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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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Forced to be Free

10 min read

This is a story about normality...

Psych ward garden

Most people want a secure job, secure housing and to feel prosperous. Most people don't care about freedom of speech and a free press. Given the choice between security and freedom, most people would choose security every time. It's only a handful of paternalistic elites who dictate that we the people care a very great deal about freedom, when in actual fact this is not true at all.

Freedom has a very narrow definition. When we talk about freedom of speech and a free press, we do not also acknowledge the freedom to be hungry, the freedom to be homeless, the freedom to be marginalised, excluded and abandoned by our "fit in or f**k off" culture. While we might enjoy freedom of speech and a free press, those luxuries are only useful to a privileged few; the wealthy elites; the rich and powerful. While you are theoretically free to run for political office or broadcast your opinions, you are not at all free in practice.

The only freedoms that ordinary people have are the choice between virtually identical minimum wage zero-hours contract McJobs; the choice between conformity or social exclusion. You can be a free tramp, if you choose: you can be homeless, penniless, destitute and free, or you can be enslaved to the capitalists... it's up to you; you're free to choose.

Further, for those who are not neurotypical you have to choose between social exclusion, stigma and poverty or the chemical straightjacket of powerful psychotropic medications. You're free to accept the diagnoses and swallow the pills, and allow yourself to be 'normalised' so that you fit the rigid static definition of how a 'normal' person should think and act, or you can choose to be excluded from most economic and social activity because you don't fit in.

Many of us willingly and indeed eagerly beat a path to the door of our doctors, demanding medications that will return us to 'normality' when we find that we are deviating from what we perceive to be the norm. We see millions of others around us getting up at dawn, commuting to bullshit office jobs and being uncomplaining, so when we're troubled by depression, anxiety and other disruptive changes which force us to confront the purposelessness of our absurd existence, we 'choose' to be made normal again by psychiatry.

Society should be constantly adapting to the changing needs of the people, such that the stress and exhaustion in our lives is reduced or at least kept constant, but instead we see that the people themselves believe that they are the ones at fault. Students take amphetamines, modafinil and methylphenidate in order to artificially increase their concentration spans and stay awake during marathon exam-cramming sessions. Workers drink tea, coffee and energy drinks in a desperate attempt to stimulate their brains and fend off tiredness. We take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications so that we can withstand the horrors of a society which places greater and greater demands upon us, while also giving us less and less security: our jobs are under threat, our homes are under threat, we and our children are under threat. Where has the feeling of prosperity and the sense of optimism gone? We presume that it must be us who have faulty brains, as opposed to seeing that it's society itself which is failing to deliver the things we need.

As is oft-quoted: "it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society"

When more than 50% of the population are categorised as suffering from some sort of mental disorder, we must surely accept that it's the minority group who are the sick ones. Why should society continue only to serve the ones who are not suffering? Why should our idea of what is 'normal' be based on something which is abnormal because it is less common? Why are we trying to conform to such unrealistic and impossible ideals, which do not serve the majority of people?

"I'm miserable, so you have to be miserable too"

I think the above quote accurately sums up the attitude of powerfully influential figures in our society, who are blocking any progress towards a better way of life for all our citizens. I had the misfortune of making the acquaintance of a doctor who hated their job, their commute, the daily grind and - seemingly - their patients. This doctor made it their mission in life to deny time off work to anybody they could. Their reasoning was simple: because they were miserable and hated their job, they were going to make everybody within their power suffer too. A doctor has the power to dispense medications which might temporarily mask the symptoms of a sick and broken society, or to sign a piece of paper which excuses a person from the charade of having to go to their bullshit McJob every day. A doctor has the power to inflict misery on potentially thousands of people every year, and we must presume that as many doctors are as miserable as the general population as a whole, which means that more than 50% of doctors are perpetrating this kind of awfulness on the people they have power over.

We worship medicine and medics as a force for good, but in the increasing absence of organised religion in wealthy western democratic countries, we are seeing doctors elevated to a social status beyond what is reasonable, creating demi-gods who abuse their power. Just as with organised religion, we have suspended rational thought, cynicism, curious inquiry and skepticism, and have placed blind faith in the medical establishment to cure the ills of society. We reject politics and politicians as corrupt self-serving liars and we have lost faith in the ability of our vote and other democratic instruments to be able to influence our lives for the better.

