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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

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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The Supercrack Diet - Part Two

8 min read

This is a story about body dysmorphia...

Christmas photo

It's strange to look at a photo of myself with an old friend from not-too-many-Christmasses ago - at least according to my faulty memory - and not really recognise the face looking back at me as my own. It's not that I'm younger. It's that I can clearly see in many features of my face that I'd failed to escape from an abusive relationship and an acrimonious divorce unscathed. My life reboot had been sabotaged and it seems as plain as day to me that I was very sick.

My eyes appear at first glance to be bright and alert, but in a stimulant-induced way, so I wear a glassy stare into the distance, not looking at anything in particular. On closer examination, there are tell-tale signs around my eyes that I've been sleeping both too much and too little.

It surprises me how easily I can see from my face that I have hardly any body fat. In 2013 I had my body fat very precisely measured at circa 2%.

The body I'm in today feels very alien to me.

But the face in the picture above is also a different person, I feel.

Every couple of weeks I start skipping breakfast, having light lunches and smaller, healthier evening meals. Every couple of weeks I take a break from drinking alcohol. It doesn't make any difference.

For more years than I care to remember, I've woken up and I've dreaded going to work, and I've felt oppressively burdened by debt. My life is very simple, and in many ways very enviable, but it's also thoroughly awful. Theoretically the awfulness is only a temporary situation, but somehow it's turned out to be a nonstop nightmare lasting half a fucking decade.

The nightmare could be lazily attributed to drug addiction, but you might be surprised to learn that the truth is far less conveniently simple.

Having spent more than two decades trapped in the rat race, being a very stoic, quiet, boring, obedient and subservient tiny cog in a massive machine, and suffering the incredible boredom of going to bland beige offices, attending endless interminable meetings about nothing, shuffling paper around a desk and pretending to look busy, it was fucking exciting to go insane and embark upon a drug-fuelled rampage.

You might think that police, paddy wagons, Accident & Emergency, high-dependency wards, psychiatric hospitals, police cells, intensive care, sleeping rough and hostel dorms would be the worst thing imaginable - and those things probably were terrible at the time - but you need to understand the psychology of a person who wants to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and plummet towards the ground at terminal velocity. If you think that only stupid people get addicted to drugs, it's you who is stupid, because you haven't appreciated the value in calculated risks.

I would thoroughly advise every person on the planet to avoid supercrack like the plague, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge some attributes of my experiences of the last 5 years, which might be considered surprisingly beneficial.

Weight. Loss.

We'd all like to be a bit skinnier, wouldn't we? We'd all like to lose a bit of that hard-to-shift belly-fat.

I look in the mirror at the slight gut which has appeared in the ten months which I've been working, without the interruption of a drug-fuelled rampage, and I think "where the fuck did that gut come from?"

It depresses me that I've put on weight.

It depresses me that my appearance has changed.

I'm not fat. I'm not overweight. I'm just kinda 'normal' for a 39-year-old bloke, but that fucking sucks, because I took for granted the fact that I was as skinny as a racing snake on a diet. There's something attractive about an 'athletic' body, and that's not the body I have anymore... or rather, that's not the body I have at the moment.

One of the reasons I kept ending up in hospital, is because my body ran out of fat to break down to keep itself alive, so it started breaking down my muscle. When my muscle was broken down to provide energy to keep my cells fuelled and save my life, there were a lot of toxins released too, which totally fucked my kidneys. Basically, I was starving to death but dying of kidney failure faster than I was dying from lack of glucose, because I was so unnaturally lacking in body fat. My body made a very tough decision at a certain do-or-die moment, to destroy muscle allowing my heart to keep pumping for a little while longer, at the expense of my kidneys.

I eat.

I eat a lot.

I drink.

I drink a lot.

I eat and drink whatever the fuck I want and however much I want. I have juicy fatty steaks with butter sauce, washed down with lashings of red wine, every single night of the week.

I'm a disgusting old man.

I've been so depressed and oppressed by my awful circumstances, that I've barely been outside all summer. My skin is pale. One of my arms is covered with ribbons of self-harm and suicide attempt scars. One of my wrists has a big lump where a bone was broken by police who were kindly assisting me in getting to hospital. I've got this gut. This fucking gut. Where the fuck did it come from?

Have you heard of DNP?

It's a fat burner.

I'm highly tempted to take a week or two off work and just burn off the fat using this drug which increases your metabolic rate. Of course, a side-effect is malignant hyperthermia, but that's nothing I haven't already experienced a great deal of, as a supercrack addict. Also, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, tachycardia, organ damage and death... all risks I'm prepared to accept in order to be skinny and gorgeous again.

Although I'm crippled by mountainous debts, I drive a wreck of a car which is worth less than my phone, I live in rented accommodation and my body is covered with scars from drug-fuelled insanity, self-harm and suicide attempts, the most damaging thing to my self-esteem is what I've done to myself during this period of so-called health and wealth. While I've been earning megabucks for massive organisations and being mostly abstinent from supercrack, my life has materially improved massively - I've earned an absolute fortune - but psychologically it's been awful, and my body has suffered far more than even the very worst days of my supercrack addiction insanity.

