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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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Are People Just Humouring Me?

5 min read

This is a story about sanity...

Clinical psychology department

Some days I feel like I have very good "insight" - that is to say I'm able to discern between the thoughts and feelings which are caused by mental illness, and those which would seem sane and rational to a "normal" person. Other days, I'm quite clearly as mad as a box of frogs - some days I make terrible decisions and I'm absolutely convinced of things which later prove to have been quite illogical and irrational, perhaps even psychotic, delusional and even hallucinatory.

In the months where I was living with a doctor - although I was working away for most of that time - the doctor seemed particularly intent on picking me apart psychologically; psychoanalysing me. I should note as a caveat that the doctor was not qualified in psychiatry or psychology, which is probably why their conclusions varied from a firmly held belief that I had no mental illness whatsoever, to some pretty wild and random diagnoses.

When you're living with a doctor and they can't decide whether your 100% sane or 100% insane, it's pretty hard to know yourself where you are on the spectrum. I'm pretty confused.

Certainly, when economic necessity imposes itself upon me, I can work for fairly lengthy periods with my colleagues completely unaware that I've been living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder for the best part of a decade. When the wolf is at the door, I seem to be able to keep a lid on the madness, even though I'm completely unmedicated.

Does this ability to "pick and choose" when I'm "well" and when I'm unwell provide strong evidence that I'm not mentally ill at all? My own father is on record as saying that he doesn't believe I have a mental illness, but instead that I use it as an excuse for my [mis]behaviour... but then he's not a doctor, and neither is he sympathetic towards people who suffer from mental illness either.

I don't know if I do "pick and choose" anyway. I work whenever I can, for as long as I can. Sometimes the timing works out OK, and the very worst of my symptoms can be kept hidden so that my colleagues remain none the wiser to my diagnosed condition. More commonly though, I eventually struggle to keep my mental illness a secret, because it either causes me to be off work sick, or I'm manic in the office, which is never a good situation to be in.

Perhaps the obvious tell-tale signs of something being wrong with me are there all the time, but people are too polite to say anything: they're just humouring me. Sometimes I can't keep my mouth shut and I'm over-enthusiastic. Sometimes I literally cannot drag myself into the office. We all have good days and bad days, but I must be atypical in my working patterns, which would be a giveaway that there's something strange about me.

I was reluctant to use the photo of me not wearing my cunning and infallible disguise, but I decided to use it anyway. A colleague Google'd me and found my blog at the last place I was working. He didn't say anything, but one day he asked if I wear contact lenses. I wonder if there's anything inherently wrong with having a candid, honest blog out on the public internet for all to see. Certainly it was used against me by one or maybe even two unscrupulous bosses, but on the whole I've found that most people read looking for the best rather than digging for the dirt and thinking the worst of me.

I was tempted to do some blog-sanitising, given that I've managed to survive a period when it looked as if all my hard work was going to be destroyed by a period of illness, but I've come out the other side and I'm working again. I really need to have a sustained period of regular income, so that I can sort out my finances and get back on an even keel. It would be quite catastrophic if I was hoisted by my own petard: that my own website was the reason why I lost a lucrative job.

I haven't really proven my worth yet at the latest organisation I'm working for, but I certainly did at all the previous places, which makes me wonder whether I'm just as "normal" as anybody else, or whether I really have a serious mental illness which I'm only just managing to cope with. It certainly feels more like the latter than the former, given the stress, anxiety and struggles I feel I'm going through, even though I'm doing the same kind of work that I've been doing for 20+ years... it should be a walk in the park; easy-peasy, but it's not.

It's hard to put into words the things I struggle with. If you've never experienced anxiety and depression, they're nonsensical to you; irrational. If you have no tendency for your moods to become unregulated and you've never experienced racing thoughts, flight of ideas, pressured speech and becoming completely obsessive about projects, then you'd probably struggle to relate to somebody who has to constantly monitor and alter their natural behaviour.

Sometimes I reflect on my actions and I can see that there are mental illness symptoms which are driving my behaviour, and I try harder to change how I behave in the office. Other times, my moods are just too extreme and I can't self-regulate.

