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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.

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Stash

10 min read

This is a story about drug dependency...

Pills

This is how I function. This is how I normalise myself. This is how I comply with society's demands. This is how I cope with social jet-lag. In our fit-in-or-fuck-off culture, this is how I conform. These are my crutches. I might appear functional and unimpaired. It might be somewhat insulting or offensive to describe myself as struggling in any way - perhaps I should instead talk about my wealth and privilege and acknowledge that since being born with a silver spoon in my mouth, my life has been uninterrupted gilded luxury; I've never known pain; I've never known suffering.

Think about the starving African children.

I comparison with the 8 or 9 bottles of red wine I was consuming every week - drinking alone - my use of a few sleeping pills and tranquillisers seems relatively safe and healthy.

This is all I have left.

I've had to eke out my dwindling supplies for far longer than I'd expected to. My opportunities to "re-up" have been constricted and constrained. I've been forced into drug withdrawal, which mercifully has been bearable because of my successful rationing strategies.

Insomnia has been the price I've paid for economising; suddenly cutting back on the medications I've become dependent on. Hypomania has been a very real and tangible consequence of the brain chemical destabilisation.

Perhaps I shouldn't meddle with my mind? Perhaps I should put my faith in the medical community? Perhaps there are people who know what's best for me?

Ironically, I'm using these medications - obtained on the black market - to plaster over the cracks and blend in with the very people who are specifically tasked with deciding what's best for you. I'm a member of the paternalistic elite. One should always remember that the people dishing out the advice and prescriptions are just as fucked up as everybody else.

My hypomania constantly threatens to boil over and create a disaster. My hypomania is a constant threat to all the health and wealth I've managed to accumulate this year. My hypomania is almost impossible to conceal, constantly attempting to sneak out from under the cover and camouflage I've carelessly draped over it, in the hopes of it being ignored and not talked about by my discreet, polite and extremely civilised colleagues.

Unable to sufficiently bludgeon my brain into submission to society's demands, using powerful psychiatric medications, my mask slips.

Exhaustion from the toll of 11.5 consecutive months desperately attempting to re-enter civilised society has reduced me to surviving on my instincts. I speak without thinking. It is only my well-practiced and well-rehearsed routines which allow me to continue to appear functional, when my mind has crumbled and descended into outright insanity internally. If I could only sit mute in my office chair at my desk, I would be fine, but unfortunately stuff pops into my head and pours out of my mouth before I have a chance to hold my tongue.

My medication dependency is a cruel mistress. My anxiety skyrockets in the late afternoon and evenings as my short-acting tranquilliser wears off. My insomnia robs me of refreshing and energy-replenishing sleep, leaving me almost paralysed by panic attacks about the simple task of getting out of bed, having a shower, getting dressed and going to work. Unless I take the right amount of pills at the right time, my mask of sanity quickly slips. The illusion of a functional productive member of society quickly evaporates, the moment that I skip a dose or start reducing my medication.

Of course, I'm hopelessly dependent. I admit it. So what?

My life revolves around my regular medication doses. So what?

Doesn't anybody's life revolve around cyclical things? Life and death, sunrise and sunset, summer and winter, weekdays and weekends, work and leisure, awake and asleep, hungry and satiated, horny and spent, love and loss. Some of the cycles are societally and culturally enforced to remain the same year-round, when it's clear that it's unnatural. Why the hell don't we sleep more in winter, when the days are shorter? Why the hell don't we sleep more when we're tired? Who the hell invented the fucking alarm clock and the 9 to 5 office job anyway?

I am quite literally tyrannised and oppressed - abusively coerced - into compliance with health-damaging social rituals, lest I be excluded from society; marginalised. It's in my rational economic self-interest to comply, but it's in the interests of my mental health to refuse to comply. Non-compliance will be met with harsh and intolerable economic sanctions.

Of course I seek out and consume the pharmaceuticals which 'normalise' me and allow me to cope; to function.

You might be surprised that I'm a junkie who needs his fix so that he can work a boring office job. You might think that junkies take drugs to feel pleasure and otherwise get high, but my drug dependency is mandated by the otherwise unbearable awfulness of the 9 to 5 grind.

You might think that people get rich off drugs by selling them. You might think that drugs will ruin your life, my drug dependency has been a mandatory part of repairing my life. Do you really think that it's humanly possible to achieve the kind of comeback - the recovery - which I've managed to complete during the past 11.5 months of turning up at the office and acting normal, without access to the full range of pharmaceutical options?

I've done the impossible: gotten off the streets, where I was sleeping rough, gotten out of the hostels, gotten off the terrible drugs, gotten out of the psych wards, repaid unimaginably huge debts, got myself a place to live of my own, got myself a respectable good job, held down that job, impressed my colleagues, delivered high quality work on time and on budget.

You think that was possible without performance enhancing drugs? Are there laws that say I can't use the very best of medical technology to allow me to function at my very best in a workplace environment? I'm not an athlete. I can use whatever the fuck I want and I have done.

It might seem logical to presume that I must now have a massive drug habit, because I've leaned so heavily on unhealthy coping mechanisms to get me to the point I'm at today.

I use the word "dependency" very carefully.

It's true that technically I am dependent on medications. It's true that abrupt cessation of the 2 or 3 medications I use on a regular basis would be catastrophic for my career, my reputation, my finances, my stability and all the other things in the house-of-cards which constitutes my life.

However, the doses I take are laughably negligible.

Instead of being in a horrible mess, the dose which maintains me in a functional and stable state is totally reasonable and acceptable. The problems I've stored up for the future - by becoming dependent on medications for normal day-to-day functioning - are pathetically tiny insignificant problems compared with the goddam mountainous obstacles I've had to tackle to get this far.

It concerns me that my stash is now critically low, because my whole happy healthy wealthy future hinges upon the continuation of the well-established routine for another 6 to 12 months, at the very least. If I can carry on with my dirty junkie medication dependency for another 18 months I will be rich as fuck compared to the struggling masses, which would be an unexpected result for anybody who's been brainwashed to believe that junkies like me are no-hope losers.

I don't go to the doctor. I don't have a psychiatrist. I don't have a psychologist. I don't have a community mental health team (CMHT) or a crisis team. I do what the fuck I want.

