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The world's longest suicide note

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

All opinions are my own

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Self Defamation

6 min read

This is a story about making yourself look like an idiot...

Movember

I started this blog as a suicide survivor who was interested in suicide prevention. I started this blog because my head was buzzing with ideas for how technology could be used to help people at risk of suicide. I started this blog because trying to explain to colleagues, friends and family what was going on with me had nearly killed me - it was an unwinnable battle, because nearly everybody makes the same incorrect presumptions and carries near-identical prejudices.

Only a fool would try the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, but if I had a pound for every time somebody has suggested yoga, mindfulness, jogging, kale smoothies and all the rest of the "wow thanks I'm cured" quick fixes that a person with mental illness gets bombarded with, then I'd be a very rich man. Equally, explaining the same thing over and over again - "yes I've had mental health and substance abuse problems, but no I'm not going to stab you in your sleep or rob you" - was an exhausting madness.

I needed to move from the position where my work colleagues had no idea that I'd been a homeless drug addict when they hired me to work on the number one project for the biggest bank in Europe, to the position where my colleagues had seen me working very effectively in the office and been a valuable member of the team, yet they began to understand a little of the difficulties I'd faced in my personal life. I didn't want to have to hide my mental illness - bipolar disorder - and I didn't want to have to hide my problems of the past, which included homelessness and substance abuse.

Pretending to be Mr Boring Corporate Worker Bee was exhausting, and I already had been through enough, trying not to run out of money, trying to get off the streets and trying to get clean.

In June 2015 I was a homeless junkie, arranging interviews while sleeping in a park. I got an interview for a job, which I was nearly an hour late for because I fell back to sleep after the agent phoned me to wake me up, and then I had to get showered, changed and rush across London. In July 2015 I was living in a hostel in a 14-bed dormitory, trying to do my job, but I was still a junkie. In early September 2015 I started this blog. In late September 2015 I managed to get an apartment. By December 2015 I had 2,000 Twitter followers, so I decided to go fully public and write a blog post called "Cold Turkey" on Boxing Day, which was about my problems with substance abuse.

By accident or design, my blog has recorded every aspect of my illness: homelessness, depression, mania, self-harm, suicide attempts, hospitalisation, near-bankruptcy and destitution, eviction, relationship problems, family estrangement, poly-substance abuse and my attempts to get back on my feet, plus the relapses.

I've written down every single thing that you never wanted to know and that nobody would ever tell you because it'd be too likely to lead to prejudice, discrimination, reputational damage, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of face, bullying, victimisation, taunts, jeers, social isolation, marginalisation, undesirable labels, being laughed at behind your back, becoming unemployable... a pariah.

Perhaps you think I'm stupid.

I did this because there are lots of people who try and fail to deal with debilitating mental illness and dreadful addictions. People try the same old things, which have terrible results. We know that the things we often try are spectacularly useless, because so many people are suffering and so few are recovering. Particularly in the field of addiction, the things that people try are not successful at all. For people who have the triple-whammy of mental health problems, substance abuse problems and money problems, they're screwed - they're almost definitely going to wind up destitute and dead.

There's nothing particularly interesting in yet another story about somebody who went to Alcoholics Anonymous and found God, only to then be caught up in a never-ending cycle of recovery and relapse that eventually destroys their health and takes them to an early grave, along with a lot of time and effort wasted thanking the sky monster and a lot of lying and deception... telling people they're clean and sober when they're really not at all.

I did this because it's hard and it's risky, but at least it's different.

Once or twice I've suffered prejudice and discrimination because of this public document which tells the world about my very worst faults and failings, but mostly it's served its purpose, which is to save me the time and energy that's wasted answering the same stupid questions, humouring people when they offer the same lame "quick fixes" and suffering the prejudice and discrimination because people guess, and they guess wrong, unless they can see the truth for themselves.

It annoys me that I can be a good co-worker, boss, friend, tenant, borrower, boyfriend, citizen... whatever... but only until people know my labels: homeless, junkie, bankrupt, mental health issues. As soon as people think those labels are attached to me, they treat me like a thief or a murderer. As soon as people hear those labels in connection with me, they think I'm going to steal their money for drugs, leave HIV infected needles in their baby's cot and murder them in their sleep because "the voices told me to do it".

The labels I attach to myself - currently only bipolar - I do so freely of my own choosing, because it's convenient shorthand for me.

I'm toying with the idea of switching out "bipolar" for "drug addict" because I think it's more provocative. I think that most mental health problems elicit sympathy, except for substance abuse disorder, which is seen as a bad choice made with free will - addicts are to blame for their own predicament. So, what about somebody who doesn't take drugs calling themself "drug addict" then? If addicts choose drugs, how's about I choose the label, even though I don't take drugs?

I'm defaming myself to see what happens. I'm defaming myself because I want to push boundaries. I'm defaming myself because I want to shake up your idea of what a homeless, bankrupt, junkie person with mental health problems looks like. I'm defaming myself, because I'm pissed off with the shame, the stigma and the prejudice.

I've done the hard work. I've earned the right to be myself. Go ahead... judge me.

I've provided everything you could ever possibly want to judge me. Knock yourselves out.

 

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Payday

5 min read

This is a story about triggers...

