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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.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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I'm a Lucky Guy

5 min read

This is a story about a charmed existence...

Lounge

Despite much whinging and complaining about the anxiety being caused by house-hunting and the difficulty of getting through all the vetting procedures, credit checks, references and suchlike, I have managed to secure myself a lovely big house to live in.

The house is unfurnished.

This isn't even my furniture.

I stole the photograph from the rental agent's website.

However.

Wherever I go in the world, I have friends. Even though I hardly know anybody in the city where I currently live, or the city where I'm moving to, or the city where I work, I will always have friends. Why? Because I have so many people who care about me in the world. I'm such a lucky guy that my lovely global friends write to me, leave me lovely comments on my blog, or even just leave a little 'heart' on something I've written.

I know that some people might feel like social media, blogging and the internet in general is a virtual reality. In their mind's eye, the internet is populated with shy introverts, who never speak to each other and never make meaningful lifelong friendships. They're wrong.

A huge percentage - the vast majority - of my friendships began online, and then progressed to meeting in person and staying in touch regularly. My best friends and those who've been there for me through thick and thin, in times of darkness and in times of light... those friends almost all originated from the internet.

Whether those friendships were made via dial-up internet bulletin boards (BBS), discussion forums, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social media is presently popular, is a complete irrelevance. Whether or not those friendships were first initiated using the communication medium of the internet, as opposed to a chance face-to-face meeting, is irrelevant.

I started making a list of all the people who've given me significant support during some very difficult years of my life, and the more I kept digging though the archives of the internet, the more amazed I was at how many names there were on the list.

I started trying to mention some of those people on Twitter, to thank them for being such great friends. As I sent out the Tweets I'd keep realising that there was somebody who'd perhaps gone quiet for a little while, and I hadn't been in touch with recently. Everybody I mentioned has been a hugely supportive, kind and caring friend.

I started to realise it was almost impossible for me catalogue and give thanks to everybody. How can I rank the contribution of my friends, to improving - and in some cases saving - my life? How can I even begin to comprehend just how many people I've been lucky enough to connect with, in a meaningful way, such that we could talk just like we'd known each other our whole lives?

How can I be sure I didn't miss anybody? For sure, I have more friends than my brain can cope with, which is an amazingly nice situation to be in.

The internet is an incredible thing, but it's the aggregate value of all those wonderful people that makes it so amazing. The global reach of the internet means I have friends on every continent. It feels like wherever I go in the world, I'll always have a friend.

I'm moving to a city I've never lived in before. I don't really have any friends there. I don't know my way around.

That's scary.

But, wherever I go, I have my connection to an entire world of wonderful friends, who will support me along the way. Sure, some of them live too far away to help me unload my moving truck and unpack my boxes. Sure, some of them live so far away that they're unlikely to be able to drop in for a housewarming party. However, it's an immense comfort, especially during unsettling and stressful times, to have the wonderful luck of having so many friends in the world.

I'm not sure why I put up that picture of a house which doesn't even contain any furniture.

I'm not sure if I'm insecure, and I want you to see that I'm at least going to be living somewhere nice, once I've bought some furniture and moved in.

I also wanted to share that picture, because you're all moving in there with me, because you move everywhere with me. You moved from London to Manchester with me, you moved from Manchester to Swansea with me, you moved from Swansea to Newport with me and now you're moving from Newport to Cardiff with me. You were with me when I was in all those new cities. You were with me when I was living all on my own in that hotel room, out of a suitcase, for so many months.

I'm lucky to have so many friends who go with me wherever I go. I'm lucky to have friends in every time zone, so I can speak to somebody at any hour of the day. I'm lucky to have turned so-called 'virtual' friendships into lifelong friendships, where we speak regularly on the phone, and we are intimately involved in each other's lives.

I'm grateful. Without your help, I wouldn't have made it this far. Without your help I'd have died in Manchester. Without your help, I'd have been too anxious and depressed to get through the difficult things I've been through: To move to strange new cities, start new jobs and find new places to live. Without your help, all those lonely nights living out of a suitcase in a hotel would have been unbearable.

Thank you, my far-flung friends.

 

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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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My Sex Problem

3 min read

This is a story about feeling deprived...

Pink light

I have a hangup about sex. My hangup is this: How do I know if I'm getting enough sex, unless I'm having more sex than I actually want?

The logic is actually fairly simple to explain. If I ever wanted sex and couldn't have it, then that would be proof that I'm not getting enough sex, right? Do you follow me? So, by making sure I always have more sex than I want, I guarantee that I'm not missing out. I guess it's a FOMO thing (Fear Of Missing Out).

Where my sex problem stems from is my adolescence, which was rather ruined by selfish and downright disgusting decisions made by my parents. My parents were fully aware that their wholly selfish decisions would have disastrous consequences on me and my life, but they just didn't give a fuck about me. They didn't have to suffer the consequences, so they didn't care.

Ultimately, I did not go through the learning and development phase that most adolescents do, where they start having boyfriends/girlfriends and figuring out how relationships work. I did not have the same experience as almost every teenager. My own teenaged years were quite ruined by my parents, and as such, I now have trauma: I have a hangup.

In order to know that I'm never again going to have to re-live those traumatic childhood years, I act in a way which is a reaction to the damage that was done to me.

Never again shall I feel so singled out, bullied, alone, isolated, shunned and a pariah. Never again shall I be the odd one out. Never again shall I be the one who misses out. Never again shall I be the only one who was deprived of large chunks of normal, healthy life, growing up.

Because of my hangup, I overcompensate.

My sex problem is not a kink. It's simply that I want more than I really want, just to reassure myself that I'm getting the maximum amount I can possibly get. I need to know I'm not going to feel as bad as I did, back in those dreadful years which traumatised me.

It's fairly simple really, and I suppose I could think my way around the problem. I suppose I could 'cure' myself of my trauma, now that I've identified the source of it. However, when I feel vulnerable and afraid, the damage is still there, and my compensatory behaviour is always the same.

I'm proud I outgrew my identity as the bullied outcast; the undesirable kid that nobody wanted to be anywhere near, lest they find themselves subject to the bullying too.

Of course, I had friends. A few of us outcasts were thrust together, to suffer our awful fate together: perhaps 3 or 4 of us outnumbered by 1,200 bullies, quite literally. I'm sure I'm writing with some hyperbole, given how traumatic the memories seem when I poke at them and re-live them, but the point still stands: It's fucking awful being the subject of so much bullying; so outnumbered... especially when your own parents have played a very big role in creating and maintaining that intolerable situation.

It's a strange sex problem to have, but at least it's not something totally weird, like wanting to get urine or faeces on me... not that I'm gonna judge you if that's your particular kink.

So, that's me.

 

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My Friend The Alcoholic

6 min read

This is a story about unorthodoxy...

JPMorgan

This time last year I saw my old friend from JPMorgan in Warsaw. He'd just gotten me a job. I was almost bankrupt. Some years ago we had been propping up the bar at 4am, the last remaining men standing after all-day-drinking to celebrate me leaving the investment banking world... temporarily. We have the same attitude and approach to life: Everything to excess.

I'm writing this with a little haste, because I'm in a compromised situation.

I need to tell my friend not to kill himself - having received a number of worrisome messages and a call recently - but I can't do so in a direct manner, because it's barely more than a year ago that I tried to take my own life. I know that nobody could have talked me out of it. When I communicated, I did so to ensure that my intentions were clear: I did not want misadventure or an open verdict to be recorded by the coroner.

But.

This is not about me.

This is about a friend who sounds like he's about to end his life.

I have no idea what the emergency setup is in Poland. I have no idea whether a person can be located by their smartphone. I have no idea what the crisis intervention services are like. I have no idea what it's like to be 'sectioned' or otherwise interred for your own safety - 'committed' one might say - in Poland, and whether I might be unwittingly unloading a whole unwanted extra pile of shit on my friend's head, by raising the alarm.

I'm not ungrateful to those who contacted the emergency services on my behalf, who undoubtedly saved my life, but I'm aware that my decision-making power was taken from my hands. In fact, I clearly said at the hospital that I didn't want any medical intervention, but they decided I didn't have the capacity to make the decision to refuse treatment.

Does my friend have capacity?