My experiments with being completely medication-free earlier in the year were a total disaster. I do hope that one day I'll be able to quit the pills, but I don't see how I'll ever be able to do when my health needs directly contradict capitalism's need to exploit me as an expendable commodity. There is a fundamental incompatibility between human needs and corporations' needs. There is a systemic inability to cope with anybody who deviates from the top of the bell curve.

I'm different, and I no longer expect society to accomodate me. I accept that I must alter myself - with pharmaceuticals - so that I can accomodate society's inflexible demands for homogeny and conformity.

I swallow a sleeping pill so that my social jet-lag is medically corrected. I swallow a short-acting tranquilliser so that the existential dread of working a pointless bullshit meaningless office job is bearable. I'm not overjoyed or happy to be doing it. In fact, I'm not happy at all about any of the situation. It would be fucking weird if I was artificially happy all the fucking time, because there's not a lot to be happy about during the death-throes of late capitalism.

You know what makes me happy? Spooning. Kittens. Holidays. Sex. Dreaming about going to live in a cabin in the woods. Delicious food. Binging on mindless entertainment. Extreme sports. Writing.

Should I be attempting to live the dream? Should I be trying to have it all? Should I mix work and pleasure?

Yes, I'm going to do all those things but you have to pay to play and it costs a fuckload of cash to make dreams come true.

I'll leave you with this quote:

"The power of inclosing land and owning propriety, was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murther their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or theeve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand, by the power of the sword; and so you justifie the wicked deeds of your fathers" -- A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England, Gerrard Winstanley

It's up to the reader to decide whether I'm a Lord of the Manor, born into wealth and enjoying inheritance from my ancestors who plundered and stole. The fact that you've persevered reading this text in English using a computer or smartphone puts you into a certain socioeconomic set and suggests a level of academic achievement, which might suggest you might have benefitted equally from "the power of the sword" although you did not "kill or theeve" yourself.

All I can say of myself is that I'm trying to play by the rules in a rigged game. Nobody said I wasn't allowed to use performance enhancing drugs. This isn't sport, it's survival.

 

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Condescendingly Oversimplifying Highly Complex Life-or-Death Issues and Trivialising my Achievements

7 min read

This is a story about perseverance...

Tree in winter

Despite the exhaustive lengths I've gone to in order to make myself understood, surprisingly few people have any appreciation of my achievements in conquering insurmountable odds. It shocks me that there is a complete lack of comprehension of the magnitude of the task, of starting a journey of recovery locked up on a psych ward, unemployed, homeless, £54,000 in debt, physically dependent on addictive substances and having just survived a suicide attempt that was very nearly successful. "Have you tried yoga? Have you tried kale smoothies?" people still write to me.

Yes, I take offence to being patronised.

still take offence to being patronised.

"You're only one trite platitude away from complete recovery" people seem to think.

Oh. My. God.

Drop everything.

A fucking meme saved my fucking life.

Said nobody ever.

A self-help book saved my life.

Said a bunch of idiots who failed to establish a causative relationship.

I'm a fucking computer scientist so I don't hold a lot of sway with superstitious beliefs in sky monsters, fate, karma, astrology, homeopathy, acupuncture, healing crystals, tarot cards and all that other mumbo-jumbo. I believe in cold hard cash. I believe in empirically proven theories which have been peer reviewed, with reliably reproducible experimental results.

In a way, my whole life has been conducted in a very scientific manner, which should come as no surprise given that my career has been dedicated to working in a logical and rational field, governed by rigid formal rules. There's no room for airy-fairy hand-waving nonsense bullshit in my professional field. There's a right answer and a wrong answer, and it's not possible to put your faith in god to fix your goddam code. It's not possible to put your faith in god to fix your goddam life. There are no higher powers. There is no supernatural. No amount of exercise and good diet is going to repay your £54,000 debt.

If it seems like I'm labouring the same points over and over again, and telling the same miserable story which appears to have changed very little in the 13 or so months since I was in an utterly fucked situation, you're a total fucking moron.

Of course my story is repetitive.

Of course my story is miserable.

Of course my story is boring.

Of course my story has changed very little.

From the start of December until now, I've lived out of a suitcase in hotels, working a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job. All I do is work, sleep, eat and write my blog.

I'm paying back £54,000 of debt.

I didn't start with nothing. I started with less than nothing. I started at a considerable disadvantage.

Starting with nothing would have been a fucking dream.

Most people in my situation would have declared bankruptcy. Most people in my situation would have given up.

I'm not most people.

Most people would never have had the opportunity to get £54,000 in debt. Most people would never be able to repay £54,000 in debt. It costs £10,800 a year to service a debt of £54,000, assuming a credit card interest rate of 20%. Do you have a spare £10,800 kicking around every year?

Remember that I also started this journey locked up on a psych ward, jobless and without a vehicle.

How do you think you'd get out of that particular sticky situation?

"I'd get a job"

Yeah? How much would that job pay? Would you also need a place to live? Would you need to pay transport costs to get you to the fucking job?

It's a hard problem to solve.

No amount of inspirational quote memes can solve the problem. No amount of exercise and good diet can solve the problem. No amount of being patronised as fuck by people who don't have problems will solve the problem.

If I sound angry and that I'm raging... you're damn right.

It's been ludicrously difficult and stressful to get to this point.

I might sound like a scratched record. You might wish for me to be telling a happier and more uplifting story, but the truth is that it's hard damn work to dig yourself out of a very deep hole. I'm sorry that in reality there are no quick fixes. I'm sorry that the real world is not at all like the fantasy world. There are no overnight successes. There are no sudden improvements. There is no solution in the form of a goddam inspirational quote meme.

If your life is sorted, well fucking done. Big congrats.

If your life is sorted, please don't think that you can jump into my world and quickly figure out what I'm doing wrong. Please don't fall into the trap of seeing yourself as some sort of saviour. Please don't patronise me by assuming that I'm overlooking some easy short-cut.

My story sucks because my life sucks, but my life is improving very slowly.