The only thing we believe we're able to change is ourselves, with the assistance of doctors who can give us "magic bullet" pills to alter our mood and perceptions, as well as keeping us youthful and protecting us from death. We have fake tits, white teeth, hair implants, botox and numerous other procedures to alter our appearance, because we're powerless over anything except our looks. We can be reasonably sure that our lives are protected by hospitals and medicines, but our power to influence anything else in life, such as our socioeconomic prospects, is precisely zero.

While a sharp-elbowed tranche of middle-class society obsesses about their children's exam grades, places at the most desirable schools and universities, internships, graduate training programmes and otherwise attempting to give their precious little darlings a head start in life, this blinkered myopia ignores the fact that the baby boomers are getting older and older but living longer and longer, while also amassing asset portfolios well beyond their means, and preventing those precious little darlings from having any hope of having secure jobs and secure housing. In order to pay grotesquely unjustified and disgustingly greedy defined-benefit pensions to the generation who've contributed the least - except to national debts, global warming and a decline in living standards - the pension funds demand that workers are paid pitiful wages for longer hours in terrible working conditions, so that profits, capital gains and dividends can keep sustaining the unsustainable, unrealistic and ridiculously greedy selfish demands of those who are taking out far more than they paid in.

A small segment of society is free to write, paint, photograph, travel and generally enjoy the freedoms that we would all love to have, but the very vast majority of us are too busy trying to survive in an ecomony which is built to benefit the few, not the many. Only the old and wealthy are free, and they did not work hard to earn their freedom: they have stolen that freedom from the young and from the future generations who will inherit all the problems of today and tomorrow.

If you're an artist and/or an academic and you enjoy your life and your job, you need to remember that the position of privilege you're in is very rare and a very high price is paid by a huge number of people, so that you can swan around having a lovely time. Your freedom ends where mine begins, so if your freedom is disproportionately large compared to the rest of society's then you're being greedy and antisocial; you're an enemy of society. While it's very trendy to talk about freedom being important, we must be mindful that most people want security, not freedom. Think about the price that's paid by the whole of society for your luxury privileges.

To be truly free and happy, we might have to re-evaluate our priorities. We can't demand cheap food and cheap goods if we want to be free, for example, because those things are only made possible by the exploitation of workers. We can't demand passive labour-free unearned income, for example, because that's only made possible by tyranny, economic slavery and exploitation of the vulnerable. Most importantly, we can't expect to feel contentment and security, when we need unhappy, insecure people in order to sell consumer products and to keep our entire workforce on the treadmill, by heavily indebting them and denying them social housing or the ability to buy/build their own home.

You might teach your children that a strong work ethic and academic excellence are the route to getting ahead in life, but it's not true. Being a compliant hard worker means you will be exploited, and obtaining academic qualifications incurs a substantial amount of debt. Servicing debts and paying rent is a form of tyranny which has encroached on personal freedom to the point where only a tiny fraction of society enjoys any kind of meaningful freedom at all. Your children will not be able to escape the trap; there's no hope. The depression and lack of optimism for the future is driven by a rational, reasonable and sound assessment of our younger generations' prospects.

Our heavily indebted and heavily medicated society is also controlled by draconian laws which were ostensibly introduced to counteract terrorism and industrial unrest, but have been abused to undermine the strength of trade unions and prevent the establishment of any counter-cultural movements which might challenge the status quo. While we should be living in an age of alternative lifestyles and people dropping out of a society which clearly no longer serves the majority of people's needs, we are instead witnessing a miserable dystopia, where we're all trapped on the treadmill because the only alternative is hunger, homelessness, persecution and social exclusion.

Yes, I'm free to write whatever I want, provided I do not defame the powerful figures who are responsible for maintaining this miserable state of existence for so many millions, but those in power are quite comfortable in the knowledge that my ranting is safely confined to an echo-chamber filled with so much noise that, as Aldous Huxley predicted, the truth is drowned in a sea of irrelevance - information overload.

