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

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

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Sex Doll

10 min read

This is a story about sex equality...

Wimmin

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

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

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

I think I was being deliberately provocative.

There wasn't really any need.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do agree that I feel very entitled.

I'm privileged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Erratic

11 min read

This is a story about 24-hour party people...

Oxford Tube

Here's a photo taken at 4am, capturing my journey away from everything that was good about my life - my friends, my startup, my future - back to the life that I was trying to escape; back to my wife and my house. I was in the process of separation and divorce. I was in the process of selling my house. I was in the process of beginning my life all over again - a fresh start; a clean slate.

Why am I showing you this?

It was incredibly disruptive and destructive that I had to leave my fragile embryonic new life to fulfil the mundane and trivial bureaucratic administrative task of liquidating my assets. All I wanted was to get away from the life that had become a nightmare; specifically not be dragged back into my toxic old life for the sake of something so meaningless as material possessions and money.

"Take as much as you want. Take whatever you want. Just don't destroy me" I begged of my ex-wife. All I wanted was a chance to be allowed to rebuild my shattered life. Her life was unaffected: she had her friends, her career, her home town, the support of vast numbers of people all around her. My life had been destroyed by our relationship and somewhat consequent mental health crisis. It wouldn't be fair to lay the blame at her door, but I had failed to walk away when I was strong and I had become incredibly weak and vulnerable. She was strong and I was fucked.

I tried to explain to a close friend that I felt like I was always a few hours, few days or few weeks behind where I needed to be. Everything I needed was tantalisingly within my reach, but the things I needed to happen fast were always deliberately thwarted and delayed by people who didn't give a damn whether I lived or died.

Unfortunately, I had lagged behind and I could never catch up. I was fucked.

My ex-wife demanded a £7,000 bribe in order to not sabotage the quick sale of my house. It was blackmail, plain and simple. I managed to raise £5,000 but she wouldn't accept it. She destroyed the deal I'd struck with a cash buyer who wanted to complete the house sale within 6 weeks. In the end, the house sale took 6 months because of her acts of deliberate sabotage.

I needed money but I couldn't raise enough to avoid getting into financial difficulties. I was being bankrupted by those who supposedly loved and cared about me. It was a ridiculous situation, because I was liquidating my highest value asset, which guaranteed that everyone was going to get paid back as soon as my damn ex-wife stopped sabotaging and delaying the house sale, but my "nearest and dearest" are absolute cunts, with the exception of my sister, who offered me every penny she could lay her hands on. My kind and caring sister has the least amount of savings and disposable income of anybody I know; she's the most hard-up, but she immediately grasped the gravity of my situation and was prepared to do everything in her power to help me.

I didn't borrow from my sister. I didn't borrow from my parents. I didn't borrow from my family. I didn't borrow from my friends.

I took the £5,000 which my ex-wife said wasn't enough to meet her blackmail demand, and I bought Bitcoins at an average price of $123 each. At the time the exchange rate was roughly $1.60 per £1, which equates to 65 Bitcoins. The value of those 65 bitcoins at more-or-less the same time as my house was finally sold, was approximately $80,000, which was lucky because my ex-wife was refusing to release my fucking money until our divorce was finalised.

That total cunt was trying to ruin me.

My parents were trying to ruin me.

My family - with the exception of my sister - were being a bunch of cunts.

Hence why I don't talk to any of them anymore, except my sister.

I'm a bad brother.

I'm a bad uncle.

I'm the black sheep of the family... well, almost. My parents and the wider family tried to make it stick, but they didn't manage to ruin me despite their best attempts. Despite their most thorough and diligent efforts in pursuit of my ruination, I refused to let them do that to me - to destroy me and forever have a convenient scapegoat for all the family's problems; to have successfully artificially created a failure who'd be too weak and decimated to ever defend my good name. It's nice to have somebody to blame. I've been blamed by so many. Those who blame me and point the finger far outnumber me. How could I ever stand a chance against the bullies? How could I ever hope to win when I was so outnumbered?

* * *

INTERLUDE

* * *

I started writing this blog post on Tuesday. I was feeling rushed. I had a date. I was going to the cinema. There wasn't a lot of time before the start of the movie.

I started writing this blog post and I've thought a lot about whether to delete it and start again.

I started writing this blog post, but I've had a lot of time to notice how my feelings change very much from day to day. In the course of writing a short blog post I can become enraged and bitter about things that happened in the past. Although I find writing to be therapeutic in the most part, I can kick a hornets' nest of unresolved anger occasionally. When I start with a certain thread - which many regular readers will have seen repeatedly - I re-live the injustice, frustration and abandonment I suffered, which nearly ruined my life unnecessarily, avoidably and inexcusably, because my parents are a pair of druggie aklie cunts who don't fucking listen to a word I've got to say.

Hence the blog.

I love this blog.

I've got so much to say.

So much of what I say is driven by bitterness, resent, unresolved anger and frustration, a sense of injustice and feeling 'hard done by' and the rational, logical conclusions that I would expect any reasonable person to reach, given the same set of facts.

This is a one-sided story.

I can tell you the things that I think will make you sympathise with my suffering and omit the pieces of the story which are incongruous with my narrative. I can manipulate my readers with a one-sided and heavily biased viewpoint, if that's what I want. I don't have to argue with anybody. I don't have to suffer ad hominem attacks. I don't have to struggle in the unwinnable battle, which comprises little old me against a gang of bullies.

As the days have gone by with this blog unfinished and unpublished, I've thought more and more about how I could write a more balanced viewpoint in the second half. I've thought about toning down my hateful bitter language, which lashes out at people who are very much out of reach and beyond reproach. My parents had managed to selfishly ignore me and my needs throughout my childhood so utterly completely, it's ridiculous to think that there would be any getting through to them as an adult who really needed some help during an acrimonious divorce.

It's me who's got the problem.

