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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.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Proper Preparation Prevents Paranoia about Privacy

7 min read

This is a story about shame...

Battle scars

The holes in my wall tell a story. I picked up a massive wardrobe and moved it to block the entrance to my bedroom in an attempt to barricade myself in, because I wanted privacy so badly; I so desperately wanted the certainty of knowing that nobody would barge in on me unexpectedly. In fact, I spent the best part of two days and nights without sleep, attempting to secure my bedroom against would-be perverts hoping to barge in and catch a glimpse of me in my nest of shame.

Obviously, it's somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When somebody spends a couple of days dismantling beds, bookcases, chests of drawers and heaving heavy pieces of furniture into their barricade, it's pretty noisy and the work is exhausting. As a person gets more physically tired and sleep deprived, they gey clumsy and they make mistakes, such as toppling a massive heavy thing with sharp corners into a wall, gouging out plaster and leaving an ugly hole.

My body is covered with battle scars from my efforts to keep my shame private. I have an enormous scar on my left calf and another one on my right thigh. I have a broken nose from where I was balancing a piece of furniture above my head in an attempt to cover a window.

My paranoia stems from my childhood, when I was constantly bullied, at home and at school. Nobody respected my privacy or my right to live a dignified life. My paranoia stems from an abusive relationship, where I was punched in the face, screamed at and generally verbally abused, and regularly had to put a door in-between my ex and I, which she would spend hours aggressively kicking while I was trapped in a room with no toilet, food drink, or exit other than to face the violent abusive woman on the other side of the door. My paranoia stems from not having a space of my own where I can lock the door and feel confident that I'm the only one with the key; feeling like I have no right to privacy and that I can expect somebody to barge in at any moment. Being a guest in somebody's home is not the same as having your own safe space. Being a prisoner in your own home is truly traumatic.

I built myself a summerhouse in 2009 and then insulated and carpeted it in 2013. I finally had my own miniature house with a front door I could lock, although it had no running water or toilet. I improvised a water supply using the garden hose and locked myself in there until my ex-wife moved out. I would have starved to death if she hadn't, but I didn't care... I wanted to escape from that abusive relationship.

I could have had a clean break, but my ex-wife put me through hell with the divorce. I arranged a quick and easy house sale, which would have allowed us both to get on with our lives, but she sabotaged me at every opportunity. She ruined my chance of escape and recovery. She sabotaged my efforts to rebuild my life.

London is not a good place to be sick and poor.

London is not a good place to be paranoid.

London is not private.

However, at least London is anonymous. I completely lost my mind on the streets of London and nobody paid me the blindest bit of attention. Nobody would remember my face. I'm never going to see anybody who remembers me when I was insane, penniless, homeless, destitute and in a very shameful sorry state indeed. London was the perfect place to recover from the trauma, without getting paranoid about my neighbours witnessing what should be a private affair.

Privacy is important when you're struggling. Privacy is important when your life is filled with shame.

Invasion of privacy sows the seeds of paranoia, leading to psychosis and schizophrenia. Human interest is a powerful force, which is the reason why fly-on-the wall documentaries and reality TV shows are so enthralling, and why we love to read people's blogs, diaries and journals. It's impossible to tear your eyes away from the spectacle of somebody struggling. People will line up like it's a fucking spectator sport, watching somebody suffer and not doing the slightest thing to intervene or otherwise fucking off and minding their own business. People know when they're being watched. Knowing that you're being watched makes everything a million times worse. "Why don't they do something or just fuck off?" you think to yourself, and soon it's all you can think about; the audience is spellbound and they'll literally spend hours watching and talking amongst themselves: "ooh it's awful isn't it?" and "yes I know. it's been going on for ages" ... but they never get bored.

I've recovered a remarkable amount since those dark days of 2013/4. In fact, I've made a miraculous recovery, but it's very far from complete.

I've gone from owning my own home and a summerhouse, to now renting an apartment. I've gone from financial security to mountainous debts. I've gone from having every right to privacy, to the situation where I have to show my bank statements to letting agents and allow my landlord to come into my home. Instead of being my own boss, I have to submit myself to security vetting and allow people to pore over the details of my private life. I've been poked, prodded and generally put into a goldfish bowl to be gawped at by numerous doctors, consultants, psychiatrists, social workers and a whole heap of wannabe amateur psychiatrists, who think they've got me all figured out, but who fail to recognise that it's grossly insulting and patronising for them to take a lazy glance and think they know me.

Things are very difficult.

I've had so many years and months of shame and swallowing my pride, and it fucking sucks.

I've had so many people judge me who I really didn't invite to pass judgement, and who really have no place, prying into my private affairs. I'm doing a good job of living a normal life within society's rules. I don't deserve to have people sitting in judgement of who I am, what I am, and whether my thoughts, feelings, actions, intentions, character and other attributes of me and my personality, are somehow acceptable to the self-appointed nosy busybodies.

Where is my space where I can feel safe? Where can I be free from the tyranny of the judgement of puffed-up pompous twats who think they know best and they have a right to barge in on me in my private shame; to embarrass me.

That's why I work so damn hard. I'm trying to earn enough to buy a place which is mine and nobody has the right to come barging into. I'm trying to get my little slice of privacy and free myself of the tyranny of having to kowtow to other people's judgement... most often other people's inferior judgement.

Please, give me some space. Have I not always used it wisely? Have I not proven myself to be very capable of doing amazing things, when given the space; the trust?

I have my shame, which I'm attempting to de-fuse by making everything about myself as public as possible, but it's a slow process. I feel like I'm only halfway there.

I have my flaws. I have things I want to keep private.

I need dignity.

 

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Nick Grant

6 min read

This is a story about secret identities and alter egos...

Nick Grant's glasses

I'm Nick Grant and these are my glasses, which are my cunning and infallible disguise to protect my real identity. It would be a disaster if anybody found out my real name - Nick Grant - because this blog is pretty unflinchingly honest and contains a lot of very unflattering things about me. I'm pretty damn exposed, hence why I wear my disguise.

Today I'm celebrating 3 years of blogging. I've been writing every day for 3 whole years, with only a few gaps due to sickness and near-catastrophic events in my personal life, which have threatened to see me bankrupt, evicted, homeless, penniless and destitute. To have kept writing regularly throughout all the ups and downs of the past 3 years is a huge achievement.

To date, I've written and published 1,013,091 words in that 3-year period.