50 pound notes

Having money burning a hole in your pocket is thought to trigger relapses, but I think it's the period of poverty that precedes it that causes the problems. Flush with cash after such a long struggle trying to make ends meet and not go bankrupt, who wouldn't be flooded with relief and be significantly affected by such a rollercoaster ride? Our boom and bust, feast and famine world is highly destabilising to our mental health.

Back in September I found myself jobless, homeless and without enough cash to afford to rent a place to live and support myself for long enough to get to payday. Mercifully a friend managed to get me a job in Warsaw in the nick of time, and I was just barely able to afford to be able to live in AirBnBs until I got paid - I escaped bankruptcy with just £23 left in my bank account the day before my pay finally started to arrive.

Back in February I had to buy a car so that I could get to my new job, tax it and insure it. That nearly wiped me out.

Back in March I had to rent a place to live, and paying the first month's rent, deposit and letting agent fees again nearly wiped me out.

I've spent April praying that nothing goes wrong - that I don't lose my job and that my car doesn't break down. I couldn't afford any unexpected bills - I've been running on fumes, although it wasn't quite as bad as when I got down to my final £23.

My financial distress dates back to December 2016, when the Christmas and New Year period delayed me from getting back into work, and by the time January arrived I was very unwell - I spent 3 weeks in hospital on dialysis and promptly lost the job I'd just managed to get. Things got worse and worse, peaking in July when I had a very large tax bill to pay and I had to leave my apartment in London because I could no longer afford the rent. Out of desperation I took a job in Manchester, which turned out to be disastrous - I didn't know anybody in Manchester and my entire life was in the hands of a company which ended up treating me very badly indeed. I tried to commit suicide.

Working in Warsaw and London during December, January and February, meant I was incurring a lot of expenses, with flights, hotels, train travel, AirBnBs and the other costs of living out of a suitcase. I tried to live off pot noodles and other things that can be prepared without a kitchen, but economising can become impossible when you have to travel around from place to place - I had to re-buy all the things you generally keep in the kitchen cupboards, or carry food around with me without the contents of the open containers leaking and turning everything into a horrible mess.

Finally, I managed to rent an apartment but it didn't have a single saucepan, plate, glass, mug, utensil or cutlery item, let alone all the other myriad things which make a house a home, such as toilet brushes and a million other things you take for granted.

To go on the journey from having less than nothing, to re-entering civilised society and having enough money to keep the wolf from the door, has been extremely stressful and exhausting. I'm still in the process of setting up my standing orders and direct debits so that the council tax, TV license, gas, electric, water, sewerage, broadband and all the other various utilities can be paid regularly every month. I'm still in the process of re-stocking the cupboards with all the things that are needed for daily living.

Yes, my situation seems to be rapidly improving, but there's still so much work to do and I'm still a long way from being comfortable and having a financial cushion in case there are any unexpected problems - there are many more sleepless nights ahead.

I don't mean to moan, because I'm very lucky - things have gone my way and finally getting paid some of the money I'm owed today has a big positive impact on my life. I can loosen the purse strings a little, although I still have to be very careful.

There is of course an impulse to go mad now that I'm a bit more financially comfortable, but that's a reaction to the relief I'm feeling, after so many months of having the threat of bankruptcy, homelessness and destitution hanging over me. My main impulse is to draw the curtains and not get out of bed for a month, because I'm so exhausted and emotionally drained after such a horrible rollercoaster ride.

Because of the way I get paid, I'm not expecting another payday for another couple of months. If I can make it to the next payday it'll be a huge milestone and I'll very definitely be on the road to recovery, but I still have a very challenging time ahead of me.

I hope you don't think I'm moaning. It's always a good day when you get paid.

 

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Brain Damage and Personality Change

5 min read

This is a story about neuroplasticity...

Me on the sofa

Who even am I any more? Am I the same person my friends knew 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago? Have I changed beyond all recognition?

I suppose change is not important if you're happy with who you are in the present day. I wonder about who I've become. I'm very isolated and I'm so fixated on earning enough money to dig myself out of the hole I got in, that I'm not really making a lot of time for socialising or reconnecting with old friends. I don't speak to anybody on the phone. I don't speak to anybody via email. I only speak to a tiny handful of people via text message. I've got no local social network. There's hardly anybody I'm in regular contact with.

I had a very clear plan for a long time - get out of an abusive relationship, move to London and resume my career in The City. Moving, selling the house and divorce were horribly sabotaged by my ex and made unbearably awful, which derailed me. I ended up stuck in a never-ending nightmare cycle of getting sick, ending up in hospital, recovering, starting to get my life together, and then it all falling to pieces over and over again. I had one good shot at escaping from her, but she ruined it; she ruined me; she ruined my chance.

I woke up in hospital all on my own far more times than I care to remember. I was cut adrift. Nobody came to see me.

Then, a little over a year ago, one of my lovely ex-girlfriends organised a load of support for me when I was in hospital. I had LOTS of visitors and brilliant messages of support. That was amazing. That made such a big difference. That was a turning point.

Recovery is non-linear, and getting my life back on track back in London was impossibly hard. I needed to leave London, which meant a breakup with the aforementioned lovely ex-girlfriend. Nothing about that breakup was done right by me. Nothing about the situation was good. It was a big fat mess. Things got worse before they got better. Things got A LOT worse.

