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The world's longest suicide note

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

All opinions are my own

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Airbrushing History

5 min read

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

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

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

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

Sometimes the internet doesn't forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Hit Me Where It Hurts

7 min read

This is a story about failure...

3D Foot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Leave my Art the F**k Alone

4 min read

This is a story about bullies and abusers...

Thought bubble

I only have a couple of months left to go and I'll have hopefully achieved my ambition of writing a million words in 3 years - the world's longest suicide note - and the most comprehensive, candid and unflinching glimpse inside the mind of a dead man walking.

"We didn't know" and "he seemed fine" and "what could we have done differently?" are the kinds of things that haunt the people after somebody has committed suicide.

Well, there are no excuses here - I've made my very best attempt to write on a daily basis, all the things - most of which are very practical - which have driven me to attempt suicide. Eventually, I will die at my own hands.

To imagine that there's a doctor, psychiatrist or other charlatan out there who's got the f**king cure, means you're more delusional and insane than I am. Take a good look around you - things are getting worse not better; more and more people are feeling depressed; suicide has gotten so bad that it's the number one thing that's gonna kill a man like me, yet there are no pills that work, psychological treatments which are available to anybody but the extremely wealthy or indeed any offer of safe sanctuary for those of us who can't guarantee our own safety... we're a danger to ourselves. Check the data - we are suffering an epidemic of mental health problems. Every piece of objective data you can gather says the same thing: so-called 'medicine' is not making people better, and things are getting worse and worse.

Writing this blog is my therapy. It's the rock I'm clinging onto, shipwrecked in a storm as the rain lashes down and giant waves threaten to drown me. This blog gives me pride in what I've achieved, despite the adversity I've faced. More than anything else, this blog is MY PRECIOUS ARTWORK which is 90% complete, but it's fragile... don't fuck with it.

I was attacked by proxy. A horrible person got a muscly bully to invade my home and force me - with threats and intimidation - to delete quite a lot of blog posts. That coward is using their macho friends, colleagues - whoever - to coerce me to submit to their will. You can beat the living shit out of me if you like, vandalise my car, smash up my stuff, but don't f**k with my motherf**king art. If you're hiding behind your muscly bullies, thinking you can fuck my art up and you're safe because you're protected by your macho 'protectors' then you've underestimated how much it's hurting me... beyond a certain point you'll have hurt me so much that I don't care if your thugs kill me; the treats and intimidation won't matter any more. You're such a coward and you're so horrible for trying to f**k up the one thing that's most precious to me, via your proxies.

Hands off my art. It means so much to me that I'm prepared to suffer whatever the consequences are for standing up to the bullies and those who threaten me; invade my home; intimdate and force me - literally standing over me making threats - to destroy my art.

I'm not sure how many thousands of words were lost when my home was invaded and I was threatened, intimidated and forced by a macho proxy to delete parts of my artwork, but even a single word is too many. I was forced to delete a picture of a sausage, for f**k's sake. Having that level of control over somebody's 3-year project, while thinking you're safely protected and your macho proxies are doing your dirty work... that's despicable. Words don't come easily. 1 million words don't come easily. 3 years on a single project is not easy. If you f**k with it you're hurting me more than you can possibly imagine.

If you think there's a vindictive vengefulness bubbling under the surface here, think about how you'd feel if somebody took a knife to one of your children and left a scar across their face - that's how I feel about this artwork being f**ked with. Every time I look at this blog, I'm reminded that there's a scar... when a thug forced their way into my home and threatened and intimidated me, and wrecked my artwork.

I'm a desperate man with nothing to lose. All I've got is my art - my 3-year project - so the hurt you cause me if you f**k with it is incalculable.

 

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Break Up With Bad People

4 min read

This is a story about relationship strategies...

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If somebody treats you really badly, break up with them. If somebody is disrespectful about the times in your life when you nearly died, break up with them. If somebody makes character slurs and generally trash talks you, break up with them. If somebody talks shit about you behind your back, break up with them. If somebody treats you like a second-class citizen - like there's something wrong with you - then break up with them.

I really can't recommend it enough.

In fact, sometimes I don't know why I don't do it sooner, when all the warning signs are there. When somebody starts getting abusive and horrible and vile and disrespectful and insulting, and starts to say humiliating and untrue things, those are the warning signs. When somebody implies you're broken and you need to be fixed; that you're faulty; that you're a freak... that's a warning sign.

I really can't urge you strongly enough to break up with those people who give off those warning signs.

