Skip to main content

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

facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Discipline

4 min read

This is a story about daily chores...

Cable

I spend most of my leisure time stopping my kitten from destroying everything that's made of paper and cardboard, wrecking my house plants, attempting to go up the chimney, getting her paws in the soot and ash of my fireplace, peeing on clothes, chewing cables, licking plates and dropping her toy mouse into drinks. It certainly keeps me busy.

My other daily chore, aside from scooping poops out of the 4 litter trays around the house and washing cat-pee soaked clothing and bedding, is my writing. I'm going to attempt to resume writing every day.

The past couple of days I've written far too much.

I needed to write to let friends around the world know that I'm OK. I wanted to also mention the people who've popped up in my website analytics who appear to be work colleagues from a couple of different locations and organisations in the UK, and also my girlfriend's mum, in case they pop back for a repeat visit... wouldn't want to disappoint. I also simply wanted to resume writing on a daily basis.

The good thing about writing lots is that it makes me a moving target: very hard to shoot down.

I'm not going to write much today because I need to get better at writing less. I need to deliver short and sweet little blog posts, not the miserable long essays which exhaust my readers. Even I feel quite embarrassed about the self-indulgence of writing 4,000 words moaning about anxiety and depression, and generally complaining about my lot in life.

Tomorrow I might share some holiday photos, but I'm just trying to settle back into my routine. I thought I would allow a little of the pent-up stuff that was rattling around inside my brain to flow out of me, releasing some pressure and allowing me to consider my situation with a bit more perspective.

I wasn't dreading writing. I was a bit sad that I'd had a three-week gap, but I didn't feel like abandoning the project, although I was quite stressed and anxious that I'd left it too long and I'd struggle to get back into it. I was dreading going back to work, but that's for reasons which I've already gone into at length.

My good intentions have gone to waste regarding resumption of healthy living. I had planned on dieting and being teetotal since returning from holiday, but that hasn't really happened yet.

I don't think I'm going to be able to achieve everything I wanted to achieve within the ambitious timescales I wanted to, but I do feel somewhat rested and that I've had the benefit of a break. I feel like I have more energy and I'm in a much better situation than I was a couple of months ago.

My contract at work might get extended for a couple of months, which brings in much needed cash. Home life is pretty settled and secure - I have a nice house and I love my kitten. My relationship is going well. There's nothing on fire or threatening to cause major problems at the moment. I have the opportunity to enjoy a period of some stable, secure, routine simple living, without too much stress. I can do my writing every day after work. I have my daily routines and systems, and that's the way I like things, in order to manage stress levels down to the point of being tolerable.

I've written more than intended, as usual, but I'm below my maximum word count, which I have been very poor at respecting the past couple of days. I hope I can consistently keep my word count below my maximum, and hone the skill of writing short and sweet little blog posts every day. It takes discipline though.

 

Tags:

 

Scrutiny

9 min read

This is a story about influence...

Mound of wires

One of the great benefits of operating my own homebrew website is that I get to see the visitor analytics in all the glorious detail. I can't be certain, but I have evidence that I can count some work colleagues, my girlfriend's mother and other important people as readers, who have never mentioned that they are readers, but I see the evidence all the same.

A colleague from another part of the country was kind enough to tell me that they'd been reading my blog. That was a first. I've had plenty of evidence of colleagues visiting in the past, but they've never explicitly told me that they've read any of my blog.

I sometimes feel a little bit paranoid and vulnerable, having the contents of my messy mind and messed-up life so publicly on display, but I assume that anybody who's going to take the time to read is going to hopefully empathise with my situation and see that I'm mad, not bad.

I write about this scrutiny quite often. Often times I am angry about the invasive nature of security vetting, background checks and suchlike, given my lengthy career and achievements, which I feel should be enough to free me from the tyranny of gatekeepers. Often I implore the lurkers to imagine me at my very worst; to judge me based on their prejudice. Often I wail with agony about those who are seeking to dig dirt; to find reasons to reject me.

Conversely, I'm acutely aware that anybody can access this repository of innermost thoughts and feelings at any time. I'm relatively well-informed about who's reading, thanks to my website's detailed analytics. I can see who's reading, when and for how long, and I can make educated guesses about the impression they might form.

It might seem sensible to present another side of myself, given how important it is to be a bland corporate drone or ideal boyfriend material, in the eyes of colleagues and my girlfriend's mother. It might seem sensible to write under a pseudonym. it might seem sensible to present a sanitised mask; to present only my greatest achievements and to trumpet my successes and finest attributes.

I found it was rather toxic to my mental health to live so much of my life worrying about my professional reputation; worrying about my corporate image; worrying about how presentable I was as a fake person. I found it exhausting keeping my CV spotless and otherwise maintaining a perfect career. I found it exhausting, worrying about gaps in my employment history and whether the organisations I worked for were prestigious enough to be impressive. I found it exhausting making sure that my job titles and projects were grand and magnificent, to maintain the perfect corporate image.

If I really was worried about becoming unemployable and losing my income, then surely I would tear down this website and its associated social media accounts and set about expunging anything unflattering from the digital realm, wouldn't I? If I was a credible professional person, surely I would have a bland corporate identity: faceless except for the unblemished stream of non-stop corporate accolades and achievements, presented in dry bullet points, clothed in a grey suit and completely lacking in any personality or personal identity.

I find it exhausting and toxic to my mental health.

I find it intolerable that the corporate world wants to steal so much of my valuable time, but also my identity, and to insist that I conform to an unrealistic, unhealthy and impossible conception of what the 'ideal' corporate drone would look and act like.

My reaction has been to create an "anti-CV". This homebrew website is everything that colleagues, prospective employers, girlfriends' mothers and others, would never normally see, hear or read about a person. Here is everything that you'd love to know but would never usually be able to find out. Here's all the dirt that gatekeepers wish to dig, presented clearly and concisely.

My thoughts are a little jumbled and confused. I don't know who's friend and who is foe. I don't know when I'm being judged harshly and unfairly, due to prejudice, and when my readers are feeling empathy, sympathy and generally taking an interest in my wellbeing.

I know that some colleagues and others read because they're interested in who I am as a person, and perhaps they even care about me and would like to see me succeed. I know that hardly any of my readers are looking to cause me harm. In fact, most readers are concerned about my welfare and they use my words with kindness: worrying about me and thinking about ways in which they could help me.

