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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words


People Read This?

7 min read

This is a story about audience...


There was a time when I had so few readers, I could make an educated guess as to who each of them was. I have a loyal reader who lives in Milan. I have a loyal reader who lives in Worcester. I have a lot of loyal readers in various locations in Canada, Australia, New Zealand. For larger cities, like London, it was a lot harder, but for smaller cities like my home city of Cardiff, I could still figure out roughly who was who, amongst my regular loyal readers.

Over the years - five and a half years to be precise - I have had visitors who were former or current work colleagues. That shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose, given that I have this public document, which intimately and candidly records my stream of consciousness, warts and all.

I say "warts and all" but we obviously behave differently in private than we do in public.

When I had only a few readers, they were people who I had regular conversations with; there was a personal connection between what I was writing, and them: I considered how my writing would be received by them. I thought to myself "I wonder what they will think when they read this?".

Then, a strange thing happened.

Little by little, the number of people who were reading my stuff started growing, quite substantially. Within a fairly short period of time, it was almost impossible for me to keep track of my regular readers, in amongst all the strangers, who were reading my stuff for the very first time; people who I'd never met or had a conversation with.

Because so many people were reading, a lot of them decided to email me, or otherwise contact me directly via Twitter or Facebook. As you can see from the graph above, my writing was being read by a substantial number of people, and I was being contacted many times during the day.

Then, another strange thing happened.

I decided to cull a lot of spammy/fake comments. Google didn't like that very much, so they harshly penalised me: my website dropped from the first page of Google, way down in the search results. The number of people reading every day dropped back to almost the same level it was before the unusual spike; almost to the point where I could pick out people who I know - regular readers who are friends - from in amongst the sea of strangers.

But, I never really re-adjusted: I no longer think, automatically, about who might be reading what I write.

I often think "it doesn't matter what I write, because I am going to kill myself quite soon". However, I do have some friends and other people, who I don't want to upset or offend. I'm not so sociopathic, that I have no empathy for other people's feelings. I am genuinely remorseful, when I learn that I have hurt somebody.

I wrote yesterday about a friend - a work colleague - who's one of the few work colleagues who's contacted me to tell me that they're a reader. That friend is probably the only person in the world of whom I regularly think to myself "what would they think, if they read this?". In fact, that friend has posed that question to me: what would our colleagues think, if they read this? I tend to assume that they do not read this.

Generally speaking, I tend to assume that nobody reads this, in the very small circle of people who I interact with in "normal civilised society". That is to say, I assume that my neighbours don't read this, nor does my doctor, nor does my accountant, nor does my landlord, nor anybody else who has some kind of interest in me, financially or professionally. That extends, naturally, to work colleagues: I would assume that they would connect on LinkedIn, send me a friend request on Facebook or ask to connect on Instagram, or some other popular social media site, if they wanted to be "virtual" friends. In fact, in a professional context, I assume that nobody wants to be my real friend, except the friend who contacted me to say that they read what I write, here, on this website.

Which is the reasonable thing to assume? That nobody reads this - except those few who I know about, who read occasionally - because I'm not that interesting or likeable; also why would anybody I meet think that I would have written and published 1.4 million words on a website, which they could easily find with Google? Or, is it more reasonable to assume that people are curious, and given that I work with a lot of people, a handful of them might have been bored enough one day to put my name into a search engine.

Also, of course, my profile picture does have a cunning disguise... so how would anybody know for certain that they'd found the Nick Grant they were looking for?

In conclusion, I suppose what I've written takes on a very different complexion if it's being read by work colleagues. There have been plenty of times when I've been gripped by the delusions of grandeur which accompany bipolar manic episodes, and I have expressed my irritability, frustrations, and low opinion of some of what I've witnessed during my working hours; also I have loudly broadcast my arrogance, aloofness, smugness, and given the general impression that I have single-handedly delivered all the work involved in a very big budget project, in spite of the lesser mortals who've tried to thwart me.

As stated, I'm not sure who's reading this, but on the assumption that every single one of my colleagues is reading: I'm really sorry for being a dick. I'm not always right. My productive contribution is negligible. The upset I have caused has been inexcusable. I have vastly over-estimated the value of what I have delivered. I'm the guy who ruins people's working day, and makes the working environment unpleasant; unbearable. I'm really sorry.

I know that I don't offer nothing and I know that I don't create only problems, but it seems like the balance is wrong. My brain tells me that what I do is important, although I am acutely aware that I am very far from being indispensible (which is quite deliberate, I assure you: I hate key-person dependencies) my brain tells me that I am useful to have around, and that when required, I can do stuff which is really helpful. However, my brain often converts that into: "I am Jesus Christ re-incarnated; there is no greater living human being than I; I am the son of god" based on very little evidence, and it's only counter-balanced by the continuous thought "existence is nothing but unbearable suffering; existence is futile". In the middle, my brain then tells me "in order to give life some meaning in this godless universe, you should build some really fucking nice software which will impress people".

The net result of all of the above, is that, it turns out, I'm a real arsehole to people, sometimes. Sorry about that. I don't actually have an excuse. There's probably a simple solution, which would stop me being an arsehole. Most people's solution is probably just to decide "I'm not going to be an arsehole"... it's that simple.

I would just ramble more if I kept writing, but the final thought is this: I'm really sorry. I really do want people to enjoy my company. I really do want to make people's day better. I do think about it, when I've been a dick. I do feel guilty. I am sorry.




Ticks in Boxes

3 min read

This is a story about form filling...


So my project is delivered and the giant form-filling SurveyMonkey exercise has begun. Today was supposed to be exciting, but it wasn't. It was boring. If I do a good job, then this part of the project is boring. If I do a good job then everything's supposed to work and run smoothly. I expect there will be problems, but at the moment there aren't any, mainly because nobody's doing the damn survey.