If somebody's not introducing you to their family, but they're happily talking about you behind your back; if somebody's talking about you behind your back with their work colleagues; if your emails and text messages and other things like that are getting shared behind your back; if they're stalking you and gossiping about you and generally judging you, comfortable and cocky in their gang, while you're completely isolated and alone.... break up with them.

I can't emphasise this enough: if it feels wrong, break up with them as soon as you can.

Nobody could accuse me of not working really hard at my relationships. Nobody could accuse me of not being tolerant and kind and having a range of different strategies to deal with the various ups and downs of a relationship. I've had relationships that have lasted years and years. I've spent more of my adult years in a relationship than I have single. I know about relationships.

My big mistake has been in trying too hard to make things work with bad people.

Bad people are the ones who make us feel distressed and humiliated; who make us feel worthless; who make us feel insecure; who make us feel like we're a freak or a weirdo. Bad people are the ones who tell us we should be grateful to have a partner, because nobody else would have us. Bad people are the ones who keep bringing up the worst things that happened to us, again and again and again and again. Bad people are the ones who imagine us at our worst, rather than seeing our full potential and imagining us at our best.

Bad people will attack the thing that's most precious to you, and pick on you using your most intimate vulnerabilities.

If somebody's reading the really personal stuff I choose share - because I'm brave - and using it against me, they're a bad person. If somebody is taking advantage of the fact I'm vulnerable, they're a bad person. If somebody's got a problem with my blog, which is 3 years of daily writing and 900,000 words - it's my labour of love - then they're a bad person.

I was very angry and hurt about the way I was treated by a bad person. I'd let things build up. I should have broken up with them sooner. I should've walked away. I let things build up, and then the distressing, humiliating, traumatic, threatening, alarming aftermath, where I was ganged up on... that was truly awful.

I should've broken up with them before things got so emotionally charged. I should've broken up with them before I ended up - unfortunately - with a lot of unresolved resentment and pent-up frustration about the unjust and horrible treatment I'd been a victim of.

I've got a lot of work to do. I have to repair the damage to my blog - done by threats and intimidation, unwanted visits, stalking, harassment. A lot of damage was done to my blogging project by that horrible person and their gang, and I have to repair it, because my blog is the thing that keeps me alive; it's my proudest achievement.

I need to find my voice again: The voice that isn't tainted by the distress I've been feeling; the voice that isn't controlled by the threats and intimidation: My voice.

 

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I Hate to Worry You, but You Should Worry

8 min read

This is a story about warning signs...

Night vision

One of the reasons why I write every day - and publish publicly - is because it's a healthy habit: I do it when I'm well, or at least not dreadfully unwell. One of the reasons I publish every day is because it gives a lot of clues about my state of mind, and therefore informs the reader about the risks to my life.

For example, I published every single day - without fail - while I was working in London, because I was on the brink of suicide nearly every day. More often than not, if I stop blogging, I'm either dead or dying. If you look at the previous blog posts leading up to the days I stopped blogging, then you'll see plain as day all the warning signs.

The problem is, people get used to hearing a struggling person casually saying "I wish I was dead" and they think it's part of their personality; they think that they're "crying wolf". Trouble is, many of those people will eventually kill themselves, or at least attempt to. There's a lot of bullshit about "attention seeking" and not having to worry about the ones who are talking about it: "it's the quiet ones you've got to worry about". Bullshit bullshit bullshit. There's a lot of bullshit - especially in the medical community - which equates to "I don't think you're really going to do it. Go on! Do it! Prove it! I call your bluff!".

The net result is dead people. Lots and lots of dead people. A man kills himself every 2 hours in the UK. When you visit a doctor and the number one thing that's going to kill you is suicide, and the doctor has the opinion that you're "probably not" going to kill yourself, they're arrogantly gambling with your life.

I get it. It's boring hearing about how awful people's lives are. I get it... it gets REALLY BORING waiting for a suicidal person to finally do it. DO IT ALREADY. I'M BORED OF WAITING. I'VE HEARD YOU SAY YOU WANT TO KILL YOURSELF SO OFTEN, SO I WANT YOU TO DIE SO I DON'T HAVE TO HEAR IT ANYMORE.

Thus, we arrive at the world's longest suicide note. 900,000 words and counting.

Nobody can say "I didn't know" or "we'd have done something if we knew" or "we don't understand".

I've documented in exquisite and unflinching detail, every single aspect of what makes me suicidal.

The photo above is taken using the night-vision mode of my smartphone. The photo is taken through the crack at the bottom of my door. You can see my bike in the hallway, but other than that the image is pretty hard to discern. This is a snapshot of psychosis - I was using the night-vision mode on my smartphone to 'peek' outside my bedroom and look into the rest of my empty apartment, but the psychosis was telling my that my apartment wasn't empty. I was looking for intruders: the shadow people.

My mental illness started as common-or-garden variety depression, meaning that I was planning to kill myself by sellotaping a bag full of pure nitrogen over my head, and asphyxiating. I bought the canisters of nitrogen gas. I bought the duct tape. I found an airtight bag big enough to envelope my head, and leave enough space so I could breathe in the nitrogen. Nitrogen is not a poisonous gas, but it's inert... if you breathe pure nitrogen, you're not breathing any oxygen, and you'll quickly pass out and die.

I bought potassium cyanide. I even put a picture of the potassium cyanide that I'd bought on Facebook and told people what it was and what I planned to do with it. The most notable reply I got was from a 'friend' who was angry that I had it in my house when he brought his kid over to visit... which I did not. It was triple sealed in airtight vacuum packaging, then placed in a hazardous chemical containment jar, then finally it was placed in a locked steel strongbox in my summerhouse - nearly 100m away from the house. His kid must be pretty special to be able to pick two locks, locate the container and open the packaging in order to ingest the deadly chemical. That was the most notable reply. THAT WAS THE MOST NOTABLE REPLY - anger that somebody's child might have died if they had the ability to time-travel and pick locks.

So... nobody gives much of a fuck.

I was immediately discharged as soon as I came out of my coma and my kidneys started working again, following my attempted suicide in Manchester, when I'd ingested enough tramadol to kill an elephant. They didn't transfer me to a psych ward. They didn't put me in a crisis house. They didn't do anything - they just discharged me, whereupon I had to go back to the apartment where I'd tried to kill myself, with its door hanging off its hinges because the emergency services had to kick it down to save me. The first thing I said to the ITU doctor when I came round was "I'm upset that I'm alive. I wanted to die. I told you not to treat me; not resuscitate me. I still want to die". What the actual fuck? Do the capitalists want to exploit me so badly that they'll keep me alive against my will?

There's an 'unsound mind' argument, but my mind is free from drink, drugs, medication and other mind-altering substances. My brain is working the way nature intended through millions of years of evolution. MY BRAIN IS FUCKING WORKING. If I'm depressed, it's because of depressing bullshit jobs, war, famine, climate change, inequality, brutality, bullying, people who don't give a fuck whether you live or die, and people who want you to stay alive so they can exploit you until the day you die of old age and exhaustion. My mind is perfectly sound. I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world.

If I'm not blogging, you should worry.

If I stop blogging, worry.

In a perfect world, I'd tell this fucked up world to fuck off and I'd become an artist. I'd quit my god-awful boring unchallenging piss-easy pointless bullshit job, and I'd go do something creative. I'd be a 'bum'. I'd be a 'loser'. I'd reject 'civilised' society and go have some damn fun. 21+ years in the rat-race full time, and 13+ years in full-time 'education' which was just bullying and absolute bullshit box-ticking for the sake of school league tables. I don't give two fucks about pieces of paper to wave around - they prove nothing - and I don't give two fucks about inflated job titles for work that is ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Take a long hard look at yourself - you're all talk and no action; you produce nothing; your job is completely and utterly useless; you're very busy doing NOTHING.

However I kill myself - quickly by jumping off a tall building, or slowly with drugs and alcohol - it's the same end result. We all die in the end anyway, so I really don't see the point in prolonging the suffering. Cut to the chase. Jump to the end. Skip the awful bit, with the commuting and the BORING BORING BORING bullshit made-up pointless jobs.

Yes, at one point I had lots of lovely holidays and lots of friends, plus lots of material trimmings like sports cars, yachts, speedboats, hot tubs, summer houses, a house, a garden, a cat... then I said to myself "but I'm still depressed that my job is utter bullshit which doesn't do anything of any use for anybody". So I became an electrician. I can proudly say that lots and lots of families have lights, and power sockets, and electric ovens, and electric hobs, and electric showers, and power to their hot tubs, and power to their sheds and outbuildings, and power to their electric gates and power to a million and one other things. Work that I did is responsible for improving the lives of all the tons and tons of families for whom I installed the electrics in their homes. Trouble is 1) people begrudge paying tradesmen, expecting them to work for minimum wage, 2) the work destroys your health, because there's so much brick dust, asbestos etc, and 3) the responsibility for doing a safe installation to safeguard the lives of everybody who will ever be in those houses, is not reflected in the wage or the health damage aspect.

Pushing paper around my desk and pretending to look busy carries zero risk that a mistake of mine might kill somebody, but yet I get paid 5 or 6 times more money... but I'm intolerably bored.

I might as well be an artist. At least with the creative arts, you're paid fuck all but it's lots of fun, intellectually stimulating, free from responsibility, and nobody gets electrocuted to death if you make a tiny mistake... in fact, can you even make a mistake as an artist?

This blog is an artwork; it's a piece of evolving art - it's durational to use the wanky arty term.

But, when the art stops my heart stops.

If I stop blogging, you should worry about me.

 

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Lost for words

1 min read

Doesn't happen often, but there's a first time for everything.

 

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900,000 Words

1 min read

This isn't a story...

My objective has been to write a million words in 3 years. I'm 90% of the way through. Where's my ticker-tape parade? What's the prize going to be?

There is no prize; there is no reward.

 

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What Would Ben Do?

10 min read

This is a story about role models...

School photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hate that I disappoint Ben.

I hate that I'm letting him down.

I hate that I'm this person.

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

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

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

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

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

Things went badly wrong in Manchester.

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

What have I done since then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Career Limiting

5 min read

This is a story about disguise...

SF Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Discipline

4 min read

This is a story about routine...

Random image

I don't have my laptop with me at the moment, which means I've had to download a random image of mine from the cloud. I'm not really sure what the image is supposed to represent - perhaps that some people lack the discipline to piss in the toilet rather than on the floor, or perhaps that some people lack the discipline to clean up their own mess. Anyway, this is the image I've chosen. I'm not even sure what I'm going to write about. There's one thing that's been really bugging me, but I'm not going to write about it because I'm disciplined.

To be trapped into an unpleasant situation, but to impassively observe and endure; to keep your lip buttoned - that takes discipline. To see wrongdoing and hear unforgivable things uttered, but not respond. To be passive and impassive; to be an observer - that takes discipline.

To continue to grind my axe would push things too far. I need a period of reflection. I need to get back to writing what my readers want to read. I got derailed and I haven't really known where I was going, except that a lot of what I was saying was falling on deaf ears. My intended audience were not getting the message, or if they were then they were resistent to it. I tried softly softly, then my patience ran out. I bottled stuff up for too long. I remained in an intolerable situation too long. I was trapped in close proximity to a person who was really winding me up, but I think the feeling was mutual - time to move on; time to bury the hatchet.

Of course, I'll never be able to just bury the hatchet on command. Of course, to say that I'm going to change and suddenly start writing about other stuff, would be to suggest that my emotions, thoughts and feelings can be changed to be whatever I want them to be, whenever I want.

I want to write shorter pieces. I want to write stand-alone pieces that are accessible to anybody. I hate having to self-censor. I hate having things which are off-limits. I hate talking in riddles and putting heaps of effort into making absolutely 100% certain that nobody could ever make any connection - no matter how vague or unlikely - to the people I'm writing about. I hate that constraint. I hate that it ruins my writing.

I want to write shorter pieces.

I want to write pieces that anybody can read, and understand perfectly well what I'm talking about; relate to.

I want to get back to good honest straightforward writing, for everybody.

I'd love it if this blog post was a clear demarkation between a phase that I've been stuck in, and a new period where I get back to the good old writing that I was enjoying so much, where I could breezily explore anything and everything that took my fancy. Maybe I'll get back to that good place eventually.

I'm disciplined. I write every day. If I'm not writing, then you should worry - it means I'm very sick, or something terrible is happening in my life. If I'm not writing, something is wrong.

I'm disciplined. I write. Every day.

I'm going to try to become more disciplined about writing less. I'm going to try to become more disciplined about keeping to topics that anybody could relate to - no more cryptic stuff; no more guessing games.

My routine got messed up by a thoroughly unpleasant set of events, but hopefully that phase is drawing to a close. There's still stuff that has to be done to close that particular chapter, but then it's done and dusted and the curtain can fall on that particular unfortunate period. Time for a fresh start. Time for a new beginning.

Things don't end neatly and cleanly. Breakups are messy. People and human relationships are complex. Emotions can run high.

I don't need that kind of drama. Time to get back to good honest simple writing. No censorship; nothing cryptic; no guesswork.

I enjoy being open and transparent. It's healthy to be open and transparent. I'm going to continue being open and transparent and writing about everything that goes on in my head, in a candid and unflinching manner.

Time to get my healthy routine back.

 

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