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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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Don't be a Martyr

6 min read

This is a story about barriers to entry...

Crash barrier

I'll admit that as a child I took the path of least resistance. Instead of dentistry, which I realised was going to be monotonously boring - if you've seen inside one mouth, you've seen them all - I chose a route that would lead to getting rich quick. Soon, I had a wonderful lifestyle and I never really had to kowtow to any gatekeepers or doff my cap in deference to the slave-owners.

I thought about what I was going to write tonight and I thought I'd come up with a really great blog post title, but it turns out I already used it. In fact, I've written so much that somewhere there's something that perfectly captures everything I'm going through.

I wrote at length about the indignity of being subjected to external scrutiny, when I consider that my 20-year career should have now put me beyond the awfulness of such a process - who the fuck are you to judge me? Of course, if you were hiring somebody for their specialist skills, how would you be able to judge whether they are competent or not, unless you yourself are an expert? One does not have a dog and bark oneself, etc. etc.

Thus, we rely mostly day-to-day on a web of trust. Somebody who is recommended by a friend is much more trusted than a total stranger. Friends of friends are our friends. We stick together. Homo sapiens is a social animal.

What happens when our social network disintegrates? How do we ever rejoin civilised society?

Speaking from personal experience, re-entering the game is very difficult. It's nigh-on impossible to get anybody to take a punt on a talented nobody, versus a talentless fuckwit who knows how to play the game. I don't begrudge the fuckwits - so long as they stay the fuck out of my way - and perhaps it's me who's got things wrong. Many colleagues of mine are qualified for nothing more than keeing a seat warm, reading the news, listening to the radio, watching videos online and counting down the hours minutes and seconds until it's time to go home. If you were hoping to get ahead in life on merit, you're going to be sorely disappointed and frustrated.

It would be unfortunate if I was mischaracterised as somebody who's not a team player. I love my colleagues and I need human interaction, although it seems like my work has a kind of purity that means there's always a right answer and a wrong answer. I'm a fucking wet dream for greedy bosses, because I deliver early and under budget, which is unheard of in my industry, but perhaps it's me who's letting the side down - I should deliberately work at the pace of the slowest worker, because of worker solidarity.

I'm rambling, but I've reached the ragged limit of what I can handle. Either things go my way, or I feel like life's not worth living. I'm blackmailing life to give me what I want, using my own life as an expendable hostage.

Whether I deserve to succeed or not, given the rough ride I've had and the effort that's been expended... these are questions of worthiness that you should answer by having two tramps fight to the death over a half-bottle of wine, just for your own sick amusement. All I can tell you is that having worked my way back from the brink of death and destitution, all I've got to say is fuck you, buddy. You think I should curtail my efforts and scrub toilets for minimum wage, living in some shithole? Fuck you. I'd rather die.

There are matters concerning loss of status and loss of dignity - these are not trivial. If somebody lives the high life and they fall from grace, it's not realistic to expect champagne and sportscars any more, but what about some dignity in labour? What about being paid a wage that reflects a person's skills and experience?

Of course I'm raising the wider question about whether anybody is really paid what they're worth. Of course, we all know full well that the value that we deliver in terms of pure pounds and pence that we put into the pockets our slave-owning capitalist tyrants, does not at all reflect our effort and our productivity, but you know what? The question still has to be asked and has to be answered.

I might seem like some bleeding-heart left-leaning-libtard who thinks they're owed a living, but the evidence doesn't support your assumption. Through all my turbulent times, I've never claimed incapacity benefits, job-seeking benefits, housing benefits, tax credits or any of the myriad forms of state support that are supposedly available to me. I'm trying to play an honest game. I'm trying to play by the rules of the conservative politics that seem to rule the day. I'm trying to work my way out of poverty and back to a position of health, wealth and prosperity.

If I fail, what does it mean? Failure could be utterly catastrophic for me. Even though I have friends who somewhat underwrite my risk, offering to give me a roof over my head, can you imagine working your bollocks off through a 20-year career and having nothing to show for it?... not even some kind of state handout. I thought it would be awful to be dependent on the welfare state, but it's actually more awful to be dependent on out-and-out charity, which could end on a whim.

I don't want to hold a gun to my own head and make my demands, but I came a long way since rough sleeping in a bush. If anybody ever had any doubts about employing an ex-homeless, ex-junkie, washed up loser weirdo who's lost everything, then haven't I proved the case for my fellow unfortunates and myself? When's a guy gonna catch a break?

I'm not trying to elbow my way to the front of the queue. I'm no more deserving than the next person who's equally needy and in distress. To the casual observer, I enjoy a whole host of advantages over the struggling masses. It's not a competition. It shouldn't be a competition.

If you think life's all about survival of the fittest and "it's a jungle out there" then fuck off and de-evolve already, you knuckle-dragging c**t.

 

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Self Centred

1 min read

This is a story about sociopathy...

Stick man

How do I write anything at all without making it seem like I'm making everything all about me? How do I have thoughts or even exist, without relating everything to my own personal experience; my own perceptions? What am I, if I'm nothing except an audience member; an observer?

"You're out of tune!" shrieks the little girl, except she's wrong because the keyboard won't even play the notes out of tune - you can press any keys you want and the keyboard will *always* play in tune.

I woke up and I wanted to slit my own throat or to take an overdose. I need to go to sleep but I want to hurt myself. You know what? Fuck you. That's what - fuck you. It's not about you as much as it's not about me. It's not about *ANYONE* if you want to play that fucking game. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.

I've had enough. I've taken enough. I've heard enough. I'm fucked off.

 

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Do No Harm

11 min read

This is a story about helping people...

Dialysis

I'm a bit of a work-in-progress. I was on a psych ward in Manchester after a suicide attempt - homeless, jobless, single, friendless (in terms of local friends) and estranged from my family (except my sister). Then, I was plucked out of that dismal life and brought into my friends' family life on a farm in Wales. My friends are aware of my suicidal distress; my depression; my wretched situation. My friends are helping me to get back on my feet.

To leave the psych ward was an immediate improvement to my life. To have a quiet room of my own; a double bed - these were luxuries not afforded on the psych ward, where I was in a 4-bed dorm with only a curtain for privacy. I was unlikely to make new friends on the psych ward - my fellow patients were profoundly unwell and I had no plans to stay in Manchester. I didn't really have anybody to talk to. Now that I'm embedded in my friends' family life I can chat to them and the members of their immediate and extended family - I've been welcomed into the fold... instant social life.

It was my choice not to be sectioned or have the home treatment team - part of the community mental health team (CMHT) - involved in my care. It was my choice to not take lamotrigine, sertraline, lithium or sodium valproate. It was my choice to travel 1,200 miles away on business, and to go back to work in London for an investment bank. I have my reasons for making these choices, but they put my life in jeopardy - the choices are hard to understand. It seems reckless, arrogant and irresponsible to risk my life.

I'm earning money and I'm dating. In some areas, my life seems to be improving a huge amount. In other areas things are every bit as desperate as they were back in September/October of last year. At least when I was on the psych ward I was relatively safe. When I was on the psych ward I'd put myself in the hands of the state - they were responsible for feeding me, housing me and keeping me safe. I didn't feel bad about relying on the state to look after me, because I was so vulnerable. Now, my friends must feel very responsible.

