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Hero Worship

5 min read

This is a story about admiration...

Black Box

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, we're told. I'm sure it's also a way to make somebody feel self conscious as hell, and maybe even feel great pressure to live up to expectations. People looking to you for inspiration, guidance and direction in their lives: it's a lot of responsibility. Thankfully I don't have that problem, being a complete loser.

While I haven't lifted a life plan straight out of any of my friends' lives, I've certainly borrowed parts of their life that I admire. The easiest thing to do is try and clone something of their digital persona. If they write a blog, you write a blog. If they tweet, you tweet. You read what they read, and try to understand where they're coming from when they make certain intellectual and emotional points: you try and empathise.

If you spend a bunch of time with a person, at school, at work, online, you start to get a sense of who they are, superficially. If you're a relatively sponge-like character like I am, you soak up mannerisms, certain phrases and even accents and colloquialisms. In a way, if you speak like a person, you start to think like them.

Well that got real creepy real quick, didn't it?

I was supposed to be writing a blog post to reassure some of my friends that they're not responsible for me. I was supposed to be writing to say that I'm sorry if it was all a bit too personal, when I alluded to how important your influence has been in helping me discover some of the pieces that make up my personality. However, it's all come out a bit like: I wanna be like you.

If you don't have any role models, how are you supposed to figure out what you want to be and who you want to be? I think you can admire somebody and want to be like certain aspects of their personality and do things like they do, but you're still very much yourself.

When I think about the things that an admired friend has done, built, written, I don't think "I've got to do that too". Instead I think about what was good and interesting and useful and inspiring about what they did, and I try to emulate their passion and industriousness, by reverse-engineering what I imagine to be the process that led them to arrive at their achievements.

Friends who are musically talented have not led me to learning the piano or the guitar. Instead I've looked at their passion for music and tried to understand how the pursuit of music became a passion, and not a skill simply to be acquired through practice and repetition. Sure, you can become good at something purely by imitating somebody. You can learn to play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, including imitations of all his mistakes, but do you really feel the way that Hendrix felt when you play, or are you merely miming the actions?

There's no point in turning yourself into a best-guess clone of somebody, just because you like and admire them. There's no happiness or salvation to be found in learning to look and act like somebody, unless you wanted to be a professional impersonator. Instead, if you think somebody looks passionate and fulfilled by something, you've gotta understand the dynamic that's driving that.

Life can also throw some weird curveballs. Like, I didn't get the whole social networking thing. When I heard an old schoolfriend was developing a social networking platform, I was like "what's the point?". Then I got into kitesurfing, and through kitesurfing I got into discussion forums, and discussion forums are mostly built on phpBB, which is a social networking platform. Social networking inadvertently changed my life for the better, but if I'd tried to involve myself in the world that my friend was passionate about it, I would have been lost until I saw the value through my own experiences.

Now, when somebody tells me their social business model is like an existing business model, but social, I'm like "so you have a comments section and people can click a button to tweet your shit, right?" and they're like, no, it's also a community, and I'm like "so you have a popup that asks you to fill in your email address so you can spam them?" and they're like, yeah, pretty much that.

Through the clouds of the bullshitters who don't really get it. Through all the swarms of "me too" idiots who are trying to hit all the buzzwords, it's passion and a depth of experience and knowledge that really shines through. I can be cynical as hell with my friends, but I know that I simply don't get the things that they're passionate about, until I do, and then I neatly slot them into my worldview.

It might look like I'm patchwork quilt of stolen ideas, borrowed personality traits and copycat behaviours, but I still make everything my own because I too have grown to see the value in the things that my friends have opened my eyes to.

I apologise if the hero worship is an unwanted pressure, or makes you feel uncomfortable. I'm sorry about where our worlds collide and I might directly or indirectly make reference to your influence on me and the stuff I'm doing. For sure I'm doing a bunch of figuring out who the hell I am and what makes me tick, and that's meant revisiting everything since childhood. It might be a bit cringeworthy, but maybe I'll get somewhere.

Anyway, I hope I don't make you feel too self conscious, and I hope that your involvement in my story has not been unwanted.





The Mum's Network

9 min read

This is a story about being in touch with your feminine side...

Me with butterflies

When I was a pre-pubescent boy, I read a book by Judy Blume about girls getting their period and having their first kiss with a boy. Before you boil over into a fit of inexplicable anger (as women are prone to do because they're completely ruled by their emotions) I'm not actually saying I know what it's like to menstruate, have boobs and to carry a baby inside me for 9 months and deliver it into the world through my vagina.

My education and upbringing was pretty heavy on the whole sex-ed thing. My sister was born when I was 10 years old, and so I clearly remember her birth and my Mum's pregnancy. My teacher at school was pregnant when we were being shown childbirth videos, and the schools in Oxford are actually pretty progressive. We were taught about the reproductive cycle in the first year that I went to middle school, when I was 9 years old.

Of course, I will never have the first-hand experience of having my cervix dilated by the large head of my child, to the point that it tears, and other painful sounding childbirth related stuff. I know that I would get yelled at with hormonal illogical female rage, if I was to suggest that other stuff that's happened to me has been painful. The muscle on the front of my calf was sliced in half, severing 4 tendons. The hospital in Oxford kept me for 3 days to re-stabilise my kidneys - no painkillers - and then sent me back home to London for the operation 2 days later. My whole journey on the train and across the capital was done without crutches or pain relief. My bandages were soaked with blood. I'm sure those 5 days where my calf had a muscle that was sliced in two down to the bone would give me no capacity to imagine having my vagina ripped to bits by a baby though.

I genuinely don't want to insult mothers. You're right, I'll never know what it's like to have a bad back from carrying round all that weight of a baby bulge for 9 months. I'll never know what it's like to have my internal organs being squished by the life growing inside me. I'll never know what it's like to be woken up by my unborn child kicking. I'll never know.

If you think I'm being flippant or sarcastic, I'm sorry, but I'm actually being genuine. I've often given consideration to the things I'll never know.

What man hasn't given consideration to how much fun they might have, if they got to swap bodies with a woman for the day. Of course, we'd like to play with our tits, but we're also fascinated to know what it feels like for a girl. There's a <blush> slightly kinky element. What does it feel like to be penetrated? Are multiple orgasms as good as they sound? Errr... did I just say that? Moving swiftly on.

Yeah, it's pretty shameful to admit this stuff, but I've made it my mission to vicariously experience what I can of the feminine. I don't think I'm one of those men who thinks that they're a woman who got born into a guy's body. I've just made it a goal in life to empathise. Empathise with everybody. Including the opposite sex.

When I was a teenager I read female erotic fiction. I tried to get into the mind of what women want. I tried to learn how to be a generous lover, so that I could please my girlfriends. I put a lot of effort into my 'research' and I have to say, I got a big kick out of it. However, I read an article recently where the author - a woman - was actually offended by how much of an ego boost guys get by knowing they've moved the Earth for their lover. Well, guess what? That's been added to the long list of considerations too.

So am I painting this picture of me as some sort of perfect guy? No. Don't be ridiculous. What I'm saying is that I'm an information gatherer, and I was born as a sensitive little soul who takes in a lot of what people say, how they feel and whatever I can divine from the media I have consumed. I guess I figured out from an early age that I wasn't going to learn everything I needed to know from pornographic magazines and videos.

It's laughable isn't it, to say that I empathise with women, mothers. and it's actually not true, I don't. I try to, but of course I fail on so many levels. You can't possibly know how much you don't know. Dunning-Kruger effect. Blah blah blah!

But, if you can have a tomboy, can you not also have a tamgirl?