We are somewhat hoisted by our own petard. Almost none of us of us demanded freedom, but we have collectively made freedom of speech into something useless; toothless. We are not free at all and we have no mechanism by which to affect any meaningful change. What is supposedly our most powerful tool to speak truth to power - the freedom to express ourselves - has in fact become the reason why our voices are not heard and our suffering goes ignored.

All that's left is the freedom to be hungry, homeless, persecuted and excluded.

 

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Man on Fire

5 min read

This is a story about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons...

Greetings from California

I had 3 options: hospital, suicide, support network. Thankfully, I still have the latter.

I really didn't fancy another inpatient hospital admission. I probably would have had to accept stronger psychiatric medication, as it's pretty clear that my life hangs by a thread. One rash, hot-headed decision and it could be snuffed out in the blink of an eye. Think that sounds melodramatic? Screw you.

If you think that people say that they're depressed and suicidal because they're attention seeking, you're wrong. If you want to understand suicide a little more, you should watch The Bridge, by Eric Steel. It will cost you £2.49 and 90 minutes of your life.

I watched The Bridge as an inpatient. My suicidal plans to take Potassium Cyanide, changed. I decided that jumping off the Golden Gate bridge would have much deeper personal meaning, seeing as I had to cancel a San Francisco trip because of my horrible divorce. If you're going to die, do it quick & clean, or do it in some meaningful way, right?

Does it seem irresponsible? Well, actually I took out life insurance that covers suicide, that will leave a small legacy for my sister and my niece. I'm sure they'd rather have their brother/uncle, but suicide isn't really a choice but instead it's a reaction to unmanageable factors out of the control of that suffering individual.

So, instead of going back to hospital and being put in a chemical straightjacket, I made a video explaining what I was going to do and why. Then I booked a flight to San Francisco, packed a bag and headed to the airport. I was a man on a mission, but also a man on fire.

My friends have been scattered fairly far & wide. My friend John came back from Australia relatively recently, but we have been out of contact for years & years, and I struggled to support him - paying his rent and wages - when my need was very much vice-versa. We fell out when I grew impatient with his adoration of TV rather than job-hunting.

My friend Dave lives near Bristol. I would love to spend more time with him, but it's away from my work in London. That was one of the problems that was a coffin nail in our startup: Hubflow. I'm super grateful that Dave is such a great guy that he forgave me for becoming a complete sociopathic a**ehole as the pressure and stress of it all became too much, when I was CEO, and that we still seem to have a good friendship.

My friend Tim lives in Bournemouth. I really want to avoid that place. Bad memories linked to my divorce and startup failure. London is home. I like London.

My parents and a few old friends live in Oxford. I was dragged there against my will, and then my ex cheated on me, while I was temporarily evicted from my home. Bad memories. It's not my life... I live in London, not Oxford.

My sister and my friend MG live in Nottingham. I'd like to give it a go, but I haven't let London run its course yet. I will probably try and have a little pied-à-terre up there soon, so I have a base nearby my sister at a way lower cost than London. It's good to have an escape plan in case sh1t goes bad. Don't have one at the moment... hence suicidal thoughts.

I really want to get up to the North-East of England to see my friends Andy and Jim. It's a strange land for me though... I've been to the USA more times than I have been in the North of England, in my adult life.

ET Phone Home

So, when I booked my flights to California, USA, I knew that I was at least going somewhere with relative familiarity, even if that familiarity comes only from the movies I have watched and technology companies (Apple, Google, Oracle, Facebook etc. etc.) that I worship.

Also, I knew that there might be a chance to see long-lost friends, Ben & Jakub, who are business founders in Silicon Valley. Now, I feel very very embarrassed about the way I have conducted myself while things have not been going very well. I feel most embarrassed of all in front of these role models of mine, who have handled the same pressure and stresses. They have done it without vindictively and publicly blaming their shortcomings on their ex and/or parents.