At face value, my depression looks treatable. At face value, my problems look trivial. At face value, I appear to be very functional.

To treat my depression could trigger mania. To protect me from mania - with powerful medications - could leave me unable to work. Without work I will never regain my self-esteem and independence, which will lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. Without self-esteem I won't be able to find a partner. Without a partner I'll be lonely and depressed and suicidal. To meet somebody special and start a new relationship could trigger mania, or bring a whole heap of feelings of inadequacy that could trigger me to seek medications - I want to be full of energy and happiness with my new romantic interest. For example, there's a feeling of pressure to have a rock hard dick and be able to have sex multiple times a night. How do I even function without medications? Uppers and downers, antidepressants and mood-stabilisers, antipsychotics and tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills, erectile dysfunction drugs and refractory period suppressants... things to help me feel good. I so desperately want to feel good.

There's another risk that I don't talk about so much: Relapse into drug addiction. This time last year I was pretty hopelessly addicted - in the clutches of supercrack. Foolishly, I was looking for some Bitcoins I hadn't spent and I found them... on the Dark Web waiting to be used to purchase narcotics. I resisted temptation, but I spent a few days thinking about self-sabotage. It's been 8 or 9 months since I was a drug addict, but that's not very much time at all - it was really recently that drug addiction was wrecking me and everything I held dear.

I've got a fairly simple strategy for avoiding relapsing into drug addiction: To kill myself. Addicts die as demons; despised; hated. Addicts are blamed for their bad choices - the architects of their own destruction. My solution is simple: Die while clean, sober and sane, so that nobody can demonise me. I just want to have some dignity. That's all I ask for really... some dignity.

So, my problems are not really mental health, but they're not really addiction either. I don't take drugs or medications, I'm not mad and I'm not bad. I'm just trying to live a normal life: to have a home, some friends, a girlfriend, a job, cat(s)... a few things. Not much; I don't ask for much.

My friends have helped me. I've met somebody who I really like, but it's early days... don't want to get carried away. I'm working and I've done a good job and the client wants to extend my contract. I've battled with my mental health and addiction demons, and to all intents and purposes I'm winning. I'm a bit of a success story, in a way - an example of what you'd hope would happen if you got involved in somebody's life, with the intention of helping them.

I have been helped. I am stubborn and I do things on my own terms, but not without good reason. I'm glad - for example - that I'm not doped up to the eyeballs on medications that would leave me emotionally blunted and anorgasmic. I'm enjoying the pleasure of a little oxytocin as I cuddle my sweetheart. I'm glad I'm feeling stuff.

There's been a suicide. I can relate to the victim. I also feel super bad that my friends are having to deal with the aftermath of that suicide when they know I'm a big suicide risk: it feels like they must be additionally worried about me, and I don't really know how to talk to them when they're dealing with that suicide. It's no secret that I'm having regular suicidal thoughts. It's surely too much for them. It's too much for me. My instinct is to withdraw; to remove myself from the situation.

I feel a bit ineligible for life. I shouldn't have friends; I shouldn't have a girlfriend; I shouldn't do anything, because I'll probably fuck it up. Whether I kill myself or relapse into addiction, either way I end up dead, so I'm not allowed to have nice things, like friends and a girlfriend; I'm not allowed to have self-esteem... I should just sit and rot on a psych ward.

I feel like running away. I feel like I should put every penny I've earned into extracting myself cleanly from the situation. Nice people don't deserve to get hurt and don't deserve to have to deal with the aftermath of unpleasant stuff.

That it would cause pain, whether it's suicide or relapse, is not something that's going to stop it happening. We can't beat people into submission. I need a reason to live - friends, a girlfriend, independence etc. I need my self-esteem and the natural endorphins that lift my mood, through healthy social contact, sex and other things like that. Nobody ever got better without those things. You can't 'get better' first and then build a healthy life.

My friends took a big risk trying to help me. Any girl who'd tangle with me is taking a big risk. The risk doesn't make me less likely to do myself harm. If anything, the risk I pose is something that adds a great deal of pressure, which is exhausting. What should I do? Should I exclude myself from society, just as most parts of society would very much like to exclude me? I'm a modern leper: The escaped mental asylum patient; the junkie; the tramp; the alkie; the washed-up loser.

I look back to September 9th, when I begged the staff at the Manchester Royal Infirmary not to treat me: No activated charcoal, no gastric lavage, no intubation, no resuscitation. When I lost consciousness, they helped me anyway, in the way that they're trained to help people. They saved my life, even though I made it explicitly clear that I didn't want to be helped - I wanted to die, in no uncertain terms. What if I go on to hurt my new friends? What harm would there have been in just letting me die? I'm going to die anyway, one day.

If I seem ungrateful for the help I've received, I'm sorry. This is the truth of the matter: I'm living a part of my life I didn't expect to have, but I'm not automatically grateful for it. It makes it harder, in a way - I didn't plan on being alive this long. I'm not sure who I'm alive for, because it's certainly not for me at the moment.

I'm one of the lucky ones. My situation is improving. It's quite hard for me to mess my life up any more than I've already messed it up. It's relatively easy to make improvements to my life. It seems as if I can fix things up quite quickly, depending on your definition of "quick".

I guess it seems short-sighted to kill myself when I don't know what tomorrow's going to bring. There's always a chance that tomorrow's going to be better than today. There's always a chance I'm going to wake up and feel glad that I didn't die on September 9th.

People kill themselves when they don't think their life is salvageable - there's too much damage: too many dashed hopes and dreams; too much shame and embarrassment; too much loss of status... too much disappointment. A person kills themself when they're a hard worker; a high achiever; they'd worked hard to get where they'd got to, but it seemed like it was all for nothing - they were potentially going to lose everything they'd ever dreamed of having. It can't be overstated, the devastating impact that it can have, re-adjusting our expectations when we're thwarted. You might say "it's only money" or "it's only a job" but you'll find that those things are pretty important in modern society. Try going anywhere without somebody asking you "what do you do?" and "where did you study?" and "do you own your own home?" and myriad other questions that will remind you that you've crashed and burned. Try doing anything when you're poor and you'll find it's really hard - money really helps, and you can get quite used to having it and not having to stress about it anymore. Who'd really want to go back to being poor, if you've experienced poverty and debt, and worked hard to get out of that pit of misery?

Every day I face the same thought that pushed me over the edge, causing me to attempt to commit suicide: I can't do it; it's too much work; it's too hard; I've reached my limit; I can never overcome this. Of course, we feel that all the time, but when there's an event that suddenly creates a huge problem to be solved, or something that's potentially going to be life-ruining, then it's too much to handle. We're all right at the limit. None of us has the spare capacity to deal with some mountainous pile of shit being dumped on us, when we're reached the maximum of what we can tolerate.

Of course, I'm a little fragile. It's only gonna take a few bumps in the road to cause me to push the "fuck it" button. I'm delicate; vulnerable. The only solution is to act positively - to go out there, work hard, keep trying, take risks and aim to regain the things I need and want, hoping that nothing super bad happens. It's luck. I just need a run of good luck. I have to hope my luck holds, because I don't have the spare capacity to withstand a whole lot of bad stuff happening.

It's Valentine's Day, and I'm aware that my sweetheart might read this. It's early days. She should run a mile. There's too much to handle here. I'm putting it out there anyway.