He says he's drinking 2 or 3 bottles of vodka per day. I'm a borderline alcoholic, and I'd say that my judgement is pretty impaired when under the influence. I doubt I'd have so readily swallowed all those tablets during my suicide attempt last year if it wasn't for the Dutch courage of a gutful of booze.

It's easier to make the final decision when intoxicated.

Perhaps this gives me the moral authority to intervene and save my friend from himself. Perhaps it's my duty to inform the emergency services, such that my friend can sober up and then see how he feels about killing himself once he's got a clear head. How's he going to feel about being forced to sober up and face the decision to go on living in the cold light of day, with a dreadful hangover?

I can tell you all the answers to these questions.

I can tell you exactly how it feels to regain consciousness when you had hoped you'd be dead.

So can my friend.

I can't patronise him. I can't talk him out of what he wants to do. I can't approach the subject.

Strangely, I hope he has capacity enough to read this.

If he does - and I might try to prompt him into reading it - then what do I want him to know?

He needs to know that almost exactly one year ago, I was convinced that my life was totally beyond any hope of salvaging, but he salvaged my life. He got me a job, which rescued me from certain bankruptcy. He got me a job in the nick of time. He saved my bacon.

What can I do for my friend?

I remember he told me how buoyed he was by all the support I get via social media. I remember how emotional it made him feel, reading the comments section on my blog.

I want him to feel that outpouring of love from all four corners of the globe. I want him to feel anchored by connections.

My friend and I tend to value our sense of self-worth by the number of dollars, euros or pounds that somebody will press into our sweaty palms for a day's labour. My friend and I both feel valued when we're paid a lot and a company is chasing us for our skills.

It's disturbing to me that my friend knows that he can get a highly paid job in any investment bank in the world. He knows that he's needed and wanted in the corporate sector. It's worrisome that he knows that, but it's somehow not enough. I can relate. I know what that feels like.

I don't know what to offer him.

To remind him of his value and how much he's cherished is a cliché. I can't patronise him by talking about how much he'd be missed and what a huge hole he'd leave in all the lives he touches.

We're talking about the man who quite literally reversed my fortunes, exactly 12 months ago - from bankrupt to bankrolled; from rags to riches.

What can I say, except that I've written these 900 words with as much speed as I can manage, because from the tone and content of my last phonecall with my friend, he's in a very bad way. I'm very worried about him. I'm acting as swiftly as I can, in an unorthodox fashion, because I want to do something to interrupt and disrupt his behaviour, which looks to be on collision course with disaster.

I know that if anybody said to me that I lacked capacity, or was so patronising as to believe that they know better, and I should be relieved of the decision-making power to end my own life, then I would become doubly stubborn and bloody minded. I'd kill myself just to prove you wrong. Of course I would.

What can I say? I need to publish this, urgently.

I hope my friend reads this. I hope my friend - who helped me get back on my feet almost exactly a year ago - is somewhat moved by my desperation to try something, anything to move the conversation towards positive exciting plans for the future, and our next adventures.

I haven't been writing regularly, and of course I tend to be very self-centred, but I hope that I can continue to write, and include my friend as a living member of the tiny little world in which I inhabit. There are quite literally only two people who I speak to on a regular basis, one of whom is threatening to make an early departure from the party.

He might feel a little uncomfortable that I've made references that almost made him identifiable. Good. I'd rather have him angry and upset with me, than having missed an opportunity to get his attention. I'm being deliberately disruptive and provocative.

Please, mate, don't put me in this position!

Don't make me decide whether I have to call the emergency services or not!

This sucks!

 

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On Probation

7 min read

This is a story about being on tenterhooks...

Book quote

I'm a living contradiction. I choose security and certainty over the vain hope of hitting the jackpot. If I was given the choice between having a "B" grade, but not having to do any work or suffer any uncertainty, versus the potential to achieve an "A+" then I would take the "B" grade without a moment's hesitation. If you think that's settling for mediocrity, you're wrong - I choose my battles and I achieve "A+" grades all the time... as an accidental consequence of pursuing the things I'm interested in and passionate about.

The other part of my contradictory personality is that I choose to take incredible risks. I jump out of planes. I climb rock faces. I scale high mountains. I ride gigantic waves in gale-force winds. Why the hell would I do that?

There are a lot of risk-reward-cost-benefit calculations that go on inside my head.

I've gathered a lot of data.

The decision to take dangerous highly addictive drugs might seem like one of the most baffling choices that a person would elect to do. For example, taking heroin is seen as an indication of character flaw, but being a BASE jumper is seen as cool, although the latter carries the same risk of premature death.

Let's do a bit more in-depth analysis, shall we?

Cost of being a rock climber:

  • Rock boots: £45
  • Harness: £75
  • Chalk bag & chalk ball: £15
  • Rope £150
  • Helmet £50
  • Belay plate: £20
  • 10 quickdraws: £150

TOTAL: £505

So, for somebody who wants to climb a rock face safely, the minimum amount they're going to have to spend is over £500. Also, you might fall and die. Let's re-iterate that: It's pretty damn obvious that if you climb up a vertical rock face and you lose your grip, you can fall to the ground and be killed on impact.

Cost of being a mountaineer:

  • Crampon-compatible boots: £200
  • Crampons: £120
  • Base layers: £40
  • Mid-layers: £80
  • Shell layer jacket: £250
  • Shell layer salopettes: £180
  • Ice axes: £250
  • Helmet: £50
  • 9mm waterproof rope: £175
  • Ice screws: £120
  • Warthogs: £40
  • Deadman: £40
  • Backpack: £150
  • Survival bag: £20
  • Down sleeping bag: £300
  • Down jacket: £200
  • Tent: £350
  • Sleeping mat: £60

TOTAL: £2,625

So, for somebody who wants to climb a 4,000m+ mountain (Mont Blanc etc) then you're going to have to shell out more than £2,500. In fact, it's going to cost you a lot more, because you're going to need lots of things I didn't list, like spare pairs of socks, spare base layers, and also a stove, cooking utensils, plus all the other expedition gear. You're not going to have much spare change out of £3,500. Did I mention that you're highly likely to be killed by falling rocks, avalanches, falling into a crevasse, or simply plummeting to your death.

I shan't follow the same process for kitesurfing, yacht sailing or skydiving, but the financial cost of putting your life in danger can be staggering, especially when we consider that rugged outdoorsy types are somehow healthy and laudable people of good character and moral fibre; made of the right stuff.

Another group of people who we might consider are the entrepreneurs. Who are these people who reject conventional employment - salaried jobs - and instead choose to make their money by means other than selling their singular body and brain. Are these people risk takers too?

In fact, all the celebrated members of society have one thing in common: they've had the financial means to pursue avenues that are not available to most of the populace, because the need to eat, be housed and be clothed is an insistent demand which is too pressing for all but those who enjoy considerable economic advantages. Do not believe the bullshit - rugged adventurers are not brave souls and entrepreneurs are not gifted geniuses... they're all people who've had the financial backing in order to pursue their expensive dreams. Don't believe any of the "self-made man" bullshit. Behind every "self made" man are a whole bunch of people who've underwritten their risk.

I busted my shoulder up pretty badly - broken bones - on a beach in a remote part of Brasil. My startup co-founder broke his leg very badly indeed in roughly the same part of Brasil. That part of the world is many hours away from a good hospital with a surgeon and operating theatre where complex orthopaedic surgery could be performed. Would we have been so adventurous if we hadn't become somewhat complacent about the bubble we live in?

I'm on probation at the moment. I'm on best behaviour. I'm trying to impress my new girlfriend. I'm trying to prove that I'm a good boyfriend.

But, do I really think that I'm going to fail?

Have I ever been worried that I'm going to fall to my death?

Have I ever been worried that world-class medical establishments and all the many wonders of modern civilisation aren't rapidly available in an emergency? Have I ever been worried that somebody wouldn't patch me up as good as new, if I had an accident?

It's never really crossed my mind that I might not get what I want. Of course, I've had heart-stopping moments when I've suddenly realised how staggeringly exposed I am. I've spent so much of my life living on the edge that I've become desensitised to the worrying fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the more times I put my life at risk, the greater the chance that I'm going to be badly injured or killed.