It's a little anti-climactic. I got up super early this morning, hoping to see the first users using the system, but there've barely been more than a handful of people who've stumbled upon the system. It won't be until tomorrow or the day after that people are notified that they have to do something, and their survey results will start flooding in. After so many months of hard work, it's a little hard to sit and watch a flat-line graph, showing virtually zero activity, the whole day. What a disappointment. At least things are working though, so far as we can tell.

I can't go into too much detail, because I'm bound by codes of conduct, privacy & confidentiality contractual clauses, and indeed other rather scary-sounding laws which restrict me from spilling the beans, but the good old general public are about to be asked to do a cool SurveyMonkey, and this is jolly exciting... except it isn't because nobody's doing it yet.

I'm exhausted.

It's been a long old slog to get to this point.

With so much nervous anticipation, it's hard to maintain the same level of energy and enthusiasm when nothing is happening. I found myself nodding off at my desk so I had to come home early. I'll try to get an early night and lots of sleep, in the hope that tomorrow is a more exciting day, providing some adrenalin to carry me through an otherwise pretty anti-climactic period.

It's supposed to go smoothly. It's supposed to go well. There aren't supposed to be any problems.


Having worked so hard for so long, to meet a very tight deadline, I really don't quite know how to re-adjust to life without that pressure; without that goal and sense of purpose. It's difficult changing mindset, from push, push, push, to now wondering what fire is going to break out that will need to be put out; what crisis is going to emerge?

Still very obsessed with work and project, but the waiting is now mostly over, and we'll soon know whether some bold decisions I made have paid off, or whether they'll cause terrible problems and turn out to be disastrous.




London Keeps You Fit

9 min read

This is a story about declining health...

Bike tyre

My mental health can be tracked reasonably well by thinking about the periods when I was so extremely unwell that work became impossible, there are gaps in my blog and there's photographic evidence that I was having an episode of stimulant psychosis and sleep-deprivation induced insanity. The evidence of my naturally fluctuating bipolar mood is very obscured by other major events, including job loss, money worries and periods of relapse and addiction. There, however, periods when I've been functioning well enough to start getting back on my feet, although these have been quite short-lived and usually occur at some point between May and October.

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well as bipolar, so my tendency towards mania has started to become linked to the summer months. As my life became more chaotic and unmanageable, depression and drug abuse started to appear during the peaks and troughs. I've suffered winter relapses and summer relapses. I've also spent endless months with seemingly unshakeable and relentless anxiety and depression, which has been unbearable while working boring bullshit full-time jobs.

Through all the difficulties of divorce, selling my house, moving to London and attempting to get back on my feet - getting a new place to live and new job sorted out - I've suffered a whole series of seemingly catastrophic events which have always threatened to destroy me, but somehow every year I managed to do some good work and earn plenty of money.

By the time I arrived in hospital for the umpteenth time, I was completely burnt out by the demands of getting myself off the streets, into my own apartment and working on an extremely high pressure project for an incredibly demanding client. However, I was remarkably fit and healthy. My blood pressure and my resting heart rate both indicated an excellent level of fitness.

I suppose I knew I was fit. I had been lugging my luggage all over London, from hostel to hostel, because I was homeless. I cycled everywhere and I cycled very fast and aggressively - I loved the buzz of weaving through London traffic on my bike with handlebars sawn to the exact width of my shoulders. When there was a tube strike, I cycled all the way from North-West London to East London through the horrendous traffic jams. Cycling anywhere took me less time than it would have done by any other means of transport, with the possible exception of helicopter.

Even when I stopped cycling regularly I still did a lot of walking. To commute to my job in the City required a fairly long walk to my nearest Docklands Light Railway station, and a couple of times a week I had to visit a client in South London, which required even more walking. Seeing friends meant more walking. Going to the supermarket meant more walking. Seeing my girlfriend meant more walking. I maintained a reasonable standard of fitness through 2016, although not quite matching the preceding years.

In 2017 my health completely failed me and I was in hospital on dialysis for ages. Psychologically, I wasn't able to recover from the setback. I watched my savings dwindle depressingly quickly and I knew that I was going to end up evicted from my apartment; bankrupt and homeless. I knew that I couldn't face the exertion of pulling myself up by my bootstraps and getting back on my feet, yet again. I'd had a remarkable 2014, 2015 and 2016, where those years had horrendously bad periods, but also periods when I was productive and earning a lot of money. I hadn't been able to reach escape velocity at any point, and get myself back to a position of financial and housing security, with a dependable source of income. It had been an almost relentlessly shitty 3 years in terms of having the gains I had made smashed to smithereens. I had tried hard to make things work in London for a long time I'd run out of road - I had to leave to avoid total destitution.

Fitness tracker

I've amended the graph I made a short time ago to include 2015, so it can be compared and contrasted with more recent years. Every year used to look like 2015. It's quite plain to see how 2017 and this year are not showing my usual summertime boost at all. I'm having a terrible time in terms of fitness and physical health.

My brief stay in Manchester - August 2016 - was too short to say whether it could have been healthy, but I very much doubt it would have been. I didn't want to be there. The place was not inspiring.

Wales - as the data clearly shows - has not been a healthy move for me at all. The air quality is worse where I live than it was in Central London. There's little reason to walk anywhere - my local job was too far to walk and it was too easy to just drive everywhere. I live on a very steep hill, which is somewhat of a disincentive to walk to the beach, the shops or the pub, knowing there's such an uphill struggle on the way home. For 3 months I was commuting from Wales to London, which of course meant I was doing a lot of walking and carrying a heavy bag - I was starting to get fitter. The chance to work closer to home was too good to turn down, but when my mood wobbled and I had a rough patch, I've been very inactive since. I hardly left my apartment for the best part of two months.