It takes relentless patient persistent perseverance to fix a fucking shit-tonne of problems. I don't tell the story to entertain and amuse you. I tell my story because it's real and I don't know how it's going to end. I tell my story because I think it's important to bear witness to the struggle - the reality - of people who are trying to re-enter civilised society, having been marginalised and excluded.

If you're getting impatient for the good bits, fuck off. I'm impatient too. There are no short-cuts and it's me who has to put up with the daily misery of the painfully slow progress.

Yes, at some future point I hope to sum up this whole rotten period in an executive summary; a short synopsis. When the dreadful task is finally completed, I can change my story to something different. For now, the story seems to be the same miserable repetitive depressing crap, because that's the reality of my life.

I think there's a lot to be celebrated in my achievements of the past year, but of course we have been reared on a diet of Hollywood and Disney movies, so the feeble-minded are encouraged to believe that every story should be a simple fairytale. Reality doesn't care about your desire for easy-to-understand, linear and uplifting tales of overnight success. Reality is an absolute bastard that needs to be bludgeoned to death with sheer determination; force of will. Reality is boring as fuck, most of the time.

Of course my day-to-day tale is mostly banal, hence why my debts are being repaid with exceptional speed. I have sacrificed pleasing fantasy for real achievement, at the cost of childish fantasies about following my dreams. I sell my brain and body to the highest bidder and put myself through an ordeal of misery, because it brings in a lot of cold hard cash.

It offends me when people who've enjoyed wealth, privilege and fucked about doing whatever the fuck they want, talk to me about how I should be living my life. They followed their dreams and indulged their selfish wants, but I don't have that luxury. I am forced to inhabit reality. I live in a capitalist plutocratic society dominated by global corporations, and I have to work for a living because I was £54,000 in debt, jobless, homeless, without a vehicle and locked up in a psychiatric institution. Do you understand?

I don't get to dream. I don't get to live in a fantasy world. I'm forced to inhabit reality.

 

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I Am Ridiculously Exposed

6 min read

This is a story about laying it all on the line...

Glasses

My livelihood, any realistic prospect of me being able to pay back my mountainous debts and the impossible dream of restoring myself to health and wealth - escaping the nightmare - hinges upon successfully blending in as a part of an organisation which is particularly noted for being intolerant of anybody with bad character.

I've been required to fill in a 66 page form which legally obliges me to disclose criminal convictions, psychiatric problems, the abuse of drugs and alcohol, partners from the last 3 years, marriage, divorce, bankruptcies, loan defaults, debt repayment agreements, financial conduct and details about my parents. Most employers are only entitled to know about any unspent criminal convictions, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, but I work for an organisation that knows everything.

Of course, I'm ahead of the game, because I've already publicly declared every single unflattering thing about myself.

Luckily I've never been convicted of a crime, but there are still some things I'm legally bound to disclose which would portray me in a less-than-ideal light to the powers that be, who will judge me based on what they see on paper. My life and my future will be reduced to a few scribbles on a form.

Many people have been through rough breakups and divorces and had breakdowns. Many people suffer from mental illness. Many people have had periods where they've drunk too much or dabbled with recreational drugs. Nobody is squeaky clean.

I'm in the ludicrous situation where I'm more-or-less managing to plod along and keep my mouth shut, and demonstrate that I'm a competent and capable valuable team member at work, but I've continued to write and publish this blog using my real name. I've continued to write with unflinching honesty about some of the terrible stuff I've been through and the aftermath of problems I'm dealing with, as I desperately attempt to get back on my feet.

I'm in the ludicrous situation where my hard work is beginning to pay off and my debts are getting rapidly repaid. I'm in the ludicrous situation where there's an end in sight, provided nobody screws me over.

It appears to be self-sabotaging that I would continue to write and publish stuff which makes me so exposed and vulnerable, but in fact my online presence has been one of the big factors in my recovery. Without being able to share my story and connect with kind supportive people, I couldn't have gotten this far. Without having the sense of identity, pride in my achievement and the structure and routine that daily public writing gives me - the scrutiny - then I would have been destroyed by my problems and would have perished in obscurity long ago.

Whaddya want to know about me?

Trouble with the police? Sure. I got caught with legal highs a couple of times.

Psychiatric problems? They don't call me Nick "Manic" Grant for no reason. I make no secret of having bipolar disorder.

Drug and alcohol abuse? Not the former anymore but the latter is a bit of a problem, although my drinking doesn't seem to be any more abusive than that of most of my colleagues. Arguably I'm successfully self-medicating, because I'm functional and unmedicated.

Partners from the last 3 years? I haven't co-habited since separating from my wife.

Marriage and divorce? Tied the knot in Hawaii. Divorced 18 months later.

Bankruptcies and other debt problems? I pay my bills. I've never defaulted. I'm a good debtor.

Financial conduct and credit score? I need to pay back half my credit card debt ASAP but that's the only bad thing on my credit file.

Parents? They're not seditious traitors. They're not Russian, Chinese or terrorist sympathisers. They're not political agitators.

What about my character in general? I've had a successful career spanning more than 2 decades, working for some very big organisations on important projects. If I was some kind of fraudster or con artist, my true character would surely have been unmasked by now.

There's a lot written down here which could easily be twisted and used against me by somebody intent on casting me in a bad light. I write a lot of things about myself which are very unflattering and wouldn't usually be publicly declared by people. I spend a lot of time asking people to take the things I voluntarily tell them and to decide for themselves how they want to judge me.

It's a ridiculous thing to do.

For one reason or another I've become easier and easier to find, for anybody who bothers to look. Because of a recent mistake I made I've become even easier to find than ever before. All the effort that I've put into projecting myself into public consciousness, because I've been on the verge of suicide for so long, is finally gaining traction and I'm becoming a victim of my decision to make myself exposed and vulnerable.

Every time I write and publish I have to consider the consequences to my life. I have to make a decision between my ideological belief that we have a right to live with the freedom to be proud of our identities and to be open and honest, without fear. If we really live in a free country I should be free to be candid and not suffer persecution and tyranny. If we honestly believe in equal opportunities and our laws forbidding discrimination, then we need to take the brave and bold step of speaking without fear of repercussions.

This vast repository of information that I've created is the polar opposite of a 66 page form, designed to distill me down to a few ticks in boxes. This 1.1 million word document is intended to frustrate the reader who is looking for a convenient pigeon hole to stuff me into.