The question always remains in my mind though... how obvious is it that I've "got problems" and how much to people humour me and ignore my weirdness out of politeness?

It's so hard to perceive yourself as others do. It's so hard to be objective about yourself and the thoughts and behaviour you exhibit.

 

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Home Sweet

4 min read

This is a story about boredom...

Hotel room

As if living alone in a city where I only have 2 friends [who are completely unconnected with my work] wasn't boring enough, I at least had to stumble to the local corner shop to buy the various unhealthy snacks and bottles of wine, which were the main constituents of my diet for the last month. Now, I'm in a very bland hotel room and I imagine that boredom is going to drive me to drink... not that I take much persuasion.

Aspects of normal domestic life, such as cooking, cleaning, doing the washing up, taking the bins out, laundry, watering the plants and other things that would occupy a little of my time midweek, are now going to have to be done at the weekend. Perhaps you're envious of me, having my 3 meals a day cooked for me, and having my bedroom and bathroom cleaned and tidied by somebody else every day. I'd have my shirts ironed by somebody else too, but at £3.90 each it seems a little profligate.

As I write, the air conditioning unit squeals and whirrs to my left, while the traffic noise of the nearby motorway is clearly audible to my right. Whenever you change your sleeping arrangements, it always takes a while to get used to the new noises, bed, pillows, bedding: an unsettling change from the familiarity of home, no matter how much of a seasoned traveller you are.

I'm in the land of the industrial estate; the science park; the new enterprise development area - basically loads of offices and warehouses. I'm in the stomping ground of the sales rep, with the car park full of shiny new company cars and the hotel rooms full of men and women who travel all over the country for a living. There are no shops round here. There is no local life - I decided to book a hotel that was as close as possible to the office, until I've gotten to know the city a little bit better.

There's a pub next door to the hotel, which is presumably where I'm going to eat tonight. There's also a bar in the hotel. It's all a little too tempting to camp out with a book while tipping pint after pint of beer into my greedy face.

Back in the hotel room there's a TV and of course I can watch Netflix etc. I guess it's a comfortable enough existence, but it's going to get pretty boring and monotonous. Also, it's not like I'm going to be socialising and making local friends: everybody here is transient like me; just passing through.

I'm killing time even writing this. Of course I want to go to the pub and look at the menu; choose my food. Of course, I don't really need an excuse to start getting drunk... it'll occupy the time.

I do have a friend in the city who I've known for a long time, but he's always busy doing fit and active things: at the climbing wall or the canoeing centre. His life is filled with purpose, energy and enthusiasm, where all mine seemed to just seep away over the past few years. I used to be obsessed with extreme sports and I was a total adrenalin junkie, but now I seem to be just a sad, lonely, functional alcoholic.

It feels horribly wasteful to spend the best part of the next year simply treading water; concentrating on earning money and otherwise parking my life; being drunk all the time to minimise the amount of time I'm fully conscious. If life had a fast-forward button, I'd gladly press it down and hold it for at least 6 months; I'm wishing my life away.

There's an idiom that springs to mind:

The sun is over the yardarm

I'm trying to figure out what's a respectable time for me to abandon this bland hotel room and go to the pub and get drunk, armed with the excuse that I need to have my evening meal.

The boredom of my life seems to have asserted itself in my writing. I'm ashamed at how boring this blog post is, but I'm going to publish it anyway. I promise I'll write something more interesting tomorrow.

 

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Stamina

2 min read

This is a story about persistence...

Marathon rubbish

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time etc. etc. There are plenty of contrived platitudes about persistence, perseverance, dedication, determination, tenacity, doggedness, pertinacity and all of the many other synonyms that get lightly banded around, generally by people who've led lives of ease, comfort and contentment.

Tomorrow I have to prove myself all over again with a new team, a new boss, a new company, a new project; new challenges and lots of new things to learn.

