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The world's longest suicide note.

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

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Don't be a Martyr

6 min read

This is a story about barriers to entry...

Crash barrier

I'll admit that as a child I took the path of least resistance. Instead of dentistry, which I realised was going to be monotonously boring - if you've seen inside one mouth, you've seen them all - I chose a route that would lead to getting rich quick. Soon, I had a wonderful lifestyle and I never really had to kowtow to any gatekeepers or doff my cap in deference to the slave-owners.

I thought about what I was going to write tonight and I thought I'd come up with a really great blog post title, but it turns out I already used it. In fact, I've written so much that somewhere there's something that perfectly captures everything I'm going through.

I wrote at length about the indignity of being subjected to external scrutiny, when I consider that my 20-year career should have now put me beyond the awfulness of such a process - who the fuck are you to judge me? Of course, if you were hiring somebody for their specialist skills, how would you be able to judge whether they are competent or not, unless you yourself are an expert? One does not have a dog and bark oneself, etc. etc.

Thus, we rely mostly day-to-day on a web of trust. Somebody who is recommended by a friend is much more trusted than a total stranger. Friends of friends are our friends. We stick together. Homo sapiens is a social animal.

What happens when our social network disintegrates? How do we ever rejoin civilised society?

Speaking from personal experience, re-entering the game is very difficult. It's nigh-on impossible to get anybody to take a punt on a talented nobody, versus a talentless fuckwit who knows how to play the game. I don't begrudge the fuckwits - so long as they stay the fuck out of my way - and perhaps it's me who's got things wrong. Many colleagues of mine are qualified for nothing more than keeing a seat warm, reading the news, listening to the radio, watching videos online and counting down the hours minutes and seconds until it's time to go home. If you were hoping to get ahead in life on merit, you're going to be sorely disappointed and frustrated.

It would be unfortunate if I was mischaracterised as somebody who's not a team player. I love my colleagues and I need human interaction, although it seems like my work has a kind of purity that means there's always a right answer and a wrong answer. I'm a fucking wet dream for greedy bosses, because I deliver early and under budget, which is unheard of in my industry, but perhaps it's me who's letting the side down - I should deliberately work at the pace of the slowest worker, because of worker solidarity.

I'm rambling, but I've reached the ragged limit of what I can handle. Either things go my way, or I feel like life's not worth living. I'm blackmailing life to give me what I want, using my own life as an expendable hostage.

Whether I deserve to succeed or not, given the rough ride I've had and the effort that's been expended... these are questions of worthiness that you should answer by having two tramps fight to the death over a half-bottle of wine, just for your own sick amusement. All I can tell you is that having worked my way back from the brink of death and destitution, all I've got to say is fuck you, buddy. You think I should curtail my efforts and scrub toilets for minimum wage, living in some shithole? Fuck you. I'd rather die.

There are matters concerning loss of status and loss of dignity - these are not trivial. If somebody lives the high life and they fall from grace, it's not realistic to expect champagne and sportscars any more, but what about some dignity in labour? What about being paid a wage that reflects a person's skills and experience?

Of course I'm raising the wider question about whether anybody is really paid what they're worth. Of course, we all know full well that the value that we deliver in terms of pure pounds and pence that we put into the pockets our slave-owning capitalist tyrants, does not at all reflect our effort and our productivity, but you know what? The question still has to be asked and has to be answered.

I might seem like some bleeding-heart left-leaning-libtard who thinks they're owed a living, but the evidence doesn't support your assumption. Through all my turbulent times, I've never claimed incapacity benefits, job-seeking benefits, housing benefits, tax credits or any of the myriad forms of state support that are supposedly available to me. I'm trying to play an honest game. I'm trying to play by the rules of the conservative politics that seem to rule the day. I'm trying to work my way out of poverty and back to a position of health, wealth and prosperity.

If I fail, what does it mean? Failure could be utterly catastrophic for me. Even though I have friends who somewhat underwrite my risk, offering to give me a roof over my head, can you imagine working your bollocks off through a 20-year career and having nothing to show for it?... not even some kind of state handout. I thought it would be awful to be dependent on the welfare state, but it's actually more awful to be dependent on out-and-out charity, which could end on a whim.

I don't want to hold a gun to my own head and make my demands, but I came a long way since rough sleeping in a bush. If anybody ever had any doubts about employing an ex-homeless, ex-junkie, washed up loser weirdo who's lost everything, then haven't I proved the case for my fellow unfortunates and myself? When's a guy gonna catch a break?

I'm not trying to elbow my way to the front of the queue. I'm no more deserving than the next person who's equally needy and in distress. To the casual observer, I enjoy a whole host of advantages over the struggling masses. It's not a competition. It shouldn't be a competition.

If you think life's all about survival of the fittest and "it's a jungle out there" then fuck off and de-evolve already, you knuckle-dragging c**t.

 

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Burying a Blog - Part Two

7 min read

This is a story about cyberstalking...

Dirty Laundry

Things are starting to happen faster than I thought they would. I'm not prepared. I didn't think things would slot into place so easily. There's a slim chance I might get a couple of things I really want and need, but the very existence of this blog jeopardises those things. Being sensible, I'd just cut the power and abandon this blog, because the stakes are too high.

How much digging are people prepared to do? There's the best part of 825,000 words here, if you wanted to read it all. Would you be able to say that you reached the right judgement about me, unless you read absolutely everything? Is it really fair to judge somebody on the chapter of their life you walked in on? Can you claim that a small random sample would be representative of who I am?

The easy answer, for most, is not to make so much stuff public. It's simple: Don't write a public blog. Keep things so utterly boring that nobody would get any further than the first few words. I should write about what I ate for breakfast. I should write about things that nobody can relate to. I should write about things that nobody's interested in except for me... well, maybe I do that already.

I'm really badly exposed. I could lose a couple of things that are really important to me. I have the opportunity to build a nice quiet little life in anonymous obscurity, but the cat's out of the bag - my whole psyche is on display on the pages of the internet, for anybody who wants to take the time to Google me, although mercifully I'm a little bit buried thanks to a rapper who shares my name.

I'm changing mindset. In London there are so many people that you can do anything you want and nobody will recognise you or remember anything you've done. In London there are so many people that there's anonymity in the crowd, even if you're doing something that would ordinarily draw attention to yourself. I need to change my mindset to get into the small community mentality, where my face and my deeds are more likely to be remembered. I'm still an nobody; a nothing, but I want to keep it that way - there's no sense in making a fool of myself. I've gotten so used to saying and doing whatever the hell I want, because there are no consequences in London, but in a small town that's not the case. I could end up making myself undateable and unemployable.