I was worried that I was too fat, old, mentally ill and addicted to drugs and alcohol to ever meet somebody who'd fall in love with me. I was worried that I was too indebted and lacking in any assets - such as a fast car and big house - to be attractive to any object of my affections. I was worried that I was a washed-up loser; a has-been.

Our whole lives are lived under Damocles' sword, somewhat. We could mess up our exams. We could mess up our careers. We could mess up our relationships. There's never a single moment when we can really relax and feel like we're not on probation in some way.

I guess I'm pretty sanguine. I get anxious and I torment myself a very great deal with catastrophic thinking but ultimately, I feel the fear and do what I was always going to do anyway. I'm well aware of the innumerable and virtually unimaginable risks, but if you examine my behaviour - as opposed to what I write - then you'll see that I never choose the low-risk option; you'll see that I continuously pursue the very best that life has to offer, despite stress levels which are almost intolerable.

Tomorrow is an important day, but I already know that I'm going to be OK. My risk is underwritten. What's the worst that can happen? Death? Hospitalisation? Been there. Done that.

 

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All I Want Is Everything

9 min read

This is a story about stubbornness...

Country Home

I try not to talk about my friends too specifically, but shall attempt to tell you about two friends who are notable for both their differences and their similarities.

The first of my friends who I want to tell you about was undoubtably born into wealth and privilege. His father was a judge and the family has a number of homes around the globe in some of the most expensive cities to live in. His family is extremely asset rich and my friend grew up with servants in the household. Without being too indiscreet, my friend was called posh by even his upper-middle-class university chums, who attended the same Russel Group red-brick high-ranking academic institution, where the less intelligent privately schooled childen get sent when no amount of private tutoring and extra lessons are going to turn them 'gifted'.

The second of my friends who I want to tell you about is the polar opposite of the first in many ways. The other friend I want to tell you about was undoubtably born at a considerable disadvantage to 99.9% of other people, due to a life-limiting illness and relatively poor family. No private schools. No private tutors. Not much money at all, in fact. It would be too indiscret to say more, but it's incontrovertibly clear from the evidence that this other friend arrived at a similarly highly esteemed university on merit alone.

I wanted to tell you about these friends, because I feel as though I should give you - the reader - an idea of where I fall on some relative scale.

I was not born into wealth, but because my parents were drug addict alcoholic losers who refused to get a proper job and work hard, my grandmother saw fit to buy a house for my parents, in which to raise me, her only grandchild at the time - my sister wasn't born until I was 10 years old. The pity that my grandparents took on me - as an innocent small child being raised by druggie losers - meant that my parents received vast sums of financial assistance. This financial assistance meant that I attended better state schools than would have been possible if I'd been at the mercy of my selfish lazy layabout druggie loser parents. Those better schools happened to be in Oxford, where there happened to be many sons and daughters of many brilliant but underpaid academics who couldn't afford to send their children to private school.

We three friends ended up cohabiting briefly. My posh friend with the wealthy family had bought a £1.5 million house in London, thanks to a hefty deposit contribution from his parents manyfold more than most people would pay for an entire house. My friend from humble beginnings was a lodger. I was a house-guest of my friend, because I was selling the house I had bought entirely with money I fucking earned. My house was being sold as part of my divorce settlement.

A running joke I have with my posh friend is that I earn more per hour than him. This was the case for a very long time, but there was a brief period when I parked my ambitions, when meanwhile his career started to finally gain traction and his earnings began to skyrocket. Despite my years of mental health problems, homelessness, drug addiction, alcoholism, near-bankruptcy and a horrible acrimonious divorce which pretty much triggered the whole thing, I've been very pleased to continue to earn more than him per hour.

However, one should note that my friend from humble origins is now earning more per hour than both me and my posh friend. My humble friend has managed to make a property purchase, entirely with money generated by his hard work and dedication.

I wonder about two things. Firstly, why would you sell your soul and become a wage slave if you're born into obscene wealth? Secondly, why would you sell your soul and become a wage slave if your life is going to be short due to a health condition?

The latter is easier to answer, because I've enjoyed a very high standard of living thanks to doing what my lazy fucktard druggie parents didn't do, which was to get a proper job and work hard. The former is a harder question to answer. I have absolutely no idea why my posh friend works so hard when he could have had an amazing standard of living without lifting a finger. Equally, I have no idea why my own parents didn't bother to get off their lazy druggie arses and work for a fucking living, instead of sponging off my grandparents and the state.

This is the scale I judge myself on.

I'm no working-class hero.

I'm not from particularly humble origins.

I can't claim to have suffered dire poverty or incredible deprivation - my grandparents simply wouldn't allow it.

However, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth either. If I speak with a posh accent and have a certain way with words, then all the credit for that is due to my school-friends in Oxford, who had professional and academic parents who were well educated and hard-working.

I'm in awe of my friend who's achieved so much more with so much less.

We all sit somewhere on the scale, with the extremes being the starving African orphan, versus the billionaire son of a billionaire who lives exclusively on a diet of prize-winning bullock semen or champion racehorse stallion semen, drunk out of a freshly cut rhino horn.

We all tell ourselves stories about how well we've done in life, or how hard our journeys have been. "Our life as a pair of hateful antisocial sponging co-dependent drug-addict alcoholic lazy layabouts was wonderful until this entitled baby came along, ruining our buzz" is what my parents say, even though contraception and abortion have been universally and easily available for their entire fucking lives.

I feel a bit guilty about wanting to have secure housing, financial security, employment security and a reasonable standard of living, but at least I fucking work for it even though I've sold my soul and become a wage slave. My work is relatively easy and I'm certainly highly rewarded for comparatively little effort. For sure, there's no justice in the world. There are people who work far harder than me in much worse conditions, who are paid a tiny fraction of what I earn. There are people who don't work at all and who have a fabulous standard of living, which I don't begrudge them, provided they haven't perpetrated some terrible crime against humanity in order to gain their enviable wealth.

If you want to categorise me as a spoiled, entitled shit, who has no perspective at all, you can use the presented evidence selectively to build your case. If you want to applaud me as an example of great success against the odds, you'll be able to use different parts of the same set of evidence to build a completely different case.

I really don't know what to tell you, because I can see the advantages I've enjoyed but I've also had to struggle through adversity. My aspirations seem normal enough in many ways, but in other ways what I want seems to be an unreasonable expectation. Do I want an unrealistically high standard of living?

The beauty of my situation - you must understand - is that I do not perpetrate the vile consequences of my selfish choices against any children who did not ask to be born, and I have exercised every opportunity to prevent pregnancies and maintained the backstop of pregnancy termination, although it's not my choice to make - at least I have made worst-case-scenario plans where necessary. Can you criticise me for my choices, when I have no dependents?

I think about my sister, of course, but the first 10 years of my life were spent alone... so very alone. When I think of childhood, I think of loneliness, bullying and neglect. When I think of childhood, I think how much my parents loved drugs and alcohol; I think how much they used to love lying around drunk, high or both, doing fucking nothing; unproductive and idle. How dearly I wanted to be loved and cared for properly. How dearly I wanted the security and protection that parents are supposed to deliver, but they were too intoxicated to give a shit about anything than their substances of abuse and their selfish wants.

Why the hell am I writing about this stuff?

I wanted to write something short.

I wanted to write something fun.

I guess I was scared I was going to write something smug.

My life is going alright at the moment - pretty damn good - and I'm wary of getting carried away. I could quite easily lose perspective. I'm scared that I might forget how hard it's been to get here, because it's also been easy in some ways. My life has ludicrous contrast and comparing myself to my friends often does little to inform my judgement.

Sorry if I seem smug and entitled in the coming months. I hope you've followed the story and you feel pleased that my life is very different from how it was when everything was fucked up. I hope you see I've worked hard to get where I've got even though I was never a starving African orphan.

 

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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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Midnight

3 min read

This is a story about turning into a pumpkin...

Carvings

I wasn't going to write tonight. I'm lying on the couch of my very good friend and fellow co-founder of what was once a promising profitable startup. We drank wine, drank beer and ate curry. We discussed every topic under the sun, from relationships, children, getting rich, becoming poor, going mad, and the absurdity of existence. Then, it was time to go to bed because we have to be up early in the morning: him because he has 3 young children, and me because I'm a jet-set playboy who's off to the airport to catch an early flight.

Ironically, my friend has given me a book to read while on holiday, about the importance of getting good sleep.