In the last 12 months, I'll have moved home 4 times, worked for 4 different organisations and tried to string it all together into some form of continuity to allow myself to avoid death, destitution, bankruptcy, career failure, madness, being permanently committed to the loony bin and generally being consigned to the scrap-heap. The number of air miles I've clocked up probably doesn't set any records - not even a personal best - but the number of different beds I've slept in certainly must be some kind of world record; at least indicating just how little stability I've had in something most of us take for granted: where I lay my head to rest at night.

I need to pack a bag for the working week. Tomorrow I need to drive to a new office; a new city; a hotel I've never stayed in before.

One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. One day at a time. The platitudes rain down on my head and they feel like insults: easier said than done.

The money flows in but it must flow out too - I've got to speculate to accumulate. I don't feel well enough to be working, but work I must otherwise I'll fritter away the gains I've made: I've got to run just to stand still.

The needle creeps into the red "danger zone" on the anxiety meter. I'm not sure how I'm going to cope; I don't feel like I am coping.

The demands are relentless.

 

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On The Road Again

4 min read

This is a story about a nomadic lifestyle...

Packed bags

In theory a digital nomad should be able to work from wherever they want, provided there's a decent WiFi signal and somewhere to charge your laptop battery. Why not work from the beach in a hot country? In practice, bosses want bums on seats. I suppose it'd be hard to justify the high income I've come to expect if I was living amongst equally intelligent and capable people, who just happen to have a less desirable nationality on their CV.

I'm washing and drying a whole bunch of shirts, ready for the working week ahead. I'm trying to prepare myself mentally for the Monday to Friday 9 to 5 routine. I'm trying to psych myself up for another period of kipping my mouth shut, my head down and generally trying not to let on that I'm crazy; I'm unwell.

Is it deceitful to pretend to my colleagues that I'm not sick and mentally unstable? Is it dishonest not to declare my mental illness up-front? I don't think it is.

It's my personal life that causes me most of my difficulties, which do unfortunately overspill into office hours sometimes, but I'm more than capable of doing everything that's asked of me and more, provided I have a little leeway on particularly bad days. I don't get paid for the time I take off sick and as long as the work's getting done, I don't see what the problem is.

If I can figure out how to get the support I need - some social fabric in my life - then I'm much more stable and reliable. Perhaps I need to get into the routine of phoning friends more often. I hardly ever speak to anybody except in a work capacity, and at work I'm always presenting a façade of cool, calm, controlled professionalism, no matter what inner turmoil I'm suffering.

Through economic necessity, I've made a choice that is a particularly bad one for my mental health. Living out of a suitcase and going to a place I've never been to and don't know anybody is going to have fairly predictable results: stress, suffering, loneliness, misery.

"You're doing so well" and "you've made such a lot of progress" and "keep going" are the kinds of things that friends say, and I guess they're not wrong. If I can keep going - even just for a few months more - then I'll be cementing a period of progress which has turned my life around, although not yet managed to put me in a financially secure position, yet. Call me impatient if you like, but the suffering I've endured on the journey is not to be taken lightly.

6 or 7 months ago my biggest worry was cashflow - I was so close to bankruptcy. Now my biggest worry is feeling lonely and isolated in a strange new town. It's progress, of a sort.

My lifestyle is a strange one. I can't particularly let my guard down at work. I really don't think my work colleagues could wrap their heads around the journey I've been on during the last 12 months... at least, not until they get to know me better in a work capacity and can see that I'm quite capable of doing a good job. It does however mean that I can never really get close to anybody and confide in them about how I'm really feeling: for that I must look to my friends and my blog.

The danger, of course, is that I try to cope independently. I often forget that I can pick up the phone and try to speak to a friend. Instead, I turn to alcohol, sedatives, tranquillisers and sleeping pills, as I attempt to blot out as much of my consciousness as I can... the less reality that seeps into my brain, because it's numbed by chemicals, the less the horrendous isolation and loneliness robs me of every bit of happiness and contentment.

Obviously, my choices look dangerous and unhealthy; the risks are massive. Economic necessity drives me to act out of desperation.