I'm trying to tread a fine line between the humble assumption that nobody gives a shit who I am and nobody cares what I've got to say, versus the very real possibility that somebody somewhere might notice me - I really don't want to mix my blogging identity with my professional identity, for the sake of my career. I'm quite careful not to drop the names of my clients or any details of the projects I work on, but I'm not anonymous - I use my real name.

This blog is an experiment. I don't want to be anonymous, but London forced anonymity on me. I could have died in a ditch and nobody would've noticed. I wrote this blog because I wanted to raise my profile. I needed to raise my profile, because anonymity had led me to the point where I felt like nobody cared whether I lived or died, and nobody understood what was going on.

I have ethical objections to anonymity and the pressure to maintain a spotless corporate-friendly immaculate CV with no gaps, and a whiter-than-white social media image. I think it's too much pressure, to ask people to hide their faults. I think it's bullshit, to pretend like we don't have mental health problems, or have made any mistakes in our life. I think anonymity is a fate worse than death. Fuck anonymity.

I hope that one day, I can unify my dating profile with my CV and my LinkedIn and this blog. I hope that one day it's socially acceptable to announce my faults along with my achievements. I think that too many talented people; too many valuable lives are squandered because we insist on presenting such a bullshit image of perfection, when humans are anything but perfect. I think it's making us sick and anxious, having to wear a mask all the time, for the sake of our pathetic salaries.

It's me who's going to end up buried, potentially, if I'm not careful and I don't shut up. One slip, and you're labelled as undesirable, unemployable, undateable... the wrong sort of person. One slip, and you can find yourself shunted into the sidings. There are so many gatekeepers who are looking for a reason to reject you.

So, I challenge those who would skim a tiny fraction of what I've written and decide that they've read enough to judge me, to either read more, or not to bother trying to leap to any quick conclusions. If you want a synopsis of me, it's there to be found in the form of my CV, my LinkedIn and my other sanitised bullshit that you see every day. This is something special that you don't normally get to see, so treat it with respect. Everybody has a real life which doesn't fit onto 2 pages of A4 paper, and contains mistakes as well as all the good stuff, but you don't get to read about the bad stuff, normally.

I think what I'm doing is brave, and it helps me so I'm not going to hide it. I think that we should be moving towards honesty, transparency and authenticity. I think we've been living for far too long, with an encroachment of the workplace that forces us to present ourselves in the very best possible light. I think that society is facing an incredible amount of problems because we can't talk about our mental health problems; our stress levels, for fear of being seen as sick, weak and unreliable by our employers. I think that I'm living life the right way, even though it could potentially be very costly for me. Somebody's got to be brave enough to do it first.

This is my 'baggage up front' declaration, and I refuse to back down even though I'm scared. I'm scared I won't be able to get a girlfriend. I'm scared I won't be able to get a job. I'm scared that people will judge me and think that I'm a bad person. It's scary, to write down everything that goes on in my head like this, but it's also cathartic and helpful to me. There's an epidemic of mental health problems and most people are just about managing, and this seems to be the antidote to me - to write with candid honesty about what's really going on, rather than the usual "I'm great" bullshit mask we have to maintain. It's hard work, pretending to be a perfect human being.

So... let's see what happens. I might go broke and be single. If nobody does the experiment, we'll never know the outcome.

 

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Emotional Exhaustion

8 min read

This is a story about a functional nervous breakdown...

Collapsed bed

I'm sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day, yet I don't feel refreshed. I'm commuting and I'm working, but I'm spending less than half as much time in the office as I'm supposed to, and when I'm there I'm not productive. I reach the weekend and all I want to do is collapse in a heap. I get stressed out about seemingly trivial things - buying a train ticket, booking a hotel, buying some birthday presents, social engagements, the pressure to be a good friend, the need to stay in contact with people. I feel like I'm going to burst into tears when I'm in the shower, or just before I walk into the office. I'm a complete wreck, but to an outside observer I'm a picture of good health and a productive member of society. My colleagues seem to have been duped - they compliment me on the work I've done and they want me to stay longer; they want to give me another project to do.

I had prepared myself psychologically for 6 weeks work in London, but it's been 3 months. I had prepared myself psychologically to get to the end of the contract, but not a single day longer. I'm barely managing to cover up the fact I'm very sick - I arrive in the office at 1pm most days, and leave just after 5pm. I don't turn up for whole days. I sit at my desk endlessly skipping through music, trying to find a song that will lift my mood, but I can't. Life's pretty torturous, even if there doesn't seem any reason why it should be.

Everything feels like it's going to require the expenditure of more effort and energy than I could possibly muster. I get exhausted at the thought of speaking to agents, or challenging myself to do something "new and interesting". What sounds like fun to you, is something that makes me feel even more anxious and depressed. I just want to curl up in a ball.

Those who are happy and healthy say things like "you're only one gym workout away from a good mood" or they suggest things I could do with my spare time. It doesn't look like much of a life, working and sleeping... oh I do quite a lot of moaning and complaining too, but surely I must want to learn to weave baskets or dance salsa, mustn't I? The truth is that I'm 99% shut down - I'm in survival mode, clinging on by my fingernails as I attempt to earn as much money as I can, as quickly as I can, so that I can afford to have a nervous breakdown.

"Nervous breakdown" sounds really shocking and alarming, but I'm actually quietly having a breakdown. I've had persistent paralysing depression for more months than I care to remember, but I'm somehow forcing myself to keep going. "You can't be depressed if you're getting up and going to work" you might say, but you seem to have forgotten that I'm bunking off loads of days, and going in to work 4 hours late on the few days when I do make it. I'm working the very bare minimum I need to, in order not to lose my contract. If I just collapse in a heap and refuse to leave my pit of despair, I lose everything. If there was any way in the world I could just draw the curtains and convalesce, then I'd do it, but I'm trapped by circumstances beyond my control.

I have a week and a half left to go, and then I've finished my contract in London. I have to do 4 more 3.5 hour train journeys. I have to stay in two more AirBnbs. I have to suffer two more Mondays (although I'm planning on bunking off at least one of them). It might not sound like very long - just 3 months - to have been travelling all over the place and doing a job that's been mostly isolating and lonely, and has left me twiddling my thumbs a lot of the time, but the time has really dragged... the time continues to drag.

When you're not feeling good, it really takes an emotional toll. It's really not nice to spend weeks and months, hating your life; hating your circumstances. Yes, I'm very well paid and there's no such thing as a perfect job, but the money really has not been great compensation for the psychological suffering it's caused. I'm perfectly capable of making a mercenary decision to earn a lot of money doing things I don't like doing very much, but it's damaging to my mental health. I really am at my wits end with the London contract.