The last 36 months could be summarised thus:

  • September 2015: working for HSBC, living in a hotel, dating a BBC journalist. Rent an apartment on the River Thames.
  • October 2015: working for HSBC. Suicidally depressed. Hospitalised. Fly to San Francisco.
  • November 2015: fly back to the UK and deliberately get sacked from HSBC. Dating a PA to one of the directors of a major investment bank. Meet my guardian angel.
  • December 2015: protesting against bombing Syria. Sober for 100 consecutive days. Relapse back into abuse of legal stimulants and benzodiazepines.
  • January 2016: self harm and drug abuse. Start drinking again. Destroy my bed.
  • February 2016: abuse of sleeping pills and tranquillisers
  • March 2016: poly-drug abuse, combining legal highs and medications
  • April 2016: holiday to Southend with my guardian angel. Start dating again
  • May 2016: working for undisclosed major multinational organisation, with 660,000 employees worldwide. Replace destroyed bed.
  • June 2016: working. Suicidal. Bored.
  • July 2016: holiday to Fuerteventura for my birthday with my guardian angel.
  • August 2016: working. Suicidal. Bored.
  • September 2016: project cancelled. Meet love of my life. Minor relapse. Lies. Antidepressants and tranquillisers.
  • October 2016: in love. Mini-break to the New Forest. Weaning myself off tranquillisers.
  • November 2016: in love. Drinking a lot. Writing my first novel.
  • December 2016. in love. Christmas with her family. Eating and drinking a lot.
  • January 2017: DVT and kidney failure. Hospital and dialysis. Working for Lloyds Banking Group. Neuropathic pain from nerve damage. Taking tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine and pregabalin for the pain. Abusing large amounts of Valium and Xanax. Lose contract
  • February 2017: fully-blown supercrack relapse. Completely addicted to prescription opiates.
  • March 2017: supercrack. Abusing sleeping pills and tranquillisers. Quitting prescription opiate painkillers. Drinking. Still in love.
  • April 2017: supercrack. Still in love.
  • May 2017: attempting to quit supercrack by staying at girlfriend's and taking dextroamphetamine. Not succeeding
  • June 2017: drug and insomnia-induced mania, paranoia and general insanity. Break up with love of my life. Regret
  • July 2017: run out of money. Get a job in Manchester. Put all my stuff into storage. Leave London. Fling with girl from work.
  • August 2017: working for a startup in Manchester. Dating a different girl. Still physically addicted to painkillers, tranquillisers and sleeping pills.
  • September 2017: breakup. Suicide attempt. Hospitalised. Sectioned. Locked up on psych ward.
  • October 2017: move to Wales.
  • November 2017: writing my second novel.
  • December 2017: working for undisclosed bank in Warsaw and London.
  • January 2018: working for same undisclosed bank in London. Dating a Welsh girl
  • February 2018: bank. London. Girl.
  • March 2018: working for undisclosed government organisation. Rent an apartment in Wales.
  • April 2018: successfully quit all drugs and medications. Job, girlfriend and apartment all in Wales and very close.
  • May 2018: relapse. Breakup.
  • June 2018: government project finished. Mini-break to Faro, Portugal to see old friend.
  • July 2018: working for another undisclosed government organisation. Living in a hotel.
  • August 2018: government. Hotel. Single. Depressed.
  • September 2018: still working for same government organisation. Dating again.

By my calculations, 27 out of 36 months have been relatively OK, but 9 months in the past 3 years I've been a complete and utter train-wreck. The damage that's been done in that quarter of the year where I've been struggling with addiction, has been enough to completely screw up my life the rest of the time, but not quite bad enough to lead to me becoming unemployable, bankrupt and homeless - I always find a way to bounce back.

Somehow I've managed to fit 5 serious girlfriends and 5 major IT projects into the madness of my day-to-day existence, as well as 3 hospitalisations for major medical emergencies, being sectioned, two psych wards, an arrest, two evictions, moving 5 times, 6 cities, 5 countries, 13 powerful prescription medications, 5 street drugs, 121 consecutive days sober, 56 consecutive days sober, 799 blog posts, 1 million words, 14 thousand Twitter followers and a couple of hundred thousand pounds... and all I've got to show for it is this poxy blog.

The story of Nick Grant and his ups and downs might be a bit repetitive, but I'm sure it's not boring. I would argue that it's pretty remarkable that I'm still alive and kicking, and able to string a sentence together. It's remarkable that I'm reasonably mentally stable and I'm working full time on quite an important project. It's remarkable that my colleagues don't suspect a thing. It's remarkable that I haven't made myself unemployable or otherwise ended up excluded from mainstream society. It's remarkable that I'm unmedicated and yet quite functional and productive.

Along the way, I managed to lose my original pair of glasses, but I had a new identical pair delivered today, which I'm wearing now. I had no idea when my replacement glasses would be delivered, because they were being hand made to order, so I find it deliciously wonderful that they were delivered on the day I'm celebrating the 3-year anniversary of starting this blog.

When I think back to my very first blog post 3 years ago - Platform 9.75 - it's amazing to reflect on the journey I've been on and marvel at how effectively my daily writing habit has functioned as a stabilising influence. I very much doubt I'd have been able to recover and continue my journey without the huge amount of help and support it's brought me. I feel really proud of what I've achieved, which gives me some all-important self-esteem in the times when I need it most. I'm sure I'd have killed myself long ago if it wasn't for the people who've engaged with me and what I write, and encouraged me to keep going. I feel loved and cared for even during some very dark and dismal days.

Obviously what I've written is not particularly palatable or compatible with dating and my professional life, but they'll never be able to find me - Nick Grant - because I've been so careful to disguise my identity and make sure that nobody could just Google me and find out all my closely guarded secrets. Nobody will ever be able to make the connection.

My next objective is to get through September 9th - the anniversary of my most serious suicide attempt - without incident. I plan on phoning a couple of the people who managed to get the emergency services to rescue me in the nick of time, to thank them for saving my life.

 

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Online-Dating-Friendly Content

6 min read

This is a story about marketing yourself...

Naked torso

The image I present of myself online is thoroughly incompatible with my professional life and my aspirations to meet a girl and start a relationship. I speak my mind and I'm very honest about some things I've experienced which are taboos. It's not very common in our society to talk about our failures and other unflattering things which might paint us in an unfavourable light. I would attract a lot of stigma and prejudice if I was up-front about unpalatable things from my past.

Half-naked photos of yourself and presenting yourself as an all-round faultless great guy - a real man's man - is not a particularly successful strategy. I include the image above ironically. Unsolicited dick pics don't work either, but there are a lot of men who seem to think that they do.

For a brief time I had included the fact that I'm a writer on my online dating bio, but I realised that my blog doesn't exist in a particularly sanitised form and I would hate to be writing with hesitancy, thinking about how my words would be received by an online love interest who's just getting to know me. I'm very exposed in a way that most people usually aren't. You almost never have the opportunity to peer deep into somebody's psyche and read about all their deepest darkest secrets.

Earlier in the year I tried dating with my blog offered as part of the package of information presented. Usually the information we have when dating is a name, age, a few photos, a very short bio, then after some discussion we know what a person does for a living, whether they have kids, whether they have pets, where they studied, where they've travelled and a few other details which actually tell us very little about that person's character. It's not a lot to make a decision about whether it's promising enough to warrant an actual in-person date, but we have the writing style - from text message chat - to gauge whether a person is intellectually stimulating and easy to converse with or not. Subtle language cues tell us whether we're of a socioeconomically similar group, which is important not least for reasons of insecurity and feelings that we were hard-done-by in some way. Nobody likes feeling poor in the company of somebody who's enjoyed wealth and privilege, or feeling stupid in the company of somebody who's been lucky enough to enjoy a great education.

The problem with having my blog as part of the information bundle, is that there's an almost unlimited amount to be consumed and processed, which is available anywhere, anytime. It's tempting for almost anybody with even a casual interest in other people's lives, to dig and dig, and it raises troublesome questions which would normally never come about in the course of a relationship, because we don't usually have access to the inside of somebody's mind.

I'm quite comfortable with friends and the general public having access to the entirety of the dark recesses of my mind, because I've found that most people are sympathetic and kind, and they've used the information for purposes which have been very beneficial to me. I get messages of support. I make connections with people, and that feels good. I feel that people care about me.

When somebody who I have a romantic interest in starts to read my blog, however, it can make me somewhat paranoid about being judged negatively. Indeed, many people have a very negative view of those who do online dating, believing the online world to be a hotbed of murderers, rapists, sadists, perverts, pedophiles and other unsavoury characters. If you're looking to find out something bad about me, and you're hoping for your worst fears to be confirmed, then there's a lot of material here which can be twisted by the mind of a sad, miserable, negative and mistrusting person, who has no ability to perceive their own flaws and less-than-perfect personality. I make a leap of faith every day by choosing to expose myself and make myself vulnerable, sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings as honestly and candidly as I can. To abuse my trust by twisting my words and turning me into a monster is not very nice, but it's what a lot of people do, because they're looking for reasons to reject, not reasons to connect.

Similarly, prospective employers are looking for reasons to reject, and this is the reason why my blog is not at all compatible with my professional life. There's an unwritten rule in the corporate world, which is that you never talk about your flaws and failures. It would be career-ending if I was to include a link to this blog on my CV or LinkedIn. The contents of this blog is gold dust to the gatekeepers who very much want to see me penniless and destitute; unemployable.

I need companionship and intimacy. I need a job. I have to play by the unwritten rules of society, so that means keeping certain parts of my life under wraps. It would be too much for your average small-minded square to process, and it's almost too much for even the most kind and compassionate, to get beyond the usual knee-jerk reaction which is to reject anybody atypical.

There's nothing I need to tell anybody per se. I don't have any secrets particularly. I'm not trying to cover up a drug habit or pretending to be something I'm not. I'm not trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes. I'm not withholding important or relevant information.

To mistreat people by treating them with suspicion and mistrust is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think somebody's going to let you down or do something bad, you're increasing the likelihood of that happening, because you're ostracising and persecuting that person, just like so many others do too. If you're expecting bad things to happen and you're withholding trust and commitment - refusing to take a leap of faith - there can only be one outcome, ultimately.

I think the decision to have this open document is the right one, but I still need to get laid every now and again.

 

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Context Switching

8 min read

This is a story about screen time...

Phone icons

The button to silence my smartphone has broken so I leave it permanently in "do not disturb" mode, which suits me just fine. Hardly anybody ever phones me except for agents and other cold caller sales types. My time is mostly spent in the 12 apps pictured above. Perhaps I'm not on my smartphone all the time, but essentially I'm context-switching non-stop throughout my waking hours, so I thought that warranted a little examination.

Starting with my 35,225 unread emails, my inbox has gotten rather out of control. Email has become such a victim of its own success that no IT professional I know even uses it anymore - we're all on Slack. Most communication is entirely transient and there's no need to have a record of anything except some kind of chat transcript to catch up on - anything old can be archived and forgotten. I spend all day every day chatting to my colleagues on Slack, including colleagues from organisations where I don't even work anymore.

Messages comprises SMS messages - mostly telling me about voicemails I haven't listened to - and a handful of iMessages from people who aren't using WhatsApp for some reason. WhatsApp deserves special note though, because of the group chats. I was removed from the only group chat I was a member of - discussion between cryptocurrency enthusiasts - and I was usurped by a guy who screwed me over last year when I was on my deathbed, which is kinda besides the point but it galls me.

Instagram I don't actually use very much. I live in a text-based world and the photos I take are in 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio, not 1:1. I don't take very many selfies.

Facebook Messenger is my most active chat app, but I only use it to chat to one person - my guardian angel - and we mainly exchange memes about suicide, mental health problems and the ruined economy. Facebook messenger also makes calls - as do many of the apps - and I occasionally speak to a friend in Poland, which is about the only time I speak to anybody on the telephone.

Recently I've been using Tinder and Bumble in an attempt to meet girls. It adds additional complexity to my context-switching life.

I'm not really sure what I use Facebook for. I do browse through the feed once a day - not on my smartphone - and I occasionally like and comment on things which are especially noteworthy, but I generally try to avoid over-investment in that particular walled garden. I used to share a lot and indeed I've managed to rather make a fool of myself in front of all my friends and scupper my chances of ever working in some organisations, because I dragged my own good name through the mud. I don't put my dirty laundry on Facebook much, only for it to be conspicuously ignored. Instead I write over a million words on my blog and broadcast my ups and downs to thousands of followers and anybody who does Google searches.

I don't use Twitter properly. I don't generally retweet stuff and I don't spend enough time reading the tweets of the 6,000+ people I follow. How anybody could sift through it all I have no idea - Twitter is a pretty noisy place. Generally I just look to see if anybody I know is tweeting about any of the trending topics, and I otherwise rely on an email I receive in the morning each day, which tells me what my favourite people have been up to. I must admit, it's sometimes a struggle to stay on top of my notifications and DMs and then I turn turtle and hide for a while until things quieten down.

