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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

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

All opinions are my own.

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My Friend The Alcoholic

6 min read

This is a story about unorthodoxy...

JPMorgan

This time last year I saw my old friend from JPMorgan in Warsaw. He'd just gotten me a job. I was almost bankrupt. Some years ago we had been propping up the bar at 4am, the last remaining men standing after all-day-drinking to celebrate me leaving the investment banking world... temporarily. We have the same attitude and approach to life: Everything to excess.

I'm writing this with a little haste, because I'm in a compromised situation.

I need to tell my friend not to kill himself - having received a number of worrisome messages and a call recently - but I can't do so in a direct manner, because it's barely more than a year ago that I tried to take my own life. I know that nobody could have talked me out of it. When I communicated, I did so to ensure that my intentions were clear: I did not want misadventure or an open verdict to be recorded by the coroner.

But.

This is not about me.

This is about a friend who sounds like he's about to end his life.

I have no idea what the emergency setup is in Poland. I have no idea whether a person can be located by their smartphone. I have no idea what the crisis intervention services are like. I have no idea what it's like to be 'sectioned' or otherwise interred for your own safety - 'committed' one might say - in Poland, and whether I might be unwittingly unloading a whole unwanted extra pile of shit on my friend's head, by raising the alarm.

I'm not ungrateful to those who contacted the emergency services on my behalf, who undoubtedly saved my life, but I'm aware that my decision-making power was taken from my hands. In fact, I clearly said at the hospital that I didn't want any medical intervention, but they decided I didn't have the capacity to make the decision to refuse treatment.

Does my friend have capacity?

He says he's drinking 2 or 3 bottles of vodka per day. I'm a borderline alcoholic, and I'd say that my judgement is pretty impaired when under the influence. I doubt I'd have so readily swallowed all those tablets during my suicide attempt last year if it wasn't for the Dutch courage of a gutful of booze.

It's easier to make the final decision when intoxicated.

Perhaps this gives me the moral authority to intervene and save my friend from himself. Perhaps it's my duty to inform the emergency services, such that my friend can sober up and then see how he feels about killing himself once he's got a clear head. How's he going to feel about being forced to sober up and face the decision to go on living in the cold light of day, with a dreadful hangover?

I can tell you all the answers to these questions.

I can tell you exactly how it feels to regain consciousness when you had hoped you'd be dead.

So can my friend.

I can't patronise him. I can't talk him out of what he wants to do. I can't approach the subject.

Strangely, I hope he has capacity enough to read this.

If he does - and I might try to prompt him into reading it - then what do I want him to know?

He needs to know that almost exactly one year ago, I was convinced that my life was totally beyond any hope of salvaging, but he salvaged my life. He got me a job, which rescued me from certain bankruptcy. He got me a job in the nick of time. He saved my bacon.

What can I do for my friend?

I remember he told me how buoyed he was by all the support I get via social media. I remember how emotional it made him feel, reading the comments section on my blog.

I want him to feel that outpouring of love from all four corners of the globe. I want him to feel anchored by connections.

My friend and I tend to value our sense of self-worth by the number of dollars, euros or pounds that somebody will press into our sweaty palms for a day's labour. My friend and I both feel valued when we're paid a lot and a company is chasing us for our skills.

It's disturbing to me that my friend knows that he can get a highly paid job in any investment bank in the world. He knows that he's needed and wanted in the corporate sector. It's worrisome that he knows that, but it's somehow not enough. I can relate. I know what that feels like.

I don't know what to offer him.

To remind him of his value and how much he's cherished is a cliché. I can't patronise him by talking about how much he'd be missed and what a huge hole he'd leave in all the lives he touches.

We're talking about the man who quite literally reversed my fortunes, exactly 12 months ago - from bankrupt to bankrolled; from rags to riches.

What can I say, except that I've written these 900 words with as much speed as I can manage, because from the tone and content of my last phonecall with my friend, he's in a very bad way. I'm very worried about him. I'm acting as swiftly as I can, in an unorthodox fashion, because I want to do something to interrupt and disrupt his behaviour, which looks to be on collision course with disaster.

I know that if anybody said to me that I lacked capacity, or was so patronising as to believe that they know better, and I should be relieved of the decision-making power to end my own life, then I would become doubly stubborn and bloody minded. I'd kill myself just to prove you wrong. Of course I would.

What can I say? I need to publish this, urgently.