I don't think supercrack is a solution, although the weight-loss is arguably a very desirable side-effect, in much the same way as a bout of explosive diarrhoea or a tapeworm infestation might be. Unfortunately, society worships the skinny, just as much as it worships the bipolar, even though those people might not be very healthy people at all.

As a single man - and rapidly approaching 40 years old - of course I want to feel sexually attractive. While girlfriends have always said "I like a bit of meat on your bones" fnarr fnarr, they have had a vested interest in my health and robustness as opposed to my raw attractiveness, in terms of a skinny athletic body.

The temptation to restore my athletic figure with a week or two of unpleasant suffering, taking a fat-burning drug and feeling like shit, seems like a small price to pay for the prize of being more sexually attractive. With the insecurity of feeling like I'm a washed-up has-been loser, dirty old man filthy pervert, useless debt-riddled, asset-less waste-of-space, with nothing to offer womankind, it's sorely tempting to take some short cuts. What happened to my house, sports-car, yacht, speedboat, cash pile and other desirable material things, which would be highly coveted? What value is there in a 39-year-old who's pale and average build? I'm ten a penny.

This is the calculated gamble. Presently, my gamble is to get rich quick, or more precisely, to pay off my debts incredibly quickly at the expense of my health, social life and mental wellbeing. The price I pay is my appearance: I eat and drink too much; don't exercise.

Of course, I have no plans to resume my supercrack-fuelled insanity, but to not acknowledge the rewards and unexpectedly positive benefits of better living through chemistry would be disingenuous.

 

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Notes From My Disastrous Dating Experiences

9 min read

This is a story about romantic aspirations in the provinces...

Nick in pink

It would unforgivable of me to kiss and tell but I feel the urge to share with you - dear reader - the trials and tribulations of an urbane metrosexual man's attempts to find love outside the capital city, in places which might politely be described as: the arse-end of nowhere.

The first thing that becomes immediately apparent, when venturing onto the dating scene in the provinces. is the priority which young adults have placed upon having rampant quantities of unprotected sex and producing as many unfortunate single-parent children as possible, with no economic means to pay for them. Did these people never receive any sex education? Have they never heard of condoms, the pill, the rhythm method, anal sex, oral sex or simply pulling out and ejaculating in any direction away from the the birth canal? What the fuck were they thinking?

Accidents don't "happen". We aren't organisms with pea-sized brains. We have birth control, the morning-after pill AND abortions. Why the big hurry to bring an innocent child who didn't ask to be born, into a world where you can't afford to pay for its upbringing? Idiocy.

So, there needs to be a certain amount of sifting through all the cretinous idiots who are no more intelligent than a herd of humping beasts, spawning offspring without any restraint, planning or any semblance of rational thought.

Relationships can break down irreparably, I accept that. Despite 8 long hard years banging my head against a brick wall, my own longest relationship was broken beyond repair and I got divorced. My ex-wife and I didn't have any children, which was my choice because I wanted to stabilise my mental health before making an irreversible life-changing decision to procreate. However, I can imagine that some perfectly decent nice intelligent people have had children, only to later find out that they're met with irreconcilable differences and their relationship cannot be salvaged, even for the sake of the children.

I was unquestionably influenced by my parents' relationship, which was toxic and abusive. I use the word "abuse" with a little caution, because it means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but what I mean is that my parents were absolute assholes to each other and everyone around them. They were co-dependent alcoholic druggies; selfish cunts. They stayed together, perhaps correctly sensing that mean-spirited selfish self-centred people who drink and take drugs, and have failed at life, are not highly in-demand people. They clung together because they were the only people who'd support each others' lies and fantasies, justifying their obnoxious treatment of everyone around them.

I grew up believing that a person should be loyal and work at a relationship no matter how toxic it is; to put up with any amount of abuse.

I guess that's why I ended up in an abusive relationship myself.

This is how I remember things progressed:

  1. Date one: She liked me lots; I was full of confidence. She wanted more. I held back because I had serious feelings about her.
  2. Date two: She thought I was great. She 'accidentally' invited herself into my place.
  3. Date three: I treated her like a princess
  4. Date four: She left me waiting for 30 minutes outside her place. I told myself I was going to leave after an hour, because it was a shitty thing to stand me up. She turned up after 45 minutes. I said I was going to go because it was no way to treat somebody. She begged me to stay.
  5. Some dates later: she got in a strange mood when we were out with friends. When we got back home to her place she told me to leave. I asked her why. She wouldn't tell me. She threatened to call the police, which I said was unnecessary, I just didn't understand... could she explain? She flew into a rage, destroyed some curtains and slammed some doors. Then she calmed down and said she was glad I stayed. She thanked me for being loyal and patient We made love and everything seemed OK.
  6. We went on holiday together. I casually suggested living together and she was enthusiastic. She openly said she was swept off her feet by my open-hearted romanticism.
  7. I gave up my apartment paid for by JPMorgan to be closer to her workplace. She was angry and aggressive a lot. I cried a lot. One time when I was crying, she punched me in the face several times.
  8. When she got angry, I sliced my wrist open with a knife. She briefly got more angry, but it temporarily stopped her rage in its tracks.
  9. When she got angry, I smashed a mirror; a bed.
  10. I asked her dad permission to marry her. I bought her the engagement ring of her dreams.
  11. Two of my best friends came to visit. She flew into an inexplicable rage. I threw her engagement ring out of the window.
  12. She raged with anger about everything in my life I held dear: kitesurfing, my friends from London and all over the UK. Nothing I could do would make her happy. I isolated myself. I gave up everything. I became a prisoner of her unpredictable rage.
  13. We fought. She'd had her three strikes. She'd broken my nose, given me black eyes. I'd lied to my work colleagues about my black eyes. I'd lied to her parents about my black eyes. I'd lied to our friends about my black eyes. Now we fought. Two of us, fighting. We beat the shit out of each other.
  14. I went back to self-harming; smashing stuff. I was suicidal. She cheated on me.
  15. I caught her cheating. She was nice to me. I forgave her. It was nice that she was being nice to me.
  16. She was strong and I was weak. I needed to get out of that toxic relationship before I died. She said "I'd rather be a widow than divorced". She knew I had 2 grams of potassium cyanide. She knew she stood to gain a vast sum of money from my life insurance and the value of my house. She marked my suicide note in red pen and told me if I went to hospital she'd leave me.
  17. I went to hospital. We separated. We divorced.