I know how important sleep is.

My flight starts boarding in 8 hours, but I still need to drive to the airport, check-in, clear security and get to the gate. It shouldn't be too bad, but I haven't packed my bag yet. I imagine that I'll be frantically decanting clothes from one massive suitcase - into which I threw every bit of clean clothing I own - into a more reasonably sized piece of luggage. It seems ludicrous to travel across the globe with my entire wardrobe, but carting everything I own around with me from place to place, is how I lived when I was homeless in London.

The concepts of home and away-from-home are unfamiliar to me. Wherever I happen to be sleeping on any particular night is 'home'. If there's somewhere comfortable to lie down and I've got my stuff with me, then I can make myself at home anywhere.

I wasn't going to write, because it's been a long week and it's been a long year. It's taken a lot of hard work, suffering and time to get to the point where I'm able to go away on holiday, and not worry about having a place to live and a job when I come back. The future's uncertain, but there's a good chance that I'll be able to recharge my batteries and continue to earn money, paying off my monstrously crippling debts and re-filling the war chest.

I wasn't going to write because I'm tired and a little drunk, but screw it.

I wasn't going to write because it's past midnight.

I like to write every day.

Technically, it's tomorrow already.

According to my clock, it's almost 1am

I didn't turn into a pumpkin.

The next time I write to you, perhaps I will be officially on holiday, for a whole entire week.

Wish me bon voyage.

 

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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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Normal Service Has Resumed

7 min read

This is a story about a journey all the way to the bottom and back up...

The Ritz

The year was 2011. I fought with my girlfriend about relocating my startup. The year was 2012. Depression and destruction. The year was 2013. Divorce and drugs. The year was 2014. Suicide attempts and homelessness. The year was 2015. Getting better, but still very severely mentally unwell; quite insane. The year was 2016. Substantially recovered, but not quite; false start. The year was 2017. The worst of all the years.

During the last 7 years, a lot of the cohort from the startup accelerator program I attended in Cambridge, have all gone on to be spectacularly successful both in business and in their personal lives. They've strengthened their relationships, had children, bought houses, yachts and sportscars. They've become much in-demand conference speakers and widely respected captains of industry, with amazing reputations.

I went down.

I went down hard.

I went all the way to the bottom.

I had enjoyed a lot of the material success and achieved a bunch of life goals much earlier than most of my peers, but it didn't take long to undo all that hard work. It doesn't take much effort to give up all the gains you've made. It's a lot easier going downhill, than clawing your way back uphill.

I guess a kind of rock-bottom moment was when I arranged to have high tea at The Ritz with one of my best buddies from the startup accelerator. I stood him up because I was in big trouble. Mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, debt, divorce, loss of assets, loss of my startup, loss of all hope conspired to rob me of all my self-esteem. My buddy is not the kind of person who'd make me feel like a failure or invoke any kind of shame and embarrassment in me, but I couldn't let him see me in the state I was in. I was a complete mess. I couldn't even be seen in public.

I slept rough, I lived in a hostel, I went into heaps of debt just staying alive. I wrecked my body and mind with prescription drugs, legal highs, illegal drugs, alcohol, black-market medications and a ludicrously high-risk lifestyle, which had been so punishing that it had hospitalised me multiple times for multiple weeks.

I managed to meet up with my buddy once, just as I was going through divorce in 2013, before things got really bad, but they were still pretty terrible. I saw him again in 2015, when I was having extreme mania and generally suffering with terrible mental health problems brought on by stress, pressure, exhaustion and sleep deprivation. I stood him up in 2016.

Somehow I managed to see my buddy in 2017, when he was celebrating the culmination of 6 years hard work on his startup, at exactly the same time as my life was well and truly beyond any hope of saving; my entire world was imploding. My dream of rebuilding my old life in London completely collapsed and I had nothing but debt and the threat of imminent eviction, which at least forced me to temporarily act with a little bit of self-preservation instinct, but I soon ended up in such a dire situation that I decided my life was over; I tried to kill myself. In summer 2017, the directions the lives of my buddy and I could not have gone in more opposite directions. I had failed. I was a miserable failure.

This year, what had been originally been planned as a holiday with my girlfriend turned into a bromance weekend with my buddy. Things were looking up. I'd been working for almost 7 consecutive months without a major disaster. My life was still pretty wrecked, but at least it was improving. I was in a bad state after a messed-up May, where I'd had a relapse, but thankfully it didn't ruin everything.

I had a bit of a lapse a little over a week ago. The instability which ensued prompted me to spend money. Some of that money got spent on a weekend visit to see my buddy again. Things have continued to substantially improve, although my life is still pretty wrecked, by all reasonable measures. Annoyingly, my buddy has seen me right in the middle of a period of bad mental health, immediately following a relapse. Annoyingly, I'm not seeing my friends when I'm at my best, but instead they're seeing me when I'm destabilised and a bit sick; exhausted and stressed.

It should be noted, however, that there is a significant difference between today and the time I decided to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Today is much more like the optimistic period I had in 2013 where it looked like I was going to get out of a bad relationship and start rebuilding my life. Today is not at all like 2017, which was a total train-wreck; I was a complete mess.

I feel like I must have trashed my brain. I feel like I must have fried my mind. I feel like my mental health is utterly wrecked and people are probably just humouring me, like I was ever one of their peers.

I would love it if I've gotten back to enough of a healthy state that I'm doing OK. I would love it if I'm somewhat getting back to normal, and not too much lasting damage has been done.

I know it's no use wanting to go back in time; wanting to get back to exactly how I was at some point in the past. That's impossible.

My biggest fear is that I'm some sort of washed-up loser; that I'll never recover any quality of life; that I'm irreparably damaged and any spark of brilliance which justified my presence amongst that cohort of 2011, has long since been extinguished. I fear I'm a has-been.

My brain feels sluggish and slow. I feel somehow inferior. Not just to the brilliant people I met in Cambridge, but somehow to almost everybody. I've spectacularly completely and utterly failed at life.

I'm about to board a flight back to the UK. I have a good job and my cashflow is OK. I have a holiday planned. I have a place to live and other life essentials. Things are not that bad but I'm aware that I've barely begun my journey back up from the bottom. It's worse than starting with nothing. What I'm talking about is starting deep in negative territory.

It's ridiculous and unhelpful to compare myself to the man I was in 2011 and imagine what might have been. I am where I am. I should be pleased I'm not destitute; dead.

I should be dead.

But I'm not.

My life has entered a very surreal phase now. I'm living a life which should lead towards health, wealth and happiness. I'm moving very fast in a positive direction, but the journey I've been on has been very extreme in every conceivable way.

Things are seemingly normal, but also not normal at all. Nothing ever was normal in my life. Nothing ever will be. I suppose at least things are abnormal in the right kind of way now, at the moment.

It's hard re-adjusting to the new [old] normal.

 

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Context Switching

8 min read

This is a story about screen time...

Phone icons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Journey

11 min read

This is a story about three years of my life...

Hotel room

I was living in an ultra-modern hotel in Canary Wharf and working for HSBC at their head office. I was a member of the team working on the bank's number one IT project. Shortly beforehand I had been living in a 14-bed hostel dorm and I'd narrowly escaped bankruptcy and destitution. I was working 12 hours a day, 6 or sometimes 7 days a week. I was exhausted and the tiredness, stress and unsettled life was driving me literally insane. I was suffering with delusions of grandeur, paranoia and my behaviour was erratic and unpredictable; I was extremely tense and irritable. I was on the brink of having a breakdown.

River panorama

I rented an apartment on the River Thames near the office. The rent was obscene - £500/week - but I was earning great money working for HSBC and I was working very hard, so it seemed affordable at the time; it seemed like a nice reward for all the hard work. It felt like justice that I'd been able to get myself off the streets and into such a lovely place to live; to have gone from homeless and sleeping rough in a park, to having a luxury Thameside apartment with panoramic views over London.

My glasses

I was dating a BBC journalist. I was rapidly gaining a Twitter following. I felt like everything was happening for a reason. I felt like it was my destiny to do something important. I was consumed with mania; I was obsessed with the idea of a grand gesture. I had been deeply affected by my homelessness and near-bankruptcy and destabilised by the exhaustion of sleeping rough and in hostel dorms. The IT project was very stressful and I was under a great deal of pressure from HSBC management. My mind was a mess. I was very severely mentally ill.

