The existence of this photo is something quite remarkable, even though it's hard to understand if you're not me. This photo captures the end of my attempt to smoothly extricate myself from an acrimonious divorce and pick up my life in London again with little damage. This photo captures the beginning of an astonishingly difficult period of my life - the part that contains all the homelessness and hospitalisations.
I try to compartmentalise everything, and to compare present experiences with past ones to see if I'm repeating patterns of behaviour which are flawed.
One experience which is oddly haunting is that of walking around in a somewhat out-of-body state; tunnel vision. I can hear my mouth talking - I can hear my voice - but it doesn't feel like I'm saying the words... I just hear them. It feels like I'm dreaming.
My brain is recovering from an avalanche of pills I've shoved down my throat in the past fortnight. I'm surprised I haven't suffered seizures or kidney failure, given the cocktail of chemicals I've swallowed.
I forget that I messed up my brain chemistry.
I wonder why I can't concentrate and my anxiety has gone through the roof. I wonder why my perception of time is so warped: The seconds and minutes are dragging along, taking hours and days to pass. My days in the office have been difficult, but my days at home have been no easier. There's no respite from the problems of my mind, my mood, my perceptions - I can't escape my brain.
I forget that I stopped drinking.
I wonder why the days are so long and I seem to have so much more time to do stuff. I wonder why I'm more able to cope. I wonder why I'm not so overwhelmed by things. Then I remember that I'm not shackled to alcohol anymore. I get to Friday and I start thinking that I should get drunk, but then I remember that it doesn't help, but it definitely hinders.
I think about all the detoxes and rehabs and I try to tell myself that £12,000 and 28 days in The Priory - the UK's Betty Ford - isn't enough to 'cure' me then I should go easy on myself. I think that I should allow at least four weeks since any major incident, before deciding that things are broken and won't get better. I think that 6 weeks is better, as a period of recuperation. I think that perhaps 3 months is best of all - 3 months stability and routine is the minimum, before making any big changes.
I always tried to rush things. I got very impatient and I tried to hurry things along. It ended badly.
I got very agitated. I got very angry. Nobody seemed to understand the urgency. Everybody seemed to be getting in my way.
The universe doesn't like to be hurried, it seems.
I think about how many different things I wanted in a short space of time. I wanted to work with my hands. I wanted to not work in an office. I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to be the CEO of a tech startup. I wanted investors. I wanted to win. Then, I wanted rapid promotions and progression. I wanted to make a notable contribution. I wanted to have a say in everything.
I thought I was going somewhere.
I can look back and laugh at myself, but I must've carried some of that same person from the past into the present, which means I'm laughable today too.
I did learn to keep my mouth shut though, a little bit.
I think it's an interesting story, but I'm biased. I find it interesting that I was held back for years, which was frustrating, but then I squandered many years as an addict, which made absolutely bugger all difference. Instead of screwing up my whole career and future earning potential, my profession just patiently waited to accept me back once I'd got a lot of nonsense out of my system.
What terrifies me is how many years it's been and how similar this feeling is - of being asleep on my feet - to that feeling I had when I thought I was managing to escape my screwed up life and start over again, back in London. It's terrifying to think I haven't progressed at all, except I'm older and I've damaged my body and brain quite a lot.
I thought "OK time to stop now" a long time ago, and then found that I couldn't. The things that I didn't want to happen - like losing all my money and sleeping rough - happened and I landed up having major medical emergencies. I'm smart enough that I made it this far and my story is kinda remarkable, but anything that's vaguely similar to the past gives me a lot of superstitious heebie-jeebies.
This weekend is tougher than I thought it'd be. I'm not as far progressed with my finances as I thought I'd be. I'm not as clean and sober as I'd hoped I would be. There have been setbacks. My journey has been nonlinear.
What's surprising is that the universe has just handed me some major life components. Whether I'm intent on screwing up my entire life or whether I'm trying to achieve something great, pretty much the same outcomes seem to happen. I'm pretty convinced that free-will is an illusion. I don't feel like I'm just observing, but the evidence seems to be that I don't have any control.
Of course, I have too few 'normal' experiences to really benchmark where I'm at. I have too few 'normal' human interactions to gauge whether I've lost my mind or whether I'm OK. I'm completely free from any oversight. I'm untethered.
I don't know what's going on and I'm starting to ramble. I feel very peculiar.
This is a story about the stuff dreams are made of...
These our actors as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air. We are such stuff as dreams are made of and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
Apparently there are 125 identical bedrooms in the hotel where I've lived for most of the last year. There are always 5 pillows: Two soft ones, two firmer ones and a stupid little red one, which serves a purely decorative purpose. There's an ironing board, iron, hairdryer and kettle. There's a writing desk. There's a sofa. There are reading lights which shine directly into your eyes if you don't take the time to move them away from the position they're always left in by the housekeepers. There's a plug in the sink that always need to be pulled out and set aside, otherwise the water won't be able to drain away properly when you wash your hands. There are small pieces of information throughout the room that tell me that I can choose whichever pillows I find comfiest, that there's a place to charge my phone by my bed, and various things that tell me how much they [the hotel] cares about my stay. A place for everything and everything in its place.
How many IKEA beds have I owned? How many have I destroyed? How many have I slept in without mishap? How many times have I found myself discovering that IKEA mattresses are different from the standard UK sizes of double and king-size? How many times have I struggled to squeeze an IKEA mattress into a non-IKEA fitted sheet?
How many different beds have I slept in, during the past 5 years?
I can tell you everything about every kind of bed you're likely to encounter in the National Health Service. There are the beds in the crisis houses and psychiatric wards. There are the beds in ordinary hospital wards. There are the beds in intensive care and high dependency wards. I can tell you how to make yourself comfortable in places where somebody will shine a torch in your face every 15 to 30 minutes at night. I can tell you how to make yourself comfortable somewhere that your blood pressure, body temperature and blood oxygen saturation is being measured every hour. I can tell you how to make yourself comfortable when you have 5 canulas, a catheter and a massive femoral veinous catheter in your groin, which literally has taps you can just twist when you want to empty all the blood out of your body.
I can tell you everything about every kind of bed you're likely to encounter in a hostel full of homeless people. I can tell you about bed bugs and other human parasites. I can tell you about snoring. I can tell you about being in a room with 13 people in various states of drink and drug intoxication, and with the entire spectrum of mental health problems. I can tell you what it's like to realise that somebody rummaged under your pillow, stole your wallet, removed the cash, and replaced it back where they took it from, while you were asleep. I can tell you what it's like to have your bags regularly rummaged through in search of anything valuable. I can tell you what it's like to live for more than a year like that, with no fixed dormitory, no fixed bunk... to get woken up at 8am and told that you've got to move to another room, with another bunch of seemingly randomly-selected people who you'll be spending an unknown number of nights with.
After a while it gets tiresome.
Eventually, you figure out that when you sleep rough, if you're smart about it, then you can stay away from other homeless people, drunks, muggers, rapists and anybody who fancies doing pretty much whatever they want to you at 4:30am, because it's dark and nobody's around. Eventually, you figure out that you can have more consistency and control over your life if you find yourself some bushes or an overgrown back garden of an empty house to set up camp in. You get used to the noise of the dog walkers and the joggers. You get used to the noise of the commuters. You get used to the noise of the students and the tourists. You get used to the do-gooders, who will make their rounds to check on the junkies and the alcoholics, who cluster together in obvious places. You get used to the official-looking vehicles with their headlights, and the people wearing uniforms with their torches. You start to realise that they have absolutely no idea that you exist, because you are so inconspicuous and under their radar.
Then, you decide that it'd be nice to return to civilised society. You get a bit old to be sleeping rough. It seems somehow shameful, to reach a certain age and have dropped out.
So, you rent a series of dreadful places to live. Each one of those places has a dreadful bed: A bottom-of-the-range IKEA bed with a mattress which doesn't quite fit and slats which randomly fall off their supports, causing part of the bed to collapse unexpectedly; mattresses with a range of stains in varying hues indicating, shit, piss, vomit and blood... as well as perhaps some food stains.
You buy your own IKEA brand-new furniture, and you buy slightly better quality stuff. You buy the bed sheets that are the right size to fit, because you know exactly what size mattress you've bought. You buy a the right size mattress for the bed frame.
Then, you have to move.
How many times have I had to move?