My friends are dealing with the aftermath of a suicide when they haven't even managed to 'fix' me yet. I am I going to remind them of the person who successfully committed suicide, every time I talk to them?

We can't 'fix' anything. All we can do is try to leave things better than when we found them. Should we help? It's hard to not do any harm when we try to help.

 

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Trigger Warning

7 min read

This is a story about copycat suicides...

Box of tramadol

I took this photo on the 10th of August 2017. I had three boxes just like this, each containing 112 capsules of tramadol. I had deliberately stockpiled these capsules over the course of a 3-month period. A month later I wrote a blog called The Closest I've Come to Suicide. Only a matter of hours later I very nearly did succeed in killing myself.

I'm repeating myself. Why?

I've kept the photos. I've kept the blog posts. Why?

Why am I thinking about this stuff? Aren't I deliberately triggering myself? Am I not tempting fate? Shouldn't I try to forget; pretend it never happened? Shouldn't I think positive thoughts, abandon my blog and decide that I'm going to be cured and happy? Am I not deliberately keeping myself depressed and suicidal, by continuing to have this link to the past?

People kill themselves all the time. Suicide kills a lot of men like me. In fact, suicide is the thing that's most likely to kill me. I'm not unique - if you're a man under the age of 45, suicide's the thing that's most likely to kill you too. Suicide's more likely to kill you than a car crash, cancer, a heart attack, a brain tumour, a drug overdose, a freak accident or anything else you can think of. You should be worried about suicide - it's the #1 risk to your health.

Technically, I'm not really allowed to write this. It's too soon - there's been a recent event. I can't talk about the event, but it happened. It's not about me. I shouldn't write about me. I shouldn't write about how it affects me. I'm not allowed to do those things - to write about it; to feel things. It's not me who's been affected. I'm impossible to affect.

My thoughts are with some other people who are more directly affected, but there's something else. I can't talk about it.

I'm safe, but if ever there was an example of a trigger, this would be it. I can't explain what the trigger is, which is part of what makes it so dangerously triggering - when people can't talk about stuff, that's when they're in danger. When people stop talking, that's when they're in danger.

Arguably, you might say that my blog didn't help me to stop following through with my plans to kill myself. However, it was also through my Twitter followers that the emergency services were able to get to me in time and save my life. My blog was never really supposed to be a cure - it's a suicide note. I started writing this because I didn't want to die misunderstood. I think it's had therapeutic benefit, but it's clearly not been curative, because I still tried to kill myself and very nearly succeeded.

The more I have to self-censor and worry about who's reading and how they're going to react, the harder it is for me to use my blog therapeutically. The best thing for me is to write without a filter, but that has consequences. There are things I want to write about, so that I'm fully publicly accountable and I've stayed true to my mission to document absolutely everything that's happening to me in unflinching detail, but I've got to balance that with the need to tell the story in the right sequence, otherwise people will leap to the wrong conclusions. I also jeopardise relationships and my job when I write so openly. I need to write with pure honesty, but human lives are complicated - there's no synopsis that allows anybody to effortlessly understand who I am.

My mood was dangerously unstable last week. This week I'm exhausted and stressed, but my mood is not so low. I was going to skip work today, but I didn't, and more importantly I didn't feel suicidally desperate about it. I felt like hiding under the duvet and never leaving the house, but that's completely different from feeling suicidal. There's a whole load of stuff that's hit me all at once at the start of the week - good and bad - but I'm feeling considerably better than I was this time last week, when I wrote Cry for Help.

I've had a week where there have been a number of 'triggering' things, most of which I'm not prepared to write about at the moment. I've had a week where there were at least 3 disastrous courses of action I could've embarked upon, but I got through it.

It feels horrible to be going through a period where I'm constrained in what I can write about. It feels dangerous to be living with things that are distressing, but are too difficult to tackle without compromising decisions I made about privacy and things that I don't want to share [yet].

I'm not a keeper of secrets. I don't want to be a man of mystery. I don't like having things that are off-limits to write about. I think it's dangerous - I don't want to have things that are bothering me, that I haven't alerted anybody about. I'm a lot happier - and safer - when I'm allowing pressure to escape from the safety release valve. I need to blow off steam; to vent.

Clearly, I'm being antagonised. Some of it is me, some of it is circumstances beyond anybody's control, some of it is other people. As a coping mechanism, I'm trying to write about it without making things personal; I'm trying to write about stuff that affects me personally, and also be some kind of superhuman who always thinks about how everyone else is feeling too, and attempts to put my own feelings into perspective.

I'm compromised. My blog serves a purpose. My blog is mine. I'm in a weird situation where I've got to watch what I say. How do I deal with something that's triggering, while also being mindful of other people at all times? This isn't supposed to be like a regular social situation, where I have to be mindful of other people's feelings. This is supposed to be my place where I come and deal with the thing that's most upsetting - triggering - to me.

Should I switch to a private journal, I wonder to myself. But, then I lose my all-important public scrutiny. If I write about my most desperate struggles in private, I won't be discovered until it's too late, if there was a repeat of what happened last time I tried to kill myself. I'm not planning on killing myself, but it's something to bear in mind - my social media friends are there for me when it's life-or-death. If nothing else, this blog has plucked me out of some very sorry situations. I can't really abandon it, just because I get too much earache from a handful of people who think they've read enough already.

I feel like I've got to write a caveat: that my thoughts are with somebody I really care about, arguably more affected than me by an event. It's not a competition, but I can't pretend like what's happened is not 'triggering' for me though, for reasons I can't go into. It's such a damn pain when I can't speak freely because I'm boxed in by a whole load of considerations about other people. It's stopping me from being raw and honest, which is stopping me from being able to cope in the usual way: to write without a filter; without self-censorship.

I'm sorry this is so repetitive and cryptic.

I don't know how to proceed. I think I'm going to have to continue my story. I'm going to have to be selfish and self-centred and get what I need out of writing. I'm going to have to be true to my mission, which is to be authentic and honest. I'm going to have to be brave and put everything out there, because the alternative will lead me to being isolated and alone with my terrible thoughts and feelings which could drive me to attempt suicide again.

Half tempted to scrub this and write about what's really going on, but I'm not going to. I'm going to see how I feel about things after I've had some more time to think.

 

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Men's Work

6 min read

This is a story about intolerable pressure...

Lipstick kiss

I have to start this piece with a lengthy preamble. To write about the difficulties faced by men in modern society could be misconstrued as sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic and unsympathetic towards the suffering and struggles of women. To breathe a word about the struggles that men face, could be seen as a slap in the face to women who receive unequal pay, or suffer sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and far greater rates of rape, murder and assault perpetrated against them by men, than by women. In short: I am not writing in any way to perpetuate the inequality and suffering that women have to deal with every day. My piece is simply about the pressures that modern men are dealing with.

Further to my list of caveats, I write from the point of view of the experiences and knowledge I've been able to gather up to this point in my life. I accept that I will never know the agony of childbirth. I'll never know what it's like to be pregnant. I'll never know what it's like to be a woman. This isn't a piece about women. I'm not seeking to address ANY of the difficulties faced by women. I know nothing about being a woman, and I'm not going to write about it. I'm not depriving anybody - man or woman - of their opportunity to share THEIR story and have equal airtime and consideration. I'm not shouting anybody down. I'm not shutting anybody up. I'm not offering a viewpoint that says that what I think is more valid than what anybody else thinks. These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone, shaped by my experiences as a white, middle-class, hetero man, in no way intended to compete with the experiences of any non-white, poor, LGBTQ+ women, who are obviously going to have a remarkably different set of views from me.