My sense of isolation - being ganged up on - is almost indescribably awful, but there is no sense in thinking of myself as a victim. There are a whole shower of cunts who failed in their moral duties, who lacked the basic decency of showing some fucking concern and compassion, and who spectacularly failed to put the slightest fucking effort into the minimum duty of care expected by society. I could get mad. I could get even. Instead, I simply feel no debt to those who are supposedly sworn to keep children safe, or obliged by loyalty, social convention and shared genes, to look after the weak and vulnerable members of a group, tribe, family or other such thing that exists amongst basic fucking decent people.

My mind and my mood flit wildly between rage at being let down during formative years and moments in my life when I was extremely vulnerable, and my more general worldview and philosophy that I should be rational and logical. It's entirely illogical and unhelpful to hold a grudge. It's a complete waste of effort to exert myself, expressing myself at great length and explaining my complex damaged feelings - my trauma - when I'm so absolutely certain that my words fall on the deaf ears of those who inflicted that trauma.

I've been writing almost daily for more than 3 years.

Writing helps.

I don't know what this is - this blog post - but I know that it's an accurate representation of what my inner world is like. I swing violently between moods. I feel sudden gut-wrenching sadness and bitter resentment at how much I feel like I missed out on and was denied, in terms of a healthy normal childhood, free from the kinds of things that children are supposed to be protected from - loneliness, misery, isolation, bullying, abuse, negligence, deprivation. I use those words without much caution, well aware that they carry connotations of life-ruining events for very many unfortunate fellow humans. Should I not use those words, because I took all that anger about how fucking shit it was to be bullied for so many years and I turned it into $1.3 million of Bitcoins, essentially?

This is my fucking life.

My life is full of ridiculous contrast.

You want me to be balanced and unbiased about things? You want me to be objective and empirical? You want me to consider all my experiences versus the entire range of human existence, throughout history?

My ex-wife isn't and wasn't the worst. My parents aren't and weren't the worst. My childhood wasn't the worst.

Am I able to look back and see good as well as good? Yes, of course.

Am I able to recognise that in all likelihood I should have died a horribly drawn-out painful death long ago, caused by a preventable disease, after a lifetime of hunger? Yes, of course.

* * *

PAUSE FOR BREATH

* * *

There are so many good reasons to regret what I've written. There are so many good reasons to delete this whole entire blog and allow any memory of this endeavour to be expunged from the digital archives. There are so many good reasons to proceed with life, without living in the past, being consumed by bitterness and anger, and holding grudges.

However, this blog post and indeed this whole website captures the range of moods which had become so destructive in my life as to make me completely dysfunctional. Those moods are driven by quite easily analysed and expressed things, but the resolution of the issues is demonstrably impossible, despite an individual's best efforts, where there are a greater number of others who have a vested interest in seeing somebody dead and buried.

I'm in a difficult phase of being a sore winner now. I dodged the bullets and I proved everyone wrong, with the exception of a tiny handful of very special people who saw my potential and were brave enough to support me.

I have extremely strong views about the way a parent should behave towards their childen, the way that a wife should behave towards her husband, about the way that the strong should behave towards the weak, and the way that the gang should behave towards the isolated loner. I am extremely opinionated about the right-and-wrong of matters concerning those who are in a powerful position; who are able to ruin lives.

I picture myself as a fucked-up scared little kid who doesn't know how the world works, but has gathered incontrovertible evidence that I'm seen-but-not-heard and a convenient punchbag. "That kid fucked up my life" etc. etc.

Of course, I paint a vivid picture for artistic effect. I don't take myself as seriously as I sometimes sound. I'm genuinely well aware that the world is filled with unimaginable suffering.

I would dearly love to demonstrate greater magnanimity, but do you know what? It's too fucking soon and I'm still salty. It's my blog and I'll whine, moan, complain and be a bitter twisted miserable fucker if I want to. Fuck you. I didn't ask to be born.

In case you were wondering, some of the time I am hoping that you will laugh and none of the time I am hoping that you will cry.

 

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Notes From My Disastrous Dating Experiences

9 min read

This is a story about romantic aspirations in the provinces...

Nick in pink

It would unforgivable of me to kiss and tell but I feel the urge to share with you - dear reader - the trials and tribulations of an urbane metrosexual man's attempts to find love outside the capital city, in places which might politely be described as: the arse-end of nowhere.

The first thing that becomes immediately apparent, when venturing onto the dating scene in the provinces. is the priority which young adults have placed upon having rampant quantities of unprotected sex and producing as many unfortunate single-parent children as possible, with no economic means to pay for them. Did these people never receive any sex education? Have they never heard of condoms, the pill, the rhythm method, anal sex, oral sex or simply pulling out and ejaculating in any direction away from the the birth canal? What the fuck were they thinking?

Accidents don't "happen". We aren't organisms with pea-sized brains. We have birth control, the morning-after pill AND abortions. Why the big hurry to bring an innocent child who didn't ask to be born, into a world where you can't afford to pay for its upbringing? Idiocy.

So, there needs to be a certain amount of sifting through all the cretinous idiots who are no more intelligent than a herd of humping beasts, spawning offspring without any restraint, planning or any semblance of rational thought.

Relationships can break down irreparably, I accept that. Despite 8 long hard years banging my head against a brick wall, my own longest relationship was broken beyond repair and I got divorced. My ex-wife and I didn't have any children, which was my choice because I wanted to stabilise my mental health before making an irreversible life-changing decision to procreate. However, I can imagine that some perfectly decent nice intelligent people have had children, only to later find out that they're met with irreconcilable differences and their relationship cannot be salvaged, even for the sake of the children.

I was unquestionably influenced by my parents' relationship, which was toxic and abusive. I use the word "abuse" with a little caution, because it means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but what I mean is that my parents were absolute assholes to each other and everyone around them. They were co-dependent alcoholic druggies; selfish cunts. They stayed together, perhaps correctly sensing that mean-spirited selfish self-centred people who drink and take drugs, and have failed at life, are not highly in-demand people. They clung together because they were the only people who'd support each others' lies and fantasies, justifying their obnoxious treatment of everyone around them.

I grew up believing that a person should be loyal and work at a relationship no matter how toxic it is; to put up with any amount of abuse.