I don't bother with LinkedIn much. I don't struggle to find work. I don't much see the point in ploughing much time and effort into my corporate image - I've got a perfectly professional CV and LinkedIn page, and otherwise I rely on my contacts, skills, experience and references to be able to get work when I need it.

I wake up in the morning and I quickly scan through my notifications - mostly Twitter - to see if there have been any comments, which I make a mental note to reply to later in the day. When I get bored around mid-morning, I have a glance at my inbox to see if there's anybody demanding money with menaces or otherwise harassing me. Approaching lunchtime, I might kill a bit of time with Facebook, but I don't want to get too engrossed in my phone when I'm at work. If I'm having a really dreadful day, I might reach out to a couple of friends via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and see if I can get them to send jokes, memes or anything that might provide a moment's distraction from the boredom. After leaving the office and generally before my evening meal, I write a blog post. I often scan through my website analytics to see if there's anything notable going on. If my mind is busy and distracted I frequently find myself flipping between half-watching something on Netflix and several tabs in my browser - a mix of Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes I read the news, but I find that I spend less and less time engaging with current affairs at the moment, because I've been stressed out of my mind with basic survival. A new part of my routine is chatting to girl(s) via the dating apps and if I'm ever lucky enough to get a phone number, then chatting on WhatsApp.

The amount of context switching is pretty remarkable. In any given day I might have to switch between fully professional mode, with colleagues who I want to present with a squeaky-clean corporate-friendly version of myself, and a more relaxed but still guarded version of myself which allows a little bit of my personality to show, but hopefully keeps my bad not-safe-for-work (NSFW) stuff hidden. I might be chatting to somebody who I've known for a long time online who's in a different timezone - ahead or behind - and they'll know an incredible amount of personal stuff about me and we'll be talking very frankly and honestly about everything and everything... then I'll be talking to a girl who I've just started chatting to who doesn't know me at all... then I'll be chatting to work colleagues who I spend 40 hours a week in close proximity with and they think they know me but they don't [and I don't want them to know everything]. Then, there's the image I present and the interactions I have via my blog and social media. and all the people who I have frequent and infrequent contact with, and the different ways I know people. Facebook is a particularly weird melting pot, where former work colleagues mingle with people who I know through kitesurfing, my startup days, the time I was homeless and living in parks and hostels, people who I've just randomly friend requested when I was mentally unwell. Facebook is kinda the worst, because I never know which guise I should be in, so I'm probably too honest and I'm tarnishing my own reputation and good standing that I once had with friends.

My brain has to switch between survival mode - where I've been worried about money, housing, addiction, alcoholism, transport, sex, isolation, suicidal thoughts, self harm, depression, anxiety and odds that have been very much stacked against me - and professional mode - where I'm expected to perform at a very high standard and navigate extremely complicated large organisations and know all the ins and outs of massive and complex software systems and the infrastructure they're deployed on, plus all the many teams and the zillions of people and the processes and procedures - and my digital identity which I'm cultivating - which needs me to compose a blog post every day and stay on top of any replies, messages and emails, and generally keep in touch with an ever-growing list of friends who I've never met in person, but who've been amazingly kind and supportive during rough times - and Mr. Eligible Bachelor mode, which requires me to present myself in the correct sequence, so that I can be understood without at the same time being overwhelming and off-putting.

To some extent my life looks quite simple. I have a job and not much else - I don't socialise and I'm not in a relationship. To the casual observer, all I do is move between my home, the office and a hotel, and I'm always in front of my laptop, tapping away at the keys quite furiously.

I suppose my life is quite simple, if we imagine that my fixation is the screen and the keyboard, but the screen time is a red herring - it's a window to an unimaginably gigantic and complex world of thousands of interactions with people all around the globe.

The context-switching is pretty hard though. I've struggled to stay on top of everything during the last couple of days.

 

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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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Burning Bridges

11 min read

This is a story about wearing a mask...

Cambridge bridges

A long time ago I used to be very careful about what I shared on social media. On Facebook I separated my work colleagues and other business contacts from my close friends, and I thoroughly considered my audience before I posted anything; I spent a great deal of effort managing my public image and attempting to pretend I was a squeaky-clean pristine perfect professional who didn't have any problems in my personal life.

At some point during my acrimonious divorce and the total collapse of my mental health, along with the destruction of my hopes and dreams of escaping the rat race and being my own boss, my depression became so bad that I purchased 2 grams of potassium cyanide. I'm not sure what possessed me - perhaps it was a cry for help - but I decided to put a photo of this deadly poison onto Facebook. The reaction surprised me: one friend was angry and accused me of jeopardising the life of his child [which I didn't] and another made a darkly humorous joke. Most people seemed to just ignore me.

My mental health has caused me an increasing amount of difficulties, resulting in hospitalisations. Initially, I was extremely careful about what I told colleagues. I tried - as much as possible - to cover up and hide my struggles in the hope that I would quickly get better and my image would be untarnished. I lost a couple of jobs and an entire profitable business during episodes of poor mental health, but my reputation seemed to somehow be fully intact despite my faltering ability to work.

At some point, I decided to put more and more of my dirty laundry onto Facebook. I think that the stress and strain of the divorce - having to sell my house in particular - completely destroyed any remaining hope and optimism that I would be able to recover, so I ceased to believe that it was prudent to safeguard my reputation. I jettisoned any caution about who was reading the gory details of my life's implosion and instead preferred to desperately reach out via social media, hoping to receive messages of support and to alert my friends to the danger I was in.

As I became increasingly unwell and addiction turned my life into unmanageable destructive chaos, I continued to overshare without any regard for the reputational damage I was doing to myself. I wrote things which must have broadcast my very darkest and most regrettable moments of struggle to former work colleagues and business acquaintances, completely tarnishing my own reputation.

To have fallen from grace is bad, but to tell the world that you've ended up in a complete mess is quite something else. I'm not sure if I just didn't care, or whether I was so sick that I didn't know what on earth I was doing, but I used Facebook to loudly proclaim the fact that I'd become an unemployable, useless, unreliable, messed-up waste of space. Surely I have left friends, former work colleagues and other people who used to like and respect me, in absolutely no doubt that I was a no-hope loser?

Meanwhile, I managed to keep working and completing projects successfully, and I kept my CV and LinkedIn free from any clues about my mental health problems and drug addiction. My career didn't skip a beat and my skills continued to be highly in demand. I seemingly suffered no negative consequences for all of my loose-lipped moments on social media. It seemed as if I was unable to completely burn every bridge and destroy my own reputation sufficiently to make myself unemployable.

