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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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I Felt Something

6 min read

This is a story about flashbacks...

Abandoned shoes

Once upon a time I was in love. Once upon a time I lived in a place where I knew lots of people. Once upon a time I lived somewhere familiar that I called home. Once upon a time I was in the Goldilocks zone: everything was just right.

It often looks as if I start worrying about things too far in advance. I remember I was very anxious about getting another job during the winter of 2016/7. I had money in the bank to pay my rent for many months. I had the financial support of my girlfriend. Really, there was nothing to worry about, but I didn't feel secure.

Nobody could have predicted that I'd get a blood clot in my leg, causing a lot of damage to nerves, blood vessels and muscle, which would trigger my kidneys to fail. Nobody could have predicted the consequent need for dialysis and pain medication.

For sure, I contributed to my own problems, but then the problems multiplied all on their own. It was my fault that I got more sick, didn't get a job and broke up with my girlfriend. Having to leave my home and move to another city was something I already predicted and worried about. Getting into financial difficulties was something I was already losing sleep over. My luck ran out in the end.

There was unimaginable stress and effort required to move from London to Manchester, Manchester to Swansea, Swansea to Cardiff, and stave off bankruptcy. There was an incomprehensible amount of trauma caused by breaking up with the love of my life - even though I instigated it in my madness - and leaving the city which held almost my entire social support network.

Mental health problems, alcoholism and drug abuse added to a toxic mix of moving house, moving city, moving jobs and never putting down any roots. I never felt settled anywhere.

The net result is that I've had to emotionally shut down. The person who I present to prospective employers, prospective landlords and other gatekeepers, is a calm, collected, well-dressed, polite and well-spoken individual, who appears to be handling everything quite well. Without this document, people would be very puzzled and surprised to find that I'd committed suicide. "He looked fine" people would say.

Nobody's really close enough to see the inner anguish and turmoil. Nobody's really close enough to see my mask slip. For sure, I write and publish every day, but my readers are scattered all over the country. At the weekend I saw two close friends, but the previous time I'd seen a close friend had been 5 months ago.

5 months!

Can you imagine that?

Picture yourself pretending like everything is A-OK for 5 straight consecutive months, without a shoulder to cry on and the comfort of opening up to a close friend. Picture yourself being surrounded exclusively by your work colleagues and other people who you need to put on a brave face for, for 5 long months.

My life is very odd. I saw old friends in Portugal, in the gastropub next door to the hotel I lived in, in Prague and near Bristol. I count four occasions when I saw old friends, in the space of a year. That's a staggeringly lonely and isolated existence.

My entire existence revolves around my attempts to avoid gaining a black mark against my name - bankruptcy - and being evicted from the privileged part of society which I'm fortunate enough to be part of. For 5 years I've attempted to muscle my way back into civilised society, while the demands of capitalism have wrestled me to the floor and punched me in the face repeatedly.

My approach to life is very simple: work hard and earn more money that I spend. On paper, it's easy to calculate how long it will take to get myself back in the black. Theoretically, it should be easy for me to restore health, wealth and prosperity to my life.

In reality, I've had to suspend almost everything 'human' about myself and become a robot.

I don't have the time or the money for feelings.

Everything feels very wrong, but conceptually it's right. My feelings tell me that things are painful and unbearable, but on paper I must bear these things, because on paper it's clear what the benefits are. I do not feel any benefits. I very much feel all the horrible unpleasant things. I force myself to live with the intolerable, because it seems logical in theory.

Look around: life seems to be about earning money, paying bills and then dying. I'm making a very passable imitation of those I see around me.

I would desperately like to switch off my feelings, switch off my brain, and just wake up in a year or so when this unpleasantness is over. I'm paid to sit in a chair not saying anything, so it would be very nice if I could be put into a kind of suspended animation, so that I'm unconscious while sitting in that chair. Wake me up when the sitting is finished.

Something unlocked some feelings for the first time in a very long time, and I found myself crying a little bit last night. I cried about breaking up with "the one who got away". It's strange that those tears are almost 2 years overdue. I didn't really cry very much. My feelings are kept very well subdued - the lid is kept on that jar very tight.

I think about the ease with which I could calmly get a sharp knife from the kitchen drawer, walk upstairs to my bathroom, draw a warm bath, immerse myself in the water and open some major blood vessels with the blade. I know how unhesitatingly I would act, once making the decision. I know how little doubt or anxiety would trouble me. I know I wouldn't call anybody or otherwise raise the alarm.

I suppose I could give up the other way. I could allow myself to be ejected from the privileged part of society. I could refuse to partake in the rat race anymore. I could allow my card to be marked and my name to be tarnished. I could let the circling vultures swoop in. I suppose it might actually be more pleasant than the sitting in the chair, quietly doing nothing, just waiting, while in agony.

Regret is the problem.

I cried because I lost the love of my life and it was clearly all my own fault. I cried because I was in the Goldilocks zone but I sabotaged it all. She was just right - not too hot, not too cold - and so were many other things in my life at that time, but I threw it all away.

I don't particularly feel regret, because I don't particularly feel anything. My feelings are all bottled up. There's no time or money for my feelings.

It's been a long time since I cried, but I did cry a little bit last night.

 

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So Embarrassing

6 min read

This is a story about over-sharing...

Twitter likes

I'm not really a self-conscious person or else I'd never write and publish anything, but I did have a moment of panic yesterday when I realised what a plonker I was going to look like, for writing about my most vulnerable insecurities, innermost sensitive thoughts and feelings, laying myself wide open for a moment of stunned silence, which would have been very embarrassing.

I thought about deleting my tweet which accompanied the blog post. It's been ages since I thought about deleting something. I very rarely self-censor.

Being single transports me back to my frustrated and unhappy teens. Despite modest success in the world of dating and relationships, I still carry a huge amount of insecurity. I've never felt like "God's gift" to women or that I have any particular attractiveness or charisma that means I don't have anything to worry about. I've been told on plenty of occasions that I don't have anything to worry about - that I'm good-looking - but I suppose whatever wounds were inflicted in childhood still haven't healed.

I'm basically one big twisted knot of overthinking and over-isolated overgrown man-child. Growing up without any siblings until the age of 10 was hell. Being stuck in the company of my parents as they dragged me through 8 different schools and all over the bloody world was hell on earth. I have plenty of reasons why I should struggle to form normal healthy relationships with my peers.

I guess I got into technology because it seemed like a perfect microcosm that I could control. However, reality has asserted itself so fully that I can see that life is messy, and my reaction is to collate and publish all that mess for everyone to see. I'm using technology to gather together everything that I'm embarrassed about and really don't want to be teased about.

What I write is an absolute goldmine for anybody who wants to poke and prod at my insecurities, to antagonise me.

The thing is, I write about this stuff as a pre-emptive step, so that it's less of a big red button that people can press to get a reaction.

I've been relatively successful at positioning myself so that I'm never on the back foot like I was when I was a child. I refuse to ever be somebody's plaything. If I'm going to act predictably, it's going to be in accordance with my own predictions, not anybody else's.

Pleasingly, the world has somewhat complied with my wishes. I've been able to enjoy social change, enabling me to be the passive one who has the enviable position of being able to reject, taunt, bully and tease, if I should so choose. It's every bit as pleasant and comforting as I thought it would be, to have the tables turned and be the one with the power.

Am I applauding the existence of the patriarchy? No.

Am I very weird geeky guy who had a particularly disrupted childhood, which held me back from having a number of formative experiences, such as girlfriends at school? Yes.

The net result is that things that are normal for you have a different level of importance in my life. My entire self-esteem is based on whether I'm getting laid or not. If I'm not getting laid, then I assume that I've been plunged back into my unhappy adolescence. I assume that I'm once again the awkward social outcast that I was during my schooldays. I assume that I've lost all of my adult development and I'm doomed to live out my days in lonely singledom.

The net result is dating some very unsuitable women and having a lot of unwanted sex. The sex is symbolic. I have as much sex as I can get now, today, as over-compensation for the lack of it in my teens... as if I can somehow alter the past.

It's strange psychology, but also very basic and simple.

Also, I shouldn't write about it, but I do.

I sometimes forget that I pour my heart out like this. The process of emptying my brain out onto the page has become normalised. The fear of embarrassing myself in front of the entire world has long-since been forgotten. The concept of a world that hasn't seen every flaw and downside of my character is long gone.

You'd think that my exposure would be problematic, but I find it easier to remain quiet and keep my mouth shut when I need to - such as in the office - by brain-dumping all of this stuff out publicly. I enjoy the open secret of it, although it does stress me out that one day I'm going to get into trouble.

Dating with this level of exposure is problematic. Dating is a thing that puts people in a very vulnerable position, and having a large resource of vulnerabilities published publicly makes me doubly vulnerable. I have no idea whether to offer up this blog as part of the package of information made available during the early stages of dating, along with photos and descriptions of what I do for money etc. which are usually expected.

Without too much digging, it's possible to see me in a very unflattering light, but I also know that it takes bravery and courage to make yourself vulnerable, and I know that it's rewarding to be brave and take risks.

For now, I'm just going to proceed as normal. I was very reassured to see that some people who I really like and respect had acknowledged what I'd written yesterday, but I must admit that I was seriously thinking about deleting it, because I felt like I'd made a fool of myself.

I find the world to be adversarial and hostile and I don't like it. My reaction is not to be defensive, but in fact to do the un-intuitive thing and to lower my guard - making myself extremely vulnerable. "Do your worst" I incant.

 

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Being Single Is Not Good

5 min read

This is a story about fulfilment...

Fire exit

I enjoy watching feature-length documentaries. I enjoy watching entire series in 20-hour-long Netflix marathons. I spend a great deal of time carefully choosing how I'm going to spend my waking hours. I refuse to watch a movie that's rated less than 7.0 on IMDB. Life's too short for compromises on such things.

On the other hand, I'm a realist. I mostly prefer a stable secure settled life to one where I'm constantly striving to trade up. I've ended up settling for relationships which have seemed at the time to be marginally better than being single. I've ended up putting up with pretty bad relationships, for the sake of security.

My relationships don't tend to end with a smooth parting of ways. Because I'm kind of a stubborn and frustratingly patient person, my relationships end when my mental health stability ends. It seems like only an episode of mental illness is enough for me to make necessary changes to my life - to break up and move on from relationships which are holding me back.

Of course, I admit that I'm 50% of the blame in any bad relationship scenario. I admit that if a relationship is unsuitable and it's going to end eventually, I'm holding back the other person as much as they're holding me back.

My dating process is not very refined.

I usually start from a position of panic. I usually start dating with somewhat of a campaign mentality. Singledom is something I see as a condition to be conquered and I will exhaust all avenues until my single status is subdued. I view the process of going from being single to being in a relationship as a journey which should be as short and direct as possible. I view the dating process as immensely stressful and unpleasant, and something that should last as little time as possible.

As a person with a mood disorder - bipolar - I can leverage my manic energy to achieve goals. Finding a girlfriend is just another goal with a number of prerequisite steps. It's a numbers game.

I'm not very sentimental about dating.

In fact, I'm probably a terrible human being.

There might be some underlying misogyny which drives my thoughts and behaviour. What can be said for certain is that I really don't like feeling insecure. I really don't enjoy any of the flirtation or "do they like me?" uncertainty. I view all of the preamble as thoroughly unpleasant. I want to travel from the uncertain to the certain as quickly as possible.

My life at the moment is pretty simple. Work the job, get the money, spend the money. I earn more than I spend and my job is pretty easy. I have everything I need.

I examine my thoughts regularly for any sign of entitlement or other worrying sentiments. I wonder how I really feel about the opposite sex. I wonder if I'm a bad person. I'm pretty sure I am a bad person, but I'm a product of my environment, and I'm under a lot of pressure. Pressure is a bad thing. Pressure brings out the worst in people.

I look at my friends as a reference point, and there's a mix of friends who would very much like to have a life partner, but haven't yet managed to meet that special somebody - perhaps somewhat involuntarily single - and some who have experienced a string of relationships. Nobody stands out as a fine example of somebody who's got their life perfectly right - every relationship, or absence of relationship, looks to contain a certain amount of unhappiness.

I look at my current situation: I have traded history, art, culture and food for being able to live in a big house and drive to work. I have swapped a city which made me feel at home, the more I wandered around it, for a city which makes me feel disorientated and bewildered, despite it being much smaller.

My life situation - being 39 years old and not having much to show for it - feels deeply shameful and as though I'm a failure, here in this place which places such import on owning a house and a new car. My ephemeral achievements count for nothing in this place of mortgages and car loans. I'm plunged back into the insecurity of my teens, when having a flash car was an obsession, because it seemed to be the route to getting the girl.

I can't tell whether I make things happen in my life, or whether things just fall into my lap. In fact, all of my experiences seem to suggest that things just fall into my lap more often than I make things happen. I always seem to get what I want.

Then I screw everything up.

Boom and bust. This is my life. This is bipolar.

 

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Nest-Making

8 min read

This is a story about impatience...

Chaise longue

I've committed the cardinal sin of spending a substantial sum of money that I haven't earned yet. Compounding my error is the fact that I have been dreadfully unwell for the last week, and was not able to work. I've quickly moved myself from a precarious position - living in hotels - to one that appears to have more certainty about it. It would take considerable effort to eject me and my belongings, now that I have arrived, and I've got a load of furniture now too. However, I now find myself in the position which I tried to work very hard to avoid: Worrying about job security.

I'm not really that worried.

I waited a long time for my home and my income to come back into alignment. I suffered too many nights lived out of a suitcase. I suffered too many different hotel rooms, bed & breakfasts, AirBnBs and other ad-hoc sleeping arrangements. My favourite clothes were either on my body or in my luggage - never put away in a chest-of-drawers.

Of course, this isn't a self-pity piece. I just watched a feature-length documentary, eating popcorn, reclining on a brand new sofa, under a fluffy blanket and warmed by a log fire. My life is good.

At least, I presume my life is good.

The enormous pressure had broken me a week ago. I was losing my mind. I gambled with my professional reputation: I'm known for being ever-present, always available when somebody needs a question answered. Getting sick was not just unfortunate, but almost definitely an act of self-sabotage.

I had my ducks so nicely lined up, that I could only see two outcomes: I would get everything I wanted, or disaster would strike and I'd lose it all. Easier to prompt the latter outcome into existence, than to sit and patiently wait for things to be OK.

The intensity of what I had planned for a 4-day period was ferocious, and intended to limit my loss of earnings due to domestic errands in the course of house moving. What actually happened was that I put so much pressure on myself that I lost my mind, and began to do things which could have become a cascading, escalating, spiralling catastrophe.

My body 'let me down' in a way that it has often done, where my muscles start to disintegrate and my kidneys are damaged. My urine turns dark brown and it becomes very clear from the sight and smell that I'm beginning to have a medical emergency.

The sensible thing would have been to defer all my plans and go into hospital, but perversely, I decided that I would carry on until complete renal failure. Perversely, it was precisely this outcome - the beginning of the end - that I had superstitiously predicted, but had also prompted into existence.

To the untrained eye it looks as if I'm enjoying a very exciting life of travel and adventure, and my skills are in demand all over the world, but in reality I'm always skating on very thin ice indeed.

It is not advisable to move house, go to new cities, change jobs and have such an unsettled life, without any anchor. Given my estrangement from my family and move away from Dorset, Bournemouth and London, I've found myself in places where I've felt like there's nobody I could phone if I was having a crisis. I'm too distant from everyone who's ever really known me and cared about me. I've become a strange hermit-like reclusive creature, who's always accessible to anybody and everybody, but I've been too loosely anchored to have any meaningful relationship with.

Of the two friends I saw the most of last year, one lives in idyllic domestic bliss with his beautiful family - a very firmly anchored man - while the other one is dead: A man who found himself very alone and very far from the vast majority of people who knew him and cared about him.

I must be careful that I now proceed to live my life with the anchor of a city I call home, a house, relationships and things of some permanence, because I can see that all-too-easily I could wind up dead, like my friend. I've made some difficult decisions which make me far less resilient to life's unexpected changes - far less adaptable - but I'm going to make my 4th attempt at building the life I want.

I once had a beautiful girlfriend who was devoted and loyal and everything I ever wanted, and we both had riverside apartments, not far from each other, but on opposite banks of the Thames. There's a foot tunnel which was by far the quickest route between our two amazing homes. All I needed was a job. I got the job I needed, but the patience of waiting for it had somehow damaged me... I self-sabotaged and ended up with kidney failure, spending a long time on dialysis in a high-dependency hospital ward. Still, this was not enough to destroy my life. I kept going down the path which led only to catastrophe, until I got what I wanted: I lost it all.

Regrettable, but nothing can be salvaged except for the lesson learned: That if I really try hard enough, then I can screw up nearly but not quite all my opportunities in life.

The intervening 20+ months have been the harshest part of the lesson, because never once have I been so close to having what I had then. The hardest part has been when I've had clear sight of the route I need to take. When, at least on paper, I've had my future all mapped out and all I have to do is stick to the plan, that's been indescribably awful. It's been such a horrible waiting game.

If your only goal in life is to get things back to at least as good as they once were, it's a pretty miserable state of existence.

I'm not such a fool that I'd attempt any like-for-like replacement of my old life, and I'm also wary of romanticising the past too. Some might say that I tried - and failed - for too long in London, because I had such good memories, from when I first started my career. Friends would tell me that London is too much hard work - too expensive, too busy, too overcrowded and too fast-paced and competitive for anybody but a fit young person.

When my washing machine failed to be delivered today and I had no clean linen for the bed, I got in my car and drove through the city centre, bought what I needed and drove home. In London, such a thing would have been an ordeal, and nobody in their right mind would have attempted to drive through the city centre during rush hour. Of course, I know how to adapt to London - you live your life very differently there - but there is a great sense of relief that things are just easier out here in the provinces. Like, I find nothing very taxing or frustrating, because London is my benchmark. I spend a lot of time marvelling at how very civilised existence can be. All of the very many conveniences available only to London's mega-rich, are at my disposal here in this city, which is but 2 hours train ride away from the Big Smoke.

I felt a huge sense of calm and contentedness descend upon me, as soon as my bed was properly made and I knew I could snuggle under the duvet whenever I felt I wanted or needed to. I can't believe that it's only Saturday, and my lounge and bedroom both feel like they're my home and I belong here. In fact, I often get the sense that I'm not too far away from declaring my life to be as good as it once was.

I'll be going back to work with some trepidation and it will take me a while to feel as though I've undone any damage caused by my self-sabotage. I'll need to get a few more cheques in the bank before I start to relax and let my guard down - to allow myself to think of this life as 'mine'.

I wonder if people think that I demand the impossible and am ungrateful for what I have. I know I've done a lot of moaning and complaining about the discomfort and unpleasantness of living out of a suitcase, and perhaps with retrospect that seems very impatient of me, given that I must surely have known that my efforts woud bear fruit.

Is it very bad of me, that I walk around my beautiful home and I think "this is befitting of the effort expended and the struggle"... almost like I deserve this, which I know sounds despicable. There is no justice in the world, but I still want you to know that I'm sitting here thinking "this worked out the way I wanted it to".

There's still a scary time ahead, while I cement my victory in place, so it can never be unseated, but every day when disaster doesn't strike is another day I can look back on with incredible gratitude, just like I can do for all those days I was in love by the riverside. No regrets.

 

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I'm Going On A Date

12 min read

This is a story about rushing things...

Packed boxes

I never really fully recovered after getting sick, following my close friend's funeral, which required a huge round-trip across the country. That was a really terrible week, which started with me having to break up with my girlfriend, because she wasn't being very pleasant or supportive at a time when I needed to get me, my suit, my black tie and other funeral-suitable attire to a crematorium hundreds of miles away.

I had to break up with that girlfriend, because my attendance of my close friend's funeral was being jeopardised.

That was a few weeks ago.

I have something else that was being jeopardised: My shelter; my housing security.

I suppose I could have extended my rental contract, but the place was nowhere near my workplace and therefore completely impractical. I'm struggling to cope, even though I've made smart choices to ease the burden on myself, such as staying in a hotel close to my office. If I was to commute from the current home I'm renting, it would add a 3 hours of travelling onto my day, every single day weekday. That's exhausting and pointless.

So, I guess I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to move. The clock was ticking.

It made me very anxious, knowing that there was a day when my contract would simply expire and I would no longer have any legal right to continue to occupy the place I'd called home for a year. Squatters have lost most of their legal rights over the years, and I need to be a squeaky-clean citizen anyway, because of the nature of my work: I'm expected to comply with a much more stringent code of conduct and set of behavioural guidelines, than the vast majority of people - with great power comes great responsibility.

I had back-slid into that toxic relationship after I got sick. Once my friend's funeral was out of the way, I was back home, but I was vulnerable. She cyber-stalked me and found my address. She turned up and I let her in, because I was sick in so many ways. I was physically sick with diarrhoea and vomiting, and I was emotionally sick from the recent funeral of a close friend. I was weak, she turned up and I let her in.

Fast forward to Valentine's day and I had viewed a beautiful house that I wanted to rent and the landlord had agreed to accept my tenancy. I had a house to move to. I had housing security. I had some guarantee of shelter.

She wasn't very happy for me.

In fact, she told me to get out at 11pm, when I was trying to get enough sleep to go to work in the morning. I said it was unreasonable, and that I would leave in the morning. She escalated things. It was unpleasant and unnecessary, but I was not surprised: The relationship was toxic and I had resolved to try to make my escape as soon as I could. I spent the night in a hotel.

I boxed up my belongings and made my current place more presentable, so that it could be more easily rented out. I was getting my ducks in a row, so to speak, in order to keep working my full-time job AND move house. If I don't work I don't get paid, and moving house is expensive.

I thought I wasn't going be able to move for weeks and weeks.

I hate waiting.

Now, I have a date.

I will be leaving on specific date, to start my new life in a new city - a city where I've never lived before.

I bought some furniture today and arranged for it to be delivered soon after I get the keys to my new house. I still need to buy a washer/dryer and have my broadband moved, as well as renting a van or organising a removals firm to help me shift all my stuff from one city to another: Probably the best part of 2 hours drive away, in a fully-loaded truck.

I'm going on a date. That is to say, I'm going to start my new life on a specific date. I can start to look forward to that date. I can start to dream about what it's going to be like living in the beautiful house I've rented.

I've swept problems out of the way. I've refused to allow anyone or anything sabotage my plans to maintain a secure roof over my head. It was the right thing to do: To leave the girlfriend who was jeopardising the holiday I needed, jeopardising my attendance of my close friend's funeral, jeopardising my chances of finding a beautiful new home, jeopardising the stability I need - to keep working my job - while going through an incredibly tough stressful time.

Moving house is hell. Moving to an unfamiliar city is double hell. Moving with the clock ticking down, and nobody supporting me practically - actually packing, moving boxes and assembling flat-pack furniture - is triple hell.

I expect I'll probably start dating again once I'm settled in my new house, but it's low down on my list of priorities right now. Going on a date is the last thing I want to do, when all I can think about is the date when I'm going to get the keys to my new house.

I've brought the move date much sooner, because there's no point in me living in an expensive hotel when I'll soon have a whole massive house to live in. I'm so happy. It's such a relief to have secured a roof over my head. It gives me such an important sense of security, to know that I'm going to have a house that actually suits my needs, and I've managed to extricate myself from a toxic relationship that so often jeopardised the things that I need and I've worked so hard to get.

Already, friends have been getting in contact to arrange to come and visit me. I was overjoyed when a beloved Twitter follower - who I've never met in person - mentioned they might drop in on me for a cup of tea if they're in the area. I've got the opportunity to accomodate my friends and their children as my guests, because I've been lucky enough to rent a huge house.

I adore company and I love to entertain guests, but the place where I was living was a little too far away from London, where most of my friends are, and it was also even too far from places like Bristol, Somerset and Dorset, where I still have a lot of long-neglected friends.

Most of my friends now seem to have children, and I do think that little people are wonderful, even though I've been careful not to spawn any of my own with the wrong person... so I find myself in the enviable position of having the best of all worlds: I will have a large house, which will comfortably hold me and my guests, without it being any trouble at all... in fact, it'll be a joyful thing to have my house filled with life and the noises of habitation. I live a bit like a monastic monk and I wouldn't have any face-to-face interactions or 'normal' human experiences, if it wasn't for things like my day job. Nobody at work really knows the extent of my isolation; my vulnerability.

I moved to Manchester, and that was disastrous and very nearly killed me, quite literally. When my kidneys failed in 2017 and I was on a high-dependency ward, my wonderful then-girlfriend (the one who got away) arranged for me to have lots of visitors, and she was incredibly attentive and supportive. She was my rock. When my heart was broken and I was virtually bankrupt, in central Manchester, where I had no friends or family anywhere within a hundred miles, at least, it was an easy decision to kill myself. I very nearly succeeded, but for the incredible work of the resus and intensive care medical teams at Manchester Royal Infirmary, and the emergency services who got me to hospital so quickly, thanks to strangers on the internet raising the alarm.

I'm moving to Cardiff, which I shouldn't really mention because I risk being positively identified by my colleagues and people whose job it is to vet and monitor employees who have access to highly sensitive information, who might not think it's a wise idea to expose myself so publicly.

However, I'm rushing and I'm stressed and I'm tired and I'm sick and I'm terribly alone, except for the huge group of friends I have across the globe. My work colleagues are lovely, but for the sake of my career, I try to hide my mental illness and personal life struggles. I have a very serious psychiatric mood disorder, which has caused dreadful destruction to my life in the past, so I work very hard to protect my hard-won stability. Anybody who jeopardises my future happiness and security is given short shrift, hence my toxic ex got the boot on Valentine's day, which was only a day earlier than planned anyway... it just seemed heartless to break up with her on a day that has heaps of societal expectation pressure placed upon it.

So, I move to Cardiff on my own - single - which is sort of overwhelming, but at the same time it's such an unbelievably good opportunity to get all the things I need in my life, such as a secure home in a city where I can easily commute to a job which is going well, and maintain as much stability as I can.

As you can tell by the volume of text which I'm writing, and my flurry of social media activity, I've been triggered into a state of mania by the combined recent events and cluster-fuck of stresses placed upon me.

I'll be OK.

I'll just be nimble and quick.

I'll dodge my way around the people who would otherwise sabotage me and the things I work hard to make happen.

I'll cut toxic people out of my life without a second thought. I've fought too hard to get what I've got, so I'm not going to allow myself to be coerced, controlled or forced to live with oppressive insecurity and unnecessary aggravation, when I work so damn hard to ensure that stressful and difficult things happen, with smooth sailing.

I'm single, but no dates for me. I'd be rushing things too much.

Of course, I'm about to get the keys to a gorgeous huge house that I can fill with beautiful things that I hand-picked. Of course, it'd be wonderful to have the comfort and security of a partner to share that with, but if I have to do it on my own, I choose that every time even though it's difficult, because being a good partner means being supportive and making a better life together. If you threaten to sabotage the important things in my life, you'll be shown the door... sorry.

Perhaps I'm just a washed-up middle-aged nobody, with nothing to offer. Perhaps I should be feeling insecure, but I don't. I'm filled up with excitement about all the future possibilities, even though I'm a bit sick, very manic and I've got some awfully exhausting and stressful stuff to get through, which will be incredibly destabilising.

I'm planning on basing my stability on a few simple things: my daily routine, my job (which I'm really good at) and my excellent relationship with my colleagues, and a secure financial and housing situation. The safety net that allows me to do my high-wire act alone is my vast number of friends who I'm in contact with all over the world, who have my back, although I can reassure them that this move is not one of heartbreak and shameful defeat, like the time I had to leave my beloved London home, to take a shitty job in Manchester, and live in a shitty apartment.

I'm going on a date. I'm going from Swansea to Cardiff on a specific date. I know the exact date when I get my keys and I become a resident of a city that I chose to live in... this move is not driven by desperation, this time, and I get good vibes about the place. I still can't quite believe that I can afford to rent such a massive house in an amazing location... but that's Wales, it seems. Wales is my birthplace and the country seems pleased to have me back. Things have gone my way since I came back. Things have gone well, mostly.

Anyway, sorry for the manic rant, but that's what's happening in my world. I expect I'll be blathering on about it for a while, because it's part of the foundation of the stable happy new life I'm building for myself. It's incredibly satisfying to see real tangible progress towards the life I want, when I was so close to death so many times, and I was in every kind of trouble you can imagine: Debts, drugs and abandonment. For a while, my life revolved around hospitals, police stations, psych wards, hostels and sleeping rough.

If I pull this off and manage to get myself stable again, I really feel like I can hang onto things this time. Dating can wait. I feel like I've got so much to offer, so there's no rush.

 

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On Probation

7 min read

This is a story about being on tenterhooks...

Book quote

I'm a living contradiction. I choose security and certainty over the vain hope of hitting the jackpot. If I was given the choice between having a "B" grade, but not having to do any work or suffer any uncertainty, versus the potential to achieve an "A+" then I would take the "B" grade without a moment's hesitation. If you think that's settling for mediocrity, you're wrong - I choose my battles and I achieve "A+" grades all the time... as an accidental consequence of pursuing the things I'm interested in and passionate about.

The other part of my contradictory personality is that I choose to take incredible risks. I jump out of planes. I climb rock faces. I scale high mountains. I ride gigantic waves in gale-force winds. Why the hell would I do that?

There are a lot of risk-reward-cost-benefit calculations that go on inside my head.

I've gathered a lot of data.

The decision to take dangerous highly addictive drugs might seem like one of the most baffling choices that a person would elect to do. For example, taking heroin is seen as an indication of character flaw, but being a BASE jumper is seen as cool, although the latter carries the same risk of premature death.

Let's do a bit more in-depth analysis, shall we?

Cost of being a rock climber:

  • Rock boots: £45
  • Harness: £75
  • Chalk bag & chalk ball: £15
  • Rope £150
  • Helmet £50
  • Belay plate: £20
  • 10 quickdraws: £150

TOTAL: £505

So, for somebody who wants to climb a rock face safely, the minimum amount they're going to have to spend is over £500. Also, you might fall and die. Let's re-iterate that: It's pretty damn obvious that if you climb up a vertical rock face and you lose your grip, you can fall to the ground and be killed on impact.

Cost of being a mountaineer:

  • Crampon-compatible boots: £200
  • Crampons: £120
  • Base layers: £40
  • Mid-layers: £80
  • Shell layer jacket: £250
  • Shell layer salopettes: £180
  • Ice axes: £250
  • Helmet: £50
  • 9mm waterproof rope: £175
  • Ice screws: £120
  • Warthogs: £40
  • Deadman: £40
  • Backpack: £150
  • Survival bag: £20
  • Down sleeping bag: £300
  • Down jacket: £200
  • Tent: £350
  • Sleeping mat: £60

TOTAL: £2,625

So, for somebody who wants to climb a 4,000m+ mountain (Mont Blanc etc) then you're going to have to shell out more than £2,500. In fact, it's going to cost you a lot more, because you're going to need lots of things I didn't list, like spare pairs of socks, spare base layers, and also a stove, cooking utensils, plus all the other expedition gear. You're not going to have much spare change out of £3,500. Did I mention that you're highly likely to be killed by falling rocks, avalanches, falling into a crevasse, or simply plummeting to your death.

I shan't follow the same process for kitesurfing, yacht sailing or skydiving, but the financial cost of putting your life in danger can be staggering, especially when we consider that rugged outdoorsy types are somehow healthy and laudable people of good character and moral fibre; made of the right stuff.

Another group of people who we might consider are the entrepreneurs. Who are these people who reject conventional employment - salaried jobs - and instead choose to make their money by means other than selling their singular body and brain. Are these people risk takers too?

In fact, all the celebrated members of society have one thing in common: they've had the financial means to pursue avenues that are not available to most of the populace, because the need to eat, be housed and be clothed is an insistent demand which is too pressing for all but those who enjoy considerable economic advantages. Do not believe the bullshit - rugged adventurers are not brave souls and entrepreneurs are not gifted geniuses... they're all people who've had the financial backing in order to pursue their expensive dreams. Don't believe any of the "self-made man" bullshit. Behind every "self made" man are a whole bunch of people who've underwritten their risk.

I busted my shoulder up pretty badly - broken bones - on a beach in a remote part of Brasil. My startup co-founder broke his leg very badly indeed in roughly the same part of Brasil. That part of the world is many hours away from a good hospital with a surgeon and operating theatre where complex orthopaedic surgery could be performed. Would we have been so adventurous if we hadn't become somewhat complacent about the bubble we live in?

I'm on probation at the moment. I'm on best behaviour. I'm trying to impress my new girlfriend. I'm trying to prove that I'm a good boyfriend.

But, do I really think that I'm going to fail?

Have I ever been worried that I'm going to fall to my death?

Have I ever been worried that world-class medical establishments and all the many wonders of modern civilisation aren't rapidly available in an emergency? Have I ever been worried that somebody wouldn't patch me up as good as new, if I had an accident?

It's never really crossed my mind that I might not get what I want. Of course, I've had heart-stopping moments when I've suddenly realised how staggeringly exposed I am. I've spent so much of my life living on the edge that I've become desensitised to the worrying fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the more times I put my life at risk, the greater the chance that I'm going to be badly injured or killed.

I was worried that I was too fat, old, mentally ill and addicted to drugs and alcohol to ever meet somebody who'd fall in love with me. I was worried that I was too indebted and lacking in any assets - such as a fast car and big house - to be attractive to any object of my affections. I was worried that I was a washed-up loser; a has-been.

Our whole lives are lived under Damocles' sword, somewhat. We could mess up our exams. We could mess up our careers. We could mess up our relationships. There's never a single moment when we can really relax and feel like we're not on probation in some way.

I guess I'm pretty sanguine. I get anxious and I torment myself a very great deal with catastrophic thinking but ultimately, I feel the fear and do what I was always going to do anyway. I'm well aware of the innumerable and virtually unimaginable risks, but if you examine my behaviour - as opposed to what I write - then you'll see that I never choose the low-risk option; you'll see that I continuously pursue the very best that life has to offer, despite stress levels which are almost intolerable.

Tomorrow is an important day, but I already know that I'm going to be OK. My risk is underwritten. What's the worst that can happen? Death? Hospitalisation? Been there. Done that.

 

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No News is Bad News - Part Two

6 min read

This is a story about radio silence...

Hotel room

On June 20 of this year I attempted to write my life story from 2011 onwards, covering the happiest, most successful period of my life and the pinnacle of my career - doing a tech startup accelerator program in Cambridge with a cohort of incredible people - and the subsequent reasons why I stepped down as CEO, separated from my wife, sold my house and settled my acrimonious divorce.

I wrote 10,000 words in a non-stop brain dump. Once I started I couldn't hold back - the words flooded out onto the page.

It was supposed to be succinct. It was supposed to be a simple set of bullet points.

It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, to write down even the first part.

Part two has a lot to cover:

  • Homelessness
  • Hospitals
  • Police
  • Drug addiction
  • Psych wards
  • Suicide attempts
  • More banking jobs
  • More IT projects
  • Moving to Manchester
  • Moving to Wales
  • Several relationships and breakups; love and loss
  • Psychosis
  • Self medication
  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Financial problems
  • Near-bankruptcy
  • Salvation

I'm not going to write part two in the same way that I wrote part one.

That was 6 months ago. This is now.

A lot can happen in 6 months.

As a quick recap, here are the problems I've been trying to tackle this year:

  • £54,000 of debt
  • Homeless
  • No job
  • No car
  • Single
  • Addicted to prescription drugs: sleeping pills, tranquillisers and painkillers
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder

As if those problems weren't enough, in June I had relapsed onto supercrack. I'd been working but I'd lost my job - through no fault of my own - and I was in no hurry to get another one, because my addiction had returned with a vengeance. I was in a place with no family and only a handful of friends, none of whom were equipped to deal with my clusterfuck of issues. I was more-or-less alone, except for the people who I try to connect with on a daily basis through my blog, Twitter, Facebook and other digital means.

I came up with the title "No News is Bad News" because it's usually true. I came up with that title, because a period of silence on my blog is usually cause for concern. It's usually time to start phoning round the hospitals to see if I've been admitted. It's usually time to start worrying if I'm dead or dying.

Back in June - 6 months ago - the title was very apt, because I hadn't been online for a while. Losing my job had completely destroyed my hopes of dealing with the mountain of issues I was facing. Losing my job had wrecked my plans for recovery.

Today, my world looks very different.

I can't tell you too much - because it's private - but I'm writing from the comfort of my girlfriend's bed. Her bedroom is very pink and girly. She just brought me a plate with a generously buttered thick slice of toast and a glass of orange juice, which I am eating in bed. I'm getting crumbs in the bed and greasy finger-marks on my laptop.

I'm no longer living out of a suitcase in a hotel and eating in the same gastropub every night, sat at a table for one. I'm unofficially co-habiting. We only met a few weeks ago. The relationship is going fast. Too fast some might say.

I kiss my sweetheart good morning and wish her a good day as I depart for work. My journey takes no more than 15 minutes when the traffic is kind to me. I'm finding it easy to get up in the morning. I don't dread lonely evenings in a bland hotel room. I don't dread the unsustainable interminable monotony of miserable days in the office, and miserable evenings spent alone.

I'm going too fast though.

I'm working too hard.

It takes vast quantities of alcohol, sleeping pills and tranquillisers to prevent me from working 12 to 14 hour days. It requires a huge amount of effort to stop myself from working at the weekend. I'm desperate to achieve results as quickly as possible, because the finishing line is within sight.

It could be months before I'm well-and-truly out of the danger zone and enjoying some long-overdue financial security. It's definitely going to be a long time before I get truly settled at home and at work. I need to decide where I'm going to live and what I'm going to do for a job, on a more long-term basis. At some point, my good luck is going to run out and I'll be forced back into living out of a suitcase, maintaining a long-distance relationship, and having to face the anxiety and stress of proving myself in a new organisation, with a new set of work colleagues.

Mania has arrived. There's no doubt about that.

My manic energy has been ploughed into my day job, instead of my new novel. I worry that my work colleagues have noticed that I've completely obsessed by my project. I worry that the undesirable accompanying behaviours - irritability, rapid and pressured speech, arrogance and delusions of grandeur - will become so hard to hide in the office that I might be forced to disclose my bipolar disorder to my colleagues, in the hope that they'll be sympathetic.

My blog has been neglected, along with my friends.

I work too hard. I'm moving 'too fast' in my new relationship - the "L" word has been used and she has given me a key to her place. We're going on holiday together. All my original problems are still there, to some extent. I need to decide where to live, pay off my outstanding debts, drink less, quit the sleeping pills and tranquillisers, get my mania under control.

What else can I tell you?

I can't try to tell you too much all at once, even though I desperately want to. I want to sit down and write 10,000 words without taking a single break. I want to pour my heart out onto the page and tell you everything, but I'm trying to pump the brakes a little bit. I'm trying to be a little bit sensible, even though I'm clearly going too fast.

It feels like the week-long hiatus from blogging was not bad news. Perhaps it's good news? No. It's not good news. I'm not looking after myself. I'm not managing my bipolar very well. I'm allowing myself to become manic, for the purposes of achieving 'great' things at work. It's exciting to be manic after so many months of depression and misery.

It would be a good idea for me to resolve to resume my daily writing, but I'm wary of making unrealistic promises. Today, I'm coming to terms with the fact that my 3rd novel remains unfinished, when I had hoped to have completed it yesterday.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my present situation in a nutshell.

 

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Dear Diary

9 min read

This is a story about having too much to lose...

Indecipherable scribbles

I offer to you, the reader, a specimen of my handwriting which I liken to a form of shorthand. Having spent my adolescence and adult years in front of a keyboard, my brain forms words more quickly than my hand can move a pen on a page. I never learned the technique of neat, fast, legible handwriting, because it was always very clear to me that the skill was being made obsolete by technology.

It might surprise you that I can write at all, when my handwriting is so bad.

I'm genuinely mortified at my own incompetence at something which most grown adults managed to master as children. I'm a little hesitant to publish this unflattering piece of evidence.

I have no idea how many words I write per day. I'm a professional writer, in that I'm paid to write, but what I write is very technical so perhaps it doesn't count. Certainly I need a creative outlet during all those times when I'm not able to cut loose and let rip, in my rather drab beige corporate world, where artistic types could never survive and thrive.

I've almost fully abandoned my creative writing endeavours recently, because my time is neatly divided between my career and my attempts to fall in love. 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, 8 hours romance.

My blog is the lynchpin of my identity. Of course, my highly paid employment affords me the luxury of being able to plough vast amounts of time and energy into a project which generates zero income - pure art - but my chosen daytime profession brings back so many memories of being labelled a geek, nerd or bookworm, and subsequently bullied, that I take no pleasure nor derive any self-esteem from my paid job.

It occurs to me that if I cease to write every day, I will lose my regular readers. I could easily melt away like snow in the sun, and be forgotten. I've often written about how the internet is littered with abandoned blogs, where the authors were initially filled with incredible enthusiasm, only to quickly get bored and wander off to find something more instantly gratifying.

I persevered through a very difficult period where pretty much nobody was reading, which was tough going. I persevered and then I popped out the other side and felt like I was getting somewhere. I started to feel like I was letting readers down if I didn't write every day.

Not writing for a few days - or more - was usually symptomatic of me coming unstuck. If I disappeared off the grid it was usually sensible to start ringing round the various hospitals to see if I could be located, or failing that the morgues. I really needed my readers, because ultimately they saved my life last year, quite literally.

I now find myself in very different circumstances.

I like the people who I'm working with - I think they're smart - and I like the stuff I'm doing at the office. I'm challenged and entertained. I'm finding that my days in gainful employment are passing increasingly effortlessly and that I'm taking a great deal of pride in the work that I do.

I like the special person I've recently met - I think she's amazing - and I like spending time with her. I'm finding it very easy to swap out the very many hours I spent in a pit of despair, for hours spent kissing and cuddling. I derive an enormous amount of enjoyment from abandoning all self-preservation instincts; allowing my emotions to run riot; my heart and soul completely laid open and vulnerable in a very childish and immature way, as I'm carried along with the initial excitement of a new relationship.

A more calculating and shrewd fellow would not write this.

My writing could be the undoing of both my job and my girlfriend. My writing could easily cause me to find myself unemployed and single. My writing could get me into big trouble.

I write tonight, because writing came first. There was madness and sadness, then came writing. I had so much to say. I've still got a lot to say.

I'm predisposed to short-lived obsessions. I'm predisposed to boom and bust. I'm predisposed towards highs and lows.

I could very easily decide tomorrow that I hate my job and the organisation I'm involved with, because of the vagaries of my mood. I could very easily decide tomorrow that I'm horribly heartbroken and that I'm irreparably damaged. I live my life to the very most extreme that it's possible to do.

I write because it would be foolish to make any sudden changes. I write because it's a very healthy and useful part of my routine. I write because of the enormously valuable connection it gives me to people all around the world, to whom I owe my life, quite literally.

It's regrettable that I haven't been able to keep up my daily blogging. I regret every single time that somebody came to visit this website, hoping to find something new, but they didn't find the latest instalment in my egotistical escapades, because I was too busy wooing my new love interest; too busy courting.

I had hoped that I would be able to squeeze some writing into my working day, but the perfect storm arrived - as it does so often - such that I haven't been bored at work for a long while. It would be churlish of me to abuse my privileged position, having spent so long complaining about being bored out of my mind and unfulfilled during office hours.

As has been the case for most of my blog posts recently, I'm writing more quickly than ever, in a desperate attempt to decant the contents of my mind onto the page during a snatched moment when it feels like an opportune time to write. I'm writing with an urgency that exceeds even my completer-finisher obsession with reaching my million-word milestone. Nobody is stopping me from writing - I have plenty of spare time - but it would be very easy for me to abandon my good habits.

I know that I will ruefully regret ever skipping even a single day of writing, should disaster befall me. I know that I will be doubly sad about abandoning my readers if there are any hiccups or bumps in the road which ruin my present twin obsessions: work and love. My blog is my backup plan. My blog is the thing that's always there - the steady constant in my life; the thing that loves me unconditionally; my loyal friend.

I appreciate that I lazily aggregate together all the many people whose lives I've touched, by egotistically broadcasting myself in this mostly one-way stream. I appreciate that I have innumerable very real friends who I'm neglecting, by interacting with people in this very strange way.

I can imagine some future point in time - when it all ends in tears - when I might perhaps find myself feeling suddenly very alone and realising that it was a mistake to hurl myself so completely from one thing into another. It does concern me that I only tend to think about what I'm gaining and never about what I'm losing.

I was accused of wanting to please everybody; wanting to be loved by everybody. That accusation is pretty fair and reasonable to be honest. Why not chuck in wanting to be the centre of attention too, while we're at it?

I don't feel very sorry about anything, it has to be said. If I'm a show-off narcissist, so fucking what? If it's all about me me me then do you think I really care? Do you think I haven't noticed that most of my sentences have started with "I" in this blog post?

Does it make me a bad person? Does it make me a bad friend?

I don't know and I can't answer every question all at once, even though I very much want to try. I've written at least twice as much as I wanted to. I wanted to be short and succinct, to give my friends a flavour of what's going on in my world; to give a little peek behind the curtain. However, as per usual I've launched into an all-out egocentric monologue about nothing in particular, except my total self-absorption.

In short, I'm scared of losing my job and my girlfriend, but I'm also scared of losing whatever the fuck this is... this blog... this website... this digital anchor in a physical world. What is this? Why is it important? Why bother?

If I had to choose - and there's no reason to suggest that I have to - then I choose to connect with the maximum number of people. I choose the stable thing over the unstable and unreliable thing. It's a brutal thing to say, but jobs and girlfriends have come and gone, but my writing has been a constant companion, delivering continuous improvement to my self-esteem and sense of identity.

I need to be a little careful, because I don't want my colleagues or my girlfriend to feel like I'm not crazy about them, and totally obsessed, but I also want to protect something I've worked really hard to build - my digital identity and the relationships which it has enabled me to build and maintain.

I've written more than I intended. I've poked and prodded at things which could very well have been left alone.

I'm going to intentionally hold my tongue now, because if I keep writing I'm going to keep digging a deeper hole.

 

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Playing the Long Game

10 min read

This is a story about sustained effort...

Mound of wires

I like to concentrate on one thing at a time. I like to be hyper-focussed and blinkered, and to devote all my energy and attention towards achieving a single goal. I like to live my life in an artificially simplified way, by aggressively cutting away anything which seems superfluous; a distraction from my main task.

Unfortunately, I have several concurrent tasks:

  • My work
  • My debts
  • My writing
  • My love-life

There are more - such as friends, family, health & fitness, hobbies etc - but I'm not listing those, because I've deemed them temporarily nonessential.

In fact, I had deemed dating to be nonessential, but my life had become too lonely and austere to be bearable. I was torn between investing in my [nonexistent] social life and looking for love. I chose the latter, because of how long it had been since I'd hugged or kissed anybody. Intimacy is important.

My work is arguably a task which will never be completed, but my debts have almost been dealt with. The sum total of my savings is £30,000 and the sum total of my debts is £29,000, so I'm finally 'in the black' although it will be some time before I'm able to release the money and free myself from the bonds of usury. Then, the question is how much money do I really need to live a happy life? I have to decide about this thing people call "work-life-balance" which I always thought was a myth. Without the millstone of debt around my neck, suddenly I gain enormous freedom of choice.

My writing has been the casualty, of late.

Hypomania was rearing its ugly head, threatening to destroy all my hard work building a good reputation in the office. I got a cold and my brain was horrendously sluggish. I suffered alcohol abuse, bad diet, lack of exercise and general neglect of everything in my life, because I was so single-minded in my mission to pay back my debts. My mind was telling me how brilliant I am, that I've managed to rescue myself from a dire situation, successfully deliver some software projects, impress my colleagues, work hard and generally function in society pretty well. I've been getting up early and going to the office. I haven't been taking time off sick. I haven't had much time off on holiday. I've just worked and it's paying off, but I'm so exhausted that I'm going a little crazy. It's hard to deal with the reversal of fortunes; my boom and bust real life triggers psychological problems.

During 3 years of writing my blog almost daily, I never start writing a blog post on one day and then finish it on another. My mind races so much and my feelings change so violently that the tone and content of what I'm writing can veer from one extreme to another, faster than I can pour out words onto the page. One reason for writing so much so quickly, is to capture the variety of my moods and give myself a fighting chance of being able to spot more general trends. In fact, I rely heavily on my regular readers to spot those trends - they're a far better judge of whether I'm swinging into a high or low episode, than I am myself.

To have skipped days of writing really upsets me. I feel really bad when I neglect my writing and my readers.

I have no idea where my writing will take me, especially when I suffer major setbacks such as a sudden loss of thousands of Twitter followers. These things shouldn't matter, but they're psychologically damaging. My digital identity does serve as a substitute for a lot of the things which are presently missing in my life, such as a group of local friends, social engagements and a healthy relationship with my family.

That my life is so damaged should come as no surprise when you consider the magnitude of the tasks which I've been set. Divorce, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, debt and all the accompanying loss of status, stigma and family estrangement - the sense of failure, disappointment and "letting everyone down" - can each be fatal on their own. In combination, those things are a toxic whirlpool; a quicksand which nobody could ever hope to escape from. I could be very upset and depressed about all the things which are broken in my life, but instead I struggle not to get carried away with the minor miracle which has happened: I've bounced back and re-entered civilised society, seemingly without any permanent damage.

So many parts of our society are set up with the optimistic presumption that people are capable of turning their lives around and being rehabilitated, but it very rarely happens. While those who work with addicts, criminals and the debt-laden are very keen to see lives transformed for the better, the reality is that most of the stories do not have happy endings. Most of the stories have sad predictable endings, which are quite tragic.

I'm terrified that I'm going to hit a glass ceiling soon. I will have a mental illness until the day I die. I will always suffer from social jet-lag and a personality which is incompatible with the rat race. I can't change the past - the stigma of addiction and the paper trail which got left in my wake, during an unfortunate period of my life, will follow me around forever. There is no limit on what the organisation I'm presently involved with is able to see: they have access to a vast database of unflattering things, which can never be deleted. My mistakes can never be expunged from the archives.

I could delete this blog, but then where is my reply to the opinions of me expressed upon records kept by organisations who I unfortunately came into contact with?

I would be so much more vulnerable to stigma, prejudice and discrimination, if I allowed other people to lazily sum me up in a few short sentences. Human lives are so much more messy and complex than any amount of words on a page could ever possibly express. It seems like the most natural reaction to being pigeon-holed, to do something like this: to create a document so large that it doesn't even fit in a goddam pigeon hole.

It might seem obvious that I'd be quickly identified as a nut; a crackpot; a madman. That seems like an easy label to attach to me.

However, my long and successful career, the vast sums of tax I've paid, the wealth I've generated for the economy, the tangible products of my labour and intellect - all of these things contradict any attempt to lazily dismiss me as a ranting madman, of no use to anybody, who should be quietly nudged towards the fringes of society until I'm completely marginalised.

My writing is the only thing in my life I have complete control over. I can write as much as I want. I can publish as much as I want. Every act of writing and publishing is an act of rebellion - a protest at the excessive burdens of life - as well as an addition to a growing cache of proof of my productivity and usefulness. I write because it will frustrate and contradict any attempts to write me off.

On paper, I was a write-off.

Nobody would touch me with a barge pole.

If you were presented with a list of all the unflattering things about me - my mistakes; my debts; my problems - as a bullet-pointed list, then you'd have dumped me straight onto the "no hope" pile.

Technically, I don't exist, because my existence is too improbable; my problems were too insurmountable. I should not be alive. I should not be debt-free. I should not be clean. I should not be working. I should not be housed. I should not have money. I should not be out there in the big wide world, walking around like I'm a regular normal member of mainstream society.

I could place put my faith in those who have sworn to make decisions without prejudice or discrimination. I could entrust my whole future - my happiness and my livelihood - to people who've never met me, who will judge me based on a few bullet points. That seems pretty risky to me though.

This is what I anticipated would happen. I knew that sooner or later, if I kept telling my story, I'd reach a point where the rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches-to-rags cycle would either conclude - in my suicide - or else I would finally get a chance to have a liveable life. This document contains a vast number of mistakes and unflattering things about me, but it also charts the course of a stupendously unlikely journey, which was almost certainly doomed to failure. If somebody in a position of power is going to thwart me, I want them to do so with a guilty conscience, because they were too lazy to consider all the available information. I'm so much more than a few bullet points on a page. I cannot be dissected with a 66-page form.

Of course, it's terribly teenage angsty to think of myself as a misunderstood character. It's horribly conceited and arrogant to think I'm special and different. I try not to concern myself with such judgements and instead to concentrate on my continued efforts to produce tangible things: to create.

Lots of people have written lots of novels, journals, diaries, blogs, newspaper columns, magazine articles and all the very many other works of printed words. There are quite a lot of prolific writers, who have churned out vast quantities of prose. Does that mean I shouldn't bother? Does that mean I shouldn't even try?

I haven't been very productive during the past couple of weeks, but it doesn't matter because what I've produced is cumulative. Every little effort is slowly adding up to create some big achievements. It's painfully slow, but the progress appears to create sudden overnight success. Nobody really notices all the hard work and nobody can see where it's headed, until one day a huge milestone is reached and everything all makes sense.

The relief of having more-or-less reached one of my most important goals, is highly destabilising and is triggering hypomania: it's hard not to get carried away with the perceived magnitude of my achievement. It's hard not believe my own bullshit - that I'm invincible and that I can overcome any obstacle. It's tempting to act recklessly, believing that I'll always be able to rescue myself from disastrous situations. It's hard to keep reminding myself that my luck will run out eventually, if I keep tempting fate.

I've missed this blog and I've missed writing. I've been destabilised, but I'm going to force myself to continue with my routine, because I think it's very healthy and stabilising for me.

Sorry for the gap in my regular writing.

 

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Every Time I Masturbate I Feel Like a Failure

11 min read

This is a story about self-esteem...

Hand shandy

The idea that we should be able to happily exist without external validation was concocted by smug twats who enjoy an abundance of ego-massaging. It's all very well and good saying that it's needy and insecure to require compliments, praise, flattery, applause, positive feedback and sexual advances, but people who say that we shouldn't need those things in order to feel attractive, valuable and cherished, are morons who completely take for granted the privileged position they enjoy.

I was one of that small group of kids who get labelled as the bad weirdos. There are good weirdos - everybody loves the outrageously camp kid. Everyone loves the goth kid. Everyone loves anybody who is a cool weirdo. Nobody likes the handful of kids who are freakishly cerebral. In fact everyone hates those fucking know-all boffin geeky nerds. "Fuck those guys" says literally everyone in the whole goddam school. "Let's make those kids' lives sheer uninterrupted misery for their entire childhood" everyone says.

Away from school, where my reputation didn't precede me, I was able to lose my virginity at 15 and snog tons of girls. Away from school, I wasn't held back by the label attached to me by all the ill-considered things my parents did to single me out. At school I was fucked over very badly by my parents insistent and completely selfish decisions to make me a marked man. Example: sending me to school on a girls' bike, with obvious and predictable end results, completely in line with any reasonable person's expectation of what would happen, and completely ignoring my protestations. I had no other means of transport available over a considerable and unwalkable distance, so I was quite literally forced into a situation which any parent with a smidge of care, compassion or empathy for their child would never dream of doing to fuck their child over in such an extreme way, with lasting and traumatic consequences.

Net result: ostracised child, bullied every day. Extremely bullied every day.

If I was ever going to struggle with self-esteem, I was bound to struggle doubly because I was a pariah at school. I went to 8 different schools. At the penultimate school I attended I had managed to make friends over the summer months, in places away from my parents' life-destroying fucked up selfish cuntishness, and I was enjoying popularity and attention from girls. I went away to Reading music festival and enjoyed the attention of girls. I went dancing - underage - to nightclubs and enjoyed the attention of girls and even managed to lose my virginity.

When school started - school number 7 - I had no option but to ride the only bike which was capable of the journey on Dorset's steep hills, of many miles to the school. My dad had stolen the bike. It was a girls' bike.

Wouldn't you just buy your kid a decent bike, if you were going to expect them to ride to school every day from the stupid house you've bought in the middle of fucking nowhere with no other option, to travel the fucking miles to get to school. The only life lesson I learned is that my parents are fucking cunts.

My paper round brought in a weekly income of £10 per week. My washing up job at the local pub brought in a further £10 a week. Theoretically, that's enough to save up enough money to buy a mountain bike or a road bike with high enough quality gears to be ridden every day on extremely steep hills for many miles, but by the time I'd saved enough money the damage had been done.

Perhaps, you might say, I should have kept my bike out of sight and walked the final mile to and from school, but you have to understand also, that my route to school passed the boarding house, and the children who were boarding were driven by minibus past me cycling as they were ferried by minibus to and from school. Some of the boarders also walked, instead of waiting to catch the minibus. There was no fucking way I could avoid some degree of exposure of this life-destroying single example of my parents cuntishness.

You could say I was "cock blocked" by my parents.

The friends I had made over the summer remained friends, but had to publicly distance themselves from me at school, lest they become bullying targets themselves. You might say that they're not very good friends for doing that, but you fail to appreciate just how fucking awful it is to be hated by 1,200 kids.

I was ostracised; I was an outcast; I was an untouchable.

My self-esteem was decimated.

I did not have a normal childhood. I did not have a childhood sweetheart. I did not have girlfriends. I did not have anything, until I finally escaped from my parents cuntish meddling, by getting the fuck away from them and their selfish deliberate actions which ruined my childhood.

I then embarked upon a crusade to have as much sex as possible as a reaction to the sex starvation of my adolescence.

I fucked everyone I could, as much as I could. I fucked even when I really didn't want to fuck, because every single time I had sex, I felt like I was winning. I felt a desperate need to catch up. I felt like if I could have enough sex, I'd feel better about myself; I'd feel attractive and sexually desirable.

I went to gay clubs and I absolutely adored having my bum pinched and men wanting to dirty dance, try to kiss me and make indecent proposals. So many men asked for my number and said flattering things. I felt good about myself.

Every time I feel lonely and want a cuddle. Every time I wish I had somebody to kiss. Every time there's no hand to hold or significant other to tell my good news, and my bad, then I'm transported back to my unhappy adolescence, and by extension my entire ruined bullied childhood. I don't care about the bad decisions I made when I was 18+. I care that my opportunity for a childhood sweetheart and normal adolescent development was denied to me. I care that my self-esteem was so badly damaged and my childhood was such misery, because of things which were entirely preventable, if only my parents weren't so fucked up on drugs and alcohol: I expressed clear and well articulated opinions. My needs were simple and I explained the drastically negative consequences of their selfish cuntish fucked-up shit that left me no recourse to salvage any shred of dignity.

This was a long time ago.

Why am I writing about it now?

Why is the bitterness re-surfacing?

All parents fuck their kids up, don't they?

On balance, my life is not the most fucked up it could have been. At least my parents didn't peel off all my skin and pour salt and lemon juice on the bloody flesh, huh?

I have to live with the consequences for the rest of my life so it's up to me to say how terrible things have been.

One of the consequences has been my extreme prudence with contraception and a great deal of thought and effort put into the handling of any so-called 'accidents'. One of the consequences has been my decision to behave in a way which absolutely guarantees that I'll never become like my parents. It's not one single decision. It's a decision which gets made over and over and over, ad nauseam. It's physically nauseating and painful to deny a fundamental part of my humanity. It's easy to go along with the crowd and do what everybody else is doing. It's easy to be one of the herd. It's hard to make an ethical decision, and a decision which goes against every gene in every cell of my body. Every physical part of me screams to reproduce, and I have to overrule that innate instinct using my fucking brain because it's obviously the only way to guarantee I'm 100% nothing like my father.

Sure, I could fall in love and be talked into almost anything, while my brain is flooded with serotonin and oxytocin, but my normal childhood development was so fucking messed up that I have no idea what a normal healthy happy relationship looks or smells like. I have a gaping big hole in my life, where most people have happy childhood memories and a set of formative experiences which govern the way they approach love, romance and sex. Sure, I adore my childhood friends - the nerdy geeky bullied outcasts - but each tiny handful children who were my friends, were snatched away from me during each of the unnecessary school changes and house moves thrust upon me by my selfish fucked-up druggie alkie loser work-shy cunt parents.

Why such vicious, clumsy words?

Why such bitterness?

I felt like I'd managed to shake off the stigma of being the nerdy geeky bullied kid and re-invent myself. I felt like I'd managed to escape my past. I went to London and re-invented myself. I got far far away from anybody who might seek to undermine my newfound self-confidence, in a place where nobody knew me and I was free to forget the things which were perpetrated against me, forcibly and inescapably.

I had fucking won.

The reasons why I suffered a major financial setback, and indeed ended up without major pieces of my life again, are beyond the scope of this self-pitying essay. I can easily analyse the root causes and trace the origin of my insecurities, hangups and damaged self-esteem back to childhood trauma. However, my life philosophy and personality drives me to look forward and achieve positive things, as opposed to living in the past.

Working very hard to rebuild my wealth has been a slow and painful process - which still continues - and it denies me the coping mechanism which I developed as a young man: yes my childhood was fucking shit, but I'm rich now so it doesn't matter. Ergo, if I'm not rich, then all I'm left with is a shit childhood. The bitterness is inversely proportional to my wealth.

I have a very money first mindset, which assumes that if I get rich first, then everything I want and need in life will follow. My life experiences have reinforced this worldview. Where the hell would I find the self-confidence to date without a wad of dollars in my fat wallet? It sounds very vulgar, but we must consider how dreadfully damaged my self-esteem was in childhood, and how I've compensated using money.

To be heavily reliant on a steady flow of sex and money to prop up my fragile ego is not at all pleasant. Masturbating in isolated poverty is an insufferable cruelty, salting the wounds of childhood, which feel as fresh as ever. It shocks me that I can be plunged back into angsty teenaged hatred and resentment of the injustice of my situation, by something as trivial as a temporary setback in my finances.

This is the vulnerable exposed throbbing pulsating nub of my insecurity. This is the thing which anyone can easily prod and poke at, cynically and sadistically, to make me wither and collapse. If you're the kind of sicko - who I've encountered far too many of in my life - who enjoys making a person writhe in torment, then you'll find that you'll be richly rewarded if you choose to bully me on this topic.

Why do I write about this at such length?

I own the story now. I expose my most vulnerable things, so that nobody else can threaten to do it and have power over me. I have agency.

 

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Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

4 min read

This is a story about feeling overwhelmed...

Rare steak

My favourite movie is Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. I am almost able to recite the script, verbatim, from memory. I don't re-watch films. I don't re-read books. This movie is my one exception. I've seen it dozens of times.

I don't tend to use a lot of quotes or epigraphs in my writing. Why would I borrow somebody else's words when mine say exactly what I want? I'm confident enough in my own thinking and writing abilities to avoid the insecurity of believing that my own words have less value than somebody else's.

I do however offer this one quote from my favourite movie:

"Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another." -- Captain Willard, Apocalypse Now

Having spent vast parts of this year tormented by extreme boredom, I am now swamped. I have something to get my teeth into at work, which also has quite a lot of pressure associated with it. I have a creative writing project - my novel - which I've been struggling to write due to poor preparation. I have my blog. I have dating. I also need to get fit, resume some of my hobbies, collect my mountain bike from the other side of the country and make some new friends. My work routine is well established and I'm making excellent progress financially, but it's time consuming and exhausting.

I wanted to be busy.

Now I am.

Never a dull moment, presently, but there's always something or somebody I'm neglecting. Sleep and a stable routine are early casualties, as I flit between many competing demands. Of course I'm having a lot of fun and I have boundless energy at times, but I crash down and become paralysed by anxiety.

Earlier today I thought it might be easier to just kill myself, rather than have to get two taxis and a train, wash and dry all my clothes for the week ahead, and drive to the office at the crack of dawn. It was only a fleeting moment of suicidality and it wasn't particularly serious because I didn't start to plan the act, but I definitely couldn't face the heap of tasks ahead of me. It depressed me that my novel and my blog were going to potentially become casualties - so much writing to do.

I'm somewhat regretting having asked for so much, and been given it all eventually, all in a short space of time. For a while almost none of my needs were being met, and then suddenly I've been swamped by everything all at once.

I can't quite figure out how to balance all the things I need. Money, challenging work, sleep and intimacy are probably my top four priorities, but each one brings a swathe of other complications. The more things I add into my simple life, the more destabilised I become. I worry that I'm going to end up repeating the mistakes of previous years, when I became over-tired and over-stressed, which pushed me into a state of mania. Mania will be fatal to my career. Mania will be fatal to my relationships. Mania will be fatal to my financial stability.

I wondered to myself if I've made a mistake in being unmedicated. I think I was just desperately sleep deprived though.

My life violently see-saws between the dread of Sunday night and Monday morning, binge drinking on a Thursday and Friday night, stopping my sleeping pills and tranquillisers at the weekend and suffering dreadful insomnia and anxiety, and some other rather destabilising things, such as dating. I swing between the fear that my life is going to become over-complicated and stressful, and the fear that I'm going to die alone. I know that my simplified life brings vast financial rewards, but the lack of kisses and cuddles is almost unbearable. Living out of a suitcase is awful. Drinking alone is unhealthy. Changing my routine is destabilising and exhausting. Other people are unpredictable.

It's a difficult balancing act: trying to live a sustainable and stable life when I'm naturally prone to mood instability, and I am dealing with a number of things which are dreadfully broken.

This sounds like quite a whinge-fest. On the whole, I have lots of things to be very grateful for. A lot of my problems are nice problems to have.

I shouldn't complain.

I'd rather be busy.

I wanted a mission.

 

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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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Notes From My Disastrous Dating Experiences

9 min read

This is a story about romantic aspirations in the provinces...

Nick in pink

It would unforgivable of me to kiss and tell but I feel the urge to share with you - dear reader - the trials and tribulations of an urbane metrosexual man's attempts to find love outside the capital city, in places which might politely be described as: the arse-end of nowhere.

The first thing that becomes immediately apparent, when venturing onto the dating scene in the provinces. is the priority which young adults have placed upon having rampant quantities of unprotected sex and producing as many unfortunate single-parent children as possible, with no economic means to pay for them. Did these people never receive any sex education? Have they never heard of condoms, the pill, the rhythm method, anal sex, oral sex or simply pulling out and ejaculating in any direction away from the the birth canal? What the fuck were they thinking?

Accidents don't "happen". We aren't organisms with pea-sized brains. We have birth control, the morning-after pill AND abortions. Why the big hurry to bring an innocent child who didn't ask to be born, into a world where you can't afford to pay for its upbringing? Idiocy.

So, there needs to be a certain amount of sifting through all the cretinous idiots who are no more intelligent than a herd of humping beasts, spawning offspring without any restraint, planning or any semblance of rational thought.

Relationships can break down irreparably, I accept that. Despite 8 long hard years banging my head against a brick wall, my own longest relationship was broken beyond repair and I got divorced. My ex-wife and I didn't have any children, which was my choice because I wanted to stabilise my mental health before making an irreversible life-changing decision to procreate. However, I can imagine that some perfectly decent nice intelligent people have had children, only to later find out that they're met with irreconcilable differences and their relationship cannot be salvaged, even for the sake of the children.

I was unquestionably influenced by my parents' relationship, which was toxic and abusive. I use the word "abuse" with a little caution, because it means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but what I mean is that my parents were absolute assholes to each other and everyone around them. They were co-dependent alcoholic druggies; selfish cunts. They stayed together, perhaps correctly sensing that mean-spirited selfish self-centred people who drink and take drugs, and have failed at life, are not highly in-demand people. They clung together because they were the only people who'd support each others' lies and fantasies, justifying their obnoxious treatment of everyone around them.

I grew up believing that a person should be loyal and work at a relationship no matter how toxic it is; to put up with any amount of abuse.

I guess that's why I ended up in an abusive relationship myself.

This is how I remember things progressed:

  1. Date one: She liked me lots; I was full of confidence. She wanted more. I held back because I had serious feelings about her.
  2. Date two: She thought I was great. She 'accidentally' invited herself into my place.
  3. Date three: I treated her like a princess
  4. Date four: She left me waiting for 30 minutes outside her place. I told myself I was going to leave after an hour, because it was a shitty thing to stand me up. She turned up after 45 minutes. I said I was going to go because it was no way to treat somebody. She begged me to stay.
  5. Some dates later: she got in a strange mood when we were out with friends. When we got back home to her place she told me to leave. I asked her why. She wouldn't tell me. She threatened to call the police, which I said was unnecessary, I just didn't understand... could she explain? She flew into a rage, destroyed some curtains and slammed some doors. Then she calmed down and said she was glad I stayed. She thanked me for being loyal and patient We made love and everything seemed OK.
  6. We went on holiday together. I casually suggested living together and she was enthusiastic. She openly said she was swept off her feet by my open-hearted romanticism.
  7. I gave up my apartment paid for by JPMorgan to be closer to her workplace. She was angry and aggressive a lot. I cried a lot. One time when I was crying, she punched me in the face several times.
  8. When she got angry, I sliced my wrist open with a knife. She briefly got more angry, but it temporarily stopped her rage in its tracks.
  9. When she got angry, I smashed a mirror; a bed.
  10. I asked her dad permission to marry her. I bought her the engagement ring of her dreams.
  11. Two of my best friends came to visit. She flew into an inexplicable rage. I threw her engagement ring out of the window.
  12. She raged with anger about everything in my life I held dear: kitesurfing, my friends from London and all over the UK. Nothing I could do would make her happy. I isolated myself. I gave up everything. I became a prisoner of her unpredictable rage.
  13. We fought. She'd had her three strikes. She'd broken my nose, given me black eyes. I'd lied to my work colleagues about my black eyes. I'd lied to her parents about my black eyes. I'd lied to our friends about my black eyes. Now we fought. Two of us, fighting. We beat the shit out of each other.
  14. I went back to self-harming; smashing stuff. I was suicidal. She cheated on me.
  15. I caught her cheating. She was nice to me. I forgave her. It was nice that she was being nice to me.
  16. She was strong and I was weak. I needed to get out of that toxic relationship before I died. She said "I'd rather be a widow than divorced". She knew I had 2 grams of potassium cyanide. She knew she stood to gain a vast sum of money from my life insurance and the value of my house. She marked my suicide note in red pen and told me if I went to hospital she'd leave me.
  17. I went to hospital. We separated. We divorced.

That's my long-term relationship experience.

My first girlfriend was the nicest person in the world - which was an on-off relationship spanning a couple of years. I remember my second girlfriend fondly - a relationship lasting about 18 months. Then, there was 8 years of hell, which I feel completely equally responsible for: I should have walked away. Subsequent girlfriends were all relatively short-lived, but they were all wonderful. My longest relationship since my wife was with the love of my life, which lasted 9 blissful months, ending in calamity when I was driven insane by sleep deprivation and a toxic cocktail of prescription medications and other things, such that I temporarily believed that she didn't care about me and I decided to break up with her in a very regrettably - and irreparably - public manner, given the fact we both have Twitter accounts with reasonably large numbers of followers (although, many work colleagues are followers of her, causing the unforgivable reputational damage).

"What the fuck are you doing with that madman?" her colleagues must have asked.

She would have defended me.

She was loyal.

I loved her. She loved me.

But I was stubbornly ridiculous. At the time, my brain said to me "I'll never end up in another abusive relationship" but my thoughts were horribly twisted and corrupted; unreliable. To say anything bad about my poor ex-girlfriend would do her a terrible disservice. My amazing ex-girlfriend was incredibly attentively and at my bedside constantly for weeks when my kidneys failed. She was faultless, always.

Presently I've been consigned to the provinces, where I'm punished; cursed to suffer for my foolishness. Wimmin, wimmin, everywhere, and if none of them seem to meet my exacting standards then it's only because of the awful way I've treated - particularly - my last serious girlfriend. My ex cared for me so much, loved me and and demonstrated the loyalty I so desperately craved, but I threw it away during a hyper-complex period of joblessness, debt, mental health issues and drug abuse relapse, when I felt like an complete-and-utter failure. Insecurity destroyed me, despite her making me feel great about myself and working really hard to make sure I was OK. She looked after me. She put so much effort into looking after me.

So, now, today, I'm a 39-year-old man who's gotten badly out of shape and carries a whole heap of baggage.

"What car do you drive?"

"What job do you do?"

"Do you own your own house?"

"Show me your bank balance"

"What's your net worth?"

"Do you think you could afford to provide a life of idle luxury for me and my fatherless children?"

These are the questions which I face in the provincial dating game.

When I'm not looking my wallet is slipped from my pocket and felt for its fatness.

I'm not-so-silently judged as the sucker who's gonna pick up the tab for all that badly thought through unprotected sex and all those irrational decisions to not terminate unaffordable pregnancies.

This is my penance for not walking away from an abusive relationship - and admittedly becoming a so-called consensual partner in co-dependency - and also for throwing away relationships with some amazing women. This is my penance for my wrongdoing: to be somewhat trapped in the provinces, where every woman's dating profile picture has a Snapchat filter applied to her face, sending barely-literate messages saying: "If you're ex-girlfriends we're so great then how come there no longer wiv U? Their a bunch of snooty bitches wot kno grammar innit. Your fucking up youself U posh twat. They're's the truth layed out for you bear."

They do not mean "bear" in a cute cuddly way.

 

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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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Paradoxical Rage

9 min read

This is a story about losing my temper...

Ruined shoe

I'm blessed with the ability to observe reality and analyse it using pure reason and logic; in fact it's a prerequisite of my chosen career - to be able to decompose the world into systems which can be modelled mathematically inside a computer. Computer science is good science, because in its very essence it's repeatable. If an experiment is not repeatable it's not science. So many experiments in psychology, biology and fringe pseudosciences are not repeatable at all - when those experiments are re-run, the supposedly statistically significant findings cannot be reproduced. Even many so-called scientists are prone to being led by their gut instincts and preconceived ideas - they draw completely incorrect conclusions from their data, and publish findings which are simply bad science because they're based on small sample sets and incorrect assumptions.

A lot of scientists invent a hypothesis and devise an experiment to prove or disprove the theory, then when they find that their experimental findings do not support their theory, they look at all the data and attempt to reverse-engineer a theory from the results. For example, let's say that it's my theory that people with red hair have anger issues, and so I go out onto the streets and ask anyone with red hair to complete a survey for me, as well as a number of control subjects. When I crunch the data, I find that there's no evidence that the redheads are more angry than the control group. Instead of abandoning the research as fruitless, I look again at the data and I find out that a lot of 18 to 24 year olds have scored highly on the "anger scale" based on the surveys they filled in. Thus, I conclude that this age group has anger issues, and publish my findings as if that was the original theory being tested. This is flawed science, because there was no underlying theory or hypothesis which existed before I did my experiment, and my experiment was not designed to prove or disprove the theory which I'm publishing. I'm pretending I've discovered something profound and important, when I haven't. If the experiment is repeated the results vary wildly - at prestigious universities, the 18 to 24 year olds are not angry at all, and in former industrial towns with high unemployment the 40 to 50 year olds are even more angry than the original group. Thus, the experiment is not at all repeatable and the published conclusions are worthless.

We are often so eager to reach a profound conclusion that we believe we have discovered a universal truth, when in fact we've discovered nothing. We are keen to talk in absolute terms and declare things to be fixed and immutable, when in fact the world around us is constantly shapeshifting, making it virtually impossible to tease out cause and effect - feedback loops obfuscate the fundamental laws which govern reality, so it's ludicrous to talk about macroscopic matters as if they can be examined in isolation and behaviour will be consistent no matter what the surrounding circumstances are.

Human mood, perceptions and behaviour are particularly fickle, and to believe that a person can be simplified to the point where they behave in a predictable manner according to a convenient model or label, is laughable. To say a person is "an angry man" or to damn somebody's character with a label like Borderline Personality Disorder, is not only useless but also leads to completely incorrect beliefs, in much the same way that the 12 signs of the zodiac tell you absolutely nothing about a person's character and temperament. Not only is each individual unique, but their character and behaviour will be different dependent on their ever-changing circumstances. It might be possible to corner a person and bludgeon them to death, but it really doesn't tell you very much if you limited their options and inflicted atrocities upon them. So desperate are a group of powerful elites to believe that their theories are correct, that they'll physically restrain and force vulnerable people to comply with their flawed belief system, learning only that the more artificial constraints a person suffers the more frustrated and dysfunctional they become.

Rage can be paradoxical, but so can positive reactions and behaviours. We might believe that if somebody draws a knife or a gun, our only response should be to draw a weapon of our own in defence, which will then neutralise the situation. It seems fairly obvious that in fact there are a range of available options, some of which will have much more positive outcomes than "comply or die" diktat. Of course, somebody can pull rank or badge and say that they are acting with authority in imposing their tyranny on another human being - claiming it to be in the best interests of an individual or society - but in fact we can surely see from the available evidence that this is not successful at all.

I've suffered bouts of paradoxical rage. I've become obsessively and disproportionately angry about things, and my anger has been completely misplaced. The crap on the side of my leather shoe - pictured above - was from a walk through a garden in winter time, so far as I could remember, but I suddenly became angry about it the following summer. I apportioned blame, becoming more and more entrenched in my belief that some compensation was owed to me. I got increasingly angry and frustrated about the issue, and I was soon completely consumed by an obsession that the matter had to be settled immediately. It felt at the time as if I'd suffered the most terrible injustice imaginable.

That the matter of the ruined shoe was resolved was somehow the very last thing I wanted. My rage was nonsensical and my demands were unreasonable; my blame was misplaced. I was completely in the wrong and I suppose I knew it all along, but my world had inverted and rational thought eluded me. I suppose I've lived most of my life with the burden of being the rational person who's been forced to suffer other people's illogical bulls**t, so very occasionally I flip out and cross over into the world which most people inhabit, where fuzzy-headed dunces perpetrate unspeakable acts of violence against anybody who doesn't do what they want.

I received a pair of replacement shoes, which immediately caused me to return to my senses. I was flooded with disbelief, shame, embarrassment, guilt and regret. Not only could I not believe that - for once - the world had bent to my nonsensical will, instead of vice-versa, but I was gobsmacked that I'd been so obsessed and insanely angry; my anger was completely ridiculous and misplaced. My logic and reasoning had evaporated and I'd behaved just like an average ordinary person; I perpetrated a terrible tyranny until the result complied with what I stubbornly believed; until I got what I wanted. As soon as I got the result I thought with horror "what have I done?". As soon as my point was seemingly proven, I knew with certainty that the very opposite was true - I had acted abominably and my thinking was plain wrong all along; my behaviour was outrageously unjustified.

If we step back and consider the bigger picture, we might consider that I was involved in an abusive relationship for many years, where rage and violence trumped logic and reason, and I was viciously tyrannised. I had never known known love, as my parents sought to impose their iron will over me and thought of me as an animal to be made obedient, compliant and robotic in its behaviour, through abuse. I spent about 8 years in a relationship with an aggressive psychopath who completely tormented, dominated and subdued me. Considering this, the shoe incident can be understood thusly: the most important relationships in my life had never contained any love or care for me or my feelings. The shoe incident caused me to completely reverse my stance when the reaction to my unreasonable behaviour was clearly an act of love and care; an act of kindness, the likes of which I had always hoped to receive but had never gotten from my parents or ex-wife. I had demanded proof that there are decent people in the world, and I had not been disappointed - at last - despite all the years when I had the very great misfortune of being tortured, trapped and tyrannised by abusive bullies.

My eternally optimistic hope that my strategy of being unguarded, open, trusting and loving, despite the very great risk of getting hurt, has been very successful since I cut my parents and ex-wife out of my life. I suppose I carry more baggage than I'm aware of, and it's certainly alarming that my behaviour has on a couple of occasions, mirrored that of the horrible tyrants who I suffered at the hands of. However, I on the other hand, respond immediately and positively to love and kindness, unlike my parents and ex-wife who's only objective was to subdue, control and abuse me... they never felt guilt or regret for dominating me and crushing me under their heel; they never saw their own behaviour as abhorrent, even though it was undoubtedly so.

My life's had maybe just three incredibly uncharacteristic fits of seemingly inexplicable rage, under the most extreme circumstances imaginable. Logic and reason eluded me and I fleetingly believed crazy things and acted in the most extreme and unreasonable way. My misbehaviour became quickly apparent to me - with sudden realisation - and has left me with nothing but sorrow, regret and guilt. I have no entrenched stubborn belief that my thoughts and actions could be explained or justified, unlike the total assholes who abused, traumatised, tyrannised, bullied and dominated me for far too many years of my life. If it sounds like I'm excusing my behaviour, I'm not. I live with my guilt, unlike those assholes.

I would say that alcohol and benzodiazepines play a very important role in disinhibiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which potentiates paradoxical rage. I don't think I would have meandered so far from the path of logic and reason, and been so stubbon and unreasonable - closed minded - if my brain chemistry hadn't been substantially destabilised by psychoactive substances.

I firmly believe that if you want to defend yourself you should lower your guard. If you want to de-escalate a situation you should be kind, not aggressive. If you want love, love.

 

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