I hope my friend reads this. I hope my friend - who helped me get back on my feet almost exactly a year ago - is somewhat moved by my desperation to try something, anything to move the conversation towards positive exciting plans for the future, and our next adventures.

I haven't been writing regularly, and of course I tend to be very self-centred, but I hope that I can continue to write, and include my friend as a living member of the tiny little world in which I inhabit. There are quite literally only two people who I speak to on a regular basis, one of whom is threatening to make an early departure from the party.

He might feel a little uncomfortable that I've made references that almost made him identifiable. Good. I'd rather have him angry and upset with me, than having missed an opportunity to get his attention. I'm being deliberately disruptive and provocative.

Please, mate, don't put me in this position!

Don't make me decide whether I have to call the emergency services or not!

This sucks!

 

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Exit Bag

8 min read

This is a story about the hivemind...

Phone Mast

It's getting late and I'm tired, so I thought I would retransmit some of the disturbing data that I receive. Having started this website about 3 years ago, Google quickly found it and began to index its contents to make it searchable, and therefore discoverable by anybody who uses its search engine and enters keywords which seem to be relevant, according to Google's algorithms.

A strange thing happens.

I get to see the search queries where my website appears in Google's search results - an impression - as well as the search queries which brought me a website visitor. What I write and publish on my blog makes it more likely that I'll appear as a high-ranking search result, and also more likely that I'll have visitors coming to my website for weird and wonderful things they're searching the internet for.

It turns out there are a lot of people who want to kill themselves.

I wrote a blog post a little while ago where I chose a title specifically to improve my search ranking, which I knew would work very well, so I tried to write something which was useful in some way. I thought to myself "why do so many people ask Google if they can drink themselves sober?" and I thought it was rather tragic that these people had reached such a level of desperation that they'd bother to sift through pages and pages of search results, hoping to find an easy answer. I felt like I should give those people an answer. I felt like those people should have the best possible answer I could muster.

Problematically, lots and lots and lots of people seem to want to suffocate themselves to death; to asphyxiate. More than any other thing, my website pops up time and time again on Google for people who are searching for answers to questions like "how do I kill myself with a plastic bag?".

Obviously, this is disturbing, but it also puts some responsibility on my shoulders.

This website is the second link on Google - second only to Wikipedia - if you are searching for information on the hypercapnic alarm response, which is the reason why you can't just hold your breath to kill yourself. People are quite fascinated, it seems, with the idea of suffocation, which I find very disturbing indeed - I could not imagine a worse way to die than gasping for air.

Given that a number of visitors will be directed here by Google in search of answers to their disturbing questions, I feel duty bound to give the most responsible and best answers that I possibly can, when those people are clearly desperate and vulnerable.

Firstly, do not kill yourself by suffocation. Your final moments of existence will be more horrendous than anything you've ever experienced in your life. The tragedy of self-suffocation - most often achieved inadvertently by hanging - is that you will trigger your most viceral survival instincts which your depression has robbed you of. Your survival instincts are merely dormant and imperceptible during the unbearable humdrum tedium of modern life. The tragedy of self-suffocation is that you will spend your final moments thinking "make it stop" but you will not mean life but in fact the terrible torment of the hypercapnic alarm response. You might think you've had bad anxiety and panic attacks, but you've not experienced anything that even comes close to your body's hard-wired survival instinct, which keeps you taking breath after breath, even though you feel dreadfully depressed and suicidal.

Remember of course that breathing is partially voluntary. We can choose to breathe fast or slow. We can choose to hyperventilate. We can choose to hold our breath... for a while. We cannot choose to hold our breath until we die. Almost nobody can choose to hold their breath until they lose consciousness. Besides, when we lose consciousness we lose our ability to make conscious choices, such as holding our breath.

The idea of an exit bag deals partially with the problem of resuming normal breathing as soon as we lose consciousness, except that the hypercapnic alarm response will cause you to claw desperately at the plastic to tear a hole in it, when the panic becomes unbearable. Your body has set safe limits, such that you will begin to feel the urge to save yourself well before you're in as much danger as you perceive. Perception-altering drugs can dangerously depress our breathing, because we're more impervious to the anxiety and stress that we would otherwise feel, causing us to increase our rate of breathing.

