Skip to main content

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

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Back to School

6 min read

This is a story about working during the summer...

Chalkboard

My drive to work this morning was dreadful, despite leaving at the crack of dawn. The roads are clogged again as the little darling children get taxied to school in gigantic 4x4s. There's a notable change in attitude of people now that the new term has started. My colleagues are much more in work mode than holiday mode. The mood is very different.

This summer has been the 4th consecutive year where I've had to work and not take any holiday.

To be honest, I'm really glad the school holidays are over.

I want to visit some friends in Prague, but I didn't want to travel during August, because the airports would have been rammed with holidaymakers. I want to visit friends in Ireland, but it makes more sense to wait until the madness of the school holidays is done and dusted. August is a dreadful month to travel anywhere and do anything, because everywhere's teeming with tourists.

I'm utterly exhausted, but at least I have a huge advantage compared with previous years. 2016 was relatively settled and I had been earning good money for several months. I had a very good chance of getting back on my feet in 2016, but the project I was working on was terminated unexpectedly early. In 2015 and 2017 I had the stress, exhaustion and financial pressures associated with moving house. In 2015 I had to pay thousands and thousands in rent, deposit and letting agent fees. In 2017 I had to put all my stuff into storage and move to Manchester. At least all I have to do this year is keep up my well-established routine.

Seemingly "little" things can have an enormously draining and exhausting effect, because they're very stressful. Travelling back and forth from Wales to London and staying in lots of different AirBnBs took a lot of time, planning, money and energy, at a time when I had very little spare cash. Not having my own place - an oasis of calm - to return to after a week working in the City meant that I was constantly uneasy and unsettled. The demands of being a guest in somebody's home shouldn't be underestimated, if you're similar to me in that you feel like you need to live small, neat, tidy and provide some 'value' to your hosts. It's very different being in your own home, versus being a guest in an AirBnB or sofa-surfing with friends, even if you have 'your own' room.

I've tried to engineer my life to give myself the greatest chance of success. I stay in the same hotel every week and I have an identical room. I eat in the same gastropub. I wear the same shirts on the same days. I pack the same things in my bag. There's a system and a routine which makes things less stressful and unsettling. I still don't sleep as well as I would in my own bed, because of the unpredictable noises of other guests, although I'm very glad that the hotel is of high enough quality that loud snorers - and there are so many - are not audible enough to make sleep impossible, through the sound-insulated walls. I've chosen a hotel which mostly accommodates business travellers like me, so I don't have the din of a family of 5 all cramped into one room, opening and closing the door and shouting in the corridor for hours every morning and evening.

I'm not one of your "children should be seen and not heard" miserable mean-spirited people, but I have little time and patience for the imposition of other people's lifestyle choices which negatively impact me. I don't mind kids in restaurants and bars. However, I've made a very conscious effort to carefully plan parenthood, so it's not fair that I should have my beauty sleep impacted as if I was simply one of the herd of rutting beasts, mindlessly spawning brats into the overcrowded world.

Most employed people think that the unemployed should get jobs, simply because they have to get up early and go to work, so they can't abide anybody who's not suffering the same miserable slog of the rat race. Perhaps it's like that with me and the holidays - I'm upset that I've had to work all summer without a holiday, so I somewhat begrudge people who've had lots of time off during July and August. Maybe I'm more bitter and resentful than I'm fully aware of.

I'm not going to dwell on my sense of being hard-done-by, because I'm starting to get myself into a position where I have enough financial security and employment security, as well as the freedom of being unencumbered by children, to be able to do pretty much whatever I want. I'm starting to regain my wealth, which means soon I'll be able to have some very luxurious holidays, I hope.

It helps having my colleagues in more of a work-mode. The attitude change is important. I need to be busy. I can't stand being bored.

It's very cool that I've made it to this point and my life is much more stable and secure than it's been in the past, and commensurately my mental health is much improved. Even in 2016 - which I think of as a good year - I was desperately suicidally depressed and struggling a lot more, I think.

I've definitely managed to get myself out of the danger zone yet again, which I'm very good at doing, but my luck usually runs out and I'm quickly plunged back into the red. At least I have critical pieces of the puzzle in place this year - car, apartment, job, cash - and I've got my routine well established. Provided I can keep turning the pedals then I should be able to cement my position. That I was able to withstand an almost disastrous May and June with little lasting ill effects, was a really good test and proof that my recovery is starting to be a little more resilient to life's slings and arrows.