That's my long-term relationship experience.

My first girlfriend was the nicest person in the world - which was an on-off relationship spanning a couple of years. I remember my second girlfriend fondly - a relationship lasting about 18 months. Then, there was 8 years of hell, which I feel completely equally responsible for: I should have walked away. Subsequent girlfriends were all relatively short-lived, but they were all wonderful. My longest relationship since my wife was with the love of my life, which lasted 9 blissful months, ending in calamity when I was driven insane by sleep deprivation and a toxic cocktail of prescription medications and other things, such that I temporarily believed that she didn't care about me and I decided to break up with her in a very regrettably - and irreparably - public manner, given the fact we both have Twitter accounts with reasonably large numbers of followers (although, many work colleagues are followers of her, causing the unforgivable reputational damage).

"What the fuck are you doing with that madman?" her colleagues must have asked.

She would have defended me.

She was loyal.

I loved her. She loved me.

But I was stubbornly ridiculous. At the time, my brain said to me "I'll never end up in another abusive relationship" but my thoughts were horribly twisted and corrupted; unreliable. To say anything bad about my poor ex-girlfriend would do her a terrible disservice. My amazing ex-girlfriend was incredibly attentively and at my bedside constantly for weeks when my kidneys failed. She was faultless, always.

Presently I've been consigned to the provinces, where I'm punished; cursed to suffer for my foolishness. Wimmin, wimmin, everywhere, and if none of them seem to meet my exacting standards then it's only because of the awful way I've treated - particularly - my last serious girlfriend. My ex cared for me so much, loved me and and demonstrated the loyalty I so desperately craved, but I threw it away during a hyper-complex period of joblessness, debt, mental health issues and drug abuse relapse, when I felt like an complete-and-utter failure. Insecurity destroyed me, despite her making me feel great about myself and working really hard to make sure I was OK. She looked after me. She put so much effort into looking after me.

So, now, today, I'm a 39-year-old man who's gotten badly out of shape and carries a whole heap of baggage.

"What car do you drive?"

"What job do you do?"

"Do you own your own house?"

"Show me your bank balance"

"What's your net worth?"

"Do you think you could afford to provide a life of idle luxury for me and my fatherless children?"

These are the questions which I face in the provincial dating game.

When I'm not looking my wallet is slipped from my pocket and felt for its fatness.

I'm not-so-silently judged as the sucker who's gonna pick up the tab for all that badly thought through unprotected sex and all those irrational decisions to not terminate unaffordable pregnancies.

This is my penance for not walking away from an abusive relationship - and admittedly becoming a so-called consensual partner in co-dependency - and also for throwing away relationships with some amazing women. This is my penance for my wrongdoing: to be somewhat trapped in the provinces, where every woman's dating profile picture has a Snapchat filter applied to her face, sending barely-literate messages saying: "If you're ex-girlfriends we're so great then how come there no longer wiv U? Their a bunch of snooty bitches wot kno grammar innit. Your fucking up youself U posh twat. They're's the truth layed out for you bear."

They do not mean "bear" in a cute cuddly way.

 

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Online-Dating-Friendly Content

6 min read

This is a story about marketing yourself...

Naked torso

The image I present of myself online is thoroughly incompatible with my professional life and my aspirations to meet a girl and start a relationship. I speak my mind and I'm very honest about some things I've experienced which are taboos. It's not very common in our society to talk about our failures and other unflattering things which might paint us in an unfavourable light. I would attract a lot of stigma and prejudice if I was up-front about unpalatable things from my past.

Half-naked photos of yourself and presenting yourself as an all-round faultless great guy - a real man's man - is not a particularly successful strategy. I include the image above ironically. Unsolicited dick pics don't work either, but there are a lot of men who seem to think that they do.

For a brief time I had included the fact that I'm a writer on my online dating bio, but I realised that my blog doesn't exist in a particularly sanitised form and I would hate to be writing with hesitancy, thinking about how my words would be received by an online love interest who's just getting to know me. I'm very exposed in a way that most people usually aren't. You almost never have the opportunity to peer deep into somebody's psyche and read about all their deepest darkest secrets.

