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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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Victim Blaming

7 min read

This is a story about acting unconscionably...

Lime sofa

I'd like to tell you that I had an enjoyable evening picking out a sofa and a bed, which I need for the house I'm hoping to rent soon. Certainly, I visited IKEA and I did photograph a couple of items of furniture which I liked, and I lay upon two or three different mattresses, plus I sat down a couple of times to see how comfy some particular sofa cushions were. However, I was mainly visiting to purchase a chest of drawers, to replace one in my current rented home.

How the white IKEA chest-of-drawers came to be discoloured is something of a mystery to me, but there's a noticeable yellowish tinge which I'm certain was not there when I rented the place, roughly a year ago.

I'm not happy to hand the keys back to the landlord, and leave it up to him to replace the chest-of-drawers.

Technically, it's wear-and-tear. Technically, my landlord should expect to have to do a certain amount of property maintenance each year. Technically, it's not at all clear whether I'm at fault for the discolouration of the chest-of-drawers, or perhaps it was some manufacturing fault.

Whatever. I feel responsible. I feel like it's my responsibility to hand back the keys to the place in more-or-less exactly the same state that it was rented to me.

I've been a good tenant.

I always kept the place pristine.

I've always paid my rent on time.

I've always fixed any problems I found, not wanting to hassle the landlord.

I've hardly lived in the place, having spent most of last year in hotels and AirBnBs.

The manner in which I conduct myself brings people of different kinds into my life. One flatmate left owing me £7,000 in unpaid rent and bills, without a care in the world - he felt he was entitled to help himself to a vast amount of my money. One of my blog readers lent me some money, which allowed me to avoid bankruptcy and rescue my business, which is my livelihood and a source of stability.

I was ashamed to have to borrow money from a real person, rather than a faceless profit-making bank, but that shame serves as a litmus test, for me. Those who feel entitled to spend other people's money, and never repay it, despite having the financial means to do so, and who act without a conscience, are at one end of the spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum are the people who play by the rules - a debt is a debt, and a debt to a friend or a good samaritan is something that should be treated with respect - their conscience is troubled while that debt remains outstanding; they are anxious to pay back those who have been kind and generous.

It occurred to me that I might be asking for it.

I have a friend who regularly asks to "borrow" money. I have tried to employ this friend. I have offered to gift him money, instead of "lending" it to him. I have offered to purchase the things he needs as gifts, instead of "lending" him money. He knows I can often afford to lose the amounts of money he asks to "borrow" and I know he can't afford to pay me back. That's our arrangement, and I don't begrudge him, even though some might see him as taking advantage of me. Once I was briefly angry when he didn't show up to do the work I'd paid him in advance to do, but merely because of the inconvenience of having to find somebody else to do the work, when I was stressed and really didn't need the hassle.

The ex-flatmate who owes me £7,000 didn't ask to borrow that money. He simply didn't pay his bills or his rent. When I told him that he would have to leave, he accused me of intimidating him, harassing him and suggested that I might be in breach of some law, by refusing to let him get further into arrears. His mother is wealthy and owns a very large house, which he visits regularly. His lack of money was a symptom of his idleness; his sense of entitlement. In short: he's a spoiled brat.

I have a friend who I fell out with over money, a couple of times. I lent him £10,000 so that he could become a stock market trader. The loan was only supposed to be for a year, but after 4 or 5 years of not seeing a penny back, I decided to press him to repay what he owed. He acted as if I had done something wrong; as if it was my error, not his. Some years later I asked him for some help to find somewhere to live, and with the administration of my business. He saw that I was earning a lot of money at the time, and set about spending a very large amount of my cash on "us" which I later resented, because the division of labour didn't seem to justify the rewards he felt entitled to.

I also have a best friend, who gave up a very lucrative job and left his pregnant girlfriend behind on the other side of the country, to run a company with me. Then I was extremely unpleasant towards him for 3 months, during a startup accelerator program. I was a very driven man at the time - as CEO - and the way I spoke to my friend probably deserved a beating in return: I was asking for it, one might say. That friend must certainly have lost money versus his earning potential if he'd stayed in his well-paid job, but he knows I love him dearly and we both enjoyed the adventure, at times. He also knows how guilty and bad I feel about everything that didn't go so well; everything I did wrong.

The friend who's "borrowed" a couple of thousand pounds from me over the years thinks I'm asking for it because he considers himself a "have not" while also considering me a "have". I'm not sure whether he sees himself as Robin Hood, per se, but his justification is not entirely unfounded, hence why our friendship persists to this day. He is certainly a very disadvantaged young man, versus my own seemingly charmed existence.

People hear the way I speak - with a posh English accent and a wide vocabulary - and they assume that I had a privileged upbringing. They assume that I went to private school. They assume that my parents paid for me to go to university. They assume that my parents funded me through unpaid internships, so I could get into investment banking. They assume that I'm the person I sound a little bit like.

The problem with sounding a little bit like a privately-educated investment banker from a wealthy family, is that you're asking for it.

Maybe I should tone down my accent, wear jogging sweatpants and sneakers, use more slang. Maybe I should pretend to be ignorant of things which are generally the preserve of snobby elites, and narrow my field of interest to popular sports, soap operas, reality TV and celebrity gossip.

Maybe I shouldn't wear make-up, a short skirt and a low-cut top, with high-heels, and go to a place where people frequently hook-up for sex, because those things are avoidable, right? It's my fault that people feel entitled to greedily grab my money, because I'm asking for it. I'm asking to get ripped off. I'm asking to get used. I'm asking to get raped.

The comparison I'm making is unpalatable; perhaps unspeakable.

There it is. I said it.

 

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Don't Dare Dream

5 min read

This is a story about expectation management...

Floorplan

One year ago, I was homeless, I didn't have a car and I was roughly £52,000 in debt. I lived in AirBnBs midweek and in the converted garage of a friend at weekends. My job was over 4 hours away by train and a ticket cost £137. To get to work, the earliest train I could take left at 6:21am, and I would arrive at my desk well over an hour late. 8 hours of travelling for 8 hours of work... hence living in the AirBnBs.

In order to purchase a car, I had to go deeper into debt. The car only cost me £875 but I didn't have any money, so I had to borrow some more. The car needed taxing, which cost me an additional £125. The car needed insurance, which cost me another £500.

My debt peaked at approximately £54,000, roughly 1 year ago.

An alternative title for this blog post I was considering was "Debt Destroys Dreams" but it seemed disingenuous, because the story of the past year has been a remarkable one, with the potential to resurrect long-abandoned dreams.

The reason why I put up the picture of the floor-plan above is as a metaphor. I often choose metaphorical photographs to accompany my blog posts. All the photos I use I took myself, or are from family photo albums. This photo of a floor-plan was taken approximately one year ago, in one of the AirBnBs I was staying in.

The metaphor, if you're wondering, is the dream of escaping the maze. How do you escape from a [debt] trap? Let's imagine that your dream is to escape this maze, go outside to see the sunshine and breathe some fresh air. Seems like a pretty nice dream, doesn't it?

As you can see from the floor-plan, there are many, many doors. If the only fact you know is that one of the doors is the one that leads outside, but you don't have the floor-plan, then how are you going to know which of the doors leads outside?

It seems pretty obvious from the floor-plan that there's a main corridor running through the middle of the building. It seems pretty obvious from the floor-plan that nearly every door off the corridor leads to a dead-end. However, even with the floor-plan, it's not immediately obvious how the hell to get ouf of the building.

Now, let's assume you don't even have a floor-plan. Life doesn't come with a floor-plan. You just have to keep trying doors until you find the right one. You know that eventually, you'll open the door to the outside - thus fulfilling your dream - but you have to keep trying doors and trying to learn from your mistakes. Life has plenty of dead ends, and we often end up repeating past mistakes.

Without the floor-plan, it's not possible to know how many doors there are, so it's not possible to know how much progress you've made. If there are a thousand doors and you've tried fifty, then you're not doing very well... you'd better prepare yourself for a lot more door opening and a lot more disappointment. If there are a hundred doors and you've tried fifty, then every door you open after the 51st has a greater than 50% probability of being the one that allows you to escape, achieving your dream of seeing the sky and the sun.

But, remember, you don't have the floor-plan.

So, I live my life with a rather strange philosophy. I know the things that are most likely to improve my life, but I don't know whether they'll work or not, or when I'll achieve my goals... I just have to keep trying stuff that wiil pay off eventually. That's what I've done for a whole year.

My debt probably totals about £38,000 at the moment.

Paying off £16,000 of debt is pretty impressive, for a single year.