Between the seizures and the coma, I think that my latest suicide attempt reset my brain. I think all those seizures were like a kind of intensive Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) for me. My life certainly started to improve versus the destructive cycle I had been caught in while living in London. When I tried to kill myself, I was hopelessly trapped. My suicide attempt broke me free from something I could never have escaped otherwise.

It's strange: two breakups and a suicide attempt led me to a better life, inadvertently. Through that destruction has come new life and more prosperity; hope.

I'm completing my 21st consecutive month without a proper holiday, and I'm exhausted and stressed, but I get up every morning and I go to work. Whatever's going on with my mental health, I'm very functional. I'm in a healthy happy relationship. I'm getting on well with my colleagues. I'm staying on top of my adult responsibilities - paying my rent & bills, keeping my car road legal, washing, cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking and all the other stuff that caused me unbearable anxiety and difficulties last year.

I might be somebody completely different, but I'm still somebody. My personality might have completely changed, but I'm still me... just not the me I was in the past. If my work colleagues like me and my girlfriend likes me, and I'm a functional member of society, then what's the problem with me?

I'm paranoid that mental health problems are going to rear their ugly head, but it's been almost 8 months without incident. I don't want to get complacent, but that's a long time to be unmedicated as well as dealing with the horrendous stress of losing your home, losing your job, almost going bankrupt, moving house, moving city, starting two new jobs and everything else to boot. Looking at the evidence, I'd say that I'm one of the most mentally strong and stable people you're ever likely to meet, as opposed to an emotionally unstable lunatic, which you might wrongly presume from some of the stuff that happened before.

I think the lesson is that the brain is a homeostatic organ that's evolved to rapidly adapt to the ever-changing environment. If you trap me in to dreadful circumstances, I'm going to have a dreadful reaction - that's logical and reasonable; that's rational... a sane reaction to an insane world.

I do have my PTSD flashbacks - described as "Tourette's-like" by a close friend - and I do have to be extremely careful with my sleep, diet, stress levels and myriad other things, but my mental health problems are a risk not my destiny.

If I can just keep plodding through life, things will improve. Time is the biggest healer, giving my brain time to adapt.

 

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All Work and no Play Makes Nick a Dull Boy

7 min read

This is a story about relentless monotony...

Sleepy Nick

I fell asleep at my desk today. I haven't had any time off since November. I spent November writing a novel, so I guess I haven't had any time off since October. I was in hospital in October and I moved house, so I guess I haven't had any time off since September. I was in hospital in September and I tried to commit suicide and I lost my job and I was evicted, so I guess I haven't had any time off since July. I moved house and started a new job in July, so I guess I haven't had any time off since June. I was selling loads of my stuff, trying not to go bankrupt, while also trying to get a job in June, so I guess I haven't had any time off since May. I was quitting supercrack, having an episode of medication-induced mania from California rocket fuel and breaking up with my girlfriend in May, so I guess I haven't had any time off since April. I was a drug addict in April. This is what I was doing back in April.

Dark Web

Here I am looking at the dark web a little over a year ago. I'm probably not buying anything that would be illegal because I already had enough supercrack to last me 2 years. The fact I'm wearing clothes and sitting in my lounge, taking recognisably normal-ish photographs suggests that a little over a year ago, things were going OK.

Night vision

Oh no I spoke to soon. This night-vision photograph indicates that I was going bat-shit insane while high on supercrack. I took this photograph only a couple of days after the one before, where I was sat in the lounge browsing the dark web. This photograph was taken about a year ago.

Barricaded door

What the hell is THAT? Well, it's pretty obvious that I've barricaded myself in my bedroom. This photograph was taken one year and one day ago. This photograph perfectly illustrates my subconscious fears of privacy invasion - that people are going to burst in on me, shame me and violently attack me. I don't come across as very paranoid in day-to-day life, but I'm very traumatised, and this is my reaction that that trauma: I barricade myself in to protect myself from my parents and ex-wife. It's bat-shit insane, of course, but this is my underlying psychology.

Tray of food

Looks like I was eating some food. I'd probably barricaded myself in my bedroom for days. I'd probably not slept for days. My life was a horrific mess a year ago. I had a virtually unlimited supply of supercrack and my addiction was raging out of control. Clearly I was paranoid because of drugs and sleep deprivation, but what was the seed of that paranoia? I wonder if it could have anything to do with having the rug pulled out from under my feet - being muscled out of my own home; being horrifically injured in my own home; being punched in the face or suffering a horrific injury to my leg, at the hands of my ex-wife and parents. I wonder if it could have anything to do with them. I was trapped in a corner for so very long, with no means of escaping my tormentors, who were demonstrably vile, violent and abusive. Fuck them. That kind of trauma has a lasting effect.

Bathroom barricade

My paranoia reached such ridiculous levels that I barricaded the door to my ensuite bathroom using my laundry bins and some clothes storage boxes. Clearly I just wanted to be left alone. Clearly I didn't feel safe. Yes, it's paranoia that's come about because of drug abuse and sleep deprivation, but there's got to be a seed too. Nobody gets this paranoid unless they have their ex-wife kicking doors in and screaming abuse at the top of her lungs. Nobody gets this paranoid unless they have their parents humiliating them and bursting in on them, and dragging them out of their own home. There's a seed for paranoia. There's always a seed.