My lifestyle now involves hardly any walking at all. I jump in my car on a Monday morning and park outside my office. I drive to a hotel where I stay 3 nights a week and I always eat in the pub next door. I drive home and I don't leave my apartment, except to walk to the nearby corner shop to buy wine and unhealthy snacks.

What people don't realise about London is how far you have to walk to get around. Walking to the tube station, then walking up and down the steps and through the various passageways that connect the different lines. I would always be prepared to walk further to get to my preferred places to eat and buy groceries. Dating in London always seemed to require quite a lot of walking. I'm not particularly inspired to socialise, date or in any way engage with the place where I live in Wales. I just stay at home, drinking wine and watching TV.

I've made a concerted effort to cut down my drinking to 3 nights a week or fewer. I'm changing a lot of things all at the same time, which is very intense and hard to deal with, but I think I feel a bit of improvement. When I started my new job 4 weeks ago I was having panic attacks and hating most of the time I was in the office. I felt like walking out and killing myself. I was drinking a bottle of wine or 4 pints of beer every single night, and twice that amount on Friday and Saturday nights. I was abusing prescription painkillers and sleeping tablets and tranquillisers, in a desperate attempt to cope with the stress and anxiety.

Now I've stopped taking the sleeping tablets and I've stopped drinking midweek. I've managed to get through a couple of weekends where I've limited my drinking to less than a bottle of wine each night. It might still sound excessive, but it's a huge positive change from where I was.

I went out for a walk a week ago, and this weekend I went for a longer walk and I socialised with friends. That's a big change from a few weeks ago, when I hated the idea of leaving the house for any reason except to buy another bottle of wine from the closest shop.

In London I stayed fit and healthy simply because of the amount of walking I had to do to get to my job and drag my groceries home from the shops. In London I stayed fit and healthy because of the intensity of the place; the buzz I got from travelling around the place.

I had feared that I'd completely slumped recently, and I was destined to become a fat blob of a couch potato. My drinking had gotten out of control and I didn't want to do anything other than lie on the sofa getting drunk.

I don't exactly feel motivated to join a gym or start doing sports, but we have to consider the relative improvement. Things are a lot better than they were.

I have my cerebral preoccupations. I work with my brain not my body and I have my writing to do every day after work, which is surprisingly exhausting. I hope that when I reach my million-word target in a couple of weeks, I'll be more relaxed about my writing. I'm starting to regain my confidence at work and I'm getting more relaxed. Hopefully I'll be able to have a holiday or two in the coming months, without too much worry about jobs and money - hopefully I now have reasonably secure income for the foreseeable future.

I'm going to have to take some more pro-active steps to get fit and healthy than I'm used to. In London I got fit just doing the things I needed to do, like getting from A to B.

In theory, I should have more time, money and energy to spend my leisure time being fit and active, because people work fewer hours outside London and the cost of living is a lot less. In practice, I'm struggling to re-adjust.

I know that getting fitter will be hugely beneficial for my physical and mental health. Baby steps though - it's important not to try to do everything all at once.





9 min read

This is a story about climbing mountains...

Cumulative word count

Look how close I am to my target of 1 million words in 3 years. I've got about 33,000 words to go. 42,000 words I published on as an experiment to see if I'd get more readers if I used it instead of my own website, which accounts for the step at around 750,000 words. I'm ahead of target, because I've been averaging 1,838 words per day and I only needed to average 1,243. If I continue at the rate I've been doing for the past week then I'll reach my goal in 18 days, which will be about 2 weeks early.

Of course I'm aware that the quality has been extremely variable. In one single day I wrote 10,000 words of very dubious quality. My second novel is unfinished and I'm really not very pleased with what I wrote at all, so should I really include those 42,000 words in the total?

What does it even matter anyway? Hasn't it all been a stupid waste of time and effort?

I used an anonymous internet connection with a browser which didn't have any cookies in it in order to check which page of Google I'm on and it was page 3... and page 4 if I search from outside the UK. Obviously "manic grant" comes up as number one, but I was disappointed to see that my appearance on page 1 or 2 was only because Google knows who I am and where I am, and was tailoring the search results to flatter my over-inflated ego.

I lost 6,700 Twitter followers overnight quite recently, due to Twitter doing a big purge of bots. I didn't realise I had so many bots following me, but I was rather inundated with followers which were part of a big scam to get people to click on a dating website link. "Click the link in my profile" these fake followers tweeted, with borderline-pornographic profile pictures as the bait. Later, these followers tweeted "click the link pinned to my profile" and their profile claimed that they were interested in "cosplay" whatever that is. In some ways it was good to lose all those fake followers, because it was always a bit disappointing when I thought I had a new follower and it turned out to be a bot. However, the damage done to the 'headline' number of followers really upset me and took the wind out of my sails.

When I moved to for a month and stopped writing my blog it really damaged my momentum in terms of regular readers. It didn't help that live-publishing a chapter per day of my experimental novel, which was of very dubious quality, was quite off-putting for those visitors who were expecting to find another instalment of insanity and miserable moaning.


You can see from this graph of my website visitors that my experiment with writing something that I thought would be popular on Reddit worked exactly as well as I thought it would. You can also see that my suicide attempt - which I tweeted about - and my subsequent coma, life support in critical care, getting sectioned and being locked up on a psych ward, generated quite a lot of visitors... not that it was my intention that time, of course.

You can see that my annus horribilis of 2017 is perfectly reflected in the graph. I wasn't writing regularly and the quality of what I was writing was negatively affected by ill health, addiction, drug abuse, sleep deprivation and stimulant psychosis.

Of course if I just wanted to pump my numbers up and have as many visitors as possible, I know what's popular and how to get people to click, but I've tried really hard not to be led by my analytics and vanity metrics. I try to ignore the data as much as possible and just write whatever I need to write about, as a form of brain-dumping therapy.

I set out to write about mental health problems - specifically suicidal thoughts. I didn't mean to write so much about my innermost private thoughts and feelings. I never intended to write a whole series of opinion pieces on subjects, when I was feeling insecure; desperately trying to prop up my fragile self-esteem by publishing my thoughts on current affairs during a period when I was very unwell and running out of money very quickly. I definitely didn't intend to weaponise my blog to grind my axe and take out my frustrations on people who had upset me.

Readers respond very quickly to the changes in my mood and the not-too-subtle direction I'm dragging my blog in at any one time. If I'm messed up, irregular and erratic, then I lose my regular readers. If I'm bitter, angry, vicious and vengeful then readers are turned off; revulsed. If I'm distracted and pursuing some other goal - such as writing a novel - then readers are confused by that change of tack, and they wonder what happened to the regular daily stream-of-consciousness brain dump. If I get too wrapped up in current affairs and start to get on my high horse and pontificate about whatever's in the newspapers, then it's a big turn-off for readers.

I feel really bad about every single period where I lost focus and wandered up one of the many dead-ends I'm prone to ending up choosing when things aren't going well in my life.

The main thing that's really clear from the graph is that when there's stability in my life, there's steady growth in the number of regular readers I have, who are engaging with my content. Also clear is that when there's a huge crisis in my life, there's a brief period when people who care about me are reading, but those readers quickly drop away when the danger has passed.

The period from December last year until now perfectly mirrors what has been happening in my life, in terms of getting back on my feet. I've been steadily working, earning money, getting important things in place like a place to live and a car. My financial situation has been improving rapidly. The graph shows really clearly just how stable my life has been in a visual way, which is both pleasing and encouraging.

Step count

Looking at my average daily step count really shows just how bad 2017 was... or at least the first half of 2017 anyway. Each year of my life follows a very seasonal pattern, with hardly any activity in the winter months, and lots of activity from May to September, reaching its peak in July. My cyclical nature is obvious when you look at the step count graphs... but 2017 was a terrible year and it's caused my cycle to go haywire. As you can see from the graph, things are erratic, not cyclical. What you can't see are all the previous years where I had summers packed full of activity.

The trend regarding my physical activity is most alarming. The trend is clearly downwards.

If we were to do a graph of my net worth, it would mirror my blog activity and it would mirror a graph of the number of hours I spend in the office. If we were to graph the number of times I wrote the word "bored" we'd probably see that it's anti-correlated with periods of stability, work and high income. When we look at my step count, it's usually the case that it increases when I'm working, except during winter. I'm hoping that my lack of activity this year is a result of struggling to recover from the horrors of 2017. I'm hoping that my physical activity levels climb out of the low point they're in. I'm really not enjoying miserable summers.

The graphs tell a really cool story which completely correlate with my memories and perceptions.

I remember the period of spring to summer 2016 as being particularly productive, and although I was very bored at work, I was earning a lot of money and my life was stable. I went on holiday for my birthday at the end of July 2016, which correlates perfectly with the big peak in my website visitors.

The low-point in my activity in June 2017 correlates perfectly with the lowest point of my life, when I'd broken up with the love of my life, run out of money, had to leave my amazing apartment and had to leave London. As I wrote a few days ago, that was probably my rock bottom period, although it's only with hindsight that I see that now - at the time it was very stressful and miserable, but I was too busy fighting to survive to stop and consider how awful things were in the grand scheme of things.

In terms of pure progress, there's still so much work to do. I've got to clear all my debts, complete a whole year of work without a major incident, and I've got to finish my 1 million words to some reasonable standard of quality. For my own sense of achievement, I need to have a period when I'm writing short, concise pieces which I'm pleased with, and not just churning out the raw words to pump up the word count and achieve the arbitrary goal. I want my readers to have a period where the quality justifies the vast amount of time wasted perusing the pages of this particular and peculiar publication.

The graphs don't quite do justice to the journey I've been on, and a number like 1 million is seemingly trivial in a world which has racked up debts in the trillions. However, I assure you that the project has been every bit as hard as scaling an 8,000m+ peak, such as Mount Everest.

Ah yes, that's the other work that's still to do: I need to get more fit and active.

On that note, I'm going to the pub.




Step Count

1 min read

This is a story about data...


I'm not going to write a proper blog post today - there isn't enough time. However, I don't want to skip a day so here's a random graph. I'm thinking about how my step count is steadily increasing despite the fact I've had a chest infection for a couple of weeks. I'm thinking about how all the data - such as the consistent daily word count - is indicative of my improving situation.

I've got plans to create a map of every bed I've slept in during the last 4 months, my bank balance over time, the sentiment of my blogs using certain keywords (e.g. "depression") and some kind of cross-correlation of it all.

It's great to collect data. It's great to be able to see trends.




Care Quality

8 min read

This is a story about being inspected...

A tivities

Today the psych ward is being inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the staff are so nervous that some of them feel physically sick. I try to reassure one nurse that they're doing their best, despite staff shortages and rampant drug use - the synthetic cannabinoid called Spice is ubiquitous throughout prisons and psych wards.

There's always somebody peering over your shoulder, sneeringly judging you. Is it any wonder that paranoia takes hold in a mind, destroying it? The United Kingdom has an exceptional ability to track the movement of its citizens, using simple conventional CCTV - no spy satellites even needed.

In the free West, we deride the Stasi and the KGB. We talk about China's vast number of people employed to snoop on their own citizens, but we don't acknowledge the work of GCHQ and the NSA. Have we forgotten Edward Snowden's revelations so quickly? The Government read your fucking emails and the police - the regular ordinary police - have a backdoor into Facebook to read all your private messages.

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear. If you believe that, why do you feel stressed if a police car is following you when you're driving, and a sense of relief when the police overtake you and disappear over the horizon? You have insurance; you've had your car's roadworthiness tested; you've paid your road tax... nothing to worry about, right?

It was only a short time ago that I was deeply indoctrinated by my schooling, that had shaped me into a meek conformist - I was fearful of defying any of society's rules and regulations. A family friend wanted to go fishing with me, and I said we needed to obtain a permit. "Our prisons are full of people who got caught fishing without a license" this friend laughed. "What are you in here for? Murder. What are you in here for? Fishing without a license" he continued jovially.

The city centre is crammed with 50,000 protestors preparing to march. I walk past a police cordon and I can hear a police officer yelling at me that I can't go the way I'm going, but I know that he'll be busy dealing with my obedient friend who will have stopped per the instructions. I keep walking, pretending to be unable to hear the entreaties to return. The policeman lets my friend go and we walk to the head of the march.

Police car

I'm sure that anarchy would be a disaster for sick and vulnerable people. I have no desire to see civilised society crumble. We can't all do whatever the fuck we want, whenever the fuck we want. Perhaps if everybody acted like I did, it would be the end of the world as we know it.

"Don't walk" says the sign in the United States. I jaywalk with gay abandon. Even in Manchester people look at me like I'm mad and suicidal, for the way I cross the road. However, it's done with such confident aplomb that nobody challenges me. I notice that people who are surrounded by plenty of steel and glass and plastic, such that they would suffer no injury at all if they killed me to death with their motor vehicle, do not give a single fuck about whether I live or die. In London, a motorist will slow down or even brake, to avoid killing a pedestrian, but these provincial plebs treat human lives with no such sanctity.

To live in a crowded city is to be humbled by humanity. To be detained against your will on an underfunded psych ward is to humbled, also. In the city, you are forced to confront your pathetic meaningless existence, as an ant crawling in its nest would be, if it had the faculties to perceive itself and its surroundings. But an ant's nest is akin to a row of gleaming skyscrapers, insofar as being a testament to what can be achieved by a society working together. On the psych ward, you are forced to confront your powerlessness over forces greater than yourself - society will exclude its troublemakers.

Perhaps you think I would endorse heroin being sold in supermarkets and that babies' pacifiers should be replaced with crack pipes?

As six police officers pinned me to the ground and my bum was injected with lorazepam, in the Accident & Emergency department of a hospital, I noticed a cleaner and a security guard nearby - some of the lowest paid people in society are often completely unacknowledged for the role they play in maintaining the division between the peasants and the aristocracy. My face was inches from the floor, but the policeman's trousered knee on my head was clean and so was the linoleum. Circles of red and green blinked at me - the police bodycams, videotaping the whole gruesome specatcle. I'd fallen from grace, but I hadn't slipped anywhere near the bottom - it's a long way down.

A friend whose judgement I trust and respect, tells me that I should drop the bad boy image of "the guy who got fucked up in Manchester". She knows that people are watching and I'm misrepresenting myself. She knows that people are lazy and won't look any deeper than the superficial image that I present.

Is my life - and the way I document it - by accident or by design? Do you imagine that when I'm writing, I don't think at all about how things are going to be perceived? The joke's on you if you don't read what I write with the prerequisite pinch of salt.

If you just dip in at random - like a care quality inspector - then you will get a random impression. On a good day you'll get a good impression. On a bad day you'll get a bad impression.

Violent restraints

Do you think the graph above shows that things are improving? No. No it does not. Things are getting worse. Much, much worse. The data above shows conclusively that during the period under examination, there was a fourfold increase in the very metric that was supposed to be cut by 80%.

Do you remember blue tablet man? Well, anyway, he assaulted a nurse for giving him a yellow tablet (5mg of diazepam) instead of a blue tablet (10mg of diazepam).

A drugs dog sweeps the ward. The patients believe the dog can sniff out cigarette lighters. I ask the handler if the dog can sniff Spice and he confirms that it can. There's Spice everywhere on the ward, despite its deleterious effect on the mental health of susceptible individuals - prodromal schizophrenia can turn into fully-blown psychosis under the influence of the powerful synthetic cannabis, making it all the more concerning that it's so widespread on an acute psychiatric ward.

The patients here are the lucky ones and they know it. Everybody agrees it's better to be here with a warm dry bed and three hot meals a day. Everybody agrees it's better to be here, where the chances of being beaten up and/or robbed are minimal. With winter on its way, months of unimaginable suffering lie ahead of Manchester's homeless population, which has increased 1,100% in just 7 years - and a huge number of them smoke Spice.

Abandon hope all ye who entered the world from the mid-1990s onwards. What are the prospects for the youth of today, and the glut of graduates who were promised that indebting themselves and spending three or four years at university would be a good move?

Does it not seem like an obvious reaction to a decline in living standards, to retreat into drugged-up oblivion?

We're sifted and sorted and dissected by tests. We're examined, inspected and measured in every conceivable way. We never have any respite from the world's desire to label us, grade us and monitor us. The pressure to meet the expectations placed upon us is relentless. Some of us will crumble and have nervous breakdowns or be paralysed by anxiety disorders. Some of us will rebel and kick back at the suffocating environment that's desperate to eject and marginalise anybody who doesn't neatly fit in a box. Lots of subcultures have sprung into existence, with members exchanging knowing looks - these people are so much happier now that they have rejected the stereotype they were supposed to embody.

It saddens me that the hard-working staff on the ward are anxious and on best behaviour, when the other 364 days a year I know that they try their very hardest. This is just one of many psych wards, where the macro problems are greater than anything that can be influenced in the microcosms.

If you're going to randomly dip in, be careful to not make a lazy judgement based on a small sample size.




Gone Fishin'

7 min read

This is a story about being observant...

ECG stickers

Where do blue tablets actually come from? Well, presumably they are pooped out by blue fish, like the ones that can be seen swimming here on the pavement and road. Can you see them - the little blue fishies?

With our Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat on, puffing from our pipe, we might deduce from the proximity of a large hospital and the lack of water, that these are not actually fish. What could they be?

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a graph of what's going on in our head, quite literally. En kephalé means "in head" in Greek, and the gram bit means "written down". Electro should be relatively self-explanatory.

Were these fish involved in seeing what was going on inside somebody's head? No, I don't think so.

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a graph of our heartbeat, as denoted by the cardio part.

In order to know what our heart's doing, we are all very familiar with the stethoscope, but there's a more accurate test that doesn't depend on human hearing. The muscles that pump the 4 chambers of the heart never stop unless you go into cardiac arrest or otherwise die. Muscles give off tiny electrical impulses, and these can be measured with highly sensitive equipment - an ECG machine.

So what about these fish? Well, it looks like they're the little sticky electrodes that are put on each of your ankles, arms and across your chest around your heart. When you are hooked up to an ECG machine, you've got a stack of cables attached to you.

One of my fellow patients at the hospital was in such a big hurry to get rid of these stickers, after having the health of their heart measured, that they tore them off and discarded them onto the floor, quite possibly in a fit of rage at having been cared for by one of the finest healthcare systems in the world. It's quite understandable that having received lifesaving treatment that's free at the point of use, this individual should have ripped these electrodes off their body and tossed them onto the road and pavement - that'll teach society a lesson, now that a street sweeper will have to come along and clean up this trash!

We might note that there are only 4 stickers, and we can presume that these are the ones from the person's wrists and ankles, which would have been most conspicuous. Perhaps it wasn't until the person explored their body later, that they found 4 more on their chest - one of which was lurking around on their left hand side and might not even have been discovered until a later date.

Debate rages in the United Kingdom, about whether we should have penalties to discourage people from treating the National Health Service disrespectfully. We could charge people for a no-show to a General Practice (GP) or outpatient appointment. We could charge people for any visit to Accident & Emergency for trivial matters that could have been treated at a minor injuries clinic, or perhaps did not require medical attention at all.

There is evidence that we are starting to allow a two-tier society to emerge where none is supposed to exist. Doctors' waiting rooms have plush leather seats for 'VIP' patients - who are paying for private consultations - while the NHS patients sit on hard wooden chairs. For an operation, paying to go private might mean skipping waiting times, even though it will be the same surgical team, in the same hospital, with the same equipment and in the same operating theatre. Although it's not supposed to happen, surely some of the waiting times are because private patients are queue-jumping?

Those at the bottom struggle with zero-hours contract minimum wage jobs, with the purchasing power of their pay packet decreasing every month, due to inflation. Things are not a lot better on the next rung of the ladder - an NHS Clinical Support Worker's salary tops out at around £15,000. That's £259 a week. Ouch. My rent in London was £480 a week. The wealth disparity is disgusting, isn't it?

While the cost of housing and the cost of energy - electricity and gas - is skyrocketing with double-digit percentage increases, wages barely increase at all. One only needs to look at the use of food banks, to see that the little people are struggling - people who clean your toilet, scrub your floor, wipe your bum, cook your food, stack your shelves and scatter rose petals along the privileged path that you walk. But, these spoiled brats still vote for a ruling elite who care nothing for the wails of distress that are now becoming a deafening scream of pain.

The bulk of the BBC was moved up to Manchester a few years ago, and it's been quite evident that it's had an effect on the mindset of the people who work for the broadcaster. In London, the homelessness problem is inconspicuous in wealthy districts, but in Manchester - where homelessness has soared 1,100% in just 7 years - the problem is inescapable. The BBC has shown a number of documentaries which accurately reflect exactly what I have seen and experienced: there are vast numbers of people in dire need of assistance.

Who wants a McJob that doesn't even pay enough to be able to rent a room in a shit apartment, and have any life at all? Does it surprise you that people are smoking strong synthetic cannabinoids which allow them to escape the stress and hopelessness of a hideous reality that nobody in Government seems to want to address.

There's a crisis that's going on all around us. Pull back the covers and human tragedy is unfolding underneath.

This is not a "wake up sheeple!" alarmist or sensationalistic think-piece, but in actual fact an unfliching and painfully truthful account - I bear testament to what I've seen - of the shocking disparity between London and the South-East, where our wealth is concentrated, and the rest of the United Kingdom where things are very grim indeed.

We talk about the 'Westminster Bubble' and I can attest first hand what it's like. At the beginning of this year I was at the grand headquarters building of Her Majesty's Revenue Collectors (HMRC) and it had been refurbished to an incredibly high standard. I was taken to an extremely grand room, which was capacious enough to hold at least 50, maybe even 100 people, but only had me and the two people interviewing me. Otherwise this space was left empty and unused, so far as I could see - perhaps a metaphor for all the empty homes that have been bought by foreign investors in London.

Meanwhile, it was barely two years ago that I was in social housing apartment (council flat) in London, which was in such a poor state of repair that there was literally 2 inches of water that one had to paddle through, in order to use the toilet or a terrible shower that barely worked. It's quite clear where our tax money is going - tax breaks for millionaires, not houses for nurses.

Bursaries for nursing have now been removed, so our nurses will emerge with the best part of £60,000 of debt when they qualify, which will further reduce their take-home pay. The interest on a student loan of that magnitude is more than 12% of our nurses' starting salary of £22,000, which means they will sink deeper and deeper into debt each year.

Who will mop up your sick, piss, vomit, blood, mucous, pooh, give you a sponge-bath in bed, say soothing things and give you painkillers when you cry out in agony, come running when you press the call button and generally make you as comfortable as possible when you're unwell?

As comrade Corbyn said: a millionaire in their mansion is going to need an ambulance if they have a heart attack, just like anybody else.





8 min read

This is a story about key performance indicators...

Box of bottles

Most of us have salaried jobs and most of us have line managers. We sit down once or twice a year with our manager - the boss - and we agree some performance objectives for us to try and meet. When we have an appraisal of how well things have been going at work, we look at whether or not we managed to achieve what we were supposed to do.

I hate to have to break it to you, but what you're doing is complete and utter bollocks.

In hierarchical organisations, your pay rise and promotion prospects are decided by somebody who's been promoted into a position of total incompetence. Intrinsic to their very existence, organisations have a pyramid structure, where there are vast numbers of people trying to reach the next rung on the ladder; the next layer of middle-management.

You would hope that hard work and rhetoric about meritocratic culture would help you get ahead in life, but you've been playing the game by the wrong rules.

Work is a popularity contest. If you want to get the best pay rise and the best promotion, you have to be liked by people who are more senior than you are, and you have to make your boss look good: those are the only two rules.

If you are not liked by your boss and you didn't do any of the things that you were supposed to do, it doesn't matter at all, so long as you did things that make your boss look like he or she is 'managing' you effectively. If you are liked by multiple senior people, then your boss will not be able to block any ambitions you have for promotion, which is pretty much all your boss is trying to do - bosses are promoted until they can no longer be promoted, and then they block their subordinates from progressing in their careers.

Being liked by your peers and/or your subordinates is completely unimportant. Nobody gives a shit about the underlings' opinions. Nobody is ever going to ask your peer group what they think about you. Therefore, to be popular amongst people at the same level as you - or below - is only to waste precious time that you could spend impressing more senior people.

It is notable, that at no point have I mentioned doing any work. This is because doing work is a complete waste of time. Nobody ever got a pay rise or a promotion for doing actual work. If you're busy doing work, then how are you going to have any time to make yourself popular or do things that make your boss look good? If you do the things that you agreed with your boss, how can your boss take any credit for doing anything other than just doing their basic job?

Thus, organisations have disincentivised work and incentivised spending time kissing asses and yelling loudly about how great we are, while we attempt to get promoted into positions of incompetence.

Seriously, if you think you're good at your job, you're stuck at a dead-end - you're going nowhere.

Pictured above is a plastic crate full of empty wine bottles, beer bottles and beer cans. When the plastic crate is full, I can count the empty containers, read the ABV (Alcohol By Volume) off each one, and total up the aggregate amount of alcohol that I have consumed in a given time period. This gives me a data point, which I can record in a spreadsheet.

You might assume that there would be an inverse correlation between my alcohol consumption and my monthly take-home pay, but in fact, the very opposite is true - the more I drink, the more I earn.

I'm not going to argue with the data. The facts are the facts. My consumption of alcohol is the best predictor of my income. I can't tell you what the causality is, but I can tell you for certain that there is a correlation. However, I will tell you what my hypothesis is though.

Drinking is a social lubricant. I'm prone to saying and doing regrettable things while under the affluence of incahol, but the lunchtime 'sesh' or the after-work beers are not subject to any organisational hierarchies - we are all equals when inebriated. Being drinking buddies with the bosses never did any harm to anybody's career, provided you are not sick on anybody's shoes.

Being hungover compromises your ability to function, forcing you to find creative excuses for your lack of productivity. Hanging around the water-cooler or coffee machine - nursing a sore head - you often encounter your partners in crime from the previous night's drinking escapades, many of whom will be senior managers. When later questioned "what the f**k have you been doing all day?" you have a absolute watertight excuse that you have been talking to some highly respected member(s) of your organisation.

Over time, the objective of achieving tangible productive output is replaced by the skill of being drunk or hungover for most of the time that you're at work, while also looking busy and making influential friends.

If we consider a hypothetical scenario. Subject A works hard and drinks very little, but subject B works very little and drinks very hard. We then plot the salaries and alcohol consumption onto a comparative graph. When we do this, we can see that subject A is badly paid, whereas subject B's wages are significantly higher and climb steadily - well above the rate of inflation.

Furthermore, if we measure our hourly wage, based on the amount of sober and productive time that we give to our employers, we can see that the heavy drinkers - at least in my own case - are paid an astonishing amount of money for their work.

One caveat: drinking a bottle of vodka every night alone at home, is out of proportion with the amount of alcohol being consumed with members of your organisation. When social drinking metamorphosises into pure alcoholism, your hourly sober wage becomes infinite. You are swigging from a bottle hidden in your desk or your gym bag, in order to maintain your state of intoxication throughout the working day... you are not making your boss look good or increasing your popularity with senior managers. In short, your days are numbered.

Great companies are built on the foundations of alcohol & coffee. Some of the most amazing people I've ever met are 'functional alcoholics' but the pejorative term seems to be an oxymoron. It's impossible to decide whether alcohol gives us the 'Dutch courage' to tackle horribly stressful things, or whether people who shoulder great responsibility, are reaching for the bottle to salve their anxiety.

Of course, I am not encouraging you to drink intoxicating liquor, but it would be dishonest of me to deny the facts contained in the data and perpetuate the myth that sobriety and productivity are virtuous, in the amoral world of business.

One must question one's motives for continuing existence. Are you here to pass on your genes - to rear your progeny - and if so then why are you not having unprotected sex at every opportunity? Are you here to maximise the amount of time that you are drunk or high, and if so then why are you not drinking morning, noon and night?

Some of the more conceited individuals who walk amongst us - including myself - talk about leaving their "mark" on the world. I imagine leaving a fucking great big smoking crater, like the one from that huge asteroid that struck the Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs. That's not to say I want to commit mass murder, but simply that I'm on a trajectory travelling at high speed, and I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to smash into and what damage I'm going to cause.

To avoid the difficult questions and the certainty that you will die and leave a hole in people's lives, is folly.

Why is it that I gravitate towards brilliant individuals, who are never teetotal vegans who abstain from sex, masturbation and everything else that might be vaguely enjoyable? Why is it that when you scratch the surface of anything that glitters like gold, there's a strangely alluring stench of debauchery?

If I wanted to die in obscurity, written off as an addict and an alcoholic, would I not have just allowed society to label me and blame me for everything that's fucked up and has no other convenient scapegoat? How can we hold William S. Burroughs and Ernest Hemingway in such high regard, when they epitomise alcoholism, heroin addiction and suicide?

To say I'll die a meaningless death is apparently untrue ("you'd be missed") but to say that my death will have repercussions - like ripples in a pond - is conceited and a dreadful cliché... many suicides are motivated by the idea that it's the grandest of gestures.

We must all confront our own mortality, and every day that you spend 'doing your job' is just a waste of fucking time.




Ups and Downs

2 min read

This is a story about data collection...

Step Count

Here's a graph of my daily step count for the last 18 months, as recorded by my iPhone. I practically always have my iPhone in my pocket, so it should be fairly accurate.

As you can see, there are big gaps.

I've added a 14-day moving average to the graph too, which is the dotted line.

How do I interpret this?

The optimistic interpretation is that I was overdoing it last year and had a big crash. There's a little gap in the graph that you can hardly see at the end of October. I was in hospital then. This year got off to a shit start and then improved and stabilised, but I still had a hiccup at the start of October. The graph is much flatter on the right hand side - on average - than it is on the left hand side. Perhaps the volatility in my life has been reduced.

The pessimistic interpretation is that there's a strongly downward trend. There are also signs of repeated periods of inactivity: shit times. Perhaps there's a cycle that would be clearer to see with more years of data.

I could bring in my Android phone data which covers the period before this, and maybe some other data sources too, but it was a pain just to produce this. 

Interestingly, if you own a smartphone, you should be aware just how much it's tracking you all the time you carry it around!




3 Graphs: My Mental Health

5 min read

This is a story about ups & downs...

Bipolar II

I used to quite enjoy my hypomanic episodes. I haven't had one for over 8 months though, and I'm beginning to miss the energy, focus, enthusiasm, fast-paced thinking, creativity and passion for something, anything.

When I average out the amount of time that I would spend hypomanic versus the amount of time I would spend depressed, you'd think that it's something you wouldn't want, because my episodes of depression were always far longer than my episodes of hypomania. However, I never wanted to give up those hypomanic highs, even though my episodes of depression have been brutal and I've nearly taken my own life.

Some people ask me "aren't you just experiencing what every human experiences? Joy and sadness?". Here is a graph that kinda explains the difference between Bipolar and 'normal':

Normal mental health

Do you see much difference?

The first thing I should draw your attention to is the range. The red line never reaches the dotted line that signifies hypomania and depression. In any given moment, you might be happy that your sports team just won a game, or you might be sad because somebody ate all the cakes, but this is a normal range of moods. In normal life, you're not spending every cent in your bank balance, taking crazy risks and undertaking insane projects at breakneck speed. In normal life, you're not unable to work or socialise, and on the brink of suicide.

The second thing that I should draw your attention to is the irregularity of it. It's unpredictable, because it's dictated by external events. Who knows when a friend is unexpectedly going to drop by and say "Hi!" which will lift your mood. Who knows when your boss is going to say something's wrong with your work, which will make you upset. These events are unpredictable, because they come from the world at large, which is also unpredictable. This is normal life. Normal life is unpredictable and exciting.

With my Bipolar II, I know that every episode of hypomania is going to be followed by a crash. I know that my hypomania is going to last a few weeks, maybe a month and a bit. I know that my depression is going to last anywhere between 6 weeks and 6 months. These episodes are monotonous. Sure, good stuff and bad stuff happens during those episodes, but it does little to affect my prevailing mood.

This year I seem to have had the longest depression of my life. It's given me somewhat of an appreciation for what it must be like for people with Unipolar Depression. Here is a graph of what my life looks like at the moment:

Unipolar Depression

Looks pretty bleak, doesn't it? Unrelenting depression, and only very brief moments where I feel OK. Look how sharp those spikes are. Surely my life can't be that bad?

Well, look at it in these terms: we are now in July. That means that in 2016, I have had 7 months of this shitty feeling. January to April, it was understandable that I was depressed, right, because it was shitty winter, I was unemployed and I was stressed about running out of money and being evicted out of my apartment onto the streets. You can surely empathise with that situation, and agree that it would be pretty depressing?

So what about May, June and July? Well, I've been working a job that I took out of desperation. My mental health really does not permit me to be working a shit job full time, because I'm exhausted and demotivated, due to the aforementioned depression. But what about all that cash I'm earning? Shouldn't I be happy - glad - to have a job again?

Well, I'm working to replenish my savings. I'm working to pay off debts that I ran up when I was unable to work. I'm working to literally stand still.

But what about fun time?

Well, look at it this way. There are 120 hours in the working week. Let's look at my lunch hour: that's about 4% of the time. So, 96% of the working week is not lunch hour. Another way of looking at it is Saturdays. Saturday is the only day of the week where I'm not working or anxious about going back to work. That means that only 1/7th of the week is somewhat free of anxiety. What about holidays? Well, 7 months have elapsed this year without a holiday. Let's say that I take a 1-week holiday. Leaving aside the fact that for the whole week I'll be dreading going back to work, we are only talking about 1 week in 30. That's right... I'm only on holiday 1/30th of the time.

Things will improve when I have money in the bank and I can afford to take more time off (I don't get paid holiday and I also have loss of earnings while I'm away) but predominantly, my life this year has been monotonous depression.

I'm dying for my mood to swing to the other 'pole' and to enter a hypomanic episode. Depression is literally killing me.