But it doesn't end there.

I also own a car and I've rented an apartment. I went on two very extravagant holidays. I took two trips to Europe to see one of my very best friends and his family.

I also have money in both my personal and business bank accounts, plus I'm owed some money, which I'm expecting to be paid to me in the next two months.

I also have a job which continues to bring in a fairly hefty amount of money each month.

If we do the simple arithmetic of subtracting all the money I have plus the money I'm owed, from my total debt, then we arrive at a very nice simple number: Zero.

Having zero pounds, zero dollars, zero Euros, zero yen - zero cash - sounds like a pretty dreadful state of affairs, but in actual fact I think it's like putting my hand on the correct door knob, which will open the door leading outside into the fresh air and sunshine.

I can't see the blue sky yet. I can't feel the wind in my hair.

I don't want to believe that I've found the right door.

I refuse to believe I've found the right door until I've actually stepped outside and I'm looking at the sky.

It might seem tempting to extrapolate and declare myself a winner: I'm so close to being back in the black (sic.) that it surely seems impossible for me to fail. Surely I'm going to pay off all my debt and begin to live a life without that horrible ball and chain anymore. Surely I'm going to have some financial security, very soon.

I'll believe it when I see it.

 

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No News is Bad News - Part Two

6 min read

This is a story about radio silence...

Hotel room

On June 20 of this year I attempted to write my life story from 2011 onwards, covering the happiest, most successful period of my life and the pinnacle of my career - doing a tech startup accelerator program in Cambridge with a cohort of incredible people - and the subsequent reasons why I stepped down as CEO, separated from my wife, sold my house and settled my acrimonious divorce.

I wrote 10,000 words in a non-stop brain dump. Once I started I couldn't hold back - the words flooded out onto the page.

It was supposed to be succinct. It was supposed to be a simple set of bullet points.

It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, to write down even the first part.

Part two has a lot to cover:

  • Homelessness
  • Hospitals
  • Police
  • Drug addiction
  • Psych wards
  • Suicide attempts
  • More banking jobs
  • More IT projects
  • Moving to Manchester
  • Moving to Wales
  • Several relationships and breakups; love and loss
  • Psychosis
  • Self medication
  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Financial problems
  • Near-bankruptcy
  • Salvation

I'm not going to write part two in the same way that I wrote part one.

That was 6 months ago. This is now.

A lot can happen in 6 months.

As a quick recap, here are the problems I've been trying to tackle this year:

  • £54,000 of debt
  • Homeless
  • No job
  • No car
  • Single
  • Addicted to prescription drugs: sleeping pills, tranquillisers and painkillers
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder

As if those problems weren't enough, in June I had relapsed onto supercrack. I'd been working but I'd lost my job - through no fault of my own - and I was in no hurry to get another one, because my addiction had returned with a vengeance. I was in a place with no family and only a handful of friends, none of whom were equipped to deal with my clusterfuck of issues. I was more-or-less alone, except for the people who I try to connect with on a daily basis through my blog, Twitter, Facebook and other digital means.

I came up with the title "No News is Bad News" because it's usually true. I came up with that title, because a period of silence on my blog is usually cause for concern. It's usually time to start phoning round the hospitals to see if I've been admitted. It's usually time to start worrying if I'm dead or dying.

Back in June - 6 months ago - the title was very apt, because I hadn't been online for a while. Losing my job had completely destroyed my hopes of dealing with the mountain of issues I was facing. Losing my job had wrecked my plans for recovery.

Today, my world looks very different.

I can't tell you too much - because it's private - but I'm writing from the comfort of my girlfriend's bed. Her bedroom is very pink and girly. She just brought me a plate with a generously buttered thick slice of toast and a glass of orange juice, which I am eating in bed. I'm getting crumbs in the bed and greasy finger-marks on my laptop.

I'm no longer living out of a suitcase in a hotel and eating in the same gastropub every night, sat at a table for one. I'm unofficially co-habiting. We only met a few weeks ago. The relationship is going fast. Too fast some might say.

I kiss my sweetheart good morning and wish her a good day as I depart for work. My journey takes no more than 15 minutes when the traffic is kind to me. I'm finding it easy to get up in the morning. I don't dread lonely evenings in a bland hotel room. I don't dread the unsustainable interminable monotony of miserable days in the office, and miserable evenings spent alone.

I'm going too fast though.

I'm working too hard.

It takes vast quantities of alcohol, sleeping pills and tranquillisers to prevent me from working 12 to 14 hour days. It requires a huge amount of effort to stop myself from working at the weekend. I'm desperate to achieve results as quickly as possible, because the finishing line is within sight.

It could be months before I'm well-and-truly out of the danger zone and enjoying some long-overdue financial security. It's definitely going to be a long time before I get truly settled at home and at work. I need to decide where I'm going to live and what I'm going to do for a job, on a more long-term basis. At some point, my good luck is going to run out and I'll be forced back into living out of a suitcase, maintaining a long-distance relationship, and having to face the anxiety and stress of proving myself in a new organisation, with a new set of work colleagues.

Mania has arrived. There's no doubt about that.

My manic energy has been ploughed into my day job, instead of my new novel. I worry that my work colleagues have noticed that I've completely obsessed by my project. I worry that the undesirable accompanying behaviours - irritability, rapid and pressured speech, arrogance and delusions of grandeur - will become so hard to hide in the office that I might be forced to disclose my bipolar disorder to my colleagues, in the hope that they'll be sympathetic.

My blog has been neglected, along with my friends.

I work too hard. I'm moving 'too fast' in my new relationship - the "L" word has been used and she has given me a key to her place. We're going on holiday together. All my original problems are still there, to some extent. I need to decide where to live, pay off my outstanding debts, drink less, quit the sleeping pills and tranquillisers, get my mania under control.

What else can I tell you?

I can't try to tell you too much all at once, even though I desperately want to. I want to sit down and write 10,000 words without taking a single break. I want to pour my heart out onto the page and tell you everything, but I'm trying to pump the brakes a little bit. I'm trying to be a little bit sensible, even though I'm clearly going too fast.

It feels like the week-long hiatus from blogging was not bad news. Perhaps it's good news? No. It's not good news. I'm not looking after myself. I'm not managing my bipolar very well. I'm allowing myself to become manic, for the purposes of achieving 'great' things at work. It's exciting to be manic after so many months of depression and misery.

It would be a good idea for me to resolve to resume my daily writing, but I'm wary of making unrealistic promises. Today, I'm coming to terms with the fact that my 3rd novel remains unfinished, when I had hoped to have completed it yesterday.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my present situation in a nutshell.

 

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Erratic

11 min read

This is a story about 24-hour party people...

Oxford Tube

Here's a photo taken at 4am, capturing my journey away from everything that was good about my life - my friends, my startup, my future - back to the life that I was trying to escape; back to my wife and my house. I was in the process of separation and divorce. I was in the process of selling my house. I was in the process of beginning my life all over again - a fresh start; a clean slate.

Why am I showing you this?

It was incredibly disruptive and destructive that I had to leave my fragile embryonic new life to fulfil the mundane and trivial bureaucratic administrative task of liquidating my assets. All I wanted was to get away from the life that had become a nightmare; specifically not be dragged back into my toxic old life for the sake of something so meaningless as material possessions and money.

"Take as much as you want. Take whatever you want. Just don't destroy me" I begged of my ex-wife. All I wanted was a chance to be allowed to rebuild my shattered life. Her life was unaffected: she had her friends, her career, her home town, the support of vast numbers of people all around her. My life had been destroyed by our relationship and somewhat consequent mental health crisis. It wouldn't be fair to lay the blame at her door, but I had failed to walk away when I was strong and I had become incredibly weak and vulnerable. She was strong and I was fucked.

I tried to explain to a close friend that I felt like I was always a few hours, few days or few weeks behind where I needed to be. Everything I needed was tantalisingly within my reach, but the things I needed to happen fast were always deliberately thwarted and delayed by people who didn't give a damn whether I lived or died.

Unfortunately, I had lagged behind and I could never catch up. I was fucked.

My ex-wife demanded a £7,000 bribe in order to not sabotage the quick sale of my house. It was blackmail, plain and simple. I managed to raise £5,000 but she wouldn't accept it. She destroyed the deal I'd struck with a cash buyer who wanted to complete the house sale within 6 weeks. In the end, the house sale took 6 months because of her acts of deliberate sabotage.