I remember when a friend was talking about her hen do. I enthusiastically gushed "OMG! When is it?" without thinking that I would not actually be invited. I just kinda assumed that I would be. It was a strange situation, because she was a "one of the lads" kind of girl, and I'm a "comfortable with my sexuality" type of guy, so the gender exclusion of the event didn't even register with me.

So, why have I taken a wordplay of Mumsnet, turning it into something that's supposed to sound like The Social Network? Well, because I'm jealous. I feel like I'm missing out on something.

My same friend who I mentioned regarding the hen do was at one time (I'm not sure if she still is) an active contributor on the Mumsnet forum. I actually met her on a forum to do with kitesurfing, many years before. We were both active forum contributors. In fact, I think we competed for the top spot, quite often.

Another friend, a wonderful geek girl whom I very much enjoy the pleasure of the company of, is also another active Mom social networker, who I think also frequents the pages of Mumsnet.

The blogosphere is heavily colonised by mommybloggers, looking for some kind of activity to connect with the world in a way that fits with the demands of family life. Family members eagerly devour every last detail of life of the youngest members of the clan, and will scour the pages of every social media source in order to gather any updates and juicy pictures of the cute little kids as they grow up. Blogging about your family life is a natural extension of that.

However, I imagine that having kids can be a fairly bleak and isolating existence at times. Just as being single can leave you left out from all those couples events - who's going to invite sad Dave to dinner on his own? That'd be weird! - so the stressed out mom who's had to spend all day with fractious children is going to be overlooked by friends who don't want their peaceful child-free existence shattered by the arrival of mountains of childrearing equipment and tantrum-prone toddlers disturbing the peace.

Yes, unless you have a good baby circle of other moms who have kids of a similar age, it's kinda hard for anybody to relate to the particular struggles that you're immediately facing, whether that be teething and nappy rash, or the defiant "NO!" phase as the loveable darlings assert their own personalities. Which of your friends understands that they need to remove all the sharp, swallowable and fragile ornaments from the low surfaces? That bowl of potpourri looks terribly decorative on the coffee table, but to a parent of a young child, that's just a choking hazard. The worlds are going to collide.

And so, sleep-deprived moms get isolated, as social lepers because they're no longer footloose and fancy free. Not only must the children travel with mom, but also the changing mat, clean nappies, wet wipes, sterilising equipment, bibs, blankets, toys, teething rings, potties, spare clothes, medicines, high chairs, carrycots, pushchairs and every other bit of parenting paraphernalia to keep the tiny tots clean, comfortable, fed and watered, in the hope that they'll smile and giggle, not cry.

I have no idea if an Internet forum can provide some of the camaraderie that is necessary to make things seem a little less desperate, when Junior just won't go to sleep and he's driving you nuts with that noisy toy that grandma bought for him. I have no idea if getting together online, as moms who've been through it all too - they know all the shit that you're going through - in some way makes getting through the day a little easier.

I know that I miss my time being a top contributor on a forum. I know that I miss those familiar nicknames. I know that I miss the purpose and routine that it gave my life, trying to read absolutely everything, and make comments in the most active threads. I miss those virtual friends, who actually turned out not to be virtual at all. Some of the best friends I have, I made through forums. Some of the best experiences of my life, were when a bunch of us nerdy Internet dwellers met up, in the evening for drinks, for weekend trips away, or for adventures around the world.

The gender-blind part of me thinks that I should sign up for Mumsnet and join in the discussion and debate, but something tells me that might not go down too well.

There is a considerable hole in my life, without an online community to belong to.




Peer to Peer

5 min read

This is a story about helping each other...

Me kitesurfing

How does one go about putting Humpty Dumpty back together again? The idea of some patriarchal figure - e.g. a king - has largely failed. Instead, we see that complex psycho-social problems are better solved by a community that is filled with mutual support and respect.

In order to get me to the point I am at today, it's taken a social worker. But not a social worker who was employed to help me, but instead a loveable Kiwi who was sleeping on my couch, who took it upon himself to think about my welfare.

It's taken a psychologist. Not a psychologist who I pay to sit on the couch of, while I pour my little heart out, but actually my beloved flatmate, who listened to me while I brain dumped in the small hours of the morning, or coaxed me out of whichever corner I was backed into, suffering almost PTSD-like symptoms.

It's taken a bunch of fellow people with mental-health problems, who "get it". They know that a "positive mental attitude" is just utter bullshit, and you can't just snap out of a severe depression or whatever ails you, when you already know that what you think and feel is irrational, and you would really rather not be feeling the way that you do, if it was a simple choice.

It's taken a bunch of addicts. Not necessarily needle-wielding junkies in the throes of active addiction, but people who aren't so holier-than-thou that they don't admit to their own fallibilities and judge you, lest they acknowledge the demons within themselves. Non-judgemental support is essential, for any way forward.

It's taken all my friends, from all corners of the globe. You might not think that a simple 'like' on social media would mean much, but the implied support has been my lifeblood. To say that I've been attention seeking is plain wrong. Everybody needs to feel that they have people that like them, support them, wish them well.

It would be massively premature to declare things a done deal. I need to make it through a winter somehow, without incident. Current thinking is simply to take off for the Southern Hemisphere for a while... follow the sun.

The plan has always been the same, since I decided to cut and run from my ex wife and Bournemouth: get back into IT contracting for the banks, go kitesurfing. Obviously, you also need a place to live and be on top of your finances. Obviously, you still need the occasional bit of midweek socialising to get you through to the weekend.

Am I some Goldilocks type character, who demands that everything is "just right"? No. I don't think that's true at all.

I accept that there is going to be loneliness, boredom, stress. I accept that things are going to take time. I accept that things are going to go wrong. I accept that it's highly improbable that everything will be going OK all at the same time. However, my basic life formula is pretty simple: work & play.

I tried to take direct action in somebody's life - Frank - when I returned to London. That was a relatively short burst of time & effort, and I can't tell you precisely how things worked out there, although I did see Frank about 18 months later and he was doing really well.

To round off my own story in a satisfactory way, I need to show that things are sustainable, I need to show that I'm not just mooching off people in order to continue on a reckless and irresponsible path through life. I need to close things out neatly: with integrity.

I know people are rooting for me, and it's nice to say that presently, I have a great place to live, a well paid job, and I'm getting back into the hobby I'm passionate about. I'm also increasingly getting back in contact with long-lost friends, as well as hopefully improving the tone of my communication: from bitter and negative, to philosophical, positive & hopeful.

My friend who drove me to the coast today, and has consistently been a pillar of support for me this year, always reminds me that recovery is nonlinear. I know that bad days and setbacks will follow an amazing day at the beach. Monday morning will be miserable, and life has a fully stocked arsenal of slings & arrows... but things seem a little bit better when your skin is salty from the sea and glowing from the sun and the wind.

It's oh-so clichéd, but that Beatles lyric seems apt:

I get by with a little help from my friends 

If it doesn't seem like I've acknowledged your help & support here, I apologise. Every little message, text, email, comment... it all adds up. I do appreciate it. I do appreciate, respect and love every one of my peers. Thank you.




War and Peace

6 min read

This is a story about the last word...

Spam can

Is this a time for levity? Should we go back to our normal everyday lives, as if nothing important is happening in the world, apart from funny videos of cats and the banality of our everyday existence?

What is Facebook for? Is it a soapbox for those without a voice in the corridors of power? Is it somewhere to spam your friends, with your thoughts, ideas and political agenda?

I have no idea what the answers are to these questions, so I look to people that I like and respect, and try to imitate their behaviour. I have a friend who is a vociferous Conservative party member, who shares many opinions on Facebook, so this encourages me to set myself up, in opposition somewhat. I have another friend who is an admirable humanist and eloquent writer on the topic of social injustices, who keeps me informed of many things that are unpleasant in the world, and how compassionate individuals are seeking to drive back those evil forces. This encourages me to share messages of hope and support in this cause.

You don't have to read my blog, and you probably don't. You've seen it pop up on your Facebook wall enough times, and been confronted with somewhat of a wall of words, or some kind of shame-spiral and deeply personal things that should perhaps never be shared.

Just ignore it. It will probably go away. Just one blog post a day is pretty easy to ignore.

But what about when it becomes a raging torrent of social media sharing? What about when your Facebook wall or Twitter feed is filled with a person with a bad case of verbal diarrhea? Time to unfriend them? Time to unfollow them?

The reason why I won't shut up at the moment is summed up neatly by this famous quote:

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

The far-right have been encouraged to go on the rampage, and I can't see what's going to curtail the rise and rise of racism. What will cause the bigotry, xenophobia and outright fascism, to be stopped in its tracks?

I was going to spend the evening watching light entertainment television shows, or perhaps a couple of films, but I have been provoked into breaking my one-a-day blog post rule, by the fact that a couple of people I like and respect think that their work is done. They voted, made their protest, and now it's time to crack open the champagne.

In actual fact, whatever the political outcomes, I really don't give a shit whether I have a British flavour of democracy or a European flavour... I just don't want racists to think that it's OK to abuse people in the street.

I don't want people laminating little cards and shoving them through the letter boxes of Eastern European people, telling them they're "vermin".

I don't want racists on a bus telling anybody with a darker skin tone, or speaking in a foreign language, that they are not welcome here in the UK.

I don't want people shouting racial abuse in the street.

Perhaps these things would have occurred, whichever way the vote went, but my intuition tells me that it somehow seems more acceptable in society to be racist, when you feel like you're in the majority.

Does it seem like I'm being a patronising patriarchal London effeminate City banker-boy ponce to you, if I remind you that immigrant bashing propaganda was how the Nazis swept to power. Of course, it seems like I'm an over-earnest teenager, in making such an obvious observation, but somebody's got to call it out, haven't they?

You can't just say "I'm bored of hearing about your anti-racist sentiment now. I want to see a dancing cat on stilts playing a piano. HA HA HA!". You were either part of the group that ushered in this dark era of mistrusting Johnny Foreigner and bashing the darkies, or you were part of the group who said "hey! let's be inclusive and tolerant!".

I really couldn't give two hoots about which group of elitists rule my life with an iron fist, if we're going to be overrun with skinhead neo-nazis and suffer the resurrection of fascism in Europe.

Does it not concern you more that we need to shut down detestable entities like the BNP, UKIP, France's Front National etc. etc. as a priority?

There is no victory to celebrate in the 'majority' vote. There is no "the people have spoken and it's time to move on" when huge numbers of those people are FUCKING RACISTS. Priority #1 for the country has to be shutting down the far-right, not shutting each other up so we can all go and live in la-la land where we all have milk and honey because we're politically governed slightly differently.

Don't you get it? There is no "move on, let's be positive" when groups of disaffected people are out looking for a mosque to torch, or a person with different skin colour to them to abuse.

Will I shut the hell up? Will I fuck, when the ugly face of fascism is showing itself again.

There's perhaps an important lesson to be learned about whether people like myself - the London Guardian reader - have helped or hindered, but I certainly predicted this result and its consequences, and I certainly understand all the concerns of the underclass.

Will I stop spamming my Facebook friends? Yes, I'll probably retreat into blog-land, where I can write at length without taking up a disproportionate amount of space on a wall that should be filled with grinning infants, prowling pussycats and raucous nights out.

What will you say though, to your grandkids, when they ask you what you did after the UK voted to leave the EU?




A 45 Second Read

1 min read

This is a story about short attention spans...


What can you really say in 125 words or less? What can you say with 140 characters or less? They say that creativity loves constraints, but aren't we actually kowtowing to short attention spans? Aren't we just admitting that nobody sits down and reads anymore, for any length of time?

I've had a bad bout of verbal diarrhoea, but now I'm going to try and tighten my sphincter. I was planning on stopping spamming my friends Facebook news feeds, but actually, I've decided to try and make things more bitesize. I've decided to spoon-feed people, and see if I can regain my audience.

Starting out by insulting people's intelligence is not a great idea, but I like a challenge. Push people away and then see if I can entice them back... that's the goal.

Stick with me. I promise it gets better from this point onwards.




Regression Therapy

10 min read

This is a story about hypnosis...

Many mes

Dredging up the past is meant to be unhealthy, but how are we supposed to move forward without letting go of things that are holding us back? How are we supposed to be secure and happy, until we find a stable base to build upon?

I've been going back through the memory banks, trying to figure out how I arrived here, today. I've been wondering whether I should repair and renovate, or whether to build anew, to start again afresh, from scratch.

As I've recounted my story, I realise there's a repeating theme: having to leave stuff behind and rebuild everything. Every time I do that, I feel like it's a test of true friendships - to see if they'll survive long-distance. It's insecurity that drives a lot of this, so please don't feel I'm actually testing people.

Thinking about it, I've actually become hypersensitive to feelings of rejection. I will now push people away, as soon as their commitment to friendship seems questionable. I've learned to not let people into my heart anymore, and to try and be a person who can withstand the shock of losing all my friends, at any moment. "I'll just make new friends" I tell myself, as I find myself feeling all alone, yet again.

The first times I lost all my friends, circumstances were out of my control. I was moved from school to school, and around the country. These were early, formative lessons in the value of human relationships. The message was clear: I don't deserve stable relationships.

Later, I lost groups of friends due to relationship breakups. This was part of the learning process of growing up. You need to have your own friends, or else you're too heavily dependent on your partner for your social life, and you have a double-whammy when you break up.

Finally, I tried to move out of London to live on the coast, and hoped that I would be able to have friends come visit from the city, to keep me going. In actual fact, the change wasn't so bad that time, as I made local friends through kitesurfing, plus my friends from London did come to visit quite often.

Unfortunately, my life completely collapsed, what with an abusive all-consuming relationship, that poisoned a lot of relationships and a malicious ex who campaigned against me and caused many of my friends to take sides, in a way that I've never experienced before. The place I used to live in was small, and rumours and gossip became unbearable. I needed a clean break from that microcosm.

In that instance, every area of my life was intimately connected to every other area. People from completely different areas of my life would say to me "I heard..." and repeat some vicious propaganda from my ex, that was completely one-sided. Because I was very sick, I couldn't stand it, I couldn't defend myself against the onslaught of a person intent on defacing my character, I couldn't match my ex's energy and I couldn't bring myself to stoop to the level of retaliation. Believe me, I could have dished the dirt on her, just like she did on me.

But, this is about moving on. I'm determined that I'm not going to let bitterness and regret overwhelm me, even though I feel terribly hurt, isolated, alone and treated unfairly. There's two sides to every story, but my side doesn't have to be told if it's just tit-for-tat. I'm bigger than that.


You know, you should go ahead and judge me. If you don't know and like my character by now, then I'm not going to try and convince you. I'm not going to twist your arm. I don't know why more people don't unfriend me on Facebook, block my number on WhatsApp and generally send the message that I'm dumped, as a friend... I've been judged unworthy, unpleasant, and having bad character.

A recent ex-girlfriend started throwing plates and knives at me in a stroppy rage, having a tantrum. I thought "here we go again" as I shielded myself from blows, with her screams echoing throughout the building. She stormed out of the flat. I didn't let her back in, it was over. I'm not going to be an abuse victim again.