I guess that's why I ended up in an abusive relationship myself.

This is how I remember things progressed:

  1. Date one: She liked me lots; I was full of confidence. She wanted more. I held back because I had serious feelings about her.
  2. Date two: She thought I was great. She 'accidentally' invited herself into my place.
  3. Date three: I treated her like a princess
  4. Date four: She left me waiting for 30 minutes outside her place. I told myself I was going to leave after an hour, because it was a shitty thing to stand me up. She turned up after 45 minutes. I said I was going to go because it was no way to treat somebody. She begged me to stay.
  5. Some dates later: she got in a strange mood when we were out with friends. When we got back home to her place she told me to leave. I asked her why. She wouldn't tell me. She threatened to call the police, which I said was unnecessary, I just didn't understand... could she explain? She flew into a rage, destroyed some curtains and slammed some doors. Then she calmed down and said she was glad I stayed. She thanked me for being loyal and patient We made love and everything seemed OK.
  6. We went on holiday together. I casually suggested living together and she was enthusiastic. She openly said she was swept off her feet by my open-hearted romanticism.
  7. I gave up my apartment paid for by JPMorgan to be closer to her workplace. She was angry and aggressive a lot. I cried a lot. One time when I was crying, she punched me in the face several times.
  8. When she got angry, I sliced my wrist open with a knife. She briefly got more angry, but it temporarily stopped her rage in its tracks.
  9. When she got angry, I smashed a mirror; a bed.
  10. I asked her dad permission to marry her. I bought her the engagement ring of her dreams.
  11. Two of my best friends came to visit. She flew into an inexplicable rage. I threw her engagement ring out of the window.
  12. She raged with anger about everything in my life I held dear: kitesurfing, my friends from London and all over the UK. Nothing I could do would make her happy. I isolated myself. I gave up everything. I became a prisoner of her unpredictable rage.
  13. We fought. She'd had her three strikes. She'd broken my nose, given me black eyes. I'd lied to my work colleagues about my black eyes. I'd lied to her parents about my black eyes. I'd lied to our friends about my black eyes. Now we fought. Two of us, fighting. We beat the shit out of each other.
  14. I went back to self-harming; smashing stuff. I was suicidal. She cheated on me.
  15. I caught her cheating. She was nice to me. I forgave her. It was nice that she was being nice to me.
  16. She was strong and I was weak. I needed to get out of that toxic relationship before I died. She said "I'd rather be a widow than divorced". She knew I had 2 grams of potassium cyanide. She knew she stood to gain a vast sum of money from my life insurance and the value of my house. She marked my suicide note in red pen and told me if I went to hospital she'd leave me.
  17. I went to hospital. We separated. We divorced.

That's my long-term relationship experience.

My first girlfriend was the nicest person in the world - which was an on-off relationship spanning a couple of years. I remember my second girlfriend fondly - a relationship lasting about 18 months. Then, there was 8 years of hell, which I feel completely equally responsible for: I should have walked away. Subsequent girlfriends were all relatively short-lived, but they were all wonderful. My longest relationship since my wife was with the love of my life, which lasted 9 blissful months, ending in calamity when I was driven insane by sleep deprivation and a toxic cocktail of prescription medications and other things, such that I temporarily believed that she didn't care about me and I decided to break up with her in a very regrettably - and irreparably - public manner, given the fact we both have Twitter accounts with reasonably large numbers of followers (although, many work colleagues are followers of her, causing the unforgivable reputational damage).

"What the fuck are you doing with that madman?" her colleagues must have asked.

She would have defended me.

She was loyal.

I loved her. She loved me.

But I was stubbornly ridiculous. At the time, my brain said to me "I'll never end up in another abusive relationship" but my thoughts were horribly twisted and corrupted; unreliable. To say anything bad about my poor ex-girlfriend would do her a terrible disservice. My amazing ex-girlfriend was incredibly attentively and at my bedside constantly for weeks when my kidneys failed. She was faultless, always.

Presently I've been consigned to the provinces, where I'm punished; cursed to suffer for my foolishness. Wimmin, wimmin, everywhere, and if none of them seem to meet my exacting standards then it's only because of the awful way I've treated - particularly - my last serious girlfriend. My ex cared for me so much, loved me and and demonstrated the loyalty I so desperately craved, but I threw it away during a hyper-complex period of joblessness, debt, mental health issues and drug abuse relapse, when I felt like an complete-and-utter failure. Insecurity destroyed me, despite her making me feel great about myself and working really hard to make sure I was OK. She looked after me. She put so much effort into looking after me.

So, now, today, I'm a 39-year-old man who's gotten badly out of shape and carries a whole heap of baggage.

"What car do you drive?"

"What job do you do?"

"Do you own your own house?"

"Show me your bank balance"

"What's your net worth?"

"Do you think you could afford to provide a life of idle luxury for me and my fatherless children?"

These are the questions which I face in the provincial dating game.

When I'm not looking my wallet is slipped from my pocket and felt for its fatness.

I'm not-so-silently judged as the sucker who's gonna pick up the tab for all that badly thought through unprotected sex and all those irrational decisions to not terminate unaffordable pregnancies.

This is my penance for not walking away from an abusive relationship - and admittedly becoming a so-called consensual partner in co-dependency - and also for throwing away relationships with some amazing women. This is my penance for my wrongdoing: to be somewhat trapped in the provinces, where every woman's dating profile picture has a Snapchat filter applied to her face, sending barely-literate messages saying: "If you're ex-girlfriends we're so great then how come there no longer wiv U? Their a bunch of snooty bitches wot kno grammar innit. Your fucking up youself U posh twat. They're's the truth layed out for you bear."

They do not mean "bear" in a cute cuddly way.

 

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Feed and Water Regularly

13 min read

This is a story about looking after living organisms...

Drooping house plant

My drooping castor oil plant is the perfect visual metaphor for what's happened to both of us in the best part of a week - we've been dying.