I am sympathetic to the plight of women. I'm unlikely to be equally sympathetic, because I have an inbuilt bias towards being able to empathise with those who've had broadly similar experiences to me, because they're also white, middle-class hetero men. I don't choose to feel less gut-wrenching sympathy when I hear about - for example - unequal pay in the workplace... it's just not as emotive for me, because perhaps I haven't been affected by it. If I'm not part of the solution, I must be part of the problem, but my writing is not about how guilty I feel for the circumstances I was born into; my writing is about things I can directly relate to. I do not seek to discredit, devalue or otherwise detract from some very real issues faced by women. I mean only to comment in an area in which I feel qualified to do so.

So, 500 words of preamble. Now I can write with a little more precision on the topic that concerns me.

I decided that I wanted to write a bullet-pointed list of all the things that a guy - someone like me - faces during their life, presenting significant problems. I'm trying to add up all the little things that whirr away in a man's psyche, driving his behaviour and causing him distress. I'm just going to write these things down in the most succinct way, because I want to explore everything I can possibly think of.

Here we go:

  • "Boys don't cry" / "man up"
  • Inheriting the family name. Following in your father's footsteps
  • Mummy's boy / suffocating
  • "You're the man of the house" - expectation of maturity
  • Boys develop more slowly than girls, both physically and academically
  • Oldest & biggest boys in school year bully and physically dominate
  • Societal obsession with sports and sporting achievement
  • "Get married and start a family" is not a career choice
  • Breadwinner
  • Provide for the family
  • Protector
  • Boys can't hit girls, even in self defence / retaliation
  • Encouragement of violence - bullying, boxing, fighting, sport
  • Discouragement of sensitivity - "soft", "wimpy", "homosexual", "effeminate"
  • Hypocrisy and contradiction - violence is both heroic (e.g. war) and vilified
  • Hooligans / vandals / gangs - provide fraternity, but demonised
  • Lack of sporting ability = social exclusion
  • Interest in sport a necessity for social bonding
  • "Make the first move" - guys do the chasing - "ask her out"
  • Knock-backs / rejection / misread signals
  • Assertiveness, persistence - important to "pull" a girl
  • Sexual conquest is seen as adversarial - a game
  • Impotence concerns - "can I get hard?" / "will I stay hard?"
  • Premature ejaculation concerns - "can I last long enough?"
  • Bedroom performance concerns - "can I make her cum?"
  • "Treat 'em mean" - appearing aloof and unattainable
  • Neediness and vulnerability - insecurity and need for security
  • Peer approval - bragging and bravado
  • Status symbols - the car, the house, the job
  • Professional identity - coveted job titles, doctor/lawyer etc.
  • Fear of failure - bankruptcy, homelessness, joblessness, redundancy
  • Fear of rejection - loneliness
  • Doing stupid things to show off / impressing others
  • "All men are rapists"
  • Suspicion / trial by media / allegations
  • "Men are violent"
  • "Men are dangerous"
  • "Men are paedophiles"
  • Get rich, or die trying
  • Risk of homelessness
  • Low-priority for help - considered not vulnerable
  • Identity issues; body dysmorphia - use of steroids, huge muscles
  • Need to look masculine, avoid gender ambiguity
  • Weight of expectation. Assumption that advantages will lead to great success
  • "It's a long way down" - falling from grace; loss of status
  • Hide pain. Don't talk about problems
  • Self reliance
  • Isolation - man is an island
  • Most idolised and revered men are athletes - worship of physique
  • "Loser" - no job, no money, no career, no skills
  • Thief / junkie / criminal / bankrupt / dosser / tramp - always a man
  • "It's all your own fault" / personal responsibility; accountability
  • Passivity = homosexuality
  • House-husband = not an option
  • Succeed or kill yourself

That's all I can think of for now. The list is all over the place, but I wanted to cover as many different things as I could think of in a short space of time. To see it written down like that is somewhat alarming, because it doesn't seem to convey the struggle that I believe men face, and that causes so many men to end their own lives. It's strange that I can write a single word like "provider" and that succinctly sums up a whole heap of pressures and responsibilities that a man shoulders, but it's just one word.

So, I'm going to leave it there. Half words of caveat and half words that are powerfully charged for me, as a man. I leave it to you, dear reader, to expand each bullet point and decide whether it's all a lot of fuss about nothing. I had to write this today, because of an event today that I can't write about. It's complicated.

 

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Stubbornly Refusing to be Cured

12 min read

This is a story about being bloody minded...

Hospital wristband

I've been subjected to the most bizarre accusation: That I can "get better" anytime I want; that I enjoy being depressed or somehow need to have a mental illness because it's part of my identity; that I want to be unwell. Part of the accusation hinges on my Twitter following - I'm accused of being two-faced: Writing blog posts and tweets which don't somehow manage to convey that sometimes I'm not suicidal.

I'm a bit confused to be honest. I don't think I could be any more authentic. I don't think it would be possible for me to be any more candid and open. My blog isn't supposed to be a diary, accurately recording the day's events. My blog is therapy for me - I write about the things that are upsetting me the most; the things that are causing the most pain and anguish.

Perhaps I'm being given credit where no credit is due. Perhaps I'm perceived as intelligent enough to be able to rationalise away my problems and force my moods to bend to my will. Perhaps the decisions I've taken out of desperation have been mistaken for choices. Perhaps my determination to stick with a plan which will boost my finances and continue to give me a lucrative career, is seen as deliberate self-sabotage: I'm purposefully making myself sick, in the eyes of my accuser.

I can see the positives and the negatives of different "choices" without assistance from somebody else to help me 'see'. I'm not so cognitively impaired that I need somebody to point out the bleedin' obvious to me. For everything that I moan about because it's making me ill, there are many benefits which make my choices worthwhile. My work, travel and living arrangements are not conducive to good mental health, but neither is poverty and hinderances that would make me less employable. The playing field is not level. I do not get to make unbiased choices - I've got to do what I've got to do, even if it's unpleasant.

I'm accused of being the problem. It's not the job, it's me. It's not the commute, it's me. It's not the lonely AirBnBs, it's me. Apparently, everything's all my own fault and I can choose to be healthy and happy any time I want, according to my accuser. Personally, I think that life's a lot easier when you've got money behind you and you've got a stable home life. Personally, I think that we are healthier and happier when we get the pieces of the puzzle in place: friends, family, a home, an income, financial security and something we're passionate about. Let's leave aside the blame game of how I ended up in the present situation. We can even assume that everything's all my fault if you want to, but that doesn't change the fact of the matter: I am where I am and I need to get back on my feet. Blame doesn't change my needs. Blame doesn't change my situation or my mood. To accuse me of fucking up my life AND deliberately keeping it fucked up is dumb. One of the big reasons why I'm suicidal is because I've tried so hard to fix the things that are broken, but it's been a miserable exhausting experience and my life's still pretty messed up. I really am trying very hard to get things sorted out. It's a lot easier said than done, I'm afraid. Sorry about that.