I lost a whole bunch of friends, when I broke up with that girlfriend. Some of them even said that they didn't agree with the way I mistreated her. Errr, you mean, like, I should have allowed myself to remain a victim of domestic abuse? I was very hurt by the way that people took sides, and what was clearly a corruption of the truth of the reasons why we had broken up. Clearly, my ex had painted a different picture from the one where she was being violently abusive towards me. But, I guess I've gotten used to such bullshit. I cried and cried, but at least it was over relatively quickly.

Maybe there's something just unloveable about me? My parents could look at me and say "it's cool, he doesn't need his schoolfriends or any stability in his childhood". A couple of ex-girlfriends could look at me and say "that face really needs a couple of black eyes and a broken nose". A load of friends could say "well, we've heard one side of the story. I'm sure that's enough, and now our opinion of this guy's character is completely changed and we no longer want anything to do with him".

I was brought up to be a pacifist. I was brought up to turn the other cheek. I was brought up to believe that two wrongs don't make a right. Every time I ever lashed out in retaliation, it was always me who suffered the consequences, so I became passive. I've been everybody's punchbag and convenient dumping ground.

I've cast my mind back as far as I can go, searching for a memory of security, a sense that somebody is loyal, that they'd treat me the same as I'd treat them... clearly, I'm carrying a lot of hurt, a deep sense of loss and abandonment.

Round window

It's a new challenge for me, to improve not move. It's a new challenge, to repair, not throw away and start again. It's a new challenge, to stand my ground and refuse to let my character be defaced by horrible people.

I've got to learn how to defend myself in a more positive way. Just being a passive punching bag, and letting people say what they want about me, and paint me in any light they like, is not good.

My new approach has been to be brutally honest, about every tiny flaw, every little mistake I've ever made. I've tried to fess up to every regrettable action.

People told me I'm a bad person for so long, that I decided to live up to my character. However, I couldn't do it. I couldn't lie, cheat, steal or do anything to hurt anybody. I ended up hurting myself. You would barely believe how much I've beaten myself up, harmed myself and taken myself to the brink of death.

I've paid the price, plus surplus too. I don't give a fuck now, if people want to hold me to account for something I was never to blame for in the first place. If you corner a dog and beat it, and you want to put it down because it bit you, when it was cornered, frightened, beaten and suffering, with nowhere to go except through you... go right ahead.

I've examined my entire history, and I see a caged animal. I see a person who's been trusting, who's taken a chance on people, been brave enough to risk getting hurt. People have taken advantage of my trusting, innocent nature, my kindness and want to feel accepted, included. I've forgiven those who have hurt me, not that it makes the blindest bit of difference to me.

At least I can sleep at night. Those who bully, abuse, slander and take advantage of those who show the slightest weakness, must surely have a conscience. Those monsters must surely feel filled with regret at their abhorrent behaviour. At least I can put my hand on my heart and say that I never set out to hurt anybody or exploit the weak and the needy.

There's so much stuff that I'm dredging up, and I wish it could stop, but stress, pressure and the fragility of my situation, plus the dysfunction and neglect of all my relationships, mean that I'm pretty much trapped alone with my thoughts. I'm trying to write, to expel the toxin of all this hurt, but writing's all I've got. I sit at work, bored, unchallenged, while the thoughts and the feelings pile up like a traffic jam. When I get home, the words just flood out like a raging torrent, and I can't stop. I always write more than I mean to.

I have a friend who's stuck by me, even though he saw the very worst of my character, and was deeply involved through the death throes of my normal life and my long-term relationship. He caught some of the flak, as I thrashed around like an injured beast, blindly lashing out, due to fear and pain. Surprisingly, he is one of my biggest supporters, despite the fact that I brought a great deal of stress into his life, and dragged him though months of hell, as co-founders of a startup.

I have few examples I can hold up, to support my belief that my character is sound, and that I should remain living. Even my own parents have always made it clear that I'm a "bad kid" and that I'm worthless, a disappointment.

I've been digging and digging, to see if there's some evidence in my childhood history of an evil streak. Perhaps I committed a genocide when I was an infant? Perhaps I perpetrated torture on a global scale? Perhaps I murdered my real family, as a psychopathic toddler, before being adopted by an experimental cult where I was reprogrammed to believe I was worthless and to act passively when I'm abused?

Anyway, I'm going to leave it there. When I get into this trance-like state, I can just write and write and write (I know, right?) and before I know it I've written far more than anybody would have the time, patience and indulgence to read.

I'm going to start limiting myself again, to how much I write. It would be good if I can break out of this regression, this state of backwards-looking. It would be good if I can look forwards, and think positively, but there's no external trigger to do so. The world is stunned into silence, or the void is simply too cavernous to even care about the white noise, the hot air that spews forth.

Looking for some nugget of security in my past has yielded nothing. Looking back to see if I can remember some happy, stable, secure time has brought chequered results. Perhaps I might have found some compassion for myself, even if I haven't managed to elicit it in anybody else. Either that, or I just have enough accumulated evidence of mistreatment to assume that the world is nearly entirely hostile to me, and it's time to say goodbye.


If I look at the trend, I appear to be spiralling downwards.



The Emulation Game

19 min read

This is a story about imitation and flattery...

Daily Information

What's through that door? Well, probably my entire career and every golden opportunity that will ever be presented to me, throughout my adult life.

That North Oxford house, if I've identified it correctly, used to be the headquarters of Daily Information. It was here that on one midweek night, computer games ceased to be a solitary bedroom activity, and instead became an opportunity to socialise.

So important was this place in my childhood, that I can still remember the code for the door behind the front door, that would lead up to my friend's parents' office, which was above the offices of Daily Info.

The main office itself was a fascinating place. There were zillions of flyers and posters pinned up on the wall, as examples of the desktop publishing and reprographics business, which also produces a popular "What's On?" guide for the Oxford area. There were also instructions on how to operate the many pieces of equipment and notices for the staff who worked there. It was a complex ecosystem, so unlike a home stuffed full of static ornaments and pictures.

There were piles of photocopier paper, and cardboard sheets in all colours and sizes. Printer cartridges, ink ribbons, toner, and daisy-wheel heads were piled up on shelves, or stacked nearby the cream-plastic machines that they served. Half-finished print jobs lay on the tops of every available flat surface.

But, the main event, and the thing that a group of geeky and otherwise introverted kids, had gathered there for, were the many computers. There seemed to be screens and keyboards everywhere. There were PCs and there were Macs, and they all had mice and colour screens, which was a big deal back in the 1990's, when people still used to do word processing on green-screen terminals that couldn't play games.

Yes, it was the computer games that we were there for, and between my friend, his mum, and a few willing staff members, they had always managed to coerce all the computers into playing amazing computer games. It was like the most fantastic treasure trove of an amusement arcade, with unlimited tokens to play again and again.

There were single-player games, like Shufflepuck, where you had to play air-hockey against a whole host of fascinating characters of increasing difficulty and deviousness. This was an interesting use of the computer mouse, which mirrored your hand's movements with the on-screen mallet, to try and send an air-hockey puck sliding into your opponent's goal.

However, the thing that I enjoyed the most, was co-operating with other kids to try to solve puzzle games. These were mainly of the point-and-click variety, where you guided an animated character through a world that you could interact with, using a number of verbs, like "push", "pull", "open", "close", "pick up", "walk to" and "use". These delightful creations included such titles as The Secret of Money Island and several Indiana Jones inspired games.

We would would pair up, with one of us operating the mouse, while the other pressed keyboard shortcuts to choose the different operations, while you tried to figure out how to solve the puzzles, which generally involved walking around, opening doors and boxes, picking up items, and then figuring out what to use the items on, or how to combine them together to make some new kind of object.