Psych ward terrace

I woke up one morning and I couldn't go on. I couldn't face the office. I wanted to kill myself. I went to my doctor who sent me to hospital. 13 hours later I was admitted to a secure psych ward. I explained that I was financially distressed and very stressed at work. The psychiatric team recommended I stay in hospital for at least 2 weeks, but I needed to be back in the office if I was going to keep my job, to be able to afford the rent.

Golden Gate Bridge

I discharged myself from hospital after a week and flew to San Francisco. I figured that if I was going to kill myself I might as well do it somewhere iconic. A friend picked me up from the airport and I borrowed a bike. I cycled straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. Seeing old friends, however, made me change my mind about committing suicide.

Sleep out

I lost my job with HSBC and I "slept rough" in the shadow of the head office skyscraper in Canary Wharf. I thought that this would be the pinnacle of my journey. I thought that having been used and abused by HSBC then unceremoniously dumped out onto the streets to suffer bankruptcy and homelessness - having managed to get myself a job at the bank while of no fixed abode and living in a hostel - would be deliciously poetic. It was, but my journey had barely begun.

Self harm

I quit drinking for 121 consecutive days. I starved myself. I thought that I would go on hunger strike. I thought that I would sleep rough on Christmas Day. I was really angry and upset with the world. Self harm and substance abuse dominated my life for several months. I got into heaps of debt just staying alive.

Cruise ship

I survived the winter. I got another job. My life was OK except for persistent suicidal thoughts. I hated the project I was working on but I persevered because I was in a lot of debt. I loved where I was living - every day in my apartment was like Christmas Day because the view was so awesome. Living by the river was an incredible privilege. I took a holiday and went kitesurfing. My quality of life was improving slowly.

Cooking with bath salts

I met somebody very special and fell totally in love. She accepted me for who I was, including the all the bad bits, such as my prior issues with substance abuse. She was the first person I'd been in a relationship with who'd been able to read everything about me on my blog and to understand my flaws. We had a good relationship. The project I had been working on came to an end and I was jobless again. I wrote and published my first novel - she proofread it and helped me with the ending and other ideas. She was very supportive and I was confident I'd find work again easily.

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve watching the fireworks over London, sipping champagne on my balcony with the woman I loved - it seemed like the New Year was full of promise, but I was worried about getting another job and I was still in a lot of debt. There was a lot of pressure.

DVT

Disaster struck. I got deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my left leg, which swelled up to twice the size of my right leg. My kidneys failed and I ended up in hospital on a high dependency ward having many hours of dialysis every day. The potassium in my blood spiked to a life-threatening level and I was constantly at risk of cardiac arrest. I was very sick.

Drug shrine

My stay in hospital caused me to lose my job. Losing my job caused me to collapse psychologically and become very depressed and despondent. The DVT had caused terrible nerve damage and I had a lot of neuropathic pain, as well as a numb left foot. I started to become dependent on painkillers. I sought powerful antidepressants for my low mood. Pictured on the table are: codeine, dihydrocodeine, tramadol, diazepam, alprazolam, mirtazapine, venlafaxine, dextroamphetamine, zolpidem, zopiclone and pregabalin, which are all highly addictive. Because of this cocktail of prescription drugs I suffered an episode of medication-induced mania - temporary insanity - and broke up with the love of my life.

Manchester flats

I ran out of money. I had to pay a huge tax bill and I had to go even deeper into debt. I was virtually bankrupt. Out of desperation I was forced to put all my worldly possessions into storage and leave London to take a job in Manchester. The job in Manchester included an apartment as part of the package, which was lucky because I didn't have enough money to pay rent or a deposit - I was totally broke. Moving house and leaving London was incredibly upsetting and traumatic. The new job was extremely demanding and exhausting. I was very lonely and isolated in an unfamiliar city with no friends or family; no local connections.

Psych ward fence

I tried to commit suicide. I took a massive overdose: I'd been stockpiling my prescription painkillers and I knew that 8+ grams of tramadol was likely to be fatal. I sent a tweet when I believed I was beyond the point of no return. I thought nobody knew where I lived. I thought there was no chance anybody would get to me in time. I was wrong. I regained consciousness a few days later in a hospital's critical care ward on life support. I was later sectioned for 28 days and admitted to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Hay bales

A doctor from Wales discovered my blog and invited me to live on their farm in a converted garage. I had no money, no car, no job. I had nothing.

Rat race

I almost went bankrupt but a friend got me some work in Warsaw and in London. I was living in AirBnBs and working in the Square Mile from Monday to Friday and living in Wales at the weekends.

Keys

I bought a car, I got a local job, a local girlfriend and I rented an apartment. Briefly, I had everything I wanted and needed, although I went even deeper into debt. The pressure, stress and turmoil which I'd endured to get to this point was unimaginable; just to get to a position which most people would take for granted as the minimum acceptable things for a normal ordinary liveable life.

Papered windows

The local project ended and I was jobless again. The relationship ended. I papered over my bedroom windows and withdrew from the world. The journey had destroyed me. I was spent.

Cashflow

An obscene amount of money flows through my hands, but it all ends up in the pockets of those who I owe money to. I'm desperately trying to keep my head above water. The financial pressure is immense; unbearable. The journey has been incredibly long and arduous. There's still a very long way to go before I reach security and stability; before I'm comfortable, happy and content.

Empty wine bottles

In the last year alone, I've managed to move house 3 times, work 4 different jobs, travel to 4 different countries, date 2 girls, survive a suicide attempt, be admitted to 3 different hospitals, quit addictive painkillers, sedatives, tranquillisers and sleeping pills, be arrested and locked in a cell, buy a car, rent a place to live, stay in 17 different hotels and AirBnBs, and somehow stay on top of my mountainous debts, not go bankrupt and even pay some of that crippling amount of money back. My only remaining vice is wine. I'm completely unmedicated and I don't abuse any substance other than alcohol. It's a remarkable journey for just 12 months, but the journey has been much, much longer than that.

In the last three years, I've written and published a million words and connected with thousands of people all over the globe.

To be precise, to date I've written exactly 1,001,020 words and counting, on this blog.

It's the world's longest suicide note.

If you want to understand why I'm suicidal you just have to read it all - it's all written down in exquisite detail. To save you the trouble of reading all 1 million words I've summarised the last 3 years for you right here.

The pressure; the stress; the exhaustion. Where is my reward?

I've travelled so far and I've achieved so much but yet I feel like it's gotten me nowhere. I should be rich but in fact I'm up to my eyeballs in debt. If you want to know where that debt came from, I just explained it to you. I didn't get into debt buying frivolous things and being profligate. I didn't make particularly bad choices. I'm not stupid. Where's the payoff for working so hard? Why did I bother?

My name's Nick Grant and I drink too much but otherwise I'm an ordinary regular guy. I do my job to a high standard and I'm liked and respected by my colleagues. I pay my taxes. I pay my rent and bills. I contribute to society as a productive member. I do ordinary stuff and have ordinary needs.

I'm 39 years old and I have nothing but debt. I have nothing much to show for my 39 years on the planet.

I'm lonely. I live a double life. The person I am in the office is different from the person I am in the comfort of my own home. Nobody at work would ever suspect that I've slept rough, been in trouble with the police, been hospitalised many times, been sectioned and had horrific problems with addiction. Nobody would suspect that my mental health has caused me horrendous difficulties when exacerbated by stressful life events, like divorce, moving house, losing jobs and everything else that's happened to me in the past 5 or so years.

My solution to the instability in my life was to create a backbone that has run consistently through my ups and downs: my daily writing. To have been able to write a million words has been immensely stabilising and has brought me into contact with so many wonderful kind and caring people. I quite literally owe my life to those who've followed me and my blog, especially via Twitter. Without this connection to the world I would be dead.

Today, I've crossed a seemingly arbitrary imaginary finishing line, in having written and published a million words in less than 3 years. It might seem ludicrous and pointless, but if you consider it in the context of the journey I've been on, you can see why I've wanted to document it.

If you've followed me on some part of this journey, I'm really grateful to have had your support. Thank you.

 

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Work Colleague Found My Blog

12 min read

This is a story about living a double life...

Blurry laptop

The other day a colleague told me that he'd Google'd the meaning of the semicolon tattoo behind my ear. "What does it mean?" he asked me, feigning ignorance. I told him that it's to do with programming and I had the tattoo done in Silicon Valley, which is perfectly true. Of course, I'm only able to survive because I'm economical with the truth. There isn't a section on my CV which lists all the hospitals I've been admitted to in recent years. There isn't a section on my CV which lists episodes of mental illness. If nobody asks me why should I tell anybody?

There's a wide long corridor at the office which has its walls covered with posters encouraging us to speak up about mental health issues. "It's OK to talk" the posters claim. What the posters don't say is that it's OK to talk as long as you've got the mild kind of mental illness which elicits sympathy, not terror. Being a bit blue sometimes and taking the occasional duvet day is not a big problem, but fully-blown episodes of mania, replete with paranoia and delusions is going to see you quickly ejected from the office before you have a chance to say "but you said it was OK to talk".

It's OK to talk about the more palatable side of mental illness - mild anxiety and depression - but the kind which is so debilitating that it renders a person completely unable to work, is met with a hostile response. To begin with there is some sympathy and interest. However, it doesn't take long for people to become compassion fatigued. "I'd like a day off when I don't feel like working" is what people soon start saying, as levels of resentment grow. Offices are fit in or fuck off kind of places, where behaviour is only tolerated within a very narrow band of deviation from the norm. Even an annoying laugh or a cough can be grating in the office and people can get extremely angry and upset about things which appear to be tiny and insignificant. Pay rises, promotions, job titles, special privileges, holidays and perceived differences in workload and effort, all feed into a bubbling cauldron of toxic feelings which remain festering and unvented, brewing and fortifying over the very many years through which people are chained to their desks.

I can never fully disguise the fact I'm not well and I've been through some difficult times. It was a bold move to choose to mark my skin in a visible area with a tattoo which is widely known for its meaning as a symbol of mental health problems, suicide, self harm, alcoholism and substance abuse. In the 3 years since I had that tattoo, only one colleague had ever commented, and that was to tell me that I could talk to him any time. Little over a month later he completely blanked me and refused to answer phone calls, texts, emails or other attempts to contact him - he'd told a colleague about my blog and they decided to screw me over; to rip me off and breach contract, owing me a lot of money.

Another colleague at a different organisation found my blog. One day he asked me if I wear contact lenses, to which I replied that I don't. He then asked me about wearing glasses, which was quite telling because I never wear glasses at work. He seems like a good guy - so far as I know my secret is safe with him.

At the place where I currently work, the thing I always dreaded has happened: I've been directly confronted about the meaning of my tattoo. It's something I'd always anticipated so I had my pre-prepared answer about the semicolon being an important symbol to a programmer - having been writing C, C++ and Java for 24 years - and the extra significance of having my tattoo done in the Mission/Castro area of San Francisco.

I kinda revel a little bit in my newfound bad boy image. Having had a 21+ year career as an IT professional working for large organisations, there's not a lot of room for bad behaviour before you screw up your employment prospects. One single black mark, such as a bankruptcy or a criminal record, and you'll never work for big companies ever again. If the gatekeepers had their way and they were allowed to invade my privacy to their heart's content, they'd have slammed the door in my face a long time ago. My problems are not the nice mild kind where I'd be permitted to do a bit of light-hearted whinging in the office. My problems are not the kind which are permitted in the stale, dry, plain, boring and uninteresting beige thoroughly dull world which I inhabit from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.

It makes me nervous occasionally that my cover could be blown and somebody could see through my infallible disguise. It makes me kinda nervous that I have this huge repository of all the juicy details which Human Resources would dearly love to get their hands on so that they have the ammunition to discriminate, stigmatise, and otherwise abuse my right to live my life free from prejudice and ostracism.

The longer I manage to keep delivering successful projects, high quality work and impressing my colleagues, the safer I become from any witch-hunt if my blog is discovered, along with the very many unpalatable truths for a group of people who's sole mission in life seems to be to keep the riff-raff at bay. Anybody who doesn't walk, talk, look and smell just like them is not welcome - your face has to fit if you want to earn big bucks and have a comfortable and rewarding career. There aren't a lot of facial piercings, wild haircuts or indeed any expressions of individuality in the organisations where I work, because they work very hard to block anybody who doesn't fit the mould at the door.

My mask slips occasionally, of course. I struggle with the fixed and inflexible office hours which are homogenised for the neurotypical early birds. I struggle with the uniform and consistent plodding pace. I struggle with all the one-size-fits-all unwritten rules, which are perfectly OK for the conformists to conform to, but sometimes cause me a great deal of suffering.

I try not to be too outspoken. I try not to get passionate about anything. I give away as little possible about my personal life. I certainly don't ever relax and be myself - I'm always tense and on high alert. I try to just focus on making a good job of relatively small and non-contentious pieces of work, and busying myself with pointless tasks to occupy my time. I work very hard to act as if I'm a normal beige boring ordinary complaint non-contentious non-complaining typical office working drone. In essence, I spend most of my 8 hours a day attempting to keep my mouth shut and reining in all of my natural instincts. I spend most of my working day battling with my impulse to either walk out and never come back, or to start tearing things to pieces and doing bold and brave things. I have to bite my lip and hold my tongue. I'm not used to being like that, but it's the only way I'm able to stay off the radar and keep my job.

The last place I worked, a colleague took enough of an interest in me to Google me, find my website and read my blog. At the last place I had a wobbly period and I had to take quite a bit of time off work. I was acutely aware that I was incredibly exposed, because the reasons why I was struggling and sick were laid bare for anybody to see. Thankfully, I was given the benefit of the doubt and I was able to leave that organisation and that project with a feather in my cap - good job well done.

This time, I get the feeling that this new colleague who's taken an interest is not doing so for benign reasons. I definitely have the impression that he's threatened and is looking for some weakness to exploit, to undermine me. I definitely don't feel good about him pressing me to answer him about the meaning of my tattoo, especially when he made it very clear that he'd already Google'd the meaning.

In a lot of ways, this is like a test. I'm putting all my baggage and issues on public display to see what kind of people there are in the world. Nasty people will gleefully take the ammunition and use it against me. Nice people will see how vulnerable I am, and will use the information wisely and in a caring manner. Sure, I can get hurt and that might be a reason to protect myself more, but if people are determined enough to find a chink in your armour, they're going to go out of their way to try to hurt you, even if they have to invent bad stuff on the basis of pure conjecture and their nasty little minds.

Honesty is such a good policy to weed out bad nasty people. Honesty works so incredibly well at differentiating between friend and foe. It's possible to see in someone's eyes whether they're giddy and drunk with the possibility of misusing the truth and honesty to screw you over, or indeed whether the honesty and vulnerability is instilling a reaction of kindness and compassion - you can really see it in the eyes, whether a person is an evil fuck or they're nice.

I also enjoy being in the position where I've laid everything bare for anybody to see, such that nobody can shame, embarrass or otherwise use things against me, which most people would keep as closely guarded secrets. I've already published the gory details my deepest darkest thoughts, feelings and experiences, so none of it has any power over me - it's in the public domain. It's laughable to think that you'd be able to bully or tease me about something which I own and have told the world about, such that any nasty person would be simply stating the obvious in a patently ridiculous way, like attempting to laugh at a proud openly gay person for being gay. It's nonsensical.

More and more, I feel proud that I've done the brave thing of publishing everything which I'd previously kept secret, and making it so public. I feel proud of both my identities, even if I haven't been able to unify them yet. Of course, my identities are implicitly unified, because it's my face and it's my name. It's only sheer laziness which means the gatekeepers have not yet unearthed this treasure trove; and of course the fact that they'd never expect in a million years that anybody would be so foolish as to simply hand over all the truths which most of us keep as closely guarded secrets.

Our privacy is increasingly infringed and we are spied upon around the clock by the ubiquitous digital devices that surround us. Our government spies on ordinary law-abiding citizens and even shares that information with prospective employers, such that trade union activists can become black-balled and unemployable, despite never breaking a single law. Our love of free email, free social media, free photo sharing and other 'free' services, is also our undoing - we're easy to snoop on and you can be completely certain that your digital identity has been examined by a gatekeeper, intent on digging up some dirt on you.