Embarrassment drove me into my shell, made me withdraw. I didn't want the London Kitesurfers and my Cambridge peers from the Springboard Program to see me - an enthusiastic, happy-go-lucky, extroverted, capable and entertaining guy - so subdued by unhappiness in a destructive relationship. 

I stopped talking to my friends.

That was nearly fatal. Social media is the reason why I have maintained a toe-hold in life. Friends have reached out to me, when I'm clearly fumbling around without a bloody clue as to what the heck is happening to me, except that I'm loosing my grip on my will to live. That's made the difference. That's why I didn't chuck myself off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Thanks.

Nick in Black

Jakub lent me the Apiry.io bike so I could cycle to Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge. Another thing ticked off the bucket list (Friday 30th October, 24 hours after making the video)

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Wibble

2 min read

This is a story about a sane response to an insane world...

Catcher in the Rye

We were told Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) could hit us within minutes, but it took me 13 hours to be admitted to hospital when my life was in danger. We have our priorities totally wrong.

Nuclear weapons, guns, bullets, bombs, tanks, warplanes, warships, submarines... can these things really come ahead of seeds, tractors, irrigation, clean water, reversing the spread of deserts, planting trees, immunising people against preventable diseases, treating illnesses that are seen as 'par for the course' in Western life - like diarrhoea - that kill in the developing nations, and the education of girls and young women; that data has shown to be the most effective route to good family planning,

Is it a lack of education that causes people to believe what they read in commercial newspapers, and what they see and hear on commercial radio and TV, which have a political and economic bias, to maintain plutocratic power and control over the struggling masses? Why are people so racist? Why are people so protectionist? Why are people so uneducated regarding repetition of the mistakes that history teaches us, that people have made time and time again?

Technology can save us, but it can save us in unusual ways. For example, microbial filters like the LifeStraw® from Vestegaard. Obviously, this drinking straw stops waterborne pathogens from being ingested, but - perhaps more significantly - it reduces the carbon footprint of people who use it, because they no longer have to boil water to make it safe to drink. This device makes profits through carbon credits claimed for every straw used.

That makes a lot more sense to me than trying to get the rich to put money in charity collection buckets. Keep your coins, I want change.

Lovely View

I would rather be at work, or looking at the river from my apartment. Anybody who says I engineered this situation must be mad (October 21st, 2015)

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Now is the Winter of our Discontent

7 min read

This is a story of the part of Great Britain without a voice...

Bookie Wook

Our media misrepresents "youths" (young people) just like they misrepresent "refugees", "insurgents", "benefit cheats", "drug addicts", "criminals", "con men" and a whole host of other convenient 'bad guys' that help them to tell stories to sell newspapers, magazines and sell TV and radio advertising slots.

I saw a TV program the other night that was criticising a small business owner for paying somebody cash in hand to work for them. Surely the real story was that this well presented, educated and posh sounding journalist was even able to get a job paying £6.50 an hour without alerting suspicions... that's about the best job that even high-achieving school leavers and graduates can expect to get.

The prospects for young people today are atrocious. There are not enough training contracts and apprenticeships. There are no jobs to gain the valuable experience that will make these bright, energetic, enthusiastic and hard-working people into productive members of the workforce.

The Conservative Government has done what it normally does, which is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and I'm pretty angry about that.

The Tories presided over the Big Bang, which resulted in the Yuppies and Loadsamoney generation of the 1980s, but still left big social divides. When the Tories then tried to introduce the Poll Tax, which was a massive tax on the poor, people were outraged.

The Tories have now started to attempt to dismantle the social welfare system, leaving many unemployed, unwell and less abled people, living well below any acceptable standard for a developed Western nation.

Have you actually spoken to people, about how hard it is for them to stretch their budgets? Have you really gotten to know what the daily problems they face are? Have you attempted to live on Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Disability Living Allowance? Have you filled in the forms? Have you been to assessments, been to the centres, tried to navigate the system? No, I didn't think so.

Many parents have masked the problem, until now, by subsidising their children and grandchildren. This has merely propped up a completely untenable government and lined the pockets of the rich. So much money has been siphoned off into wealthy people's pockets, with little or none of it actually reaching those who work so hard to improve the day-to-day lives of British Citizens.