Shufflepuck Cafe

I idolised this friend who ran the event on a midweek evening, and tried desperately to imitate all the things he seemed to do so effortlessly. I read the same books. I tried to write and contribute articles to a school magazine that he had founded. I tried to learn how to become a programmer, and to create music using a MIDI keyboard, plugged into a computer. I wanted to play all the computer games he liked, which were often the Lucasarts point-and-click adventures, rather than 'shoot-em-ups'.

The bitterness that is so evident at times in my writing, could have ended up repressed and perhaps revealing itself in even more ugly forms, had computing not become a social experience for me, as well as a creative outlet.

Writing has never been my strong suit. When I was about 13 years old, I wrote an article about a computer game that I'd never played, in a desktop publishing program that I was learning to get to grips with. It got horribly mangled as paragraphs got moved around. "Were you on drugs when you wrote that?" my friend asked me, having reviewed it with another friend of his who I never met, on account of him going to a different school. I was put in my place, although not maliciously.

Everything I ever did was a pale imitation of what my childhood friend did, however, it was still immensely fortuitous that I had this role model in my life.

By writing computer programs nearly every day throughout my teens, I gained enough experienced to get a job as a junior programmer, some 3 years ahead of my peers. A few years later, there was a skills shortage because of the Y2K millennium bug, and I was able to get a very lucrative contract. Having held a graduate position for a prestigious corporation, and also been an IT contractor before the age of 21, I was then able to break into financial services and banking, which is normally off-limits to anybody without a good degree from one of the top Universities.

It should be remembered that there are many talented geeks, plugging away at code in their bedrooms. The difference between those who are 'tame' and able to play nice with others, is whether they have had adequate social contact. I was certainly rather removed from healthy social bonds by too much screen time, spent in isolation in a darkened bedroom, hunched over a keyboard.

Through people like the friend I idolise, the joy of computing became a joy of using technology to have a shared experience, to use computers as a mechanism for social bonding. Even though I had to move away from Oxford because my parents relocated the family, I was able to reproduce a little of the magic I learned at Daily Information and the social group that clustered around this one charismatic friend.

I learned how to connect computers together using coaxial cable, and I used to have groups of friends get driven over to the family home, with their PCs. We used our paper rounds and washing-up jobs, in order to buy the equipment necessary to allow our computers to 'speak' to each other, and so we were able to play co-operative games, with each of us operating our own computer.

LAN Card

As a bunch of 14/15 year old spotty nerds, having these early "LAN" (network) parties was amazing, even if we were cooped up indoors for whole weekends, waging virtual warfare against each other. Games like Doom were popular with us, where we just attempted to kill each other, but the pecking order was soon established, and the one-on-one combat soon grew tiresome.

We moved onto games like Command and Conquer where we could have two teams, each in their own "war room" connected by an extra-long cable that I had bought for the specific purpose of separating us, so that we couldn't hear each other's tactical discussions. A game would last over 12 hours, with us playing right through the night.

Because of the inspiration to write and to publish, plus the few social skills I had developed and the exposure to the reprographics and 'typesetting' industry, as a teenager I was confidently able to get a Saturday job for a little company that was like a smaller version of Daily Information, in Lyme Regis, called Lymteligence (yes, it had one 'l' missing, which wasn't very intelligent).

I had used money from my washing-up job at a local hotel to purchase my first modem and get connected to the World Wide Web (Internet) after a rather crappy old modem had completely failed to give a connection to my friend back in Oxford, who I was desperate to stay in contact with. For hours, my friend had patiently allowed his phone line to be tied up, while I tried to coerce some antique piece of hardware that I had bought at a car boot sale, into connecting with my distant friend's computer, but alas, he finally convinced me to give up.

At Lymteligence I learned how to author websites, writing the code by hand. I created a website for The United Kingdom Men's Movement. I remember feeling ethically challenged, as I typed up some of the bitter words of men who had suffered painful divorces. Thinking about it now, I feel that I myself could have been driven into the arms of this movement, had I not had a healthy social outlet for my technological skills.

Although it's shameful to admit, and a little creepy, I would try to keep tabs on my friends I had left behind in Oxford, by being a bit of a lurker on the rapidly developing Internet. However, by doing this, in a way I was able to stay abreast of advancements and trends that would otherwise have passed me by.

"Social media" means Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, today, and perhaps Snapchat and Vine. In fact, there is probably a movement that's already begun that's going to kill these technology giants, that I'm not even aware of yet. I've always been a bit behind the curve.

However, back in the day, social media meant bulletin boards, forums and websites like Friends Reunited. I have no idea how I managed to maintain a toe-hold of social connection with old friends, throughout the disruption of moving away and then our adult lives, but the Internet always provided a way.

Google vs Altavista

It used to be the case that the search engines, of which Google didn't feature prominently until surprisingly recently, used to be very good at digging out which particular corner of the Internet your friends were hiding in, provided they were using their real name, and that name is quite uncommon... and my role model friend is blessed with quite a unique name.

Now that we tend to do most of our Internet social activities on Facebook, you'd be surprised to learn that your privacy is actually very well protected, and you have a reasonable level of control over what people can and can not find out about what's going on in your world.

In 1999/2000 I was living in Winchester in Hampshire, UK. Things were going well with my career, but I was struggling socially. Through a housemate, we ended up in the NUS (student) bar at Winchester University. I was leaning up against the table football table, when somebody behind me challenged me to a game. I turned around and realised that it was one of my fellow Daily Information computer club friends, and a guy who I went to school with since about the age of 5.

Reconnecting with an old schoolfriend was great. I had been back to Oxford, in order to show off my company car and boast about how well my career was going, but it was crushing inadequacy and a sense of loneliness that had driven me to go back there. I had even been quite evil and immature, and had wanted to exclude certain friends and monopolise other friends' time, in order to try to salve my insecurity. I was still a deeply troubled, lonely person, expressing that in very unhealthy ways.

Shortly after that chance meeting, I picked up a local newspaper and read that somebody had been electrocuted, while trying to take a short-cut underneath some parked railroad carriages, in order to get back to his University halls of residence. It was our childhood friend. Killed, through a momentary lapse of judgement, while under the influence of alcohol and the excitement of a fun night out in town. Tragic.

This put me - the lurker - in a really strange position, in terms of grieving. I later discovered through the Internet that my friends were attending the funeral, but because of the sense of distance and the shame of admitting that I had been somewhat jealously following our old social group from afar, like a stalker, I didn't know what to do. I procrastinated until it was too late, and the funeral was over.

There used to be so much stigma associated with using the Internet as a means of human connection. Admitting that you met your partner through Internet dating was likely to instigate stifled sniggers and snide remarks about axe-murderers and weirdos. I guess I am a weirdo though.

Senor Peeg

I don't know whether it's a British thing, or perhaps a function of a lonely childhood and being a needy, oversensitive person, but I'm kinda always struggling to articulate my needs and ask for what I want. I don't even admit to myself, what my fears and unmet needs are.

Writing this blog has been a journey for me, but it's taken me further than I would have ever expected. One leg of the journey was 5,351 miles, and took me to the hometown of a bunch of my idols and role models.

Is it creepy, is it weird, is it an unpleasant amount of pressure, knowing that in some sense, a friend is looking to you for guidance and direction? It must be, a little. Why the hell do I never seem to have grown up and gotten over childhood infatuations?

For me and at least one other friend, our mutual friend has provided at least some of the inspiration for our careers. In a way, I at least owe this friend a debt of gratitude for my financial security and the fact that a lot of doors are open to me, for career opportunities. I know that he shared with me at least a twinge of regret for having perhaps nudged one of our friends down one particular technology path.

