil, gas, coffee, coins, banknotes and anything else which you could point at and say "that's worth something".

The world had lost its mind.

I knew it was coming of course. I had bought gold in 2005. I had negotiated a great mortgage in 2007 knowing there was a credit crunch on the horizon. In some ways I had tangible proof that I had been doing something valuable because I owned property, cars, boats and other things, as well as considerable amounts of liquid assets. In short: I was rich.

I got rich from data and software. I got rich off the back of investment banking and derivatives contracts. I got rich off a whole lot of nothing.

In 2008 it really felt like I'd presided over the most awful crime ever perpetrated against humanity.

I'd worked hard and I'd done my job very effectively. I thought about the bigger picture and I knew - deep down - that what we were doing at JPMorgan was wrong, but I'm an engineer and I like delivering engineering solutions. If somebody asks me "can you do this?" then I want to be the problem-solving can-do guy who comes up with the solution and delivers a working system. Often times I stop and take a step back, and think about the context of what I'm doing - I consider the ethics - but that's not really my job. I just design and build software systems.

The whole "I just work here" or "I was just following orders" thing is how the Nazis managed to kill 6 million jews, so I'm not going to hide behind that flimsy defence.

I know what I did was wrong.

So, I decided to completely ditch investment banking. I decided to do something that was the polar opposite of investment banking. I retrained in the building trade.

Instead of working in an office, I worked in customers' houses. Instead of working to devise arcane and impenetrably complicated ways of moving imaginary wealth around the globe, I helped build houses for people to live in. Instead of working for a massive faceless global corporation, intent on destroying the worldwide economy and plunging us all into the deepest and longest recession in history, I worked for myself - I was a sole trader; a man with a van.

I discovered that what I'd always suspected was true: I work hard.

It's hard to prove that you work hard, when all your hard work is hidden away behind the scenes. You have no idea how hard it was to build all the websites and apps that you use every day. You completely take for granted all the facets of the modern world, where you can speak to your phone and express your unique special snowflake personality on social media. The geeks and the nerds are derided as autistic-spectrum weirdo scum, who are all potential paedophile predator perverts who deserved to have a miserable childhood getting bullied at school.

While we celebrate the doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen and suchlike, because their contribution to society is conspicuously obvious and easy to understand - like a game of cops & robbers - questions such as "what is the internet?" belie the hideous complexity of that innocuous 4-word question. If you're looking for a convenient Google-provided soundbite synopsis that you can parrot to other people, in the vague hope of sounding intelligent, you're doing a disservice to those geeks and nerds who you persecuted at school, who are the architects of the fourth industrial revolution.

It's very hard for me to prove to you that I've been working very hard during my 21-year full-time career. You're quite likely to accuse me of not working very hard at all, because there are people out there who do a lot more physical labour, and what they produce is a lot more tangible and more easily understood in a childlike brain.

It was immensely frustrating to me that I had no easily understood empirical evidence to prove how hard I work; to prove that I'm a busy bee.

I started to write.

I've written the equivalent of 22 novels over the course of 3 years.

Of course a lot of what I've written is manic rantings, but one should be mindful that during the course of the 3 years I've also written a lot of software, and software doesn't work if it's wrong. One missing semicolon in millions of lines of code and the whole thing will be kaput. You should consider the fact that it's a facet of my profession to write with coherence and attention to detail, because my editor has zero tolerance for mistakes: the computer can't handle errors.

It pleases me that I've produced 1.1 million words in my spare time as proof that I'm not an idle drug addict loser. It pleases me that I have a tangible asset, which vastly exceeds the length of the King James Bible.

Would you accuse an author of a bestselling series of novels, as being unproductive and not working for their living?

I say again: I've been writing in addition to my full-time day job.

It's true that sometimes I find my day job very easy and unchallenging, but there are other days when there are gremlins in the incomprehensibly huge and complex computer software systems, and those problems are very hard to diagnose and fix. Manual labour is governed by a simple and well understood set of physical laws: the energy requirements to lift and move heavy objects is quite easy to calculate. The amount of brainwork required to fix a problem with one of your beloved apps or websites - to give a facile example - which might affect millions of people, is not an easy calculation at all. If you think what I do is unimportant, you should see the public response every time Instagram stops working or Snapchat introduces a major change.

My motivation for writing this is, of course, insecurity. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Imposter syndrome asserts itself and I wonder what the hell I've been doing with two decades of my life, with nothing to show for it except a lot of crummy software which almost nobody is aware even exists. I would struggle to explain to either of my grandmothers what I do for a living, especially now they're dead.

I exist in a strange part of the world. I'm a 'tame' geek who can speak plain English. I don't surround myself with other technologists and I'm cursed with a bleeding-heart liberal streak and an inquiring mind, which causes me to question whether I'm part of the problem or part of the solution.