Uppers and downers

Something to help me sleep (zopiclone) and something to help me cope and function (dexamfetamine). You can't end a horrific addiction instantly. There's no cold turkey when you're in as deep as I was. I was too dependent. To attempt to suddenly quit overnight would have caused me unbearable withdrawal symptoms and would have required me to be hospitalised. This is what I prescribed myself - two medications for harm reduction. Two medications that I used to wean myself off the dangerous and highly addictive supercrack.

I flushed that big bag of supercrack a year ago. There was enough to last me a couple of years, easily. I can't remember when exactly I flushed it, because my life was chaotic, but the evidence suggests that it was at this point I decided to get clean, using substitute prescribing.

Things didn't go smoothly, but it's very difficult to deal with a major addiction as well as mental health problems and all the practical problems that came about because my life had disintegrated. I needed to get money, get a job, get an apartment I could afford. I needed to move house, move city. I needed to get a new girlfriend and a new group of friends. I had a false start in Manchester, but I tried again in Wales... I'm trying again in Wales.

Maybe you think my life is easy and everything is sorted out, because I earned bit of money, which I spent renting an apartment and buying a car so that I can get to my new job. Maybe you think my life is easy because I get up and go to work every day, and I'm doing a good job and my bosses are impressed with me. Maybe you think my life is easy because I've 'bounced back' from losing two apartments, running out of money three times and being hospitalised twice. Maybe you think my life is easy, because I've made it look so easy, quitting supercrack, Valium, Xanax, tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodiene, pregabalin, zopiclone and zolpidem, which are all highly addictive. Maybe you think my life is easy, because I've gone 7 months unmedicated and I haven't had a single mental health episode that's caused me to commit suicide or do something else drastic to fuck up my life. Maybe you think my life is easy because my finances are improving and I've got a girlfriend. Maybe you think none of what I went through in the last year was very hard. Maybe you think none of what I've been through in the last year has caused any lasting damage.

I'm in my 5th consecutive month of full-time work without a holiday. I'm working my bollocks off. All I do is work work work, because I'm running as fast as I can to get myself into a position where my housing is secure - nobody can evict me - and I'm financially secure. I constantly have to ignore my physical and mental health, because I so desperately need to get myself into a position where I can collapse in a heap and have a minor nervous breakdown.

Yes, I can do stuff like this - I can save myself; I can come back to life; I can return from the brink of destitution and make it look very easy.

It's not easy.

 

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April Fools Day

3 min read

This is a story about a prank...

Hostel laptop

Surprise! It was all a joke! I'm not really mad. I was just pulling your leg. It was all a big April Fools Day prank. Ha ha ha.

Except it's not.

I've genuinely been very sick.

The fact that I'm in a strong position today is incredibly promising. Usually I start sorting my life out far too late each year, and then I get clobbered by autumn and winter. Usually Christmas and New Year wipes me out and leaves me absolutely screwed during January, February and March. Usually I need April and May to recover from the winter and get myself back on my feet. The seasons screw me over.

I was working over the festive period, which meant I had a job to go back to in the New Year. I've managed to finish one contract and start another one with no gap, which means no loss of earnings. I've got the seasons on my side - the days are getting longer and the weather's improving. All of this bodes well.

It might look like I can snap my fingers and get everything I want in an instant, but it's not easy. It's incredibly exhausting, repeatedly digging yourself out of a hole. It's incredibly stressful having to repeatedly rebuild your life. I've solved these problems a million times before - getting a job, earning money, getting a place to live, re-establishing myself somewhere new - but that makes it harder in a way... there's no novelty to it, it's just hard work.

At face value, it looks like I'm not sick - I'm working, moving house, doing practical things that require me to be very functional. It's hard though. I'm always a hair's breadth away from disaster.

I could almost convince people that my whole crazy off-piste escapade was made-up - that I invented it for literary purposes. It would blow the mind of my work colleagues to know the journey I've been on.

I don't want to pretend that nothing happened. I don't want to pretend like everything's always been A-OK. I don't want to pretend like I haven't got stuff in my past that was pretty insane. I want to stop running away from my past and pretending that it didn't happen. I don't want to pretend like all this is a joke.

It's 12:03pm, so it can't be a joke... it's gone past midday.

 

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Domestic Bliss

9 min read

This is a story about insecure housing...

Paying rent

She said she wanted to be a widow. She marked my suicide note with red pen, filling it with abusive language. I didn't feel safe in the house with her - she would rage and kick and punch the door I'd put between us to protect myself. I was afraid to use the toilet or otherwise leave the room I'd barricaded myself in for my own protection. I wasn't eating. I wasn't afraid without good reason - she'd battered my face not once, not twice, but three times. She'd had her three strikes and I'd had to go to work saying "I walked into a door". I'd had to make excuses for her violence to her parents... to explain away my black eyes, my broken nose.

The abuse had caused me to start self-harming. Later, I started smashing stuff up. We had blazing rows, but, it was always me who ended up locked in the spare bedroom, afraid for my own safety. It was her who got stronger and stronger, while I got weaker and weaker; sicker and sicker; more and more afraid; more and more isolated. I was suicidally depressed and I was trapped. How was I going to escape this abusive relationship? Where would I go? I'd lost so many friends because of her. I'd lost my identity. I'd lost my self-confidence.

She said she'd rather that I died rather than go into hospital. I needed to go to hospital. I was suicidally depressed, but she said if I did go into hospital she'd divorce me. I said that it was life or death... that my suicidal thoughts were so bad I couldn't keep myself safe. She said she'd rather be a widow.

My friends in London took me in. They tried to keep me safe during an incredibly acrimonious divorce. They supported me. They cared for me. I stayed in their spare bedroom until the house was sold and the divorce had been through the courts.

Then I tried to kill myself.

I moved out of my friends' house and I immediately tried to kill myself.

I couldn't kill myself while I was living under their roof - it wasn't right, because they'd helped me so much. They'd helped me escape my ex-wife, but I'd lost my house and what little self-esteem I had. I'd nearly lost my new business. I nearly lost everything. I had just about enough money and energy left to move out, but then I tried to kill myself because I was jobless and sick, living in a shitty shared apartment in a crappy part of London. I was all alone.

Things got worse. The hospital discharged me into a hotel. I said I didn't want to go back to that town where my ex-wife lived. There couldn't have been anything worse psychologically than being forced to go back to that town where she lived. The hospital took pity on me. They discharged me to a hotel. I had 2 weeks to sort out my life.

Inevitably, I became homeless. It was impossible. I was sick. How was I supposed to navigate the complex bureaucratic nightmare that is the UK housing system? I was refused a hostel bed. I was refused supported accommodation. I was told I could get housing benefit, but no landlord will take somebody who pays their rent with "DSS". Housing benefit doesn't pay enough to rent a place in London anyway. What was I supposed to do?

I ended up sleeping rough in Kensington Palace Gardens, and later Hampstead Heath. I bought a tent and made camp in dense undergrowth far away from the main paths. I used all my expeditionary experience to hide myself and sleep under the stars.

I lived in hostels. The hostels brought me into contact with a social group. Socialising made me feel better about myself  - people liked me; I was popular. My self-esteem started to improve.

I rented a little room in a student apartment. It was cheap, for London. They were nice kids, but they were messy students - they were trashing the place. They were partying all the time. It was hard for a thirty-something man with a full-time job at a bank to mix those lifestyles. It was hard when I left the homeless community. It was hard when I transitioned from being homeless to re-entering civilised society. There was a culture clash. I lost most of my friends.

I went back to living in a hostel.

I rented an amazing apartment on the River Thames with panoramic views over London. It wasn't my idea. A friend thought it'd be a good idea to spend a hefty portion of my monthly income on a super-luxury apartment. "You deserve it" he said. Seemed like a good idea at the time. He wanted to live there rent-free, of course. Other parasites came, wanting to live there rent-free too. I found it hard to turn them down, because I'd been homeless. I was a soft touch. I was taken advantage of. I'm owed thousands and thousands of pounds in unpaid rent and bills.

I spent the best part of 2 years living in the same amazing apartment. It was stable, but it wasn't. I had to have an incredibly well-paid job to pay for the rent. It was well beyond my means when I wasn't working. When I was well enough to work, it was a nice reward for my efforts, but the pressure to maintain the lifestyle wasn't sustainable. I got into debt, just so that I could have a place to live and not end up back on the streets. Moving is stressful. I didn't want to have to move again. I had the threat of financial ruin hanging over me the whole time.

I took a contract in Manchester because it came with a relocation allowance - an apartment. I never wanted to live or work in Manchester, but I was desperate. Out of sheer desperation - I was almost broke - I accepted the job and relocated. I didn't know anyone in Manchester. I tried to kill myself.

Of course I tried to kill myself. It was all too much to bear.

I ended up in hospital in Manchester. Of course I ended up in hospital again. I'm so vulnerable; my life is so fragile. I needed that safety; that security.

A stranger contacted me via email to say they'd read my blog. Did I want to live with them in Wales, they asked. At the time, I was living on a psych ward in a dormitory. Of course I wanted a bit of peace and quiet; a change from the insanity of the psych ward. Of course I wanted a stepping stone to a better life... the revolving doors of the institutions and welfare benefits have little to offer, except for days spent dribbling while watching daytime TV, doped up to the eyeballs on incredibly strong psychiatric medications.

I rented another apartment.

The stress peaked and I wanted to kill myself. I thought that the local job was going to fall through, I thought that the apartment was going to fall through, there was conflict with some people. Everything was falling to pieces. The stress was too much to handle. I was going to kill myself.

The stress peaked and now I'm lying on my sofa writing this, in my own place. I've got my own roof over my head, which is affordable. I've got the things that most people take for granted: money, a place to live, a partner, a job, a car. I've still got stuff that'll take time to fix, but it's so much easier when your living arrangements are acceptable, rather than impossible. Living in a hostel is OK when you're unemployed and single, but I've tried working a 'straight' job while living in a 14-bed hostel dorm, and it's impossible... trust me on that one.