I needed money but I couldn't raise enough to avoid getting into financial difficulties. I was being bankrupted by those who supposedly loved and cared about me. It was a ridiculous situation, because I was liquidating my highest value asset, which guaranteed that everyone was going to get paid back as soon as my damn ex-wife stopped sabotaging and delaying the house sale, but my "nearest and dearest" are absolute cunts, with the exception of my sister, who offered me every penny she could lay her hands on. My kind and caring sister has the least amount of savings and disposable income of anybody I know; she's the most hard-up, but she immediately grasped the gravity of my situation and was prepared to do everything in her power to help me.

I didn't borrow from my sister. I didn't borrow from my parents. I didn't borrow from my family. I didn't borrow from my friends.

I took the £5,000 which my ex-wife said wasn't enough to meet her blackmail demand, and I bought Bitcoins at an average price of $123 each. At the time the exchange rate was roughly $1.60 per £1, which equates to 65 Bitcoins. The value of those 65 bitcoins at more-or-less the same time as my house was finally sold, was approximately $80,000, which was lucky because my ex-wife was refusing to release my fucking money until our divorce was finalised.

That total cunt was trying to ruin me.

My parents were trying to ruin me.

My family - with the exception of my sister - were being a bunch of cunts.

Hence why I don't talk to any of them anymore, except my sister.

I'm a bad brother.

I'm a bad uncle.

I'm the black sheep of the family... well, almost. My parents and the wider family tried to make it stick, but they didn't manage to ruin me despite their best attempts. Despite their most thorough and diligent efforts in pursuit of my ruination, I refused to let them do that to me - to destroy me and forever have a convenient scapegoat for all the family's problems; to have successfully artificially created a failure who'd be too weak and decimated to ever defend my good name. It's nice to have somebody to blame. I've been blamed by so many. Those who blame me and point the finger far outnumber me. How could I ever stand a chance against the bullies? How could I ever hope to win when I was so outnumbered?

* * *

INTERLUDE

* * *

I started writing this blog post on Tuesday. I was feeling rushed. I had a date. I was going to the cinema. There wasn't a lot of time before the start of the movie.

I started writing this blog post and I've thought a lot about whether to delete it and start again.

I started writing this blog post, but I've had a lot of time to notice how my feelings change very much from day to day. In the course of writing a short blog post I can become enraged and bitter about things that happened in the past. Although I find writing to be therapeutic in the most part, I can kick a hornets' nest of unresolved anger occasionally. When I start with a certain thread - which many regular readers will have seen repeatedly - I re-live the injustice, frustration and abandonment I suffered, which nearly ruined my life unnecessarily, avoidably and inexcusably, because my parents are a pair of druggie aklie cunts who don't fucking listen to a word I've got to say.

Hence the blog.

I love this blog.

I've got so much to say.

So much of what I say is driven by bitterness, resent, unresolved anger and frustration, a sense of injustice and feeling 'hard done by' and the rational, logical conclusions that I would expect any reasonable person to reach, given the same set of facts.

This is a one-sided story.

I can tell you the things that I think will make you sympathise with my suffering and omit the pieces of the story which are incongruous with my narrative. I can manipulate my readers with a one-sided and heavily biased viewpoint, if that's what I want. I don't have to argue with anybody. I don't have to suffer ad hominem attacks. I don't have to struggle in the unwinnable battle, which comprises little old me against a gang of bullies.

As the days have gone by with this blog unfinished and unpublished, I've thought more and more about how I could write a more balanced viewpoint in the second half. I've thought about toning down my hateful bitter language, which lashes out at people who are very much out of reach and beyond reproach. My parents had managed to selfishly ignore me and my needs throughout my childhood so utterly completely, it's ridiculous to think that there would be any getting through to them as an adult who really needed some help during an acrimonious divorce.

It's me who's got the problem.

My sense of isolation - being ganged up on - is almost indescribably awful, but there is no sense in thinking of myself as a victim. There are a whole shower of cunts who failed in their moral duties, who lacked the basic decency of showing some fucking concern and compassion, and who spectacularly failed to put the slightest fucking effort into the minimum duty of care expected by society. I could get mad. I could get even. Instead, I simply feel no debt to those who are supposedly sworn to keep children safe, or obliged by loyalty, social convention and shared genes, to look after the weak and vulnerable members of a group, tribe, family or other such thing that exists amongst basic fucking decent people.

My mind and my mood flit wildly between rage at being let down during formative years and moments in my life when I was extremely vulnerable, and my more general worldview and philosophy that I should be rational and logical. It's entirely illogical and unhelpful to hold a grudge. It's a complete waste of effort to exert myself, expressing myself at great length and explaining my complex damaged feelings - my trauma - when I'm so absolutely certain that my words fall on the deaf ears of those who inflicted that trauma.

I've been writing almost daily for more than 3 years.

Writing helps.

I don't know what this is - this blog post - but I know that it's an accurate representation of what my inner world is like. I swing violently between moods. I feel sudden gut-wrenching sadness and bitter resentment at how much I feel like I missed out on and was denied, in terms of a healthy normal childhood, free from the kinds of things that children are supposed to be protected from - loneliness, misery, isolation, bullying, abuse, negligence, deprivation. I use those words without much caution, well aware that they carry connotations of life-ruining events for very many unfortunate fellow humans. Should I not use those words, because I took all that anger about how fucking shit it was to be bullied for so many years and I turned it into $1.3 million of Bitcoins, essentially?

This is my fucking life.

My life is full of ridiculous contrast.

You want me to be balanced and unbiased about things? You want me to be objective and empirical? You want me to consider all my experiences versus the entire range of human existence, throughout history?

My ex-wife isn't and wasn't the worst. My parents aren't and weren't the worst. My childhood wasn't the worst.

Am I able to look back and see good as well as good? Yes, of course.

Am I able to recognise that in all likelihood I should have died a horribly drawn-out painful death long ago, caused by a preventable disease, after a lifetime of hunger? Yes, of course.

* * *

PAUSE FOR BREATH

* * *

There are so many good reasons to regret what I've written. There are so many good reasons to delete this whole entire blog and allow any memory of this endeavour to be expunged from the digital archives. There are so many good reasons to proceed with life, without living in the past, being consumed by bitterness and anger, and holding grudges.

However, this blog post and indeed this whole website captures the range of moods which had become so destructive in my life as to make me completely dysfunctional. Those moods are driven by quite easily analysed and expressed things, but the resolution of the issues is demonstrably impossible, despite an individual's best efforts, where there are a greater number of others who have a vested interest in seeing somebody dead and buried.

I'm in a difficult phase of being a sore winner now. I dodged the bullets and I proved everyone wrong, with the exception of a tiny handful of very special people who saw my potential and were brave enough to support me.

I have extremely strong views about the way a parent should behave towards their childen, the way that a wife should behave towards her husband, about the way that the strong should behave towards the weak, and the way that the gang should behave towards the isolated loner. I am extremely opinionated about the right-and-wrong of matters concerning those who are in a powerful position; who are able to ruin lives.

I picture myself as a fucked-up scared little kid who doesn't know how the world works, but has gathered incontrovertible evidence that I'm seen-but-not-heard and a convenient punchbag. "That kid fucked up my life" etc. etc.

Of course, I paint a vivid picture for artistic effect. I don't take myself as seriously as I sometimes sound. I'm genuinely well aware that the world is filled with unimaginable suffering.

I would dearly love to demonstrate greater magnanimity, but do you know what? It's too fucking soon and I'm still salty. It's my blog and I'll whine, moan, complain and be a bitter twisted miserable fucker if I want to. Fuck you. I didn't ask to be born.

In case you were wondering, some of the time I am hoping that you will laugh and none of the time I am hoping that you will cry.

 

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Playing the Long Game

10 min read

This is a story about sustained effort...

Mound of wires

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

Unfortunately, I have several concurrent tasks:

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

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

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

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

My writing has been the casualty, of late.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On paper, I was a write-off.

Nobody would touch me with a barge pole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry for the gap in my regular writing.

 

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Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

4 min read

This is a story about feeling overwhelmed...

Rare steak

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

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

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

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

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

I wanted to be busy.

Now I am.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shouldn't complain.

I'd rather be busy.

I wanted a mission.

 

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

7 min read

This is a story about perseverance...

Tree in winter

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

Yes, I take offence to being patronised.

still take offence to being patronised.

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

Oh. My. God.

Drop everything.

A fucking meme saved my fucking life.

Said nobody ever.

A self-help book saved my life.

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

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

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

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

Of course my story is repetitive.

Of course my story is miserable.

Of course my story is boring.

Of course my story has changed very little.

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

I'm paying back £54,000 of debt.

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

Starting with nothing would have been a fucking dream.

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

I'm not most people.