Because of my guilt, work ethic and insecurity, I feel like I have to create a very conspicuous and public display of my productivity, which can be easily understood. Here's the headline: 1.1 million words in 3 years.

I write because I'm afraid that you'll write me off as a lazy junkie waste-of-space loser who doesn't do anything productive or useful. I write because I don't see much other evidence that I ever existed or did anything notable; that I ever contributed to society.

"Use your talent and energy for good" I hear you say. Yup. That's working out really great for the oppressed workers, isn't it? I'm so glad that charity has been so successful that it's made itself completely redundant as a concept.

I write because I haven't decided what else to do, but I'm still thinking, of course. You might think that thinking is useless, but what is writing except for thinking on a page?

 

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What Have I Got To Do To Get Sacked?

5 min read

This is a story about biting the hand that feeds me...

Water cooler

This colleague of mine was holding an object which looked so much like a sex toy that I was compelled to take a sly snapshot. Trying to be as subtle as possible and not arouse any suspicion, meant that I did not compose my photograph as well as I could have done, but I offer you the cropped image below so that you're better able to imagine what I saw.

Zoomed in

Is that any better? Attempting to photograph a colleague waving around a dildo-like object while filling a bottle from the water-cooler in my office, was somewhat hampered by the fact I spend my days on a secure campus with high fences and guards manning the gates, in a building which you can't gain entrance to until you've been through various in-depth background checks, to ensure you're the right sort of chap.

I'm sure there's something somewhere written in a contract or a code of conduct I've signed, which could be twisted and misinterpreted to mean that I shouldn't irreverently make light of my privileged position in the world.

People tell me I have a "good job".

People tell me to watch my step and button my lip, because "they" are monitoring my electronic communications and every word I speak and write.

We are well aware that GCHQ's mass-surveillance invades millions of law-abiding UK citizens' presumed automatic right to privacy, in the name of national security. We are all well aware that the police are using undercover officers to infiltrate groups of UK citizens who intend to exercise their right to unionise, strike and demand better pay and conditions. We are all well aware that the police share dossiers of intelligence with private companies, black-balling individuals, preventing them from being able to work in certain industries, because they are labelled as 'agitators' who are likely to attempt to turn the tide of worker exploitation by wealthy capitalists in favour of a fairer society. The oppression of the 98% by the 2% is state-sponsored, as proven by an overwhelming number documents compiled and paid for by the UK taxpayer.

This is paternalism in action.

Don't be distracted by the "patriarchy" BS - that's a clumsy, flimsy, pathetically obvious attempt to divide and rule. If there's one thing that the Brits are good at - empire builders - it's dividing people up into groups using arbitrary and imaginary lines. The British civil servant who drew the borders of Iraq and Kuwait had never visited the Middle East in his life.

Civil servants have decided that you're not allowed to privately own a snowplough; they've decided that an ambulance is not allowed to have an electric engine. Why?

Why the fuck are civil servants making these rules?

The Great Game.

It's all a great big game for a highly educated bunch of toffs who've had their egos massaged their whole lives and been told they're destined for greatness, but ultimately what they're left doing is creating a massive and impenetrable rulebook of totally arbitrary made-up regulations, which exist for no other reason than justifying the existence of a bunch of paper-pushing desk-jockeys, meddling in the affairs of every citizen of the kingdom.

I actually think the civil service is somewhat of a benevolent dictator for life; mostly harmless and well-intentioned.

I'd be a bit gutted if I was kicked out.

[Please note, that this is not an admission of where I work, who I work for, what I do, or any other overt statement which might tie me to my employer or client]

Even though it's not a real job, making up rules for other people to follow, enforcing those rules and generally policing other people's behaviour - perhaps even on spying on private law-abiding citizens - it's a little bit hard to argue the contrary position, that we don't need the organisations and the huge number of people who keep the country running. I'm not as much of an anarchist as I claim to be. I live a very happy sheltered secure wealthy life because I'm the right sort of chap and they tend to see me as one of their own and assume I'm on their side. Everyone assumes I'm a well-behaved conformist patriotic stand-for-the-national-anthem Queen-saluting fully-indoctrinated and sufficiently economically incentivised member of the paternalistic guardian class, such that I'd never be so insane as to step out of line and bite the hand that feeds me.

Do I plan to make mischief? Do I plan to commit sabotage? Do I have treasonous intent?

No.

You got me there.

I am a humble servant of Her Maj.

To connect my name with search terms such as "civil service" and "government" is recklessly stupid, one might say, but on careful inspection - by reading what I've written more closely - you can see that I have not revealed for a single instant who I work for and what I do for a living, specifically.

Meanwhile, I promise you that every single day I give dedicated service, to the very best of my professional abilities. I care about what I do. I want to make a difference.

For Queen and country. Ich dien.

 

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