Do our Nurses feel better off under the Tories? No. Do our Teachers feel better off under the Tories? No. Do our Police feel better off under the Tories? No. Do our Firemen and women feel better off under the Tories? No. Do our Armed Services feel better off (financially) under the Tories? No.

While the Tories have fanned the flames of nationalism and warmongering, and attempted to stoke up a culture of Union Jack and St. George flag waving. This hoodwinks the undeniable erosion of the standard of living of ordinary people living in the UK.

Have the Tories made it any easier for people to buy their first house? No. Have the Tories made it any easier for young people to get their first job? No. Have they increased wages, or reduced rents or generally taken control of the fact that people's debts are spiralling out of control because most young persons' incomes are not sufficient to pay for the basic essentials for an acceptable life.

We are living, for the first time, in a generation where our opportunities, our standard of living is significantly worse than that of our parents and grandparents. Can people afford to get married, buy a house and have kids? No.

If you take away all hope from people, of being able to own their own little piece of the world, to put down some roots, to fall in love, make a baby and raise a family independently... you are robbing people of their self esteem. You are robbing a whole generation of the chance for them to show you just how hard working and intelligent and resourceful they are, in 'legitimate' ways.

The 'austerity' has merely drained the pension pots of our parents, in supporting the children that have been abandoned by a government run by rich old people, for rich old people. These greedy greedy career politicians are so completely out of touch with what is happening in high-rise council flats in Britain's towns and cities. They haven't got a clue what's happening on the huge estates and new housing developments.

The career politician went to private school, lives in taxpayer funded flat in a gentrified enclave of wealth in London, and commutes back to a rich market town or pretty village, where they are surrounded by wealthy people who have bled Britain dry at the expense of the masses. They have never spent any time in the real world.

There are exceptions, on the left and the right, of course, but in general it seems like the strategy of selecting a House of Commons from the most elite group of privately educated toffs who have never had to experience the welfare system first hand, might have something to do with why people are so angry and upset right now.

The problem is, that these people have few routes to being heard in the media and affecting the public opinion of those in power. Politicians are surrounded by an echochamber of similarly minded and educated elite people, who arrived in their positions as journalists, by very much the same route as them.

London really is a place where a politician and a journalist can live in one gentrified street, completely oblivious to the struggles in the social housing on a neighbouring street. Of course, the people in the 'council house' can't afford to shop on the super-expensive streets of London's trendier areas, so the wilful ignorance persists, because the different socioeconomic groups never actually intermingle.

You can't criticise the business owners who are only supplying to demand. It is not the hipster's 'cereal cafe' that is in the wrong, but in fact the whole system that allows such disparity between rich and poor, to exist and grow.

So, the young have ended up being misdirected into disliking the hipsters, just like they were told to hate the yuppies before. Actually, these people are the ones who got lucky or worked hardest. The people we should really be angry with are the ones who are filthy rich and didn't work for it.

I know it looks to many like riding a bike to work and wearing trendy clothes is all there is to the job, but actually, people in startups do at least 5 jobs each (e.g. Designer, Developer, Tester, Marketing and Sales) and tend to work at least double the hours that you would work in a regular job. They also work 6.5 days a week, and are always available on email and social media. They never switch off, because they are so passionate about their businesses. That's why their businesses have succeeded and not just been turned into another bland chain of corporate humdrum grey monotony.

I urge people to find their voice, and make themselves heard in a peaceful, constructive and erudite way. I'm concerned that the media will fan the flames of youth anger, racist ignorance, misguided nationalism, anti-immigration bigotry and everything else I detest about media 'themed reporting' that tends to fixate on a particular narrative that engages people's eyeballs... and therefore their wallets.

We need to remember... the only 'free' press is online, the BBC and the Observer. Everything else is paid for by a greedy rich old person with a political agenda.

I would suggest that people start boycotting newspapers that are paid for by headlines and advertising, and TV news that shows adverts on commercial channels. Start reading opinions from individuals on Twitter who you like and trust. You will also see what's trending, which is far more real than what is being chosen to be pushed by a news desk editor.

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