You might think I'm spoiled and privileged. You might think that it's unfair that things are working out OK for me, when there are so many people who have things so much worse than me. Vulnerability is vulnerability though, and I've been so close to death so many times. How many times have I been in hospital, in the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) or high-dependency wards? How many times have I been on the brink of bankruptcy? How many nights have I slept rough? How long have I lived in hostels? Do you begrudge me my recovery?

There's more work ahead. I still need to dig myself out of a hole. I'm not out of the woods yet. I ran up debts just staying alive, which I need to repay. I need my income, to allow me to pay down my debts and build up a financial cushion in case I get sick again. I've got bipolar disorder, which means depression, mania and hypomania can all cause major problems in my life - there's no cure for this, and it can be really destructive when I have an episode. I need to stay well, but I don't have any choice in the matter.

So much of my precious stuff was lost, stolen, broken or has otherwise disappeared, during my lengthy escape from that abusive relationship. It's caused so much damage to my life, getting away from my ex and that horrible situation. I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Yes, it's true that at times in London I felt like I was making some progress, but there was too much pressure on me... too much pressure to maintain an unsustainable lifestyle.

Here in Wales life seems simpler; easier. There's less traffic, less crowding, less congestion, less pollution, fewer people, less competition, less crime, less noise... it's just a lot calmer. I feel like I'm calming down.

I can see the sea from my apartment. I can see the sea.

I used to own a house by the seaside.

I'm happy by the seaside.

Now, I'm starting to get my life back. I live by the seaside again. I'm not far from the beach. I can see the sea.

This is the journey I've been on. From domestic violence - domestic abuse - to domestic bliss. I'm a lot happier now I'm not having to barricade myself behind doors to protect myself.

 

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Poison Pen

7 min read

This is a story about pseudonyms...

Front door

I've moved house. I now live at the following address:

Mr Nick "Manic" Grant
Number One
Wales
United Kingdom

Send me a letter. I'm sure it'll get delivered. Pay me a visit sometime. Search for my address on Google Maps to see where I live.

The man who has nothing has nothing to lose.

I got used to the anonymity of London; the urban solitude; the crowds. I got used to my life being completely destroyed. I was always closer to death and destitution than I was to recovery and happiness, so I didn't care about my privacy. In fact I really did care about my privacy: specifically I didn't want to have any privacy, because I wanted the world to know all the reasons why my life was falling to pieces. I wanted witnesses. I wanted people to understand why I was dying or dead.

Things are different now.

When I recovered in London and got off the streets and back into civilised society, I still wasn't part of a community. In fact, I lost the community that I belonged to. I used to be a member of the homeless community, but then I got a nice apartment and I was no longer homeless. Twice I got myself off the streets and into a place of my own. Twice I dug myself out of a deep hole and sorted myself out... perhaps even three times. Each time everything fell to pieces.

I leapt at the chance to move to Manchester because I was homeless and bankrupt. I found a kind of community in Manchester... a community of addicts. That wasn't good.

When I was offered the chance to move to Wales, I was homeless and running out of money fast, and I was a patient on a locked hospital psych ward. In Wales I have found a community. It's a small place. People know each other. There are fewer degrees of separation. There isn't the anonymity of a giant city with millions of inhabitants. London has 9 or 10 million people. Manchester has the best part of 3 million people. That's more than the entire population of Wales.

I've made numerous assumptions about people's ability to make connections. I've assumed that by not mentioning names, places, dates etc. then I've managed to obfuscate anything that would allow anybody to be identified. I've assumed that nobody would have any idea who I'm talking about - or ever be able to discover who I'm talking about - when I write "my friends" or "my girlfriend" for example. I've steered clear of using the initial of the first or last name, or anything else that might be vaguely identifying.

Having lived out my life publicly on the pages of this blog for the best part of 3 years, I'm quite used to having visitors from all over the world reading my stuff. It's quite normal for me to tell the entire world all the gory details of my murky past and dodgy deeds. I'm pretty transparent; an open book.

Somebody from where I work has found my blog. I've upset some people who are very important to me, inadvertently, by writing something that I have subsequently deleted. To refer to these events is a risk. Those people will be able to identify themselves even if nobody else would ever be able to discover who I'm talking about. I guess my work colleague - for example - is thinking "how the hell?" and feeling a little spied on. My justification for writing whatever the hell I want has always been that you chose to come here and read all about me, which kinda means I'm allowed to know that you've been reading. If you have an opinion about me, I'll have an opinion about you... and I might share that opinion, although anonymised so only you know who I'm talking about.

Upon reflection, I've got too much to lose. I like my friends, my girlfriend, my job, my apartment. My life is going OK and we're coming into spring. My mood is improving. The future looks really great. Things are going really well now that I've overcome a whole heap of super-duper stressful stuff. Upon reflection, I'm no longer the man who has nothing, who has nothing to lose.

When I was down on my luck, I had no responsibilities because I couldn't handle any responsibilities. I didn't owe anybody anything, because I didn't have anything. I'd lost everything, which liberated me. I'm no longer liberated. I have to act responsibly.

I need to treat friends with respect. I need to treat my girlfriend with respect. I need to treat the local community with respect. I need to treat my colleagues with respect. I need to treat my profession with respect. My conduct needs to completely change from the kind of conduct that was appropriate for a destitute homeless guy with mental health problems, into conduct more befitting of the fine upstanding member of society that I'm now supposed to exemplify.