I've talked before about the role of high carbon dioxide concentration levels in the blood - quite literally hypercapnia - causing the alarm response. Because the hypercapnic alarm response is CO2 dependent we can easily lose consciousness and asphyxiate when breathing almost any other gas, including the stuff which makes up 78% of the air we breathe: nitrogen. It's ironic to think that almost every single constituent part of the air all around us is deadly - including the oxygen - if we were to breathe it at high concentration. It's also shocking to think that carbon dioxide is only 0.004% of the air, but yet this is the only gas which warns us we're suffocating to death.

I don't write this because I'm feeling particularly suicidal. I write this because for some reason this website is the second place people come after visiting Wikipedia, when they're reading about humanity's battle between the conscious decision-making part of the brain - where we have free will apparently - and the part which stops us from killing ourselves by simply not bothering to take our next breath. I write this because people want to know, and if they're determined enough they're going to find out the answers.

I can see how determined people are to find out the answers to some pretty messed-up questions. I can see how many zillions of pages of results they trawled. I can see all the different ways that people ask the same disturbing question.

For sure, I ask myself how much I see a world which reflects the way I project myself outwardly. They say an angry man sees an angry world, for example. It shouldn't surprise me that my website brings a lot of people who are interested in topics relating to suicide, but it surprises me that so many people are interested in suffocating themselves to death, when it seems so doomed to fail and would cause such terrible suffering in those final moments when it succeeds. Don't people who want to die just want to fall asleep peacefully and not wake up? I know that's what I wanted, when I was suicidal.

If the world really does reflect upon ourselves, I don't understand why I don't have more variety in the kinds of suicidal ideation searches which bring visitors to me from Google. Where are the people asking about which direction they should slice their veins? Where are the people asking how to locate their carotid artery or jugular vein? Where are the people asking about lethal doses of various substances? Where are the people searching about how to calculate the right amount of rope to avoid decapitation or a lengthy period of terminal strangulation while suspended by the neck?

I've been simultaneously accused of writing irresponsibly while also applauded for discussing things which need to be discussed, if we're going to make any progress towards reducing suicide rates.

From looking more closely at my analytic data, I concluded that many of my visitors are concerned with animal welfare and particularly with the slaughter of livestock, which is often done by gassing the animals. I had written in my blog post, which has proven my most popular, that I was concerned about how awful it would be for little piggies if they were gasping for breath in their final moments before death. I had written about the curious question of whether dolphins could hold their breath to commit suicide or not.

I write this tonight, because I'm interested to know how much concern we have for humans, compared with other animals. It certainly concerns me that seemingly vast numbers of people want to know if they can kill themselves without even bothering to take a few short steps to the nearest window, or to locate a sharp object.

I write this provocatively as always. I'm transmitting out into the world to see what bounces back.

 

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Playing the Long Game

10 min read

This is a story about sustained effort...

Mound of wires

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

Unfortunately, I have several concurrent tasks:

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

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

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

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

My writing has been the casualty, of late.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On paper, I was a write-off.

Nobody would touch me with a barge pole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry for the gap in my regular writing.

 

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Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

4 min read

This is a story about feeling overwhelmed...

Rare steak

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

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

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

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

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

I wanted to be busy.

Now I am.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shouldn't complain.

I'd rather be busy.

I wanted a mission.

 

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

7 min read

This is a story about perseverance...

Tree in winter

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

Yes, I take offence to being patronised.

still take offence to being patronised.

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

Oh. My. God.

Drop everything.

A fucking meme saved my fucking life.

Said nobody ever.

A self-help book saved my life.

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

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

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

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

Of course my story is repetitive.

Of course my story is miserable.

Of course my story is boring.

Of course my story has changed very little.

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

I'm paying back £54,000 of debt.

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

Starting with nothing would have been a fucking dream.

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

I'm not most people.

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

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

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

"I'd get a job"

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

It's a hard problem to solve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Reasonable Presumption of Suicide

3 min read

This is a story about heartbeats...

Sunrise

The view from my bay window this morning epitomised my tightrope walk. Living by the seaside with a beautiful picturesque commanding vantage point is a rare privilege. It's churlish of me to mention having to get up at - quite literally - dawn and drive to some godforsaken place where I'll live out of a suitcase during the working week. It's vulgar for me to talk about my perilous existence when I occupy an enviable situation, such that my income exceeds my expenditure and I am potentially able to free myself from the tyranny of capitalism.

Having talked about ending my life so frequently and for such a long period of time, it seems reasonable that any time I break from my usual routine should be cause for concern.

Purposefully, I have tried to write with regularity such that the alarm would be raised if I ever went AWOL.