I feel like I'm almost on a level playing field with my peers now - the fun and frolics of the summer are behind them and we all have months of miserable hard work stretching ahead of us. It feels better to be "in it together" rather than jealous of my colleagues jetting off on their holidays. In fact, I even have a slight advantage because I can take my holidays whenever I want - I'm not bound to the school holidays.

It might seem like schadenfreude but I don't care.

 

Tags:

 

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.

 

Tags:

 

Vitamin D

4 min read

This is a story about agoraphobia...

London Balcony

This is how I used to get fresh air and sun-kissed skin a year ago. You might say that central London has terrible air quality, but the city where I now live has worse air quality.

My apartment in London cost me more than three times as much as my current apartment, but there were hundreds more opportunities for work, if not thousands more - all accessible by public transport.

I had to get my car roadworthy today. It looks like I'm going to be joining the commuting masses, all clogging up Britain's roads. After dropping my car at the garage, I opened the Uber app on my smartphone. There are no Uber drivers in the whole city. I rang the city's biggest cab firm and they said I'd have to wait 90 minutes or more. I walked home from the garage in the sunshine. I did need the fresh air, the vitamin D and the exercise, but remember... I now live in a city that's more polluted than London.

I think I'm taking a wrong turn. I think I should be going back to London, because I can guarantee a steady stream of work there within the space of a few square miles: The City of London - the Square Mile - and Canary Wharf are the gifts that keep on giving. Sure, London is overcrowded and overpriced, but at least it's somewhere I know and I have friends. I'm going to end up in places I've never visited before, temporarily, and feeling very unsettled. I think it's a mistake.

I didn't mind isolating myself in that apartment in London so much, because I could sit on the balcony and soak up the sun. I could sit on the sofa and watch the boats go past. I could open those big patio doors and have a lovely breeze blowing through my whole home. It blows my mind that I felt more connected to nature in the middle of a city with 10 million inhabitants, than I do in this small seaside place with lush green valleys and hills no more than a 20 minute car ride away.

I probably need a bit of both. I might as well be in London if I'm working full-time. But I need somewhere to call home - I need a base, and that base should be somewhere cheap. It's a lot of pressure to keep working all the time when you need to find £500/week just to pay the rent... plus you've got all the bills on top of that.

It was a mistake to put myself into the situation where I had sole responsibility for paying all that rent, and no way to get out of the contract when I was too sick to work. If I went back to London, I'd have my company rent a place on a month-by-month basis, so I could leave whenever I stopped working.

I don't know what's keeping me indoors. There's some kind of force-field. I haven't reached the point where I feel I can relax, take my foot off the gas pedal and just coast a bit. I should be enjoying the summer, but I'm not; I'm really not at all. My summer has been ruined.

I think I need to plan to go away when the days are getting shorter, it's getting cold, wet and miserable, and the clocks go back. I need to get an autumn/winter sun boost. That's the next thing I can start to pin my hopes on.

If I can get through the next 3 or 4 months relatively uneventfully, keeping the cash rolling in, maybe I'll be in a position to sit in the sunshine and actually relax and enjoy myself. At the moment, I don't feel like I deserve to enjoy the summer... there's still so much work to do; there's still so much stress ahead, and uncertainty.

 

Tags:

 

What's Missing from this Picture?

4 min read

This is a story about unnecessary packaging...

Holiday essentials

I've had a stressful morning. I had to package my Macbook carefully so that it could be safely sent away to be repaired. I had to locate the original packaging for my Virgin broadband router and box it up so it could be sent back to them, even though it's defective junk. I then had to find a UPS parcel drop-off point and a Collect+ drop off point to drop off the respective parcels. This required a trip to purchase bubble wrap, a suitable sized box and packing tape, as well as two more trips to two different drop-off places.

While I was out dealing with those chores, I also had to purchase a piece of carry-on luggage and some flip-flops. The flip flops were sold to me in a box. I don't know why flip flops need a box - just a simple cardboard clip to keep the left and the right flip-flop together is more than sufficient.

Anyway, I'm home now. I have located my passport. I have located some leftover Euros I had from the last holiday I took... 22 months ago. I opened the box containing my new flip-flops and lo and behold, there was a discrepancy in the number of flip flops present in the box - 50% of the required number of flip-flops were missing.