Overall, I believe I've had 3 or 4 work colleagues maliciously abuse my trust by using my candid honesty against me, and I've had 1 who seems benign. Not great numbers, but I believe that overall the net result has been to get rid of toxic people and avoid exploitation, and hopefully I'm getting better quality closer friendships.

As a mechanism to stay in touch and keep friends updated, I would say that this blog has been a rip-roaring success. I can't see any other way that I'd have been able to maintain a toe-hold in normal life if I hadn't decided to 'go public'. It's unconventional and it certainly jeopardises my employability, but anybody who's read my blog looking for the bad stuff is obviously a bad person, so good riddance.

In the place where I live I've fallen out with 3 people, but I've made at least 5 friends, and there's honesty underpinning all of it. If you don't like the version of me you see on the pages of this blog, what the hell are you doing? What do you expect? I'm not a fictitious character: this is me.

There have been some regrettable moments which I've documented in my usual stream-of-consciousness way, and those periods have shown me in a very unflattering light. There's a lot written here that's not what people ordinarily share. I've made myself very exposed; vulnerable. That's the point. It's all here, warts and all.

I was supposed to be seeing my former work colleague who's been reading my blog this evening. Perhaps we will become closer friends now that we don't work together. Things have worked out OK.

 

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Burning Bridges

11 min read

This is a story about wearing a mask...

Cambridge bridges

A long time ago I used to be very careful about what I shared on social media. On Facebook I separated my work colleagues and other business contacts from my close friends, and I thoroughly considered my audience before I posted anything; I spent a great deal of effort managing my public image and attempting to pretend I was a squeaky-clean pristine perfect professional who didn't have any problems in my personal life.

At some point during my acrimonious divorce and the total collapse of my mental health, along with the destruction of my hopes and dreams of escaping the rat race and being my own boss, my depression became so bad that I purchased 2 grams of potassium cyanide. I'm not sure what possessed me - perhaps it was a cry for help - but I decided to put a photo of this deadly poison onto Facebook. The reaction surprised me: one friend was angry and accused me of jeopardising the life of his child [which I didn't] and another made a darkly humorous joke. Most people seemed to just ignore me.

My mental health has caused me an increasing amount of difficulties, resulting in hospitalisations. Initially, I was extremely careful about what I told colleagues. I tried - as much as possible - to cover up and hide my struggles in the hope that I would quickly get better and my image would be untarnished. I lost a couple of jobs and an entire profitable business during episodes of poor mental health, but my reputation seemed to somehow be fully intact despite my faltering ability to work.

At some point, I decided to put more and more of my dirty laundry onto Facebook. I think that the stress and strain of the divorce - having to sell my house in particular - completely destroyed any remaining hope and optimism that I would be able to recover, so I ceased to believe that it was prudent to safeguard my reputation. I jettisoned any caution about who was reading the gory details of my life's implosion and instead preferred to desperately reach out via social media, hoping to receive messages of support and to alert my friends to the danger I was in.

As I became increasingly unwell and addiction turned my life into unmanageable destructive chaos, I continued to overshare without any regard for the reputational damage I was doing to myself. I wrote things which must have broadcast my very darkest and most regrettable moments of struggle to former work colleagues and business acquaintances, completely tarnishing my own reputation.

To have fallen from grace is bad, but to tell the world that you've ended up in a complete mess is quite something else. I'm not sure if I just didn't care, or whether I was so sick that I didn't know what on earth I was doing, but I used Facebook to loudly proclaim the fact that I'd become an unemployable, useless, unreliable, messed-up waste of space. Surely I have left friends, former work colleagues and other people who used to like and respect me, in absolutely no doubt that I was a no-hope loser?

Meanwhile, I managed to keep working and completing projects successfully, and I kept my CV and LinkedIn free from any clues about my mental health problems and drug addiction. My career didn't skip a beat and my skills continued to be highly in demand. I seemingly suffered no negative consequences for all of my loose-lipped moments on social media. It seemed as if I was unable to completely burn every bridge and destroy my own reputation sufficiently to make myself unemployable.

Sharing on Facebook highly alarming stuff about suicidal thoughts, self harm, drug abuse, prescription medication dependency, poly-substance use, breakups, mental breakdowns and the bat-s**t insane ravings of a total madman, seemed to make little or no difference to my day-to-day existence. The response was muted, where my friends and former work colleagues really didn't know what to say, leaving a kind of awkward silence which clearly indicated that people were cringing with embarrassment on my behalf. On the other hand, I was not shamed into silence at all. The madness was so all-consuming that I couldn't even remember what I had shared on Facebook. I had no idea what I was doing.

I suppose that everything I put on Facebook was done in brief moments of extreme insanity. I was still generally cautious about sharing the candid and honest truth about things which portrayed me in a very unflattering light. Nobody wants to be thought of as a junkie, because everybody thinks that junkies are thieving scumbag liars. Mental health elicits some sympathy, so long as it's the milder kind. Nobody wants to be thought of as completely insane, because everybody thinks that madmen are deranged murderous unpredictable lunatics.

I suppose I had attempted to tell my Facebook friends that I was unwell with as much subtlety as I could manage, and I had tried to brush some of the unflattering facts under the carpet, such as my problems with addiction.

I suppose I always wanted people to know that mental illness and a horrible relationship were things that I had been dealing with alone for a long time, and that addiction only crept into my life much more recently. I suppose I felt that I could quietly deal with the addiction issues and nobody needed to know about it; I would just pretend it never happened.

When I started this blog, it was an opportunity to re-assert the 30-odd years of my life where I had achieved a hell of a lot. I wanted people to remember all the projects I successfully delivered and all of the places where I'd worked and made a big difference to the organisations and the teams I was part of. I wanted people to remember that I'd built profitable businesses. I wanted people to remember that I'd played a positive role in their lives; that I'd been a good person; that I had value. I wanted to remind everybody that for the vast majority of my life I'd been making a valuable contribution; that for most of my life I'd been an OK person who'd tried very hard to do good things.

I had imagined that my recovery would progress in a linear way, from bad to good, and every day would be an improvement on the day before. I imagined that I would be able to write a straightforward story about the struggles I'd left behind in the past and the increasing number of positive things that were happening in my life. I had imagined writing a fairy-tale rags to riches story, as I started my blog homeless and bankrupt, and finished the story rich and successful.

It soon became apparent that the journey was going to be a lot tougher than I had hoped it would be.

Every huge gain I've made has quickly been met by a major setback. When I managed to rent an amazing apartment in London, I then lost my job. When I managed to get a lucrative contract, I was then hospitalised with kidney failure. When it seemed like I was getting the perfect combination of friends, girlfriend, job, money, home and hobby, everything fell to pieces. If we look at the whole 3-year writing project, it perfectly captures the vicious swings between high and low which you'd expect of somebody with bipolar disorder, especially when exacerbated by money problems, insecure housing and patches of addiction problems.

After only 4 months of sharing the sanitised version of my life history, where I portrayed myself in the very best possible light, it became clear that I was going to have to write about the bad stuff too if I was going to carry on for a whole year, which was my initial plan. I wanted to write every day for a whole year, to prove to myself that I could be consistent and achieve something very difficult, despite my challenging circumstances. I hoped that the regularity and having a goal to focus on would help to stabilise my life.

Writing my blog has certainly given me a rock to cling to while I've weathered the storm. Writing my blog has certainly helped me to regain some stability in my life, as well as being a source of pride in the achievement.

At some point, it became habitual to be 100% unflinchingly honest, and not to care about what people think.

I'm aware that I've probably prejudiced my employability with a handful of former work colleagues who are also Facebook friends. I'm aware that my reputation is probably damaged beyond repair, if I wanted to try to enter an arena where reputation is more important than skills and experience. In the world of work which I inhabit, people only care about whether I can do the job, and not at all about the skeletons in my closet, so I've suffered no setbacks in my career. However, it does upset me that I've tarnished my image in some of the gossipy organisations where I used to be very well liked and respected. It upsets me that friends who are former colleagues and business acquaintances, who I like and respect, have been left in no doubt that I've been through some very tough and turbulent times in my personal life. Perhaps my opportunities in life have been more damaged than I'm aware of, because I've created doubts in people's minds about my reputation and reliability.