Earlier in the year I tried dating with my blog offered as part of the package of information presented. Usually the information we have when dating is a name, age, a few photos, a very short bio, then after some discussion we know what a person does for a living, whether they have kids, whether they have pets, where they studied, where they've travelled and a few other details which actually tell us very little about that person's character. It's not a lot to make a decision about whether it's promising enough to warrant an actual in-person date, but we have the writing style - from text message chat - to gauge whether a person is intellectually stimulating and easy to converse with or not. Subtle language cues tell us whether we're of a socioeconomically similar group, which is important not least for reasons of insecurity and feelings that we were hard-done-by in some way. Nobody likes feeling poor in the company of somebody who's enjoyed wealth and privilege, or feeling stupid in the company of somebody who's been lucky enough to enjoy a great education.

The problem with having my blog as part of the information bundle, is that there's an almost unlimited amount to be consumed and processed, which is available anywhere, anytime. It's tempting for almost anybody with even a casual interest in other people's lives, to dig and dig, and it raises troublesome questions which would normally never come about in the course of a relationship, because we don't usually have access to the inside of somebody's mind.

I'm quite comfortable with friends and the general public having access to the entirety of the dark recesses of my mind, because I've found that most people are sympathetic and kind, and they've used the information for purposes which have been very beneficial to me. I get messages of support. I make connections with people, and that feels good. I feel that people care about me.

When somebody who I have a romantic interest in starts to read my blog, however, it can make me somewhat paranoid about being judged negatively. Indeed, many people have a very negative view of those who do online dating, believing the online world to be a hotbed of murderers, rapists, sadists, perverts, pedophiles and other unsavoury characters. If you're looking to find out something bad about me, and you're hoping for your worst fears to be confirmed, then there's a lot of material here which can be twisted by the mind of a sad, miserable, negative and mistrusting person, who has no ability to perceive their own flaws and less-than-perfect personality. I make a leap of faith every day by choosing to expose myself and make myself vulnerable, sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings as honestly and candidly as I can. To abuse my trust by twisting my words and turning me into a monster is not very nice, but it's what a lot of people do, because they're looking for reasons to reject, not reasons to connect.

Similarly, prospective employers are looking for reasons to reject, and this is the reason why my blog is not at all compatible with my professional life. There's an unwritten rule in the corporate world, which is that you never talk about your flaws and failures. It would be career-ending if I was to include a link to this blog on my CV or LinkedIn. The contents of this blog is gold dust to the gatekeepers who very much want to see me penniless and destitute; unemployable.

I need companionship and intimacy. I need a job. I have to play by the unwritten rules of society, so that means keeping certain parts of my life under wraps. It would be too much for your average small-minded square to process, and it's almost too much for even the most kind and compassionate, to get beyond the usual knee-jerk reaction which is to reject anybody atypical.

There's nothing I need to tell anybody per se. I don't have any secrets particularly. I'm not trying to cover up a drug habit or pretending to be something I'm not. I'm not trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes. I'm not withholding important or relevant information.

To mistreat people by treating them with suspicion and mistrust is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think somebody's going to let you down or do something bad, you're increasing the likelihood of that happening, because you're ostracising and persecuting that person, just like so many others do too. If you're expecting bad things to happen and you're withholding trust and commitment - refusing to take a leap of faith - there can only be one outcome, ultimately.

I think the decision to have this open document is the right one, but I still need to get laid every now and again.

 

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Context Switching

8 min read

This is a story about screen time...

Phone icons

The button to silence my smartphone has broken so I leave it permanently in "do not disturb" mode, which suits me just fine. Hardly anybody ever phones me except for agents and other cold caller sales types. My time is mostly spent in the 12 apps pictured above. Perhaps I'm not on my smartphone all the time, but essentially I'm context-switching non-stop throughout my waking hours, so I thought that warranted a little examination.

Starting with my 35,225 unread emails, my inbox has gotten rather out of control. Email has become such a victim of its own success that no IT professional I know even uses it anymore - we're all on Slack. Most communication is entirely transient and there's no need to have a record of anything except some kind of chat transcript to catch up on - anything old can be archived and forgotten. I spend all day every day chatting to my colleagues on Slack, including colleagues from organisations where I don't even work anymore.

Messages comprises SMS messages - mostly telling me about voicemails I haven't listened to - and a handful of iMessages from people who aren't using WhatsApp for some reason. WhatsApp deserves special note though, because of the group chats. I was removed from the only group chat I was a member of - discussion between cryptocurrency enthusiasts - and I was usurped by a guy who screwed me over last year when I was on my deathbed, which is kinda besides the point but it galls me.

Instagram I don't actually use very much. I live in a text-based world and the photos I take are in 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio, not 1:1. I don't take very many selfies.

Facebook Messenger is my most active chat app, but I only use it to chat to one person - my guardian angel - and we mainly exchange memes about suicide, mental health problems and the ruined economy. Facebook messenger also makes calls - as do many of the apps - and I occasionally speak to a friend in Poland, which is about the only time I speak to anybody on the telephone.

Recently I've been using Tinder and Bumble in an attempt to meet girls. It adds additional complexity to my context-switching life.