Every time I move, I have to leave the bed behind, because I throw away the old terrible bed, which was unfit as anything more than set-dressing for a property that's being rented out as "furnished". Where would I store a shitty old bed? Where would I store a shitty old mattress? It would cost me more in storage costs, and the transportation costs of moving the shitty bed out and back, than it costs me to simply leave the replacement beds behind.
How many IKEA flat-packs have I assembled and how many have I destroyed?
How many times have I flopped down onto a newly assembled bed, exhausted?
How many times have I had to abandon any attempts at nest-making, because I have to choose my battles carefully?
It might sound like I'm sloppy, careless and perhaps have little respect for the expense and environmental impact of treating material possessions as so disposable. However, none of this stuff disappears. The problem is, that there's no shortage of supply of mattresses covered with blood, piss, sick and vomit stains. There's no shortage of damaged bed frames which do not sturdily support the bed's occupants.
What you have to understand is that I have to prioritise my survival, ahead of the pleasant choices that normal happy healthy stable people get to make. I don't choose to change my bed because I'm remodelling my bedroom. I'm not in the business of doing interior decoration for aesthetic purposes. I don't choose the colour of the paint on my walls. I don't choose my curtains. I've been grateful to have the comfort of a thin foam mattress, in a hostel dorm, on a bunk bed. I've been grateful if my bunk has happened to be close to a power socket so I can charge my phone. I've been grateful if my bunk has been near a window, so I can enjoy the ventilation. I've been grateful if my bunk has been away from the dorm entrance/exit, so people can enter and leave without disturbing me. I've been grateful if I'm not sharing a dorm with dickheads who get up at 5am and start noisily rummaging in their bags, or people with severe mental illness who have unpredictable outbursts just at the moment when you're falling asleep.
What you have to understand is that every different bed I sleep in is slightly different. There might be a family deciding to have an argument in the hotel corridor at 6am. There might be a central heating system where the pipes creak and clang at unusual times. There might be a car alarm that decides to go off all night long. There might be a fire alarm. There might be heavy traffic in the morning and evening commuter rush. There might be patients on a psych ward who want to watch TV at full volume at 7am. There might be patients on a psych ward who are kicking off, and having to be restrained, sedated and moved to 'safe seclusion', which is the modern version of a padded soundproof cell.
What you have to understand is that every bed I sleep in has a different 'vibe' in terms of how private it feels. Ground-floor bedrooms are strange to me, especially when the window coverings - blinds and curtains - aren't very good. Can people hear me masturbating? Can people see me sleeping? How much privacy do I really have? I've spent a substantial time in places where there are observation windows which can be opened by staff members, to check on the room occupant. I've spent a substantial amount of time in places where the furniture is heavy, indestructible and even bolted to the floor. I've spent a substantial amount of time where the windows don't open more than a few inches and have bars on them, and the mirrors are made out of plastic - places designed to be safe places for the care of vulnerable sick people.
Those places have been my home.
I'm about to get the keys to have a house that has 4 bedrooms, 3 reception rooms, 2 bathrooms, a garden and a shed. It's all for me. It's a blank canvas.
If I had the money, I'd have it painted.
If I had the money, I'd buy the furniture I wanted.
If I had the money, I'd buy rugs and lamps, and curtains and coffee tables and occasional tables, and a dining table and chairs and a breakfast bar and bookcases and wardrobes and chests-of-drawers and sideboards and cabinets and desks and organiser systems, where all my stuff could be neatly hidden out of view in little boxes - a place for everything and everything in its place.
If I had the money, I'd just grab the IKEA catalogue and order everything in the rooms, exactly like their designers have displayed them.
It won't be long now.
Soon, I'll have a buttload of money.
But. It's been a long journey, and some really shitty stuff has happened, like my kidneys failing.
So, I'm about to have my millionth billionth IKEA bed, and there's nothing new or novel about it. I've bought the most basic model, with plans to upgrade in future, when I can afford it. I will continue to live out of suitcases, in a house which could comfortably accomodate 2 adults and 4 children. In fact, when I have friends with kids visiting, my house should provide comfort for perhaps 3/4 adults and 2/3 children, plus 0/1 dogs.
Sorry for going on about it, but it's been a helluva journey.
Imagine all those homeless people I met when I was sleeping rough. Imagine all those people who I met when I was sleeping in those hostels. I was just like them: No money, drink problems, drug problems and mental health problems, along with the accompanying police problems.
Imagine all those people who've seen me have false-starts and almost-but-not-quite get my shit together. Imagine how much they want me to succeed. Imagine how many people I've got rooting for me, because it's supposed to be true: It's supposed to be true that we can drag ourselves out of the gutter to become rich and successful, if we work hard enough. If I can do it, can you imagine how pleased all the people - the lifelong friends I made - will be to see me doing well. I owe it to them to aim higher than sleeping inconspicuously in a bush. I owe it to them to be one of the success stories that we're told about, but in reality don't really seem to exist.
I'm pulling an incredibly high-risk manoeuvre, to get myself into a special place. What would be the point of all the hard work, suffering, deprivation and disappointment, if all it resulted in was a totally mediocre end result? That's not a very inspiring story for my friends who've suffered disproportionately badly at the hands of fate. How awful it would be for those people who had next-to-nothing - like we all did - to see the golden boy smashed to smithereens and getting absolutely nowhere in life. Why bother, if there's no chance of a better life? Why bother, if there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
My actions might seem to have a hint of profligacy to them, and indeed some showmanship and insecure vulgar displays of wealth, but I assure you that if I was such a fool as to simply want to flaunt the fact that I can get rich 'quick' when I need to, I would simply purchase a highly desirable sports-car with a car loan, and rent the most extravagant city centre penthouse I could find, and then flaunt my materialistic lifestyle in Instagram, which would be most vulgar, crude and an insult to every value that a hard working person has.
You also have to remember that my self-esteem was very badly damaged by those years when I was sick, vulnerable and virtually penniless. Psychologically, I do not want to be living with daily reminders that I screwed up my life. For me to feel as though I've left that unfortunate period of my life behind me, it's important that I'm not dragging around 'baggage' which continuously reminds me of what might have been if only I hadn't gotten sick. I think it's a worthwhile investment, to spend a relatively small amount of cash on a home which makes me feel like I'm starting to live the life I always wanted; picking up my life again as if there was no interruption.
If you detect a hint of entitlement then you're probably not mistaken. It's my firmly held belief that hard work should result in commensurate rewards. It's my unshakeable opinion that those who have known suffering and deprivation should not suffer prejudice and disadvantages because of those misfortunes.
If we believe in a fair and just world, where hard work and dedication will allow anybody to achieve their dreams, then we must surely also believe that it's OK for my life to be good... perhaps even enviably good; desirable. Isn't it a good thing that my friends might look at me and say: He's done well and there are some parts of his life that I would like to have for myself. Isn't it a good thing that my friends who never quite escaped the life of sleeping rough, hostels and bedsits, can see that one of their own - a man ruined by divorce, drink, drugs, debt and mental health problems - could clean himself up and return to civilised society, and prosper?
If this piece has a boastful tone, I apologise. If this piece seems premature, given the amount of hard work that still lies ahead, you'd be right to caution me against complacency. If this piece is too much about me, and not enough about those who get left behind, abandoned by society, those criticisms are valid.
As it stands, I've lined up my ducks, but the journey hasn't even started yet. My bed is still in pieces in an IKEA warehouse, with my mattress rolled up tightly in the plastic which it will be delivered in. The task still remains outstanding for me: to assemble my bed, or else sleep on the floor, provided I manage to even get the keys to this dream home without a hitch, which I presently don't have enough money to be able to afford.
That little blonde boy in the pedal car is me. That thatched cottage is where I used to live, briefly. I loved that thatched cottage, because it was exactly what a house is supposed to be: It had a roof, chimney, windows with panes of glass criss-crossed, a front door in the middle, flowers growing in the garden. All it needed was a blue sky, some smoke coming out of the chimney, a couple of soaring birds, some white fluffy clouds and a big yellow sun with a smiling face, and it would be the picture that every child would draw, if you asked them to draw a picture of a house.
My time in the "proper house" was very limited.
When I briefly lived this proper life, there was a village green, a village shop, a village post office, a church and graveyard, a railway train station, a bus stop, a pub and a school.
During my all-too-brief proper life, I went to the local school, played with the local children, bought sweets from the village shop, attended events on the village green - when people would literally dance around a maypole with coloured ribbons - and went to church.
My life exemplified everything that is great and good about English countryside living. Former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, lives barely a few miles away from the idyllic Cotswold village where I had my proper life. Prince Charles and other royalty play polo on fields, barely a few miles away from this most quintessentially picturesque English village that you could ever imagine. The TV show Downton Abbey was filmed on location, a few miles away from this beautiful place, where I thought I would live forever.
Life seemed to make sense to me - this was a proper life, and it all made perfect sense, even though I was just a child.
The funny thing is that it still makes sense to me.
All I want is to live in a little house, with a little garden, in a little village and do the things that normal people do: go to work, come home, watch TV, cook food, eat, do gardening, have a pet, feed the birds. All I want is an ordinary life.
Presently, the only piece of furniture I own is a coffee table, which I repurposed as a TV stand. One of the few possessions I own which isn't designed to be carried around easily, is the TV, which sits atop the TV stand. Other than that, everything else can be thrown into a bag... and there isn't very much "everything else" left. Most of my possessions have been discarded, because my life was too chaotic and I was too unwell to cope with safeguarding my material things, when my life and my sanity were at risk and all too often nearly lost forever.
Every time I was forced to move as a child - 8 different schools - it was nonsensical and disruptive; it was traumatic and damaging. Every time I found myself packing my bags, yet again, a pattern was being established: I was being psychologically programmed. The message my parents were sending me was loud and clear: "Don't get attached to anything, anywhere or anybody".
I gave up on the idea of having a settled, secure, normal life.
When I separated from my wife and an acrimonious divorce began, it really didn't bother me as much as it should have done, to lose my house, lose my precious things and to end up sleeping rough - homeless and destitute. I camped in bushes, where I could hide my tent. I slept in a bivouac on heathland. I was invisible in a city with a daytime population of 10 million inhabitants. My home and my bed shrank and shrank, until it was simply the tiny patch of ground on which I stood or lay. My personal space shrank to be no bigger than the volume occupied by the extremities of my body.
When I saw the chance to move from being homeless to living in a very luxurious apartment with amazing views of the capital city, the idea was too attractive for me to resist.
I had two years bursting with pride about how I'd pulled myself up by the bootstraps, and was no longer sleeping rough; no longer homeless. I had to pinch myself every time I stepped inside my home, and was greeted by breathtaking panoramic views over London. That feeling never wore off... the whole time I lived there.
I want that again. I want to live somewhere special. I want that special feeling that I'm living in a proper place, after the awfulness I've been through in life.
Yes, I'm sympathetic towards those who are sleeping rough, and those who are living in a very dire situation. No, it doesn't make me happy just to have a roof over my head.
I've lived anywhere. I've slept rough all over London. I've slept in 14-bed hostel dorms. I've slept in psychiatric wards, hospitals and police cells.
I do NOT want to live anywhere.
It was a big deal when I got the keys to a gorgeous home with sea views, roughly ten and a half months ago. I still feel a great buzz when I visit that place, and I stand at the window admiring the views over the bay. I love that home, but unfortunately, it's not myhome... although technically I can sleep there whenever I want, for another month and a half.
I shouldn't be getting stressed out about moving. My life will be much better when I have a home again. Hopefully I can have a beautiful home which I can fill with lovely things. Hopefully I can stay there. Hopefully I won't have to leave. Hopefully my world won't be destroyed again.
Currently, I have no idea where, when or how I'm going to get myself a home, let alone whether I'll have the opportunity to fill it up with lovely things.
My upbringing taught me one clear lesson, again and again: Expect nothing, except to lose everything that you get attached to.
On June 20 of this year I attempted to write my life story from 2011 onwards, covering the happiest, most successful period of my life and the pinnacle of my career - doing a tech startup accelerator program in Cambridge with a cohort of incredible people - and the subsequent reasons why I stepped down as CEO, separated from my wife, sold my house and settled my acrimonious divorce.
I wrote 10,000 words in a non-stop brain dump. Once I started I couldn't hold back - the words flooded out onto the page.
It was supposed to be succinct. It was supposed to be a simple set of bullet points.
It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, to write down even the first part.
Part two has a lot to cover:
More banking jobs
More IT projects
Moving to Manchester
Moving to Wales
Several relationships and breakups; love and loss
I'm not going to write part two in the same way that I wrote part one.
That was 6 months ago. This is now.
A lot can happen in 6 months.
As a quick recap, here are the problems I've been trying to tackle this year:
£54,000 of debt
Addicted to prescription drugs: sleeping pills, tranquillisers and painkillers
Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder
As if those problems weren't enough, in June I had relapsed onto supercrack. I'd been working but I'd lost my job - through no fault of my own - and I was in no hurry to get another one, because my addiction had returned with a vengeance. I was in a place with no family and only a handful of friends, none of whom were equipped to deal with my clusterfuck of issues. I was more-or-less alone, except for the people who I try to connect with on a daily basis through my blog, Twitter, Facebook and other digital means.
I came up with the title "No News is Bad News" because it's usually true. I came up with that title, because a period of silence on my blog is usually cause for concern. It's usually time to start phoning round the hospitals to see if I've been admitted. It's usually time to start worrying if I'm dead or dying.
Back in June - 6 months ago - the title was very apt, because I hadn't been online for a while. Losing my job had completely destroyed my hopes of dealing with the mountain of issues I was facing. Losing my job had wrecked my plans for recovery.
Today, my world looks very different.
I can't tell you too much - because it's private - but I'm writing from the comfort of my girlfriend's bed. Her bedroom is very pink and girly. She just brought me a plate with a generously buttered thick slice of toast and a glass of orange juice, which I am eating in bed. I'm getting crumbs in the bed and greasy finger-marks on my laptop.
I'm no longer living out of a suitcase in a hotel and eating in the same gastropub every night, sat at a table for one. I'm unofficially co-habiting. We only met a few weeks ago. The relationship is going fast. Too fast some might say.
I kiss my sweetheart good morning and wish her a good day as I depart for work. My journey takes no more than 15 minutes when the traffic is kind to me. I'm finding it easy to get up in the morning. I don't dread lonely evenings in a bland hotel room. I don't dread the unsustainable interminable monotony of miserable days in the office, and miserable evenings spent alone.
I'm going too fast though.
I'm working too hard.
It takes vast quantities of alcohol, sleeping pills and tranquillisers to prevent me from working 12 to 14 hour days. It requires a huge amount of effort to stop myself from working at the weekend. I'm desperate to achieve results as quickly as possible, because the finishing line is within sight.
It could be months before I'm well-and-truly out of the danger zone and enjoying some long-overdue financial security. It's definitely going to be a long time before I get truly settled at home and at work. I need to decide where I'm going to live and what I'm going to do for a job, on a more long-term basis. At some point, my good luck is going to run out and I'll be forced back into living out of a suitcase, maintaining a long-distance relationship, and having to face the anxiety and stress of proving myself in a new organisation, with a new set of work colleagues.
Mania has arrived. There's no doubt about that.
My manic energy has been ploughed into my day job, instead of my new novel. I worry that my work colleagues have noticed that I've completely obsessed by my project. I worry that the undesirable accompanying behaviours - irritability, rapid and pressured speech, arrogance and delusions of grandeur - will become so hard to hide in the office that I might be forced to disclose my bipolar disorder to my colleagues, in the hope that they'll be sympathetic.
My blog has been neglected, along with my friends.
I work too hard. I'm moving 'too fast' in my new relationship - the "L" word has been used and she has given me a key to her place. We're going on holiday together. All my original problems are still there, to some extent. I need to decide where to live, pay off my outstanding debts, drink less, quit the sleeping pills and tranquillisers, get my mania under control.
What else can I tell you?
I can't try to tell you too much all at once, even though I desperately want to. I want to sit down and write 10,000 words without taking a single break. I want to pour my heart out onto the page and tell you everything, but I'm trying to pump the brakes a little bit. I'm trying to be a little bit sensible, even though I'm clearly going too fast.
It feels like the week-long hiatus from blogging was not bad news. Perhaps it's good news? No. It's not good news. I'm not looking after myself. I'm not managing my bipolar very well. I'm allowing myself to become manic, for the purposes of achieving 'great' things at work. It's exciting to be manic after so many months of depression and misery.
It would be a good idea for me to resolve to resume my daily writing, but I'm wary of making unrealistic promises. Today, I'm coming to terms with the fact that my 3rd novel remains unfinished, when I had hoped to have completed it yesterday.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is my present situation in a nutshell.
I try not to talk about my friends too specifically, but shall attempt to tell you about two friends who are notable for both their differences and their similarities.
The first of my friends who I want to tell you about was undoubtably born into wealth and privilege. His father was a judge and the family has a number of homes around the globe in some of the most expensive cities to live in. His family is extremely asset rich and my friend grew up with servants in the household. Without being too indiscreet, my friend was called posh by even his upper-middle-class university chums, who attended the same Russel Group red-brick high-ranking academic institution, where the less intelligent privately schooled childen get sent when no amount of private tutoring and extra lessons are going to turn them 'gifted'.
The second of my friends who I want to tell you about is the polar opposite of the first in many ways. The other friend I want to tell you about was undoubtably born at a considerable disadvantage to 99.9% of other people, due to a life-limiting illness and relatively poor family. No private schools. No private tutors. Not much money at all, in fact. It would be too indiscret to say more, but it's incontrovertibly clear from the evidence that this other friend arrived at a similarly highly esteemed university on merit alone.
I wanted to tell you about these friends, because I feel as though I should give you - the reader - an idea of where I fall on some relative scale.
I was not born into wealth, but because my parents were drug addict alcoholic losers who refused to get a proper job and work hard, my grandmother saw fit to buy a house for my parents, in which to raise me, her only grandchild at the time - my sister wasn't born until I was 10 years old. The pity that my grandparents took on me - as an innocent small child being raised by druggie losers - meant that my parents received vast sums of financial assistance. This financial assistance meant that I attended better state schools than would have been possible if I'd been at the mercy of my selfish lazy layabout druggie loser parents. Those better schools happened to be in Oxford, where there happened to be many sons and daughters of many brilliant but underpaid academics who couldn't afford to send their children to private school.
We three friends ended up cohabiting briefly. My posh friend with the wealthy family had bought a £1.5 million house in London, thanks to a hefty deposit contribution from his parents manyfold more than most people would pay for an entire house. My friend from humble beginnings was a lodger. I was a house-guest of my friend, because I was selling the house I had bought entirely with money I fucking earned. My house was being sold as part of my divorce settlement.
A running joke I have with my posh friend is that I earn more per hour than him. This was the case for a very long time, but there was a brief period when I parked my ambitions, when meanwhile his career started to finally gain traction and his earnings began to skyrocket. Despite my years of mental health problems, homelessness, drug addiction, alcoholism, near-bankruptcy and a horrible acrimonious divorce which pretty much triggered the whole thing, I've been very pleased to continue to earn more than him per hour.
However, one should note that my friend from humble origins is now earning more per hour than both me and my posh friend. My humble friend has managed to make a property purchase, entirely with money generated by his hard work and dedication.
I wonder about two things. Firstly, why would you sell your soul and become a wage slave if you're born into obscene wealth? Secondly, why would you sell your soul and become a wage slave if your life is going to be short due to a health condition?
The latter is easier to answer, because I've enjoyed a very high standard of living thanks to doing what my lazy fucktard druggie parents didn't do, which was to get a proper job and work hard. The former is a harder question to answer. I have absolutely no idea why my posh friend works so hard when he could have had an amazing standard of living without lifting a finger. Equally, I have no idea why my own parents didn't bother to get off their lazy druggie arses and work for a fucking living, instead of sponging off my grandparents and the state.
This is the scale I judge myself on.
I'm no working-class hero.
I'm not from particularly humble origins.
I can't claim to have suffered dire poverty or incredible deprivation - my grandparents simply wouldn't allow it.
However, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth either. If I speak with a posh accent and have a certain way with words, then all the credit for that is due to my school-friends in Oxford, who had professional and academic parents who were well educated and hard-working.
I'm in awe of my friend who's achieved so much more with so much less.
We all sit somewhere on the scale, with the extremes being the starving African orphan, versus the billionaire son of a billionaire who lives exclusively on a diet of prize-winning bullock semen or champion racehorse stallion semen, drunk out of a freshly cut rhino horn.
We all tell ourselves stories about how well we've done in life, or how hard our journeys have been. "Our life as a pair of hateful antisocial sponging co-dependent drug-addict alcoholic lazy layabouts was wonderful until this entitled baby came along, ruining our buzz" is what my parents say, even though contraception and abortion have been universally and easily available for their entire fucking lives.
I feel a bit guilty about wanting to have secure housing, financial security, employment security and a reasonable standard of living, but at least I fucking work for it even though I've sold my soul and become a wage slave. My work is relatively easy and I'm certainly highly rewarded for comparatively little effort. For sure, there's no justice in the world. There are people who work far harder than me in much worse conditions, who are paid a tiny fraction of what I earn. There are people who don't work at all and who have a fabulous standard of living, which I don't begrudge them, provided they haven't perpetrated some terrible crime against humanity in order to gain their enviable wealth.
If you want to categorise me as a spoiled, entitled shit, who has no perspective at all, you can use the presented evidence selectively to build your case. If you want to applaud me as an example of great success against the odds, you'll be able to use different parts of the same set of evidence to build a completely different case.
I really don't know what to tell you, because I can see the advantages I've enjoyed but I've also had to struggle through adversity. My aspirations seem normal enough in many ways, but in other ways what I want seems to be an unreasonable expectation. Do I want an unrealistically high standard of living?
The beauty of my situation - you must understand - is that I do not perpetrate the vile consequences of my selfish choices against any children who did not ask to be born, and I have exercised every opportunity to prevent pregnancies and maintained the backstop of pregnancy termination, although it's not my choice to make - at least I have made worst-case-scenario plans where necessary. Can you criticise me for my choices, when I have no dependents?
I think about my sister, of course, but the first 10 years of my life were spent alone... so very alone. When I think of childhood, I think of loneliness, bullying and neglect. When I think of childhood, I think how much my parents loved drugs and alcohol; I think how much they used to love lying around drunk, high or both, doing fucking nothing; unproductive and idle. How dearly I wanted to be loved and cared for properly. How dearly I wanted the security and protection that parents are supposed to deliver, but they were too intoxicated to give a shit about anything than their substances of abuse and their selfish wants.
Why the hell am I writing about this stuff?
I wanted to write something short.
I wanted to write something fun.
I guess I was scared I was going to write something smug.
My life is going alright at the moment - pretty damn good - and I'm wary of getting carried away. I could quite easily lose perspective. I'm scared that I might forget how hard it's been to get here, because it's also been easy in some ways. My life has ludicrous contrast and comparing myself to my friends often does little to inform my judgement.
Sorry if I seem smug and entitled in the coming months. I hope you've followed the story and you feel pleased that my life is very different from how it was when everything was fucked up. I hope you see I've worked hard to get where I've got even though I was never a starving African orphan.
Here's a photo taken at 4am, capturing my journey away from everything that was good about my life - my friends, my startup, my future - back to the life that I was trying to escape; back to my wife and my house. I was in the process of separation and divorce. I was in the process of selling my house. I was in the process of beginning my life all over again - a fresh start; a clean slate.
Why am I showing you this?
It was incredibly disruptive and destructive that I had to leave my fragile embryonic new life to fulfil the mundane and trivial bureaucratic administrative task of liquidating my assets. All I wanted was to get away from the life that had become a nightmare; specifically not be dragged back into my toxic old life for the sake of something so meaningless as material possessions and money.
"Take as much as you want. Take whatever you want. Just don't destroy me" I begged of my ex-wife. All I wanted was a chance to be allowed to rebuild my shattered life. Her life was unaffected: she had her friends, her career, her home town, the support of vast numbers of people all around her. My life had been destroyed by our relationship and somewhat consequent mental health crisis. It wouldn't be fair to lay the blame at her door, but I had failed to walk away when I was strong and I had become incredibly weak and vulnerable. She was strong and I was fucked.
I tried to explain to a close friend that I felt like I was always a few hours, few days or few weeks behind where I needed to be. Everything I needed was tantalisingly within my reach, but the things I needed to happen fast were always deliberately thwarted and delayed by people who didn't give a damn whether I lived or died.
Unfortunately, I had lagged behind and I could never catch up. I was fucked.
My ex-wife demanded a £7,000 bribe in order to not sabotage the quick sale of my house. It was blackmail, plain and simple. I managed to raise £5,000 but she wouldn't accept it. She destroyed the deal I'd struck with a cash buyer who wanted to complete the house sale within 6 weeks. In the end, the house sale took 6 months because of her acts of deliberate sabotage.
I needed money but I couldn't raise enough to avoid getting into financial difficulties. I was being bankrupted by those who supposedly loved and cared about me. It was a ridiculous situation, because I was liquidating my highest value asset, which guaranteed that everyone was going to get paid back as soon as my damn ex-wife stopped sabotaging and delaying the house sale, but my "nearest and dearest" are absolute cunts, with the exception of my sister, who offered me every penny she could lay her hands on. My kind and caring sister has the least amount of savings and disposable income of anybody I know; she's the most hard-up, but she immediately grasped the gravity of my situation and was prepared to do everything in her power to help me.
I didn't borrow from my sister. I didn't borrow from my parents. I didn't borrow from my family. I didn't borrow from my friends.
I took the £5,000 which my ex-wife said wasn't enough to meet her blackmail demand, and I bought Bitcoins at an average price of $123 each. At the time the exchange rate was roughly $1.60 per £1, which equates to 65 Bitcoins. The value of those 65 bitcoins at more-or-less the same time as my house was finally sold, was approximately $80,000, which was lucky because my ex-wife was refusing to release my fucking money until our divorce was finalised.
That total cunt was trying to ruin me.
My parents were trying to ruin me.
My family - with the exception of my sister - were being a bunch of cunts.
Hence why I don't talk to any of them anymore, except my sister.
I'm a bad brother.
I'm a bad uncle.
I'm the black sheep of the family... well, almost. My parents and the wider family tried to make it stick, but they didn't manage to ruin me despite their best attempts. Despite their most thorough and diligent efforts in pursuit of my ruination, I refused to let them do that to me - to destroy me and forever have a convenient scapegoat for all the family's problems; to have successfully artificially created a failure who'd be too weak and decimated to ever defend my good name. It's nice to have somebody to blame. I've been blamed by so many. Those who blame me and point the finger far outnumber me. How could I ever stand a chance against the bullies? How could I ever hope to win when I was so outnumbered?
* * *
* * *
I started writing this blog post on Tuesday. I was feeling rushed. I had a date. I was going to the cinema. There wasn't a lot of time before the start of the movie.
I started writing this blog post and I've thought a lot about whether to delete it and start again.
I started writing this blog post, but I've had a lot of time to notice how my feelings change very much from day to day. In the course of writing a short blog post I can become enraged and bitter about things that happened in the past. Although I find writing to be therapeutic in the most part, I can kick a hornets' nest of unresolved anger occasionally. When I start with a certain thread - which many regular readers will have seen repeatedly - I re-live the injustice, frustration and abandonment I suffered, which nearly ruined my life unnecessarily, avoidably and inexcusably, because my parents are a pair of druggie aklie cunts who don't fucking listen to a word I've got to say.
Hence the blog.
I love this blog.
I've got so much to say.
So much of what I say is driven by bitterness, resent, unresolved anger and frustration, a sense of injustice and feeling 'hard done by' and the rational, logical conclusions that I would expect any reasonable person to reach, given the same set of facts.
This is a one-sided story.
I can tell you the things that I think will make you sympathise with my suffering and omit the pieces of the story which are incongruous with my narrative. I can manipulate my readers with a one-sided and heavily biased viewpoint, if that's what I want. I don't have to argue with anybody. I don't have to suffer ad hominem attacks. I don't have to struggle in the unwinnable battle, which comprises little old me against a gang of bullies.
As the days have gone by with this blog unfinished and unpublished, I've thought more and more about how I could write a more balanced viewpoint in the second half. I've thought about toning down my hateful bitter language, which lashes out at people who are very much out of reach and beyond reproach. My parents had managed to selfishly ignore me and my needs throughout my childhood so utterly completely, it's ridiculous to think that there would be any getting through to them as an adult who really needed some help during an acrimonious divorce.
It's me who's got the problem.
My sense of isolation - being ganged up on - is almost indescribably awful, but there is no sense in thinking of myself as a victim. There are a whole shower of cunts who failed in their moral duties, who lacked the basic decency of showing some fucking concern and compassion, and who spectacularly failed to put the slightest fucking effort into the minimum duty of care expected by society. I could get mad. I could get even. Instead, I simply feel no debt to those who are supposedly sworn to keep children safe, or obliged by loyalty, social convention and shared genes, to look after the weak and vulnerable members of a group, tribe, family or other such thing that exists amongst basic fucking decent people.
My mind and my mood flit wildly between rage at being let down during formative years and moments in my life when I was extremely vulnerable, and my more general worldview and philosophy that I should be rational and logical. It's entirely illogical and unhelpful to hold a grudge. It's a complete waste of effort to exert myself, expressing myself at great length and explaining my complex damaged feelings - my trauma - when I'm so absolutely certain that my words fall on the deaf ears of those who inflicted that trauma.
I've been writing almost daily for more than 3 years.
I don't know what this is - this blog post - but I know that it's an accurate representation of what my inner world is like. I swing violently between moods. I feel sudden gut-wrenching sadness and bitter resentment at how much I feel like I missed out on and was denied, in terms of a healthy normal childhood, free from the kinds of things that children are supposed to be protected from - loneliness, misery, isolation, bullying, abuse, negligence, deprivation. I use those words without much caution, well aware that they carry connotations of life-ruining events for very many unfortunate fellow humans. Should I not use those words, because I took all that anger about how fucking shit it was to be bullied for so many years and I turned it into $1.3 million of Bitcoins, essentially?
This is my fucking life.
My life is full of ridiculous contrast.
You want me to be balanced and unbiased about things? You want me to be objective and empirical? You want me to consider all my experiences versus the entire range of human existence, throughout history?
My ex-wife isn't and wasn't the worst. My parents aren't and weren't the worst. My childhood wasn't the worst.
Am I able to look back and see good as well as good? Yes, of course.
Am I able to recognise that in all likelihood I should have died a horribly drawn-out painful death long ago, caused by a preventable disease, after a lifetime of hunger? Yes, of course.
* * *
PAUSE FOR BREATH
* * *
There are so many good reasons to regret what I've written. There are so many good reasons to delete this whole entire blog and allow any memory of this endeavour to be expunged from the digital archives. There are so many good reasons to proceed with life, without living in the past, being consumed by bitterness and anger, and holding grudges.
However, this blog post and indeed this whole website captures the range of moods which had become so destructive in my life as to make me completely dysfunctional. Those moods are driven by quite easily analysed and expressed things, but the resolution of the issues is demonstrably impossible, despite an individual's best efforts, where there are a greater number of others who have a vested interest in seeing somebody dead and buried.
I'm in a difficult phase of being a sore winner now. I dodged the bullets and I proved everyone wrong, with the exception of a tiny handful of very special people who saw my potential and were brave enough to support me.
I have extremely strong views about the way a parent should behave towards their childen, the way that a wife should behave towards her husband, about the way that the strong should behave towards the weak, and the way that the gang should behave towards the isolated loner. I am extremely opinionated about the right-and-wrong of matters concerning those who are in a powerful position; who are able to ruin lives.
I picture myself as a fucked-up scared little kid who doesn't know how the world works, but has gathered incontrovertible evidence that I'm seen-but-not-heard and a convenient punchbag. "That kid fucked up my life" etc. etc.
Of course, I paint a vivid picture for artistic effect. I don't take myself as seriously as I sometimes sound. I'm genuinely well aware that the world is filled with unimaginable suffering.
I would dearly love to demonstrate greater magnanimity, but do you know what? It's too fucking soon and I'm still salty. It's my blog and I'll whine, moan, complain and be a bitter twisted miserable fucker if I want to. Fuck you. I didn't ask to be born.
In case you were wondering, some of the time I am hoping that you will laugh and none of the time I am hoping that you will cry.
I like to concentrate on one thing at a time. I like to be hyper-focussed and blinkered, and to devote all my energy and attention towards achieving a single goal. I like to live my life in an artificially simplified way, by aggressively cutting away anything which seems superfluous; a distraction from my main task.
Unfortunately, I have several concurrent tasks:
There are more - such as friends, family, health & fitness, hobbies etc - but I'm not listing those, because I've deemed them temporarily nonessential.
In fact, I had deemed dating to be nonessential, but my life had become too lonely and austere to be bearable. I was torn between investing in my [nonexistent] social life and looking for love. I chose the latter, because of how long it had been since I'd hugged or kissed anybody. Intimacy is important.
My work is arguably a task which will never be completed, but my debts have almost been dealt with. The sum total of my savings is £30,000 and the sum total of my debts is £29,000, so I'm finally 'in the black' although it will be some time before I'm able to release the money and free myself from the bonds of usury. Then, the question is how much money do I really need to live a happy life? I have to decide about this thing people call "work-life-balance" which I always thought was a myth. Without the millstone of debt around my neck, suddenly I gain enormous freedom of choice.
My writing has been the casualty, of late.
Hypomania was rearing its ugly head, threatening to destroy all my hard work building a good reputation in the office. I got a cold and my brain was horrendously sluggish. I suffered alcohol abuse, bad diet, lack of exercise and general neglect of everything in my life, because I was so single-minded in my mission to pay back my debts. My mind was telling me how brilliant I am, that I've managed to rescue myself from a dire situation, successfully deliver some software projects, impress my colleagues, work hard and generally function in society pretty well. I've been getting up early and going to the office. I haven't been taking time off sick. I haven't had much time off on holiday. I've just worked and it's paying off, but I'm so exhausted that I'm going a little crazy. It's hard to deal with the reversal of fortunes; my boom and bust real life triggers psychological problems.
During 3 years of writing my blog almost daily, I never start writing a blog post on one day and then finish it on another. My mind races so much and my feelings change so violently that the tone and content of what I'm writing can veer from one extreme to another, faster than I can pour out words onto the page. One reason for writing so much so quickly, is to capture the variety of my moods and give myself a fighting chance of being able to spot more general trends. In fact, I rely heavily on my regular readers to spot those trends - they're a far better judge of whether I'm swinging into a high or low episode, than I am myself.
To have skipped days of writing really upsets me. I feel really bad when I neglect my writing and my readers.
I have no idea where my writing will take me, especially when I suffer major setbacks such as a sudden loss of thousands of Twitter followers. These things shouldn't matter, but they're psychologically damaging. My digital identity does serve as a substitute for a lot of the things which are presently missing in my life, such as a group of local friends, social engagements and a healthy relationship with my family.
That my life is so damaged should come as no surprise when you consider the magnitude of the tasks which I've been set. Divorce, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, debt and all the accompanying loss of status, stigma and family estrangement - the sense of failure, disappointment and "letting everyone down" - can each be fatal on their own. In combination, those things are a toxic whirlpool; a quicksand which nobody could ever hope to escape from. I could be very upset and depressed about all the things which are broken in my life, but instead I struggle not to get carried away with the minor miracle which has happened: I've bounced back and re-entered civilised society, seemingly without any permanent damage.
So many parts of our society are set up with the optimistic presumption that people are capable of turning their lives around and being rehabilitated, but it very rarely happens. While those who work with addicts, criminals and the debt-laden are very keen to see lives transformed for the better, the reality is that most of the stories do not have happy endings. Most of the stories have sad predictable endings, which are quite tragic.
I'm terrified that I'm going to hit a glass ceiling soon. I will have a mental illness until the day I die. I will always suffer from social jet-lag and a personality which is incompatible with the rat race. I can't change the past - the stigma of addiction and the paper trail which got left in my wake, during an unfortunate period of my life, will follow me around forever. There is no limit on what the organisation I'm presently involved with is able to see: they have access to a vast database of unflattering things, which can never be deleted. My mistakes can never be expunged from the archives.
I could delete this blog, but then where is my reply to the opinions of me expressed upon records kept by organisations who I unfortunately came into contact with?
I would be so much more vulnerable to stigma, prejudice and discrimination, if I allowed other people to lazily sum me up in a few short sentences. Human lives are so much more messy and complex than any amount of words on a page could ever possibly express. It seems like the most natural reaction to being pigeon-holed, to do something like this: to create a document so large that it doesn't even fit in a goddam pigeon hole.
It might seem obvious that I'd be quickly identified as a nut; a crackpot; a madman. That seems like an easy label to attach to me.
However, my long and successful career, the vast sums of tax I've paid, the wealth I've generated for the economy, the tangible products of my labour and intellect - all of these things contradict any attempt to lazily dismiss me as a ranting madman, of no use to anybody, who should be quietly nudged towards the fringes of society until I'm completely marginalised.
My writing is the only thing in my life I have complete control over. I can write as much as I want. I can publish as much as I want. Every act of writing and publishing is an act of rebellion - a protest at the excessive burdens of life - as well as an addition to a growing cache of proof of my productivity and usefulness. I write because it will frustrate and contradict any attempts to write me off.
On paper, I was a write-off.
Nobody would touch me with a barge pole.
If you were presented with a list of all the unflattering things about me - my mistakes; my debts; my problems - as a bullet-pointed list, then you'd have dumped me straight onto the "no hope" pile.
Technically, I don't exist, because my existence is too improbable; my problems were too insurmountable. I should not be alive. I should not be debt-free. I should not be clean. I should not be working. I should not be housed. I should not have money. I should not be out there in the big wide world, walking around like I'm a regular normal member of mainstream society.
I could place put my faith in those who have sworn to make decisions without prejudice or discrimination. I could entrust my whole future - my happiness and my livelihood - to people who've never met me, who will judge me based on a few bullet points. That seems pretty risky to me though.
This is what I anticipated would happen. I knew that sooner or later, if I kept telling my story, I'd reach a point where the rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches-to-rags cycle would either conclude - in my suicide - or else I would finally get a chance to have a liveable life. This document contains a vast number of mistakes and unflattering things about me, but it also charts the course of a stupendously unlikely journey, which was almost certainly doomed to failure. If somebody in a position of power is going to thwart me, I want them to do so with a guilty conscience, because they were too lazy to consider all the available information. I'm so much more than a few bullet points on a page. I cannot be dissected with a 66-page form.
Of course, it's terribly teenage angsty to think of myself as a misunderstood character. It's horribly conceited and arrogant to think I'm special and different. I try not to concern myself with such judgements and instead to concentrate on my continued efforts to produce tangible things: to create.
Lots of people have written lots of novels, journals, diaries, blogs, newspaper columns, magazine articles and all the very many other works of printed words. There are quite a lot of prolific writers, who have churned out vast quantities of prose. Does that mean I shouldn't bother? Does that mean I shouldn't even try?
I haven't been very productive during the past couple of weeks, but it doesn't matter because what I've produced is cumulative. Every little effort is slowly adding up to create some big achievements. It's painfully slow, but the progress appears to create sudden overnight success. Nobody really notices all the hard work and nobody can see where it's headed, until one day a huge milestone is reached and everything all makes sense.
The relief of having more-or-less reached one of my most important goals, is highly destabilising and is triggering hypomania: it's hard not to get carried away with the perceived magnitude of my achievement. It's hard not believe my own bullshit - that I'm invincible and that I can overcome any obstacle. It's tempting to act recklessly, believing that I'll always be able to rescue myself from disastrous situations. It's hard to keep reminding myself that my luck will run out eventually, if I keep tempting fate.
I've missed this blog and I've missed writing. I've been destabilised, but I'm going to force myself to continue with my routine, because I think it's very healthy and stabilising for me.
This is a story about laying it all on the line...
My livelihood, any realistic prospect of me being able to pay back my mountainous debts and the impossible dream of restoring myself to health and wealth - escaping the nightmare - hinges upon successfully blending in as a part of an organisation which is particularly noted for being intolerant of anybody with bad character.
I've been required to fill in a 66 page form which legally obliges me to disclose criminal convictions, psychiatric problems, the abuse of drugs and alcohol, partners from the last 3 years, marriage, divorce, bankruptcies, loan defaults, debt repayment agreements, financial conduct and details about my parents. Most employers are only entitled to know about any unspent criminal convictions, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, but I work for an organisation that knows everything.
Of course, I'm ahead of the game, because I've already publicly declared every single unflattering thing about myself.
Luckily I've never been convicted of a crime, but there are still some things I'm legally bound to disclose which would portray me in a less-than-ideal light to the powers that be, who will judge me based on what they see on paper. My life and my future will be reduced to a few scribbles on a form.
Many people have been through rough breakups and divorces and had breakdowns. Many people suffer from mental illness. Many people have had periods where they've drunk too much or dabbled with recreational drugs. Nobody is squeaky clean.
I'm in the ludicrous situation where I'm more-or-less managing to plod along and keep my mouth shut, and demonstrate that I'm a competent and capable valuable team member at work, but I've continued to write and publish this blog using my real name. I've continued to write with unflinching honesty about some of the terrible stuff I've been through and the aftermath of problems I'm dealing with, as I desperately attempt to get back on my feet.
I'm in the ludicrous situation where my hard work is beginning to pay off and my debts are getting rapidly repaid. I'm in the ludicrous situation where there's an end in sight, provided nobody screws me over.
It appears to be self-sabotaging that I would continue to write and publish stuff which makes me so exposed and vulnerable, but in fact my online presence has been one of the big factors in my recovery. Without being able to share my story and connect with kind supportive people, I couldn't have gotten this far. Without having the sense of identity, pride in my achievement and the structure and routine that daily public writing gives me - the scrutiny - then I would have been destroyed by my problems and would have perished in obscurity long ago.
Whaddya want to know about me?
Trouble with the police? Sure. I got caught with legal highs a couple of times.
Psychiatric problems? They don't call me Nick "Manic" Grant for no reason. I make no secret of having bipolar disorder.
Drug and alcohol abuse? Not the former anymore but the latter is a bit of a problem, although my drinking doesn't seem to be any more abusive than that of most of my colleagues. Arguably I'm successfully self-medicating, because I'm functional and unmedicated.
Partners from the last 3 years? I haven't co-habited since separating from my wife.
Marriage and divorce? Tied the knot in Hawaii. Divorced 18 months later.
Bankruptcies and other debt problems? I pay my bills. I've never defaulted. I'm a good debtor.
Financial conduct and credit score? I need to pay back half my credit card debt ASAP but that's the only bad thing on my credit file.
Parents? They're not seditious traitors. They're not Russian, Chinese or terrorist sympathisers. They're not political agitators.
What about my character in general? I've had a successful career spanning more than 2 decades, working for some very big organisations on important projects. If I was some kind of fraudster or con artist, my true character would surely have been unmasked by now.
There's a lot written down here which could easily be twisted and used against me by somebody intent on casting me in a bad light. I write a lot of things about myself which are very unflattering and wouldn't usually be publicly declared by people. I spend a lot of time asking people to take the things I voluntarily tell them and to decide for themselves how they want to judge me.
It's a ridiculous thing to do.
For one reason or another I've become easier and easier to find, for anybody who bothers to look. Because of a recent mistake I made I've become even easier to find than ever before. All the effort that I've put into projecting myself into public consciousness, because I've been on the verge of suicide for so long, is finally gaining traction and I'm becoming a victim of my decision to make myself exposed and vulnerable.
Every time I write and publish I have to consider the consequences to my life. I have to make a decision between my ideological belief that we have a right to live with the freedom to be proud of our identities and to be open and honest, without fear. If we really live in a free country I should be free to be candid and not suffer persecution and tyranny. If we honestly believe in equal opportunities and our laws forbidding discrimination, then we need to take the brave and bold step of speaking without fear of repercussions.
This vast repository of information that I've created is the polar opposite of a 66 page form, designed to distill me down to a few ticks in boxes. This 1.1 million word document is intended to frustrate the reader who is looking for a convenient pigeon hole to stuff me into.
It's strange to look at a photo of myself with an old friend from not-too-many-Christmasses ago - at least according to my faulty memory - and not really recognise the face looking back at me as my own. It's not that I'm younger. It's that I can clearly see in many features of my face that I'd failed to escape from an abusive relationship and an acrimonious divorce unscathed. My life reboot had been sabotaged and it seems as plain as day to me that I was very sick.
My eyes appear at first glance to be bright and alert, but in a stimulant-induced way, so I wear a glassy stare into the distance, not looking at anything in particular. On closer examination, there are tell-tale signs around my eyes that I've been sleeping both too much and too little.
It surprises me how easily I can see from my face that I have hardly any body fat. In 2013 I had my body fat very precisely measured at circa 2%.
The body I'm in today feels very alien to me.
But the face in the picture above is also a different person, I feel.
Every couple of weeks I start skipping breakfast, having light lunches and smaller, healthier evening meals. Every couple of weeks I take a break from drinking alcohol. It doesn't make any difference.
For more years than I care to remember, I've woken up and I've dreaded going to work, and I've felt oppressively burdened by debt. My life is very simple, and in many ways very enviable, but it's also thoroughly awful. Theoretically the awfulness is only a temporary situation, but somehow it's turned out to be a nonstop nightmare lasting half a fucking decade.
The nightmare could be lazily attributed to drug addiction, but you might be surprised to learn that the truth is far less conveniently simple.
Having spent more than two decades trapped in the rat race, being a very stoic, quiet, boring, obedient and subservient tiny cog in a massive machine, and suffering the incredible boredom of going to bland beige offices, attending endless interminable meetings about nothing, shuffling paper around a desk and pretending to look busy, it was fucking exciting to go insane and embark upon a drug-fuelled rampage.
You might think that police, paddy wagons, Accident & Emergency, high-dependency wards, psychiatric hospitals, police cells, intensive care, sleeping rough and hostel dorms would be the worst thing imaginable - and those things probably were terrible at the time - but you need to understand the psychology of a person who wants to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and plummet towards the ground at terminal velocity. If you think that only stupid people get addicted to drugs, it's you who is stupid, because you haven't appreciated the value in calculated risks.
I would thoroughly advise every person on the planet to avoid supercrack like the plague, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge some attributes of my experiences of the last 5 years, which might be considered surprisingly beneficial.
We'd all like to be a bit skinnier, wouldn't we? We'd all like to lose a bit of that hard-to-shift belly-fat.
I look in the mirror at the slight gut which has appeared in the ten months which I've been working, without the interruption of a drug-fuelled rampage, and I think "where the fuck did that gut come from?"
It depresses me that I've put on weight.
It depresses me that my appearance has changed.
I'm not fat. I'm not overweight. I'm just kinda 'normal' for a 39-year-old bloke, but that fucking sucks, because I took for granted the fact that I was as skinny as a racing snake on a diet. There's something attractive about an 'athletic' body, and that's not the body I have anymore... or rather, that's not the body I have at the moment.
One of the reasons I kept ending up in hospital, is because my body ran out of fat to break down to keep itself alive, so it started breaking down my muscle. When my muscle was broken down to provide energy to keep my cells fuelled and save my life, there were a lot of toxins released too, which totally fucked my kidneys. Basically, I was starving to death but dying of kidney failure faster than I was dying from lack of glucose, because I was so unnaturally lacking in body fat. My body made a very tough decision at a certain do-or-die moment, to destroy muscle allowing my heart to keep pumping for a little while longer, at the expense of my kidneys.
I eat a lot.
I drink a lot.
I eat and drink whatever the fuck I want and however much I want. I have juicy fatty steaks with butter sauce, washed down with lashings of red wine, every single night of the week.
I'm a disgusting old man.
I've been so depressed and oppressed by my awful circumstances, that I've barely been outside all summer. My skin is pale. One of my arms is covered with ribbons of self-harm and suicide attempt scars. One of my wrists has a big lump where a bone was broken by police who were kindly assisting me in getting to hospital. I've got this gut. This fucking gut. Where the fuck did it come from?
Have you heard of DNP?
It's a fat burner.
I'm highly tempted to take a week or two off work and just burn off the fat using this drug which increases your metabolic rate. Of course, a side-effect is malignant hyperthermia, but that's nothing I haven't already experienced a great deal of, as a supercrack addict. Also, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, tachycardia, organ damage and death... all risks I'm prepared to accept in order to be skinny and gorgeous again.
Although I'm crippled by mountainous debts, I drive a wreck of a car which is worth less than my phone, I live in rented accommodation and my body is covered with scars from drug-fuelled insanity, self-harm and suicide attempts, the most damaging thing to my self-esteem is what I've done to myself during this period of so-called health and wealth. While I've been earning megabucks for massive organisations and being mostly abstinent from supercrack, my life has materially improved massively - I've earned an absolute fortune - but psychologically it's been awful, and my body has suffered far more than even the very worst days of my supercrack addiction insanity.
I don't think supercrack is a solution, although the weight-loss is arguably a very desirable side-effect, in much the same way as a bout of explosive diarrhoea or a tapeworm infestation might be. Unfortunately, society worships the skinny, just as much as it worships the bipolar, even though those people might not be very healthy people at all.
As a single man - and rapidly approaching 40 years old - of course I want to feel sexually attractive. While girlfriends have always said "I like a bit of meat on your bones" fnarr fnarr, they have had a vested interest in my health and robustness as opposed to my raw attractiveness, in terms of a skinny athletic body.
The temptation to restore my athletic figure with a week or two of unpleasant suffering, taking a fat-burning drug and feeling like shit, seems like a small price to pay for the prize of being more sexually attractive. With the insecurity of feeling like I'm a washed-up has-been loser, dirty old man filthy pervert, useless debt-riddled, asset-less waste-of-space, with nothing to offer womankind, it's sorely tempting to take some short cuts. What happened to my house, sports-car, yacht, speedboat, cash pile and other desirable material things, which would be highly coveted? What value is there in a 39-year-old who's pale and average build? I'm ten a penny.
This is the calculated gamble. Presently, my gamble is to get rich quick, or more precisely, to pay off my debts incredibly quickly at the expense of my health, social life and mental wellbeing. The price I pay is my appearance: I eat and drink too much; don't exercise.
Of course, I have no plans to resume my supercrack-fuelled insanity, but to not acknowledge the rewards and unexpectedly positive benefits of better living through chemistry would be disingenuous.
This is a story about romantic aspirations in the provinces...
It would unforgivable of me to kiss and tell but I feel the urge to share with you - dear reader - the trials and tribulations of an urbane metrosexual man's attempts to find love outside the capital city, in places which might politely be described as: the arse-end of nowhere.
The first thing that becomes immediately apparent, when venturing onto the dating scene in the provinces. is the priority which young adults have placed upon having rampant quantities of unprotected sex and producing as many unfortunate single-parent children as possible, with no economic means to pay for them. Did these people never receive any sex education? Have they never heard of condoms, the pill, the rhythm method, anal sex, oral sex or simply pulling out and ejaculating in any direction away from the the birth canal? What the fuck were they thinking?
Accidents don't "happen". We aren't organisms with pea-sized brains. We have birth control, the morning-after pill AND abortions. Why the big hurry to bring an innocent child who didn't ask to be born, into a world where you can't afford to pay for its upbringing? Idiocy.
So, there needs to be a certain amount of sifting through all the cretinous idiots who are no more intelligent than a herd of humping beasts, spawning offspring without any restraint, planning or any semblance of rational thought.
Relationships can break down irreparably, I accept that. Despite 8 long hard years banging my head against a brick wall, my own longest relationship was broken beyond repair and I got divorced. My ex-wife and I didn't have any children, which was my choice because I wanted to stabilise my mental health before making an irreversible life-changing decision to procreate. However, I can imagine that some perfectly decent nice intelligent people have had children, only to later find out that they're met with irreconcilable differences and their relationship cannot be salvaged, even for the sake of the children.
I was unquestionably influenced by my parents' relationship, which was toxic and abusive. I use the word "abuse" with a little caution, because it means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but what I mean is that my parents were absolute assholes to each other and everyone around them. They were co-dependent alcoholic druggies; selfish cunts. They stayed together, perhaps correctly sensing that mean-spirited selfish self-centred people who drink and take drugs, and have failed at life, are not highly in-demand people. They clung together because they were the only people who'd support each others' lies and fantasies, justifying their obnoxious treatment of everyone around them.
I grew up believing that a person should be loyal and work at a relationship no matter how toxic it is; to put up with any amount of abuse.
I guess that's why I ended up in an abusive relationship myself.
This is how I remember things progressed:
Date one: She liked me lots; I was full of confidence. She wanted more. I held back because I had serious feelings about her.
Date two: She thought I was great. She 'accidentally' invited herself into my place.
Date three: I treated her like a princess
Date four: She left me waiting for 30 minutes outside her place. I told myself I was going to leave after an hour, because it was a shitty thing to stand me up. She turned up after 45 minutes. I said I was going to go because it was no way to treat somebody. She begged me to stay.
Some dates later: she got in a strange mood when we were out with friends. When we got back home to her place she told me to leave. I asked her why. She wouldn't tell me. She threatened to call the police, which I said was unnecessary, I just didn't understand... could she explain? She flew into a rage, destroyed some curtains and slammed some doors. Then she calmed down and said she was glad I stayed. She thanked me for being loyal and patient We made love and everything seemed OK.
We went on holiday together. I casually suggested living together and she was enthusiastic. She openly said she was swept off her feet by my open-hearted romanticism.
I gave up my apartment paid for by JPMorgan to be closer to her workplace. She was angry and aggressive a lot. I cried a lot. One time when I was crying, she punched me in the face several times.
When she got angry, I sliced my wrist open with a knife. She briefly got more angry, but it temporarily stopped her rage in its tracks.
When she got angry, I smashed a mirror; a bed.
I asked her dad permission to marry her. I bought her the engagement ring of her dreams.
Two of my best friends came to visit. She flew into an inexplicable rage. I threw her engagement ring out of the window.
She raged with anger about everything in my life I held dear: kitesurfing, my friends from London and all over the UK. Nothing I could do would make her happy. I isolated myself. I gave up everything. I became a prisoner of her unpredictable rage.
We fought. She'd had her three strikes. She'd broken my nose, given me black eyes. I'd lied to my work colleagues about my black eyes. I'd lied to her parents about my black eyes. I'd lied to our friends about my black eyes. Now we fought. Two of us, fighting. We beat the shit out of each other.
I went back to self-harming; smashing stuff. I was suicidal. She cheated on me.
I caught her cheating. She was nice to me. I forgave her. It was nice that she was being nice to me.
She was strong and I was weak. I needed to get out of that toxic relationship before I died. She said "I'd rather be a widow than divorced". She knew I had 2 grams of potassium cyanide. She knew she stood to gain a vast sum of money from my life insurance and the value of my house. She marked my suicide note in red pen and told me if I went to hospital she'd leave me.
I went to hospital. We separated. We divorced.
That's my long-term relationship experience.
My first girlfriend was the nicest person in the world - which was an on-off relationship spanning a couple of years. I remember my second girlfriend fondly - a relationship lasting about 18 months. Then, there was 8 years of hell, which I feel completely equally responsible for: I should have walked away. Subsequent girlfriends were all relatively short-lived, but they were all wonderful. My longest relationship since my wife was with the love of my life, which lasted 9 blissful months, ending in calamity when I was driven insane by sleep deprivation and a toxic cocktail of prescription medications and other things, such that I temporarily believed that she didn't care about me and I decided to break up with her in a very regrettably - and irreparably - public manner, given the fact we both have Twitter accounts with reasonably large numbers of followers (although, many work colleagues are followers of her, causing the unforgivable reputational damage).
"What the fuck are you doing with that madman?" her colleagues must have asked.
She would have defended me.
She was loyal.
I loved her. She loved me.
But I was stubbornly ridiculous. At the time, my brain said to me "I'll never end up in another abusive relationship" but my thoughts were horribly twisted and corrupted; unreliable. To say anything bad about my poor ex-girlfriend would do her a terrible disservice. My amazing ex-girlfriend was incredibly attentively and at my bedside constantly for weeks when my kidneys failed. She was faultless, always.
Presently I've been consigned to the provinces, where I'm punished; cursed to suffer for my foolishness. Wimmin, wimmin, everywhere, and if none of them seem to meet my exacting standards then it's only because of the awful way I've treated - particularly - my last serious girlfriend. My ex cared for me so much, loved me and and demonstrated the loyalty I so desperately craved, but I threw it away during a hyper-complex period of joblessness, debt, mental health issues and drug abuse relapse, when I felt like an complete-and-utter failure. Insecurity destroyed me, despite her making me feel great about myself and working really hard to make sure I was OK. She looked after me. She put so much effort into looking after me.
So, now, today, I'm a 39-year-old man who's gotten badly out of shape and carries a whole heap of baggage.
"What car do you drive?"
"What job do you do?"
"Do you own your own house?"
"Show me your bank balance"
"What's your net worth?"
"Do you think you could afford to provide a life of idle luxury for me and my fatherless children?"
These are the questions which I face in the provincial dating game.
When I'm not looking my wallet is slipped from my pocket and felt for its fatness.
I'm not-so-silently judged as the sucker who's gonna pick up the tab for all that badly thought through unprotected sex and all those irrational decisions to not terminate unaffordable pregnancies.
This is my penance for not walking away from an abusive relationship - and admittedly becoming a so-called consensual partner in co-dependency - and also for throwing away relationships with some amazing women. This is my penance for my wrongdoing: to be somewhat trapped in the provinces, where every woman's dating profile picture has a Snapchat filter applied to her face, sending barely-literate messages saying: "If you're ex-girlfriends we're so great then how come there no longer wiv U? Their a bunch of snooty bitches wot kno grammar innit. Your fucking up youself U posh twat. They're's the truth layed out for you bear."