Who knows what'll happen next. Maybe I'll have been made too unwell by the present contract to even think about the next one, until I've had some rest and recuperation time. You might think that I should be very well rested, because I've been having 3-day weekends and only working half days, but those things are a symptom of just how exhausted I am. It's very hard to explain how I'm emotionally exhausted, even though I seem to be physically rested. It's hard to explain just how draining things have been this year. Seasonal affective disorder, depression and a bit of residual rebound anxiety from medication withdrawal, have conspired to create a viciously awful low mood and sense of despair, which has been hugely exacerbated by being bored at work, with no colleagues to talk to or project to keep me busy.

Finding a new client locally is going to be stressful. I need to meet a whole load of new work colleagues and impress them. It's going to be exhausting. It's going to be destabilising. At the moment, I just want the current contract to be over, so I can curl up in a ball and not leave the house. I want to draw the curtains and turn off my phone. I want to collapse in a heap and yell "ENOUGH!"

It sounds to me like it's some kind of breakdown, but I don't understand why I'm still apparently quite functional. I don't understand why I'm not stripping naked and running through the streets, before smearing jam all over myself in the supermarket and talking in tongues, or whatever other image "nervous breakdown" conjures up in your mind. Perhaps you think of me uncontrollably sobbing, or going mute. Instead, I'm just kind of hollow and empty - I've got nothing left to give; the petrol tank has run dry.

The challenge, of course, is what I do next. Do I collapse and become so dysfunctional that there was no point in exerting myself? Do I lose all the gains that I've managed to achieve, because it was so costly to my mental health to push myself so hard? Have I stored up some kind of almighty breakdown, by limping along for so long?

I've been offered a contract extension. There's no way on earth I can do it, of course. Don't you understand? The money might be incredible, but I don't get paid if I'm not in the office, and I'm already almost at breaking point. Money's not going to get me out of bed. Almost no amount of money is worth the emotional damage that's being done; the emotional exhaustion of the situation.

Of course, there's an argument that I should have just taken medication to prop myself up artificially - to allow myself to be doped up and carry on with a job and a situation that's intolerable. There's an argument to say that it's me that's faulty, for not enjoying living out of a suitcase, working a project that I finished ages ago and just having to look busy, in an office all on my own with nobody to talk to. There's an argument that says it's me being a silly billy, and I should just pop pills and shut the f**k up and get on with life. That's life, right? Life absolutely sucks and it makes us want to kill ourselves. Life destroys every single ounce of happiness and wellbeing, and the only way to put it back is with powerful psychoactive medications.

On the flip side, I've been glad that I've kept my mouth shut and limped along to the end of contracts before, without making too much of a fuss. I'm going to get a good reference and I've earned quite a lot of money. This is the strategy: short-term pain for medium-term gain. I've left jobs on good terms before, and then found it's immensely improved my mood to free... free to do what I want; free from the oppression of a horrible job. I very much expect that my mood will improve massively when this contract is over.

There it is: I need to keep venting and complaining and whinging, because I've got another week and a half of hell to get through. It sucks, and I bet you wouldn't put up with it if you were in my situation.

 

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Short & Sweet

11 min read

This is a story about burnout...

Graffitti

There's a lie which we're all guilty of perpetuating: Work hard and you can improve your life; if you work hard enough you can achieve anything. It's not true and it's wicked to repeat the lie, because we end up blaming ourselves for our appalling living conditions. "If only I'd tried harder in school" so many of us wail, but "if only I worked harder" is not something that a dying person ever says on their deathbed.

It's obvious that there's a grotesque disparity between hard work, dedication, passion, productivity and personal wealth. If you're going to try and argue that the owner of a large property portfolio works harder than a nurse, then you deserve a punch in the face. If you believe that the beneficiary of a trust fund, who doesn't have to work at all, is somehow more deserving than the person who cleans toilets for a living, then you must be suffering from psychosis.

I've heard it said that life is fair, because it's unfair to everybody. Human afflictions don't care whether you're rich or poor - a billionaire still needs an ambulance and a cardiac surgeon if they have a heart problem, and money can't buy them immortality. However, this does not seem to consider the great injustice of the world: that our efforts and actions will make virtually no difference at all. It doesn't matter how badly you want to study at Oxbridge and enter a lucrative profession - if you were born into the wrong socioeconomic circumstances, you're not going to be able to achieve your potential. It doesn't matter how badly you want to elevate yourself from poverty, and how hard you work - you're trapped and you'll never escape.

The media love to shove folklore heroes in our face. The media work very hard to assist our willing suspension of disbelief. Little girls think they're going to be like Kate Middleton and marry a prince - the tale that we're told is that she's an ordinary girl and that any one of us could be plucked out of poverty, but it's bullshit... she went to a very expensive private school. Little boys think they're going to become 'self-made' men, and there are plenty of examples of entrepreneurs who claim to have not received any assistance in building their business empires, except that close scrutiny reveals that they had their risk underwritten by friends and family; they have access to wealth and connections that ordinary people don't.

You show me the success story and I'll show you the unfair advantages that the person enjoyed. Nobody got to the top on merit. Nobody gets anywhere by working hard - it's a lie.

In fact, to work hard and assume that it's going to lead to pay rises and promotions is a kind of mental illness: it's called "Tiara Syndrome". It's a bit like the fantasy of a knight in shining armour coming to rescue us - a person who has Tiara Syndrome is expecting that somebody will come along and put a tiara on their head, just because they work really hard and they're good at their job. Sadly, it doesn't happen.

Behind every fortune is a great crime. The only way to get ahead in life is to lie, cheat and steal.

"The power of enclosing land and owning property was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murder 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 thieve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand by the power of the sword; and so you justify the wicked deeds of your fathers, and that sin of your fathers shall be visited upon the head of you and your children to the third and fourth generation, and longer too, till your bloody and thieving power be rooted out of the land"

A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England (1649)

So, if we've been writing about this problem for the best part of 400 years, things must be alright, mustn't they? Don't fix what ain't broke and all that. Why rock the boat?

Life expectancies are starting to fall - people are dying younger. There's a mental health epidemic. There's an opioid epidemic. Living standards are declining. Billions of people live in poverty, and within our lifetime we'll witness a Malthusian catastrophe that will dwarf any other mass extinction event seen on planet earth. If you thought the Ethiopian famine was bad, wait until you see what the next few decades have got in store for us. With high-yield modern mechanised farming techniques, we have plenty of food, but we are staggeringly bad at sharing things fairly. If you believe that the present situation of wealth disparity is acceptable, then you're signing the death warrant for billions of people - a holocaust knowingly perpetrated on the human race, for no better reason than sheer unadulterated greed.

Remember that none of the Nazis were allowed to say "I was just following orders" as any kind of defence. To fail to act and to say that you're just doing what everyone else is doing, is immoral. To be passive and turn a blind eye, or to throw up your hands and say "there's nothing I can do" is not acceptable. Yes, it's our instinct to look after our own families, but the day is coming when that selfishness will backfire. Your kids are going to need a place to live. Your kids are going to end up in debt. Your kids are facing a shitty future, and your grandkids are going to inherit a completely hopelessly screwed situation - do you think they'll agree with you, that it was right that you sat back and did nothing?