I think there's a lot of ego involved. People want to be helpful, but then they start thinking like they've understood me and I can be 'cured' with simple solutions. When the simple solutions to an oversimplification of my problems don't work, then the 'helpful' people get annoyed with me... like I'm deliberately messing up their useless suggestions. I seem to have really frustrated my accuser, that I'm so determined to be a real living person, with a real life, instead of some simple little thing that can easily be fixed. "Oh I'm so silly! How brilliant of you to point out the completely obvious solution to an easy-to-solve problem that I don't have! Thank you!" I'm expected to say all the time, on top of dealing with real life.

There aren't any quick fixes. Things take time and effort to get better, and it's exhausting. Things have to be done in the right sequence. Sometimes, it costs a lot of money to make changes. Sometimes we have to wait for the things we want and need, because we can't get them immediately. I can't - for example - switch jobs until I have a financial cushion to give me some runway to make the change. Every change I make brings with it a whole new set of problems, so I need to deal with things in a step-by-step way. There's a plan, even if somebody thinks that I can just teleport straight to the end goal. Sadly, life doesn't work like that - we have to suffer in the short and medium term, to achieve our long term objectives. You have to pay to play.

I'm not short of ideas for what to do when I have surplus time and money. I'm not short of ideas of what I'd do if I could do anything, because money's no object, but it's bullshit to suggest I'm able to just abandon my current source of income and go off and do something else. I can't be a student again. I can't be a poet or a dog walker or a sculptor or a circus clown. Life doesn't work like that. Even if I took a shitty McJob, I would still need to afford to travel to work every day for a month or so until I get paid. How do you think capitalist society even works? I'm making smart economic choices which are painful at the moment, but will give me the financial means to pursue something more rewarding and better for my health. I'm giving myself the working capital to be able to pick and choose my next options.

I might have spent some of today playing like a big kid and enjoying myself, but that doesn't mean that my mood can't be plunged dangerously low when reality bites: Monday morning will come around, along with the realisation that almost nothing in my life is quite where I want and need it to be. There's so much unpleasant hard work ahead, and so little reward in the short term, that it's quite understandable that I'd get worn down and decide to reject life altogether. What looks like a few short months of hard work to you, is somewhat of an insurmountable obstacle for me, because of the journey I've been on. I've fought my way back from nothing, and I'm still fighting, but yet it feels like I'm getting nowhere. Where's the reward for my effort? Why is life still so miserable, most of the time?

In the company of my friends, or going on a date with a girl - for example - life can briefly seem wonderful, but the bulk of my existence feels like packing and unpacking bags, moving from place to place, sitting at a desk and hating every second... unsettled and unpleasant. The dread of the rat race - the treadmill - is enough to cast a dark shadow over other times. When I should be enjoying the last few hours of my weekend, I'm already depressed about another week shackled to the job I do out of economic necessity. I make a fuss, but it's not over nothing and it's not me. I'd pick up dog shit if it paid as well as my current job... at least it would feel like I was making a real tangible difference to my local community, if I was doing something like that.

There are a whole raft of issues at play, including my desire to be free from medications. It might seem obvious that my depression could be 'cured' with pills, but it wouldn't be a cure - my depression is a reaction to my toxic circumstances. I don't want to become medication dependent, when I've worked so hard to wean myself off so many different pills. I'm quite close to being 100% substance free.

I want to plan a holiday. I want to buy a car. I want to dream, but dreams require money. The dreaming part is the easy bit. Life's a lot more complicated than it seems for a casual observer. It's easy to come up with a million "you should do..." ideas, but they're infeasible if you don't have the time, money, company, energy, motivation and a million other things that are the product of getting some building blocks in place: a home, a girlfriend, some friends, a tolerable job, some money in the bank, disposable income etc. etc.

There are myriad broken things in my life, and no quick fixes. If I haven't fixed something yet, it's not because I want it to be broken. I'm not choosing to be depressed. I don't want to be sick. I'm perfectly capable of imagining a life that would be healthier and happier, but it takes time, money and energy to make it happen.

Moaning on my blog is what I do for therapy. Moaning on my blog is what I do, because it's cheap and it helps me to limp along while I'm getting the cash together to be able to do whatever I want to do next. Moaning on my blog is not my identity - it's my outlet because there isn't any other healthy way to cope. I'm trapped by circumstances and there's no escape, except through the path I've "chosen". I do not choose to be depressed, miserable and suicidal.

I don't know why I'm accused of being the architect of my own depression, when I'm working so hard to fix my life. The accusations don't even make any sense - they just seem to be an egotistical version of "have you tried being more simple so that I can solve the problems that you don't have?" and "have you tried being me instead of you, because I think I'm great?".

I've exhaustively documented the challenges that I'm facing. It upsets me that somebody would want to oversimplify things, just because of their own ego and a desire that I should blame myself and generally feel like I'm lazy and stupid, despite the fact that I HAVE TO LIVE 24 HOURS A DAY WITH SUICIDAL DEPRESSION and I'm the one who does all the actual hard work fixing my life. Pointing out the blatantly obvious is not a hard thing to do. Leaping to incorrect conclusions is not a hard thing to do.

There is a prerequisite condition for having an opinion on "what's wrong with me" which is to have read what I've written. If you want to know what's wrong with me, I've exhaustively documented everything I'm going through right here. If you want to tell me what I should and shouldn't do with my life, it needs to take into account the reality of my day-to-day existence, which I have accurately explained the most challenging parts of on this blog. If you want to give me "you should..." type instructions, then they need to be grounded in reality or else I'm just going to ignore them. Please don't get upset when I ignore your unhelpful suggestions. Please don't accuse me of wanting to be miserable and depressed.

I've written more than I intended to. I'm wondering why I'm writing. What's the point? But, that's what this blog is. It's not an attempt to manipulate sympathy out of my audience. This is a living document that records my distress in unflinching detail. This is where I pour out all the stuff that's really upsetting me. Here's where I work things out that are going round and round in my head. This is therapy for me.

One other accusation that I've faced is that my blog is making me sick - my blog is causing me to get stuck, ruminating on things that I'd otherwise let go. I think that's bullshit. My blog is where I've been able to finally let go of things that have been upsetting me. It's taken a long time, and I've repeated myself A LOT but that doesn't mean it's not working. If you take a lazy glance, you might think that I always write about the same stuff and that I'm therefore stuck in a rut, but if you look at the full story, you must surely see that I've been through some pretty traumatic stuff and this blog has helped me to cope. Writing is my healthy coping mechanism. People don't often pull through the things I've been through, and go back to being healthy happy productive members of society. I give credit to this blog for allowing me to deal with things that would otherwise have caused me to lose my mind.

I could probably edit this down, or just delete it and rewrite it, but I'm going to publish it because I want the public scrutiny. I want to document what I'm going through. I want to capture a piece of my consciousness, without censorship.

Yes, I'm lashing out, but I don't deserve to be accused of not helping myself, when I'm working so hard.

 

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Cry for Help

5 min read

This is a story about compassion fatigue...

Man on the edge

I imagine that the boy who cried wolf was probably telling the truth every time he raised the alarm, but the villagers just wanted him to shut up - they wanted him to quietly deal with the wolf on his own and to leave them alone. I mean, what kind of monsters would leave a little boy to protect sheep from wolves? The moral of the story is "don't complain" and "fuck off and die".