Who knows what are going to be the knock-on effects of the connections we make with one another. Who could have foreseen that I would have taken the wealth that I generated so effortlessly in the highly paid tech sector, and use it to implode so spectacularly in my mid-thirties.

Of course this is not about blame, but instead, I feel this great sense of responsibility. I feel that there are certain individuals who I am crippled with shame, to imagine reading my sorry tale and thinking "what kind of monster has this guy turned into". I imagine their disappointment, and it slays me.

Where do we look for guidance and inspiration from in the world? Our parents? Well what if your parents don't provide it? In fact, what if your parents provide a cautionary tale for how not to live your life? I don't want to go into the details again, of why I don't want to follow in the footsteps of either of my parents, but suffice to say, I've always been looking to people outside of my family, to provide feedback and inspiration in my life.

So, I'm fessing up. That's what this whole blog has been about. I'm playing up like a kid and wanting to test my boundaries. When is some parent-like figure going to stand up and say "stop that!" so that I know I've gone too far? When is some authority figure going to step in, and tell me that I'm out of line, and give me some guidance on how I should think, act, speak?

Being given stacks of cash, relatively few responsibilities and no social structure around you, to tell you when you're taking things too far, when you're getting yourself into trouble, when you're wandering too far from the flock, when your ideas are getting too outlandish, when unpleasantness is rearing its ugly head. You probably take it for granted, the checks and balances that exist around you.

So, I'm making an appeal, to people from every period in my life, from every stage in my development: from childhood to adulthood, from Oxford, to Dorset, to London, to Cambridge, to San Francisco, to Prague, to France, to Brazil, to New Zealand. I'll travel round the world a million times, if somebody can just reach out and give me some kind of reality check.

I'm pouring my heart and soul out into the chasm of the Internet, hoping to make a connection with people, hoping to trigger some kind of response. I have no idea how I'm received. I have no idea how I'm perceived.

Yes, it's needy and yes, it's kinda pressuring people to say something where it seems impolite to even ask for feedback. We have lots of phrases that kinda shame people into keeping their mouths shut, like "emotional blackmail" and "attention seeking". If somebody even came out and accused me of such things, at least I'd have something to reflect on.

Everytime I ask somebody a direct question, they seem to think that the kindest thing to do is to spare my blushes, but I don't know whether to trust my own instincts, or actual concrete feedback that I've received.

For example, I was living with some friends, and it was only over dinner one night, when I had moved out of their house, that my friend finally let me know what he really thought and felt. The fact that the truth was suddenly unleashed was brutal. There was real pent-up frustration and having it all released all at once was too much to bear.

I just contradicted myself, didn't I? What an awful, needy, demanding person. I want honest feedback, but I want it little and often. I'm asking for people to give me a reality check, but I'm also admitting that the last time that a close friend fired both barrels at me, I nearly committed suicide. Who wants that kind of responsibility?

But, you know, the takeaway from this is that I didn't commit suicide, and even though that friendship was really badly damaged, at least it moved things along. I was in limbo before... really unsure of what was real, what I'd overheard, what was being said behind my back. It's an impossible way to live, like that.

I think

I'm adrift in a vast ocean, with no tether to any fixed objects. I have no point of reference. I couldn't tell you which direction is which, and where I'm travelling from or to. I'm rather lost.

A friend got in contact earlier in the week, and offered their impression of something I wrote - noting that I had become bitter again - as well as some advice. I can't stress enough how this was like gold dust to me.

I'm not sure you realise how disconnected from the world I've become. I don't have any normal healthy friendships anymore, or regularly see people who I've had a long-term relationship with, knowing me for years, so they can comment on how I've changed. So many people have become just another 'like' on Facebook.

As a friend who I chatted to via Facebook messenger today said, we know what all our Facebook friends position on Britain leaving the EU is, but we don't know what's going on in the lives of those who are not sharing anything personal, except political opinions. There's a vast difference between the occasional reminder that somebody is still alive, because they're active on social media, and actually looking somebody in the eye, when they give you the British knee-jerk reaction of "I'm fine" when you ask how they are.

I appreciate I've written a lot, and huge amounts of it is virtually unreadable. Also, long bitter rants are not exactly pleasant reading, nor do they paint myself in a particularly favourable light. Who wants to know that angry venomous twisted person, hunched over their keyboard, blindly firing resentful and blame-filled missives into the void.

If you've persevered this far, I'm ashamed of myself. I think about all the stuff you must've read, and what you must think about me, but of course this is conjecture. I admit, I am trying to cajole you into giving me some feedback.

You know, I often think about how immature and childish I am. I often think that everybody is in the same boat, and we're always going to be left wondering how other people perceive us, and what people really think about us, to some extent.

It's easy to dismiss a lot of what I'm wrestling with, as just a standard part of the human condition. I'm also reflexively programmed to offer up neutralising statements, as standard, such as "I don't think I'm special and different" and "I know that my life is no more stressful and turbulent than yours".

The engine that drives this verbal diarrhoea is the fact that I do feel insignificant and worthless. I'm driven to try to anchor myself back into the world of the living, given that I have been hospitalised so many times with suicidal and self-harming behaviour. In a lot of ways, I feel justified in telling people who want to guilt-trip me into suffering in silence to shove their "you're not special, shut up" statements up their arses.

How does one go about fixing the very real and practical things, such as figuring out how to live amongst your friends once again? Sure, I can reconnect with people, but if they don't like who I am and what I say, what hope is there of there being any lasting relationship?

Anyway, this stuff is always cringeworthy and difficult to read, so I'm going to leave it there, as an open letter to my friends and acquaintances. An appeal to human connection, and the feedback that is essential for social bonds.

Ice window

It's mighty cold when you're out in the thin atmosphere of the outsider, frozen and clinging onto life.



Attention Whore

8 min read

This is a story about my secret diary...

Narcissist Test

Now that my friends have responded so brilliantly to my distress, I feel quite bad. I feel like I've taken up people's time, worried them and been self-absorbed. However, I guess that's partly because I now see light at the end of the tunnel, so I feel less panicked and in danger of something pushing me over the edge, back into suicidal thoughts.

I was thinking to myself about my motivation for writing so much private and personal stuff. The fact is, I want people to like me. I want to feel understood, and that people can empathise with me.

Where do we draw the line between somebody with dangerously low self esteem, and somebody who is egotistical and self-centred? I centred in on one particular phrase:

"I think people like me"

Why should that be so controversial? Well, in lots of literature that deals with psychology, thinking of yourself as likeable is linked to pathological conditions, like narcissism. From things I've read, I'm actually supposed to think of myself as unlikeable, or else I'm a narcissist, I'm dangerously self centred and egotistical.

But, if you think you're unlikeable, worthless, not worth knowing, then this is the basis for low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. If you think that nobody likes you, then the world would be better off without you. We all consume a great deal of precious resources - food, energy - so why should I stick around wasting oxygen if I'm somehow unlikeable? This is how I arrive at the decision to kill myself.

Clearly there's a contradiction here. We're telling people not to like themselves and not to feel liked or loved, or else they're some kind of horribly self obsessed, preening egotistical narcissist. However, without feeling like you have some value in other people's lives, you think that you might as well be dead.

I look at the precocious children, the ones who were loved and popular, showered with praise from all quarters... the ones who had their egos polished every day... the ones whose parents told them that they were special, talented... the ones who felt loveable, and as if the world was interested in their talents and ideas. I look at those children, and instead of feeling envy, I simply see the glow, the smile, the cotton wool that surrounds them, and I think that it's a good thing.

Life is going to be brutal. How do we even know we're alive, unless there is sadness to help us appreciate the happiness? Without darkness, we could never appreciate the light. However, it makes no sense to me to add extra shit to the life of a child. Why tell them they're a bad person, worthless, selfish and stupid? The world is going to do that for their entire adult life. For god's sake let them have a childhood.