If you think you're helping your kids by instilling some kind of 'work ethic' in them and getting them to study hard, you're making a mistake. Remember: nobody ever got anywhere by working hard. Hard work can be a useful thing, but we must consider what our labour is being used for - if it's making weapons and oppressing people, then hard work is immoral when it contributes to the war on humanity. Sometimes the best thing to do is to withhold labour - to deprive the tyrants of the manpower they need to conquer and achieve world domination. Sometimes the best thing to do is conscientiously object; to nonviolently protest.

I've thought long and hard about how I can make a difference. I thought about medicine. I thought about law. I thought about politics. I thought about science and engineering. I find myself in technology, and I'm desperately disappointed. No amount of smartphone apps and websites is going to address the problems at the root cause, which appears to be competition. Why must there be competition? Why do we have to measure and grade people, and declare that some of us are not worthy of consideration? Why do we have artificial scarcity and force people to fight over an artificially limited amount of so-called 'money'? Why do we put artificial limits on the numbers of people who can pursue a certain professional discipline? Why do we want to have elitism? Why do 99% have to be told they're shit and they don't matter and they're expendable, so that the 1% can feel special?

I was on the fast-track. I was made unconditional university offers and allowed to skip entire academic years. I got onto a graduate training program 3 years sooner than any of my peers. I got pay rises and promotions so quickly that I was earning six-figures by the age of 20. I'm an example of one of those success stories that you might read about, that are supposed to make you believe that with enough hard work anyone can reach the top of the pyramid - be a CEO or a prime minister or a president, or a king or queen. It's bullshit. Why would I turn on the system that's given me everything I've ever wanted? Why would I bite the hand that feeds me?

No amount of houses, sports cars, yachts, speed boats, luxury holidays and all the other trimmings of a wealthy life can ever make you quite feel like you're content with the way things are, because you can never fully insulate yourself from the suffering and poverty that surrounds us. The fact that you're reading this on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone, means that you're one of the lucky ones - you're somewhere that has electricity and the internet, which means there's probably clean drinking water too. If you think about those less fortunate than yourself, they're probably considerably well below your standard of living. Wherever you are in the pecking order, there's always some unfortunate who's desperately in need of help, because we've set up society to fail people - the very process of succeeding ourselves means trampling others underfoot to get ahead in life. It's a zero sum game - for somebody to win, there has to be a loser.

Life doesn't have to be like this - so adversarial. There's no limit on the number of "A" grades we can give out, or the amount of money we can print. There's no limit on the number of doctors we can have. We live in a world that's been artificially constrained to create winners and losers. There's no need to have competition so inbuilt to society. Yes, we might see that nature is full of competition - survival of the fittest - but we're not beasts. We've become super-intelligent and capable of producing vast surpluses of everything we need. With high-yield farming techniques and agricultural mechanisation, we can feed ourselves until we burst. With mass production and factories, we can have a virtually unlimited amount of goods - clothes and shoes and building materials, as well as pointless consumer crap that we arguably don't need.

Like the many utopians who I studied while doing the research for my second novel, I can see a world that's jam-packed with all the technology that we need to improve the human condition, and elevate half the planet out of poverty. I can see that we already possess everything we need - we don't need nuclear fusion or flying cars or any other sci-fi fantasies... we already have the means at our disposal, to improve our lives.

As a person who wants to make a positive difference - to effect meaningful change - I find it very distressing that those who are working very hard to improve the world are being thwarted. Imagine all the effort put in by doctors, nurses, politicians, charity workers and myriad others who do what they do because they want to make the world a better place... but it's not working, is it? The world is getting steadily more and more fucked up.

If you think I'm seeing the world through a 'blue filter' and my depression tinges my perceptions, we only need to look at the hard data - homelessness, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty, crime and all the other indicators we have of the health of our society are telling the same story: Things are getting worse, not better. Your kids will have to get into heaps of debt to obtain their education, and then they won't be able to afford to buy a house. Your kids are going to struggle to find work. Your kids are going to struggle, full stop. Your grandkids are absolutely fucked. It doesn't take a genius to extrapolate from the data and see where we're headed. Things aren't just going to magically improve without anybody doing anything. Don't look to politicians to cure society's problems. Don't look to charity to cure society's problems. Don't look to the church to cure society's problems. If any of the existing status quo members were going to do something to fix things, they'd have done it at some point in the last 400 years, wouldn't they?

I haven't figured out what I'm going to do yet, but the best "not in my name" protest I can think of is to kill myself. The best way I can think of to register my objection with the status quo, is to end my life.

Maybe I have a lemming-like instinct to kill myself because of overpopulation. Perhaps my genes are telling me to kill myself for the good of the species. Certainly the self-preservation instinct feels much weaker than the powerful emotions that tear through me, thinking about the futility of the oft-tried ways of making a difference.

If there's no opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, why go on?

 

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Relativity

7 min read

This is a story about moral superiority...

Standard lengths

We are all well aware that there's no point comparing anything unless we are using the same unit of measurement. To say that my penis is 6 long is meaningless. If it's 6 centimetres then that's not very impressive. If it's 6 millimetres that's a downright micropenis. If it's 6 feet then that's just an impractical length - I'd have to coil it up or sling it over my shoulder. Clearly it's important to know what unit of measurement we're talking about.

Next comes the problem of standardisation. If you've ever bought cocaine then you'll know that your drug dealer's scales use a different set of weights and measures than those which would be officially approved. On a fully calibrated weighing scale, you may be disappointed to learn that you've been ripped off by at least 10%, not including whatever was added to bulk out the product when your precious powder was cut.

On the topic of comparing apples with apples, how should we compare 1g of cocaine cut with teething powder, with 1g of cocaine cut with powdered milk? Is it even meaningful to compare weight when we don't know the purity? You might not even be buying cocaine - there are many [cheaper] drugs that mimic its effects, and others that are added to give the classic numbness you feel when it's rubbed on your gums or snorted.

So, if we have measured length, weight and density (or purity) then what else is there that we could measure? Time. How do we measure time?

We had the movement of the sun, the flow of sand and water through primitive timing devices, and clockwork, but the devices are not very accurate. It wasn't until the miniaturisation of clockwork movements into pocket watches that we had a reliable device to keep time, but these are still quite inaccurate. It was discovered that quartz crystals had a mechanical resonance, and that an electronic device could 'count' the vibrations - 32,768 vibrations is 1 second. Temperature fluctuations will cause a quartz digital clock to gain or lose a second or two over the course of a year. It sounds accurate enough and for the purposes of this piece I won't delve any deeper into the strange workings of time.