I'm sick and tired of explaining that my depression and suicidal thoughts aren't going to be cured by yoga, kale smoothies, exercise, mindfulness, whale song recordings or other quack cures. I'm sick and tired of explaining that I've had enough of swallowing a heap of different pills to try to level out my moods - one to counteract another, and so on ad nauseam. I'm sick and tired of explaining that my job is making me unwell, but I can't quit because I need the money. I'm sick and tired of explaining that my living and travel arrangements are toxic to my mental health, destroying any sense of wellbeing. I'm sick and tired of hearing simple solutions to an oversimplified version of my complicated problems. I'm sick and tired, and I want to die, because that's the only easy solution.

I was pleased to reach the end of Jinxed January. I was pleased to start dating again. I was pleased that money has started to flow again. However, it's all too little too late - the demands which have been placed on me are too great. The things I've had to battle through and overcome have exhausted me, and I've got nothing left to give - I'm spent.

In the last year I lost two girlfriends, two apartments, two jobs. In the last year I spent 7 weeks in hospital. In the last year I quit stimulants, opiates, benzodiazepines, neuropathic painkillers, sleeping tablets and a host of other pills, powders and potions. I moved between several cities and slept in so many different beds that I can't possibly count them all. You'd think that all the hard work would pay off, but it hasn't. For all the agony and anxiety, there's no reward at the end of it. For all the stress and strain, it hasn't got me anywhere. For all the self-denial and good behaviour, there's been no benefit.

I emerged from work this evening and the sky wasn't completely dark. Longer days are coming. Better weather is on its way. However, sustaining myself until the first warm days of this year is going to be impossible - I'll never make it to mid-spring, because I'm fucked right now. "One day at a time" is the problem - the days are unbearable.

I thought my suicidal thoughts had subsided, but this evening I had the strongest urge to end my life that I've had in quite a long time. My suicidal thoughts had turned into hopes and plans for the future, but this evening those hopes seemed too far out of reach. I've done the maths and the figures just don't add up. There's no way that I can carry on. The money's not coming in fast enough to stop the rot. I can't keep myself afloat like this any longer.

I found some Bitcoins I'd forgotten about. They're sitting there ready to be spent on the dark web. I'm not going to relapse, because that would be slow suicide. If I'm going to kill myself, I'm going to do it quickly and suddenly, not in the drawn-out and degrading way that happens with drug addiction. If I'm going to kill myself, it's going to be with pride and dignity, knowing that I tried as hard as humanly possible to rescue myself, but it wasn't enough. If I'm going to commit suicide, I'm going to be clean, sober and sane.

Life's not worth the aggravation. Life's not worth the effort. The rewards just don't match up with the stress, exhaustion, loneliness, isolation, boredom, trauma, suffering, grief and inevitable death.

Why bother?

I've worked a million jobs and delivered a zillion projects. I've moved house so many times, built fortunes, created companies and invented products. I've travelled. I've lived and loved. I've taken everything to the extreme. I've had enough. I'm sick of this shit.

Don't try to persuade me to live and don't be sad when I'm gone. I've lived a thousand lifetimes. I just can't stand having to live one more, when it's just repeating the same old bullshit I've done a million times before.

Don't ring the police or whatever. I'm not going to kill myself immediately. I just really want to die and I'm planning when and how I'm going to do it.

 

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Goodbye, Jinxed January

8 min read

This is a story about the bitter end...

Urine bottle

For a devout atheist, I can be surprisingly superstitious. I seem to have survived Jinxed January without losing my job, becoming homeless, going bankrupt, being hospitalised, getting sectioned, getting arrested, getting anybody pregnant, committing any crimes, taking any illegal drugs, contracting a terminal illness or dying. Epic win.

I looked in my photo archives to see what I was doing this time last year. Apparently I was pissing in a bottle, hospitalised on a high dependency ward with kidney failure. On my blog, I was writing about "what would Jesus do?" so I was clearly pretty deranged, but then I was on dialysis for several hours a day, which was not exciting so I'm sure my mind must have been wandering a lot. On Facebook I was jabbering about a cocktail of painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquillisers I was taking to try to get some sleep on the ward. I feel relatively sane and happy by comparison - my life looks quite peachy compared to that unfortunate period.

I looked back two years ago to see what was going on at the end of January and there's a gap. I simply ceased to exist for a few days, before popping up and writing over 3,000 words about all manner of things. It looks pretty conclusive that I was in the vice-like grip of madness and shenanigans.

I can't look back three years on my blog, because I only started two and a half years ago, but I do know that three years ago today I was staying with friends in County Cork, Ireland. My contract with Barclays had been terminated early, I'd broken up with my girlfriend, lost loads of friends because of the breakup and I had been evicted from my apartment in Swiss Cottage. I needed to escape from London for a bit, because I couldn't take any more, and so my friends looked after me in rural Ireland. Not so jinxed, but pretty jinxed because my life was still totally messed up.

I can see from an email that four years ago I was receiving inpatient treatment for dual diagnosis - bipolar and substance abuse - after the messiest and most acrimonious divorce you can imagine. My life was profoundly dysfunctional - I'd only just managed to escape "the poison dwarf" and the relationship that nearly killed me. My stuff was in storage and I was living with friends in Kentish Town. My new business had been put on hold because the divorce and house sale had been too much for me to handle. I'd been surviving by mining bitcoins, but the price had crashed and I was in big trouble, even though I'd managed to cash in at $1,100 per bitcoin.

I can't see my email from five years ago, because I lost my original Google Mail account, which I'd had since soon after GMail launched for public beta testing. I can see that I was late for my appointment to see a psychiatrist who I'd found (albeit a week later) so I imagine that things were pretty dire... although I clearly had the presence of mind to find a private psychiatrist and arrange my own treatment, so I'm guessing this was the beginning of the descent into Hell. This time five years ago - roughly - my new wife told me that she wanted to be a widow and that she wouldn't let me have the treatment I needed. This time five years ago, I was trying to find people to help me, while my wife and my parents broke my heart. This time five years ago, I realised that I needed to get my parents and my wife out of my life at all costs - I realised they're toxic people and that if I wanted to have any kind of future, they couldn't be part of it.

Five years of insanity is a hell of a long time. In those five years, things got a lot worse before they got any better. In those five years, I sorely missed my house and my cat. In those five years, I sorely missed the life I'd built for myself, with my friends and my good reputation and my good job. I threw away a lot, taking a gamble that I'd be better off in the long run. The last five years have been insane, but I don't see how I could have extricated myself from the situation any better. I've played the best I could with the cards I was dealt.

I'm sick and tired of Jinxed January, and I hope I've seen the back of it; I hope I've broken the curse.

Of course I tempt fate by saying that now I've had one un-jinxed January then I've got things sussed and it'll all be plain sailing from here. Of course there are going to be Foul Februarys and Miasmic Marches but January has been my nemesis for so long. I don't want to get cocky and complacent, but it's a big deal that I've beaten this dratted month. February and March are going to be dreadful, but at least I have a few quid in my pocket, no imminent threat of homelessness and nothing particularly awful on the horizon. I have another month of paid work ahead of me. For once, I have a few things going in my favour.

You might see that my biggest fight is with myself. Of course, there's work available year-round and my skills mean that I'm never going to go hungry and homeless, except through spectacular self-sabotage. It seems obvious that I should just quietly and obediently pop the pills and behave myself. It doesn't look that hard to just get my head down and concentrate on working hard to get myself back into a position of financial security. To say that by the end of the year I could be well and truly wealthy again, seems like no time at all to you. However, you must remember that I march to a different beat. My timescales are not the same as your timescales.

I'm not going to get paid for the whole of February. A very Frugal February beckons. The weather's just as dark and miserable in February and my job will be just as isolating, lonely and boring. The unfavourable conditions very much remain unpleasant and unconducive to any mood improvement. However, the so-called short month of February does seem like a less daunting proposition than Jinxed January was. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Another month without an almighty fuck-up is a huge achievement, in the context of my messed up 5 years of Jinxed Januarys. If I'm being superstitious, so be it, because it's helped me to avoid going off the rails.

I'm really pleased with where I'm at actually. Drink and drug free, unmedicated, as sane as I'll ever be, relatively settled in my home life, regular(ish) income and gainful employment. There aren't too many loose ends to tidy up. I'm on top of my taxes and my paperwork. To be in this position, at this dreadful time of year, where I don't have anything looming that's of major concern, is a really big deal.

I submitted another invoice to my client, and even though I lost over £4,000 of potential earnings this month, I'm still in profit after expenses. The money's not in the bank yet, but it's on its way. Perhaps it will be good to spend another month being a little thrifty - money after all, can be something that's triggering.

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm imagining that by the end of February, my financial woes will be mostly ended. I'm imagining that by the end of March I'll be feeling positively wealthy again. I'm projecting into the future, and that's bound to end up making me miserable. I still have a whole month more of my miserable boring contract to do. I need to start looking for the next job, at some point sooner rather than later. I can't make tomorrow come any sooner, and I shouldn't wish away today.

What can I say, except I'm slightly glad that I didn't throw away a perfectly salvageable situation. I'd still rather be dead, because it's been a lot of stress and hassle, but I'm alive so I'll carry on for a bit longer and see what tomorrow brings.

 

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How to Cure my Suicidal Depression

6 min read

This is a story about quick fixes...

Dietary supplements

January is traditionally jinxed for me. I haven't had a problem-free January for many years. I seem to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of recovery and disaster. So far, this January has not been a complete disaster but we're only just over halfway through.

The thing that's causing me most distress at the moment is my job. I'm very lonely and isolated. I don't have anybody to talk to or any real reason to interact with anybody in the company. I've got my list of deliverables and I just have to sit down and churn out the results - easy, huh?

I really don't think my job is my problem. Although my job doesn't give me much of what I need except for money, it's not a bad job. My job is not aligned with my values or my personality and it provides no distraction from my crisis, but it's an OK job. My job doesn't motivate me to get up and go to work, but whose does? When I've thought that my job is causing me problems in the past, I quit, only to find that I didn't realise how good I had it until after I left.

I think the problem lies elsewhere.

I'm certainly unfulfilled at the moment. I have very little scope to influence my day, my week, my month or my year - it all looks like a solid unrewarding slog to get nowhere. All I'm doing is my easy job that I can do with my eyes closed, in order to get money to pay off debts. That's hardly a reason to jump for joy, is it?

So, is it that my expectations are unrealistic? We can't all be bouncy castle testers or cake tasters. We can't all be puppy dog strokers and lifestyle bloggers. Somebody's got to scrub the toilets and empty the bins.

2017 might have been unhealthy but it was certainly action-packed. There are no surprises in my day-to-day existence. If this year is going to be considered healthy and productive then I need to turn down the dial from 11 to somewhere around 3 or 4. Last year was off the charts insane. However, how am I supposed to find any motivation when 2018 is going to be one of the dullest on record? I thrive on adrenalin.

I thought about the two things that would get me out of bed today. The first was the complete self-sabotage of my life with a drug binge that would be likely to kill me and destroy everything I hold dear. The second was the purchase of a deadly poison with the intention of killing myself. They're pretty much the same thing, aren't they?

I've been signalling my suicidal intent for a long time now. I've written this blog since 2015. I've been sending up distress flares. I've been sounding the alarm. I've been yelling at the top of my lungs. What the hell am I playing at? Why don't I crack on and do it already?

When I made my most serious suicide attempt I was probably at my most unstable. I was taking a potent mix of benzodiazepines and sleeping pills in combination with copious amounts of alcohol and prescription painkillers. I had destabilised myself with sleep deprivation, recreational drugs and a toxic relationship, living in a city I'd never been to before, with no friends or family nearby, and working an incredibly stressful high-pressure job. I'd just escaped from certain homelessness, bankruptcy and being sued into oblivion by my landlord and creditors. It was an unstable time.

Now, I'm possibly at my most stable. I have the support of friends. I don't have the pressure of high monthly rent and bills. I have a job. I've quit all the medications and drugs, and cut my drinking right down. It's been months since I did something utterly insane.

So, why do I keep having suicidal thoughts? Why am I so depressed that I can't go to work?

I definitely feel very trapped. I'm trapped into making the smart choice, which is to travel hours away from my home to stay in depressingly shit AirBnBs in crap parts of London, and go to a job that pays fabulously well but is incredibly stressful and isolating. It's heaps of pressure on me with not a lot of excitement. I know exactly what I need to do and how I'm going to do it, but I know that it's going to bring unbearable levels of anxiety. I'm just counting down the hours, minutes and seconds until I'm free.

I feel like I'm holding my breath. I feel like my lungs are burning and my eyes are bulging and my throat is gulping, but I can't suck air into my lungs. I know that it makes sense, rationally, to hold my breath like this, but life must go on even though my situation is thoroughly incompatible with my mental health.

I'd love to quit my job and think about what's next, but I know I'll regret it. I know that my life is in danger by putting myself in such a horrible situation, but I know that the longer that I do it, the more glad I will be in future. Pain now for future gain. Pay now, benefit later.

So I vent: I whine and I whinge and I complain. I try to get out all the negative stuff that's threatening to sink me. If I sound bitter and cynical and hate-filled, it's because I'm trying to dump out all the emotions that could destroy me. It isn't working though.

I've had three days off work and I feel incredibly guilty. What the hell am I doing turning down well-paid work? What the hell am I doing bunking off?

What the hell am I doing putting myself in a situation that's exacerbating my suicidal thoughts to dangerous levels?

It seems patently obvious that I should go back home, to where I have the love and support of my friends and I plan to make a long-term life for myself. It seems absurd to put myself through so much suffering. It's plain to see that I need to find some work that's compatible with a liveable life, doesn't it?

I'm aware, however, that the combination of the stress of a new job and Christmas, combined with the depression and superstition that Jinxed January always brings, would drive me to suicidal depths. Everything looks awful when you're at the bottom of a very deep hole. I could so easily throw away a perfectly decent opportunity, just because I'm so sick that I want to curl up in a ball and die. I really don't think the job's the problem - it's my mental health, although the two are somewhat related.

Yes, I'd love to retrain as a juggler or an ice sculpter, but that'll bring a whole raft of other problems. Better to concentrate on problems I know I can solve.

I remain resolutely committed to my chosen path. When you're going through hell, keep going etc. etc.

 

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Tortured Soul

9 min read

This is a story about the brain drain...

Daily photo of me in a suit

I should keep photos of myself wearing my ordinary work clothes off my blog. I should take more care to separate my professional identity from my blogging identity. I should ensure that Nick "Manic" Grant and the name that's written on my CV can never be connected.

To even write my proper name - as it appears on my passport and birth certificate - onto this website would risk appearing at the top of Google searches that prospective employers might do. I've been careful to separate my LinkedIn and never mention my consultancy company name. I rarely mention client names, and certainly not the names of clients who I wish to continue working for.

However, I'm starting to slip. I'm starting to not care so much. I'm starting to prefer my real identity to the fake one that's necessary to get a well paid job. I was finding it cumbersome to try to pretend like everything was A-OK in my world, and attempt to stop rumours spreading about me in the companies I used to work for. It was exhausting, trying to cover up my indiscretions. It's been exhausting, leading a double life.

One of the biggest double life issues I have is that I have nothing but contempt for capitalism and banking, and I completely fail to see the utility of computers and apps and software and data. Yes, in our super tech-heavy world, it seems inconceivable to say such a thing, but I definitely think humanity's headed in the wrong direction. The mechanisation of farming and the industrialisation of food production are two examples of tech's potential to feed the world's hungry, but we're not using tech to do that, are we? Instead, we're using tech to create artificially inflated asset bubbles and an ever greater rich:poor divide. It eats me up inside that I'm involved, but I'm also shackled with golden handcuffs to the cash cow that provides a hefty income. What am I supposed to do?

Many people think it's churlish that I bite the hand that feeds me. Many people seem to think it's not possible for me to have ethical concerns about what I'm involved in as a day job. Why don't I quit and do something else? It certainly seems to upset me and cause me a lot of angst and anguish.

As I've written before at length, I'm economically incentivised to get the most bang for my buck. I'm economically incentivised to sell my labour to the highest bidder. I need a place to live and food to eat, don't I? So of course I'm going to plump for an employer who's going to give me enough money to live, rather than one who would leave me starving, homeless and impoverished.

I should be rich & retired by now. Here's how my strategy to become rich went:

2005

Me: I'm going to invest all my money in gold

Her: no

Result: gold plus exchange rate of US dollar would have delivered 500% return on investment

2008

Me: I'm going to quit my job and write iPhone apps

Her: no

Result: we broke up. I made enough money from my iPhone apps so I didn't have to work... until I got back together with her

2011

Me: I'm going to be CEO of a tech startup worth millions of pounds

Her: no

Result: my company continued to trade profitably and win big customers... without me

2012

Me: I'm going to invest all my money in Bitcoin

Her: no

Result: each Bitcoin is now worth $15,000. I would have paid about $5 for each Bitcoin. A $5,000 investment would now be worth $15 million

2013

Me: I'm going to invest all my money in Bitcoin

Her: no

Result: we separated and divorced. I've hardly had to work since then.

In the absence of any good ideas to get rich quick, I always fall back on IT consultancy. I was getting £40 an hour when I was 19 years old, and then £470/day when I was 20. I was on-track to retire at 40, if I stuck with the consultancy gig, even though it was soul destroying.

Now, it galls me that I've been so close to serious wealth so many times. It galls me that my ex-wife was such a toxic person that she's fucked up a whole bunch of very decent ways I could've made a fortune. It galls me that I'm back doing the soul destroying day job, because my ex-wife held me back and sabotaged some very smart and shrewd plans I had. It galls me that I'm doing a job that I mastered a long time ago. It fucking sucks to only earn six figures and have to work like, maybe 35 whole hours or whatever, doing a really easy job.

Of course, I'm deliberately writing in such a way that might cause offence. Many people dream of earning decent money, or having a shot at getting rich. Well, here's the solution: do a job you really hate.

I hate my job so very very much. I can't believe just how flipping easy it is. I also can't believe just how awful it is to be part of the capitalist machinery that's wrecking the planet and the wellbeing of humanity. I'm involved in legal loan-sharking. I'm an accessory to murder. I'm guilty by association.

I started out my career in defence - the military - so I'm no stranger to the ethical dilemma of working for a weapons manufacturer. I had to wonder to myself how I'd feel when lives were inevitably lost as a result of my software. It seemed wrong to think that I'd succeeded as an engineer, if I successfully brought about the death of the so-called 'enemy'. My software was very definitely going to be used to kill people; nothing defensive about it at all.

What should I be doing? Working for a charity? Working for an NGO or some other kind of humanitarian cause? What, like your chum Hugo from private school, who went off and built a school in Africa... he put that on his CV and now he works for a fucking bank because he's not fucking stupid. Hugo tells all his chums that he's done important work in the developing world, because he's an insufferable tosspot; he's a smug spoiled little shit, who's never known anything other than wealth and privilege.

You might hear my posh accent, or see the big name multinational companies I've worked for on my CV, and you might be mistaken for thinking I'm posh and spoiled and entitled and all the other things you don't like very much. In fact, I've had to spend my whole career with ethical conflict in my heart. I'm a bleeding-heart liberal who puts on a sharp suit and pretends to be a banker. I have to think about the part I played in the 2007/8 financial crisis. I have to think about my part I played in the whole stinking shitpit that is capitalism. I could hide behind the defence: "I'm just an engineer" but I can't.

"I make the rockets go up. Where they land is not my department"

I don't think it's a valid defence for an engineer to say that they're apolitical; amoral. I write software that's unopinionated, but I know what it's going to be used for. I know that I'm donating my brainpower and brawn to an evil cause. I know that ultimately, I'm helping the rich get richer.

I spend my days somewhat outraged that my time's being wasted on trivial bullshit, that contributes nothing to society except for improving the apparatus that oppresses the planet's poor people - tools to better extort money out of the 98%. I spend my days frustrated - I want to be doing something worthy, but I can't.

Of course I'm not going to jack in my job and go work for a charity. Charities pay shit money. Of course I'm not going to work for charity. Charities have failed to deliver any meaningful change. Impoverishing myself is the world's most stupid first step towards any meaningful change.

I'm frustrated and upset, because my ingenuity was thwarted so many times by my ex-wife that I'm now exhausted. I'm not a young man anymore. I was lucky enough to have a couple of moments of glory that proved my point - I can build valuable stuff that works - but now I don't have the energy or the financial security to make another foray into something more worthwhile than the bullshit that passes for my day job.

I'm trapped by debt that I ran up when I got sick. I'm trapped by the capitalist trap of high living costs. I'm trapped by the need to speculate to accumulate, but I've got nothing to speculate with. I'm hoisted by my own petard. The irony is not lost on me, of course.

It's torturous agony, working a job that I mastered 21 years ago. It's torturous agony, solving the same problems that I already solved a million times over, knowing full well that everything is doomed to the same fate. Of course the global financial markets are going to collapse again, imminently. Of course, the whole bullshit system can't be propped up anymore. Of course, the bubble has to burst. Bubbles always burst eventually. It's physically painful in a way that's hard to describe, knowing that the whole ridiculous house of cards is going to come crashing down again at any moment. I know it's just anxiety and stress and depression, but it's not made any better working for an investment bank, doing the same bullshit job that I was doing - I was so close to ground zero when the whole fucking financial crisis happened. I was feeling ethically challenged 10 or 11 years ago. I was feeling ethically challenged 21 years ago. Fuck my life, that I'm back doing the thing that I hate most, because it's an economic necessity.

Who's to blame? Me presumably.

Fine, pin it on me. I'll take the rap.

Imma kill myself.

 

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