I'm not really sure what I use Facebook for. I do browse through the feed once a day - not on my smartphone - and I occasionally like and comment on things which are especially noteworthy, but I generally try to avoid over-investment in that particular walled garden. I used to share a lot and indeed I've managed to rather make a fool of myself in front of all my friends and scupper my chances of ever working in some organisations, because I dragged my own good name through the mud. I don't put my dirty laundry on Facebook much, only for it to be conspicuously ignored. Instead I write over a million words on my blog and broadcast my ups and downs to thousands of followers and anybody who does Google searches.

I don't use Twitter properly. I don't generally retweet stuff and I don't spend enough time reading the tweets of the 6,000+ people I follow. How anybody could sift through it all I have no idea - Twitter is a pretty noisy place. Generally I just look to see if anybody I know is tweeting about any of the trending topics, and I otherwise rely on an email I receive in the morning each day, which tells me what my favourite people have been up to. I must admit, it's sometimes a struggle to stay on top of my notifications and DMs and then I turn turtle and hide for a while until things quieten down.

I don't bother with LinkedIn much. I don't struggle to find work. I don't much see the point in ploughing much time and effort into my corporate image - I've got a perfectly professional CV and LinkedIn page, and otherwise I rely on my contacts, skills, experience and references to be able to get work when I need it.

I wake up in the morning and I quickly scan through my notifications - mostly Twitter - to see if there have been any comments, which I make a mental note to reply to later in the day. When I get bored around mid-morning, I have a glance at my inbox to see if there's anybody demanding money with menaces or otherwise harassing me. Approaching lunchtime, I might kill a bit of time with Facebook, but I don't want to get too engrossed in my phone when I'm at work. If I'm having a really dreadful day, I might reach out to a couple of friends via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and see if I can get them to send jokes, memes or anything that might provide a moment's distraction from the boredom. After leaving the office and generally before my evening meal, I write a blog post. I often scan through my website analytics to see if there's anything notable going on. If my mind is busy and distracted I frequently find myself flipping between half-watching something on Netflix and several tabs in my browser - a mix of Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes I read the news, but I find that I spend less and less time engaging with current affairs at the moment, because I've been stressed out of my mind with basic survival. A new part of my routine is chatting to girl(s) via the dating apps and if I'm ever lucky enough to get a phone number, then chatting on WhatsApp.

The amount of context switching is pretty remarkable. In any given day I might have to switch between fully professional mode, with colleagues who I want to present with a squeaky-clean corporate-friendly version of myself, and a more relaxed but still guarded version of myself which allows a little bit of my personality to show, but hopefully keeps my bad not-safe-for-work (NSFW) stuff hidden. I might be chatting to somebody who I've known for a long time online who's in a different timezone - ahead or behind - and they'll know an incredible amount of personal stuff about me and we'll be talking very frankly and honestly about everything and everything... then I'll be talking to a girl who I've just started chatting to who doesn't know me at all... then I'll be chatting to work colleagues who I spend 40 hours a week in close proximity with and they think they know me but they don't [and I don't want them to know everything]. Then, there's the image I present and the interactions I have via my blog and social media. and all the people who I have frequent and infrequent contact with, and the different ways I know people. Facebook is a particularly weird melting pot, where former work colleagues mingle with people who I know through kitesurfing, my startup days, the time I was homeless and living in parks and hostels, people who I've just randomly friend requested when I was mentally unwell. Facebook is kinda the worst, because I never know which guise I should be in, so I'm probably too honest and I'm tarnishing my own reputation and good standing that I once had with friends.

My brain has to switch between survival mode - where I've been worried about money, housing, addiction, alcoholism, transport, sex, isolation, suicidal thoughts, self harm, depression, anxiety and odds that have been very much stacked against me - and professional mode - where I'm expected to perform at a very high standard and navigate extremely complicated large organisations and know all the ins and outs of massive and complex software systems and the infrastructure they're deployed on, plus all the many teams and the zillions of people and the processes and procedures - and my digital identity which I'm cultivating - which needs me to compose a blog post every day and stay on top of any replies, messages and emails, and generally keep in touch with an ever-growing list of friends who I've never met in person, but who've been amazingly kind and supportive during rough times - and Mr. Eligible Bachelor mode, which requires me to present myself in the correct sequence, so that I can be understood without at the same time being overwhelming and off-putting.

To some extent my life looks quite simple. I have a job and not much else - I don't socialise and I'm not in a relationship. To the casual observer, all I do is move between my home, the office and a hotel, and I'm always in front of my laptop, tapping away at the keys quite furiously.

I suppose my life is quite simple, if we imagine that my fixation is the screen and the keyboard, but the screen time is a red herring - it's a window to an unimaginably gigantic and complex world of thousands of interactions with people all around the globe.

The context-switching is pretty hard though. I've struggled to stay on top of everything during the last couple of days.

 

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Blog of Banality

5 min read

This is a story about my totally normal life...

Kitchen utensils

So the highlight of my week has to be these new chopping boards and cutlery. I mean, Monday morning was pretty exciting because it was time to go to work at my 9 to 5 job in an office, but these housewares are awesome.