Do your worst. I'm not afraid.

 

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Normal Service Has Resumed

7 min read

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

The Ritz

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

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

I went down.

I went down hard.

I went all the way to the bottom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I should be dead.

But I'm not.

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

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

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

 

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Paranoia: So Close But Yet So Far

8 min read

This is a story about being thwarted...

Social Media Training

If I was prone to paranoia, I could swear that I've had more than my fair share of bad luck while trying to get back on my feet. Things should have panned out for me several times, but I've so far been thwarted by some asshats.

In September 2014 I was beginning to sort myself out after my divorce. I took a quick holiday before starting a new job. I was making good progress with the new project, but a couple of asshats took offence to me getting ahead and conspired to screw me over. Mercifully I took 'em down with me, although it was a hollow victory.

In September 2015 I'd had an eventful summer but I'd achieved a lot and proven myself to be a valuable member of the team on the project I was working on. It was a friend who rather unreasonably expected me to help him get a job and get out of the dive he was living in, which pushed me beyond my limits and made me unwell. There was also excessive pressure on me at work, but I could have coped if I'd have had a more settled personal life, such as having a secure place to live and some financial assistance.

In September 2016 I was starting to believe that I was finally going to get back on my feet, but the project I was working on was cancelled unexpectedly. With hindisight I suppose it was obvious that the project was going to get cancelled and that it was a dead-end job. It's my own fault for taking my eye off the ball. It's my own fault that I didn't immediately attempt to get another job, but I'd been so bored and miserable, and I felt like I'd been de-skilled by all the time off work I'd had. I hadn't learned anything, gained any new experience or developed at all on the project, so my self-confidence was at rock-bottom.

In September 2017 I was sacked because I was in a coma on life support and the asshat I was working with thought that unconscious people are able to make telephone calls to phone in sick. He still owes me a lot of money. Obviously I had a lot of different problems that year, but successfully delivering software projects was not one of them - never has been and never will be.

I've been working for 10 consecutive months without a holiday and I've delivered two software projects successfully into production. I got sick in May, but I was given the benefit of the doubt because I'd proven myself to be a valuable member of the team, like I always do. I was sick in January/February time and barely limping along, but because I'd already completed my project in record time nobody much cared. That's the way I work - I'm blazing fast when I'm well, but I get sick too. You don't get to have me only on my good days - you've gotta take the rough with the smooth - although I don't charge my clients for the days I'm not productive.

Even with all the gaps in-between projects and time off sick, I've still delivered a hell of a lot of software in the last 4 years and I've impressed a lot of clients and colleagues. I've achieved a huge amount, despite not being very well. What I've managed to do in the workplace is all the more remarkable when we consider that it's set against a backdrop of homelessness, near-bankruptcy, drug addiction, mental health problems, hospitalisations, being sectioned and kept on locked psych wards, suicide attempts, moving all over the country, being estranged from family, social isolation and a whole host of other things which are toxic to a person's chances of succeeding in life.

I don't want to pat myself on the back too much, but I deserve a break. It's time I made a breakthrough. It's time I'm allowed to make a breakthrough.

Every time I get close to making a breakthrough, something goes wrong which is beyond my control.

It's making me paranoid.

If I can get to the end of the month, I'll have hopefully proven my worth sufficiently with my colleagues on my current project, such that I'll be able to relax and take a holiday in October. It would be incredibly cruel and unlucky if something went wrong, such that I'm not able to go away on holiday and relax, knowing I've got a job to come back to. That's what happened to me earlier this year, when I'd booked a holiday in June but then my project ended and I found myself looking for work again.

It's good that I've been able to work for 3 different organisations on 3 different projects this year, without any asshats screwing things up, yet. Not having huge gaps between projects has been crucial to my recovery. Also, it's important to note that this year I haven't - yet - been screwed over by anybody and I've been recognised for my talents and experience which I have to offer. It's nice to feel confident in my own abilities and to feel like I have proven myself to be reliable and dependable, beyond any doubt.

Obviously, I'm very exposed - my colleagues have seen the semicolon tattoo behind my ear and must have wondered if and when I'm going to get sick, but hopefully they've now started to see that I'm very capable and productive; hopefully they're enjoying working with me and they value me as a team member. However, if I need to take any time off work sick, it will obviously raise doubts again about whether my mental illness makes me a useless loser who should never be allowed into civilised mainstream society or permitted the dignity of getting back on my feet.

I'm probably pushing things too hard for too long. I should probably have a holiday sooner rather than later, before I have a breakdown; before I burn out. However, I also want to get to the end of the month, because it's a significant milestone and it puts enough cash in the bank to leave me safe from any unexpected bumps in the road. I'm so desperate to get back to a position of security as quickly as possible, having been on this agonisingly drawn-out journey with so many dashed hopes.

Everything is set up very well for me to be able to continue working and improving my life, but I'm paranoid that something's going to go wrong and screw everything up.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the consequences of a work colleague discovering my blog. I wonder if I might be the architect of my own destruction by writing this. There's nothing here that's unprofessional though. I'm not naming my client or divulging confidential details about the project I'm working on. I'm not guilty of misconduct of any kind.

As you can see from the screenshot above, I've been trained to be paranoid. I've been trained to keep my mouth shut and pretend like I don't have any problems. Despite the walls of the office being plastered with posters which proclaim "it's OK to talk about mental health problems" they really don't mean ME. I'm expected to be faultless. If and when my faults are ever revealed, it will be the end of me. The tiniest blemish is career-ending for those of us who work in the corporate world, where we must maintain a fake professional façade of perfection at all times.

If I'm feeling optimistic I like to think that my valuable contributions would outweigh the stigma and shock of realising that my colleagues have been working with a homeless, junkie, alcoholic, bankrupt with mental health problems all along - I should never have been allowed to get past the gatekeepers and rub shoulders with those who inhabit the fit-in-or-fuck-off corporate world.

When I'm feeling paranoid I feel like I'm only tolerated because I'm reasonably good at pretending to be a regular guy - any hint of who I really am and what I've really been through, and I'll be swiftly ejected onto the street to suffer destitution and homelessness.