My behaviour is a little erratic. I do struggle with dreadful suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, which threatens to do me great harm, but yet I do not know quite what I'm doing: is this a cry for help, a form of therapy, a coping mechanism, self-sabotage, a folly, foolish stupidity? What consequences are there for acting in contravention of the expected behaviour of a corporate drone? What consequences are there for not complying with social norms; suffering in silence?

I feel happier when I'm writing vast amounts every day, because I feel that I'm a moving target; I feel like the energy and the productivity wards off anybody who might think me stupid, idle and easy to pigeon-hole. I feel like writing wards off anybody who might seek to sum me up with a simple sentence, thinking that they've understood me. I want to be complicated. I want to be interesting. I want to be eccentric. I want to be hard to understand. I don't understand me, so why the hell should you come here and think you've got all the answers?

As usual, I've written more than I intended. Nobody wants to read more than about 700 words, and even then, my thinking is disjointed and hard-to-follow. I've reverted to a stream-of-consciousness comfort zone, where the words pour out, but there's no clear thread of thought and I'm not saying anything except a hotchpotch of jumbled thoughts and feelings without any clear conclusions or intersting insights.

Perhaps there's a human interest angle, but I'd like to return to the time when I wrote think-pieces which explored ideas, as opposed to diary-esque brain dumps, written in a desperate attempt to neutralise overwhelming negative thoughts and feelings which threaten to consume me.

Another thing which occurs to me is how little my mind is occupied. My job is very easy and my working day is pretty boring. My evenings are often spent in social isolation. In fact, most of my life is socially isolated. I have no local friends. My job is not very sociable. There are few social occasions in my life. I am estranged from my family.

I wonder if I'm lonely, but I don't think that I am.

I can remember being lonely in the past, but I don't feel those feelings at the moment.

My brain is very busy.

My brain is intensely noisy.

My brain will continuously present things to be anxious and depressed about, unless it is occupied with something taxing to think about.

Writing is an ideal occupation.

However, my writing is somewhat scrutinised. My girlfriend will read this. My friends will read this. My work colleagues will read this. My sister might read this. Strangers will read this.

Strange.

In some ways I'm incredibly isolated and I mostly inhabit my own mind, alone. In some ways I'm socially disconnected; removed from the normal social interactions that most people have with their friends, family, kids, colleagues and suchlike. I spend vast amounts of time in my own company and/or lost in thought. I can spend a whole day in a trancelike state, thinking.

In other ways I'm not isolated at all. At least I have a mechanism for connecting me with people, even if it's rather atypical. I don't mind that there are work colleagues and my girlfriend's mum, who read my rambling thoughts without acknowledging that they are there, reading in the comfort of their office. I don't mind that I don't really know precisely when I'm communicating, and who precisely I'm communicating with. I don't really mind that I don't get the feedback of knowing how my words are being received. I don't really mind that I'm transmitting - broadcasting - and I don't know how far my words are travelling or where they're landing.

Of course I worry that the more I write, the more I expose myself as a fool. If I write enough, I'm sure to expose my sheer idiocy. I'm hardly considering my words precious and choosing them with extreme care, given the prolific nature of my writing. Those who've read vast amounts of what I've written have said how repetitive I am. Should I have expected any other result, given my approach?

So, the rather unsatisfying conclusion is that there is no conclusion. I find it useful to write regularly, in the interests of allowing my creativity, productivity and identity to have some room to breathe, given the restrictive nature of the bland corporate world in which I inhabit. I find it useful to maintain a digital identity, lest I become paranoid about anything less-than-perfect emerging in other areas: at least my humanity is contained all neatly in one place here, where I can keep an eye on those who come to poke around. I find it fascinating that anybody would bother to try to find me, and would bother to read about me, especially given the vast tracts of drivel that I've written, such as this one.

 

Tags:

 

I'm [Not] OK

6 min read

This is a story about keeping people updated...

Invert

It's been nearly 2 weeks since I wrote last. I know I've had gaps but this feels like a really long one. Gaps are usually a very bad sign. It's worth worrying about me if I'm not writing. Things are probably going badly if I'm not writing.

I was coping by using a combination of alcohol, sleeping pills, tranquillisers/sedatives and a heck of a lot of comfort eating. I've been teetotal and medication-free for a while now. I'm dieting too. I'm slimmer but I feel awful. Stopping taking all the pills has been brutal. Not having anything to 'take the edge off' has been horrible. The anxiety has been unbearable.

Some concerned friends have sent me messages, but I've felt too swamped to reply. Work is exhausting and there has been the looming holiday, which has caused added stress rather than being something to look forward to: How am I going to afford the loss of earnings as well as the expense of the holiday? My work situation is looking very uncertain for when I get back from holiday, which is a horrible situation to be in, worrying about money instead of enjoying some well-earned time off.

My relationship is good but it's caused some sleepless nights. I'm desperately trying to avoid worsening my exhaustion and sleep deficit, but it's almost impossible to catch up. Stopping the sleeping pills has caused my sleep quality to deteriorate. It's a miracle that I'm still reasonably productive and functional.

The last thing I want to think about is the travel and logistics of going abroad. Buying holiday clothes sounds like fun, but it's another item on a todo list which makes me very stressed out. I'm struggling to figure out when I can fit in all the things I need to do between now and my departure date from the UK. I suppose as long as I've got my passport and a buttload of cash then I can figure things out, but it's not pleasant to be so ill-prepared for a trip.

I'll be 40 years old in exactly one week. I decided to have a barbecue at my house when I was feeling somewhat more buoyant about the way my life was going. Now I feel like cancelling the gathering, because I'm stressed about the extra unnecessary hassle. Having guests over to my house reminds me that I've still barely moved in - I don't have much furniture and the place is a bit of a mess. I don't feel well placed to make my guests comfortable. I have a lot of anxiety about it being a really awkward occasion, with a handful of my long-suffering friends having made the long journey to the provinces, in order to make smalltalk with strangers... a real chore for them.

I'm working as hard as I can in order to feel proud about my contribution to the project I'm working on. I'm desperate that my contribution be remembered as something valuable and that my colleagues recognise the effort I've ploughed in. Work's become a bit of an unhealthy obsession and I'm significantly over-invested, emotionally. I can picture myself getting very depressed when I'm forced to leave the project because of contractual shenanigans, and through no fault of my own.

My life is deeply unbalanced; unhealthy. I'm not drinking alcohol and I'm dieting, so I've lost weight, and I've managed to get a bit of sun, so I look quite healthy, but inside I'm very sick. The stress of the past years seems to have ratcheted up as my life has become more 'normal' and 'stable' recently - things were easier when I was living out of a suitcase, in some ways, although I appreciate that I was very miserable and living much more unhealthily.

Readers who've followed me for any significant length of time will probably have a better idea than me as to whether I'm in a better place today than I was a few months ago, a year ago, several years ago. Things feel terrible but they probably aren't.

The stresses seem to be the same as ever, particularly concerning my security vetting. A colleague contacted me to say they were reading my blog. They seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of working with me, despite what they'd read, and the feedback seemed generally positive. It's the first time that a colleague has been brave enough to tell me that they've been reading my blog. Of course, the security vetting people have been reading too. I wonder if the security vetting people are as sympathetic to my stresses, and look favourably upon my ability to maintain an impeccably high standard of professionalism in the office, whilst undergoing some horrendous chaos in my personal life; struggling so much with my mental health. I wonder if all the talk about being sympathetic towards mental health issues is just hot air.

I wanted to write a short update, because I know people are worried about my uncharacteristic quietness. I've kinda failed. I'm doing OK, but I'm also really struggling too. Plenty of reasons to be concerned, but things are not completely ruined and on collision course with disaster... in fact I might even weather this storm and emerge in a reasonably good situation.

I'll try to write a little more regularly, but I don't want to be a stuck record, endlessly moaning about how unpleasant the effect of stopping medication is. I don't want to wallow in misery.

It's summer. I have money. I have employment for a little while longer. I have an awesome holiday booked. I have a very nice girlfriend. I have a cute kitten. I have a big house. Things are not terrible.

I'm not taking any medication, not drinking, dieting. I'm losing weight and my brain is getting back to a stable state without any alien chemicals. It's good to be free from the shackles of chemical dependency.

If I can push through this tricky period and keep the wheels turning, then I think my forties are going to be a much better period of life than parts of my thirties. It does feel good to be turning a corner as I reach an age when I should be growing old less disgracefully.

I've written more than I wanted to but I hope you'll forgive me. You're all up to date now.

 

Tags:

 

Wet British Summer

3 min read

This is a story about our maritime climate...

Rainy window

The UK experienced an exceptional couple of summers in 2017 and 2018, but this year our luck seems to have run dry. During the Easter bank holiday weekend, the weather warm enough to make barbecues and picnics a pleasant thing to do outdoors - although I strongly advise against indoor barbecues - and shorts and flip-flops briefly became suitable attire.

Since Easter it's been pretty wet. Of course there have been many pleasant days, but not enough to encourage me to spend much time outside. It's about 14 degrees celcius at the moment (57 degrees Fahrenheit for my North American readers) which does not feel at all summerlike.

Often times, our peak holiday months of July and August can be a washout, but May and June are warm, dry and very pleasant, and September can be a wonderful time of "Indian summer".

I've made plans to be abroad for my birthday - my 40th - so I should be guaranteed good weather, although I suppose it depends on what your definition of "good" is. I shall be very happy if it's windy, seeing as I'm going kitesurfing on a little island off the coast of Africa.

The seasons and the weather affect my mood a great deal and I have neither the energy boost that summer brings or the lethargy of winter at the moment. Flying to more southerly climes seems very decadent in the middle of the UK's summer, when our weather is supposed to be at its best, but I have the excuse that it's my 40th birthday so I should celebrate in style.

I'm attempting to complete my thirties with dignity more becoming of a man entering his forties. My thirties were a real mixed bag, which included some incredible achievements, but also some jaw-dropping adversity. The "wealth" that I carry into middle age takes the form of an immense amount of extreme experiences, including a great many which I do not recommend other people to imitate, but I still treasure them all - even the bad ones.

This summer seems to involve a lot of hard work. There is a lot of pressure on me at work, as well as some financial worries caused by job uncertainty. However, I cannot deny that there are elements of my life that far exceed my wildest expectations: my beautiful girlfriend, my gorgeous kitten, my lovely house... and I'm having a reasonable year in terms of getting back in contact with my sister and my friends.

I'm writing sporadically at the moment, because of the many competing demands placed upon me. After boasting yesterday about how well my kitten was doing at using her litter tray, she soaked my duvet in the night, and then took a pee on my work shirts in the morning, leaving a trail of pee across the bedroom floor as I hurriedly moved her into the correct receptacle while she continued to urinate.

If I'm writing in a bit more of a "this is what I had for breakfast" boring diary style at the moment, I apologise. Lots of irons in the fire. Spread very thin. I promise to write some of my usual off-the-wall bizarre essays again soon.

 

Tags:

 

 

All Is Lost - A Photo Story

12 min read

This is a story about lost causes...

Brushes up well

Look at that well-presented man: a professional on his way to work for Barclays at their head office in Canary Wharf as an IT consultant earning £600 a day. Look the attractive Georgian façades of the London townhouses of Camden, where he lives. The major high-street bank he works for has conducted extensive background checks on him and found him to be a fine upstanding member of the community: a model citizen.

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is a homeless man. That's right. This man is no-fixed-abode. This man lives in a hostel with other homeless people. This man was sleeping rough until very recently.

Hostel room

Look at this hostel dorm. It's got brand new beds and clean linen. It's empty. This looks like a pretty nice hostel dorm, doesn't it? Perhaps you wouldn't mind sleeping here. This would be tolerable for a while, perhaps if you were backpacking, wouldn't it?

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is a hostel dorm I stayed in when I was travelling - for leisure purposes - and the people who stay at this hostel are wealthy backpackers. This is not the hostel I stayed in when I was homeless. When I was homeless I stayed in hostel dorms that were full of drug addicts, alcoholics, people with severe mental health problems, thieves, violence, sexual assault, and they were exceptionally dirty and disgusting. The hostels I stayed in when I was homeless were full of everybody's crappy possessions which we carried around with us - we didn't live out of small backpacks, because we were homeless. When you're homeless you carry everything you possibly can: all your possessions. Try to imagine 14 people in a single room along with every single thing that they own. Try to imagine that's where you live - you're not just having a jolly old time doing some backpacking. That's WHERE YOU LIVE and you have to go to work, in the midst of all that chaotic s**t.

Hampstead heath

That's a nice view isn't it? That's Hampstead Heath. It's a nice place to walk your dog or go for a run. It's a nice place for a picnic. Hampstead Heath is a lovely place to go when the sun's shining. Perhaps you'd like to take a swim in one of the bathing ponds?

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is near the spot where I slept rough, to avoid being robbed, beaten up and/or raped. What you are actually looking at is a place where a homeless person can hide themselves in the undergrowth at night and avoid the perils of sleeping rough. What you are looking at is where I slept for a couple of months. Guess what? It's not always sunny. Sometimes it rains. When it rains you get wet. Very wet. A tent is conspicuous. It's hard to sleep rough, stay dry and avoid becoming a victim of crime when you're so vulnerable. Try to imagine not having a proper bed or any kind of security for you and your stuff - you're totally out in the open, in a remote area.

Psych ward

What's this? Is it a prison cell? I haven't been in a prison cell, but this definitely looks a bit like a prison cell to me. There's a window so that people can look into the room, which clearly has a bed, so this must be a place where I slept. What kind of place has windows in the doors so that people can see in when you're sleeping? That doesn't sound great for privacy, does it?

Look again.

What you are looking at is a room in a secure psychiatric ward. The window is there so that the staff can check you're not attempting to kill yourself. The staff check on you every 15 minutes. At night they sometimes come into your room and shine a torch in your face. You can't have a belt, shoelaces, scissors, razor, cables (e.g. mobile phone) or anything else that you could cut yourself with, or strangle yourself with. You can't lock the door to the shower room or the toilet.

Hampstead view

Oh look! There's a view of Hampstead from a tall building. Perhaps we could see the heath from here. This is quite a nice view, except it's kind of in the wrong direction to see any London landmarks. Perhaps this this is the view from an ugly brutalist concrete monstrosity which has now perversely become a desirable place to live as the capital city's property prices have soared.

Look again.

This is the view from the Royal Free Hospital. The emergency services brought me here. I was nearly dead. I was here a long time, while the medical team fought to save my life.

Private room

That's a pretty nice room for an NHS hospital. It's a private room. I must have some pretty good private medical insurance. Perhaps I've come to hospital for an elective cosmetic procedure. This certainly doesn't look like the kind of place where a sick patient would be looked after - it's more like the kind of recovery room that somebody with private healthcare would receive.

Look again.

This is the room at The Royal London which was dedicated to my treatment because my kidneys had failed due to a horrific DVT and I was receiving emergency dialysis for many many hours a day. To my left, out of shot, is a dedicated dialysis machine which I was connected to for day after day. I couldn't have dialysis in the main dialysis ward because my blood was so full of potassium that I was at risk of having a cardiac arrest at any moment. My blood was so toxic that many of the measurements were beyond the capability of the equipment to actually measure how toxic my blood was. I was very sick indeed.

Killavullen

Aha! This must be another trick. That pleasant view of a valley filled with low-lying fog, and mountain tops poking out, in pleasant rural surroundings must hide a darker secret. Why don't I just tell you the terrible truth?

Look again.

This is actually a good moment in my life. One of my friends had invited me to stay with his family in Ireland. I was half-dead so the opportunity for some rest and recuperation in rural Ireland was exactly what I needed. I meant to stay only for a short while, but ended up staying longer because I was very poorly and needed looking after, which is exactly what the kind family who took me in did: they nursed me back to health.

Canary Wharf skyline

Ooooh skyscrapers! We know from the first photograph that I worked in one of those skyscrapers. I also used to live in Canary Wharf and it's actually possible to see my apartment from this picture. I was also working for Lloyds Banking Group at this time, so this must be another good picture, right? Why would I be able to see my apartment and the head office of the bank I was working for though? Where the hell am I?

Look again.

I didn't show you the view out of the window from the private hospital room, did I? This is the view. I didn't really get to see the view much, because I was constantly hooked up to a dialysis machine which was sucking my blood out of me and squirting it back into me, but I did manage to take this photograph. All I can say that's positive about this period of my life is that I didn't die: I was saved [again] by a brilliant NHS medical team.

Hotel room

What now? A hotel room? Not too different from the psych ward room, but with a TV and better lighting. I was living here while working as an IT consultant for HSBC on their number one project, earning £600 a day. Sounds like my life was going pretty well, huh?

Look again.

What have I shown you so far? Homeless people's hostels, sleeping rough, hospitals. I showed you one picture when things were a little better - I was being looked after by my friend and his family - and my life was not in imminent danger. My life is not in peril at this moment, it's true, but I'm clearly staying in a hotel room for a reason. The reason is that I'm homeless. That's the theme of this story: homelessness.

Prince of Wales

This must be the door to the room that I showed you in the secure psychiatric ward. Somebody's written my name on a little whiteboard strip. That was thoughtful of them. Also, making sure that I'm not killing myself, by checking on me every 15 minutes is pretty damn caring. I'm pretty lucky to have this room all to myself and caring staff members to make sure I stay alive.

Look again.

This is not the same room. This is not the same psychiatric ward. This is not the same hospital. This is not the same city. In the first photograph, I had voluntarily gone to hospital because I couldn't keep myself safe. At the time this photograph was taken I have been sectioned and am being held against my will. At the time the first photograph was taken - in London - I could leave whenever I wanted. At the time this photograph was taken - in Manchester - I cannot leave, which is kind of like being in prison: involuntary internment. I was being held in a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) which is where the very most unwell psychiatric patients are held, and this type of unit is highly secure and can only care for 8 patients with a vast number of staff.

Why would I end with this photo?

I was asked to write down in detail where I had been living for the last 5 years of my life, for the purposes of government security vetting, which is a highly invasive process which will rake over every detail of my private life: my divorce, my psychiatric problems, my homelessness, the involvement of the emergency services. The government has access to every single piece of data about me held on every single database, and they are permitted to look at things - like private and confidential medical records - which nobody else is allowed to look at or even ask about, by law.

Why would I publish this?

Do you remember the photograph of the hotel room? That's where I started writing this blog, approximately 4 years ago. I've written 1.2 million words. I've thoroughly documented my life with the kind of candid honesty that the government expect from me when they ask questions like "where have you been living during the last 5 years?". The answer is far more complicated than could be filled in on their forms, so they can read about every detail which doesn't neatly fit into any of their computer systems. I could have asked for extra paper to complete my security vetting forms, but how many pages should I ask for if there are 1.2 million words written down right here and the story is not even fully told?

I chose that final photo because I shouldn't have been alive to take it.

On Saturday 9th September 2017 I attempted to end my life. My suicide attempt should have been successful. Even though I didn't die as quickly as I should have done, and even though the emergency services were able to intervene rapidly, when I believed that nobody knew where I lived or would be able to locate me, I was still having seizures and multiple organ failure. I was unable to breathe on my own. I was very much going to succeed in killing myself, which is exactly what I wanted. I had planned and executed my suicide attempt with precision.

Now, today, I am making an exceptional contribution to one of the government's highest profile projects - the number one project for the particular government organisation who I work for. I have been singled out for special commendation on multiple occasions by very senior government employees. I have worked incredibly hard to make the biggest possible contribution as part of a gigantic team of colleagues. I have busted my balls to go above-and-beyond and exceed all expectations. I have put an enormous amount of effort into delivering valuable skill, expertise, knowledge, effort and energy. I would expect that a significant number of my colleagues would speak very highly of me. In fact, I know that I am held in very high regard.

Also, during the last 5 years, I've slept rough, slept in homeless hostels, slept in hospitals and slept in psych wards. The sum total of the amount of months that I've spent in such places is very significant, but somehow it was hard to articulate this on a security vetting form that's not designed for somebody like me.

Either you believe I'm exceptional or you don't. If you think I'm an exceptional person, you have to decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. What cannot be disputed is my contribution to the teams, organisations and wider society, despite the great adversity I've faced.

Here is some of the information that couldn't be captured on a government security vetting form. Judge me however you want - end my career if you must. What you must understand is that I am not afraid, because I have already died a thousand deaths, so I do not fear one more.

 

Tags:

 

Cake And Eat It

9 min read

This is a story about a completed jigsaw puzzle...

Summer house cake

When I was 28 I was so depressed that I couldn't work. I couldn't face the outside world. I couldn't face the office 9 to 5 Monday to Friday routine. I couldn't face the glacial pace that projects moved at. I couldn't face the lack of productivity. I couldn't face the wastefulness of large organisations. I couldn't face the dead wood, being dragged along by those of us who wanted to actually create some f**king software.

My behaviour became erratic. The symptoms my my mood disorder - bipolar - made me a dysfunctional individual for long enough to cause problems in an ordinary office type environment: mainly my lengthy absence due to to the aforementioned depression. Nobody had ever much cared about me being hypomanic in the office, because it allowed me to deliver very complicated projects on time, to a high standard of quality.

I quit my job in 2008 and sat in my garden making iPhone Apps - mainly games. They sold very well and I was number one in the App Store charts for a brief time. Suddenly, I was earning a lot of royalties and I was comparatively wealthy.

I decided that I hated office work and corporate IT work - I hated big software projects - but that I should start a small business. I retrained as an electrician. I did all the training, bought a van and started trading.

Electrician

My electrician business traded profitably, but I kept getting asked to do freelance software work, which paid twice as much as my electrical work, and I was obviously much better at it, given that I've got 20+ years of commercial software experience and about 18+ months of commercial electrical experience. It's a lot less stressful being a software consultant than it is being an electrician.

I decided to combine my entrepreneurial side - the iPhone Apps and the small business - to create a startup which would have a software product which could be licensed, so that I could make money while I slept: it was a scalable business model.

During all this erratic behaviour, I was making a ton of money, I designed a built a beautiful summer house in my garden, I had a wakeboarding boat, I threw lavish garden parties. I was having the time of my life, except I was in a very toxic, abusive relationship.

I ended the relationship and my life continued to improve. In fact, my life kept on improving.

Soon, I was enrolled on a prestigious startup accelerator program which takes 8,000 applicants for every place, and only offers 10 teams the chance to be mentored by senior executives from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Paypal and a bunch of other great tech companies, plus the opportunity to pitch on "demo day" to a packed auditorium full of venture capitalists and angel investors, and raise a huge amount of investment.

My company was already profitable enough to pay my co-founder and I a decent salary and hire our first full-time employee. That was entirely bootstrapped: the company was built from nothing. My co-founder and I built a profitable startup without taking a single cent from any member of friends or family, or risking any of our own money.

This was my cake and eat it moment.

I worked too hard for too long. On the accelerator program mentor madness was fine for the teams who just had an idea, but my co-founder and I had a profitable business to run. We had customers who needed supporting. We had sales deals which needed to be closed. The rest of our cohort were happily burning the money they'd raised - making a loss - while our startup was living within its means and growing organically... in fact it was growing rapidly organically.

The problem was that toxic, abusive relationship.

She wasn't kind. She wasn't supportive. She didn't want me to succeed. She was just plain mean and totally inflexible; uncompromising. It wasn't fair, because I had supported her when she wanted to change career, and I had also been a very loyal loving boyfriend. Of course I could have split up with her and run off into the sunset with a lovely girl from the tech startup scene who could see the potential in me and the potential of my startup, but I let loyalty and a sense of "doing the right thing" get the better of me.

Since then, there hasn't been a lot of cake eating.

Divorce became extremely acrimonious in 2013, after a harrowing period when the abuse and the trauma was sufficient to give me PTSD - I was barricaded in rooms and defecating in a bucket to avoid physical harm and at least give myself what little protection I could. Verbal abuse and violent kicking and punching of the door was so frequent it was literally torture. My abuser was keeping me trapped with threats of violence, and I starved, I was thirsty and I had to sh*t and piss in a bucket.

Mercifully, we separated in August 2013.

Trauma doesn't heal overnight.

The divorce dragged on into 2014, ruining my second startup and depriving me of all my liquid capital - my money - which I needed to start another business. The divorce ruined me every bit as much as the toxic relationship and abusive marriage did. The divorce left me so physically drained, traumatised, financially taken advantage of, exhausted and stressed, that I broke down completely. I ended up sleeping rough. I ended up homeless. I was wrecked.

Briefly, at the end of 2014 I had a nice apartment in Swiss Cottage, a lovely commute on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf and a well paid consultancy contract with Barclays. Was I having my cake and eating it? No. The divorce and the separation had caused me such horrible PTSD and financial distress that for almost that whole year I had been sleeping rough and in a homeless hostel. My life was very fragile; my recovery was only green shoots.

In 2015 I had an amazing apartment overlooking the Thames with panoramic views of all the London landmarks. I had a great consultancy contract with HSBC. Was I having my cake and eating it? No. I was so distressed by the financial troubles I'd had that I worked unsustainable hours and got very sick, and had to be hospitalised. I had to be kept in a secure psychiatric ward for my own safety.

In 2016 I had the same apartment. I had a great consultancy contract. I was less stressed about the erratic nature of my life and the financial boom and bust, but I certainly didn't feel comfortable spending money.

In 2017 I had the same apartment and a great consultancy contract with Lloyds Banking Group. A large blood clot - a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) - formed in my leg and it caused the complication that my kidneys failed. I nearly died. I was sick for months with agonising nerve and muscle damage. Out of desperation I took a short contract in Manchester. It was so miserable that I tried to kill myself. I very nearly succeed - I was in a coma for 4 or 5 days in intensive care. I was sectioned and kept in a secure psychiatric ward for my own safety.

By the end of 2017 and into 2018 I had recovered enough to be consulting for an investment bank in London. I was commuting from Wales and staying in crappy AirBnBs. I was well paid but it was the most miserable life. I was homeless, single and coming to terms with having survived a suicide attempt which should definitely have killed me.

Then I got a consultancy contract in Wales. I had a nice girlfriend in Wales, I had a job in Wales and I had a very nice home in Wales with panoramic sea views. I was about to have my cake and eat it.

Then, soon after booking a short holiday, my consultancy contract ended early because the project was finished - I worked very hard and delivered early.

I got another consultancy contract in Wales. I still have that consultancy contract in Wales. I have a girlfriend who I think is amazing and I'm crazy about her. I have very serious feelings for her. I was about to have my cake and eat it.

Now my consultancy contract is ending prematurely. I worked hard and managed to rescue a very important project which was running late. I was working very hard to deliver our project early.

Clearly I work very hard. Clearly, I'm lucky enough to create these opportunties where I could have my cake and eat it but so far nothing's worked out for me.

It may well be possible for me to still have that amazing holiday we've got planned, but it will always be slightly spoiled by the stress of knowing that I don't have secure income when I get home, which makes me worried about money.

You can understand why I'm worried about money, can't you?

You can understand why it's so terrible that my holidays get ruined by having my consultancy contracts unexpectedly cut short, especially when I work so hard and make such a big contribution.

Of course, I could throw caution to the wind and take that luxury holiday anyway. If there's one repeating theme in this story, it's that I always bounce back from adversity. I could risk it all and go ahead with that holiday, which I desperately need and want.

I've been lucky. I got to go to Turkish Disneyland on my own. I got to go to Tulum in Mexico. My luck ran out eventually I guess. I have a beautiful girlfriend who is kind and loving and supportive, I have a gorgeous bengal kitten, I have a very nice great big house. I have a little financial security, but paying for a luxury 2-week holiday has a major negative impact on my meagre financial resources, seen in the context of how bad things can get: months in hospital, sleeping rough and nearly dying on several occasions.

Perhaps it's just not my destiny to have my cake and eat it.

 

Tags:

 

A Fool And His Money

5 min read

This is a story about wartime thrift...

Paradise

There are a couple of sayings which really annoy me, because they are untrue and misleading. The first is "if you watch the pennies the pounds look after themselves" and the second is "a fool and his money are easily parted". The people who quote these sayings most often are terrible advice givers whose own wealth - if they have any at all - has not come from thrift or lack of foolishness. The people who quote these sayings are absolute idiots.

We can use other common sayings to demolish the idiocy.

"You've got to speculate to accumulate" and "buy low sell high" are both pretty obvious and self-explanatory, aren't they? These sayings are far more useful than the former ones, but there's a problem: most people don't have any spare money.

I placed a sizeable bet yesterday which looked as if it was going to provide a decent return on my investment. In fact, I lost the bet, but I was able to hedge my position and as such I didn't lose more than I was prepared to risk. In no way was my betting foolish. In fact, my betting was very smart because I was in a position where I stood to make a considerable capital gain, and my risk was hedged. The main thing we should remember though, is that I was not only able to afford to place the bets, but I was also able to afford to lose the money. Most people do not have the luxury of being able to speculate like I can, because they don't have the 'disposable' income.

Other things I've spent substantial sums of money on in the last year include my house, the furniture within it, a bengal kitten and a lot of cat supplies, a holiday to Turkish Disneyland and a holiday to Tulum in Mexico. I consider none of this money to have been wasted.

It probably seems pretty whacky for a 39-year-old single man to go on holiday to a theme-park resort, but what the hell is wrong with you if you don't want to ride rollercoasters, water slides, surf artificial waves as well as enjoy some winter sunshine in a place which was created with precision engineering to bring absolute delight to its visitors? I laughed with joy at so many of the little surprise things on that holiday, including the delightful theme-park hotel which was designed very much for children, but I assure you can be enjoyed just as much by any adult. That whole holiday was perfect, except that I felt a little lonely and out of place as a single man in a family resort.

My decision to go to Tulum in Mexico was taken on a whim, because my [ex-]girlfriend had told me that she had dreamed of going there for years, but she didn't possess the financial means for that trip to ever come to fruition for her - she would never have been able to save up enough money to visit one of the most desirable holiday destinations on the planet. The arrangement worked well for me, in that I was able to get some more winter sun and do some kitesurfing, plus all the Mayan ruins and stuff were very cool. Some people might say that I was taken advantage of financially, given her complete lack of monetary contribution, but it was a manyfold times more enjoyable trip because I had her company and I took pleasure from taking her to her dream holiday destination.

I've been spending lots of money eating out in restaurants, getting takeaway deliveries and I just booked another holiday. It's been over 6 months since my last holiday, so I think I've earned it.

I spend a lot of money.

Money flows in-between my fingers, as if I was grabbing handfuls of fine white coral sand on one of the beautiful beaches where I sometimes take my holidays. Does it bother me that I spend vast sums of money instead of hoarding as much as possible; living like a miser? Does it bother me that all I have to show for the money I've spent is an amazing house, a beautiful kitten and some incredible memories of unforgettable experiences? No. I'm no fool.

I've ploughed money into seemingly lost-causes, such as donating small sums of money to a friend who I'm trying to financially support through a difficult period of his life, to the point where he can hopefully be self-sufficient. It's damn hard escaping poverty. I feel as though it's my duty to spread the wealth. I feel as though it's very unfair that I can make lots of money because I already have plenty of money. Those who have the most money make the most money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That's unfair.

I think it's victim-blaming to say that the poor would become rich if they were more careful with their money, and I find that kind of thinking very offensive.

 

Tags:

 

Help or Hinder

6 min read

This is a story about giving a hand up not a handout...

Empty cupboard

In my 39 years on this planet I've come across a few people whose lives I've tried to intervene in to produce a positive outcome. I'm somewhat undecided as to whether I'm helping, hindering, or making no difference except to myself, because I've wasted time, energy and money where it might otherwise have been invested in my sister, my niece or my friends and other important close relationships.

I try not to over-invest in anyone or anything. I'm heavily invested in work, but I still treat it like a job and I don't work too hard or take things too personally - work is just a means to an end; an efficient way of complying with capitalism's coercion.

There are two individuals who I have invested a significant amount of time, effort, energy and money into helping. I should qualify what I mean by "significant" when it comes to money. I expect that to most of my readers "significant" does not have the same meaning as it does for me. The only sums of money which have had a significant impact on my life have been related to my divorce and £8,000 of unpaid rent and bills which an ex-flatmate owes me. This is not a boast - it's simply the honest truth about my good fortune in life.

The first individual was a homeless alcoholic man I met in a park. He was making a great deal of effort to deal with the clusterf**k of issues he faced, which were bereavement trauma, commensurate self-medicating alcoholism, physical health issues related to sleeping rough, and the general reluctance of the welfare state to see his life as valuable. He had been repeatedly denied the holistic care that he needed: bereavement/trauma counselling, a residential alcohol detox, a residential rehabilitation program, a hostel bed and welfare payments to allow him to eat without begging until he was physically and mentally well enough to be able to work.

It seemed as if this first fellow was worth helping, because I could at least get him off the streets, into a hostel, and provide as much support as possible to help him navigate the maze of state services in order to get the alcohol detox and rehab that he desperately needed, as well as navigating a further maze of state services in order to get welfare payments to give him a meagre income while he recuperated.

To my mind, it was worth the money of renting a room for this guy and meeting him every day, to help support him through interminable meetings with the local council and various bureaucrats who act as gatekeepers, stopping sick people like him from becoming well and getting back on their feet.

The second individual was a young cocaine addict I met at a rehab. He was mostly adhering to the rehab program, although he had failed a drugs test on a couple of occasions and was obviously not committed to an unrealistic level of abstinence from drugs and alcohol. I felt sorry for this young chap because he'd already badly screwed up his life by getting a criminal record, yet he was clearly an intelligent and enterprising fellow. I suppose the second individual's issues were more complex, having to do with upbringing and the company he kept, which was liable to keep him forever in a life where recreational use of drugs was commonplace, and drug dealing was also an ever-present temptation, for easy money. I wouldn't be able to give an oversimplification of the underlying issues, so I won't even try - it would do a great disservice to that young man.

To my mind, it was worth the money of providing financial assistance to the second guy, because I hoped that he would see me as a friend, instead of a parent or other authority figure; I hoped that he would naturally arrive at the conclusion that it's a good idea not to abuse the kindness of friends, and begin to change from the mindset of "borrowing" and stealing from friends and family to feed a drug habit, to a new form of behaviour where he would see that some people are kind and patient. I thought he could use another person in his life who wasn't going to get fed up with his lies, his dishonesty and eventually his behaviour being so resistent to change that he would end up abandoned. I felt I could help because I have deep pockets and a lot of patience.

With the first individual, he got his hostel bed, his alcohol detox, his rehab, and now he's lived 5 years clean and sober, he got married and he's starting his own business. He's my big success story.

With the second individual, he's managed to rent a room. That's about where the good news ends. The second individual has had vastly more financial investment from me, which seems to have made very little net difference... in fact, he seems to be more in debt now than when I started trying to help him. My tireless patience and refusal to abandon him seems to have only ever once become apparent to him, when he asked me why I kept forgiving him, which was a wonderful moment. At least if I'm the one and only person in his life to have never abandoned him, and that's caused him to question whether he should "borrow" and steal from his friends and family until they cut ties with him and abandon him, then that's progress of a sort.

I'm conflicted about whether I should continue to support the second individual. I suppose I made a decision early on that the way I was going to help him was to not abandon him, so in a way I'm committed. What can be said for certain is that he is exceptionally talented at p*ssing off his friends and family and losing any source of income, such that he regularly becomes destitute, so there will probably be many more occasions where he will slowly realise that it's very useful to have me as a loyal friend who's decided to support him no matter what, purely for the point of teaching him the lesson that not everybody will abandon you: there is some value in treating certain loyal friends with more respect than everybody else.

My girlfriend tells me that I'm being used and that I should abandon the second individual, given his repeated demonstrations of an inability to learn, and an inability to recognise a golden opportunity to receive assistance. I've regularly offered to help in life-changing ways - to break the cycle he's stuck in - but he's been impossible to persuade. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

This essay is not about what a worthy and wonderful charitable individual I am, but in fact about the ethical dilemmas I face about whether I'm helping or hindering; whether I'm investing my considerable resources in the right places.

 

Tags:

 

Timing

4 min read

This is a story about orchestration...

Apple Watch

I bought myself a watch to celebrate getting a new consultancy contract. Soon after, I moved into a stunning apartment. Before long, I had over-exerted myself and was under unbearable pressure. I took a bath wearing my watch, believing it to be waterproof. The watch did not immediately fail or show any signs of damage, which compounded my belief that it was waterproof. Then, a small black spot appeared on the screen, which slowly spread until almost half the screen was blotted out.

It would be nice if life followed simple and easily observable patterns. It would be nice if Y always followed X, so if ever there was an event that resembled X, we could be sure that Y would be certain to happen. Life is not that simple.

I'm writing now - having just got home from work - because it's been my disciplined routine to write at the earliest opportunity each day. In my experience, writing and publishing during the early evening of the UK day is a good time, because it co-incides well with the routine of friends from New Zealand, Bay Area, Canada and other countries, as well as my domestic readers. In fact, it would be next-to impossible to write at almost any other time, because of strict rules I have set myself.

The rules:

  1. Never write at work or access my website at work, using work-related computers or networks, or even potentially overseen by colleagues on my own personal laptop.
  2. Never mention any company, project, person or other identifiable thing, where I do not wish there to be a deliberate link made (e.g. if I write about a company, it's probably because I don't plan on ever working there again).
  3. Rarely explicitly say things which easily link me to my "real" life, making it too easy for colleagues to know that I write this blog.
  4. Don't worry too much about writing at weekends - people are less interested in reading my blog at weekends, although some people use it as a chance to catch up. In some ways, it's better to write less at weekends.
  5. Don't write too late in the day. The earlier the better, to be honest, but work gets in the way.
  6. Try to keep the word count to 700 words or fewer.
  7. Write every day

Rule number one is a golden one, which I've only violated once when I was bored beyond belief at a client's site in 2016. It would be a bad habit to get into. I once showed a picture to a colleague on Instagram and he remembered the name of my Instagram account, showing just how dangerous it is to have things up on your screen at work that you don't want your colleagues to see.

Rule number two is also a golden one, while I'm dependent on a steady stream of consultancy contracts to pay the rent and bills. Perhaps one day when I'm rich and famous I can write whatever I want, but for now I need to be careful to not violate my code of conduct or act in any kind of unprofessional manner.

Rule number three is a bit ridiculous. My colleagues can easily find me if they want. Many ex-colleagues have found me. I'm not exactly hiding.

I'm not very good at sticking to other rules, except for writing every day. However, when I do take a break from writing on a daily basis it's usually a very good or very bad sign. It always used to be the case that breaking my daily writing habit was a surefire indication that I was unwell, but at the moment you should probably take the gaps as indicative that life is challenging, but I'm not in mortal peril.

I used to be in mortal peril quite often.

Presently, I don't know whether I'm taking a metaphorical bath with a watch which I believe to be waterproof, and the fact that no damage appears to have been done is actually misleading; giving me false hope. I feel that life is going very well, but I'm aware that the metaphorical black spot can appear suddenly, and then spread catastrophically with surprising speed.

I've written 699 words and I'm now going to publish this. Rules are rules.

 

Tags:

 

Radio Silence

5 min read

This is a story about being absent without leave...

Mast

Friends quite rightly worry about me when I stop writing regularly. Usually, a gap in my daily blogging routine indicates trouble. Often, the trouble can be very bad - the kind that would threaten my life, my job, my shelter, my money... everything could potentially go down the pan, surprisingly quickly.

It's very nice that concerned friends check in on me if I go quiet. It's very reassuring that people care about me. It's very touching that people would take time out of their day to try to contact me, to see if I'm OK.

I am OK.

I've been pretty damn exhausted and struggling to catch up on some much-needed sleep. I've been under a great deal of pressure at work. I've been feeling a bit jittery and anxious - insecure - as I'm in a new relationship and I'm really crazy about my girlfriend, and I'd hate for anything to go wrong. I have a whole new set of responsibilities now that I have a kitten.

One thing I've been doing regularly, at the expense of my blog, is washing duvets and duvet covers, because my kitten has a habit of peeing on them. My kitten is house trained and knows where her litter tray is, but she seems to want to pee on the bed, every single day. She's now banned from the bedrooms. Mercifully, she hasn't peed on my sofa, yet.

Last night I let my kitten roam free and she didn't pee. She didn't spend much time in my bedroom at all. She likes to sleep on a duvet, but I was sleeping under sheets because the duvet was drying. I guess she's taken to sleeping at the top of the house, where it's the warmest - probably next to the boiler. I always worry when I can't find her, but after a while calling her name I can hear her scamper down the stairs, from the very top floor.

Other than washing cat pee, I had a friend visiting from abroad, which was wonderful, and I spoke at length to two other friends. Also, I see my girlfriend a lot, which is amazing - we have very similar tastes in arts, culture and politics, and we can talk for hours. There are lots of good things going on in my life, which is also perhaps why I'm writing less: I tend to use writing therapeutically when life is very difficult.

I'm drinking too much, not exercising enough and I still need to catch up on sleep, but life is very good. I have some stresses - such as an invasive security vetting process, renegotiating my contract at work, and getting official permission to have a cat from my landlord - but on the whole my life is busy, entertaining, exciting and has some extremely pleasurable periods.

I'm in need of a week of rest and relaxation, to recharge my batteries, but the project I'm working on is very demanding and it's an important time to be in the office, making sure everything goes to plan and the project is a big success. I'm sure I can juggle the competing demands on my time, because I've worked hard to earn plenty of brownie points and build a good reputation with my colleagues.

It is a little tricky finding the time to write every day, and I know that it's a healthy habit to write and publish every day. I know that it's useful to keep the people who care about me informed of what's going on in my life. I know it's a worthwhile investment of time, continuing to write this blog.

I am spread a little thin and I am having a few problems with drinking too much, and skating on thin ice with so few energy reserves, leaving me somewhat prone to have a moment of impatient unkindness, either at work or at home. I feel resentful of colleagues who produce shoddy work at snail's pace. I feel jealous of friends who aren't working, who are much more time rich. However, it's my own stupid fault for taking on too much and not looking after myself.

Hopefully, I can start to write every day again. The tone of what I write will probably change. A lot of what I'm going to write about is how I spent a pleasant evening on the sofa, with my cute little kitten curled up sleeping on me, like she is now.

If you're looking for drama, it never seems to be very far away in my life. I have no idea what's going to shatter my pleasant existence, but there'll be some unpleasant surprise waiting for me, I'm sure.

For now, no news has been good news. I can deal with a bit of kitten pee. My life is very good at the moment. Being busy with my girlfriend, busy with my job, busy with visiting friends, and busy with my kitten - that's a nice state of affairs.

 

Tags: