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The world's longest suicide note

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

All opinions are my own

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Airbrushing History

5 min read

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

Twitter 404

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

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

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

Sometimes the internet doesn't forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Hit Me Where It Hurts

7 min read

This is a story about failure...

3D Foot

How many times have I bounced back from a situation that looked dire? It was getting so repetitive - the cycle of boom & bust - that I decided to start documenting things, properly; I decided to commit to attempting to write every day for a year. If I could write every day for a year, that meant I had the discipline to be a writer; I could at least achieve something.

I didn't set out to write for 3 years when I started. I didn't set out to write a million words. I didn't set out to build a Twitter following, get likes on my Facebook page and crawl up the Google search rankings. I didn't know why I was really writing, except that it was a kind of heartbeat: if I was writing, then it meant I was alive.

I haven't achieved my arbitrary goals yet, but I've had some major setbacks. The biggest setbacks have been self-inflicted, I expect.

The gaps where I haven't written tell their own story. When there have been periods when I haven't been writing every day, it's fair to assume that my life was being decimated, usually at my own hands.

It's not a simple case of self-sabotage, when things don't go well in my life and there are problems which appear - to those who don't look too carefully - to be problems of my own making.

I've lashed out. I've written things which, in a different state of mind, I'd have never written. I've written huge amounts which, with retrospect, is quite regrettable. However, I've always tried not to edit and censor. If I'm feeling a certain way at a certain time, I've continued to write in the same style and with the same unflinching honesty, and I've revealed hidden parts of my character - my personality - that have not been very flattering. Perhaps my character and personality are not always the same. Depending on how tired, hungry, scared, lonely and myriad other things I'm feeling will obviously affect my behaviour, and so my writing will contain periods where those strong feelings are expressing themselves through my writing. I'm an open book, and some of the pages - maybe even whole chapters - are not very nice at all.

We all know that families, far from being nonjudgemental places full of unconditional love, can be a battleground where long-held grudges, anger at perceived injustices, shame, regret, secrets, lies and a toxic mix of everything else that goes on behind closed doors, gets thrashed out in quite a violent way, even if the violence is not physical. You know that the way your mother can just look at you in a certain way and you know what she's thinking: she's judging you, and she's disapproving and you know that you're not the only one who's getting the message loud and clear. Malicious information circulates around the family. You can be the golden child or the black sheep. Your image is not yours to own, and nobody can decimate you like your own family.

Relationships - all relationships - have an element of conflict; adversarial negotiation. Each party is trying to best serve their own interests. Whether it's you trying to get a pay rise out of the boss, or whether it's you trying to seduce a lover, there's conflict as much as there's co-operation.

I've lost all my school-friends so often, because of being moved schools 8 times, that it's carried over into adult life and I've struggled to maintain any friends from city to city, from job to job... there's never any continuity. I'm always starting all over again, from nothing.

But, it's not nothing; I'm not starting from nothing. The internet has allowed me to keep a presence in the lives of those who want to stay in touch. The internet's 'social gathering place' has moved around. Websites have closed. Some groups of us migrated from one place to another. I've retained a little continuity.

Having this website - my own ego-domain if you want to be aggressively insulting about it - does at least mean I live somewhere consistent no matter where the wind has blown me. Consistency is important. That's why it upsets me when I get inconsistent. When I skip days. When there are gaps in my writing. If I'm not writing regularly, people think I'm flakey and unreliable: this ceases to be the best place to find out if I'm alive and well or not.

The reasons for losing whole chunks of my blog and whole blocks of followers are complex, but it really upsets me; it hurts me. The reasons why people drift away are more obvious: when I start lashing out and showing an unpleasant side to my character, or when I become inconsistent, it's only natural that people would be turned off by that; be unwilling to use their precious spare time to keep up with a pretty repetitive and grim story, which is extremely self-absorbed and self-pitying. I can only blame myself and cringe with embarrassment at what I've put people through; those who've stuck with me for any length of time.

When everything else in my life is shifting sands I take comfort in knowing that I've travelled a long way on this writing journey. It's been a useful exercise in terms of staying in contact with people who care, and making new friends. It's been a useful exercise in proving to myself that I can do something which takes time, patience, commitment and dedication to achieve.

When I've tried to use what I've built maliciously, it's always backfired spectacularly. In theory, I have leverage; influence. In practice, I'm simply exposed and vulnerable, and if I'm saying and doing bad things, I'm more exposed than you can possibly imagine; I'm more scrutinised; I'm subject to the wisdom of the crowd, which is kinda dangerous for somebody who's so isolated - I very rarely get to sanity-check what I'm thinking with another soul, before it pours out onto the pages of this website.

Perhaps my perceived setbacks are my comeuppance for the times I've lashed out, which have been far too frequent, especially of late. Every blow I seek to strike seems to glance off my target and land back upon me a hundredfold. Why should I expect anything else, when my whole soul - my whole psyche - is laid bare for all to see? Why wouldn't those who've already done me harm use this repository of my every weakness against me? I've loaded the gun and handed it to my enemies, haven't I? I've provided the weapons; the ammunition.

I don't feel too sorry for myself. I feel like I've brought misfortune on myself, insofar as the setbacks I perceive with where I've wanted to take this writing project.

It still hurts though, to know that I've lost pieces of something that's so valuable to me, even if it only exists "virtually". If you want to hurt me, this is definitely the place to do it.

The challenge for me now is to try to turn things around. Can I redeem myself? Can I make sense of any of this and give it any meaning, beyond an angry bitter rant? Can I leave any kind of legacy other than the ravings of a lunatic?

 

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What Would Ben Do?

10 min read

This is a story about role models...

School photo

Many people might ask themselves "what would my mother think?" before saying or doing something stupid. My druggie loser parents - who I'm now estranged from - were not inspiring role models for me growing up. Instead, I can pinpoint the things which have given me everything good in my adult life, and I attribute those things to three friends' families, and one family in particular.

The seed of my initial interest in computers was sown by my friends Joe and Ben, whose father had an Apple Mac and whose mother was a systems analyst. Without that introduction to the pure joy of using a computer with a graphical interface and a mouse, I would not have become hooked.

With my neighbour, Julian, we used to use his dad's Apple Mac, which maintained my interest in computers and allowed me to see their practical applications beyond computer games. Julian's dad was a heart surgeon, and we played around with a heart surgery simulation game. Julian's dad also showed us a piece of software he'd developed to diagnose angina based on a set of questions the patients answered.

Then, Ben - a different Ben - taught me how to program a computer. Ben and his mum ran a computer club one evening a week at a place which compiled Oxford's most well-known "what's on" guide. Ben's dad took a group of us to the E3 computer games exhibition. Also, Ben's family encouraged creativity beyond the screen - the children were encouraged to be artistic and musical in a way that was fun, as opposed to simply an academic exercise in the interests of appearing to be a more well-rounded person when attending university interviews. Ben's dad took a bunch of us not-so-athletic geeks to play a game of basketball once.

Because I got moved around so much as a kid, I only got to spend 3 years with Ben - the second Ben - during childhood. I went back to Oxford for a visit as soon as I got a car that was reliable enough to complete the journey, but then the visits became more and more infrequent. I've only seen Ben 4 times in my adult life.

So, you'd think that it'd be pretty weird to have somebody I've seen so infrequently as a kind of role model, but that's what's happened.

My childhood had 8 different schools and 6 house moves. If I was taught anything during childhood by my parents, it was that I shouldn't get attached to my friends, my school, my room... anything. I was taught not to get attached, because the rug would keep getting pulled out from beneath my feet.

The beauty of the internet is that your friends are your friends, wherever they are in the world. I've worked for 15 different organisations all over the UK and abroad, and I've moved around an unimaginable amount - I've been quite nomadic. The only friends I've managed to hang onto are those who have an online presence, because - as I've learned the hard and painful way - when you're out of sight you're out of mind.

Ben was an early adopter of everything online, which inspired me to get into similar things. While he was building websites and a classified ads system for the aforementioned Oxford "what's on?" company, I found a similar local company and started building similar stuff. Through the internet, I always stayed roughly abreast of what Ben was doing.

A common childhood friend of ours crossed my path in Winchester, and tragically I was probably the last person in our friendship group to see him alive. Through the internet I was aware of the funeral, but it felt strange, being this lurker... this outsider. My friends had done their GCSEs, their A-levels and then had all gone off to their various universities, but I'd missed out on that - I'd been taken away from all that, as had so often happened, by my druggie loser parents.

When I did a tech startup and I was lost without a co-founder I asked Ben for advice and invited him to join me on the venture. Ben was going to be a mentor on the Springboard technology accelerator program in Cambridge, and he suggested that I apply, which I did. Ben had to go back to California to be with his family, so he didn't end up being a mentor on the program, but it often makes me think about whether I'm a bad son, because I feel like my parents can rot in hell when they get sick. I feel like I'd be there for my mum if she was on her own, but I can't deal with my parents - I had enough of dealing with them on my own from age 0 to 10; I'm too bitter about them ruining my childhood.

I think a lot about how angry and bitter I've been with my writing. I think about how Ben would never write stuff like I do; Ben would never say or do anything regrettable.

I think about how I became a complete sociopathic psycho towards my lovely co-founder, while I was on the Springboard program in Cambridge. I made my co-founder cry in front of a Google exec. Perhaps, in some ironic twist of fate, I could've made my co-founder cry in front of Ben. Ben would never make his co-founder cry. Who am I? What have I become? I feel terribly ashamed about the way I spoke to and treated my co-founder.

I read stuff that Ben writes and I get inspired. This whole blog is inspired by the fact that Ben founded the platform on which I write this - it's another one of his startups. I read Ben's blog and it often inspires me to write my own opinions on similar topics. It's a bit weird, but it's mostly harmless.

Then, there's the bitterness, resentment and pent-up anger that seems to come out of nowhere. Some really vicious, mean, angry stuff pours out of me and onto the page. Ben would never write like I do. Ben would never get mad and say really horrible things. Ben just wouldn't rip into people like I do.

I think about all the tirades I've launched on my useless druggie loser parents, and I think that I must be a big disappointment to Ben.

I hate that I disappoint Ben.

I hate that I'm letting him down.

I hate that I'm this person.

I hate that I act like this and that I say this stuff.

I wrote loads of stuff and some of it was OK. I was super pleased that I was writing regularly. I was happy to have a creative outlet and I was proud of my blog. Then, out came a lot of stuff about my mental health, addiction, recovery, detox, rehab. The stuff I was writing was OKish but I was on dodgy ground. I was ashamed to admit that stuff in case Ben read it. I didn't want to admit my failures and shortcomings.

The most recent time I saw Ben I was really unwell, but my girlfriend encouraged me to go and see him while he was in London. It was a rare opportunity to catch up. Even though I was feeling terrible, my lovely girlfriend managed to get me to go and meet up as planned. She met Ben.

But, I got more and more sick. I started being a dick on Facebook. I broke up with my amazing lovely girlfriend, and I wasn't very nice about it. In fact, I was a total dick. I was awful. I was the worst. All my friends surely must have seen what a terrible person I am, including - of course - Ben.

I started dating another girl. Then I left London and went to Manchester, stopped seeing the other girl and got another girlfriend.

Things went badly wrong in Manchester.

On Twitter I wrote "I'm sorry, my far flung friends" after I believed I was beyond the point of saving - I had ingested a massive overdose and was about to lose consciousness. Ben responded right away. I replied. I thought it was probably the last thing I'd ever do: responding to a tweet from Ben.

What have I done since then?

I feel like I've made a fool of myself. I feel like I've failed to capitalise on the opportunity to do some good. I feel like I haven't turned my good fortune - not dying - into something more meaningful. What have I done with my blog and my Twitter followers? What have I managed to do which Ben might think is a useful contribution to humanity?

I've continued to write so many things which are quite cringeworthy. I've continued to grind my axe. I've continued to act in a way that makes me think that Ben must be quite certain that I'm an unpleasant, vicious, mean, nasty, horrible piece of work. I feel like I've disappointed my role model; disappointed the person who I idolise and look up to.

I've very much lost my way. I want to have a positive role model and to act in more positive ways, but I've gone wrong somewhere, or maybe I'm a totally shitty person.

It's weird to idolise a friend from childhood, who I've hardly seen; hardly know, frankly, except what can be gleaned from his creative output on the web.

Like Ben, I've written a novel during National Novel Writing Month, and I've poured my heart and soul into my blog and my Twitter account; my online community. I've attempted to emulate his online achievements, but yet I've somehow failed, because of my lack of dignity and my sheer nastiness... I've made a fool of myself and I'm a disappointment; an embarrassment.

This is, quite possibly, one of the most cringey and weird things I've ever written, but it's my wont to write whatever's on my mind without filter, and this is what's been brewing for a few days now.

I'm sorry Ben, but I think you can take it given the fact you're a public figure who's lived your life online as much as I have, writing under your own name rather than a pseudonym. Only our closest childhood friends would have any idea who I'm talking about. I hope you don't feel that this brings you any shame, in being connected with a shoddy person like me.

The other thing to address is the pressure of knowing that somebody idolises you. It's a bit weird and creepy to know that somebody reads your stuff and also credits so many of their positive life decisions as having been inspired by you. All I can say to that is: my income as a computer programmer has given me every opportunity I ever wished for, and the inspiration to do creative writing has saved my life. Living an online life as an active contributor to various social networks has given me an identity I'm proud of and has brought me numerous lifelong friendships which I treasure dearly. In short, you did a good thing, even if I take some of those gifts and abuse them sometimes... sorry about that; not your fault.

What would Ben do? Probably not write some bizarre stream-of-consciousness thing like this, but I'm glad he's there as an inspiration in my life to be a better person.

 

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Career Limiting

5 min read

This is a story about disguise...

SF Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Cute Little Italian Thing

5 min read

This is a story about reading between the lines...

Splash

I don't really understand why it's necessary to guess and extrapolate. I don't really understand why somebody would want to reinterpret the scant available evidence, and reach outlandish and ridiculous conclusions. I don't really understand why somebody would want to pore over the pages of my blog and read all my tweets, looking for hidden meaning that doesn't exist. Why can't you just take things at face value?

I texted somebody who'd been quite an important figure in my life, and I asked them if I could take them out for dinner. In the last few weeks, I've gotten settled in a new job and moved into my own place - there's plenty to celebrate. This year has been very stressful, with cashflow problems, a boring job, commuting across the country and living out of a suitcase, dating, getting a new job, renting an apartment, security vetting, tenancy vetting, credit checks, buying a car, taxing & insuring the car, moving house... it's been stressful. Naturally, as I'd gotten through most of that stress, I wanted to celebrate with that person.

"No thank you" came the reply. Polite enough. Strange, but whatever. I'm not in the business of speculating.

Then came the accusation that I'm some sort of monster who people need protecting from. This followed relatively hot on the heels of an accusation that I'd identified that person, which I hadn't. There was the accusation that a load of my tweets were about specific identifiable people, which they weren't. I fail to see the evidence for any of it. I haven't deleted any of my tweets - they're there for all to see. I'd be very surprised if anybody except me knows who I'm talking about, because how would you know what's going on in my head unless you're telepathic? How would you know who's tormenting me and causing me untold stress?

I once mockingly used a turn of phrase that my friend Posh Will used to refer to an ex of mine as a "cute little Italian thing". This became a running gag. I'd have probably only said it once, but this person just kept on saying it and saying it. Whenever I talked about a girl, this person would ask "is she a cute little thing?". This person asked if my mum's cousin who lives in Chelsea is a "cute little thing" which I found very weird, but whatever. Whenever there was an opportunity, that person would refer to girls as "cute little things". It was our running gag... or rather theirs, because they kept using that phrase so much.

The phrase "cute little Italian thing" is now forbidden. In a rather melodramatic and completely unnecessary confrontational moment, it was confusingly and aggressively put to me that I use the phrase "all the time", which I don't. Further, it was put to me that I'm a sexist male chauvinist pig who has zero respect for women, hits women, rapes women, abuses women, sexually assaults women and generally attempts to marginalise and oppress women, as part of my patriarchal one-man crusade against women. Naturally, this was quite a surprise.

I'm using the forbidden phrase now, because I've been told so many times that this person doesn't read my blog, and now that person has told me in no uncertain terms that I'm a danger to them and the people they love; I'm a menace.

I guess it's over between me and that person, but I can't understand why. I never wrote about them online. I never identified them, or their loved ones. I'm really not sure what I did. Their accusations that I wrote about them, connected them, identified them, attacked them, repeatedly used the phrase "cute little Italian thing" and generally carried on like the world's biggest arsehole, are frankly complete and utter codswallop. What I write is there for all to see - I don't delete stuff. If any of this stuff was there, show me where the hell it is!

It's a nonsense. It's misplaced paranoia. It's more than misinterpretation - it's a complete warped perception of reality bordering on the insane.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend often worries about me posting images of previous girlfriends, which I haven't. My girlfriend will see the image above which IS of a previous girlfriend - the "cute little Italian thing" no less - and she'll see that her very worst fears have been realised.

Yes, I'm a monster. I did once say "cute little Italian thing" when I was aping the mannerisms of my investment banking chum for comedic effect. I have just posted a picture of my ex girlfriend, which I'm sure you'd be able to recognise her from if you saw her in the street now that I've disrespected her privacy. Damn me for revealing such personal identifying stuff that would allow any member of the public to immediately make the connection. Damn me for being so damn evil. Yes, lock up your daughters and hide your valuables... Nasty Nick is on the prowl.

On the final matter of sexist disrespectful language, perhaps it was wrong of me to even say something in jest. I'm always prepared to consider that I might be in the wrong. Just don't make a running gag out of it, and for god's sake don't start imagining stuff that's SIMPLY UNTRUE.

There's no need to read between the lines. What you see is what you get with me. If you're unsure, just ask.

 

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My Mask Slipped

6 min read

This is a story about keeping up appearances...

Semicolon tattoo

I have a tattoo that I can't cover up, which tells the world that I've had problems with suicide attempts, self-harm, depression, bipolar, alcoholism and substance abuse. I have a blog which puts me on page 2 of Google if you search for my name. I have a Twitter account that has the most followers out of anybody who shares my name. I'm hardly being shy and retiring about my dark past. I'm hardly keeping my skeletons in the cupboard.

One of my work colleagues has already found my blog - by Google'ing me - and has visited a few times. I can see that he uses the WiFi at work and I can see that he uses his Apple iPhone Plus. That's happened waaaay too soon.

An old friend who I know from the kitesurfing community recommended me for the job. He's friends with another colleague on Facebook. I don't use Facebook much, but when I do, it's usually because I'm having suicidal thoughts and it's a cry for help. If my friend commented on something I put on Facebook, my other work colleague might see it.

It's a small world, so that's why it's a good idea to be open and transparent. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

Of course, people who suffer from mental health problems - including addiction - are heavily stigmatised. If I didn't think I was able to do my job highly effectively, with an excellent level of professionalism and reliability, then I'd be slightly more reluctant to publish the inner-workings of my mind, and make my struggles a matter of public record.

I take my readers on a journey on me, and some of them will become sympathetic towards me and my story. Generally, if you read forwards and follow along with me, you'll gain a positive view, but if you read backwards then you'll dislike me and imagine that I enjoy the benefit of hindsight, which I don't.

It was particularly telling, the difference in reactions to my attempted suicide last September. My colleague who had followed my progress on my blog was sympathetic and caring. My colleague who read back through my blog, starting from the point where I believed I was going to die, was so unsympathetic that he sacked me and evicted me from my home, because I was on a life-support system and therefore unable to phone and say that I was going to be out of the office for a couple of days. He literally didn't care that I was in a coma with a tube down my throat and a machine breathing for me. That's the difference that it makes, reading my blog backwards versus reading it forwards - it can make a person not care that I'm dying, or it can elicit a sympathetic response to my plight.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I'm through the worst of my suicidal moments, now that the stress levels in my life are subsiding. Naturally, being homeless, close to bankruptcy, jobless, friendless, single, new to an area and generally having nothing and nobody is pretty damn awful for a person's mental health. In the space of 6 months I've made some friends, got a girlfriend, earned some money, bought a car, rented an apartment, got a local job and gotten myself a bit more settled, although I'm still a long way off having security and stability.

What might annoy my colleagues is thinking they've got a bargain - that I'm an expert in my field and I've got talent and experience - when in actual fact they've got a homeless bankrupt junkie alcoholic with mental health problems who never even knew how to switch a computer on until yesterday. Surely I could have been bought for minimum wage, because I'm desperate and vulnerable? This was certainly the case with the guy who didn't care that I was on life support - he felt ripped off, when he discovered the truth about me, even though I had nearly completed the first phase of the project I'd been working on, and the results had been fantastic.

I think really horrible people are few and far between. I think unethical exploitative bosses are few and far between. I really don't think it's going to be a problem that my real identity doesn't quite marry up with corporate expectations. I'm always well presented at work. Nobody would be any the wiser about my dark past, except for the aforementioned tattoo, of course.

I'm mentioning the tattoo and putting up a picture of myself without my infallible disguise quite deliberately, of course. Of course I know what I'm doing. I'm not exactly unhappy about anybody knowing about who I am, because I find it too exhausting to wear the corporate mask and pretend I'm perfect. It's not nice to have to live a lie and cover up any struggles I might have in my personal life.

It's been nearly 8 months since I had any problems with my mental health. I don't take any drugs or medications. I drink in moderation. I'm not suicidal. I'm not self-harming. I'm delivering high-quality work to the satisfaction of my bosses. My finances are improving. I've got my own place. I've got my little car. I've got my girlfriend. I've got my friends. Things aren't perfect, but they're improving and they'll continue to improve as long as I'm allowed to keep working and earning money.

It's a big gamble to keep this big digital presence alive. I obviously can't write about anything that would be unprofessional, breach my code-of-conduct, bring my profession into disrepute, breach confidentiality or any any way shape or form be considered unacceptable behaviour, but to delete my blog and my Twitter and Facebook account and expunge myself from the internet would be a considerable loss to me, and would be likely to negatively affect my ability to cope and function.

I hope that if my colleague(s) continue to read this, they can see it for what it is - my healthy coping mechanism, and something I need, because it brings me great comfort and a lot of care and support.

So far, I only know for definite that one work colleague is reading my blog. I hope to make friends at work. I need friends. I don't see it as a bad thing that somebody's reading.

I don't want the secret identity thing. I don't want the double-life thing. I've got nothing to hide; nothing to be ashamed of.

 

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Social Media Arbitration

4 min read

This is a story about justice...

Grand building

If you're a self-righteous twat and you're a privileged and entitled member of the guardian class, then you snobbily and sneeringly believe that you're in the right on every matter. Surrounded by sycophants and a society that worships you because of your social status; your kindly-call-me-God job title, you expect people to drop to their knees and kiss your arse.

Most ordinary people have the support of their families. Most ordinary people are well established in their careers and at their place of work, with their colleagues. Most people have a group of friends who they see and communicate with regularly. Most ordinary people are well established in the real world.

When you get tarred with the 'mad' brush, people who don't even know you can start being dreadfully patronising. "Have you taken your medication?" and "do you think you should up the dose?" and "are you having an episode?" people will ask, instead of talking to you like a normal human being.

Example:

Me: "Ugh! This cup of tea tastes disgusting! You've put two spoonfuls of salt in it instead of sugar"

Patronising twat: "<aside> awww bless, he's having an episode. Better get him to the doctor and get his medication increased"

You can't argue with a twat like that. If you tell the twat to taste the tea, which obviously contains two spoonfuls of salt, then they'll be evasive and blame the victim. It's a horrible way to treat people.

Thus, social media is needed to arbitrate in instances where a vulnerable person is being mistreated. By calmly presenting the facts on social media, a jury of my peers can decide, instead of some smug arrogant guardian-class twat, who thinks they're right about everything, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Social media is the best place to go when you're alone and isolated, because you can crowdsource support. Instead of getting wound up by those who hold themselves to be immune from criticism, and incapable of making a mistake, engaging the power of social media can hold a twat to account.

I'm really pleased that there's an immutable permanent record of everything I've had to put in front of a jury of my peers. I'm glad to have the record of what the crowd thought. I'm glad that everything is stored for posterity. I'm really grateful to have this antidote to the patronising smug twat who thinks they know best.

I've made mistakes in the past, putting stuff in emails and on Facebook restricted to my close friends. I've made mistakes when I've been extremely unwell. However, on balance, using social media and public scrutiny as a means of holding a twat to account has been a staggering successful strategy for returning myself to health, wealth and prosperity.

Very few people could have survived the destitution and stress that I've been through, with only a few people fighting my corner. I'm lucky enough to have some very loyal friends who I love dearly, but they're spread all over the country and the world. I've almost exclusively turned to social media when I've needed support the most, and social media has delivered.

I've been feeling pretty lonely and isolated and low over the last few weeks, but I've had a great response on Twitter, which has really boosted my spirits. I'm glad to have connected with so many lovely people via social media. I really depend on my social media friends, when I'm having a bad time.

So, in the case of the Twat vs. Social Media, very clearly the online crowd are the winners.

 

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The End of Privacy

7 min read

This is a story about data protection...

Messenger bag

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

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

I repeat myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Vindictive

4 min read

This is a story about having a chip on my shoulder...

View out to sea

Seemingly out of nowhere a huge grudge has reared its ugly head. It felt like I'd been biting my tongue for a long time, and sadly it seems like I'd been unable to forgive and forget a big list of transgressions. I don't know why I've been carrying this unhelpful baggage around. I don't know why my own less-than-perfect behaviour doesn't cancel out the occasions which have upset me. I don't know why I haven't been able to resolve problems amicably. However, I blew up; I got mad. A huge tsunami of anger hit me and I've raged about all the stuff that's been bothering me for a long time, which I'd bottled up.

Every time I censor my blog, it's a huge mistake.

My blog is where I come to write, as a coping mechanism for some awful stuff that I've been through. My blog is a healthy coping mechanism, when so many others would resort to drugs & alcohol, or perhaps be driven mad by the torment of their suffering. My blog has been miraculously therapeutic at getting me through so many episodes of relapse, hospitalisation, homelessness, lost jobs, near-bankruptcy and other financial distress, and very difficult struggles with drink, drugs and mental health problems. I depend on my blog. To be denied the opportunity to write freely has dire consequences.

It was a huge mistake to censor my blog.

I took down a blog post as a goodwill gesture. It was a mistake. There was nothing in the blog post that was offensive or in any way problematic.

I had days of hell where I had absolutely no idea what was wrong with what I'd written. I had days of hell where there was an impending confrontation linked to somebody who had quite routinely tormented me and had been very aggressive. I thought things got resolved, but my Twitter was later examined with a fine-tooth comb and the unpleasant and extremely stressful confrontation - far worse than I had been expecting or prepared for - was completely pointless because the goodwill gesture achieved nothing. In fact, deleting my blog post and then being unable to write because I had no idea what was problematic with it, was incredibly disruptive and ultimately futile; pointless.

Unintentionally, the dam burst and I wrote about all the things that had been bothering me, but I wrote in a way that was stoked up by the unpleasant nasty confrontation and the censorship of my blog. It was a stressful and confusing situation, and ultimately it was utterly pointless - I should never have censored my blog or attempted reconciliation. As a result, things have come out with a lot more anger than I'd have liked. Things have come out a lot more forcefully than I'd have liked.

I can totally understand why I was Tweeting so desperately, having gone through 4 sleepless nights and had nothing to go on except an abusive phonecall... plus all the other unpleasant stuff that had gone before, of course. What had gone before could perhaps have been shrugged off as "a clash of personalities" but ended up crystallising into the firm belief that I didn't want anything more to do with a person who'd caused me a great deal of distress. I don't want to make things personal. I don't want to take someone to pieces and destroy them on social media and on my blog. What you have to understand is that this blog is my coping mechanism - this is where I come when I'm hurting, to work stuff out.

I'd like to stop being bitter, angry and vindictive, but I know that this fire's gonna burn for far longer than I want. I really want a clean break; a fresh start. I really want to move on. I want to forget all about the whole dismal episode.

I may end up re-writing the original blog post that I deleted, and publishing it in its edited form, as some kind of closure.

Publish or perish.

You have to understand that's why I write: because it's a life-or-death situation.

 

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Nasty Nick

5 min read

This is a story about isolation...

One finger salute

The school I briefly attended in France and the final 2 years of my full-time education were alright, but from the age of 3 to the age of 16, I was bullied every day at playgroup and school. I was bullied badly. 8 different schools. 6 different houses. 3 different countries. It all takes its toll.

The job I ended up doing earns me instant abuse - the geek, the nerd, the pimple-faced anorak, the dork, the dweeb, the spod... the list of insults is endless and it seems to be socially acceptable to casually toss these terms of derision around, as if us computer experts don't have feelings.

Poor me.

Of course, to think of myself as a victim - even though I clearly am - earns me further disdain. To pity myself is apparently not allowed. Perhaps I'm victim playing for attention or sympathy. Perhaps I should just get over it. Perhaps I should man up. It's all my fault. I'm to blame for everything.

Poor me.

Only not poor me, because I'm the one who's to blame. I've got a punchable face. I've got an irritating voice. I was born to be a punchbag. I'm here for you to use and abuse - that's my function in life.

I decided to say fuck it. I became a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic, junkie, benefit scrounger, soap dodger, mental health problems, work-shy layabout, lazy, bone-idle, no-good, waste-of-space, undesirable, crusty, scumbag, useless, drain on society, piece of shit. Death's too good for me. String me up. Don't even piss on me if I'm on fire.

I'm quite familiar with being picked on; ganged up on. I'm quite familiar with being universally hated; spat upon. I'm quite familiar with being everybody's favourite person to bully, torment, persecute and generally shit on.

The net result is me.

I'm Nasty Nick.

Hello pleased to meet you how do you do?

None of what I've been through gives me the right to be shit to other people, by way of revenge. Despite what I've been through, I don't think that it's an excuse to treat others in the terrible way that I've been treated. What I've been through gives me a lot of appreciation for how awful it is to be ganged up on and abused, which makes me want to avoid similar situations - I'm highly attuned to any abusive language, and I avoid anybody who has a bullying manner. I choose to surround myself with sensitive, empathetic, kind, compassionate and caring people, who speak and act respectfully.

If you think I'm a nasty person, that's because I'm Nasty Nick, pleased to meet you. If you think I'm a vicious, bully who says abusive things, I'm sorry you think that. I don't think that kind of behaviour is justified - ever - for the reasons outlined above.

I write.

That's what I do - I write. I write because I'm a writer. I have a blog and I have a Twitter and a Facebook page. I write online. I'm a geek, a nerd, a dork, an anorak, a dweeb... etc. etc. and what I do is I write online. I write online because I've always written online. I've been writing online since the dawn of the internet. I've been writing online since before the internet, when I used to write stuff on bulletin boards with a dial-up modem. I'm not a troll. I write under my own name. You can see what I write and you can judge for youself whether what I write is nasty or not.

I'm Nasty Nick. Judge for yourself. Is Nasty Nick nasty? Almost everything I've ever written is available online, so it's all there for you to read. Nasty Nick has nowhere to hide.

I'm going through life the only way I know how. Do you think I wanted to be bullied all those years and years at school? Do you think I want to be abused because of the job I do? Do you think that anybody would choose bullying and isolation? Do you think anybody would choose to be called all manner of names under the sun?

I look isolated - I am after all the homeless junkie alcoholic bankrupt with mental health problems - but I have connected with so many people online. My online friends are my friends. I don't make any distinction between online friends and people who I see away from the keyboard. I don't have two personas. I don't have a fake identity which I use online. I don't hide behind the screen - what you see is what you get.

I'm pissed off when strong healthy happy people gang up and pick on me, because I'm a vulnerable person - I'm an easy target. I'm pissed off when strong healthy happy people pick on other vulnerable people. Those bullies can go and suck a bag of fucking dicks. Those cunts are responsible for suicides.

There we go. I'm Nasty Nick. I'm an easy target. If you gang up on me, you'll win. Well done.

 

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