It's so frustrating right now, because I've almost but not quite got enough money to complete my transformation from homeless, junkie, alcoholic, bankrupt with mental health problems, back to somebody who's indistinguishable from any other corporate drone. I'm so desperate to prove that it can be done - to get back on my feet from a terrible situation. It'll crush me if I'm thwarted.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. The next few weeks are crucial.

 

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The Journey

11 min read

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

Hotel room

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

River panorama

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

My glasses

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

Psych ward terrace

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

Golden Gate Bridge

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

Sleep out

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

Self harm

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

Cruise ship

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

Cooking with bath salts

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

New Year's Eve

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

DVT

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

Drug shrine

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

Manchester flats

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

Psych ward fence

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

Hay bales

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

Rat race

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

Keys

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

Papered windows

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

Cashflow

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

Empty wine bottles

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

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

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

It's the world's longest suicide note.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Monkey Dust

11 min read

This is a story about the food of the gods...

Monkey dust

It was a spate of sensationalistic tabloid newspaper articles which first alerted me to the fact that you can buy super-strong high purity narcotics on the internet. It seems fairly obvious that the internet would sell drugs, given that pornography and escorts are readily available to anybody who looks online. It's a simple case of supply and demand.

Your average middle-class person normally has excellent life prospects - they're likely to be able to get a rewarding secure job, buy a house and afford to raise a family. Having a nice life is an excellent protective factor against the temptations of drink and drugs, although there are plenty of wealthy people who become alcoholics and junkies. Most middle-class people are afraid of drugs, because their insulated life never exposes them to the reality of recreational drug use and they wouldn't know where to find a drug dealer even if they wanted to.

Making drugs easily available on the internet lowers the barrier to entry. Being able to conduct a frictionless e-commerce transaction and have extremely potent drugs hitting your doormat the very next day, places a whole group of people who'd never normally be able to dabble - because they're insulated - in the position where there's a mountain of choice available at the click of a button.

Addictions don't generally take hold unless there are other social and psychological risk factors present. Being stressed, depressed, unemployed, having no hope, having relationship difficulties, family difficulties, money worries and a whole host of similarly unpleasant things, predisposes a person towards drug addiction - unhappy people are much more at risk of developing a habit, because their lives are shitty.

The first wave of legal highs were not very good - the stimulant drug BZP is a an anthelmintic... i.e. it's a worming treatment given to animals.

The second wave of legal highs was a huge improvement. Meow meow - methcathinone, mephedrone or M-CAT - swept the nation at a time when the average purity of street cocaine was less than 20%. Street drugs were terrible quality because of prohibition and the pressure on dealers to maximise profits, because of the risk to their life and liberty. Legal highs were the obvious solution in a capitalist society driven by supply and demand.

Methylone - βk-MDMA or beta-keto-MDMA - was the legal version of ecstasy, and for people who used to go clubbing in Ibiza when they were younger, it proved to be very tempting for former ravers, including myself. Being able to legally obtain an ecstasy-like drug via the internet, enabled me to resume safe recreational occasional weekend drug-taking, which had no negative effect on me or those around me. This was legal, victimless drug-taking in a capitalist society, where the drug was simply a product being produced in a factory and sold by a vendor to the customer - me - in exactly the same way as people buy Nike trainers.

Then, the government banned meow meow and methylone, along with a whole host of other chemical analogues.

For a while, I didn't care.

I went back to my drug-free existence.

I wasn't addicted.

But.

18 months later, I was incredibly stressed and I was having horrible relationship problems. I was depressed and suicidal. I was at risk of addiction.

I went onto a legal high website that I'd used 18 months previously and I looked for a product that was similar to methylone; similar to ecstasy. I wanted to feel better. I wanted something to lift my mood. I didn't know it, but I was very vulnerable to addiction getting its hooks into me.

I bought the number one bestseller on that website.

It was called "NRG-3".

I had no idea what it was.

I'm not stupid, so I did my research. I was away from home a lot because I was trying to raise investment for my startup. I researched this "NRG-3" stuff and it sounded horribly dangerous, so I decided to throw it in the dustbin as soon as I got home - it was sitting on my dining room table in the padded envelope it had been delivered in.

I went to a wedding.

I had an almighty row with my partner.

I decided I was going to kill myself.

I drove home from the wedding in the middle of the night, trying to build up the nerve to drive my car into a concrete bridge pillar at 100mph+. I had turned off the airbag in my car. I wasn't wearing my seatbelt. I figured I'd die instantly if I crashed at that speed into an immovable object.

I got home. I wasn't dead, but I was still suicidal.

There was the envelope.

...

The rest as they say, is history.

...

But what is "NRG-3"?

In America they call it bath salts. Sometimes it's sold as Ivory Wave. Now it seems to be called monkey dust, in the UK. There are also nicknames like flakka, gravel and zombie drug. It's all the same stuff. I call it supercrack.

The reason why I call "NRG-3" supercrack is because I don't really want to write anything online that makes the connection. I've written at length about how potent supercrack is, with a dose of 15mg lasting circa 18 hours, which means that 1 gram of supercrack is 67 doses. This drug is so ridiculously strong and so incredibly cheap that it seemed irresponsible of me to inform anybody of what exactly it is. This drug messed me up so badly that I didn't want anybody else getting curious and falling into the trap that I did.

The active ingredient in monkey dust is alleged to be a chemical called MDPV, but this seems very unlikely given how effectively the Chinese and UK customs have cracked down on the laboratories and supply chain, such that MDPV does not exist in the wild anymore. When the newspapers report that monkey dust is MDPV, they're just plain wrong.

Another chemical called a-PVP - α-PVP or alpha-PVP - is so similar to MDPV it's almost indistinguishable. When the Chinese shut down all the labs producing MDPV, they simply switched to producing a-PVP. Now, a-PVP has gone the same way as MDPV and it doesn't exist in the wild anymore.

There are zillions of analogues of MDPV and a-PVP, so monkey dust could be anything, but it's certainly related to MDPV and a-PVP. Monkey dust is not MDPV, as misreported by the newspapers, but it certainly has all the same effects, such as inducing stimulant psychosis - users hear voices and hallucinate. The psychosis is so powerful that people climb buildings and run through traffic to get away from the monsters in their head. The psychosis has lead to a number of grizzly deaths, hence why the tabloid newspapers have decided to run sensationalistic stories about the crazy escapades of monkey dust users.

The trend towards ever more powerful and ever cheaper drugs is a natural consequence of capitalism and drug prohibition. I'm definitely not pro-legalisation given that it does increase the risk that vulnerable people will become addicts if they have easy access to any drugs they want, but we have created a situation where those with crack, heroin and crystal meth addictions are beginning to realise that there are cheap alternatives, and the new drugs from the Chinese labs are incredibly pure.

Carfentanil can be bought via the Dark Web, which is a synthetic opioid so powerful that an amount the size of a pin head is enough to cause respiratory failure and death. Carfentanil is so powerful that it's considered to be a potential weapon of mass destruction, were it turned into an aerosol and sprayed in a crowded area. The Russians famously pumped carfentanil into a theatre full of Chechen rebels and hostages, killing at least 170 people.

The combination of Bitcoin, the Dark Web, Chinese factories, late-capitalism, austerity, prohibition and drug policies based on vote-winning and public opinion, instead of risk and good science, is creating a perfect storm where increasingly powerful drugs are becoming ubiquitously accessible at an increasingly cheap price. The situation is so bad that the US President has seen fit to declare a state of emergency. Emergency workers in the UK have declared the use of monkey dust as "an epidemic"

The synthetic cannabinoids - sold as Mamba and Spice in the UK - have ruined countless millions of lives and are used by almost the majority of homeless people and prisoners. The ubiquity of these psychosis-inducing cannabis replacements seems unaffected by the New Psychoactive Substances Act, which makes possession in a prison illegal, as well as criminalising the supply of the drugs. In such a depressed economic climate and with the dismantling of the welfare state, of course there will be countless millions who will become addicted to something which has proven far more addictive and destructive than the cannabis it was invented to legally replace.

All the trends point towards an ever-increasing proportion of society struggling with drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, suicide, money worries, insecure jobs and insecure housing. Homelessness rates are soaring, living standards are declining, death rates are climbing and life expectancies are falling. It's a scandal. It's a disaster. It's a tragedy.

I struggle with addiction problems, although I've been 'clean' for a couple of months. Knowing that drugs are always readily available at the click of a button, but a secure job and a place to live are not, it seems obvious that the odds are stacked against people like me who are struggling. What's the best a person can hope for in such a dreadful economic climate? If you're suicidally depressed, of course drugs are going to seem more attractive than the life that's pushed you to the point of killing yourself. Drugs are simply a more protracted and drawn-out form of suicide, and most addicts know exactly what they're doing; they're choosing to kill themselves with drugs, because there's no better life on offer.

I read in the tabloid rags that a small bag of monkey dust can be bought for £2. I used to pay £27 for 2 grams of "NRG-3" which would last me anywhere between 2 and 3 months, so I imagine that a £2 bag of monkey dust lasts for 4 or 5 days, which - in an addict's mind - is incredibly good value for money, even if it's causing them to suffer powerful stimulant psychosis.

I've got a huge scar on my right leg where I fell through a glass roof in a classic monkey-dust story. I hid 80 feet up a tree with a massive shard of glass protruding from my leg, before descending and hiding in a bush in very unsanitary conditions. It's a miracle that I didn't bleed to death or subsequently die of septicaemia, shock or infection. It was exactly as the newspapers describe: superhuman strength, feeling no pain, hearing voices, hallucinating and being wide awake for days and days, with accompanying paranoia and strange delusional thoughts.

That I've been able to recover is only due to the fact that I've been able to somehow continue to work doing very highly paid jobs and the money I've earned has conferred considerable advantages. I've been very lucky to have had a guardian angel looking after me, helping to smooth over the enormous and virtually insurmountable difficulties associated with breaking the habit, detoxing and getting rehabilitated. Unleashing a powerful drug like monkey dust onto impoverished people is consigning them to an incredibly awful fate with little or no hope of escape. It's no wonder our emergency services, social services, police and mental health services are over-stretched, dealing with an avalanche of people who're using drugs like Spice, Mamba and monkey dust, because their lives are so shit, depressing and hopeless.

The social decay that we see and the conspicuous addiction and mental health problems that are putting such a strain on our first-line services, is a direct result of the collapse of our living standards and demise of any opportunity to work hard for a better life. The prospect of becoming crushed by spiralling debts, working zero-hours contract McJobs and not being able to afford rent and bills, is not something I'd wish upon my worst enemy. Of course people are going to become dysfunctional addicts when they're treated so appallingly, and there's so little hope of them ever owning a house and being able to afford to raise a family; there's so little hope of ever having the dignity of earning enough money to feel happy and secure.

Monkey dust is a hell of a drug, but there's no point in me warning people not to use it, because it's toxic circumstances that corral people towards addiction, not bad life choices or bad character.

 

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Winter is Coming

6 min read

This is a story about the end of summer...

Fluffy seeds

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer and the hot sunny weather is being replaced by grey skies and rain. It won't be long before the shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops can be stored away again until next year, because it'll be too cold for summer clothes. It won't be long before the 9-month long miserable British winter is back.

Of course, I'm worrying about tomorrow's problems today. I should be enjoying the last of the summer, but I need to make hay while the sun shines. My health has been OK during the first month of my new job, but I never know when it's going to let me down. I need to earn as much cash as possible as quickly as possible, before I can relax and loosen the purse strings. I daren't take a holiday until I'm in a more secure position. I needed to make a good first impression at work and earn the trust and respect of my colleagues.

I wanted to go to Prague to see friends, but I'm postponing it until the summer holiday madness has died down. I wanted to go to Ireland to see friends, but I'm postponing it until I've got more energy for travelling. I need to have at least a 1-week holiday of rest and relaxation, somewhere peaceful with a pleasant climate. Everything has been put on hold while I re-establish myself and slowly refill my depleted savings.

The seasons can affect me horribly, but I haven't felt at all lifted by the summer months. I suppose I've had a whole series of summers where I've had horrific stress and upheaval, so I don't see summertime as a time to enjoy myself. Looking back over the past 3 Augusts, I've been working myself to the bone during each one, in a desperate attempt to gather enough cash to get through the dreadful winter months.

This year is unusual, because I've been working non-stop since December and I've got relatively secure income until next summer. In theory, I could relax a little bit, given that I now have a secure place to live and a small financial safety net. In practice, I'm so heavily debt-laden, exhausted and downtrodden from the demands of the past few years, that I daren't take my foot off the gas pedal for a single second - it's flat out all the way to the finish line, which is still a long way away.

I suppose if my health holds out until December time, I'll feel a lot of regret that I didn't enjoy the summer months at all, but if I manage to get to December without a major incident then I'll be quite comfortably financially secure, so I can take a luxury foreign holiday. It's hard to balance the needs of today with the huge prize of financial freedom, provided I can cling on by my fingernails for long enough.

I've worked full-time for 9 consecutive months without a holiday, and 25 consecutive months if we include periods where I was sick and unable to work. The relentless stress and strain of dealing with having to move house, change jobs and keep working, is taking its toll - my physical health is deteriorating. My skin is pale, I've put on weight, I'm unfit and I'm tired all the time.

September is a tricky time for me. In previous years I've attempted suicide, been hospitalised and lost jobs. It would be great if I could get through September without a major incident. I desperately want to jet off somewhere, but I think the most sensible thing to do is to keep up the rhythm and routine and try to break the curse. I successfully made it through Jinxed January this year, so I should be able to use my momentum to carry me through September.

On September 6th, I celebrate my 3-year blogging anniversary. On September 9th it'll have been a year since my most serious and near-fatal suicide attempt. On September 10th it's World Suicide Prevention Day. On September 19th it's my sister's birthday. If I can get through all of that without incident, and reach the end of the month, then I'll be really pleased.

In October the clocks go back and it really starts to feel like winter. I think it'll be impossible for me to get to the end of the year without a holiday, and I'll desperately need one by October. I might be stretching a little too far to manage to last that long without a break, but it would be amazing if I could have a 1-week break in late-October to lift my spirits and carry me to the end of the year.

November's just crappy. I've got nothing good to say about November.

The build-up to Christmas in December does improve people's mood, and things slow down at work - although that's not necessarily a good thing - but the festivities should hopefully carry me until the day when I can leave the country for a couple of weeks, in search of winter sunshine.

If I can reach December, I'll have been working full-time for a whole year without totally screwing up. I think it's important to know I can manage to work for an entire year without my health getting so bad I'm unable to work. Having more money means more security and less stress, so hopefully things will get easier and easier, although I'm dreading the worsening of the weather.

The important thing is to keep moving forwards and not to stop, because if I stop then I will lose my gains incredibly quickly. In the blink of an eye I'll be back in a financially distressed situation. In the blink of an eye all the hope and possibility will disappear. It's remarkable how hard I've worked and how much cash I've generated, but how little of it seems to have actually stayed in my pocket - it's all been hoovered up by debts and living expenses and otherwise greedily devoured by the vultures who prey upon me. I've got to run just to stand still.

Sure, the skies are reasonably blue outside and it's relatively mild, but I'm acutely aware that there are very tough times ahead.

It might seem churlish to complain when I've had enough fortune to find myself still in a position to be able to potentially recover and return to a pleasant life in civilised society, but I've worked my ass off through yet another spoiled summer, and I'm going to be working very hard for the foreseeable future. It's hard to get excited about the prospect of yet more months of hard graft, with very few things to look forward to. Obviously, everything is super fragile and I'm very anxious that one little thing going wrong could spell disaster.

Things don't feel sustainable or realistically attainable. I feel sick and tired.

 

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Work Colleague Found My Blog

12 min read

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

Blurry laptop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sprint Finish

10 min read

This is a story about marathon running...

Stansted Airport

I'm quite pleased that I have this blurry photo capturing the moment when a stranger borrowed my iPhone charger in an airport. That stranger became my accountant and he's been on the journey with me, from a newly incorporated business to the point where I'm now turning over a 6-figure sum of money and making decent profits. My accountant has been one of the few constants in my life during a period which has been extremely wild and erratic.

Another particularly notable feature of the 5-year journey which has brought me - finally - closer to the point of getting back on my feet, is that I've never stopped moving. Through frantic and frenetic activity I've managed to avoid death, bankruptcy and a million and one other dreadful fates. By persevering with a very simple plan - to earn a lot of money as a consultant - I've managed to weather some pretty dreadful storms.

I admit that I did try to have myself declared unfit for work and to obtain the state welfare support I'm entitled to, but most people I meet seem to quickly form the opinion that I'm perfectly fine and healthy. Most people think I'm entirely capable of rescuing myself from even the most diabolically awful situations. It's pretty obvious that I haven't been enabled by anybody, although I'd be dead as a dodo if it wasn't for my guardian angel, who helped me move from London to Manchester, then Manchester to Wales, as well as being there for me during various hospitalisations and wotnot. To say I've arrived at the point I'm at today all on my own is not true at all. Of course I wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes without help and support, but I haven't received any of the help and support from the government that you'd think would be available to a vulnerable person - the safety net simply doesn't exist.

You would think that all your taxes which you pay would give you some kind of insurance, so that you wouldn't be penniless and homeless if you couldn't work. You would think that all that tax would mean that you'd be looked after if you were incredibly sick and vulnerable. Unfortunately, the welfare state is not at all kind to anybody who appears - with a lazy glance - to be of sound body and mind. Despite letters from GPs, psychiatrists and social workers, there are gatekeepers who are so compassion-fatigued and have so few resources to dispense to so many needy people, that there's no safety net at all.

Early intervention would have saved me a lot of near-death experiences, hospitalisations, contact with the police, wasted money, wasted time, wasted energy and health damage. Early intervention would have been far more cost effective than dealing with the consequences of assuming - incorrectly - that I'd cope just fine if I was simply left to my own devices; made homeless and otherwise abandoned by a nanny state which always promised to protect me, in return for the vast sums of taxes I've paid. I wasted a lot of time and effort on the mistaken middle-class belief that the welfare state exists for the sole purpose of protecting the vulnerable members of society. I thought - as so many middle-class people do - that I simply needed to ask for help from the relevant services charged with doling out lifesaving support and I would received what I needed.

It turns out that the UK operates what can only be described as a hostile environment for anybody who falls on hard times. It turns out that vast swathes of the civil service - with a mission statement to supposedly to help society's most vulnerable - are actually acting as gatekeepers and making it almost impossible to access any kind of help or support. Instead, the rigmarole is intended to frustrate, annoy and exhaust until you become disillusioned, disheartened, discouraged and generally lose faith in a government which promised to look after you in the event of an unfortunate turn of events, in return for a hefty portion of your income. The safety net turned out to be a lie and you'd better not waste too much time being angry and disappointed, because you're still broke and homeless... you have to find your own way to survive. No wonder so many people in the UK grow and sell cannabis or peddle other drugs - the black market economy provides much needed cash to society's most vulnerable, impoverished and desperate.

I suppose the argument would be that I could walk into a job quite easily, but that's pure stupidity. It's impossible to get a job and keep it if you're homeless and you have severe mental health problems. It's impossible to get a job when you're hamstrung by addiction and alcoholism. It's impossible to get a job and keep it when you're flat broke. It's a catch 22 situation. There are plenty of people who could theoretically get back on their feet, but they'll never be able to without some initial help and support - they need somewhere to live and some money; they need treatment for their addictions and alcoholism; they need time to stabilise their medication and get counselling for their mental health issues. Allowing people to become homeless - destitute - and to commit suicide is barbaric. Yes, it might seem to the wealthy ultra right-wing conservatives like it's some brutal form of social justice - survive or die; fit in or fuck off. Personally, I want my taxes to be spent on people who can't work, even if it means that I have less money to selfishly spend on myself. I want to pay into a national insurance scheme which creates a safety net for the most vulnerable and impoverished members of society.

In the second half of 2014 it dawned on me that I was wasting my time asking for help from the state, so I complied with exactly what the hostile environment was designed to do: I tried to go back to work. Naturally it was a disaster. You can't force sick people to work. Sick people can't work.

I've struggled along working for 4 hit-and-miss years. I've had a rollercoaster ride. I have periods where I'm working out of sheer desperation, which of course makes me incredibly sick, so I crash and burn every time. Because I seem blessed - or cursed - with the appearance of a man who's got his shit together and is doing just fine, I end up quickly embedded in huge organisations doing very important project work. Because of past achievements I'm given responsibilities which nobody in their right mind would dream of giving to a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic junkie with mental health problems. The projects are hard enough, without also having to worry about where I'm going to sleep, whether I've got enough money to survive from day to day, and of course dealing with my mood disorder and all the of the problems associated with substance abuse.

Imagine doing an opiate, benzodiazepine and alcohol detox while working a full-time job. Imagine doing drug rehabilitation while working a full-time job. Imagine undergoing psychiatric treatment for severe mental health problems while working a full-time job. Imagine living in a 14-bed hostel dorm while working a full-time job. Imagine not knowing whether you'll be able to afford to keep travelling to work until payday - the ultimate catch 22, where you can't even afford to work your full-time job. That's been my life.

Some of the practical difficulties have been eased in the short-term with vast quantities of debt. I've borrowed heavily to be able to make my living and travel arrangements more compatible with working. I've gone deep into debt on the presupposition that it will enable me to earn enough money to dig myself out of the hole. In addition to the hard problem of working when seriously unwell, I've also had mountainous debts threatening to destroy me.

All of this is exactly what the government wants. The government wants us all to be heavily-indebted wage-slaves who live incredibly insecure lives, so we're easy prey for the capitalists. The government doesn't want us to get fat, happy and lazy. The government doesn't want us secure enough to be able to demand fair and reasonable working conditions and remuneration commensurate with the value of our labour.

I've worked incredibly hard, especially so during the last 9 months. I've earned a lot of money, but none of it has flowed into my pockets - it's all gone to pay the capitalists for their loans, which was the only way I could stay afloat and keep playing the game. If I'd declared bankruptcy I'd never be able to earn a decent wage ever again, rent an apartment or buy a house. The system's set up to screw you whichever way you go; you're forced to become a slave.

With gritted teeth and dogged determination it's been possible to struggle through 9 dreadful non-stop working months and get to the point where it looks as if I'm getting on top of things. I've had a period of what appears to be stability. You could be easily fooled into thinking that forcing me to work when unwell has actually proven the right-wing ultra-conservatives to be correct - that it's OK to economically enslave people; that it's OK to tell society's most vulnerable that they have to choose between starving on the streets, or a minimum wage McJob which won't even cover the cost of incredibly frugal living.

It might not look like it but I've actually done an incredible marathon run and I'm doing a sprint finish. It might not be immediately apparent but it's quite remarkable that I've survived what I've been through and I'm still going. I need to keep going. If I can't keep going then all I'll fall back into the hole as soon as I collapse exhausted in a heap. Every time I'm forced to push myself beyond the point which is sustainable and healthy there's always a price to pay. There's a price to be paid for forcing vulnerable needy people into work.

It might not seem like things have been very hard for me if we extrapolate backwards, but we need to think about where I've come from and what I've been through, not what my current situation and prospects are. My current situation is still pretty dire - there's a long way to go before I can retain my gains permanently; I'm a long way from escaping the debt trap and being free from tyranny. My health is not reliable. My future is incredibly uncertain.

I'm having a difficult time adjusting to the present paradigm. My brain and body are built for crisis mode. I'm able to deal with an endless precession of catastrophic events and survive disaster, but I'm struggling to adjust to the present situation, where I simply need to coast along now that I've re-established myself somewhat. I'm finding it incredibly hard now that I'm no longer in the danger zone - I'm on high alert and super tense, but the worst of my troubles seem to have passed. It's been a living hell but I've beaten the odds. However, I have absolutely no ability to cope with ordinary pedestrian, plodding, slow-paced and hazard-free life. I don't think I'm able to deal with boring daily routine, because my life has been in non-stop crisis for so many years.

So, I'm sprinting to the finish line. I never manage to find steady sustainable consistent marathon pace.

 

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