Sharing on Facebook highly alarming stuff about suicidal thoughts, self harm, drug abuse, prescription medication dependency, poly-substance use, breakups, mental breakdowns and the bat-s**t insane ravings of a total madman, seemed to make little or no difference to my day-to-day existence. The response was muted, where my friends and former work colleagues really didn't know what to say, leaving a kind of awkward silence which clearly indicated that people were cringing with embarrassment on my behalf. On the other hand, I was not shamed into silence at all. The madness was so all-consuming that I couldn't even remember what I had shared on Facebook. I had no idea what I was doing.

I suppose that everything I put on Facebook was done in brief moments of extreme insanity. I was still generally cautious about sharing the candid and honest truth about things which portrayed me in a very unflattering light. Nobody wants to be thought of as a junkie, because everybody thinks that junkies are thieving scumbag liars. Mental health elicits some sympathy, so long as it's the milder kind. Nobody wants to be thought of as completely insane, because everybody thinks that madmen are deranged murderous unpredictable lunatics.

I suppose I had attempted to tell my Facebook friends that I was unwell with as much subtlety as I could manage, and I had tried to brush some of the unflattering facts under the carpet, such as my problems with addiction.

I suppose I always wanted people to know that mental illness and a horrible relationship were things that I had been dealing with alone for a long time, and that addiction only crept into my life much more recently. I suppose I felt that I could quietly deal with the addiction issues and nobody needed to know about it; I would just pretend it never happened.

When I started this blog, it was an opportunity to re-assert the 30-odd years of my life where I had achieved a hell of a lot. I wanted people to remember all the projects I successfully delivered and all of the places where I'd worked and made a big difference to the organisations and the teams I was part of. I wanted people to remember that I'd built profitable businesses. I wanted people to remember that I'd played a positive role in their lives; that I'd been a good person; that I had value. I wanted to remind everybody that for the vast majority of my life I'd been making a valuable contribution; that for most of my life I'd been an OK person who'd tried very hard to do good things.

I had imagined that my recovery would progress in a linear way, from bad to good, and every day would be an improvement on the day before. I imagined that I would be able to write a straightforward story about the struggles I'd left behind in the past and the increasing number of positive things that were happening in my life. I had imagined writing a fairy-tale rags to riches story, as I started my blog homeless and bankrupt, and finished the story rich and successful.

It soon became apparent that the journey was going to be a lot tougher than I had hoped it would be.

Every huge gain I've made has quickly been met by a major setback. When I managed to rent an amazing apartment in London, I then lost my job. When I managed to get a lucrative contract, I was then hospitalised with kidney failure. When it seemed like I was getting the perfect combination of friends, girlfriend, job, money, home and hobby, everything fell to pieces. If we look at the whole 3-year writing project, it perfectly captures the vicious swings between high and low which you'd expect of somebody with bipolar disorder, especially when exacerbated by money problems, insecure housing and patches of addiction problems.

After only 4 months of sharing the sanitised version of my life history, where I portrayed myself in the very best possible light, it became clear that I was going to have to write about the bad stuff too if I was going to carry on for a whole year, which was my initial plan. I wanted to write every day for a whole year, to prove to myself that I could be consistent and achieve something very difficult, despite my challenging circumstances. I hoped that the regularity and having a goal to focus on would help to stabilise my life.

Writing my blog has certainly given me a rock to cling to while I've weathered the storm. Writing my blog has certainly helped me to regain some stability in my life, as well as being a source of pride in the achievement.

At some point, it became habitual to be 100% unflinchingly honest, and not to care about what people think.

I'm aware that I've probably prejudiced my employability with a handful of former work colleagues who are also Facebook friends. I'm aware that my reputation is probably damaged beyond repair, if I wanted to try to enter an arena where reputation is more important than skills and experience. In the world of work which I inhabit, people only care about whether I can do the job, and not at all about the skeletons in my closet, so I've suffered no setbacks in my career. However, it does upset me that I've tarnished my image in some of the gossipy organisations where I used to be very well liked and respected. It upsets me that friends who are former colleagues and business acquaintances, who I like and respect, have been left in no doubt that I've been through some very tough and turbulent times in my personal life. Perhaps my opportunities in life have been more damaged than I'm aware of, because I've created doubts in people's minds about my reputation and reliability.

I continue to write using my real name and am slowly advancing towards page one of a Google search, which seems ludicrously stupid, but so far it's caused me very few problems in my career.

I don't think I could live without the regularity and stabilising influence that writing and publishing so publicly has given me. I don't think it would be healthy for me to lose the public oversight, and lose the huge amount of support that is available to me from the online community. I can't imagine going back to a life where I had to hide my struggles and rely on private communications to keep concerned people informed about what's happening to me. It's far too much effort to have to concern myself with image and reputation management when I've been fighting for my life.

There's no turning back now anyway. The genie is out of the bottle. All my friends, former work colleagues and business acquaintances have been left with absolutely no doubt that my mental health problems have caused me a great deal of difficulties, and extremely unpalatable and unflattering things have happened in my life, such as periods of addiction. I have no doubt that my reputation is in tatters in the eyes of anybody I'm Facebook friends with. I must be a laughing stock.

Amusingly, I've been able to deliver projects and impress work colleagues, surrounded by people who are completely oblivious to my personal life struggles and the bad things that have happened in the past. Because my Facebook, Twitter and blog are a world apart from my CV, LinkedIn and references, the two worlds have not collided and I'm able to go to work and do a good job without prejudice or stigma. I suppose it's reckless to risk my identities being connected by anybody who could be bothered to put my name into a search engine, but so far I've not burnt any bridges in the 'new' chapter of my career, since I re-stabilised myself, ironically by using my blog.

I think that's what I'd tell anybody who stumbled on my open secret and had reservations about my public identity: that it's a necessary coping mechanism and it's the reason why I've been able to act completely normal in the office, and to be a productive valuable member of the teams and organisations I work for.

Of course I sometimes worry that I'm taking too much of a risk by continuing to use my real name and writing without concern for the level of public exposure that I live with, but frankly most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to really give much of a s**t.

Sure, if stuff goes wrong I'm dangerously exposed. If I have a wobbly moment then I'm hugely at risk of some unpalatable truths about me from becoming more widespread knowledge. I think the risks are acceptable though. So far, I'm glad that I've laid myself wide open like this.

Some bridges have been burnt, but I'm glad I've set the record straight and I'm glad that there's so much written down here that even the nosiest person is going to quickly become exhausted if they go digging for dirt.