At the moment I have no concrete plans to kill myself and the factors which tipped me over the edge last year are well managed. My finances are improving, my employment situation is reasonably good, I'm not mixed up with drugs or unhealthy relationships. These might seem like trivial superficial things but if you've ever tried to exist without sufficient money for day-to-day life, you'll soon realise that no amount of worthless platitudes are a substitute for cold hard cash.

I still refuse to relinquish both the option to kill myself and the hope that I might be restored to a state of good health and wellbeing, also known as wealth.

I see no reason why I might be prompted to commit suicide.

However, I've often been blindsided.

Who knows.

Who knows what's going to happen next? I can definitely sense the problems which have cyclically surfaced in recent years during this autumn/winter season. There is a very real and tangible change in my mood which moves towards arrogance, argumentativeness, overconfidence, impulsiveness, hopelessness, impatience and a whole host of other things which have come about as a result of a whole year of hell, followed by some long-overdue success.

Things are going well.

Too well.

I have plenty of reasons to suspect that I'm about to be dealt a violent blow.

For now I'm alive and well and I feel pretty much fine. However, I have a deep suspicion and a load of built-up experience which tells me that this particular time of year is when my harshest setbacks arrive. I'm anticipating some major setbacks.

The people who've followed my story and believed that I'm worth supporting deserve particular credit for persevering with the rollercoaster ride that I've taken them on.

It's hard to know if I've gone quiet because I'm dead, or because I'm uncharacteristically busy for once.

Not dead yet and I have no intention of unfairly and unreasonably making anybody feel uncertain about the safety of my life. I'm not attention seeking. I'm not attempting to emotionally manipulate anybody.

Should I declare myself safe? That would be untrue. Should I warn you that I might kill myself at any moment? That would also be untrue.

 

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I Am Ridiculously Exposed

6 min read

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

Glasses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whaddya want to know about me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's a ridiculous thing to do.

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

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

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

Do your worst. I'm not afraid.

 

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The Logistics Are Complicated

5 min read

This is a story about three consecutive weeks away from home...

My front door

Despite some pretty serious drug and alcohol issues, having reduced my supercrack addiction to just a couple of relapses in the last 16 months, my life is going considerably better. Before, things were too chaotic and messed-up to manage basic adulting, let alone making complex plans and following through with them.

Poly-substance abuse makes life particularly unmanageable. Stimulants produce excessively, obsessively focussed attention on tiny details, to the point of dismantling a television to see how it works, but forgetting why and not thinking about the consequences, such as not being able to put it back together again. Tranquillisers paper over the cracks temporarily, forestalling the inevitable crash and inducing amnesia, such that the brain doesn't have its natural corrective reaction: "fuck! I should never do that again! that was dumb!".

In the grips of drug-induced mania, I've made a lot of plans, contacted a lot of people, done a lot of hard work and generally laid some of the groundwork for grand schemes, only to let everything rot and wither on the vine because eventually I crash. My ideas are never dumb per se but as we say in the startup world: ideas are worthless; execution is everything.

This weekend I need to wash and pack 3 weeks worth of clothes; 3 wardrobes - work, UK autumn and holiday sun. I need to buy flip flops and sunscreen. I need to get a haircut.

I need to load up my car on Monday morning with everything I need for 3 weeks.

It sounds like an adventure, right?

I've had enough adventures to last me a thousand lifetimes.

My left arm is covered in scars where I've slit my wrists and cut my veins lengthways. My left shin has a humongous scar from when I was trying to escape from my sister's bedroom, where my dad had cornered me, and I picked up a mirror to defend myself - like a shield - which got smashed and a massive piece of glass dropped like a guillotine blade. My right thigh has a huge scar from when I fell through a glass roof, running away from voices in my head; admittedly more obviously a consequence of my so-called bad choices but easily understood in terms of the fucking abuse I had suffered at the hands of my ex-wife and my parents beforehand.

My life is remarkably improved since mostly quitting drugs, legal highs and black-market medications, but I'm loathe to become one of those "drugs ruined my life" idiots, because clearly there was a reason why I was driven to seek something in substances: I was denied a conventional happy contented life. This isn't a "poor me... poor me... pour me... another drink" whingefest. This is simply a statement of fact.

My needs are the same as anybody else's: food, shelter, companionship, intimacy, safety, security.

I'm a pretty basic guy.

Garbage in, garbage out.

If it sounds to you like I'm absenting myself from personal responsibility - distancing myself from my bad choices - then I've got a few questions for you. Where were you when I was lying on the floor dying of a suicide attempt overdose a couple of times? Where were you when I was in hospital all those many, many times? Where were you when I was sleeping rough? Where were you when I was arrested, locked in a cell and then released without charge? Where were you when I was voluntarily admitted to a psych ward, or sectioned? I've faced so much adversity alone. It's true that in the last couple of years I've had the assistance of my guardian angel, but that person is clearly the reason why I've recovered, obviously. I was floundering on my own, but at no point did I ever fully abandon the notion that I was personally responsible for influencing the outcome of my life, or death.

So you think life's complicated doing the school run? Wiping bums, making packed lunches, playgroup, after-school activities, grazed knees, tears, tantrums, sleepless nights, sore nipples and general procreation-related bullshit is a reason why your life is hard? I've got 7.6 billion living breathing walking talking reasons why you're a fucking idiot. I've got over a hundred billion skeletal remains of your failed attempts to clone yourself into immortality you fucking moron. You're at the top of the bell-curve you rutting simpleton.

Life's not a competition but I'm winning.

This is not what I intended to write tonight at all, but I've abandoned all attempts to avoid repetition and any misguided belief that I'm able to project an idealised image of myself, as opposed to baring my ugly soul for anybody who unfortunately happens to be looking in this direction at the time.

You might think that my life is an enviable adventure, but it's actually a fucking nightmare, without kisses, cuddles, hugs, spooning and the comfort of knowing that I'm safely embedded within the crowd; safety in numbers, like a school of fish.

I'm an outlier and it sucks.

 

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Normal Service Has Resumed

7 min read

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

The Ritz

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

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

I went down.

I went down hard.

I went all the way to the bottom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I should be dead.

But I'm not.

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

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

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

 

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The End

4 min read

This is a story about the writing on the wall...

Drawing

Life has become an agonisingly slow experience, like watching each individual frame of a movie film being shown with a slide projector, with a narrator who's intent on painstakingly explaining each frame in minute detail long after each new image has been well and truly absorbed and digested by the audience. It's like death by Powerpoint where the fucktard presenter insists on reading out every single bullet point of their pitiful presentation, long after the audience already read all the fucking words.

If you can't see death coming I don't know what's wrong with you. Death is one of the few certainties in life, so why would you hold out any hope of your childen becoming the next Einstein or Mozart, when it's far more likely that you'll all die in a road traffic accident, and you're certainly going to die anonymous and unwept by 99.9999% of humanity.

My own mortality is something quite palpable to me. I've spent enough times in my life where I've literally had to make life or death decisions regarding my own survival. Whether it was through a leisure pursuit gone wrong, such as finding myself in the mountains or the sea when shit's gone awry, or lying on the floor of my bedroom with lungs filled with fluid, arrhythmic heartbeat and failing organs as a result of drug overdose, I've had plenty of time to contemplate death and the decisions that led up to it.

With extreme sports, it was fucking awful at the time but I laugh about it now. With extreme drug abuse, it was fucking awful at the time but I laugh about it now.

The point is, we can all imagine the worst. It's easy to say "told you so" with the benefit of hindsight.

I've survived so many things which should have killed me that I've now developed some foresight. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I'm going to die.

None of this should be shocking. People die every day. We treat human life incredibly cheaply. We even train our doctors - the people who are supposed to treat life as sacrosanct - that we can't save anybody. Everybody's just going to fucking die so take the money and fuck those guys; screw those losers.

Nobody cares about zero suicides and zero deaths. Nobody cares about deaths at all. We're somewhat resigned to our fate.

Yes, here's me who has more years than I deserve. There are people out there with terminal illnesses who're dying (sic.) to have another day on this earth. Who the fuck am I to irreverantly dismiss my "gift" of life and good health?

It's not good health.

It's not happiness.

I reject it.

When a parent screams at their child that they should be grateful for the "gift" of life, they're just screaming because they're afraid that their genes aren't going to survive for long enough to be replicated. Life is not a gift. Life is a curse. Being trapped in a flesh prison on a journey to an inevitable painful death is not a gift, you fucking cunts. Passing on that curse to new generations is not a generous "gift" just the same as getting people addicted to crack or heroin is not the answer to your own addiction, although it might provide the income to allow you to keep getting high. Perpetuation of the cycle of misery is not a "gift"

Somebody's gotta be the last one. Somebody's gotta be the final one. Somebody's gotta say "enough".

 

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