It would be good if I could find healthy coping mechanisms. Maybe I should stay in a hotel with a gym and a swimming pool, and exhaust myself physically each evening while getting fit, rather than squandering the time watching serious documentaries on TV. As I said before, it would be good if I could develop the habit of phoning a friend, as opposed to reaching for a glass of wine or a tablet.

We'll see what happens.

 

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Recovering Regularity

3 min read

This is a story about rhythm and routine...

No hands clock

I've had a shaky couple of months with a breakup and a work project finishing. My life of simple domestic bliss was smashed to smithereens. My routine was shattered and my life had become chaotic; it looked like I was on collision course with total disaster.

I wouldn't say that disaster is averted. I now need to get into a completely different and quite uncomfortable routine than the one that I was enjoying a couple of months ago. Already, I'm lacking any routine social contact, love, care or affection. Getting back to work will at least give me some social contact from Monday to Friday. As far as domestic bliss goes, that's gone out of the window: I shall be living out of a suitcase again, living in hotels and AirBnBs until I figure out how long I'm going to be working away from "home".

As I've written at length, I don't really know where to call home. Estranged from most of my family, having made perhaps only one or two local friends, having no other local connection other than the bizarre circumstances that brought me here, having had two unpleasant periods of conflict which have been distressing and upsetting, I'm left feeling generally unwelcome in the area... unwelcome anywhere perhaps. It's always me who's the odd one out; the weirdo; the freak; the outsider.

All I can do is try to force myself to comply with a very unpleasant routine, which will leave me feeling even more unsettled, but will at least keep the cash rolling in. I have this unshakeable belief that if I concentrate on achieving financial security and freedom, then I can dare to dream about where I really want to be, and what I really want to be doing. At the moment, there's no point tormenting myself with unattainable dreams.

Early Monday mornings and Friday evenings are going to be spent bumper-to-bumper on the motorway, along with every other poor soul who can't find a local job. I'll be hoping I have packed everything I need for the working week. I'll be throwing myself into the new job, immersing myself in the work, but what will I do in the evenings? Watching TV and movies in a hotel room on my own, I expect. What will I be looking forward to? The weekends? There's not a lot of excitement in returning to a place where you don't really have any friends or family. Think of the money and count down the days, weeks and months until I'm free: that's all I can really do.

It's an exercise in clock-watching, much more akin to serving a prison sentence than waiting for the end of your working day.

What is it you look forward to at the end of your working day? Seeing your loved ones? Seeing your pet(s)? Relaxing in the comfort of your own home? Eating a home-cooked meal?

What if you have none of those things to look forward to?

Watch the clock.

Count the money.

Count down the days.

Inch along at snail's pace.

Painful.

 

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One Week to Get Fit to Work

4 min read

This is a story about being ready to roll...

Living out of a suitcase

My car's not road legal, the hotel isn't booked, my shirts and other work clothes aren't washed and ironed. I managed a few days without tranquillisers, but I still guzzled 2/3rds of a bottle of red wine and used a sleeping pill to get to sleep last night. My hair's grown long and I need a shave. I spend more time thinking about setting my affairs in order and killing myself, than I do about the practical steps necessary to prolong my suffering: another town; another job and yet more isolation and loneliness.

There's a huge gap between where I am in my mental state and where I need to be, if I'm going to go and make a good first impression, and keep up the charade until the work is done; until I can finally collapse in a crumpled heap.

There are important pieces of a liveable sustainable pleasant life which are simply missing; absent. Family, friends, community, social support network; a partner or best buddy. Can you imagine spending 28 days in complete isolation, except for a few messages exchanged via social media? Can you imagine spending a couple of years working your arse off trying to get to the point where you felt financially secure -- no longer on the brink of bankruptcy and destitution -- but seemingly never making any progress?

Yes, we've all experienced moving house, breakups, making new friends, starting new jobs, going to new unfamiliar places, having to somewhat re-establish ourselves. So what? You did it, it was stressful, and now you're relaxed and all settled in nicely. The bad memories fade quickly and the good ones dont: you can almost look back and laugh at all those unsettled times you've been through. For me, the unsettled times are so frequent that the bad memories never fade. I'm caught up in a never-ending series of very stressful events.