 

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Airbrushing History

5 min read

This is a story about the right to be forgotten...

Twitter 404

If you're transgender, you might want all records expunged which could link you to the gender you had previously identified as. Similarly, if you're recovering from an illness or being otherwise rehabilitated, you don't really want the whole world to know you were sick. We have specific laws which stop people from revealing a person's old name or other identity details, after they have changed gender. We have specific laws which allow criminals to be fully rehabilitated after their convictions are 'spent' - nobody is allowed to know that they were in prison after a certain number of years have elapsed since they "served their time". Our medical histories are private and confidential, and to reveal details of somebody's medical records would be a criminal act.

We work very hard to ensure that people's entire future isn't jeopardised and prejudiced by things that happened in the past. We have laws that specifically forbid discrimination and other laws which prevent questions being asked; e.g. requests for information which would be an invasion of privacy and would likely be used against a person in a discriminatory manner.

Things get a bit harder when we start to talk about things that we ourselves have somehow made public. If you decided to put your full name, date of birth, place of birth, where you work and what you ate for breakfast onto Facebook or Twitter, should you suffer the consequences for your naïvety when sharing such things on the internet?

Sometimes the internet doesn't forget.

Google has quietly dropped access to its caches - you used to be able to see copies of a webpage that Google had stored, so you could see things that had been deleted or changed - you can't do that anymore.

In theory, if you put something up on the internet which you later regretted, removing it should eventually mean that it's digitally deleted and therefore it's as if it never existed - it's not like a newspaper or a book, where ink and paper were combined to create a permanent physical record. If some of the 1s and 0s of binary data get changed on the internet, it's virtually impossible to prove that any data has been deleted or amended at all. I could forge a copy of any webpage I wanted, saying whatever I wanted it to say - how is it possible to prove that a copy of a webpage is a bona fide snapshot of what it looked like at a certain point in time? It's impossible.

There are parts of the internet that have been copied so many times onto so many different computers that the archives will probably never be lost. "Blockchain" is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot at the moment, which is just another word for a load of data which is held on loads of computers, all connected together on the internet. This is what we understand to be an "immutable" record of how a piece of data looked at a certain point in time, because there's consensus amongst multiple sources, such that it's highly likely that a person did write something on a certain date, back in the early days of the internet, preserved in the archives... or that a certain transaction took place, preserved in the blockchain. However, the internet is now far too large for there to be any kind of archive of everything, let alone multiple copies which could prove conclusively what a webpage looked like on a certain date.

Thus it's almost but not quite possible to airbrush history on the internet. The internet is somewhat amnesic.

I've tried to avoid deleting anything from my website or editing stuff that I've published, but occasionally I think that discretion is the better part of valour, and I modify or delete things. Often times I regret deleting and modifying things... there always seems to be a consequence for removing information which could hold people accountable... better to hold your ground and simply take a position of truth and honesty, I think.

We have laws which protect people who are honest and truthful. Journalism would not be able to survive the libel lawsuits if we didn't enshrine the right to speak truthfully into law. In the UK we don't have absolute freedom of speech like in the United States, but we do have the right to speak and write provided we speak truthfully and our opinions are the fair and reasonable ones that any person would be likely to share, given the same set of facts.

My strange crusade of the past few years has been to write with candid unflinching honesty, everything about myself, both good and bad. Sometimes however, I've had to write about things that are upsetting me, which has involved writing about other people and sometimes about organisations. It's difficult to know where to draw a line. If I've learned anything in the last few years, it's that 99% of people have completely different feelings about risk and privacy from me. I'm sacrificing my privacy and taking a huge risk, which most people don't want to do, so I need to be careful I don't accidentally co-opt anybody into my personal crusade. It should be noted that I take extreme care not to identify anybody or share anything private which could be linked to any individual.

Thankfully, most people don't give a shit about anybody other than themselves, so I've been able to write pretty much whatever the hell I want and nobody gives a damn.

 

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Back in the Land of the Living

8 min read

This is a story about a worrying disappearance...

Pot noodles

My flat's a bit of a nightmare really. The landlord slides the garage door up and down all day long, and seems to be endlessly sawing up bits of wood, then he stomps up and down the stairs, slamming the door - all of this is within a few feet of me in my lounge. At the back of the house, the bedroom is basically a viewing gallery for perverts - the blinds are about as much use as opera glasses.

I don't want to disturb anybody, but I don't want to be disturbed either - catch 22.

Ventilating the front of the apartment is OK, but to keep the temperature down the best thing to do is keep the curtains closed at the moment. Ventilating the back is impossible, save for setting up a load of seats for prime viewing position into the only one of 2 rooms which most people want privacy in: bedroom & bathroom.

The heat is a real problem, but so is the as-yet undealt with problem of getting some air circulating.

At the moment I'm sleeping on the sofa and spending the days on the sofa with the curtains drawn, which somehow feels like I'm doing something I shouldn't be. It also seems to announce to the world that I'm at home, but perhaps sleeping during the day... I feel I should 'act normal'.

It's driven me a bit crazy to be honest, feeling like I can't be in my bedroom during the day (or at night with privacy) and like I can't have the lounge curtains drawn during the day, or sleep on the sofa at night... it's all behaviour that would raise eyebrows; provoke speculation.

The gap in my writing has been valid cause for concern. I feel so hyper-sensitised to all the noises around me, and I've been struggling not to attach my own negative interpretation of what I hear: "oh it's terrible" I hear somebody say, and "what are we going to do?" and I presume it's something to do with me. If I hear a stamp on the floor from the neighbour above, I presume my attempts to be as quiet as mouse have failed, and I'm annoying them.

The bathroom, with its lack of windows, and equidistance from ever-present landlord and neighbour who I can hear above, has become my place of refuge. It has a door with a lock - nobody can just barge in unannounced. Also, unlimited cold water.

One thing that's very difficult to do though is to sleep on the cold floor tiles of a bathroom, in the pitch black, with only a towel as both blanket and something to lie on. It's disorienting - a sink appears out of nowhere; you reach for the door handle, but realise you're 90 degrees out of alignment; the shape of the floor space doesn't seem well thought out for a person lying on those cold tiles for many hours.

There are 3 legitimate entrances into my apartment, and I sometimes just want to feel like I know what's coming a little bit in advance. Last night, somebody was walking on my windowsills for f'cks sake, which is unnerving, but not as unnerving as having 3 doors that your ever-present landlord might decide to walk through at some unpredictable moment.

Anyway, I had something to eat, and I've not been too bad with the dehydration thing, having now found that the best thing to do is take a cooling shower. I do need to air out the revolting sweatiness though.

How I get back to any semblance of normality seems an impossible task at the moment, but I suppose with time and patience I'll get things sorted. I'd cleared half my TODO list, but now it's bigger than when I started, and I worry about the logistics of the things I can't do myself. Even the logistics of the things I can do myself are complex, given that my whole life is on public display, barring the bathroom.

I'm sorry for severing all contact, but I can't wrap my head around what next and when. There's home life to sort, I need to be rested and ready for my next opportunity and then there's the exhaustion of dealing with all the phone-calls and emails; interviews; requests for documents, forms to be filled in, new office, new team... blah blah blah. I don't even know whether to go for something reasonably close to home, but there's no way I want to be commuting 1hr+ every day. No point thinking about it while things have rather been in crisis at home, and there's enough to be done sorting myself and my apartment.

It'll be just my luck... after all the days and days of waiting for the worst to happen, the sky will fall in and my world will implode just as I've started to take care of myself a bit more. I've stopped letting my days be dominated by either trying to hold my breath and tiptoe around, or move to whichever part of my home feels most secure; least surprises; least peeping Toms. It'll be just my luck that now I'm no longer living with the anticipation of the most awfully intrusive home invasion, today or tomorrow - before I've had time to sort things - the dreaded event(s) will happen.

What a waste of a summer. What a waste of an opportunity to keep moving forwards without losing too much momentum. That's the fragility I've been talking about for so long; that's the bomb going off, after I've been talking about it ticking for a long time. Did I precipitate all this? Is it all my own fault? Try to remember that rebuilding an entire life from the ground up is hard, and without the usual safety nets of local social network and family - let alone simple familiarity with the area - meant that removing a couple of key building blocks brought the whole Jenga tower crashing down, although - in theory - there exist superhuman people who can endlessly move house, move area, make new friends, get new jobs, get a partner, get a hobby, stay fit & healthy and turn up and work their full-time job, week after week, month after month... relentless.

This isn't much of a holiday; in fact quite the opposite, but there we go... I'm still present, at least bodily. I'm not sure I want to live if the next bit of shitty luck - the thing I've been dreading - rips out another one or two of those Jenga blocks.

Wish me luck, that I have an unmolested couple of days and I can start to get on top of things; that the sky doesn't cave in now of all the bloody times it could've done it.

Interestingly, when that sharp knife's been at my throat  - at least 3 or 4 times - ready to be plunged into my jugular vein and carotid arteries the moment my sanctuary was breached, things went quiet and I thought clearly... the madness and the terror ended, and the immediate threat of a life-destroying event disappeared. I took a cooling shower, put on some clean clothes and started to look after myself. It's as though things have to get to that point: if you're not prepared to die, you're gonna have unimaginably awful events happen. It's the Schrödinger paradox, except I'm the cat - in all the universes where the the worst happened, I killed myself.

I'm not optimistic or positive. In fact, I'm anticipating that things are going to be very very very hard for what will feel like an eternity, but for those who've been worrying about me committing suicide, it's perhaps been well over 24 hours since that blade was lined up in position, and I don't feel suicidal now that I'm not quite as trapped and cornered as I was... famous last words. In short: I'm safe at the moment.

I wish I was writing regularly. I wish my writing quality hadn't gone to s**t because of mania, sleep deprivation and general malnourishment. I wish... I wish... I wish. But, there was an inevitability: cut enough of those slender threads and I'll fall further than most would; further than you'd expect, because you take for granted the social fabric you're woven into... it's almost tempting to abandon the attempt to return to wealthy middle-class life, because at least when I was homeless I was part of a community. How ironic, to immediately want to go back to those homeless days when a couple of bits of my 'respectable life' were lost.

I'll try and write again, and write less. Little and often.

Anyway, still here.

 

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Career Limiting

5 min read

This is a story about disguise...

SF Trip

Far sooner than I expected, I've reached a point where at least one work colleague has found my blog and I'm also facing the possibility that I might have to undergo further security vetting, which may reveal the double-life that I lead.

I don't really lead a double-life, because my name is plastered all over the pages of the internet and I make no attempt to hide my identity. Nobody asked me about my mental health. Nobody asked me any questions about my rather turbulent ride that brought me to this point. I haven't told any lies, or even been economical with the truth. The truth is that nobody's really cared about what's gone on in my personal life, because I always do a good job and deliver high quality work on time.

I am facing a bit of a difficult decision. I might have to go through a whole load more gatekeepers and submit myself to a load of horrible scrutiny, in order to keep progressing with my career, and to get a bit of security and stability in my life.

I'm loath to delete my Twitter and Facebook accounts and take down my blog, because then I lose one of the most important parts of my life - my digital identity and my personal brand, which I've cultivated for the purpose of what, I don't know... but it's extremely good for staying afloat when my mood has been unstable and my life has been smashed to bits; I've been through some very rough times. Who would I be without all the people who I can stay in contact with via my blog and social media? Who would I be if I just had my job and nothing else? I'd have nothing to fall back on if my day job wasn't going well, for whatever reason.

I work a full day in the office, and then I come home and write. I suppose you'd say that writing is my second job, but in fact I put far more effort and energy into my writing than I do in my day job. I'm not lazy or idle in the office, you have to understand, but it requires so little brain power and creativity. I think it'd drive me nuts to not have a creative outlet which I can plough all my excess effort into.

Things are going well at work. I've been well received by my colleagues and the bosses are pleased; the client is happy. The projects I'm working on are going well and I'm making a useful contribution - I'm an asset to the team.

It seems dumb to take a chance. Surely it's insanity to risk getting sacked, by writing candidly about my mental health problems, and about the difficulties I've had during the last few years. To risk my livelihood; my income - that's nuts, right?

It was too exhausting to live a lie. I tried to cover up the fact that my mood fluctuates up and down. To try to pretend like I'm a perfect corporate drone who can plod along and be a steady eddie was making me sick. Far too much effort was expended by me, trying to shoehorn myself into a job that was made for an unambitious mediocre plodder, who can get up early and go sit at a desk achieving precisely nothing for 45+ years, until they retire. Yes, it's arrogant and primadonna-esque to presume that I'm capable of doing and achieving anything noteworthy, but it doesn't suit my personality at all to get some dog-shit job and then cling onto it with my fingernails for over 4 decades, doing very little. It makes me sick, being held back and thwarted by the plodders. I'm not made for plodding.

Of course, boredom is profitable and it's healthy for me to pace myself. I've found a happy medium at the moment where I work hard in the office, but I leave early every day and I don't take things too seriously - I'm not getting too absorbed in my work. I work to live, not live to work, and that's healthier.

So, I could tear down my digital identity, because it's soon going to become career limiting. Sooner or later somebody's going to take me to one side and say "errr... about your blog...". I'm not going to back down though, because I'm not doing anything wrong - I'm not breaching my code of conduct, acting unprofessionally, talking about anything confidential, risking security, privacy or anything else. All I'm doing is writing truthfully, openly, honestly, transparently and candidly about who I really am about what makes me tick.

It'd be a shame if who I am became career limiting, because I really can do my job, and I can do it really well. I hate that we're asked to pretend to be somebody that we're not, just to conform and earn money and get ahead in our careers. I hate that organisations have that power over us.

 

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The End of Privacy

7 min read

This is a story about data protection...

Messenger bag

Congratulations. You found me. Somehow you managed to figure out my real identity and hack my personal data. Somehow you've managed to discover all my most closely-guarded secrets. You've compromised my privacy and discovered all my data that was held securely in the vault.

I'm fast approaching 900,000 words that I've written on this blog. I've written extensively about my childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, losing my virginity, first love, getting engaged and married, getting divorced, my mental health problems, my problems with drink & drugs, homelessness, near-bankruptcy, trouble with the police... I've written about everything. Everything you could ever hope to find out about a person is all documented right here, in unflinching detail.

I repeat myself.

I repeat myself because nobody fucking cares. I've written all this stuff about myself and left it out there for anybody to read, and it doesn't matter - everybody's too wrapped up in their own lives to give a shit about the details of anybody else's messy little life. I've published high-resolution photos of my passport. I've published every single detail you'd need to steal my identity, but nobody can be bothered. Most of us are far too boring and mediocre and average and uninteresting for anybody to give a shit.

Perhaps you've been so stupid as to share personal information in a way that's easily harvested in vast quantities. Maybe you're just another idiot who made their date of birth public on Facebook, or told some other popular website personal details about yourself, where you completely ignored the messages that told you exactly what data would be shared with 3rd parties.

You've got free email. Free photo sharing. Free messaging. Free document storage. Free business contacts. Free marketing. Free social networks where you can connect with your friends and meet other likeminded people. How the hell did you think any of it was funded? If the service is free YOU are the product.

The email address on the bag pictured above is my business email address. You can email it and your message will be delivered to me. I've been very careful to not mix my professional identity with my Nick "manic" Grant identity, because I work in very boring corporate environments which don't take kindly to people with mental illness who've recently been destitute and locked up on psych wards. There's a fundamental incompatibility with my true identity and the persona that allows me to get good jobs and get ahead in a corporate environment.

To write that email address in text form on the pages of this website would mean that Google would index it and make it searchable, such that my email address would be added to spam lists and my inbox would be inundated with crap. To write that word - the name of my company - on the pages of this website would tie me to any search that included my name and my company's name. I'm already on page 2 of Google, and I'd hate to make it any easier for me to be found. People already find me very quickly on LinkedIn, so heaven forbid what it's going to be like if people start digging for me on Google and stumbling on this blog.

A colleague of mine has already found my blog. I can see that he has an iPhone Plus and he uses the WiFi at our workplace to read my blog. I can see what pages he looked at and how long he spent reading them. Perhaps he doesn't know that I know this, but maybe he does now... if he's just read this. If you think I'm spying on my readers you should know that every tech company collects analytics on its users. Of course, I can't know who every individual is, but I can make very good educated guesses by looking at the IP address they visit from - which tells me their location, their ISP or workplace - and the kind of device they're using.

If you think it's unethical to spy on the people who consume content for free, you should consider whether you'd be prepared to pay for Facebook, Twitter, news websites, funny comics, interesting blogs, videos, games and all the other content you regularly consume. Would you pay for email? Would you pay to keep your photos and documents safely stored in the cloud? At the moment, you receive so much stuff for free, because your data isn't private - you consented to give it to us tech boffins so that you could get free stuf. You made the deal with the devil.

If you think you have privacy you're incredibly naïve. The details of your confidential medical consultations are discussed casually around the dinner table. The details of your life are pored over by the guardian class, who present themselves as protectors of your privacy, but are in fact terrible gossips who share all the lurid details of your most embarrassing moments with all their guffawing chums. There's no privacy - it's an illusion; a fantasy.

Having dealt with GPs, psychiatrists, hospitals, the police, security vetting people, tenant vetting people, credit check people, proof-of-identity people and numerous others who've sought to invade my privacy, I can tell you from first-hand experience that information washes around quite freely and there's very little protection of your precious privacy. The most sensitive information is casually chucked around in the most careless fashion. You're delusional if you think your data's protected.

I became disillusioned with data protection and privacy, and I decided to go public. I decided to write 900,000 words that give complete transparency about who I am and what I've done. I have no privacy. I live in the public eye - everything you could ever want to know about me, including my very worst, most embarrassing and most unflattering moments, are documented here in unflinching detail. This is what happens when you embrace the post-privacy world that we live in.

What do you want to know? Do you want to see my pornography viewing habits? Do you want to see secret webcam screen recordings of me masturbating, or maybe just picking my nose and scratching my testicles while lying on the sofa in a pile of my own filth, watching crappy TV shows? If you want to know what a person's really like behind the mask, I'll give it to you. Guess what? We're all a bit pervy and none of us is perfect; we all have flaws and stuff that we'd be embarrassed if anybody knew, but it's there - we're all basically the same.

Google does not yet read the text on images and make it searchable in the same way that it will for this word: googwebcamasturbdex. Try searching that word tomorrow, and you'll see that it's Google's top search hit. Try searching my email address and you won't find this website, however... which is how I want to keep it until the world finally accepts that we're living in a post-privacy era and we can see that we ALL have flaws.

I'm taking a HUGE risk having all this stuff about me out there on the public internet. I risk my reputation, my business, my income, my livelihood. I risk becoming unemployable. I risk being black-balled, because nobody wants a homeless bankrupt junkie alcoholic with mental heath problems working in their precious corporation. I'm risking it because it was exhausting, trying to keep my privacy in the era when privacy finally became a thing of the past; a relic.

Does privacy help you? Is it a big deal that Facebook leaked 4% of their users' data? Would you have paid for Facebook if it meant that your data was secure?

I think in time you'll come to see the world like I do - secrecy is hard work and life is better when you're transparent and open. I can highly recommend uploading yourself to the public cloud for safekeeping.

 

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