It's a transition period. I need to move from the old world to the new paradigm, where my life is improving and I've got lots of good things that I want to hang onto. I'm bound by the Official Secrets Act, as if to remind me that my old life of writing whatever the hell I wanted is now over.

I'm not sure how I'm going to use my blog as a healthy coping mechanism anymore, but I've just been through one of the most ridiculously stressful periods of my life, and it literally nearly killed me - I'm not being hyperbolic. I hope that I'm naturally not going to need to write "cry for help" or "angry rant" type pieces to dissipate the negative emotions and avoid killing myself. I hope that one day this might change from being a suicide note to something else. I have hope. I'm working towards a brighter, happier future.

There are going to be bumps in the road, I'm sure, but I really don't want to piss off my friends, girlfriend or work colleagues. Obviously, I have those people in my life and it might be unavoidable to mention them using those anonymised monikers, but I'm not going to be writing about them if you know what I mean. It'd be nice if can hang onto some of the good things I've gained in my life. It'd be nice if I can start to grow my group of friends rather than continuing the destructive patterns.

I doubt I'm going to write under a pen name; a pseudonym. I'm loud and I'm proud. This is the journey I've been on and I'm good at what I do. Why should I hide? Why should I be anonymous?

However, I appreciate that most other people are at completely the opposite end of the privacy/openness spectrum from me, and don't appreciate even the tiniest little things being splurged all over the pages of the internet, no matter how anonymised they are. Though I can't fully relate, I can respect those wishes and attempt to change my wicked ways. Sorry.

 

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Sleepless Night

4 min read

This is a story about peak stress...

Dunes at night

Unsurprisingly I didn't sleep last night. I was too stressed, rehearsing all the arguments that I was going to have with the letting agency and the tenant vetting people, trying to rent a damn apartment. I was thinking about how I was going to react if the worst-case scenario happened: that there's no way that I'm able to rent an apartment because I don't fit neatly in the boxes.

In the morning things were just as bad as I feared. I got an email saying that the only way I was going to be able to rent the apartment was if I paid a whole year's rent in advance - £8,100!

I managed to compose myself and wrote a polite reply explaining that the whole rigmarole was vexatious and I would pay rent in advance if it was a reasonable sum of money, but to ask for an entire year of rent was ludicrous.

To my surprise I received a pleasant reply saying they were doing everything they could to make things happen for me to be able to move in on Saturday, but that I did need to ask my accountant for my tax returns, even though they show I pay no income tax.

With the support and encouragement of a friend, I got my accountant to send over whatever he had. My friend thought that it was just a box-ticking exercise and it didn't matter what was on the documents.

In the afternoon I got an email saying everything was fine with my references and I can sign the tenancy contract and collect the keys on Saturday. Most unexpected.

After having received emails that contained all the words I dreaded - "delay", "can't proceed", "pay 12 months up-front", "no other way" - I was sure the whole thing was doomed to failure. I was extremely distressed. To pay the whole 12 months rent would've wiped out every penny I can lay my hands on and leave me nothing for food, petrol and other living expenses. I thought the ship had sailed. It was a miraculous turnaround.

I feel a little stupid for raising the alarm so early, but I knew that my mood was going to quickly blacken when all avenues had been exhausted and there was no way forward. I wasn't kidding or being melodramatic when I said I was at my wits end. I know it sounds like a disproportionate response, but it's taken so much out of me getting to this point. I can't suffer any major bumps in the road - I just don't have the spare capacity to soak them up.

I can celebrate a little now. I've got my feet under the desk in my new job and I've got confirmation that I'm going to get the keys to my apartment on Saturday. Things are going well. It seems a little crazy that things could've swung in a drastic and deadly direction if my hopes were dashed, but all those sleepless nights add up to complete desperation; unbearable stress and anxiety.

There will be bumps in the road and sleepless nights ahead, but every time I overcome an obstacle life gets a little easier. I'm slowly re-entering civilised society. I'm slowly rebuilding my financial safety cushion that will allow me to deal with bumps in the road.

Of course I feel a little like I've blackmailed the universe to give me what I want. Of course I feel quite like a petulant spoiled brat child who had a big tantrum. I'm a little embarrassed. I don't care, because I need a job and a place to live and other essential things for a normal ordinary modest little life.

I'll believe it when the ink's dry on the contract. I'll believe it when the keys are in my hand. I still haven't been paid from my new job yet, for example. I'll count my chickens when they're hatched.

I'm not being negative. I really am looking forward to moving into the apartment. I can relax a little now. I've paid the rent and the deposit. Perhaps things will work out OK.

 

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Suicide by the Numbers

4 min read

This is a story about not fitting neatly inside the boxes...

Contractor parking space

I'm trying to rent an apartment. The apartment rent is £675 a month. I earn approximately £7,000 a month after tax, although my take-home income for the last 3 months has been a mere £10,716.91 because I've had to work in London which has been awful. Yet, I'm still not able to rent an apartment that costs just £675 a month.

To prove my income I've provided my full bank statements for the last 3 months. To prove that I'm a reputable individual who will have no problem paying the rent, my chartered certified accountant has provided a reference. I've provided proof of address, proof of identity, proof of residency, proof of eligibility to live & work in the UK. I've proven everything, yet I'm still not able to rent an apartment that would cost £675 a month.

I don't pay any income tax. I pay £0.00 income tax. It might seem a bit morally objectionable to not pay any income tax, but I pay plenty of corporation tax and dividend tax. My productive endeavours bring in 20% VAT, 20% corporation tax and 7.5% dividend tax for HMRC - the taxman - so the UK benefits quite handsomely from my work, but still... I don't pay any income tax. Income tax is a very bad way to prove my income.

I currently earn £600 a day, which is £3,000 a week, which is £13,000 a month, which is £156,000 gross per annum. It really is gross just how much I earn. Of course, I have to pay my VAT bill, corporation tax bill and dividend tax bill. I get to keep 4.5% of the VAT and I can earn £11,500 without paying any tax at all.

With 8 weeks of holiday and sick leave per year, including bank holidays, my gross income works out to be £132,000. After tax, that gives me an income of £11,500 salary plus £68,820 in dividends, which is a take-home pay of £6,693 per month. I'll pay £51,680 in tax this year.

That's worth repeating.

I'll pay £51,680 in tax this year.

But, I pay zero income tax, so I can't rent a £675 a month apartment. I've been through the arduous tenancy checks and I don't fit neatly in their boxes. They can't wrap their head around the fact I don't pay any income tax, even though I've proven that I have an obscene amount of income.

The whole process of trying to work my way out of poverty, get myself off the streets and get back into civilised society has been exhausting. I'm fucked off with it. I've provided the most intimate of personal details. Every single item of my spending has been pored over and gone through with a fine-tooth comb. I've been poked and prodded and examined and found wanting, because I don't pay any income tax and the closed-minded drones who are responsible for determining whether I'm eligible to no longer be homeless have decided that I'm not allowed to have a home of my own for some reason.

It's made me really suicidal. Why did I put myself through all this shit? Why did I work so hard and struggle? Why have I been subjected to such an ordeal? Why bother?

I'm presently considering various suicide options. This shit is keeping me awake at night and I'm fucked off with it. I've had enough. This isn't acceptable.

It's not acceptable to block somebody from working their way out of poverty. It's not acceptable to stop a homeless person from getting themselves back on their feet. It's not acceptable that society should marginalise people like this. I've had enough.

I've had enough and I can't stop thinking about killing myself.

It's pushed me to the brink of suicide.

 

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Why Bother?

4 min read

This is a story about being put through the wringer...

Graffiti

Why did I fly to Warsaw to start a new job - 1,200 miles from home - and then live out of a suitcase in 12 different AirBnBs in London? Why did I put myself through the stress of spending every single spare penny I have on flights, hotels, AirBnBs, train tickets and other business-related expenses? Why did I have the miserable lonely experience of commuting hours from home and living in temporary accommodation, most of which was throughly dreadful? Why did I work so damn hard to impress my new boss; my new team? Why did I go through all the stress of going though security vetting and background checks? Why did I put up with all the anxiety of having the details of my life pored over by so many gatekeepers?

Having narrowly avoided bankruptcy and a nervous breakdown, I managed to reach the end of one contract and start another one. I managed to get through the transition from one job to another. I managed to deliver one project and start the next one. I did a good job and my client was happy. Now I've started in a new job and I've managed to make a good first impression yet again. I bought a car. I got myself into a financially OK position again.

Now I'm trying to rent an apartment. I'm not asking if I can practice open heart surgery on somebody even though I've got no experience or qualifications. I'm not asking for a favour. I'm offering to hand over my hard-earned cash so that the landlord doesn't have to work. I'll be paying rent up front and a deposit up front AND buying a tenant liability insurance policy, so the landlord is 100% de-risked - there is absolutely no risk in renting the apartment to me. It's my hard earned wages being handed over, because the landlord has wealth and assets and I don't - that's the exchange. My labour and their capital. I'm fine with this. That's the way of the world. That's capitalism, and I'm part of capitalist society so that's just the way things work.

The thing that's really upsetting me is that I'm going through yet more gatekeepers. There are all manner of checks and things that are being done on me - my credit rating, my previous landlords, my birth certificate, my DNA, my sexual preferences, my subconscious thoughts... my private life is being thoroughly poked and prodded. I'm not asking for a fucking favour. I'm exchanging my hard-earned wages for a place to live is all that's happening.

I hate the language of the whole thing - that I'm applying to be a tenant, like there are landlords out there who don't want to earn money for nothing... my money's no good for some reason. I hate the implication that I could be found wanting and rejected. I think it's inhumane. I find it offensive.

What happens if I AM rejected? Presumably it means that I'm well and truly stuck being homeless. If I can't rent a home from one letting agent, who's to say that things would be any different with another? They all have more-or-less same process of weeding out the bad eggs - those who are deemed unfit to be able to return to civilised society. There are significant barriers to entry. It's remarkably difficult to simply get a job and a place to live.

In short, why bother? Why put myself through such a degrading and horrible existence? Why should I beg and grovel and kowtow? Why am I being put through the wringer? Why is it so awful, when all I want to do is work, earn money and hand it over to somebody else for a place to live? Why bother? Why suffer this shit?

It's making me very upset. It's keeping me awake at night. I don't need this shit. I don't deserve this shit.

 

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