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

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

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

"I'd get a job"

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

It's a hard problem to solve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Lack of Progress

5 min read

This is a story about being trapped in a nightmare...

Sleep tight

Theoretically, I've now earned enough money to pay back my guardian angel. My debts have been rapidly repaid and the total sum outstanding, which started at about £54,000 in January, has now been reduced to an amount closer to £14,000 worth of credit card debt, which is a staggering amount of money to pay back in the space of 10 months.

I have my VAT to pay every quarter, my personal taxes at the end of January and my corporation tax in July. Those are not small sums of money.

I have my expenses to cover: rent, bills, car insurance, car tax, petrol, tyres, oil, servicing, roadworthiness testing, hotels and food while working away from home. My business incurs expenses, such as my accountant and various costs associated with running a business.

I can't just sit in a dark room eating dry bread and drinking tapwater.

That's the optimistic viewpoint.

The pessimist in me realises that I can't actually get at my own money which I generated through my labour, without incurring even more tax than the fuckloads that I pay. My money is tied up in my business.

If I leave my money in bank accounts controlled by me, there's a chance I could get sick and not be able to repay my creditors. In that eventuality, my hard-earned cash will be hoovered up by circling vultures who are keen to plunge me back into the nightmare of being trapped by mountainous debts. One slip up and it'll be right back to square one.

It's happened before.

Getting through the whole of October without a disaster is a big deal. Getting through this year without any hospitalisations or months and months of destructive madness is a big deal. However, I had a pretty good shot at escaping the nightmare in both 2014 and 2016, but everything still went to hell.

It terrifies me that I have to work the whole of November - without a break - to well and truly settle my important debts and cement the gains I've made. It seems like an impossible amount of time to carry on working in circumstances which are thoroughly incompatible with my mental health.

Single, in a town where I only have two or three friends - who I almost never see - and living out of a suitcase in a hotel, would be toxic to even the happiest and most stable person's sense of wellbeing. I do it because I have no other choice. I do it because it's the only escape route from the never-ending nightmare.

Once my debts are repaid, sure, I can take any job I want. Of course I'm not going to struggle to find lots of people who'd love to underpay and exploit me. Of course I could easily shackle myself to some dreadful job which pays peanuts, but not until my debts are repaid.

It seems like I'm making progress when I consider that I started this year homeless and without a car, but those things are also liabilities. I need to pay rent for the duration of my fixed term tenancy contract and I'm liable for any damage. I need to keep my car insured, taxed and certified as roadworthy, or else I will get big fines. Sure, I have the money to make these problems go away, while I'm working, but what if I get sick?

The longer I'm forced to continue my toxic living and working arrangements, the more problems I'm storing up for the future. There's a price to be paid for the stress, the misery, the boredom and the dreadful circumstances of a life that's devoid of any job satisfaction, security, intimacy, companionship, face-to-face friendship and conversation. My life has a tiny fraction of the human interaction which would be considered normal and healthy. I'm a recluse who lives in isolation, fearful of doing anything or getting excited about anything, because I need to focus all my energies on pretending to be a boring wage slave, for the sake of my debts.

I'm not short of ideas of what I could do if I had my freedom. It's not a lack of imagination. It's a simple lack of capital problem. All my money is spoken for.

I don't even want to think about how long it's going to be until I've well and truly paid off 100% of my debts and taxes and I'm a free man. I don't want to torment myself.

When I'm feeling anxious, I get pessimistic. When I'm feeling anxious, I see my progress through very pessimistic eyes and it feels like I've made no progress at all.

Of course, my progress could be sabotaged and any hope of recovery could be completely destroyed, by circumstances beyond my control, like somebody deciding to screw me over at work. That's my biggest fear: that my contract will be prematurely cut short, because somebody decides they're not happy with me getting back on my feet.

Perhaps you think it's right and proper that I should be living this never-ending nightmare life. Perhaps you think that I should be put through this ordeal. I certainly don't expect any special treatment. I work ridiculously hard to uphold my end of the bargain and honour my commitments. Perhaps you want bad stuff to happen to me, and for me to fail.

So long as I can pay my guardian angel back everything I owe, I don't care what happens to me. My conscience is clean once I've paid back my guardian angel. My moral obligations have been fulfilled once I've paid my guardian angel back.

I know I have the rare and enviable opportunity to be very rich if I keep working as hard as I do, but I'd honestly rather go and live in a cabin in the woods at the moment, and have some relief from the relentless pressure, anxiety and misery.

 

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I Am Ridiculously Exposed

6 min read

This is a story about laying it all on the line...

Glasses

My livelihood, any realistic prospect of me being able to pay back my mountainous debts and the impossible dream of restoring myself to health and wealth - escaping the nightmare - hinges upon successfully blending in as a part of an organisation which is particularly noted for being intolerant of anybody with bad character.

I've been required to fill in a 66 page form which legally obliges me to disclose criminal convictions, psychiatric problems, the abuse of drugs and alcohol, partners from the last 3 years, marriage, divorce, bankruptcies, loan defaults, debt repayment agreements, financial conduct and details about my parents. Most employers are only entitled to know about any unspent criminal convictions, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, but I work for an organisation that knows everything.

Of course, I'm ahead of the game, because I've already publicly declared every single unflattering thing about myself.

Luckily I've never been convicted of a crime, but there are still some things I'm legally bound to disclose which would portray me in a less-than-ideal light to the powers that be, who will judge me based on what they see on paper. My life and my future will be reduced to a few scribbles on a form.

Many people have been through rough breakups and divorces and had breakdowns. Many people suffer from mental illness. Many people have had periods where they've drunk too much or dabbled with recreational drugs. Nobody is squeaky clean.

I'm in the ludicrous situation where I'm more-or-less managing to plod along and keep my mouth shut, and demonstrate that I'm a competent and capable valuable team member at work, but I've continued to write and publish this blog using my real name. I've continued to write with unflinching honesty about some of the terrible stuff I've been through and the aftermath of problems I'm dealing with, as I desperately attempt to get back on my feet.

I'm in the ludicrous situation where my hard work is beginning to pay off and my debts are getting rapidly repaid. I'm in the ludicrous situation where there's an end in sight, provided nobody screws me over.

It appears to be self-sabotaging that I would continue to write and publish stuff which makes me so exposed and vulnerable, but in fact my online presence has been one of the big factors in my recovery. Without being able to share my story and connect with kind supportive people, I couldn't have gotten this far. Without having the sense of identity, pride in my achievement and the structure and routine that daily public writing gives me - the scrutiny - then I would have been destroyed by my problems and would have perished in obscurity long ago.

Whaddya want to know about me?

Trouble with the police? Sure. I got caught with legal highs a couple of times.

Psychiatric problems? They don't call me Nick "Manic" Grant for no reason. I make no secret of having bipolar disorder.

Drug and alcohol abuse? Not the former anymore but the latter is a bit of a problem, although my drinking doesn't seem to be any more abusive than that of most of my colleagues. Arguably I'm successfully self-medicating, because I'm functional and unmedicated.

Partners from the last 3 years? I haven't co-habited since separating from my wife.

Marriage and divorce? Tied the knot in Hawaii. Divorced 18 months later.

Bankruptcies and other debt problems? I pay my bills. I've never defaulted. I'm a good debtor.

Financial conduct and credit score? I need to pay back half my credit card debt ASAP but that's the only bad thing on my credit file.

Parents? They're not seditious traitors. They're not Russian, Chinese or terrorist sympathisers. They're not political agitators.

What about my character in general? I've had a successful career spanning more than 2 decades, working for some very big organisations on important projects. If I was some kind of fraudster or con artist, my true character would surely have been unmasked by now.

There's a lot written down here which could easily be twisted and used against me by somebody intent on casting me in a bad light. I write a lot of things about myself which are very unflattering and wouldn't usually be publicly declared by people. I spend a lot of time asking people to take the things I voluntarily tell them and to decide for themselves how they want to judge me.

It's a ridiculous thing to do.

For one reason or another I've become easier and easier to find, for anybody who bothers to look. Because of a recent mistake I made I've become even easier to find than ever before. All the effort that I've put into projecting myself into public consciousness, because I've been on the verge of suicide for so long, is finally gaining traction and I'm becoming a victim of my decision to make myself exposed and vulnerable.

Every time I write and publish I have to consider the consequences to my life. I have to make a decision between my ideological belief that we have a right to live with the freedom to be proud of our identities and to be open and honest, without fear. If we really live in a free country I should be free to be candid and not suffer persecution and tyranny. If we honestly believe in equal opportunities and our laws forbidding discrimination, then we need to take the brave and bold step of speaking without fear of repercussions.

This vast repository of information that I've created is the polar opposite of a 66 page form, designed to distill me down to a few ticks in boxes. This 1.1 million word document is intended to frustrate the reader who is looking for a convenient pigeon hole to stuff me into.

Do your worst. I'm not afraid.

 

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Wishing My Life Away

8 min read

This is a story about the perception of time...

The show

Smoke machines, lasers, fountains, stage lights, people in costumes, animatronics and a powerful public address soundsystem combine to create quite a spectacle, for evening entertainment in Turkish Disneyworld. There are lots of magical, surprising and delightful moments in this theme-park, with adjoining hotel, and there's lots to do. Time has passed quite weirdly slowly though.

It struck me that I won't ever relax and enjoy myself, because I'm extremely paranoid that something's going to go wrong and my paint-by-numbers simple plan to restore my life to debt-free, health, wealth and prosperity, is going to be ruined by something unexpected.

I suppose people who have borrowed heavily against their future predicted earnings, so that they could buy a house and a car, have resigned themselves to sleepless nights worrying about losing their job and being unable to make repayments, rapidly causing their entire comfortable existence to crumble and be irreparably destroyed by reposessions, bailiffs and a bad credit score. If you go bankrupt you won't be able to rent a place to live or get a good job, because of credit checks and general employment contract exclusions, discriminating against former bankrupts.

If you imagine that there's a safety net there to catch you, you're naïve. Every property you might hope to rent is not only barred to bankrupts, but also to anybody receiving housing benefit. "NO DSS" every single advert for every single property on the market, quite clearly states. Capitalism and banking are closing ranks, creating an system that goes beyond that of a hostile environment to actively create vast numbers of homeless, unemployable, economic lepers who can't get back into civilised society no matter how hard they try.

Legislation which addresses the rehabilitation of former offenders, is quite strict about who is and isn't allowed to know a person's criminal record. The system of credit checks and your credit file is firmly in the civil sector. The use of credit data is extensively used to discriminate against people. Those who are in receipt of state welfare benefits are discriminated against, wherever that data is available to the rentier class.

We are increasingly corralled into minimum-wage zero-hours contract McJobs, with zero security and insufficient pay to afford a basic standard of living, where every letter which hits the doormat potentially delivers an economically catastrophic blow. While wealthy ignoramuses far removed from the reality of daily life for ordinary people, imagine that the social problems must be due to poor budgeting skills, they simply haven't a clue what it's like to live your entire life not having any surplus money to set aside for unexpected demands for cash. If a person who's in receipt of £73 weekly income gets a £80 parking fine, how are they supposed to pay it?

Of course, I'm clearly far-removed from the struggles of poverty... or am I?

I am lucky enough to be able to survive more than 2 missed paycheques without ending up on the street, when ⅓rd of UK people are not so fortunate. However, my so-called financial security is due to having access to a good line of credit, which is not the same as having a pot of savings for unexpected expenses. If I suffer another period without income, I slip deeper into debt and my miserable existence continues.

It might seem foolish to spend money on a new iPhone and a holiday, when I'm deep in debt, but I worked for 10 consecutive months without a nice relaxing break. The rewards for my hard work have come in the guise of a place to live and enough money to be able to travel to work, which aren't really rewards at all. The next big reward is going to be the repayment of a significant chunk of debt, which again isn't really a reward. Working relentlessly without reward is not a sustainable situation, so I've chosen to prolong my indebtedness a little bit, because I can't put my entire life on hold, eating cold baked beans and living in a cardboard box, for the sake of getting out of debt a little quicker.

There are many aspects of my attitude and behaviour which seem very vulgar. How dare I talk about poverty and financial distress, when I seemingly have a good job and spare cash? How dare I talk about money worries and the burden of debt? How dare I compare myself with people who are two missed paycheques away from ending up on the streets?

I've been on the streets. I've slept rough. I know how quickly everything can fall apart. I can tell you exactly how I'd end up back on the streets.

Yes, I can borrow to service the interest on my loans, but that only delays the inevitable temporarily. Yes, I'm seemingly quite employable, but there's no point getting a job which doesn't pay enough money to repay my debts. Yes, I seem to have access to enough cash for rent, deposit, car and other major expenses, but that cash comes from my credit facilities, not my savings.

I've been battling a toxic combination of ill-health and mountainous debt for far too long. I'm starting to feel like it's an unwinnable battle. Of course, capitalists, bankers and the rentier class don't want you to be able to escape your economic fate - they want you to be insecure, so that you'll accept a minimum wage zero-hours contract McJob and kindly donate 100% of your income in the form of rent, bills and interest on loans, to those who really don't need the money.

This week has gone really slowly.

This year has gone really slowly.

As it stands, there's a plan in place which will dig me out of the hole I've been stuck in for far too many years. It's heavily reliant on better luck than previous years. I really don't need anybody throwing a spanner in the works. I really don't need to find myself unexpectedly looking for work again, as has happened far too often in the past.

If it seems like I'm unaware of my good fortune - unable to get things in perspective - then it's due to the present discomforts. Of course, I may look back upon this time and be unable to understand what I was complaining about so much. Unpleasant memories always fade faster than pleasant ones. I'm sure I'll look back with some regret, that I didn't enjoy myself more along the way; take more pleasure in the journey.

It's hard for those who've gotten used to having money to relate to those who've gotten used to living in fear of the letters hitting the doormat, the phone ringing and the doorbell. It's hard for those who've gotten used to regular income, to relate to those whose unreliable health has meant that financial planning is hard, and regular mortgage payments have become a tyranny; fear of getting into rent arrears and facing eviction being a constant nightmare. It's hard for those who don't have mountainous debts to relate to those who know that their entire lives could be destroyed in the blink of an eye; how quickly a small debt can become a ridiculously huge sum of money once legal fees, court fees and recovery costs have been added on. Money - or lack thereof - can destroy a person like nothing else.

Yes I could have saved myself some money here and there, but the thing that's going to save me from my dire situation is not economising and budgeting... it's oodles of cold hard cash. The thing I need is for the coming months to go as planned, so I can keep working and keep earning money. You can economise and budget as much as you want, but 100% of nothing is still nothing. If you earn nothing, it doesn't matter how great you are at financial planning, you're in deep trouble.

One big variable is my health. My health could scupper my plans to work hard. Hence the holiday. Hence the rest.

It might seem wasteful to have spent 5 out of 7 days in bed, but I needed to recharge the batteries.

It might seem wasteful to have spent so much of the last year miserable, but I needed to pay off my mountainous debts.

If I could go to sleep and wake up next March, with no recollection of the intervening months, then I'd absolutely love to do that. I'd gladly give up all those many months of my life, to be able to press the fast-forward button and skip the anxiety-inducing and super-stressful, boring, monotonous and unrewarding bullshit in-between then and now.

Yes, I'm wishing my life away.

 

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Alone With My Thoughts

6 min read

This is a story about bad memories...

Hotel bed

I drew back the curtains this morning and I was almost relieved to see that it was cloudy. One of the theme park rides was on fire also. I did not need much of an excuse to go back to bed.

I'm not actually sleeping that much.

It's nice to be in the position where I have quite strong cash reserves, I'm on holiday, and I have a job and a place to live when I return home. Rarely do I have all those puzzle pieces at the same time.

When things are broken and stressful in my life - beyond my ability to control things and influence the outcome - then I don't cry; I park my emotions and move myself into a neutral gear. I'm a leaf tossed through the air by hurricane-strength winds. There's no sense in thrashing around and wasting any energy.

Now is the worst time.

The time before an anticipated milestone.

I got very worked-up about my million-word milestone, and very paranoid that something was going to trip me up. My work-rate increased as I neared the finishing line, as I desperately wanted to reach the end when it was in sight.

Now, there are some major financial milestones on the horizon. In a couple of weeks I can clear half my important debts, with a whopping great big 5-figure lump sum. In a couple of months, I hope to clear the balance of what I feel I have a moral obligation to repay, because it was borrowed from a friend, not borrowed out of thin air, like it would be with a faceless corporate bank. By the end of March, I should be completely debt-free.

My mind is working overtime, thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

It seems likely that I'll get to the end of the month OK, but beyond that, recents years have shown that this is a very difficult period for me. I can't help comparing my behaviour with previous experiences, and worrying that I'm becoming too much of a loudmouth. I'm acutely aware that any bumps in the road could be disastrously psychologically damaging - it's very hard to pick myself back up after major setbacks, because the path to victorious recovery is quite plainly laid out in front of me and to snatch it away is cruel. There is absolutely nothing that I haven't seen and dealt with before - my recovery is a paint-by-numbers exercise.

I'm not sure if it's the job that's killing me... I think it's the debt. Every day when I wake up I'm still deep in debt, and I'm more in debt than when I went to sleep, because the interest on my loans accrues while I sleep, but I'm not working and earning any money. Debt hangs around like a bad smell; all-pervasive.

When alone with my thoughts, I re-analyse my actions. I wonder if I have been entirely fair in my assessment of events. I re-imagine things, admitting more fault and being more charitable towards those who deserve to receive the benefit of the doubt.

I try to make sense of everything.

Most people are too busy and they're too embroiled in everyday life to stop and think about how they arrived where they are. Most people are too swept up in the minutiae of childrearing and bickering with their other half, to particularly give much thought to anything. Most people's lives plod along, not veering too far from the top of the bell curve; safely within the boundaries of accepted norms.

My mind scans all the years of my life, but is mostly fixated upon the period filled with the most traumatic events, which covers roughly the last 6 years. Of course, I wonder why bad things have happened, and there are clear memories from earlier times in my life, which provide pretty compelling evidence of why I'd be predisposed to the vulnerabilities which have led me down a certain path. It's not a blame game; it's simple cold, hard, rational analysis of the facts at hand.

I'm bombarded with intrusive thoughts. I can see why I'd want to blot out most of my mind's activity with alcohol and tranquillisers, when I have a period like this, where I'm alone with my thoughts. The traumatic memories come at me thick and fast. It's ludicrous, when I think about the number of traumatic events I've lived through and have harrowing memories of. I haven't received any counselling or therapy to help me with any of the stuff I've been through.

My mind has constructed a kind of "map of the madness" which allows me to understand how I arrived where I am today. Without the ability to see the bigger picture, I'm sure I'd be irretrievably lost in the mists of insanity. I constantly consult my 'map' to see if I'm repeating mistakes I've made in the past. I use my 'map' frequently to ensure I'm doing all the things which have proven successful in the past, and avoiding the things which have turned out to be pitfalls.

For 5 out of 7 days of this holiday, I'll have been confined to my bed. For most of that time, I was probably suffering insomnia or otherwise alone with my thoughts.

It's been hell, but it's probably been useful.

My mind isn't "pleasantly unclouded" now that I'm off all the sleeping pills and tranquillisers. In fact, I'm a nervous wreck. My brain torments me with various day-dreams about ways in which I could be killed, maimed or suffer catastrophic economic disaster, such as being evicted, being made jobless and otherwise tormented by a society which is keen to disown and marginalise me.

Annoyingly, my thoughts can't be easily dismissed as irrational nonsense. At the root of every worry is a seed which is perfectly valid. In fact, far too often my worries have proven to be well-founded. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.

In fact, I'm more comfortable when things are going wrong than I am when there are positive milestones within sight. It's agonising, not knowing what new unexpected horror is going to come and destroy the pleasant future which I'm owed.

I'm so ridiculously alone, as I don't speak to any family, friends or partner on a regular basis. My life isn't really shared with anybody, even though I publish my innermost thoughts and feelings quite publicly online. I have great friends who I chat to regularly online, but when I'm in a foreign country in the dark, alone with my thoughts, it isn't possible to get much more alone than that. I guess I could pick up my phone or open my laptop, and I've got a whole internet full of people to chat to, but it's not quite the same as having a face-to-face conversation with somebody and maybe even getting a hug.

This week has been shockingly unexceptional, because I've gotten so used to being alone.

 

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Phone in the Throne Room

5 min read

This is a story about being in the lap of luxury...

Loo telephone

As I write this now, there are no fewer than 8 buttons which control the lights in this hotel room packed with tech. There's a PlayStation 4, projector and screen which drops from the ceiling at the push of a button. There are many, many little things which surprise and delight me, but perhaps none more so than the telephone in the toilet.

The hotel phoned my room, concerned for my wellfare because the "do not disturb" button had been depressed for 3 consecutive days. They were worried, was I OK?

When the phone rang, there was also a ringing from somewhere else. I thought it was the room next door. I presumed it was some sort of technical malfunction, like when the power went off, causing the lights and air conditioning to be turned on in the middle of the night, throughout the whole hotel. In fact, it was the telephone in the bathroom ringing.

This afternoon I forced myself out of bed, put on some shorts and a T-shirt and drew the curtains for the first time in recent days, and saw that the skies were a little overcast. I expect that if I was out all day under those overcast skies I would still get a little bit of a tan, but I needed little excuse to draw the curtains again and retire to bed.

I'm starting to worry that I'm going to go back to work every bit as pale and pasty as when I departed under the UK's gloomy skies.

The small number of things which I need to do to prepare for a day at the beach or in the theme park, comprise having a shower, getting dressed, putting my money, laptop and other valuables in the safe, and packing a bag with a towel, sunglasses, sun screen and stuffing a fistful of Turkish Lira into my pocket. However, these minute tasks, along with the ever-present worry that it's a bit weird that a 39-year-old single man is hanging around a family resort, have conspired to keep me locked up indoors.

I spend a lot of my time tormented by the sensation that I have unfinished business at home. I've made a decent dent in my debts, but debt still looms large in my life. It doesn't feel like I can relax and enjoy myself, when I'm still so deep in negative territory. My lucrative contract leads me back to wealth and prosperity, theoretically, but losing the contract would leave me high and dry, as has happened so often before.

As you would expect at the end of the holiday season, during school termtime, midweek this resort is quite quiet. Mercifully, I've identified some other guests who are waving their phones around with gawping mouths, appearing to be other man-children who've decided to embark upon a ridiculous holiday unbecoming of our advanced years.

I'm starting to feel quite a bit of pressure to give my skin some colour in the few remaining days. I did need the sleep though; to spend some time liberated from the tyranny of daily working life demands.

I spend the night cursing myself for having used sleeping pills again - causing rebound insomnia - and the day cursing myself for not being able to overcome my depression, exhaustion and anxieties, such that I'm able to get out of this hotel room and enjoy my holiday.

I'm glad I went away on holiday, even if I'm crippled by insecurities about how people are judging me. I'm glad I'm away on holiday, even though the prospect of doing simple things - like ordering food or walking to the beach - is overwhelmingly daunting. I'm glad I'm away on holiday, despite being quite unwell, which is never great when in a foreign country.

At home, I stay in the same hotel and eat in the same gastropub every night. At home, I maintain the same identical routine each week, wearing the same pre-planned outfits at work and in the evenings. At home, I have controlled the variables, to give myself as little stress as possible, and the greatest chance of success in my battle to dig myself out of debt.

At home, the tiniest inconveniences can be harbingers of doom. I'm highly attuned to any hint that my controlled environment - my well-laid plans - are about to be bulldozered.

This resort is perfect in every way. There are no beggars or homeless. There are no shopkeepers trying to hawk their wares. There are no less-salubrious areas. There's nothing that would give rise to an unexpectedly negative or traumatic experience. Not a single thing is out of place, except me perhaps.

I'm crushed by imposter syndrome, both at home and abroad. I live with the daily threat of being asked to leave hanging over me, which would destroy any prospect of me being able to escape from under the dark storm-cloud of debt. I fully expect to be told: "you don't belong here" and to be cast back onto the streets.

I don't belong. That's the truth.

 

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In a Darkened Room

7 min read

This is a story about invisible sickness...

Psych ward

I'm not throwing up. I haven't got diarrhoea. I don't have a fever, sweats or chills. I don't ache or have physical pain. I haven't got a rash. My skin isn't discoloured. I can pass urine. I'm lucid; conscious.

Symptomatically, I'm not sick. I'm perfectly fine and healthy.

A few years ago - back in 2015 - I got so exhausted and stressed at work and I felt so unable to say "no" and ask for some time off, that the only legitimate way I could lift the pressure upon me was to be hospitalised. Being in hospital somehow legitimised the 'sickness' I was feeling, due to invisible illness. I felt protected from the relentless pressure which was being applied to me constantly, in the workplace and with mountainous debts. I felt safe in hospital.

I slept.

I slept so much.

I slept for 12 to 14 hours a day at least, for a whole week.

I was voluntarily admitted to the psych ward - I could leave whenever I wanted - but I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay safely protected within the walls of the hospital. I wanted to stay safely protected from the world of work, the world of debt, and the world of intolerable and unreasonable expectations; insufferable pressure which was killing me.

Unless my sickness is externally validated, by a doctor, I don't feel like I've got a legitimate reason to not work as hard as I can, and bash my head against a brick wall in a futile attempt to deal with an unreasonably huge burden of responsibility placed upon me. Unless somebody tells me it's OK to not be OK dealing with the mountainous tasks placed in my path, then I work until I reach breaking point.

Breaking point in 2015 meant getting myself admitted to a psych ward. Breaking point in 2017 meant killing myself.

I've been at breaking point for most of this year.

Today, I've spent a second day in my hotel room with the curtains drawn. Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with anxiety. Today I'm just plain exhausted. I'm a little sad and regretful that I've wasted another day of my holiday, but I really think I needed the rest. I was at breaking point.

You'd think I'd get bored or hungry, just lying in bed. You'd think that the prospect of a dip in the sea and the sensation of warm sand in-between my toes would tempt me to get out of bed. You'd think that the rollercoasters and water slides, which I haven't yet ridden, would tempt me out of bed. You'd think that the excitement of having a whole week with nothing to do but enjoy myself would give me an energy and mood boost.

I have a very busy mind. I'm constantly bombarded with thoughts. I don't need TV, films, books and other distractions to keep myself entertained. My brain will constantly bombard me with invasive memories and other groan-worthy things, as well as a steady stream of things to worry about. I don't get bored, even when I spend 2 whole days in a dark room with the curtains drawn.

I probably work too hard. Fundamentally, I'm a bit of a workaholic. The root of many of my problems is working too many hours at high intensity. I never switch off. I never relax. I never plod along at a steady pace - I always tear through things as fast as I can.

The mountainous debts have only amplified my tendency to work too hard, for too long, without taking enough breaks. I cannot take my foot off the gas pedal for a single second, because I'll easily be swallowed whole and disappear into a debt black hole; go bankrupt.

Debt is with you 24 hours a day, just as mental illness is. There isn't an on/off switch which can control depression, and similarly there's no off switch on the anxiety and pressure of mountainous and unmanageable debts.

Working an 8 hour day and having weekends off provides some relief from the pressures of the workplace. Although I spend most of my leisure time anxiously dreading having to go back to work, there are moments when I relax and enjoy the fact I'm not at the office.

There's never a moment's relief from debt.

Debt just has to be paid.

If you don't pay your debt off quickly enough, it'll never be repaid. If you don't earn enough money, you'll never repay your debts. Interest accrues on your debts, even when you're sleeping.

My situation got so bad that I cannot take an average salary job. I cannot take a break. I cannot relax.

Things were headed in the wrong direction in 2015. My mental health was causing problems in the workplace - being too outspoken due to hypomania - and I was living on borrowed time. I'd recently rented an apartment, which was going to cost me an arm and a leg, heaping a load more pressure onto me when I was already struggling to cope.

Things are headed in the right direction at the moment. My important debts could be cleared by the end of the year. I could be completely debt-free by March next year.

I worry that I'm screwing-up at work. I've been far too outspoken lately. I'm sure I'm pissing people off and making myself unpopular. I'm worried that my mental health problems are starting to adversely affect my behaviour in the office.

My coping strategies are unhealthy. I eat too much. I eat junk. I drink too much. I use sleeping pills and tranquillisers, when things get too unbearable.

As far as my colleagues are concerned, I've gone off on a holiday which was pre-approved and everybody's known about it for a while. As far as my colleagues are concerned, everything's ticking along just fine. As far as my colleagues are concerned, everything is pretty much normal.

This is good.

Back in 2015 I'd had several problems with my mental health, which had caused me to be absent from the office without any notice, or otherwise acting strangely. My colleagues were sympathetic, but they were well aware that something wasn't right with me. There were issues.

If things go to plan, I'll go back to work feeling refreshed and in a much better state of mental health. If things go to plan, the mania which was spilling over into my office behaviour, will be back in-check and I'll be able to resume my tight-lipped and poker-faced game of keeping quiet and fitting in as best I can; not being noticed. It's important to blend in and not be noticed, if you want to keep hold of your job when you've got a mental illness and mountainous debts.

If things go to plan, I'll go back to work and I'll finish October, work the whole of November and December, and then take another well-earned holiday for a couple of weeks, having cleared all my important debts. It seems feasible, doesn't it? Two and a half months of working my bollocks off, then I'll have dealt with the bulk of my woes - most of this crippling bloody debt.

If things go to plan, each of these holiday breaks arrive just in the nick of time, to save me from exploding in the office and losing my job. If things go to plan, each holiday allows me to recharge my batteries and carry on going.

Previously, I had been working until I reached breaking point, and becoming so unwell that I was unable to carry on working.

This year has been unsustainable and has ruined my health. This year has been horrible. However, the plan has been working and my debts are being rapidly repaid. I've been digging myself out of the hole.

Everything's taken its toll. I suppose I should not be surprised that this year has made me so sick that I've been in bed for two whole days, when I'm supposed to be on holiday enjoying myself.

I don't look sick.

It's a shame to waste a couple of holiday days, but so far this year I haven't been hospitalised and I'd like to keep it that way.

It's my holiday and I'll spend two days in bed if I want/need to.

 

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Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics on #WorldMentalHealthDay

7 min read

This is a story about data science...

Non bank threats

What the hell is big data anyway? Well, some companies - particularly well-known dot coms - have amassed huge data sets capturing the online behaviour of their millions of users: particularly the journeys those users took to discover products, discover and view media - and to see advertising of course - before eventually making purchases. If you like that, you'll love this.

Did you ever think that Google is kinda clairvoyant in being able to predict the question you're asking it before you even finished typing it - its suggested searches are almost always on the money. That's because Google has such a ridiculously huge dataset, while the range of dumb questions asked by idiots is quite narrow, such that Google 'knows' what you're asking it before you even finished typing "where do babie...?". Yes. So many other people asked that very same question before you.

With big datasets, there comes the temptation to believe that we can predict a person's future. If we see a high degree of correlation between rates of absenteeism at school and exam grades in our data, it might be tempting to assume that high absentee rates are a good predictor of poor exam grades. However, correlation is not causation, and it's entering dangerous territory to attempt to predit future outcomes, just because there are statistically significant findings in our historical data.

The financial services industry is particularly interested in your past behaviour as a debtor, as a predictor of your future likelihood of reliably making your loan repayments. Your credit score is - in essence - a number which tells loan sharks how much of a compliant and obedient slave you are.

You will spend the most healthy, energetic and productive years of your life, making student loan repayments, mortgage payments, car loan repayments, overdraft payments, credit card payments, store card payments, loan payments and other regular instalments, payable in return for the privilege of being alive. Try living your life without a mobile phone and some sort of internet connection for a few months, and you'll soon see that there's a high price to be paid for the oxygen you breathe.

The burden of debt is not trivial.

Debt is natural to us, whereas altruism is not. Every act of apparent altruism can be unmasked as a selfish act, when analysed using statistical methods across large datasets. Unfortunately, your momma's so-called unconditional love for children and your daddy's obsession with sex, are two sides of the same coin. Your poppa wanted to shoot his love snot and your dear mother wanted to receive it, with the genes of both individuals aiming for a pregnancy - neither asexual partner can claim that they were intent on giving the so-called "gift" of life. Your parents were simply obeying the will of their genes, in much the same way that any mould, slime, bacteria, worms, fleas etc. will multiply with impunity, given favourable environmental conditions. Sex is sold, not given freely.

We often think life conforms to some kind of natural order and mistakenly hold the belief that there is stability and equilibrium in the world, when in fact the very polar opposite is true: the world is an erratic and unpredictable place, with evidence of continuous events considered cataclysmically catastrophic for whole species, with or without human intervention. We are prone to succumb to the gullible belief in the divine right of kings, and law & order, such that the majority of us meekly comply with the oppression of the many by the few and our general exploitation. There is nothing natural at all about a handful of individuals tyrannising and enslaving so many.

The so-called miracle of the information age - often called the fourth industrial revolution - can perhaps be unmasked as nothing more than a fancy way to tell you what other products you might like to buy after making a purchase. It's unquestionably true that Amazon will make a very accurate prediction of something else you'd like to squander your dollars on, but to suggest that this advances the human condition in a positive direction is demonstrably ridiculous and downright wrong.

I can't really imagine a worse time to be alive.

While the threat of death from diahorrea or a bacterial infection - arising from the tiniest of skin punctures - has receded dramatically, we must be mindful that the single biggest cause of death amongst people like myself, is not road traffic accidents, drug overdoses, cancer, or any disease. Suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer of men like me. Suicide is preventable. What kind of advanced society are we living with, when the thing which kills most of its biggest economic contributors, is 100% preventable? Does that sound like an advanced society to you; a paradise?