So, I've grown up with this ridiculous idea of 'original sin'. I've learned to feel guilty about feeling happy. I've learned to feel guilty when luck goes my way. I've learned to feel guilty when somebody shows me love or affection. I've learned to feel guilty for craving friendship, companionship. I've learned to feel guilty for wanting any kind of external validation that I'm alive. I've learned to feel guilty for wanting to feel that there's a reason for living.

River Selfie

Nothing crystallises the issue quite like selfies and Facebook/Instagram. Do you have friends who post endless pictures of themselves up on their social media accounts? What do you think about them?

For pretty girls, they must get an ego boost, putting on their selfie pout and photographing themselves, with lots of 'likes' from horny boys. But surely things can be a little more innocent than that, or even mask deep-seated psychological issues.

Parents like to see photos of their kids. Families like to see photos of their relatives. Friends like to see photos of their friends. With the collapse of local communities, the geographical scattering of families, the decline of villages, clans & tribes... we need photo and video services to have any social bonds over these unnatural distances. Human evolution hasn't caught up with the automobile, the train, the boat and the airplane yet.

Equally, we know that glossy magazines, advertising and hollywood, paint a picture of perfect glamour. The most attractive people on the planet are paraded in front of our eyes, throughout our waking hours. How can we avoid comparing them with ourselves, and feeling inadequate?

We just don't measure up, and we feel ugly. We dislike our mis-shapen noses, sticky out ears and unruly hair. We look in the mirror at our spots and birthmarks, our pockmarked skin, our crooked stained teeth, and we know we can never measure up to the airbrushed beauties who are shoved in our faces.

For me, selfie culture is like grass-roots activism. Publishing directly onto the web takes away all the power and control that the newspapers and book publishers have, and allows anybody to become a writer. Putting pictures of yourself onto Facebook and Instagram allows anybody to become a glamour model, a famous face. It's reclaiming your sense of self-worth, from powerful media forces that parade unrealistic body images in front of us.

I've obviously wrestled with the idea that only rich, famous and powerful people are allowed to publish memoirs and biographies. Who would want to read about the life of a thirtysomething white middle-class IT consultant who went to state school and doesn't know any celebrities? Who would want to read about the very ordinary trials and tribulations of trying not to run out of money, getting a job and finding a place to live?

Am I supposed to feel guilty about the fact that I've been clamouring for my friends, and strangers from the Internet, to engage with me and give me even the tiniest indications that I'm being heard? Should I feel bad, when I admit that it's had a profound psychological effect, having a flurry of people 'like' my content on Facebook and Twitter, and getting a load of comments on Reddit and in the comments section below?

I'm not coercing people to continue to read, and to give me more 'likes'. I kinda feel like writing this has achieved what I wanted, which was to feel noticed. When you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, a big component is that nobody seems to care whether you live or die. The more you wail in distress and get ignored, the more it reaffirms your belief that the world would be better off without you.

I had a big response when I told people I was in hospital, and that was super nice, but I've been wary of spamming Facebook. People are often accused of being attention seeking, when they share shocking stuff on Facebook. Is that fair, if they're genuinely in danger of committing suicide?

To be admitted to a psychiatric hospital in the UK is not easy. You don't just turn up and say you need to be 'committed'. The number of places in hospital are very limited, and "care in the community" is always the preferred option. I had 4 or 5 section assessments, but I've never been 'sectioned'. It's really rare to have your liberty taken away, and be put into a secure facility for the protection of yourself and others.

My point is, that if mental health professionals thought that it was safest if I was admitted to hospital, then my life was in very real danger, and I have independent confirmation that I'm not just an attention whore. Surely it's OK to reach out to the world and say "I don't feel good. I feel alone. I feel unloved, unliked. I don't feel like I have any value. I feel worthless" no matter how you do that?

Personally, I think we should be paying attention to the drama queens, attention whores and people who seem self-obsessed. In actual fact, they probably have very fragile mental health, and are desperately trying to connect with the world and feel that they have some self-worth.

I'm not going to feel guilty about posting the occasional selfie.

Beach Cock

I drew a big cock & balls on the beach, and nobody told me to "stop showing off" but I did hear those words in my head.



A Good Week

7 min read

This is a story about friendship...


I had a truly awesome week - the best in a very long time - thanks to my friends. People have been scattered to all four corners of the globe, but through social media and the pull of the capital, we managed to reconnect. I can't stress enough how grateful I am to those people who've made the effort to stay in touch, and not to judge and disown me.

The week kicked off with a couple of friends making a last minute dash up to London. Doing touristy things with them really made me appreciate where I live. I can jump on the tube whenever I want and travel all over London very easily, but sometimes you don't appreciate your home town until you're seeing it through the eyes of visitors, and playing host.

The really cool thing about seeing my friends was having face-to-face conversations. We sat out on the bench in my garden, and we had a conversation that was way easier to have in person, having spent the day together. Chatting online is nice, but it's rarely more than checking in to make sure each other is OK, and just renewing that bond. I'm not complaining, but it was great to see some old friends, and for them to challenge me on some of the bitterness, regret and resentment that's been very unhealthy, as well as just having a really nice chat.

Chatting with my friend's wife, who is a social worker, she shared some really interesting stuff about the importance of a sibling relationship in the life of a child. The big hole in my life is my sister. I spent the first 10 years of my life as an only child, and they say the first 7 years of a child's life are the most formative. Obviously, I've tried hard to re-adjust, and I'm genuinely overjoyed to have a sister, but it's never good enough for my parents. They wanted me to tread a hard line: being both a mature parent figure to my sister, but at the same time I was still a kid and a sibling, not actually an unpaid babysitter. I wanted to play with my sister, not raise her.

Carve Boys

If you think I'm a bit cold and brutal with people, a loner, unafraid to cut people off if they're taking the piss... you're right in a way. I was always taught not to bother forming close bonds with people. Being pulled out of so many schools and kept away from my friends, taught me that I would never be allowed to retain my friendships, my relationships. I learned to develop shallow friendships and remain emotionally detached. I learned to protect myself from the inevitable time when my parents would drag me off somewhere else, away from my friends.

In adult life, I've bonded with a new set of friends and found great happiness and comfort in having those friendships last more than a couple of years. Things slowly fell into disrepair with one set of friends, as I moved away from London and got sucked into an abusive relationship. Friendships were neglected during my descent into mental illness and addiction, which kinda poured cold water on another set of friends, and meant further declines in the quality of my older friendships.

However, quite a lot of people are still tentatively connected to me, and by co-incidence another friend was coming up to London for a visit. We met up in a pub on my last day as a free man, and played a card game, just like we used to do on a random midweek evening in the good old days. We then sat in his friend's back garden playing cards and drinking beer, under the watchful gaze of a zombie garden gnome, with the light fading to the point where we could no longer tell which cards were which.

I started a new job, and the guy who showed me the ropes turned out to know a guy who I met at my very first full-time job. He's a friendly fella and it certainly took away a lot of those first day nerves, plus the feeling of trepidation that builds and builds, the longer you have off work. Having taken 6 months out of the game, I was filled with self-doubt, so it was a big relief to meet somebody friendly.

Tibie Wells

Some friends from my homeless days came over to visit. It was nice to show them my flat, and a real point of pride for somebody who was really down on their luck only a year before. Entertaining and hosting are so good for my self-esteem. I know it's probably not healthy to pin my sense of wellbeing on wowing people with something so materialistic as a nice place to live, but it does make me feel good to say "look how far I've come". It was nice to chat to a couple of people who also keenly felt the sense of loss, as our little social group crumbled, when we all started to get jobs and places to live, and move on with our lives.