From Monday until Friday, I did my work, which I'm perfectly competent at - I am consistently able to deliver average results and breathtaking levels of mediocrity.

Each night I returned to a dwelling of some description and slept on a real bed. The dwelling was either rented, mortgaged or owned outright.

I ate food. Sometimes as many as three meals a day. My diet consisted of a mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre. The food was broken down into glucose which, along with water and oxygen, gave my cells the energy to power my body.

As well as walking and running, I used forms of transportation to move me around different locations.

In order to procure the things I needed, I used promissory notes and coins, in lieu of labour, commodities or tangible assets.

Here is a list of things:

  • Large detached house
  • New car
  • Substantial sum of savings
  • Shares, bonds, gilts, foreign currency, investment properties, Bitcoins, gold and other precious metals
  • Healthy pension pot
  • Highly paid permanent job with health insurance

I cook. I mean, I can cook. I mostly don't cook, but I could, you know?

I chatted to friends using SMS, email, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter DM, Instagram DM and even met them for real face-to-face interactions.

My week has been good on account of not being dead or terminally ill.

Having now begun dating, it struck me how I definitely have a social status and that girls would definitely have an opinion on that. It's so good that I'm employed/part-time/self-employed/unemployed/student, homeowner/tenant/homeless, owner-driver/public-transport/walk-everywhere, good-provider/bit-of-a-loser/scum [DELETE AS APPROPRIATE].

I'm glad that I neatly fit neatly inside the boxes, because I think that it would be quite difficult to navigate through a world that wishes to categorise me.

I hate my boss - the owner of the company I work for. He's miserable and he makes me work really hard for minimum wage. I have to work 40 hours a week in London and I really don't want to be working in London. He has unrealistically high standards, he's always telling me I'm not good enough and I should just quit. He's always telling me that I'm going to fail and that I'm a loser. He might be the managing director and the owner of the company I work for, but I think he's a bit of a dick and I hate him. At least the company pays me good dividends, sometimes. In fact, 100% of the company's profits seem to end up in my pocket. Also, the managing director does listen to every word I say and does exactly what I want. In fact, the managing director admits that the company would be nothing without me.

I have an absentee landlord. The person I pay rent to is never around. It's like they don't exist. Bloody landlords.

I don't own a home outright. Mortgage lenders are the title holder of the deeds to houses and apartments. It seems like most people who consider themselves to be homeowners should more correctly refer to themselves as mortgage payers, because they won't own their homes until the mortgage is paid off.

I might put some money in an ISA or a high-interest savings account. I'm saving for a rainy day, because I'm a sensible and well-behaved chap who does all the right things.

Here's another list of things:

  • Professorship
  • Doctorate
  • Masters
  • Undergraduate degree
  • A-levels
  • GCSEs
  • SATs

Academic institutions - they exist and I've even seen them, been near to them and been inside them. What's my highest academic qualification? Why don't you phone them up and ask them? Don't take my word and my certificates and diplomas as gospel. Don't trust that photo of me wearing a mortar board and gown, clutching a scroll of parchment with a red ribbon tied around it.

Where did I go to university? Was it Oxbridge, Exeter, Durham, red-brick, Russel group, white-brick?

Where did I go to school. Was it Rugby, Charterhouse, Harrow, Eton or Winchester? Was it a good fee-paying independent? Was it a selective grammar school?

A remarkable amount of effort goes into teasing out where we think people are - or should be - in the pecking order. Snobbery is designed to elicit a kind of cap-doffing subservience from the lower orders. Know your place, underlings.

In the dating game, all my insecurities are brought into sharp focus. Every weakness in every area of my life becomes something which I'm embarrassed and ashamed of. Every seemingly innocent question about my life seems to be charged with a kind of "are you good enough for me?" and "are you beneath me?" kind of judgement. We sometimes think we're living in a classless society, but it's not true at all.

My life is laid bare for all to see - all the gory details are out on display for anybody who wants to go digging. It ain't pretty, but it's me. Happy hunting.

 

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Pay my own fun oh and I pay my own bills

9 min read

This is a story about inconvenience...

Candlelit dinner

Being an independent man is not all it's cracked up to be. The trash that is strewn throughout my apartment is there to greet me when I get home, exactly where I left it all. Despite my best efforts to streamline my life and create an efficient existence, the daily demands of basic living outpace my ability to stay ahead.

Upon my coffee table are empty beer and cider cans, a used fork, mug and wine glass, half a pint of lime cordial, €50, a cigarette lighter and two candles, baby wipes, two rechargeable batteries, a rubber band, the plastic wrapper from a piece of cheese, a red ribbon and a roll of kitchen towel.

On the floor lies the plastic that held a 4-pack of cans together; the cans having since been separated from each other; no doubt their contents now consumed.

This is - in the English vernacular - my 'living' room. If I was going to do any withdrawing it would be to my bedroom, not my drawing room. I am not lucky enough to be blessed with a drawing room. My minuscule city centre apartment only has one reception room, which must double as both a place to sit and a place to eat - a 'lounge-diner' in the parlance of an estate agent (also known as a realtor, for my North American readers).

Washer dryer

As well as clearing away the trash and doing my recycling, I also have the glamorous job of putting away my dried laundry. As you can see, my kitchen is not capacious enough to accomodate my trashcan, recycling AND leave me able to open the door to access my washer/dryer. Everything serves at least a dual purpose in this microcosm.

Gone is the luxury of the Nick Grant patent Floordrobe™ which allowed me to dump clean clothes into a number of boxes in a pseudorandom manner. Underpants and socks would be slowly sorted towards the rightmost boxes. Jeans and hoodies would be slowly sorted leftwards. Other garments would find themselves in whichever box they could fit in. Getting dressed would be a kind of rummaging exercise.

Now, I must carefully pair my socks and put my undergarments away in one of the three drawers that I store my clothing, bedding and towels within.

My life is pretty much indistinguishable from that of a successful multimillionaire pop star, as you can see.

System failure

Somebody has not been following the Operating Procedure Manual correctly. Used orange juice cartons should be discarded, as the waxed paper is not recyclable. The beer can should be in the recycling bin, ready to be emptied into the communal store. The plate and other cutlery should go into the sink, in the absence of any other space in which to temporarily queue these used implements, in preparation to be washed by hand.

Dirty dishes

The backlog of washing up is slowly accumulating. In order to fill this sink with hot soapy water, it may become necessary to remove the dirty items beforehand. I admit, this is an inefficiency, but I have not yet managed to find a convenient gathering place for the things that I will need to clean at some future time.

Living alone, I feel slightly better that I don't have to fill my dishwasher before I run it, in order to make energy-efficient usage of the household appliance. It's no hardship to wash a few plates, glasses, cutlery and utensils, but a dishwasher serves as a place to neatly stack the dirty dishes while one waits for the critical mass to be reached to justify the electricity, water and detergent that will be used.

Man fridge

I'm pleased that my refrigerator is not overbrimming with things that I am unlikely to consume before they are rendered inedible through mould and bacteria. It might be a sad sight, to see a fridge that belies such a pitiful existence, but at least there is nothing rotting or smelling bad in here.

If there appears to be a system, you are mistaken. By accident, all the alcohol has been concentrated on the top shelf, while the door contains the milk and orange juice as one might expect. However, the discrepancy between the position of the ketchup and the mayonaise shows that this is perhaps the most randomised of all areas which might be covered under my Operating Procedure Manual.

Larder shelves

Now, we may look upon the systematic and rigorous thinking of an engineer and marvel. Upon the top shelf is bicarbonate of soda, which is useful for baking as well as making crack cocaine. The middle shelf is where my favourite crisps and biscuits are stored. The bottom shelf contains freeze-dried meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner - oats, pasta and noodles - which can be prepared with the simple addition of boiling water and only require stirring once or twice, to prepare a modest quantity of food within just 5 minutes.

Although the food in this larder has extremely high salt and carbohydrate content, there are actually some nutrients contained in these convenient packages.

I prefer to look to my fridge for a meal which can be microwaved, containing a mixture of meat and vegetables. The 'ready meals for one person' that I purchase - two for £5 - are the mainstay of my evening diet, excepting alcohol and crisps. I am supposed to consume 2,500 calories on a daily basis, as an average adult man - my breakfast starts healthily with orange juice, strawberry compote, a banana and porridge; my lunch marks the beginning of a downward spiral, as I devour a heated buttery flakey pastry with rich meaty filling; my dinner is largely a liquid diet of either beer or wine - I'm not fussy as long as alcohol makes up the bulk of the remaining calories that are the source of my sustenance. I imagine that I am consuming more calories than I need, given that my flat stomach now lurks somewhere beneath a modest covering of fat.

Finished dinner

With my belly now full of wine and cottage pie - eaten directly from the plastic container in which I microwaved it - I eagerly anticipate spending the remainder of my waking hours restoring my tiny oasis of calm to a state of good order. Actually, I'm being sarcastic as fuck. I'm appalled by the idea that I now have to make several trips to the trashcan and recycling box, put away my clean laundry, wash my dishes and clean down the surfaces.

The more astute reader will have picked up on references to objects that seem out of character with a life of singledom. What, pray tell, would I be doing with a red ribbon and candles? On closer inspection of photographs, one can see strange objects like a hairbrush which looks like a penguin, were it to be turned over. It's not uncommon for hair straighteners, hairdryers, women's shoes and handbags, as well as other feminine accessories, to be seemingly randomly distributed throughout my apartment. In the course of courtship, visits seem to bring a shower of objects that would have no place or purpose in my normal day-to-day existence.

What should I do with the talcum powder on my dining table and hairbrush that I found buried deep in my couch?

My own life is barely manageable. I'm upset that I haven't found the time, energy or space to write for over a week. Some of my most beloved friends in the Twittersphere have written to me with concern that I have disappeared, fearful that perhaps I have relapsed and disappeared into some kind of institution, or perished.

When I set out to write a blog two years ago, I said to myself that I would try to write every single day; to be disciplined and give my life some purpose, even if I didn't understand what that purpose was at the time.

Now, as I slowly approach the million word mark, I'm pleased that I have written so much and so regularly, but the thing that I always wanted to avoid - mundane writing about my day-to-day life - has imposed itself upon me to such a great extent that I share with you, my beloved reader, the intimate details of a somewhat lonely and desperate existence. Of course, my blog charts the ups and downs of bipolar disorder, substance abuse and functional alcoholism, along with the journey from homelessness to somewhat more stable living arrangements.