Fundamentally, you've been reduced to a handful of numbers from the very moment you were ejected from your mother's womb, and your destiny was foretold.

Birth weight is the number one best predictor of your life outcome. Hands down. No argument.

Second, household income.

Right there, before you even got to suck on your mother's titty, are two things which have absolutely nothing to do with you or your life choices, or even your unique DNA. You could have the greatest genes given to a baby in the history of humanity, but because you were underweight and born into a poor family, you're destined to be used, abused, forgotten and discarded, as a minimum-wage McJob worker who can barely make your rent payments.

Statistically, we can predict whether you're going to get those all-important "A" grades, graduate university and enter a highly paid profession. Statistically, we can predict whether you're going to reliably repay a big mortgage, and hence be able to buy a big house to fill full of genetic clones of yourself. Before you've even sat down to take a single exam, big data has predicted that you're going to be a no-good washed-up good-for-nothing piece of worthless human trash.

Surely there's been a mistake.

Is it right that 98% of humanity will wake up each morning with a heavy heart, knowing that they are heavily in debt and they have been economically enslaved? Even those who did not directly incur the debt - by knowingly and willingly signing contracts - have incurred massive amounts of financial burden, because their governments borrowed against their predicted economic potential. We are sold into slavery before we're even born, because of our anticipated life-preservation instincts.

Economics, statistics and data science are indeed dismal sciences, which are corrupted by financial incentives to tease out the most efficient ways of exploiting humanity. We are ill-equipped to deal with the vast investment in the academic pursuit of knowledge, which equips the wealthiest elites with a suite of tools to push our buttons and make us dance to the beat of their drum.

If we are looking for a single cause of the epidemic of mental health problems which sweeps the globe, we should look no further than the vast quantities of data which have been gathered on us, and the treasure trove of insights which can be exploited by those who are so lacking in ethical contraint, that they're prepared to consign the majority of us to a living hell, in pursuit of material gain.

Yes, it's quite possible to use every bit of data available to predict the life outcome of an innocent child - a blank canvas - before they start school, and to consign them to the reject bin... but should we even look at that dangerous data? I say that the temptation to believe that we hold good predictors is too great, leading us to playing god, ruining countless lives.

Past performance is not a guide to the future.

 

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Vile Hateful Little Man

8 min read

This is a story about misanthropy...

Lift selfie

On this day 5 years ago, I tried to help a homeless alcoholic called Frank. I made a lot of notes. As my divorce disrputed my attempt to get my life back on track in London, dragging me back to Bournemouth to empty and sell my house, it destroyed my fragile new life and plunged me into the very world of homeless hell, which I had usefully compiled notes on. I did manage to help Frank, but ironically crosssed paths with him later on - as I was descending into hell, he was well on his way to recovery.

On this day 4 years ago, I got myself off the streets, out of the 14-bed hostel dorm, and back into banking. I went to Barclays, which quickly dug me out of debt and restored some long overdue health, wealth and prosperity to my life.

On this day 3 years ago, I went to HSBC and repeated the same magic trick of managing to get myself back off the streets, out of the hostel, into a lovely Thameside apartment, and out of debt. Feeling like my life was going well, I went to a hackathon to create technology solutions to the refugee crisis.

On this day 2 years ago, I was lying to my girlfriend and my guardian angel, because the project I'd been working on had ended prematurely and I hadn't bothered to get another contract. Instead, I had tried to treat my own depression with medication prescribed by an online pharmacy, destabilising my mental health - inducing hypomania - and causing a subsequent relapse.

On this day last year, I woke up as a resident of Wales for the first time since being born here. The day before, I had been discharged from a psych ward in Manchester, England, following a suicide attempt which was very nearly successful.

I'm pretty upset that divorce was such a destabilising distraction at a time when I desperately needed a clean break, and I'm struggling to forgive and forget my ex-wife and parents sabotaging all my hard work; destroying my chance to follow through with well thought out plans which were subsequenty proven to be correct and successful.

I can blame the Barclays thing not working out on a couple of idiots who got fired for trying to screw me over, but in all truth, I wasn't very stable. I was too outspoken. I didn't keep my mouth shut. I made mistakes in my personal life. I had lapses.

I can blame the HSBC thing not working out on the sheer pressure and workload of working on their number one project, while also dealing with homelessness and cripling debt. I can blame a friend who asked me to help him get a job. I can blame a few loafers who benefitted from my hard work. But, again, I was too outspoken. I wasn't at all stable. I was so exhausted and stressed that I was very strung out and very manic.

I can blame not wanting to immediately get another contract 2 years ago on the fact that the project had been so mind-numbingly spirit-crushingly boring, and I'd been so de-skilled, that I'd lost all self-confidence. I really couldn't face any more of the same awfulness without taking a break. However, it was still my so-called 'choice' to relapse and I knew the consequences were likely to be dire, although I kinda "got away with it" that one time.

I can blame attempting suicide and nearly dying on the fact that I knew instinctively that I was in deep trouble. The contract in Manchester didn't pay enough to get me out of debt. I knew I was going to get shafted by a very unpleasant and immoral wannabe Labour MP, who embodies none of the values of socialism. I was working too hard for too little reward, but I also made bad so-called 'choices' such as getting mixed up with a social group who mostly bonded over recreational drug abuse. There was no way I was going to be able to quit physically addictive sleeping pills, tranqulisers and neuropathic painkillers, as well as working a very demanding job which didn't even pay enough to make any kind of dent in my debts. Suicide was my choice, in the face of overwhelming odds stacked against me.

So, here I am in Wales.

What's going to be different this year?

I'm in approximately the same financial position that I've been in all those previous years. My mental health seems to be the same, swinging between suicidal depression and mania.

Just gotta keep my mouth shut.

Gotta make sure I don't go on any crusades, trying to save anybody.

Put on my own oxygen mask before helping others.

This year is different because I've been working for 10 consecutive months without a major fuck-up. Of course, there have been fuck-ups, but they haven't caused me to lose my contract or otherwise let my client down. I've delivered a couple of projects quite successfully, to the great satisfaction of my clients.

This year is different because I've had an affordable place to live of my own since March, and I don't have anybody mooching off me or otherwise trying to ride my coat tails. I don't have anybody pressurising me to subsidise their laziness and inability to make good on their financial commitments. I don't have anybody using my gas, electric, water, sewerage, council tax and broadband, and running up thousands of pounds worth of rent arrears.

This year is different because I've had contract extensions and managed to have consecutive contracts, such that I've hardly stopped working at all.

This year is different because I've been working on my skills and making myself more confident and employable. I've felt increasingly capable and good at my job, without getting too deep into the territory of delusions of grandeur.

This year is different because the pressure is markedly reduced and the stress levels are more manageable, despite crushing mountainous debts. There have been really awful times - such as renting a place to live - but I seem to be well established in a good routine now, such that I just need to keep turning the pedals.

I drink too much. I'm unfit.

However, in the space of 11 months I'll have managed to buy a car, rent an apartment, pay off £21,000 of debt, and save up enough money to pay a hefty tax bill. I don't enjoy living out of a suitcase, but I'm not slumming it anymore. I've been able to take a weekend break to see old friends in Prague and I have a week-long holiday to Turkey booked, which will be my first proper holiday for over 2 years. I stay in a nice hotel midweek and I eat in a gastropub. This is the self-care aspect, which didn't really get taken care of in previous years. There's no point working as hard as I do unless it's delivering some quality of life; I might as well just kill myself if life's going to be an unrewarding slog.

I sometimes can't believe what comes out of my mouth, in terms of the fucking rage which is somewhat pent-up inside me. This is a summary of the many false starts I've had, and nearly-but-not-quite moments, where it looked like I was going to make a breakthrough and get properly back on my feet. It's incredibly frustrating to repeatedly do the impossible - quitting addictive drugs, getting off the streets, out of the hostels and back into mainstream civilised society, while also dealing with a major mental health problem - and to see that there's nothing wrong with my approach per se. On paper, everything should go perfectly and quickly restore me to health, wealth and prosperity, but it does require a run of good luck, and that luck is very much dependent on the co-operation of other people.

Who do I want to blame? Capitalism? Banking? Bad bosses? Wimmin? Parents? Even friends?

I spend a lot of time writing very aggressive angry stuff.

I can't believe what I write.

Maybe this year won't be any different, because I'm a spoiled overprivileged vile bitter old man, who doesn't take any personal responsibility; I'm too quick to blame others.

We shall see. The story continues.

 

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