I went out for dinner with another friend. It was nice to feel like there was some reward for working. Social bonding over food & drink is the reason for living, for going to work, to me. I always valued the social time with people rather than the excuse, the 'sport' or 'hobby' or whatever it was that supposedly tied us all together.

It was a totally unexpected twist, that when I got into kitesurfing - which is not a team sport - that I would actually end up with one of the largest groups of friends I've ever had the fortune of having in my life. I felt truly cherished and blessed, during those golden years of the London Kitesurfers, when we jetted around the globe together and threw wild parties.

Friday, I scheduled a 'date' with my 'bro'. It was nice to arrange a phonecall with a very supportive friend, and have good news to report. He's a sensitive guy and has been particularly concerned about my wellbeing, especially during my very suicidal moments. It was nice to have a somewhat more positive phone conversation.

Technology and social media is priceless in my life, and I rounded off the week with a video-chat call with a friend in New Zealand. At one point, I was struck by just how amazing technology is. I was having a face-to-face conversation with a friend who I haven't seen for 5 months, and there we were having a chat... midnight in the UK on a Saturday night, and 11am on Sunday morning in Auckland. Truly a globe-shrinking experience, to think that I'd have to be on a plane for 24+ hours if I actually wanted to shake my friend's hand, but yet we were able to speak as if we were almost in the same room together.

I completed the week, 10 weeks clean from the drugs, 3 days of my new job without being sacked, having seen 8 or more friends and made an ally at work. Given that recovery is a function of a healthy life, not sobriety, this bodes well.

I expect that things will get harder before they get easier, and the last week was probably a blip. I'm slightly scared to say "I'm feeling a bit better" because I fear that friends who are looking out for me might back off, believing I'm fine. You know, every little message in chat apps, every like on facebook, every text, every email... they all add up to a cushion of support that keeps me afloat. This is not emotional blackmail. Please think of it as a Thank You.

I still need to put regular social contact, exercise and some kind of hobby or passion into the mix. I'd like to get my kites repaired and buy a new wetsuit so I can go kitesurfing at the weekends again, just like I used to.

Don't move, improve!

New Bed

Look: I even got a new bed, thanks to my guardian angel driving me across London in a small car, overburdened with a massive piece of furniture. This reparation is a good metaphor for the damage repairs that my friends have enabled.



Am I a Bad Person?

7 min read

This is a story about how to lose friends and alienate people...

Primrose Hill

It's remarkable what we assume, and what we're unaware of. It's remarkable how our opinions can be coloured, and prejudices triggered, which completely change our impression of a person, and the way we treat them.

I had declared myself as "fighting mental health stigma" but in actual fact, things like Clinical Depression are so damn commonplace that nobody bats an eyelid if you say you're taking powerful psychiatric medication to stop you from killing yourself. In actual fact, I get more criticism for being medication free and letting my brain achieve its own homeostasis.

When I moved back to London, one of my oldest friends was incredibly sweet and understanding about the fact that I was struggling with my mental health. He took time out to read a bit about what Bipolar Disorder was, and was actively concerned with my wellbeing.

My friends are always playing catch up. By the time I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression, I was already having hypomanic episodes that were beyond the 'healthy' and 'normal' range of moods. Spending copious amounts of money, working ridiculously long hours, hypersexuality, risk taking... these things are not conducive to good health, wealth and stable relationships.

By the time I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I was already trying various forms of self medication. Depressions had gotten so severe that suicide was a very real risk, and hypomania had reached the point where I was starting to get delusions of grandeur, and was at risk of getting into money problems.

By the time I got free from the horrible relationship that was stoking my mood disorder, substance abuse was a big threat. When my divorce sapped my energy and sucked me back into the nightmarish world that I was trying to escape, I gave up and just decided to be a total junkie.

By the time I got cleaned up and back on my feet, word had been spread by my unpleasant family, that I was somehow untrustworthy, a waste of space, a lost cause.

So, I'm pre-empting all of that. This is a pre-emptive strike. I'm telling the world my very worst things, so everybody can get all that prejudice out of the way. I'm putting my worst foot forward.

I'm still here.

My friends and family are still stuck in the position of trying to deal with their prejudice, even though I've already moved on. I'm dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, while people think I'm probably scoring heroin on a street corner and injecting drugs in some crack den.

This 'lag' is extremely annoying. It means I have to deal with a shocked silence. It means I'm isolated, alone, with people who should know me better, thinking terrible things about me. The culture of fear that we've grown up in is powerful, and all those images that the media has put into your mind are suddenly applied to me... it wouldn't surprise me if my own family has imagined me stealing car stereos or mugging grannies.

Eat Crack

There's a lag with me too. It messes with your mind, being homeless one minute, and then working for a massive bank on a really important project, all dressed up in your suit with people giving a shit about your opinion.

How can you go from being the lowest of the low, to the point where there are people who actually think that death's too good for you, to suddenly one of the highest paid people in one of the world's most profitable enterprises, because the market value for your skills and experience is so high?

Is it any wonder that it messes with your mind? Is it any wonder that your brain doesn't know whether you're a worthless piece of shit, and the world would be better off if you were dead, or if actually you deserve a 6-figure salary, and people are telling you that what you're doing is really important and you're a key figure in the delivery of a super important project. How are you supposed to reconcile that?

Just saying that I should remain "grounded" is ridiculous. I have no frame of reference. I have no evidence to suggest that any possible conclusion I could reach would be the right one. Everything that my experience has taught me has been counter-intuitive.

Working hard, being humble, keeping my head down has gotten me nowhere. It hasn't led to greater happiness, more stable mental health, nor has it repaired damaged friendships and improved my relationship with my family.

Equally, taking reckless risks with my health & wealth has brought surprising results. Instead of being dead or destitute, I actually ended up making a fantastic group of friends, as a result of winding up homeless on Hampstead Heath, just after my birthday in 2014. In actual fact, being chucked onto the street by Camden Council ushered in one of the happiest periods of my life in many recent years, probably since I was in Cambridge in 2011.

I don't see any of what I've done as wrong. I've not resorted to lying, cheating, stealing. I've not screwed people over, manipulated them or in any way committed any offensive act against anybody.

However, people seem to take it very personally, when I apparently screw up my opportunities. One of my closest friends was absolutely besides himself when I lost my contract one Christmas. He thought I had deliberately sabotaged it. He was angry that I had seemingly chucked away a golden opportunity.

Things aren't so clear-cut. I'm rarely in a fit state to work. Either I'm suffering from depression, hypomania, or the exhaustion and cognitive impairment of recovery from stimulant abuse. I just don't have the time and money to properly prepare my mind and body for work, so my colleagues and bosses get a rather fucked up version of me, with all the weird highs and lows associated with an extreme mood disorder.

It's not a moral choice, whether I work, whether I relapse, whether I just collapse in a heap and don't do anything.

I know that people like to judge, and I've given away so much ammunition that it's really easy to think you know my character, my morality. I'm very easy to label, to criticise, and to apply your prejudices to.

I'm fed up of feeling guilty, just because people are shocked and unable to see beyond their prejudice and preconceived notions. I'm fed up of having to carry the can for a load of blame and scapegoating that doesn't even apply to me.

In some ways, I'm tempted to rob, to steal, to lie, to cheat... I'm being treated as if I do those things already. If I'm already 'the bad guy' then I guess I should act the part?

Bipolar Memory

People are more sympathetic to mental health problems like depression and bipolar than they are to substance abuse, even though the latter can be a feature of both of the former. I think the problem is the fact that people try and view it as a moral issue