I continue to write using my real name and am slowly advancing towards page one of a Google search, which seems ludicrously stupid, but so far it's caused me very few problems in my career.

I don't think I could live without the regularity and stabilising influence that writing and publishing so publicly has given me. I don't think it would be healthy for me to lose the public oversight, and lose the huge amount of support that is available to me from the online community. I can't imagine going back to a life where I had to hide my struggles and rely on private communications to keep concerned people informed about what's happening to me. It's far too much effort to have to concern myself with image and reputation management when I've been fighting for my life.

There's no turning back now anyway. The genie is out of the bottle. All my friends, former work colleagues and business acquaintances have been left with absolutely no doubt that my mental health problems have caused me a great deal of difficulties, and extremely unpalatable and unflattering things have happened in my life, such as periods of addiction. I have no doubt that my reputation is in tatters in the eyes of anybody I'm Facebook friends with. I must be a laughing stock.

Amusingly, I've been able to deliver projects and impress work colleagues, surrounded by people who are completely oblivious to my personal life struggles and the bad things that have happened in the past. Because my Facebook, Twitter and blog are a world apart from my CV, LinkedIn and references, the two worlds have not collided and I'm able to go to work and do a good job without prejudice or stigma. I suppose it's reckless to risk my identities being connected by anybody who could be bothered to put my name into a search engine, but so far I've not burnt any bridges in the 'new' chapter of my career, since I re-stabilised myself, ironically by using my blog.

I think that's what I'd tell anybody who stumbled on my open secret and had reservations about my public identity: that it's a necessary coping mechanism and it's the reason why I've been able to act completely normal in the office, and to be a productive valuable member of the teams and organisations I work for.

Of course I sometimes worry that I'm taking too much of a risk by continuing to use my real name and writing without concern for the level of public exposure that I live with, but frankly most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to really give much of a s**t.

Sure, if stuff goes wrong I'm dangerously exposed. If I have a wobbly moment then I'm hugely at risk of some unpalatable truths about me from becoming more widespread knowledge. I think the risks are acceptable though. So far, I'm glad that I've laid myself wide open like this.

Some bridges have been burnt, but I'm glad I've set the record straight and I'm glad that there's so much written down here that even the nosiest person is going to quickly become exhausted if they go digging for dirt.

 

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One Year in Pictures - a Photo Story

7 min read

This is a story about the last 12 months...

London sunset

The story begins in London, looking out at the skyline of the capital from my balcony. This is the last photo I took from my apartment in London before I had to leave to go chasing cash... I was practically bankrupt.

Self storage

That's everything I own all boxed up and put into self storage. That's all the stuff I've managed to hang onto through the past few years. I'm amazed I even managed to accumulate and retain this much stuff, considering that a few years ago I was homeless and even sleeping rough. In a way, it's liberating that my life can be boxed up and moved so easily.

Packed suitcase

That's all I could manage to carry on the train to Manchester, leaving my beloved home city of London. I'll always think of London as home first and foremost, because I've spent more time there than anywhere else. Yes, I got my ass kicked, but the place was relatively kind to me. I've still got plenty of friends there, at least.

Manchester apartment block

Here's the apartment block where I was moving to. I'd never set foot in Manchester before in my life. I'd never been inside the apartment. I didn't know anybody in the city. In fact, I hardly know anybody in the North of England. In retrospect it was insane to move to Manchester, but I was desperate - I was bankrupt and I couldn't afford to pay the rent in London anymore, so homelessness and destitution were imminent. I did what I had to do.

Ironing board

I was lonely but there were girls. I was so busy with my work that there wasn't a lot of time for making new friends. I was really gutted about a breakup a couple of months earlier - she was such an amazing girlfriend - and it seemed to make sense at the time to meet somebody new. It made things more bearable, having a partner.

Tramadol capsules

Things were fragile; delicate. I was under so much pressure and I'd been through such emotional upheaval leaving my home and moving to a new city, as well as the exhaustion and the stress of it all. I often thought about killing myself. I even took this photo of one of the boxes of capsules I used as part of my massive overdose suicide attempt.

Psych ward

Psych ward. Not just any psych ward - this was a PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) and my fellow patients were very sick. I arrived here after my suicide attempt, having spent days in a coma on life support.

Nettles

Wales. What the hell was I doing in Wales? I might've been born in Wales but I've never lived here. The hospital were going to discharge me into some kind of supported housing, but I had no idea where in the country I was going to be housed. I've got no local connections anywhere. I could have stayed in hospital and taken a gamble on social services finding me somewhere tolerable to live, but instead I accepted the kind offer from a doctor who read my blog - I moved into their converted garage. I was homeless and it was the state's responsibility to house me because I was vulnerable, but there was too much danger I'd end up housed somewhere where I didn't know anybody. It turned out the doctor was married to somebody my friend was friends with... there was a connection.

Warsaw snow

Warsaw. What the hell was I doing in Warsaw? I needed money and I needed it fast. An old friend put in a good word for me with his boss and the next thing I knew I was packing my bags for a business trip to Poland.

Busy underground

London again. This time I was commuting from Wales and living in AirBnBs. I stayed in 12 different AirBnBs. It was a horrible existence, spent on trains and in really crappy accommodation. I nearly ran out of money. It was unbelievably stressful, having to pretend like everything was OK and normal, when in actual fact I'd already been through 6 months of hell and things were worse than ever. I was no fixed abode, living off the charity of a doctor who read my blog and emailed me, and I was almost out of cash but I still had to get to work every day and pretend like everything was normal.

Train cancelled

Dating again. I decided that there was no point in dating in London because I didn't plan on staying in London for any more than another couple of months... I couldn't stand the commuting and the AirBnBs. I was dating, but I still didn't have any money, or a car, or an apartment - I was still virtually bankrupt and no fixed abode. What the hell was I doing dating?

Garage

I got a local job. That meant I needed a car so I could get to work. I had a horrendous chest infection, but I needed a car and I needed one fast. I barely had enough money for the car, the road tax and the insurance. In fact, I didn't have enough money - I had to go into even more debt in order to get myself back on the road.

Apartment keys

I managed to rent an apartment. That was stressful. They were asking for the whole 12 months rent up-front at one point. I was struggling to prove that I was able to pay the rent, of course... I'd spent the past 9 months on the brink of bankruptcy so of course I was worried that my credit score was destroyed and I wouldn't be able to rent an apartment. Once again, I spent every penny I could lay my hands on and went deeper into debt, but I desperately wanted some security... a place to call home with a legally binding tenancy agreement... no longer dependent on the charity of the kind people who'd let me live in their converted garage.

Cod and chips

A brief moment of domestic bliss. I had a car, an apartment, a local job and a local girlfriend. We were a "dinky" couple - dual income, no kids. We ate out or had takeaway nearly every night, or cooked luxury ready meals. We were planning a holiday together.

Baked beans

Easy come, easy go. I broke up with my girlfriend. The work project had been completed and the local company were letting me go. My windows were covered with paper so nobody could see in and I was eating cold baked beans out of a can with a business card as an improvised spoon.

Holiday

Instead of a week lying on a sun lounger by the swimming pool, on holiday, I managed to snatch a weekend mini-break to a European city with an old friend. It was exhausting, but of course great to see my friend. My week-long holiday was cancelled. I haven't had a proper holiday for 2 years.

Leaving gift

A leaving gift from my local job. They got me a card and everything. The gift was alcohol. It was a nice gesture. I like alcohol.

Time to talk

Another day another dollar. I got another job. It's still in Wales but it's 90 minutes drive away in rush hour traffic. My mental health is destroyed and I find it ironic that there are posters everywhere in the office saying "it's OK to talk about mental health" but there's an unwritten rule that says I'm supposed to be a reliable, steady, dependable worker who never complains and just gets on with the project... I'm not allowed to take sick days. I'm back living out of a suitcase again. I'm still a long way away from where I need to be.

Pint in the pub

This is my life now. Drinking in the pub next to the hotel, which is near my new office. My new colleagues are nice - and super smart - and the project is interesting, I guess, but I really need a bunch of local friends, a local girlfriend etc. etc. and I could really do without the loneliness and the boredom and the isolation and the pressure and the stress, which are all as present as ever.

A pretty crazy 12-month rollercoaster ride. I'm very surprised that I'm still alive.

 

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