Out of economic necessity, I need to ready myself to re-enter the workplace one week from now. I need to look well presented, I need to be on the ball and I need to sustain a certain degree of professionalism until the work is done... I'll need to be able to get through week after week of hiding the fact I'm sick and struggling. I'll need to be able to cling on and hopefully make it through to the other side, before I hit the wall.

One day I'll wake up and say "I just can't do it anymore" and I won't be faking it; I won't be making a fuss about nothing - I really will have nothing left to give. Whether that's day 1 or day 101, or whether it's sufficiently far into the future that it doesn't affect the charade, I can't say. Obviously I worry that my health will fail me too soon; my energy will be used up and I'll be of no use to anybody, which means letting people down; no more pretending to be OK.

Having a week to prepare yourself for a period of effort that you don't feel in any fit state to face is not a nice prospect. Even if I could just sleep for the next week, I don't think that would be enough. There are practical preparations. There are things that are really toxic to my mental health - like living out of a suitcase - that look pretty unavoidable. There's the futility of going to a place where I have no intention of staying, beyond a few months, so why make friends there? Why put down roots? Why make myself comfortable; settled?

So, I continue to be unsettled. I continue to live without anywhere I really call 'home'.

It's a week to get myself into some kind of bare minimum state so I can go and get some more money, but no matter how much I earn, it all seems to just disappear... an exercise in futility; exhausting futility... except maybe for the banks and the landlords, who profit handsomely from my efforts, while not labouring at all themselves.

That the only reason for any of this stress is purely to service loans, pay rent and pay bills, hardly has me jumping for joy; it's hardly a big motivator. There's seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

So, as I try to sort my practical matters, rest, live healthily, and generally prepare myself for another stint at the coal face, I'm struggling to find much meaning in it; much reason to live.

 

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Out of the Frying Pan

3 min read

This is a story about isolation and loneliness...

Volcano crater

"What's the meaning of life?" I was asked, to which I instantly instinctively answered "spooning". Whether it's your kids, your sweetheart, your pet or some other living thing - such as a pet - the state of cuddling seems to be the one where I feel most content and at peace; most relaxed and comfortable.

I seem to be getting further and further away from that soothing state, and becoming more and more isolated. I seem to be facing a period of isolation, which could feel very prolonged and unpleasant indeed.

Already, I live somewhere where I feel there are far more people who hate me and would like to do me harm, than the handful who like me and would like to see me thrive and be happy. Now, I'm faced with a stark choice: stay and watch my meagre pot of money dwindle to nothing, or go somewhere new temporarily... with temporary being the watchword. If it's temporary, how do I survive without those cuddles; that social network; that sense of belonging?

If I go back to London, I could expect that I could rebuild my social network and it'd be worth investing in new relationships. If I went back to London, I expect I could manage to stay there for as long as I needed and wanted to. I feel like I belong in London.

Now I'm faced with the economic necessity of going somewhere as soon as I can, to get the cash flowing again, but what's it going to cost me? Living out of a suitcase is not pleasant. Staying somewhere temporarily goes against everything I feel I need, to be happy and content. It really could be a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Economic necessity will drive me to do things which are incredibly toxic to my mental health. I feel like I've got a gun to my head. No choice.

What should I do? Rationally, I tell myself that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and this bird in my hand is particularly economically valuable. Rationally, I tell myself that the discomfort is only temporary: "it's only 6 months" I say to myself. "It'll be over before you know it" I tell myself. My emotions scream "NOOOOOO" really loudly though. "NOOOO DON'T DO IT" says my heart.

Desperate people will do desperate things. I have a feeling that I'll over-rule my heart, because of economic necessity and my desperation for cold hard cash.


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Mercy

10 min read

This is a story about nth chances...

Reception

Is the UK so short of people with the technical skills and experience that I possess, that I would suffer no career setbacks even if I literally curled out a turd on the table in front of the entire board of directors, having waltzed into the boardroom, leapt onto the boardroom table, lowered my trousers and squatted?