The most perceptive amongst you will have detected the subtle undertones of a cry for help. How is it that a grown man can collapse under the trivial weight of some unopened mail and the other detritus of daily life? I don't know, but I can tell you with certainty that the effect on my sense of wellbeing is nontrivial, when I arrive home to an apartment in some state of minor disarray.

I'm happier than when my life was unencumbered by dating and women - as well as meeting new friends - but I'm also disproportionately freaked out by my delicate system being disturbed by tiny things that have seismic impact, psychologically. Is this hyperbole? Yes, it seems like it when I have tackled the list of easy tasks to put things back in good order. But my priorities are somewhat perverse: work, sleep, eat... and write. To say that the domestic duties are beneath me is wrong. I clean as I go. I tidy, wash and organise as an integral part of my movements. The left hand washes the right.

The minimalism with which I live my life - everything I own that's important to me fits in one large suitcase - is encroached upon by other lives which are messy and hard to integrate with my own systemic approach. Why would you leave that THERE? I wonder to myself, attempting to reverse-engineer the thought processes that probably don't exist.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

 

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GSOH

5 min read

This is a story about compatibility...

Bath salts

Very often, when you're acutely aware that there's something that you need to avoid crashing into, you'll end up staring at it, unable to tear your eyes away. When riding a board or a bike, flying, driving or otherwise in motion, you tend to go in the direction you're looking. If you want to avoid a crash, you should look at a spot away from danger.

Is this the reason why we don't talk about taboo subjects, because we're worried about tempting fate? We turn our back on the ugly truth and try to pretend like everything's OK.

My Christmas stocking included some bath salts.

White lines

Clearly, Santa has the same dark sense of humour as me. That's great. I think humour is a fantastic way to exorcise the demons of the past. First comes talking, then understanding and finally you can laugh and joke about a topic that was originally quite painful and difficult to remember. Repressing memories and walking on eggshells is no way to move forward.

If we don't have honest conversations where we can talk about how we really think and feel, then we build up a load of sensitive topics. Secrets and lies lead to paranoia and weak relationships. Keeping schtum about my parents' drug use - when I was a child - was too much of a burden. Writing openly has been liberating and has allowed me to move on from shame and regret, to regain my self-esteem and confidence.

I remember a desperate scramble to cover up my admission to The Priory. My psychiatrist had made a referral to a "private hospital" for treatment of an acute episode of bipolar disorder. All perfectly true, but there was a certain economic use of the truth. What would most people think, if they found out that I was spending weeks in the UK's most notorious treatment specialist for drug & alcohol abuse? They would leap to the wrong conclusions, surely?

It's so bloody exhausting keeping up appearances. One must be aware of how things can be [mis]interpreted and people aren't likely to share their true thoughts and feelings: "better keep him away from the kids if he's mentally ill" or "I bet he's a raging alcoholic behind closed doors if he's been in The Priory".

We're brought up to believe that our reputation is like a balloon: one little prick and it goes pop. We're scared to take time off work, because we'll have gaps on our CV that need to be explained. We're scared to share details of our private lives, lest our employers decide we're unreliable and judge us on preconceived notions. Who wants to work with a madman?

When it comes to dating, the same applies. Who wants to date somebody with flaws; defects? Who wants to take a risk on a ticking time bomb; an unsteady ship? And so, I should have found myself unemployable and undateable. "Take your pills, sit in the corner and shut up" says society.

However, if you ever meet me in a work or social context, you may gain the [false?] impression that I'm pleasant company: a healthy, happy and capable member of society, engaged in productive endeavours. Strangely, you might have the wool pulled over your eyes so much that you actually mistake me for a normal human being.

Surely this is thanks to the excellent medication that I take?

Well, no. I don't take any medication. I don't do therapy. I haven't had a course of electro-convulsive shock treatment. I don't even have a psychiatrist at the moment.

"But you're going to murder everybody if you don't take your pills."

Yes, that's right. I'm your worst nightmare. I'm out there, on the dating scene, luring unsuspecting vulnerable young women into my web. I'm a dangerous fantasist; a con-man. I'm so good at living a lie that I've constructed an elaborate fable that looks, smells, tastes and sounds very much like an authentic real life, but it's all fake. It can't be real. What about the secrets we now know?

If you take your secrets and turn them into jokes, you defuse that ticking time bomb... or at least that's my working hypothesis.

I certainly feel a lot happier knowing that I've met somebody with enough of a good sense of humour to make a joke on Christmas Day about my chequered past. I feel less sensitive, paranoid and insecure than ever before. I feel like I'm myself, and that's OK.

Maybe it's just a getting old thing: the realisation that we're all flawed in some way. We're all human. We all have weaknesses and strengths, and we all have history; baggage even. It seems better to wear my heart on my sleeve than present myself as some whiter than white, holier than thou saint who never put a foot wrong in their life.

I doubt I'll ever unify my professional and private identities, but I certainly don't regret jettisoning the traditional approach to dating. Honesty seems to have been the best policy in this case.

 

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