Now, let's suppose you and I synchronise our watches and say to one another "let's meet back here at this time tomorrow" do you suppose we have both experienced exactly 24 hours, when we meet up again the following day? Do you suppose that each of our 24 hours passed at exactly the same rate?

I could explain some of the minutiae of special and general relativity, but I'm writing about the kind of relativity that we experience every day. Unless you're on a spaceship travelling at 97% of the speed of light, special relativity is not really going to apply in everyday life. Unless you're mucking about near a neutron star, general relativity is of no concern in this terrestrial tale.

So, you and your companion parted ways for 24 hours. So, when you compare your watches, they're still showing exactly the same time, right? But, did time flow at the same rate for both of you? Is it a useful comparison to say that both of you experienced the same 24 hours, as measured by your watches?

Let's imagine our two experimenters - call them Alice and Bob - went about their normal business. Alice is a scientist and she went back to her lab where she had some discussions with her colleagues about the fundamental nature of reality. Bob works in a pea factory, canning peas. Bob went back to the pea factory and did a 12-hour shift, pulling a lever that puts a pre-measured quantity of peas into a can. Alice isn't even sure how long she was at work, because she was so engrossed in her discussions with fascinating people. Bob knows exactly how long he was at work, because his whole time he was wishing the factory whistle would blow so he could go and punch his timecard. Was one hour of Alice's work the same as one hour of Bob's work?

Next, Alice and Bob go home. Alice has a husband she adores, 3 kids and a cat. She put the kids to bed and drank a glass of red wine with her husband, while updating him on the day's events. Bob lives on his own in a dismal flat. Bob sat drinking vodka because he hates his job, but he has to do another 12-hour shift tomorrow. Did Alice and Bob's evening pass at the same speed as each other's?

Alice slept for 7 hours before springing out of bed to get the kids up and prepare breakfast. She was buzzing with energy and full of enthusiasm about the day ahead. Bob slept for 12 hours and woke up with a sense of dread - he was disappointed that he hadn't died in his sleep. Clearly, there was a disparity in the amount of sleep each of them got, although their watches did not go to sleep. How can we compare two people's day, when we get different amounts of sleep?

We might agree that Alice and Bob's watches experienced the same 24 hours, insofar as can be measured using hours, minutes and seconds, but do you think that time passed at the same speed for them, in the way that they subjectively experienced it? Is time a meaningful unit at all, in this context?

Imagine if every hour we asked Alice and Bob to rate how fast the last hour had passed for them - either "quickly", "slowly" or "normal". We might see that Alice rates her hours as passing quickly, while Bob rates his hours as passing slowly. When we consider this, we see that their conscious hours are very different indeed, and the actual number of hours, minutes and seconds elapsed is not a very useful measure.

Thinking about this disparity in perceived hours, between different individuals in different jobs, it seems quite obvious that it's cruel and torturous to expect those who are suffering to tolerate the passage of time, when others find that their day flies by with ease.

What we see is that a number of people won't hold down a job, and will chop and change between different money-getting pursuits because they find most work to be unbearably shit. Some of us will find so little difference between one McJob and another, that we will be unable to work at all. Some of us know very clearly what kind of work we can't stand: working in offices and having to get up early in the morning, is very badly suited to a night-owl who has a brain and a personality, for example.

Relatively speaking, I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm extremely well remunerated and I pretty much do whatever I want - I'm not somebody you could ever 'manage' or boss around. If I don't feel like working, I don't go to work. If I want to quit, I can quit and find another job really easily. The problem with work is that it never pays enough for what's expected of you - the pay packet never fully compensates you for giving up your precious time, and the interminable tedium. Obviously, that's slightly insulting, considering I earn bucketloads, but I'll gladly switch with you and flip burgers for a while, because the monotony of my 20 year career is killing me.

The grass is greener etc. etc. Believe me I don't want to be mopping floors as my full-time occupation and getting paid minimum wage. However, it's completely bafflingly insane to be grateful for a job that's making you unwell and robbing you of your precious time. We only get one life so I don't understand why we spend so much of it bullying each other into working shitty jobs. I don't understand why those whose days are excruciatingly awful don't complain and demand a hundredfold pay increase. I don't understand why more people don't decide to go hungry and homeless, in the face of the oppressive tyranny of bullshit jobs.

Given the obvious health risks of being bored and stressed at work - as bad if not worse than smoking cigarettes - then I think we should be getting danger money. They're not paying us enough!

 

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What do Depressed People do All Day?

7 min read

This is a story about tiredness...

Corner blob

To the casual observer it might appear like I bunked off work today so I could write a blog post. In fact, writing takes up very little of my time now that I have developed the daily writing habit. I don't see writing as an alternative to work. I don't feel like writing takes any effort. I don't even care if nobody reads what I write, although obviously it helps me a lot to know that there are people who care about me.

It's remarkable how much I can sleep. I'm not at all short of sleep. I slept for 12 to 14 hours a day, at a minimum, throughout November. I slept for 8 hours a night through August, September, October and January. During the Christmas and New Year break, I slept for 14+ hours a night. Surely I can't be short of sleep.

Today, I dozed until nearly 3pm in the afternoon. My alarm was going off from 8am to 12:30pm, before I finally admitted defeat and decided that there was no way I was going to make it into the office today.

It's exhausting worrying about having to get up and go to work. It's exhausting worrying about the next time I'm going to have to pack my bags and travel across the country. It's exhausting being on a constant cycle of packing and unpacking, and washing and preparing everything for another week in yet another AirBnB that I've never visited before. It's exhausting preparing for yet another week in the same office, with no work colleagues to speak to or work to do - sitting there pretending to look busy so I can scrape together a bit of cash. It's exhausting that my needs are so out of alignment with the demands placed upon me. It's exhausting to be forced into a situation that's so toxic to my mental health and that destroys any sense of happiness and wellbeing.

I'm usually awake before my alarm. If I wake up early enough, I'll go to the toilet and try to get back to sleep, otherwise I'll lie there dreading the moment that my alarm will go off, which is always a lot sooner than I expect. Then, I try to rouse myself but I can't. Even though I would easily have sprung out of bed to use the toilet at 7am, I flatly refuse to get up at 8am. There seems something really wrong with getting up and then going back to bed, so I stay in bed, even if my bladder is really uncomfortably full.

After I pass the point where I would walk into the office ridiculously late, I then start to tell myself that I can walk in at lunchtime with a sandwich and sit down to eat my lunch at my desk as if I'd been there all day. This is my new strategy. It worked for 3 days, but today I couldn't even face half a day. As the clock ticked past 1pm, I realised that I would be late for lunch - by the time I sat down at my desk it would clearly no longer be lunchtime. I gave up on the idea of going into the office at all today.

What have I done all day? Surely I can't be asleep for 15 hours when I'm not tired. Well, there's a kind of emotional exhaustion that's created by this job where I've got nothing to do. I loathe going into the office and sitting all on my own with nobody to talk to. I hate it so much that I get tired just thinking about it. I'd rather lie in bed full of dread thinking about how awful things are, than be sat at my desk pretending to look busy. It's a sane response to an insane situation, to stay away from the source of such sheer misery.

You'd think I would be hungry, having skipped breakfast and lunch, but I'm not. You'd think I would be bored taking so much time off doing nothing at all, but I'm not. When the prospect of being in the office is so abominable to my mental health, I can easily lie in bed avoiding it.

"We'd all like to lie in bed doing nothing!" you might chide. Well, why don't you?

If you're thinking of all the ways that I could put my time to more productive use, then good for you, but I don't think like that. It's not like I'm visiting art galleries or going shopping when I'm bunking off work. It doesn't work like that. I can think of plenty of ways to fill my spare time, but this time is not spare, you see - this is time where I'm laid low; subdued by depression created by the intolerable conditions that I must endure.

"Why must you endure this?"

Well, it's still very lucrative to just work 2.5 out of 5 days a week. I'm still earning more money than I'd get as an artist or a poet. I'm still earning more money than I'd get volunteering to stroke puppy dogs at the local animal sanctuary. I'm clinging onto this job in the hope that my mood will lift and things will get easier, but even if things don't get any easier, I'm still managing to earn quite a lot of cash and inch my way closer to the end of the contract. No matter how unbearable it is, I don't want to give in. I want to push myself. I want to find out if I can push through this difficult period.

Sometimes I sit and I don't do anything at all. I don't read, listen to music or watch TV. I don't talk to anybody. I'm not really thinking. I'm not occupied by anything - I'm in a trancelike state, zoned out. I'm just sitting and waiting. I can wait. I'm really good at just patiently waiting. It's harder at work, because I get anxious that somebody's going to ask me what I've been doing with my time, and I can't really reply that I've just been sitting in a trance. I feel like I should be doing stuff, but there's nothing to do. The company are happy enough to pay me to keep a seat warm and do nothing, but it's pretty unbearable even if it's helping my bank balance a lot.

So, I guess I'm tired. I'm really irrationally, illogically, weirdly tired. I'm tired all the time, but I have no obvious reason to be tired. My job is not demanding in the conventional sense of the word. My life is not particularly physically demanding. I'm apparently not doing anything so I should have no reason to be tired, but I am tired. Sleeping is the main thing that I do. I live to sleep at the moment.

You'd think I'd get bored of sleeping and doing nothing, but I'd rather be sleeping and doing nothing at home, than doing nothing at my desk. It's a blessed relief to finally give myself permission to bunk off the whole day, even though I'm squandering the time in bed. It seems strange that I'm not doing anything with my time, when I'm complaining that I've got nothing to do at work, but that's the way it is - I feel shackled to my job, and it's emotionally draining, having nothing to do.

That's my life at the moment: Sleeping and dread.

 

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High Availability

6 min read

This is a story about keeping the lights on...

Bright city lights

There used to be a time, not so long ago, when banks were closed at weekends and on bank holidays, and the only way to do financial transactions was with cash, or otherwise with cheques that used to take 3 working days to clear and could 'bounce'. Today, we can do credit and debit card transactions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Today money flows across the globe in the blink of an eye - pay for some sunglasses in Singapore and your current account will be immediately debited back home here in the UK.

There used to be a time, not so long ago, when getting online meant phoning up another computer. We weren't online all the time - we'd connect once in a while to check our emails, but the rest of the time our telephone line had to be left free so that people could call us. Likewise, computers weren't always available to be connected to - the dial-up number might be engaged because somebody else was connected, or maybe the computer would be switched off or having maintenance done to it. Today, you can access websites 24 x 7 x 365 and you'll never see a message that says the service you're trying to access is offline because of maintenance or some kind of problem. That's what "high availability" means.

So, did we stop turning off the computers, or install some more phone lines or something? Did we get rid of the need to upgrade and do maintenance on the computers? Are the days of engineers having to take a service offline now gone? From a consumer's point of view, that's certainly the way it appears.

In a post 9/11 world, disaster recovery is seen as an essential requirement for business. A terrorist organisation could blow up the headquarters of your bank, but to you as the customer, the computer systems have been designed so that things should function just like normal - business as usual as far as you're concerned. Does that mean that computers are now bombproof? From a consumer's point of view, it certainly seems to be the case.

The reality is that behind the scenes there is a lot of redundancy and failover design so that if anything catastrophic happens, other parts of the system can take over from the parts that have failed. If a computer blows up, another one immediately takes over its work, seamlessly. If a hard disk fails, the data has been copied across a bunch of other ones so no information is ever lost. Software is designed so that it can be upgraded without the users even realising that it's happened - you get new features on the websites you use all the time, but you never notice any interruption in the service. That's high availability in action.

Behind the scenes, there's an army of developers, testers, devops, support analysts, network engineers, sysadmins, database administrators and other flavours of infrastructure engineers, who keep things running smoothly. To keep you plugged into the digital world 24 hours a day, allowing you to send and receive emails, text messages and naughty photos whenever you want, a huge stack of systems have been designed, built and maintained with the principle that they must be "always online". It's a bit like repairing a broken-down car while it's still driving down the road at 100mph.

The net result is that the main skill in IT is not creating the hardware and software anymore, but in keeping the lights on all the time - 100% uptime. Teams of people work in shifts around the clock just waiting for something to go wrong so that they can spring into action and fix it, even though faults are not fatal to the overall functioning of the system, and the users won't even notice that there's been a problem. Computers still fail and hardware still needs replacing. Things need upgrading; things need maintaining, but it all happens without anybody ever seeing a message that says "SERVICE NOT AVAILABLE".

Personally, I do not enjoy sitting waiting for something to go wrong. I'm currently working for a team whose role is to keep the lights on, and it got briefly exciting when the air conditioning failed and a whole datacentre shut itself down, but that was the briefest possible thrill. I'm like a firefighter in this modern world where modern fabrics, improved electrical safety and central heating systems mean that fire is an increasingly rare occurrence in the domestic home. I'm built to fight fires, but everything's built to be so resilient. There are no crises that demand heroics anymore.

I'm pretty much in the wrong job. I deal with machines all day long but I want to deal with people. I'm bored but banking is supposed to be boring - when it gets exciting it means stock market crashes and people not getting paid. I need variety but once you've grasped how to build a computer system, they're all the same - I've built everything from torpedo guidance on nuclear submarines, to bus ticket machines and iPhone apps, and it's all built exactly the same way. I am devastatingly depressed about my job. I think banking is 99% evil, with only 1% of it having anything to do with keeping people's wealth safe from robbers or facilitating transactions that are easier than barter. I need to be solving problems, but I've already solved the same ones a million times, and if I do a good job upfront then there aren't many to solve anyway. It's a dismal existence.

So, I sit at my desk and I get paid an obscene amount of money for doing nothing, just in case something goes wrong... which it very rarely does. I'm highly available, but like a disaster recovery site, hopefully I never have to spring into action, because things are really bad if I'm put to good use. It's really horrible, sitting and waiting for something terrible to happen, and really wanting a crisis to develop because I'm so bored and under-utilised.

I really need to find some kind of app which serves some kind of societal function, beyond stupid distractions from the point of living. Surely the point of living is to spend our brief time on this earth with our family and friends, eating, drinking and making merry, not chasing money and other made-up bullshit.

 

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California Rocket Fuel

4 min read

This is a story about wanting to feel better...

Venlafaxine and mirtazepine

My mood viciously see-saws between two poles at the moment. Thursday night and Friday night were delightful. Monday morning and Friday morning were abysmal. Sometimes I feel like I have boundless energy and enthusiasm, and other times I just want to curl up and die. I feel weirdly mixed up - both manically high and suicidally low at the same time. I think I'm experiencing what's known as a "mixed state".

Not wanting to get too bound up in navel gazing and examining every minute change in my mood, I'm not going to write too much today. It's the same old stuff that's bothering me - a job that's boring and isolating, and a lifestyle that's unsettled and exhausting. In a few hours I have to get on a train, travel to the other side of the country and then check into yet another AirBnb that I've never been to before: The bedroom will be different; the bathroom will be different; there will be different noises that go bump in the night, waking me up. My life has very little stability and consistency.

I desperately want to reach for substances that will make me feel better. I'd love to pop some pills - like the California Rocket Fuel pictured above - in order to feel more happiness than sadness, but it would be highly likely to push me into out-and-out mania. I really want to quit my job and hide under the duvet for a month or two, but I can't afford to do that.

By the end of February, I'll have run out of money again. I'm burning lots of money on expenses, and I only get paid 61 days after having done my work, because of a strange contractual arrangement. Big outlay and big risk - I'm spending money I don't have in the hope of recouping it in future, which leaves me with nothing but stress.

It seems worthwhile to continue to work through February, even though it's making me sick. If I can finish the month, then I'll have a big paycheque at the start of March and another at the end of March, which will make me solvent again. If I quit now, I'll almost be worse of than if I hadn't bothered. It feels like I've achieved nothing.

My mood is desperately low, but at least my thoughts have turned away from suicide, and instead I think about running away to a hot country, or just stopping work and refusing to get out of bed.

I'm carrying some extra weight from Christmas. I'm unfit. My skin is pale and pasty. I'm still having to carefully budget, lest I run out of money before I complete my contract - my finances are still in a pretty dire situation. I wonder where the reward is for not killing myself. I wonder when - if ever - I'm going to feel glad that I'm alive.

My life is not entirely bleak, and I have brief moments where I'm really happy. There are things I look forward to occasionally. However, it's pretty misery-making that the pressures on me - career and financial - are taking me away from the things I care about, and the things that are good for my mental health. Circumstances demand that I continue to suffer long train journeys, lonely hotel rooms and a bullshit job that's pure torture.

I'm trying to vent and whinge and complain and moan like crazy, in the hope that it'll help me to limp along until the end of the month. I keep telling myself "it's only another X weeks" and counting down the hours, minutes and seconds, but it's pretty unbearable.

I wonder to myself if I should start drinking coffee again. I wonder if there's some kind of pill or powder I can get my hands on that will give me some relief from the dreadful depression. I wonder if there's some way I can earn money and retain my sanity, because the present situation is killing me.

I'm going to stop writing now, because I'm just making myself more miserable. There's nothing more to say. There's nothing that can really be done. I know what I have to do, and I know how much I hate it and how sick it's making me, but I've got to do it.

 

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Goodbye, Jinxed January

8 min read

This is a story about the bitter end...

Urine bottle

For a devout atheist, I can be surprisingly superstitious. I seem to have survived Jinxed January without losing my job, becoming homeless, going bankrupt, being hospitalised, getting sectioned, getting arrested, getting anybody pregnant, committing any crimes, taking any illegal drugs, contracting a terminal illness or dying. Epic win.

I looked in my photo archives to see what I was doing this time last year. Apparently I was pissing in a bottle, hospitalised on a high dependency ward with kidney failure. On my blog, I was writing about "what would Jesus do?" so I was clearly pretty deranged, but then I was on dialysis for several hours a day, which was not exciting so I'm sure my mind must have been wandering a lot. On Facebook I was jabbering about a cocktail of painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquillisers I was taking to try to get some sleep on the ward. I feel relatively sane and happy by comparison - my life looks quite peachy compared to that unfortunate period.

I looked back two years ago to see what was going on at the end of January and there's a gap. I simply ceased to exist for a few days, before popping up and writing over 3,000 words about all manner of things. It looks pretty conclusive that I was in the vice-like grip of madness and shenanigans.

I can't look back three years on my blog, because I only started two and a half years ago, but I do know that three years ago today I was staying with friends in County Cork, Ireland. My contract with Barclays had been terminated early, I'd broken up with my girlfriend, lost loads of friends because of the breakup and I had been evicted from my apartment in Swiss Cottage. I needed to escape from London for a bit, because I couldn't take any more, and so my friends looked after me in rural Ireland. Not so jinxed, but pretty jinxed because my life was still totally messed up.

I can see from an email that four years ago I was receiving inpatient treatment for dual diagnosis - bipolar and substance abuse - after the messiest and most acrimonious divorce you can imagine. My life was profoundly dysfunctional - I'd only just managed to escape "the poison dwarf" and the relationship that nearly killed me. My stuff was in storage and I was living with friends in Kentish Town. My new business had been put on hold because the divorce and house sale had been too much for me to handle. I'd been surviving by mining bitcoins, but the price had crashed and I was in big trouble, even though I'd managed to cash in at $1,100 per bitcoin.

I can't see my email from five years ago, because I lost my original Google Mail account, which I'd had since soon after GMail launched for public beta testing. I can see that I was late for my appointment to see a psychiatrist who I'd found (albeit a week later) so I imagine that things were pretty dire... although I clearly had the presence of mind to find a private psychiatrist and arrange my own treatment, so I'm guessing this was the beginning of the descent into Hell. This time five years ago - roughly - my new wife told me that she wanted to be a widow and that she wouldn't let me have the treatment I needed. This time five years ago, I was trying to find people to help me, while my wife and my parents broke my heart. This time five years ago, I realised that I needed to get my parents and my wife out of my life at all costs - I realised they're toxic people and that if I wanted to have any kind of future, they couldn't be part of it.

Five years of insanity is a hell of a long time. In those five years, things got a lot worse before they got any better. In those five years, I sorely missed my house and my cat. In those five years, I sorely missed the life I'd built for myself, with my friends and my good reputation and my good job. I threw away a lot, taking a gamble that I'd be better off in the long run. The last five years have been insane, but I don't see how I could have extricated myself from the situation any better. I've played the best I could with the cards I was dealt.

I'm sick and tired of Jinxed January, and I hope I've seen the back of it; I hope I've broken the curse.

Of course I tempt fate by saying that now I've had one un-jinxed January then I've got things sussed and it'll all be plain sailing from here. Of course there are going to be Foul Februarys and Miasmic Marches but January has been my nemesis for so long. I don't want to get cocky and complacent, but it's a big deal that I've beaten this dratted month. February and March are going to be dreadful, but at least I have a few quid in my pocket, no imminent threat of homelessness and nothing particularly awful on the horizon. I have another month of paid work ahead of me. For once, I have a few things going in my favour.

You might see that my biggest fight is with myself. Of course, there's work available year-round and my skills mean that I'm never going to go hungry and homeless, except through spectacular self-sabotage. It seems obvious that I should just quietly and obediently pop the pills and behave myself. It doesn't look that hard to just get my head down and concentrate on working hard to get myself back into a position of financial security. To say that by the end of the year I could be well and truly wealthy again, seems like no time at all to you. However, you must remember that I march to a different beat. My timescales are not the same as your timescales.

I'm not going to get paid for the whole of February. A very Frugal February beckons. The weather's just as dark and miserable in February and my job will be just as isolating, lonely and boring. The unfavourable conditions very much remain unpleasant and unconducive to any mood improvement. However, the so-called short month of February does seem like a less daunting proposition than Jinxed January was. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Another month without an almighty fuck-up is a huge achievement, in the context of my messed up 5 years of Jinxed Januarys. If I'm being superstitious, so be it, because it's helped me to avoid going off the rails.

I'm really pleased with where I'm at actually. Drink and drug free, unmedicated, as sane as I'll ever be, relatively settled in my home life, regular(ish) income and gainful employment. There aren't too many loose ends to tidy up. I'm on top of my taxes and my paperwork. To be in this position, at this dreadful time of year, where I don't have anything looming that's of major concern, is a really big deal.

I submitted another invoice to my client, and even though I lost over £4,000 of potential earnings this month, I'm still in profit after expenses. The money's not in the bank yet, but it's on its way. Perhaps it will be good to spend another month being a little thrifty - money after all, can be something that's triggering.

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm imagining that by the end of February, my financial woes will be mostly ended. I'm imagining that by the end of March I'll be feeling positively wealthy again. I'm projecting into the future, and that's bound to end up making me miserable. I still have a whole month more of my miserable boring contract to do. I need to start looking for the next job, at some point sooner rather than later. I can't make tomorrow come any sooner, and I shouldn't wish away today.

What can I say, except I'm slightly glad that I didn't throw away a perfectly salvageable situation. I'd still rather be dead, because it's been a lot of stress and hassle, but I'm alive so I'll carry on for a bit longer and see what tomorrow brings.

 

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Too Sick to Work

5 min read

This is a story about hitting a brick wall...

Rat race skull

What happens if I can't get up and go to the office? I presume I lose my contract pretty promptly. I didn't have an interview to get my job and I'm very well paid. It seems like madness to risk losing my income, but perhaps that illustrates just how much I'm struggling at the moment.

By about 4:30pm this afternoon I was hungry enough to get up and go and find something to eat, so I can't be very sick, can I? When I was feeling too unwell to work a couple of weeks ago, I was suicidal. Today I haven't been suicidal, so I must be a lot better. Why would I throw away a great opportunity to earn some big bucks?

It's true that my contract was a gift which was perfectly timed to rescue me from financial ruin. It's true that I've been able to mess around with new technology and add some desirable skills to my repertoire. It's true that working has been good for my self-esteem. However, I've been too lonely, bored, stressed, isolated and having to pretend to look busy, for far too long. It's impossible to go into an office and sit all on your own, shuffling papers around your desk for 40 hours a week. I know it sounds like a cushy number, but I've been alone with my thoughts and with no distractions for far too long.

If I lose this contract I know I'll regret it. I don't mean to play with fire. I don't mean to be turning down well paid work when it's offered. I genuinely couldn't face it today. I genuinely couldn't face the many days I've bunked off this year, even though I very much wanted to work.

"You can't have wanted to work that much, can you?" you may ask.

I want to work and I want the money, it's just that there's a fundamental incompatibility with my current state of mind and my mood, and the grim task of having to sit and look busy at my desk, with nobody to talk to. The suggestion that I start random water-cooler chats with strangers is absurd. People are very busy. People have jobs to do. It would be far worse to draw attention to the fact that I'm idle, than to attempt to simply sit and wish away the hours, minutes and seconds, being miserable at my desk.

There are limits to how miserable you can get. There's a point where depression switches to the active pursuit of suicide. Once you go beyond the point where depression exceeds the survival instinct, you die, or at least attempt to die. Once you go beyond the point where work is far more miserable than being destitute, you'll cease to force yourself to go a job that's devastatingly awful for your mental health.

There's a chance that things could change at work and I could get a new project, but today's the first day that my client's back in the office after a two and a half week holiday, so they'll be dealing with a backlog of emails and other things to catch up on. Nobody really wants to have to find things for a so-called 'self-starter' to do, but I'm a thousand miles away from my colleagues, so it's not like I can just chat to them and see if I can make myself useful in some way.

I've always found that there's a certain amount of thumb-twiddling and doing pointless time-filling tasks just to keep busy, in the job I've chosen. I made some career changes to allow me to retain my sanity, but averse life events have caused me to have to go back to doing work that pays the bills, despite the detriment to my health.

It's true that I'm very lucky to be very well paid to do what I do, but it doesn't change the inescapable fact of the matter: I'm not coping without daily interaction with a team of people, and a certain amount of variety in my daily grind. Nobody's job's perfect, but mine's definitely not really helping me struggle through Jinxed January and stay stable through a stressful and testing time for my mental health and long-term wellbeing.

You know, lots of people choose their jobs because they're night owls, or because they can't stand working in offices, or because they thrive off the energy of people and their souls would be destroyed by having to sit and stare at spreadsheets for a living. Lots of people choose their jobs because it's something they want to do and it suits their personality. I'm doing my contract because I need the money.

I know I sound like a scratched record, but I'm barely limping along to the end of the month.

Would I rather be unemployed and broke? In a lot of ways, yes.

 

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