Do I drive back into town, park my car, walk to the shop and explain the situation in the hope that they admit their mistake and remedy it without quibble? Do I just purchase a second pair of flip-flops and then open and check inside the box before i leave the store? Do I just abandon the whole ill-fated exercise, and buy a pair at the tiny departure airport, where the shops will probably be closed? Do I take time out from the one single whole day I get to spend with my friend, without either of us having to worry about airport arrivals/departures, hotel check ins/out and all the rest of that crap, just to go looking for some suitable summer footwear?

I don't know why this is making me upset, because I don't even know if the nerve damage to my left foot/ankle is so bad that I can even wear a flip-flop on that foot. The last time I tried, I didn't have enough sensation and motor control to keep a flip-flop on my foot.

Also, my flight's delayed - French air traffic controllers on strike or something. My flight barely enters French airspace, but whatever... everyone should have the right to go on strike for better pay and conditions.

My 'holiday' is really just a day spent with a friend who I hardly ever get to see, then we both fly home on Monday. I have another week to go before my current gig comes to an end, so I need to make sure I take the money while it's there on offer.

"Have you got any holidays planned?" asked a person I spoke to on Friday, which is code for "we want you to work solidly until you drop dead". We'll have to see how badly they want me, because I really need a holiday - a proper holiday.

It seems churlish to complain, but I've had a month of hell. Breakup, losing my local job, getting sick, holiday plans pretty much cancelled, the stress of finding a new gig, the prospect of going back to London, the never-ending pressure to generate vast sums of cash to dig myself out of the hole... the hole I can never quite escape from. FML.

What was supposed to be a romantic beach holiday with my [ex]girlfriend has now turned into a very brief weekend meetup of two old friends. It'd have been far easier for us to meet in London, as he was there yesterday. He's travelled London -> Prague -> Lisbon -> Faro -> Lisbon -> Prague, and I'm travelling Wales -> Bristol -> Faro -> Bristol -> Wales. Our carbon footprint is criminal.

Hopefully I'll be in a better mood when I wake up in Faro tomorrow and I can hang out with my old friend for the whole day, free from commitments and responsibilities... I can put up with sweaty feet.

 

Tags:

 

Suddenly Summer

4 min read

This is a story about the pleasant months of the year...

The park

I was psychologically prepared for a miserable winter. I was psychologically prepared for seasonal affective disorder to lay me low after the clocks went back and the days were short, dark and full of drizzly cold awful weather. I was psychologically prepared to knuckle down and work hard during the unpleasant British winter. I achieved a lot, especially considering how suicidal depression, intolerable anxiety and unbearable stress were constantly with me as I attempted to avoid bankruptcy and tried to get myself back on my feet.

Yesterday I was at the marina looking at a yacht I'm going to be sailing soon. Today I took a walk along the seafront and had a picnic in the park.

Theoretically, I have a source of income that lasts until the end of July.

I have a holiday planned in June.

My life is awesome.

Well... my life looks awesome to an outsider. There's nothing too much to complain about except for my crippling debts, the uncertainty about the future, I'm bored and unchallenged at work, I'm still struggling with depression - desperate to feel hopeful about the future, but knowing that things have been quite unsustainable. I've been getting up too early - because my work colleagues are all early birds - and I've been finishing my work too quickly. I hate being bored, but I hate pacing myself too - I'm not capable of deliberately going slow.

I knew winter was going to be hard, but I imagined summer was going to be easy. Perhaps I mismanaged my own expectations. Perhaps I didn't psychologically prepare myself for the whole long slog to freedom. I'm 6 to 9 months away from getting my life sorted out, and that assumes that nothing goes wrong. I could lose my source of income at the end of July. I could lose my source of income sooner - I have no idea what I'm going to be doing after the end of the month.

I shouldn't complain, of course.

I shouldn't complain.

My life is awesome.

So I keep telling myself.

It certainly makes a difference, the pleasant weather. I'm more motivated to leave the house and enjoy the nice things in the local area where I live. I'm planning on going sailing. I'm planning a holiday.

However, uncertainty looms large. My income is insecure. My mental health is quite dubious - I'm struggling to get to the office and get through the days. My job is a lot better than the last one I did in London but I can't cope with being bored and having nothing to do: I've got to be busy busy busy.

It seems churlish to complain. I'm not really complaining - it's a statement of fact. Summer is here but life's harder than I expected... things are still a struggle, although I guess things are a lot less of a struggle. The problem is that I've struggled for so long and I really need a break to recharge my batteries, so that I can carry on without having a nervous breakdown. I haven't had a proper holiday in 21 consecutive months.

The warning signs are there - I had to take a couple of days off sick last week. I'm having an extra-long weekend, because I'm spent; I'm exhausted. It's taken so much to get to this point and there's so much potential for me to really make some good progress now, and start to get my life sorted out, but it's been a ridiculous journey during the course of the last year. The last year has been hell.

Yes, some really nice great stuff is starting to happen. Yes, my life is really improving loads. Yes, I'm really knackered from all the effort I've put into getting myself to this point. Yes, I'm exhausted and I'm struggling to carry on at the same pace; to work as hard as I worked to get me to this point.

This is a bit of a churlish whinge-fest, but I wanted to write about my divided feelings: so happy that summer weather has finally arrived, but also really worried about how much hard work still lies ahead.

I just feel like I should be further ahead than I am, given the suffering and effort involved, but I guess a lot of people feel like that. At least I'm getting somewhere I suppose... I do feel sorry for people who get nowhere, no matter how hard they try.

 

Tags:

 

Blind

4 min read

This is a story about living on the edge...

Broken blind

Strangely, this broken blind is the only thing that's keeping me safe at the moment. I could replace the blind, but then I'd lose the safety that it gives me. I deliberately chose an apartment with a ground-floor bedroom with terrible blinds, because of the lack of privacy. It's strange, but this lack of privacy - this broken blind - is keeping me safe.

It's been 21 consecutive months since I had a proper holiday. For two consecutive Christmasses I've been with a family that's not my own, which has meant the exhaustion of being on best behaviour, and struggling to adjust to the unique way that those families observe the festive season. Other than that, I've had some long weekends, but not a proper break. A lot of the time in the last 21 months, I've had the threat of bankruptcy, eviction, destitution and homelessness hanging over me. A lot of the time in the last 21 months, I've been recovering from illness, which has seen me hospitalised. A lot of the time in the last 21 months, I've been very sick.

I'm exhausted.

I'm burnt out.

I'm sick and tired of working my bollocks off, being responsible and working hard when I'm too sick to shoulder that burden. I should really have declared bankruptcy and put myself at the mercy of the state, to house me and to give me a pitiful welfare payment so I could buy a few cans of baked beans, and otherwise live like a pauper - at least this torture would've been over.

I left work, I went to the supermarket, I drove home, I washed up, I put some laundry in the washing machine, I tidied up, I put the shopping away, I cleaned the kitchen, I hoovered the carpet. All in a day's work, but I've already done a day's work. I've done 21 consecutive months of work without a proper holiday.

You might not think it's work, being sick, but it's certainly not holiday. You might not think it's work, recovering from illness, but it's certainly not holiday... and it's certainly not restful when you're running out of money and you're worried you're going to be evicted. You might not think it's work, spending Christmas with people you only just met, but it's exhausting to be on best behaviour and minding your manners; making smalltalk with everybody and asking all the right questions that would be expected in polite middle-class company. You might think I've been on a jolly holiday for the last 21 months, but I haven't. I've moved house 4 times, been hospitalised 3 times, been sectioned, had various crisis visits from psychiatrists, doctors, social workers and the like, plus I've been dreadfully sick... both physically and mentally. I've not been having a jolly holiday.

I've had enough. I want to abandon my responsibilities. I want to give up.

I'm exhausted and I want to give up.

The only thing keeping me safe is that blind.

So long as I keep that blind deliberately broken, anybody can spy on me; peek into my world.

If I had perfect privacy I think I'd just give up; I'd relapse. If I thought that I could withdraw into a private world - close the curtains and pretend the world's not there - then I'd do it in a flash because I'm so exhausted and fed up with the relentless never-ending saga of month after month of work, work, work.

I've done well to get to this point, but I'm pretty much spent. Every penny I've earned has gone on rent, bills, interest and living expenses. I feel like I've got very little to show for my efforts, but I do have an apartment, a car, a job, a girlfriend and some new friends. I feel like I've made very little progress, but I've managed to get myself into a good position to start to dig myself out of the hole... but I'm exhausted and I've hit the wall. I'm burnt out; I'm frazzled. I'm a wreck.

That blind is broken and it means I have no privacy. It's a funny thing to keep me safe, but I knew it would. I'm really on a knife-edge though. I could so easily throw everything away and say "fuck it" because I'm just too damn tired to go on.

I'm really at my wits end. I really need a holiday.

 

Tags: