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

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

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Summer's Here

4 min read

This is a story about unseasonably good weather...

Sun tan lotion

While my colleagues have been enjoying Easter holidays, it's been 4 months since I took some time off work. Having the long 4-day Easter weekend was very pleasant, and there are two more long weekends in May. The Easter bank holiday weekend was particularly nice because it was sunny and warm.

A friend asked if I'd like to join him and his family for a picnic in the park, which I thought was madness, given that we're still in April and the nights can be decidedly cold. However, it was very pleasantly warm, even as the sun started to go down.

During the daytime over the Easter weekend, it felt most summery indeed. My skin is pretty tolerant of the UK sun, so I didn't really need sun tan lotion, but I was able to wear flip-flops and sunglasses, with short sleeves, and it felt like summer.

Summer is my favourite time of year.

There are a number of juggling balls I've got midair at the moment. Work, house, relationships, friendships, money, car, bills and admin... the usual crap that almost everybody has to worry about. Somehow, I'm managing to keep all the plates spinning reasonably well at the moment, which bodes very well for having a good summer.

Last year, a catastrophic chain of events screwed up my job, my relationships, some friendships, and put my whole situation - regarding housing and finances - into jeopardy. I got very sick and I was worried I was going to lose everything: my life is fragile.

This year, my approach has been exactly the same: I'm working hard on an important IT project, I have a place to live which I like, dating is going well, I'm starting to make friends, my finances are in good shape - things are looking extremely promising, but I know how quickly everything can crumble.

Last year, I ended up snatching a couple of days away with a good friend - a boy's trip away - which was amazing, but my life had been destabilised and my future was uncertain. By the time the summer arrived, I didn't feel in a position to enjoy it at all, and in fact I hardly saw the sunshine at all. When a new job came along, I took it immediately and worked all summer, including the day of my birthday.

Although I have had a very good run of luck, including a fantastic holiday over the Christmas and New Year period, I feel like I would like to celebrate my achievements and hard work by going away on holiday for my birthday. It's a little extravagant and it's an avoidable expense, but I feel like it would be great to have a summer break, to recharge the batteries ready for the long slog through to the autumn.

Perhaps it's not necessary to go abroad. A staycation can be just as great as going overseas. In fact, the UK is fantastic if you're lucky with the weather. Certainly, the Easter bank holiday weekend felt like being on holiday in a country with a much better climate than our own fair shores.

I guess it's something to aim for; something a little bit more exciting than domestic purchases of boring things for around the house. It feels like a way of psychologically declaring 2019 to be "a good year" which is important to me, given the number of "bad years" I've had. It hasn't been since 2016 that things were going smoothly in my life, when I went away for a lovely holiday to celebrate my birthday.

There's something really nice about having a holiday when things are going well - to be settled at home, in a relationship, work going well, financially secure, social interaction and other things which make life bearable - is important if you're going to be able to relax and enjoy yourself.

My life is becoming increasingly good, especially considering how much I was struggling with stress and anxiety very recently. I was overwhelmed and too exhausted, depressed and anxious to think about doing nice things, but now the landscape is starting to look very different.

 

Of course, I must say that I'm very fortunate to be in the position that I'm in, and I'm trying not to feel "entitled" to things, but it's no accident that I'm in the situation I'm in - there has been hard work, struggle and suffering to endure, so I don't feel too guilty about planning a nice holiday for myself, to celebrate my birthday in July.

 

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Can't Talk, Dating

3 min read

This is a story about multitasking...

Plate of food

I like to be punctual. I think it's especially bad to bail on a date or be late, because it's often a time of some nervousness/anxiety for all except those who seem to be eternally dating. For 'the rest of us' there's a certain amount of fear of rejection, wanting to be seen as attractive, worrying about spilling something on our outfit just before we're about to leave, fretting about what to wear, wondering if we'll recognise our date and whether it'll be awkward - to kiss or not to kiss; one kiss or two; a little half-hug? How on earth are you supposed to greet a perfect stranger the first time you meet, when you are meeting for the express purpose of getting intimate with each other to see if you're compatible.

A big chunk of my day was spent buying new clothes, which I must admit was strongly motivated by the desire to make myself as presentable as possible - trendy and cool - when meeting prospective love interests. I got a little bit carried away and spent more money than I should have done, but I'm very happy with my purchases and I'm very much looking forward to wearing my new clothes.

I've spent the afternoon finally getting my house in some semblance of good order. My main lounge now has both sofas assembled and I have a bedside table.

Did I go so far as to change the bed linen on my bed? That seems a little presumptuous. Of course a part of me would love to "get lucky" to use a turn of phrase which I find quite horrible. I guess there's something which is very good for any insecurities about being attractive, to have somebody want to sleep with you, but I'm a hopeless romantic and that level of intimacy is not just sex for me... I'm not a one-night-stand kinda guy and I'm not into hookup culture.

I now have 30 minutes to shower, get dressed and catch a cab to meet my date. I must admit, I am not struggling to match with very attractive women who want to date, but it's all in the "getting to know each other" stages, which I find somewhat bothersome, especially when it's just a preamble to what I really want, which is to be in a relationship. I know that it seems prudent to choose carefully and not rush the process, but another part of me knows that I've managed to make relationships work with very different people, so I certainly don't have a "type" that I tend to go for.

I have 27 minutes now. Gotta go!

Wish me luck!

 

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Life Lived Publicly

7 min read

This is a story about open secrets...

Time to talk

A date asked me if she could read my blog. She already has enough information to be able to easily find it on Google: all you'd have to type would be "Nick bipolar blog Cardiff" and I pop up as both the 2nd and 3rd hits. I've decided to go "full disclosure" on my dating profile and tell people that I have bipolar disorder, because it's something pretty important to know about me. I also say that I write a blog and spend a lot of time on Twitter. That's quite a lot of information to give away, which easily leads to this absolute goldmine of everything you'd ever want to know about me, and a lot that you really would probably rather not know.

There's a great imbalance if somebody has access to a great big cache of totally candid and brutally honest writing, which confesses every single innermost thought, expresses every single insecurity and exposes all my vulnerabilities.

Usually, when getting to know somebody, each person reveals themselves little by little, and each person slowly forms an opinion - there's a limited amount of information available from which to form a judgement. Also, we present ourselves in either the way that we would like to be perceived, or in the way that we perceive ourselves. If we have pretentions, we present that image. If we have insecurities, we also make those known in subtle ways, or we attempt to hide them. If we wish to be insincere, we can lie and boast. If we wish for things from our past to be forgotten, we can omit those gory details from the account we tell.

Given that it is my well-practiced habit to write without self-censorship on a daily basis, and to use this blog as a coping mechanism during some very difficult times, I'm exposed in a way that most ordinary people are not. A glance at somebody's Instagram account is going to reveal very little about their state of mind. A glance at somebody's hand-picked photographs, selected to present an enviable glamorous adventurous lifestyle, does not in any way hint at what life's really like for the person who controls that account.

A glance at my blog reveals a fairly dismal picture of me at the moment. I'm quite overwhelmed with seemingly mundane things, such as administrative paperwork and other fairly simple tasks associated with getting a new home into good working order - assembling flat-pack furniture and suchlike. I complain about being single and lonely, and isolated: lacking in an adequate social life. I have also regularly mentioned suicidal ideation, usually triggered by minor inconveniences and frustration, borne of my unrealistic expectations of how quickly I should be able to restore my life to health, wealth and prosperity, complete with a new girlfriend, having only just very recently moved to a new city.

Because I never write with the mindset of "what if somebody from work or somebody who I wanted to date read this?" it means that I'm at risk of being judged harshly by people who might walk in on a particular chapter of my life and quickly gain an unflattering impression of me.

I don't write to impress work colleagues. I don't write to impress potential girlfriends. I write because writing is an integral part of my life, and writing publicly is now "normal behaviour" to me, although I'm well aware that most people wouldn't share what I share, because they'd see it as a risk to their reputation - it'd make them more vulnerable, less safe and secure, and they see privacy as something desirable.

I found privacy to be unhelpful. I found that privacy meant that nobody knew how close to suicide I was, which was a very dangerous state of affairs, and I found that privacy led to me becoming increasingly isolated and paranoid - I was terrified of anybody finding out that I was unwell, which spiralled out of control. The more I worried about people finding out that I was sick, the more sick it made me.

The answer, as it has turned out to be, was to write everything down and publish it so that anybody can read it. My illness was by no means "cured" overnight by taking that course of action, but over time, old friends and new ones have been able to engage with me and I've maintained a toe-hold in the land of the living. The most unusual thing - making my entire life an open book - has turned out to be one of the most important things to give my life stability, structure, routine and access to a vast number of supportive caring individuals, who've intervened at critical moments during the 4 years I've been writing... including one crucial moment which literally saved my life.

The question about whether I should allow prospective girlfriends to read this blog is perhaps bound up with the question about whether people who've had difficult life experiences are "broken" and are therefore "worthless". If you believe that people should suffer lifelong punishment for their mistakes, then perhaps this blog is perfect to share with prospective girlfriends, because I'd never want to date anybody who'd harshly judge me for things which happened in my past which I have no ability to change: my time machine is broken.

If anybody is looking to go digging for dirt with a negative mindset - hoping to discover that I'm a terrible person who's done terrible things - then I think that those people won't be disappointed. My behaviour has regularly fallen short of perfection and I'm deeply disappointed with things I've said and done in the past; I do carry regret and remorse; I've made innumerable mistakes.

I wonder how much I differ from, say, a man who abandoned his young children and wife to run away with a young woman who he was having an affair with - an utterly devastatingly despicable piece of behaviour, ruining innocent lives and making a mockery of solemn vows of lifelong monogamy and dedication to a spouse, plus the dereliction of dutiful responsibilities - versus my mistakes which bear no such hallmark of obnoxiousness. Yes, I've caused a great deal of distress during times when I was extremely sick, but I assure you that no amount of digging will unearth evidence that I'm some kind of selfish evil man, lacking in empathy and remorse. In fact, a thorough reading of my blog reveals that I often reflect upon events from my past and wish that I had acted differently, and I am critical of my own behaviour, attempting to acknowledge my own flaws and spot common mistakes, so that I might learn from them.

This is a highly defensive piece, but it's a highly stressful time. My job is going very well and I would dearly love to start another relationship. Having this vulnerability - in the guise of this blog - is highly inadvisable, but I'm loath to bury it, given how important it is to me as a coping mechanism and a way to keep concerned friends informed of my state of mind.

I might write another synopsis of "the story so far" for those who are dipping in for the first time, because it upsets me that it's impossible to see the bigger picture without reading approximately 1.1 million words, and I don't like the idea of being judged on a handful of skim-read recent blog posts, mostly complaining about mundane and trivial matters.

Of course, none of us wants to be misunderstood, and my writing is perhaps the most desperate attempt to avoid that situation, given that I've felt so close to death for so long. However, ironically, it's pretty damn hard to get to know me - to understand me - because I've written so much and for so long.

If you've read as far as this point, what can I say? Thank you. The comfort I get from knowing that my thoughts and feelings are not trapped inside my body, unseen, is immeasurably valuable to me.

 

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Not My Finest Work

4 min read

This is a story about doing a rushed job...

Cat flap

Here is a picture of my cat flap. I've been thinking about getting a cat because I miss having a furry friend and I think it would improve my life to have a pet in my life. Undoubtedly, having contact with pets is something which is beneficial to my mental health - I find it really stress relieving to stroke a cat, and I enjoy sharing my life with other living creatures. I think I would find it greatly comforting to have an animal to nurture.

I'm working very hard and my colleagues are super pleased with what I'm doing, but I can't let my job totally define and consume me.

I'm trying very hard to find a girlfriend, but such things can't be rushed. I have very limited control over when and where fate is going to match me up with somebody who's got mutual feelings for me, worth embarking upon a relationship.

I'm trying somewhat less hard to make friends outside of work, because I'm simply flat-out.

My house is filled with mountains of boxes of unassembled flat-pack Ikea furniture and all of my stuff which still remains mostly in the cardboard boxes I used when moving. Some of the boxes have been opened and rummaged through for long-forgotten treasures, but some boxes are still sealed up with tape.

My clothes are mostly organised using the floordrobe system, where dirty clothes are piled up in one part of my bedroom, and clean ones in another.

I have more Ikea furniture arriving soon and I need to at least assemble a guest bed before I have my first visitor.

I'm hurriedly writing this, well aware that my sleep patterns have gotten out of sync with the corporate demands of capitalist society. It's late. I'm tired.

I'm not saying a whole lot that's very interesting or insightful, but these are my thoughts after a pretty punishing - although productive - week at the office. I veer violently from suicidal despair to arrogant delusions of grandeur, depending on whether I'm doing some really cool piece of work at the office, or whether I'm struggling to secure myself a romantic companion via the local dating scene.

I'm spending money like crazy, but it seems unavoidable given my need for a furnished home, plus I need to phone all the utility companies and tell them that it's just me living here in this giant house all on my own, so they stop charging me zillions of pounds for supplying energy, water and other services which I barely use. I'm spending money on dating. I'm spending money on replacing some of my threadbare worn-out clothes.

It seems crazy to get a kitten, but it also seems like something which would bring a flood of much-needed oxytocin, given my rather isolated existence. It seems like something I could be in control of: I just need to find a kitten for sale locally and adopt it, and then I can immediately enjoy my new pet. Having a little kitten to lavish attention on, and to brighten my day, sounds so lovely. I think I would be really overjoyed to come home from work every day and be greeted by a tiny furry friend. I think my life is sorely missing an outlet for my nurturing side.

I'm producing great work at the office and I'm not doing too badly in the dating game, but both things are unhealthy to do obsessively, and neither can be rushed.

Sometimes the sun shines, like it did this evening, and I feel like life is going really well. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of meeting new friends and getting a girlfriend, which are going to be essential pieces of the puzzle if I'm going to have a happy life here in this new city.

My writing is suffering, but I'm trying my best to juggle everything. It's pretty impressive that I've done so much in such a short space of time, but it's still unfortunately not quite enough to have yielded a life which meets my basic ordinary and realistic needs, such as secure relationships, financial security, stability and suchlike.

It's well past my bedtime. I'm struggling to catch up. The extra demands placed upon me have tipped the balance unfortunately to the point where I'm not quite managing to stay on top of everything. I'm balancing on a knife edge.

 

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Kiss And Tell

8 min read

This is a story about hookups...

Flowers

I'm not really experienced in the world of dating. I've had plenty of long-term relationships. I've been a serial monogamist for most of my adult life. Dating is not really I thing that I do. I don't enjoy it. I find it an unpleasant prelude to the ultimate aim, which is to be in a committed relationship with somebody.

Friends who have been married for decades tell me that I should enjoy myself and revel in the opportunity to go on dates with lots of different potential love interests. They tell me that I should see the whole process as a great chance to test the water with a whole bunch of different prospective girlfriends. They are somewhat jealous of what they perceive to be a pleasurable and fun exercise.

I don't struggle to cope with situations outside of my comfort zone. I don't struggle with new people and places. I don't struggle with having an unsettled, insecure life, where people come and go and I'm continuously in new and unfamiliar situations. In fact, I'm probably one of the more resilient folks you might come across - you can plonk me just about anywhere, and I'll cope.

However, I have a choice.

I don't really want to be dating. I don't really want to be single. I don't really want the things that people who've been married for decades think would be really fun and cool.

I want familiarity, comfort, security, routine, stability, normality... I want the ordinary and the everyday.

I want to wake up next to my long-term partner. I want to say "have a good day honey" and "hi honey I'm home". I want 95% of my conversations to be about what we're going to eat for dinner and watch on TV. I want that comfortable loveliness which comes from being in a secure monogamous regular relationship.

Dating as a long protracted affair, consuming a great deal of time and energy, is an exhausting and pointless exercise to me. Why would I take a torturously circuitous route to achieving the end result when there is clearly a straight-line from A to B? I see no value in the whole dating and courtship business.

"It's better to be single than in a bad relationship" is something that people in bad relationships tell me all the time. It's idiotic, because I've almost made an artform out of putting up with bad relationships; making things work. If anybody can tell you about whether it's better to be single, or better to try and make something work which is deeply flawed, it's me who is the goddam expert.

I'm exhausted by loneliness and isolation, in a way that most people cannot understand. Most people have their families, their friends, their partner, their children. Most people live lives which have a minimum amount of social contact, to make their existence tolerable. A quick glance at my mobile phone would confirm that my life is very different from that of ordinary people: who would I phone and discuss my day with? Who would I contact to tell my plans? Who would message me to ask me to run the most ordinary everyday errands? None of that is included in my life. My life is atypical in the extreme.

Who are the significant people in an ordinary person's life? If it's not their mum, their partner, their siblings, their best friends, then it's often their doctor or some other person who's otherwise involved in a caring/therapeutic profession. Humans are social animals and it's highly distressing for us find ourselves cut adrift from family ties and romantic bonds.

The demands of my job and my recent house move have consumed the lion's share of my energy, and I feel unable to apportion enough of my time to the task of binding myself back to humanity. If I lost my job I'd be done for. I'm lucky enough to have friends all over the world, but we need to interact with people face-to-face every day. We need hugs. We need tactile contact. We need the reassurance of knowing that there are people nearby who care about us.

My efforts to date local singles have not gone unrewarded, and I have more options than I'm able to actively pursue - life has been generous towards me as always - but ironically I deeply detest dating and the entire rigmarole, despite results being forthcoming with relative ease. To me, it seems as though I am still a million miles away from what I really want - a committed loving relationship - but I suppose the speed at which I live my life vastly exceeds what is considered ordinary and average.

Of the relationships I've had in the last 3 years, two of those girlfriends were unquestionably amazing people who I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to share a period of my life with. Even the 'worst' relationship during the period in question was what I wanted at the time, and it served its purpose - I'm no fool and I got exactly what I wanted out of it, which was to have a period of settled, secure, loving companionship. I can't share any of the details with you - it would be disrespectful and inexcusable given my current mental stability - but I can tell you that the worst moments were worth putting up with, at the time. Sadly, I can also see that a couple of very lovely girlfriends were unreasonably treated by me, as casualties of my dreadfully unstable life and unreliable mood.

What do I have to offer today? Perhaps I should be single and learn how to be perfect?

What a load of bullshit.

I'm not an inexperienced kid. I'm not an idiot. I know what's good about relationships and I know what's bad. I know red flags when I see them, and I know what my weaknesses and insecurities are. I know what I want.

I know that I'm happier being single, with the possibility of meeting somebody amazing, versus the situation I was in before where I was working very hard to make a relationship work, because it had marginal benefits at the time. The value of potentially meeting another love of my life is not something that should be underestimated, but neither should the misery of loneliness, especially considering my life circumstances: estranged from my family and without a group of local friends; dangerously isolated and alone.

Of course it's easy to say that I should be fixing my social life and getting back into my hobbies before I think about offering myself up as a prospective partner, but the people who suggest that are absolute fucking idiots who know nothing about how lucky they are to have their families, friends and every other part of the fabric of their lives. They know nothing about what it's like to live in such torturous isolation. They can fuck right off.

My life's stability and routine has been dangerously damaged by my need to form human attachment, so fundamental to liveable existence. I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't, so of course I've ploughed time and energy into meeting somebody who might turn out to be a really great girlfriend. My life's experiences have taught me that having a partner has brought incredible joy in the past, and my behaviour is always driven by well-reasoned decisions which deliver the greatest possible return on investment.

I work hard, which brings me a great deal of financial income, and I am dating hard, which will hopefully bring me the emotional and otherwise intangible rewards of meeting a companion. It might sound like an all-or-nothing risky gamble, but you'd only think that if you enjoy the luxurious position of having a life filled with lots of things which I don't have. You are unable to empathise with the isolation of my situation.

It's late and I'm exhausted. My sleep routine is ruined. My stress levels are through the roof. The demands placed upon me are beyond sustainable limits, but I must plough onwards, because "if you're going through hell, keep going".

I have no idea how things are going to work out for me, given that I'm in a much more alien situation than I've been in previously, which undermines my confidence that "everything's going to work out just fine". I know that past experience has taught me that things always work out, but the unsettling and destabilising recent events, leaving me in strange and unfamiliar circumstances, cause me to redouble my efforts to seek the security I so desperately crave; the attachment that's so dangerously absent in my life.

It's a strange catch 22 situation. I need to invest energy to save myself, but by exhausting myself I put myself in great danger of reaching a limit which is not safe. I suppose I'm hoping for a well-timed lifeline, which life has often supplied, luckily.

I guess luck has always been in my favour, but I work very hard to manufacture that good luck.

 

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Blur

9 min read

This is a story about trying to do too much...

Ceiling fan

I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want and what I need. I think I've got enough experience to know what makes a happy, fulfilling, complete and stable life. I think I've been through plenty of difficult periods when my life has been incomplete, to know what was missing. I've been through very happy periods when I've been full of joy and contentment, and I know the things that created those delightful episodes.

There aren't any short cuts.

It's a strange situation, knowing what my life would contain if I could cherry-pick all the things I needed from all the years I've been alive. I'd choose the huge group of friends I met in the kitesurfing community, and the exotic travel locations we went to. I'd choose living in a city by the beach, where I could have barbecues and play volleyball on a random weekday evening after work. I'd choose garden parties, dinner parties, pool parties, eating out, board games nights and sitting around drinking wine, with a house full of great friends. I'd choose a stable long-term loving relationship with somebody kind and caring, with an incredible career and fascinating educated opinions, who dazzled me with their intellect. I'd choose to have loyal friends nearby, who'd do anything to help me, and I'd do anything for them. I'd be surrounded by people. I crave company and affection.

I hate being single. I hate that all my friends live far away. I hate that I don't have a pet.

I hate not feeling settled, secure, in love with my home city and in love with my house.

I think I'm going to love Cardiff. Soon enough I'll buy a place of my own. I'll make friends. I'll meet a special somebody. I'll probably get a cat. I'll get back into kitesurfing and wakeboarding. I'll build a social network around me, which will make me happy - my gregarious and extroverted side will come back again, and I'll feel like myself; I'll feel glad to be alive.

I don't tend to do things slowly and steadily.

I want everything immediately.

I've set about trying to have a lovely house in a lovely area, meet people, fall in love and meanwhile carry on with all of life's daily demands, such as working my job and paying my bills. It might sound like the regular stuff that we're all trying to do, but you have to understand that my life was profoundly dysfunctional. Every facet of my life was incredibly damaged in some way, and I have found myself starting from scratch, more-or-less.

Of course, there are people whose lives are decimated and they don't enjoy the many advantages which I do, such as being able to find well-paid employment anywhere in the world. My health is good enough that I can work with limited impairment. My experiences have prepared me, such that I'm able to deal with just about anything and everything that life throws at me. I live a very charmed existence.

As it stands, my life is very incomplete, but I'm no longer paralysed by depression, anxiety, indecision and hampered by financial problems. The feelings of unhappiness are prompting me to take action, and I'm pursuing every avenue simultaneously to fix-up my life.

One year ago, I had a very lovely girlfriend, a great home with gorgeous panoramic views of the sea, and a well-paid job which was a short drive away. I might sound like Goldilocks, but that city was not somewhere I could fall in love with. The friends I made there who had cared very much about me, and I adored, had vanished as quickly as they had arrived in my life - an argument which exploded, and ended the relationships I had with an entire family. My house of cards collapsed, and I was jobless, single and sick, in a place where I only had a couple of friends left... and neither were particularly well equipped to help me.

Today, I have a big empty house. I love my job and I love the people I work with. I'm becoming wealthy again. I'm in a city which I find jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Some parts of my life are absolutely perfect.

The parts of my life which are broken and dysfunctional are being fixed. I'm meeting people. I'm no longer trapped in depressed isolation.

Being single is particularly horrible. I haven't had a hug in far too long. I've had nobody to cuddle me when I've been feeling terrible. For a time, I felt like I had nobody in the world who I could phone in a crisis, but slowly my life improves: a friend from work has been in contact, for example, making me realise that I'm not completely invisible... there are people who care about me.

I know that there are people who care about me all around the world, but I promise you that it's pretty awful being in a city you've never visited before, where you don't know anybody, and you're living all alone in a house full of cardboard boxes and unassembled flat-pack furniture. My clothes are all still in suitcases, because I have no furniture to unpack into yet.

Of course, we must consider the great potential that my life holds. In a matter of months, the scary alien city where I'm completely unable to find my way around, will become my home and I will feel attached to the place. My empty house will be filled with my things and I will make it comfortable, and pleasant to live in. I'll make friends and my social life will no longer be something painfully absent. I'll meet somebody special and have a companion to share life with. All of these things will happen, at some point in the future.

Because I'm used to living life at breakneck pace, doing everything all at once, of course I want to do as much as humanly possible. My life is a blur. I'm not doing things in a methodical, measured and sustainable way - I'm charging headlong into every problem, attempting to get what I want overnight.

I should have been in bed a long time ago, getting as much sleep as possible before another punishing week at work on a highly stressful project where I'm under a great deal of pressure. I should be protecting the things which are the essential enablers for everything else: without a job and money, my life will collapse like a house of cards, again.

I almost skipped writing for two days running, because I'm spread so thin, but I'm forcing myself to write now because I don't want a single part of my life to be neglected and left to rot and wither on the vine. I have ploughed a significant amount of time and effort into this writing project, and I'm loath to lose something which is such a consistent and central part of my identity, especially when my embryonic new life is just a tiny seed - it hasn't even begun to sprout green shoots yet.

The problems I have are nice problems to have. I write to you, happy that things are clearly improving, even if I haven't yet claimed any triumphs since successfully moving to Cardiff. It's slightly more intangible to say that things are getting better, when the gains are so imperceptibly marginal; the changes are so slow and none of the major milestones have been achieved yet. However, I had a nice weekend.

As always, I'm very hard on myself and I feel like I should be succeeding in every area of my life, overnight, but things are taking time and effort, and I will have to sustain my efforts if I want to get the things I need. It sucks, but at least I'm starting to have yet another attempt at rebuilding my life. I've had setbacks, but on the whole I have to say that there's more positive progress to report than negative things which have happened.

I seem to be finding reserves of energy that I didn't think I had. I seem to be more capable than I thought I was. The amount that I've achieved in a single weekend seemed inconceivable to me, and was causing me some anxiety, but in fact everything went very well and I'm very pleased.

Of course, there is a great deal of peril and uncertainty in my life, which will remain for some time, while I cement my gains and secure my future, but I've done pretty damn well at coping with setbacks recently, and I hope that I'm able to continue without any major disasters. I hope that I can keep control of my own propensity to self-sabotage. I hope that I can subdue my underlying mood disorder, such that I can plough through the depressive episodes and suppress the manic episodes, and emulate the behaviour of those who are fortunate enough to be blessed with mental stability.

My life has been a blur. My frenetic activity is so fast that my movement is a blur. The amount that I'm trying to do all at once creates a blurry picture, as all the different activities all blend together and I find myself continuously in strange novel situations, attempting to make sense of what's going on: mostly a passenger on a rollercoaster ride.

Life is certainly interesting at the moment, although I am always afraid that I will burn out or break down at any moment. I'm probably over-investing in the wrong things, as always, but that's me: a blur of activity.

 

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Sex Doll

10 min read

This is a story about sex equality...

Wimmin

When thinking about sex, one must consider prostitution, pornography and sex tourism. I also think that one should consider InCels and men who are changing their bodies with hormones and surgery to emulate certain aspects of the female physical form.

I consider all these things, because my attempts at considering what it's like to be born in a female body would be nothing more than educated, well-reasoned, rational guesses based upon a lifetime of observation. When I've written about emotive topics in the past, my readers have defended my right to write freely on the topic and say unspeakable things in the name of being a free thinker, but I've been well aware that some of my most respected female friends have strongly rejected certain opinions which I volunteered.

I wrote about consent, which created considerable discussion, while not drawing anything other than loyalty from vocal Twitter followers who were obviously reluctant to do more than reserve judgement.

I think I was being deliberately provocative.

There wasn't really any need.

Why subject my female readers to provocation when I'm increasingly aware that every female friend has experienced some kind of unwanted sexual advances - in the best of cases - and in many cases has suffered a sexual assault and/or rape? It wasn't meant to be upsetting or even particularly insensitive to those survivors, but what I wrote was not particularly useful, given that my entire essay was based around the pleasant and charmed existence I live, where consent is often not given verbally but there's certainly no ambiguity: I was being disingenuous for the sake of poking holes in attempts to legislate with fuzzy imprecise language in a world which loves guessing games.

Let's talk about some subjects which I find difficult instead.

Firstly, an admission: I hate uncertainty. I hate ambiguity. This roughly translates as a combination of insecurity and some leftover unhappiness from adolescence, when I was more shy and awkward, and more of a social outcast; a creepy weirdo. My feelings towards the dating game are closer to the feelings which drive InCel thought patterns than I'm comfortable admitting. The words "guaranteed shag" are more attractive to me than repulsive. I know that the idea of a government-run girlfriend programme to ensure that every fat pimple-faced pale gamer who never leaves the house is paired up with a sexual partner, is clearly a somewhat terrifying idea, if we imagine that hordes of wimmin are going to have to be caught with nets or herded into pens to be then boxed up and delivered to the horny InCels.

I'm starting to feel a little old, approaching the age of 40, and I have little enthusiasm for going to the gym simply to make my superficial appearance more attractive. It would be a lie to say that I wasn't aware that sex tourism exists. It would be a lie to say that I wasn't aware that prostitution and escorting exist. The idea of travelling to a foreign country for sex is quite repulsive to me - I specifically reject it, because it seems like another form of colonialism and western exploitation to me; it seems like a form of economic modern slavery. The idea of paying for sex in the UK is not problematic for me, but it is not attractive - the act of coitus is not something which I can easily separate from my desire for intimacy and companionship. The most pleasurable part of lovemaking is spooning - the stroking, tickling and the warmth of each other's bodies in a bed - so paying for sex doesn't meet my needs. I would probably pay to support a wife or girlfriend, in order to guarantee my supply of love, but paying for sex seems like an extraordinary waste of money.

In many ways, I can agree that it's a great time to be a man. High quality pornography is available for free, with every extreme fetish imaginable catered for. Hookup apps provide free sex. Plastic surgery, makeup and the sexualisation of society provides constant titillation, and the media has sifted and sorted the world's women to find the very most beautiful to parade before my eyes. My greying hair and extra pounds of flesh pose no problems for me, despite my insecurities about my appearance.

But, in many ways I'm rich and successful and I've been told that I can have it all - I can have anything I want, whenever I want.

I do agree that I feel very entitled.

I'm privileged.

Probably the weirdest and least comfortable of my admissions is that I considered the merits of purchasing a sex doll. It seemed like a straightforward enough decision, given that it would undoubtedly be more pleasurable to penetrate an object which simulated a female body, than to stimulate myself with my hand. It seemed as though it posed no ethical quandary - nobody had to suffer for my pleasure; nobody was coerced into doing anything they didn't want to. Then, of course, I remembered that my primary needs are for intimacy and companionship. I have no difficulties in masturbating to temper my sex drive, without the aid of a sex toy. I can't think of a much worse feeling than having to clean and put away a sex doll after use, when the lust had been satiated and a more rational state of mind had returned. How awful to have the grim task of dealing with putting away a lifeless object, instead of the deliciousness of being wrapped in another person's arms postcoitally.

I considered that I live alone and there's perhaps no reason to even put away a sex doll, if I owned one. It would only be paranoia that somebody might be unexpectedly in my home and see the lifeless object in my bed, which would mean that I'd shamefully hide it away after use. What about having the sex doll in my bed to comfort myself when I'm alone at night, I wondered... what would it be like to put my arm around this object and cuddle it, like a child would cuddle a teddy bear, perhaps?

Is this the grim future which we inhabit: Where balding men with beer guts and grey pubic hair travel to Thailand and have sex with young women who are trying to financially support their families? Where the ugliest men have sex with the most attractive women, because of the coercion of capitalism? Where stripping and webcam work pay for university educations? Where sex work is normalised? Where computer games and the internet have left some of us lonely and isolated, while others hook up using apps and take their bedroom exploits to new extremes?

At the root of it all, I recognise something which I freely but uncomfortably admit to: that the certainty is exactly what I want. I want to be able to go to websites where I know there is a vast trove of free pornography. I want to be able to browse vast numbers of single women in my local area. On the matter of being able to buy sex, or to be able to travel to a country where the buying of it is more subtle, I suppose it disturbs me more than it comforts me. However, I would be more afraid of dying alone if sex tourism didn't exist. Perhaps I would have made a more serious attempt at securing myself a wife if there was no route open to me to leverage my wealth and privilege when I get desperate enough. There must be comfort in knowing that there are some guarantees in my privileged life.

On the topic of entitlement, I suppose I feel as though I should be able to get a girlfriend as easily as I would obtain any other thing that I want: I choose and I pay. I'm not such a monster that I objectify wimmin in the way my words seem to suggest. I'm very much looking for a life companion who I can shower with love and affection, but I must admit that I find the uncertainty of dating quite unpleasant, and I would much prefer to skip straight to the part where we're fully committed to each other and we figure things out from there. I instinctively reject things like arranged marriages, because they seem coercive and exploitative - mostly very young girls being married off to rich old men by their greedy selfish parents - but I watched a television program where people who'd never met each other got married as part of a very fascinating experiment.

I suppose these thoughts and these words are indicative of how dysfunctional I am and how incomplete my life is. It seems clear to me, writing this, that I am pinning my hopes on a relationship as a magic bullet to cure my unhappiness and distress, which is far more due to my lack of local friends than it is due to lack of a partner. Of course, having a lifelong companion is of great comfort and a source of much pleasure and happiness, but I do consider what I have to offer myself in return, and whether I would be a needy and clingy burden because my life is so empty.

The sex doll thing is a bit of a red herring. I wrote the title because I knew it would attract attention. Sex is of much lower importance than surrounding myself with people to talk to. Intimacy is important. Cuddles are important. Sex is just a fleeting itch to be scratched, and not worth being in a bad relationship for or sacrificing friendships for.

I write this somewhat aware that it makes it almost impossible for me to admit to any future object of my affections that I write this blog. I've been writing stuff which paints myself in a terribly unflattering light. I've been writing stuff which is very hard to read for even those who've gotten to know me over a considerable length of time, let alone those who are considering embarking upon a romantic relationship with me.

I wonder to myself if I should employ a cleaner to clean and tidy this gigantic house that I live in. I must admit that I have entertained - theoretically - the idea of financially supporting and housing a woman, in return for the guarantees which I feel entitled to as a member of the patriarchy.

Of course, you must understand that I feel repulsed by myself and I instinctively reject the idea of having servants - even if they're paid - so this has been somewhat of a hypothetical exercise, but I write with candid honesty, as I am wont to do.

 

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First Dates

7 min read

This is a story about making new friends...

Hearth

How does one set about rebuilding the web of human relationships which are so integral to our lives; so important for our happiness and wellbeing? How do we arrive in a strange new city where we don't know anybody and set about making friends and filling up our "little black book" so that we can have sex when we need and want to?

We don't really talk about the grubby business of ensuring we have a steady supply of intimacy, but we all do it. Every man and every woman has their strategies and their relied-upon individuals, who can supply a "booty call" when required. We form relationships which serve as backups and others which serve as the main source of our need for cuddles and fucking. We might think of ourselves as loyal monogamous people, but we are all strategising. We are in relationships because we are getting something out if it.

I'm not so sex-obsessed that I think that sex is at the root of everything, but intimacy is a very important part of human needs, along with the ego rub that we get from being desired. Even if we're not actually having sex, we get kicks from knowing that somebody's interested. We need to feel acknowledged, even if it's something ostensibly platonic. We want somebody to pay attention to us; to crave our company.

Modern life has reached a point where I can arrive in a new city, move into a house, travel to work, shop for groceries and I can live in complete isolation. Nobody will knock on my door and introduce themselves as my neighbour. Nobody will stop me in the street and start talking to me. Nobody will notice that I arrived and nobody would notice if I was gone. I could live as a completely reclusive hermit in the centre of a busy city, surrounded by people.

It would be unusual for me to interject myself into anybody's life. If I started talking to strangers in my local supermarket, people would think I've gone insane. People would assume that I'm some sort of con artist or a would-be axe murderer. Random conversations with people in my local community is not the modern way to start making friends.

Book clubs, salsa dancing, sports teams and other such things are a safe way to meet people, but one must feign interest in the thing in question in order to make those acquaintances. I don't particularly feel like playing 5-a-side football or reading a book, in order to make friends. I'm not sure how else to set about the task of meeting anybody though, in a manner which is likely to lead to friendships.

Online, people just seem to find each other serendipitously. I have no idea how social networks form online, but I know that meaningful lifelong friendships sprout from online contact. However, despite the tentacles of the internet reaching globally, the chances of meeting somebody in the same town are quite small. From all my thousands of Twitter followers I've probably only met 4 people in person, and only 2 were ever in roughly the same geographical area as me.

I have friends who met the love of their life on Skype. I have friends who met the love of their life on websites you've probably never heard of, like faceparty or some other forerunner to the dominant tech giants of today. I know of people who've had affairs with people who they've met on Facebook.

It would be unusual if I didn't use technology to meet people.

I suppose I've been hesitant to dip into the world of tech, because I wanted to get a little bit settled in everyday life before I played my ace card.

The temptation to use dating apps is enormous. In a dense urban area there are a staggering number of lonely people looking to connect. Dating apps - whether you like them or loathe them - have become a ubiquitous part of modern life. It seems that a staggering number of people maintain a presence on a dating app for a very long period of their life, perhaps never even deleting their profile despite seemingly achieving the stated aim of the apps, which is to meet somebody and start a relationship. It seems like people struggle to cope without the dopamine hits of getting matches and receiving messages. How are we supposed to switch modes from having a dizzying array of faces at our disposal to swipe, and the possibility of multiple conversations and competing love interests, to then enter the stable and routine world of just dating one person in a monotonous monogamous heteronormative stable relationship?

Personally, I have my fill of online interactions every single day, so I find online dating to be a chore. I view online dating as a means to an end and I'm glad when the ordeal is over and I've met somebody. I'm glad to be in an exclusive committed relationship. I do not enjoy any part of the dating experience.

I flicked the switch.

I'm back in the game.

Because of my propensity to throw myself into any task with great gusto, I'm not wasting any time. I am treating the dating game as a campaign. I am waging war on womankind in single-minded pursuit of a new love interest. I am utilising every ounce of my skill and energy which is usually reserved for juggling multiple conversations with people around the world in different time zones, to maximise my chances of finding a special somebody and minimising the amount of time wasted on an unpleasant search.

It places colossal demands on me, having set myself an aggressive target like this and pursuing it so relentlessly, but the results that it yields are astounding. I can have more conversations with people in a 5 mile radius of my home in the space of 24 hours, than I could hope to have in a lifetime of waiting for cupid's arrow to work its magic. I have moved from a place of despair - feeling incredibly alone - to feeling as though I made a good decision in moving to the centre of a capital city. I can sense great potential in this place, and this technology - these apps - have put great power into my privileged hands.

I'm not a dick. I'm not looking to have one night stands or hookups or find a friend with benefits, or any of those other vulgar things. I'm simply a lonely new arrival in a city, single and looking for love. Perhaps not even expecting to find love... just glad to be making connections with local women. I've played my ace card and I have not been disappointed, although the battle rages on and no victory is in sight.

I am now off to meet two people in a pub, which is a considerable improvement on staying alone at home, which is what would have happened if I hadn't started using a dating app last night. This is a big deal in my life, which is so lacking in face-to-face social contact, lacking in local friends.

 

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So Embarrassing

6 min read

This is a story about over-sharing...

Twitter likes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I applauding the existence of the patriarchy? No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Being Single Is Not Good

5 min read

This is a story about fulfilment...

Fire exit

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

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

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

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

My dating process is not very refined.

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

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

I'm not very sentimental about dating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I screw everything up.

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

 

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