I've been doing more-or-less the same job for 21+ years, and every single enterprise CRUD app for a large organisation is exactly the same as the rest. Yes, I switched from one programming language to another. Yes, I switched from one kind of way of managing a project to another. Yes, I learned a load of technologies that do a lot of 'magic' for me, so my job is 95% plugging things together, and only 5% 'programming'. It's not even programming any more... that 5% is just renaming stuff that you've copied and pasted, so it's not so obvious that you copy-pasted it, and then sorting out a bit of rewiring and configuration.

The last couple of projects I worked on, I got so bored and I had so much spare time, that I was able to do things properly for once - I did things which are hard, so most people don't bother; I was thorough. I didn't cut any corners. When I found the inevitable complex technical problems which defeat most people, I didn't kludge round those problems... I spent those days and whole weeks, tearing my hair out with frustration, to arrive at a "textbook" solution. I should write a frigging book: "How to write nice elegant software in a horrible corporate environment where nothing works like it's supposed to". I guess the title could be a bit shorter.

The main project I worked on last year involved a lot of conversations like this:

  • CEO: I want the app to look like this
  • Me: I'll make an app that has the essential features, but it'll be ugly, then I'll work on the other 70% of stuff that needs doing
  • CEO: Yes, but the app needs to look and work exactly like this
  • Me: Ideally, in a year or so, it could do yes, but right now you've only got me, so if you want to launch something in a couple of months, I need to do lots of other things as well as make a pretty app
  • CEO: OK, but it'll look like this, right? The design is 100% complete
  • Me: It won't look like that because the design includes things that are impossible
  • CEO: OK, but it'll look almost like this?
  • Me: I think you're getting too hung up on the app. There's lots of other stuff to do too.
  • CEO: But it's important that the app looks like the designs we've produced
  • Me: I think you should hire somebody else who can tweak what I produce to make it look the way you want it to look, and I'll get on and finish all the other essential bits
  • CEO: We already had 6 different freelancers from 6 different countries produce 6 different apps, and each one looks nothing like the design I want. Can you re-use any of their code?
  • Me: No
  • CEO: OK, well, I'm sure you'll have it all done in 2 months

So, I worked on the thing that I usually wouldn't bother doing, because it's not my core skill, which was to faithfully reproduce the design that the CEO wanted. I spent a lot of time making a really really pretty app. I learned a lot. I stopped being so afraid of UI/UX work. I started to feel quite confident building attractive and complex user interfaces; pretty apps.

Then, onto my bread-and-butter: take a load of data, convert it and store it somewhere, create some means of retrieving it, and create some means of users interacting with it, plus gathering loads of data and analytics on who they are and what they're up to.

Only, almost all my time had been wasted making a stupid pretty app, and when I came to look at the source data which has supposedly been analysed, it turned out that the analysis was total BS. Half the data which the pretty app was going to display to the users quite simply didn't exist - it was fiction; fantasy. "We'll scrape that data together ourselves" said the CEO. The price of a pint in 120 towns and cities. The average rent in 120 towns and cities. The total number of students in 120 towns and cities. The number of nightclubs in 120 towns and cities. Lunatic.

So, I've had occasion to become somewhat obstreperous. Rather than just plod along and ignore the lunacy, and waste my time on wild goose chases and impossible tasks, I've gotten stroppy; I've let my frustration be known loudly and clearly. I stop doing what I'm asked to do - because it's lunacy - and start working towards a finished product.

I wonder how many times I've left a project, and the CEO or whoever has been thinking "thank God we got rid of that guy who gave us a complete working application, and who told us in precise and concise detail all the problems that we were going to face if we continued on our chosen path, which we've repeatedly refused to deviate from". It's actually interesting to see the pretty app that I developed, live in the App Store, exactly how I left it - none of the impossible lunatic things are there, unsurprisingly

Given that each of the 6 previous freelancers had looked at the previous developer's code and thought "nah, this is rubbish, I'm going to throw it away and start again" but whoever it was who took over the complete and working system that I left behind, decided that it was actually exactly what they wanted and needed, so they released it to the App Store.

On another note, I keep getting sick. I work very hard, I try very hard, and I immerse myself it what I'm doing - I live and breathe the projects I get involved in; I care. It's the caring part that's the problem. When you care too much, you get upset and then you start to get frustrated, which is exhausting and it makes me sick. I literally get sick: I get too unwell to work.

I bust my balls, then I get sick. When I get sick, all kinds of bad stuff happens. I might end up in hospital. I might end up in trouble with the police. I might end up falling out with friends. I might end up running out of money. I might end up homeless... who knows? It's anybody's guess how bad things are going to get when I get sick. I've attempted suicide 3 times already.

So far though, nobody seems to have gone out of their way to do life-changing damage to me: to black-ball me from ever being able to work again, to punish me, to give me black marks against my name that would exclude me from civilised society. Nobody seems that keen to see me dumped on the enormous pile of humans who we've decided serve no useful purpose. Nobody seems that keen to prevent me from ever having another chance.

The last couple of projects, I didn't get obstreperous and I didn't get so sick that everything got badly messed up. The last couple of projects, I gave the client exactly what they asked for, more or less... I just ignored the lunacy, and built useful high-quality working software and ignored all the questions like "where's that [impossible/useless] feature I asked for?" and sure enough, they forgot all about it in the end, and they were happy.

In my personal life, I don't know why my misbehaviour when unwell hasn't landed me in more trouble than it has, and ejected me from civilised society and consigned me to a life that a great many of our "unwanted" and "unwelcome" members of society suffer, because they've caused trouble and they're now permanently branded as "trash". It must seem very unjust to those who have been branded as "human trash" to know that the rules and regulations of life are supposed to be applied fairly and evenly, but evidently they are not. Maybe it's because I can pretend to do a posh accent. Maybe it's because I try to remember to say please and thank you lots. Maybe it's just because I've been lucky up to now, but luck won't last forever.

I know people have found my blog and they know that my visible tattoo advertises that I've got problems, but nobody ever says anything, except for the occasional "do you wear contact lenses?" or other hint that they've seen my bespectacled profile picture: my alter ego.

My plan is to try and get myself onto page one of Google (I'm on page 2 at the moment I think) but the truth is, I don't think people - the decision makers - actually care that much, when they find somebody with the skills that are apparently in such short supply that a person like me can limp along and suffer the horrible manic highs and depressed lows in full view of my office colleagues, when economic circumstances force me back into that environment.

Ideally, I'd like to send out my CV and have my email address as nick@manicgrant.com and list my website, as well as including details about exactly what's happened in my life since I got sick. I'll just write a summary of my life and career to date - good and bad - rather than the corporate friendly horses**t nonsense that conforms to the expected standard.

At the moment, do I require mercy? Yes, a little. I'm in a precarious situation. There are a few people who could choose to bring the full force of the blows raining down on my head, but they've been merciful, so far.

At the moment, do I require an nth chance? Yes of course. I always feel like I'm on the back foot; I always feel like an imposter or a fraudster, even when I've just finished a big project and the client's really happy. I always feel like my not-so-secret website and the stuff that's happened in the recent past - which would usually be confidential - somehow disqualifies me from doing the job that 21+ years of evidence shows I'm very capable of doing to a high standard.

For the first 11 years of my career, I had an unspoken agreement with my bosses: they'd let me have days off sick or come in late when I was depressed, because they knew I'd be so productive when I was manic. It was a system that worked well. The trouble is, with short projects, it's so much harder to establish the trust in that relationship and accept that a member of your team is not a regular 9 to 5 Monday to Friday mediocre plodding drone who doesn't give a f**k.

It would be arrogant and unreasonable of me to expect special treatment in the workplace, or indeed in society in general. I don't know why I keep getting more chances. Do you think it's fair?

 

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Good Job

1 min read

This is a story about decay...

Decaying plant

Here is a photo-diary which records the decay and decomposition of my little local life. It's the perfect metaphor.

The plant was a gift, meant to cheer me up when I was unhappy in London. Soon after receiving this gift I got a local job - a "good job" - and I kept the plant on my desk.

You can see that by the third picture in the sequence (bottom left) that my plant was struggling; unhealthy. I tried to revive it by putting it on some wet tissue paper, so that it could suck up some much needed moisture.

I think the combination of air conditioning and no natural light eventually killed my plant, just like it drained all the life out of me, just like it killed my local relationship and just like it somehow killed my "good job".

I now have neither the relationship, the plant or the "good job".

Somebody should chuck me on the compost heap.

 

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Mourning Loss

5 min read

This is a story about processing emotions...

Modern art

My premonition was right. I knew things were too good to last. My hope and optimism were misplaced. My fears proved to be well founded. My instincts were correct.

The one thing which remains mostly intact is my home, but yet I feel completely differently about it versus a month or so ago. I'd started to imagine a pleasant summer spent living and working by the seaside, but instead the reality is that I'm having a sink or swim moment. If I stay where I am I'll sink, and to survive I will have to swim like crazy to get back to London. My home doesn't feel like home - I don't know why I came here; I don't know why I am here; I'm not happy to be here.

It feels like I've violently swung from crisis to salvation; boom and bust. My life has been a jagged saw-tooth of highs and lows, which briefly started trending upwards, but I know from bitter experience how quickly and easily the trend can nosedive.

For the briefest moment, I connected with a lot of unprocessed emotion; I cried. Then the tears dried up and I went back to my more usual state of torment: PTSD flashbacks.

It's all piling up... the stuff I haven't dealt with properly. There's a huge mound of grief. How could I possibly start to process all that mess while I'm still in the middle of dealing with the non-stop crisis? The task of finding somewhere to live and work and getting myself on an even keel financially sounds simple and easy enough, but you'd be surprised: you need a run of good luck if you want to succeed.

The places, the friends, the companies, the colleagues, the projects... so many have come and gone and I've retained practically nothing. Money runs through my fingers like fine dry sand: there's been plenty, but of course it's all frittered away just staying alive. It's expensive, staying alive: the rent and the bills and the food and the drink, let alone the cost of transport and clothing and everything else that constitutes part of normal existence.

To mourn money is foolish, but the relationships I've developed with people and places shouldn't be dismissed lightly. Even the tiny city-centre apartment where I tried to kill myself in Manchester, I had developed some emotional attachment to; the city itself - although alien to me - was growing on me slowly. It's rather tragic how I've fallen out of love with my current home town. I'm sure I'll feel differently, in time.

Tomorrow's the last day when anything makes any sense at all. My income comes to an abrupt and early end, which is arguably unexpected and no fault of my own. Why am I here?

13 years ago a picked a seaside town and I imagined the life I wanted to build there. I did it. I got everything I wanted.

Then everything collapsed.

All I knew was that I wanted to get away. I wanted a clean break. I wanted to go back to the only other place I knew and where I'd been happy before: London. I went back to London because I was trying to get away from something, someone... everything that reminded me that my dream had been ruined; sabotaged.

That's been my life for 5 years, more or less: trying to get away from dreadful things. Trying to get away from divorce. Trying to get away from the past. Trying to get away from the sadness and the sense of failure. Trying to get away from the grief.

I've been running for so very long, and the grief has piled up unprocessed. I need to stop and mourn my losses, but I can't because I have to run so damn fast just to stand still.

Where now? What next? I have no idea. Away, away... always away.

It seems easy to blame myself: how much have I self-sabotaged? In truth though, how hard have I worked to give things their very best possible chance of success? If you want me to blame myself, fine, but I don't see how I could've done any more to tip the odds in my favour, and try to make things work. Yes, I've made bad choices and done regrettable things, but without a steady supply of paid work everything else falls apart.

Maybe I could succumb to 'magical thinking' and imagine that things would have been different if I'd approached life with more positive mental attitude. Maybe if I hadn't pre-empted disaster, the disaster would never have happened. It's folly: of course the bad things that were going to happen were always going to happen.

So I guess if there's one over-riding feeling at the moment, it must be a sense of loss. I'm sad that another potential nice pleasant life fell to pieces, and I'm left wondering where the hell it all went wrong.

 

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