I can be a little paranoid, even in perfect health. I wouldn't - for example - walk around naked without the curtains or blinds fully closed, even though there's a fairly small chance that somebody might get an eyeful of full frontal nudity, unless I was stood right by the window for ages. My ex-girlfriend throws open her bedroom shutters, often times much improving the day of the workmen retiling the roof of the house opposite. Something like that would change my behaviour, but not her - even with hard concrete evidence that a little paranoia is justified, she continues to flash her knockers at strangers every morning. There's also a school opposite her house too, so it'd be just my luck to end up on some kind of police register because an eagle-eyed kid caught a glimpse of my willy as I darted past the window to get my garments and cover up.

The blinds in my bedroom are shit - as I've said before - and one thing that's really bad is that they offer even less privacy at night, when it's light inside and dark outside. I'm not exactly thrilled at the thought of putting on a light and shadow show, which would unmistakably advertise to my neighbours that I'm having a wank to pornography. It's bad enough being single again, but most of us reserved Brits are a bit ashamed of our masturbation and porn habits.

Just ask somebody to show you the history of everything they searched for on a porn site, and you'll see that it's not just me who's the paranoid prudish freak: there's something so personal and confidential about the porn that you like and the words you use to find it. When you're searching in the privacy of your own home, with nobody looking over your shoulder, you assume that nobody will ever see those words other than you. It's one of the most unpleasant experiences to have somebody judge those words you typed, especially as nobody else was ever supposed to see them.

So, I can be paranoid, even at the best of times.

Sleep deprivation, dehydration and hunger can take a little seed of paranoia and turn it into fully-blown bat-shit insanity.

My windows were taped up so nobody could see in. Then my doorbell started ringing and ringing. I could hear my landlord hanging around. I could hear footsteps right by my bedroom windows. I could see silhouettes of people standing right by my bedroom windows. "Fuck!" I thought "what am I going to say if he knocks on the door and asks why I taped up the windows?". So, I stayed awake all night, watching shadows and not wanting to use the rest of my apartment or turn on a light. So far as anybody could've guessed, I wasn't in.

If you're "not in" you can't flush your toilet and you can't run the taps, and you have to rely on night vision and tiptoeing around, feeling your way as you go. If you're "not in" you can't be spotted through your absolutely massive windows in the living areas, which you can't draw the curtains of, because that makes it look more like you're at home, just not answering the door.

If you're "not in" and you can't flush the loo - which is right by the communal hallway - because you're paranoid somebody'll hear it, then you can't drink too much. Besides, you can't be seen filling up a glass or a bottle, through the massive window right by the sink, especially when the landlord's main hobby is hanging around by people's windows.

If you're "not in" you can't go and prepare yourself a delicious hot meal - again because you don't want to be seen or heard.

Eventually, you get like my wilted plant. Your body starts to eat itself, which would be OK ish if you were drinking to get rid of the excess creatinine by pissing it out, but you're not pissing because you can't and you're not drinking much. All that shit in your blood which your kidneys would ordinarily filter out hasn't got any carrier fluid to push it though the filter and into the bladder, so your blood gets really toxic. Your muscles start getting damaged, and the bits of damaged muscle block the tiny 'filter holes' in your kidneys, and then you couldn't piss even if you wanted to - you're blocked up; kidney failure

Once you end up in urinary retention, your body will get waterlogged, but the most worrying thing is that your potassium levels will keep rising until your heart stops, because there's no way to get rid of it and it's hard to have a potassium-free diet. Anything over 5ml of potassium in a litre of your blood means you're at pretty imminent risk of a sudden cardiac arrest. You've only got 5 litres of blood in your body, so that's 25ml of potassium. And yes, this is potassium not potassium cyanide. Bananas would be a bit of a shit way to kill yourself - you'd have to eat 51 plus extras because your body is not 100% metabolically efficient. Avocados could be a good novel suicide method though - you'd only have to eat 23 of them to reach hyperkalemia. Ironically, replacing your salt with "healthy" low sodium salt could be a fatal mistake, and it'd certainly be a lot easier to swallow a few of spoonfuls of salt than eat more than 50 bananas.

So, anyway, I started pissing blood, but at least I was pissing. It's when you stop pissing, you've really gotta worry.

I got brave and went on a raiding mission to my fridge where my friend had left me with two bottles of fizzy drink. I treated it like my ex-girlfriend's lack of paranoia about people seeing her tits when she opens the shutters - I was so quick, that I minimised the chance of being seen.

I then had to shake up the drinks and really really slowly let the gas escape, because I can't stand the bloated burping they cause... but, my body had a sugar boost and much needed fluids.

I hadn't slept for two nights at this point, and I was too paranoid to rummage for food which could be eaten cold - I knew everything in the fridge had gone off, and there simply wasn't anything that I could eat without cooking.

I passed out for a couple of hours and when I came to, I had no idea where I was. I was uncontrollably shivering: my body just hadn't had the calories it needed to power my cells and keep my blood at a toasty 37 degrees centigrade.

I wrapped myself in my duvet and warmed myself up as best as I could, but I'd ripped though the soft drinks. In my boldest and most daring feat of anti-paranoia bravery - perhaps with that time unconscious giving me a 'rest' and a sugar boost from the fizzy drinks - I grabbed two bottles of squash and a can of baked beans. I made 3.5 litres of very weak squash in the bath, where I couldn't be seen, although the noise of running water was a concern... but the bathroom is at least a door further away from the front door than the toilet.

As I guzzled a seemingly inexhaustible supply of weak squash, I told myself "this is the best lime cordial I've ever tasted". I greedily scooped cold beans in tomato sauce out of the can I'd grabbed, and I had to pace myself, because my stomach had shrunk so much after 4 days not eating. Also, I had to remember to chew - I was so desperate to fill my stomach that I think I could've just gulped the can down, like lumpy soup.

The food and drink started to vanquish my paranoia, and I moved away from the bedroom door, where I had been a sentry for 5 nights. I lay in bed snuggled under the covers, and my exhaustion finally revealed itself to me - I was trying to write a few messages to say I was OK, and I probably didn't need to go to hospital cos I'd sorted myself out, but I'd keep falling asleep and being woken up by the sound of my phone dropping onto the floor.

I had a longer, warmer, more comfortable sleep in an actual bed, and when I woke up my paranoia was vastly diminished. I felt brave enough to turn lights on, have a shower, use the kitchen and generally no longer have to pretend I was "not in". I was also famished and I desperately wanted to eat a hot meal and use a spoon or a fork, and a plate or a bowl, instead of a laminated business card as a makeshift way of getting beans out of the can and into my mouth.

My bedroom looks every bit like it's been lived in for 5 days by a person who's too paranoid to leave, turn on a light or flush a toilet, but that's a problem for tomorrow. Being well enough to go into the office on Monday looks dubious, but I don't look as bad as I thought I did. I'm overwhelmed by the prospect of sorting out my bedroom, but perhaps I can get a pro-cleaning team to give it a proper deep clean and a decorator to tidy up the marks on the paintwork, where I stumbled into a wall in the pitch black, while sleep deprived, dehydrated and hungry.

I'm so sad that my life was so close to almost perfect - a holiday booked, plans to go sailing and a girlfriend who was alright when she was being nice, rather than trying to unmask me as some kind of god-knows-what, by asking the same rude, impertinent questions that insinuated and alleged that I'm Hitler, Stalin, Osama-bin-Ladin and every serial killer who ever lived, all rolled into one. I would've got away with it, if it wasn't for her pesky asking the same identical question over and over again. Actually, I dumped her - you can't treat a person like they raped, tortured and murdered their whole family, by constantly making untrue horrible allegations about past and future. I really see no justification for being horrible, assuming the worst and treating a person like they'd smash up all your stuff and burn your house down unless you told them not to and supervised them at all times.

So: situation vacant. I'm looking for a girlfriend who doesn't say "don't murder anybody today" instead of goodbye in the morning. I'm looking for a girlfriend who sees my potential, trusts me, respects me and imagines me at my best, not some over-active imagination version of me at my worst. I value loyalty and tactility - somebody who likes hugging and snuggling and spooning - and I have a very strict 3-strike rule if you use withholding of affection, silent treatment, sulking and other negative behaviours which are abusive, instead of a combination of physical reassurance of the bond, and non-aggressive communication.

I'm gutted, because I'd almost taken my 'conversion project' and turned her into somebody who wanted the same kind of secure, loving relationship, packed full of affection. 99% of the time we had a nice time, and when she was being shit with me, we never had an argument... I taught her how to use affection to produce a more effective and quicker resolution, instead of passive-aggressiveness, open hostility, arguing and withholding of affection.

I'm gutted, because I'd been generous and attentive and taken my time in the bedroom and turned her into a little sex addict. We had a good sex life. Not every girl can relax enough and forget the lazy and incompetent lovers of the past, so she really wants sex and initiates it, because of the months and months of investment, making sure she's super satisfied every time and spending lots of time on the pre/post affection aspect, which is arguably the most important thing... way more than a rushed bit of foreplay, ram it in dry, two pumps and a squirt and then immediately roll over and go to sleep.

I'm actually angry I had to dump her, because rules are rules and the last couple of times I didn't stick to my rules, I got domestically abused. I'm a sensitive guy; vulnerable; I'm emotionally unguarded and I leave myself exposed, because it creates a much more bonded happy relationship than two people who just make smalltalk and never really know each other and what they want.

I feel so much more upset about the breakup, because it's a really small city I live in, and it's hard to find somebody who'd love nothing more than to watch an arthouse movie, or eat something really exotic. It's really hard to find somebody who's cultured and well travelled enough to feel like a good match. Damn, I'm fussy, aren't I?

I also feel 100x more alone, even though it's just one person, and I still have local friends Gail and Liam, plus my sailing buddies (only met one - and I work with him) and all the people I work with, some of whom are proper friends too.

It's kinda 'final straw' stuff though. Life's so hard on your own. Everything's easier with two of you, backing each other up.

I haven't got the energy to woo another girl and go through that super intense bit at the start again. She's really pissed me off, that I wasted so much effort, only for her to make yet another horrible allegation, and crossed the threshold - I spent 8 years in a relationship where somebody spoke to me like shit, and it was hell on earth. Walk away. Walk away. Walk away.

I really think I'm going to suffer without regular hugs and cuddles, and reliable companionship. It's a bit like plant food - they don't need it, but it does make them thrive.

Anyway, that was most of the past week. Please look out for me; I'm super fragile.

 

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The Relentless Manipulation of my Moods Using Every Means at my Disposal

9 min read

This is a story about music...

Out clubbing

The only things that seem to be capable of making me cry at the moment are Disney movies and a 90-second passage from The Tempest, which is about dreams and sleep. I quote it now for your interest, and as I write this big salty tears are rolling down my cheeks:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air: 
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, 
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, 
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, 
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff 
As dreams are made on, and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep.

It seems remarkable to me that I'm not able to resist the mawkish and emotionally manipulative thrust of the Disney movies, and I blub in all the right places and even some of the wrong ones. To accuse me of being emotionally unstable or having a tendency towards inappropriate emotional responses to situations, is grossly inaccurate and untrue. I would agree that I'm unguarded; trusting... a little vulnerable and certainly quite naïve, although I would argue that I prefer to be naïve than cynical and guarded.

In terms of protecting myself from whimsically falling in love and getting hurt, I would say that I don't protect myself at all. My emotions go where they want to go and I let them. I use the "L" word very sparingly and tend to distrust strong emotions, viewing them as transient; fleeting. I favour loyalty above everything else. I've got no time for game playing and wimpy wusses who are afraid of getting hurt.

Under a railway arch in Vauxhall, I experienced what the children of doting parents must experience their whole lives - to be loved, cared for; adored. I felt a sense of contentment and security that had been absent throughout my bullied childhood. I felt the warm embrace - the hug, if you like - that had been absent in my life and had turned me into an insecure person who completely lacked self-confidence and a sense of identity. I'd been through 8 schools and lost countless friends due to my druggie alkie loser parents not giving a shit about the damage they were doing. The experience of clubbing under the railway arches was curative - this was the love that had been sorely absent in my life. The catalyst? MDMA.

Fifteen years later, my marriage was collapsing. I needed to go to hospital. I was admitted to The Priory thanks to my private health insurance.

It's actually unremarkable that I grew out of a brief period where I dabbled with recreational drugs - ecstasy - and went on to have a 15-year blemish-free career, before the stress of a toxic and abusive relationship tipped me back into the very state I was in when I was a child: in desperate need of some unconditional love. It seems obvious that depriving a person of their identity and security, and bullying them, would result in trauma and psychological damage. It seems obvious that the same negative stimuli would elicit the same negative response.

While I was in The Priory, I handed in my iPod after a couple of weeks. I had decided that I was using music as a way of manipulating my moods, in a similar manner to people drinking, smoking and using drugs, in response to stress and other negative situations. I decided that if I was going to take treatment seriously, I would have to avoid things which I could use and abuse to alter my mood.

Presently, we seem to think it's virtuous to deny ourselves all the things we enjoy. Cream cakes (too fatty), fizzy drinks (too much sugar), beer and wine (alcoholic), masturbation ("wanker", "tosser" etc.), spending money (too fun) and all the other things that make life mildly bearable are given up for January, while we run on a treadmill in a gym, or lash ourselves with a bunch of nettles or whatever the f**k it is that 'virtuous' people do these days.

When I was seized with the notion that pure devotion to a 'natural' life would lead to happier, healthier times, it became as obsessive as anything else that might be characterised as an addiction. I became addicted to making every single tiny health tweak in my life that I could. I cut out dairy and gluten. I washed out my sinuses with saline. I probably would have done colonic irrigation if I'd thought about it at the time. The whole thing was dumb - pure superstition and pseudoscience.

Today, I take dietary supplements - 5-HTP, tyrosine and magnesium - which are supposed to provide my brain with the building blocks it needs to restore normal mood and improve my sleep. However, I've also abused simple amino acids and even pure dopamine - in the form of L-DOPA - to put my brain into a completely unnatural state, with the intention of achieving an otherwise unattainable euphoria or level of performance.

I've abused stimulants to stay awake and give me the energy to dance all night. I've used prolactin-suppressing medications to allow me to have multiple orgasms. I've used erectile dysfunction medications to allow me to sustain an erection for priapic lengths of time. I've used drugs to move my mood up, down and sideways - attempting to 'play god' if you like.

How many drugs and medications have I tried? Two hundred? Three hundred? More? This is not hyperbole - I had the time, the money, the determination and the means.

If you think I'm an idiot who makes bad choices, I ask you to look again. Imagine what my upbringing was like before I discovered that there was this chemical - MDMA - that unlocked me from that miserable prison. Of course I was going to mistakenly believe that it was a trick that could be repeated. In my desperation to escape a toxic abusive relationship 15 years later, I tried heroin, crack and crystal meth - amongst innumerable others - and none of them grabbed me. I methodically worked my way through everything I could get my hands on - illegal drugs, legal highs and black-market prescription medications.

The net result was not a predictable one. Instead of being dead in a ditch due to poly-substance abuse, I'm now quite averse to any psychoactive substances. I'm one of the few people you know who doesn't drink caffeinated beverages. That I'm unmedicated for my mental health problems is not because I think I'm "well" but because I know that I prefer to suffer the symptoms - very few people you know are prepared to tolerate depression and anxiety, but I do so on a daily basis without medication to assist me.

There's a part of me that wants to quit carbs, quit booze and join a gym, but frankly I've got enough shit on my plate just trying to get up in the mornings and not kill myself.

I loosened the purse strings and bought a few new clothes at the weekend. I went on a couple of dates. I'm listening to euphoric dance music, eating what I want to eat and drinking quite a lot. Fuck it. Life's too short to be miserable.

Last night, a woman ran up behind me as I was crossing the road and started asking for money. I said "sorry". She launched into an escalating level of abuse, accusing me of saying "no" and for toying her when she was "begging [for my] help". She was too busy yelling and screaming horrible names at me to be interested in the fact that I would've helped her, absolutely. In fact I still would. Fuck it, even if she was just rattling for "B and white" (heroin and crack, also known as "dark and light") and she was short for the score, I'd have helped. You've got to acknowledge the complexities of life and human nature if you want to help anybody. Expecting everybody to be gym-going, kale-eating, alcohol and drug free totally fucking ridiculously 'virtuous' people is absurd. Most of us have a vice.

When I think about how long I lived without my cat to stroke, and without the pleasure of snuggling with a girl I'm really into, I'm surprised I made it this far. What's the point of life without a good healthy dose of oxytocin? Is life even liveable without the bonding hormone? I really don't think it is.

So, as we approach the end of Jinxed January, I'm throwing caution to the wind little by little. I'm buying myself new clothes and having a haircut, because it's great for my self-esteem. I'm dating and having sex because it's fucking awesome. I'm letting myself do a million little things that just make my day a little bit more bearable, because that's what life's all about if you don't want it to be suicidal misery.

There's a chance that all the little changes in my life will destabilise me. It's all quite stressful, even if it's also fun. I'm quite well aware that something as simple as a late night can throw my world into quite a lot of chaos, but sod it, life's too short and I've waited and been sensible for long enough.

I don't think I'm going to go clubbing and take any MDMA any time soon though.

 

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Hacked: I'm not one of the bad guys

1 min read

This is a story about hurt feelings...

WhatsApp message

Let's just be nice to each other. We're all soft and squishy and vulnerable on the inside.

I'm one of the good guys - I value friendships & loyalty, and I wouldn't abuse my tech superpowers for malicious purposes. I just want us all to get along, man. Peace out, brother.

 

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Two Contrasting Weeks

17 min read

This is a story about comfort zones...

Montage

Relax and put your feet up, I'm about to tell you the tale of two sedentary situations.

I'm institutionalised. Put me inside a hospital or a head office, and I'll feel right at home.

Most people don't like hospitals: they associate them with pain, death and stress. Most people don't find hospital relaxing; quite the opposite in fact. Hospitals are places of mysterious rhythms and routines that seem chaotic to most people. There are different sounds that all the machines make when they're working, and when they're making noises that indicate that something is going wrong. There are different NHS staff, in different roles, in different clothes, who appear at different times.

My week in hospital that I'm going to tell you about - although I spent the best part of two weeks in hospital  - sounds kinda nice, because I was never really afraid or outside my comfort zone. I find the functioning of complex organisations to be fascinating. I love observing the systems and the people, trying to second-guess what's going to happen next, and what's going on behind the scenes. I like asking loads of questions and adding whatever I can learn to my growing body of knowledge that allows me to feel more in control of my destiny and more able to know what to expect next, than the tense, anxious and extremely tedious waiting game that most patients face on the National Health Service.

Once one has resigned oneself to the maximum speed that a massive organisation can function at, the whole hospital experience becomes quite meditative. Sitting in Accident & Emergency, you can fill your time sneakily looking at the other patients in the waiting room, and trying to guess what symptoms they reported to the reception staff when they arrived. Shortness of breath, chest pains, numbness in one side, drooped face, earlier seizures, unconscious or otherwise delirious patients will normally arrive by ambulance, but any walk-in presentations will obviously jump to the front of the queue. Then, there are the people with minor injuries who have put up with their trivial ailments for days or even weeks. The reception staff aren't allowed to tell them to fuck off, so these idiots must sit for hours on end, only to be told off for wasting valuable NHS resources, quite rightly. In the middle, there are nasty workplace injuries, DIY accidents and total wildcards. You usually get seen by a triage nurse within an hour.

Having been admitted into Accident and Emergency, there is a brief flurry of activity while routine blood samples are taken, and perhaps you're hooked up to a drip. A barrage of questions is fired at you. Examinations seem to be probing and thorough. Surely these professionals are going to have this problem fixed in no time?

It's always a mistake to believe that important things are happening and it won't be long before the right diagnosis is reached and the right treatment is administered. One should be aware that the function of A&E is to rapidly assess whether you're about to die, whether you might need to be properly admitted to the hospital, or whether you can be discharged swiftly, suddenly and brutally.

Once on a ward, a certain amount of orientation and induction is necessary, but all wards function with great similarity. All nurses are grateful if you don't press the call button all the time, for trivial things, as well as being cantankerous and discourteous. Remembering one's Ps and Qs at all times is a pleasant distraction from boredom, pain and discomfort. There will be shifts, and it's important to be mindful of when these shift changes occur. The NHS staff see so many patients come and go, and many are lucky enough to only have a very short stay in hospital, so there will be a certain initial reluctance to absorb you into the system: the ward wants to spit you out undigested.

Having overcome some initial resistance, you can relax into hospital life. Your day begins with your vital signs being measured. Then blood samples are taken. Then there is the hullabaloo of breakfast, ridiculously early in the morning at 7am. Then, there is nothing. All of that disturbance keeps the night shift staff briefly busy before they hand over to the day shift. The day shift hope to be able to ease their way into the working day gradually. Consultants start to appear at around 10:30am, followed by a gaggle of registrars and junior doctors. The most important time of the day arrives: choosing your lunch and dinner for the next day. By the time that lunch is served, you can't remember what you're going to get because it wasn't long ago you had to choose what to eat tomorrow. The meals are pleasantly bland and easy enough to eat. Mealtimes are something to look forward to, even if the food is far from gourmet. Expecting much to happen during the day, in terms of treatment, is a mistake. Anticipation of treatment that has been promised can only lead to frustration and disappointment. The NHS does what the NHS does, and it does it at its own speed. Things cannot be rushed or expedited. Complaining or asking staff when things are going to happen or what's going on, will only piss them off and ruin their day. Dinner arrives surprisingly early. Treatment can be sprung upon you at the end of the day, just when you thought you were going to have a relaxing evening, or you can have a lengthy wait until you get your pain medication and anything to help you sleep. Dropping off to sleep is not easy, especially as the day shift will hand over to the night shift loudly at the end of your bed, and there will be more vital signs being measured before you'll be left in peace to try to get some rest.

And so, my week in hospital consisted of lying on a bed that had buttons that could make me sit up or lie down, with no effort required at all. I was able to elevate my bad leg, to reduce the swelling. I was brought paracetamol every 4 hours, tramadol every 6 hours, and 2 hot meals a day. There were few unexpected interruptions, and if I was well enough, I would have been able to read, listen to music, browse the internet and watch films & TV, pretty much all day, all evening and as late at night as I wanted. I could stake a piss without even having to get out of bed. Friends travelled to see me. Doctors came to my bedside, and I was wheeled to wherever I needed treatment, by hospital porters. I was under no obligation to do anything, except to get better, and all my basic needs were met. My lovely girlfriend augmented the hospital care, so I wanted for absolutely nothing. Blissful, right? I could have stayed for a month, and I would have even earned £676 (I pay myself minimum wage).

---

Why then was I in such a hurry to discharge myself? Why would I leave the lap of luxury, and risk my health and even my life, by leaving the safe confines of hospital?

Well, that's a topic of discussion I've covered at length in prior blog posts, so I invite you to peruse the archives.

---

People rarely change their bank. We open current accounts in our teens, and we keep them into adulthood. Some of us even opened special accounts when we were children, and we have a certain nostalgic brand loyalty for the bank that we've been a customer of since we were youths.

The 'big four' or 'big five' high-street banks have not changed for my entire lifetime. We have (in alphabetical order) Barclays, HSBC [Midland], Lloyds [TSB], Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander [Abbey National]. These banks hoover up 85% of all the current account banking customers in the UK.

Just like current account holders, people join these banks when they're young - often their first job - and tend to stay loyal. Many people who I deal with on a day-to-day basis have worked for 15, 20 or 25+ years for the same bank that's been so good to them that they've never felt compelled to leave. Everybody bitches about their job, but a bank employee knows that they're very well looked after and they'd be mad to go off in search of a better job.

I've worked for 3 of the big 5, and they're institutions that I feel very at home in. Some people might think that I work in a rather high-stress environment, where it's imperative that I'm up to date with the latest cutting-edge developments in my field, and I need to perform in an exceptionally demanding role. The truth is, once you're in the door, you're in for good. You get your feet under the desk, and adopt the right kind of jaded resignation, that everything is going to be slow, sloppy, shit and a massive festering pile of neglected crap that nobody gives two fucks about, and you'll fit in just fine. Moan as much as you want - everybody does - but for God's sake don't go on any crusades to change or improve anything. Just settle in, get comfortable and enjoy the masochistic experience of being in a world where not a lot gets done and the right answer is always "no".

A lot of people get into technology and engineering, because they like to fix things and make stuff that works. They like to build stuff. They like the feeling of completing a technical project, throwing the switch and seeing their hard work put into action. A bank is a terrible, terrible place to build anything that will ever see daylight.

Having come to terms with the fact that any ambitions you had of building useful things that people might actually use, will be forever thwarted by a bank, you can begin to enjoy the ridiculous game. You command millions of pounds of budget, and you will achieve nothing. When you estimate how long you think it will take you to do something, you double your original estimate, double it again, and then double it one final time for good luck, and it's still not long enough. When you are asked about the feasibility of doing something, or whether you have any spare bandwidth to perhaps do something extra, you instinctively say no; it can't be done; no chance. Nobody ever got fired for saying no. In fact, people start to love you and think you're great at your job, if you get really good at saying no.

Delivering pieces of important technology, 100% working and of high quality, in short timescales and with hardly any resources, is liable to cost you your sanity. "It can't be true" colleagues will proclaim, even as the results are staring them in the face. From denial, your colleagues will move to the belief that it's a one-off fluke, or they will hate you. Colleagues will mainly hate you for making them look like totally incompetent blundering slowcoach fools. Nobody ever made friends and got ahead in a bank, by doing a good job. Finding yourself burnt out from the exertions of persuading people of the merits of doing things properly, without pointless delays, you find yourself suddenly alone; isolated. You may create some kind of mythical; legendary; cult status around yourself and your achievements, but you have no future with the bank: the bank doesn't want your type, and it will unceremoniously eject you.

You can work for a bank for as long as you like, provided you just go along with things. Never challenge anything. Never push for change. Never go the extra mile. For sure, banking demands that you be seen to be going the extra mile, but it's all just for show; part of the act.

So, if you want to be really successful in your banking career, you learn the rhythm and routine of your department. You learn when your boss arrives at work, and you get to your desk before him or her, and leave with them in the evening, making pathetic small-talk. You learn who's got kids, what ages they are, and what stressful childcare arrangements are a pain in the arse for your colleagues. You learn how everybody gets to work. You learn whether they're morning people or night owls. You learn their interests: topics to get them talking; things that enthuse them. You learn who takes their job seriously; who's ambitious; who's jaded and demotivated. You learn who drinks heavily, smokes, gets stoned. You learn who's lived, and who's been insulated. You learn who's worked hard, and who's had advantages. You learn when to make yourself scarce and blend into the background, and when to promote yourself. You learn the things that need to regularly get done, and you discover many things that don't need doing. You learn how to do just enough to please the handful of important and influential people, and how to avoid having to do any pointless busywork.

You can't prepare yourself for boredom. There is nothing in the world worse than boredom.

My first week back in the office was 4 days of boredom. I've seen it all before, done it all before, and I'm the master of minimal effort. The only problem is that I need to look busy to make a good first impression. I forbade myself from reading the news on my laptop. I tried really hard to not look at my phone too much, and to pretend to be busy.

My boss and his boss, both sit right next to me. My boss is a nice guy who seems to have a paternal nature. The big boss talks too much and doesn't realise that I find him amusingly stupid. I listen, make the right noises and say some encouraging sounding things, but I'm completely failing to disguise my contempt for this fellow, but luckily he's the only one who fails to see my total lack of respect for him, except for my bosss. I endeavour to make my boss feel that my number one priority is in supporting him in making our team look good in the eyes of the big boss. I try to make the big boss feel in control, while diverting any respect he commanded away from him. There's a mutiny in progress, but nobody will realise until it's past the point of no return.

Virtually nothing can be achieved in 4 days in a bank, and I've achieved far more than anybody expects of me, even though I've spent a considerable amount of time in the toilets, browsing Facebook and writing amusing things for my friends to read. I invested as much time as I possibly could in developing a good relationship with my boss and my team, but I have nothing of value to contribute yet. Aside from dazzling my colleagues with my all-round technical knowledge, my main task is to stay the fuck out of their way and not disrupt things too much.

Regrettably, I've had to take Friday off work. Making a good first impression can only be done once, and the lasting image that my colleagues will have of me - the guy wearing the robocop ankle splint - will now be tainted with the fact that I had to take time off work, giving the impression that I'm unreliable and prone to sickness. Damage to your image like that can be irreparable.

Sometimes, it's desirable to be known for being unhelpful, regularly late to work and somebody who leaves on time in the evenings. Being somebody who walks out the office door, even when there's a major crisis, is the sign that you have become perfectly adjusted to bank culture. However, the clever ploy is to try hard at first, to develop an image of being a hard worker, but in actuality, you are avoiding work and responsibilities at all costs. In time, you will have the best of both worlds: being thought of as dedicated and useful, but actually adding no value at all.

My foot has been steadily getting more and more painful through the week, and I've been popping painkillers throughout the day. I've passed the week in a dreamlike state; heavily medicated. Having strong coffee in the morning to make me sharp and alert enough to make a good first impression, has meant that I've been able to stay awake in some horribly boring meetings, but it has made me a little hypomanic, causing me to be far too outspoken at times, but I think I've got away with it.

I've earned more in a single day in the office, than I would for almost a whole month of being in hospital. That kind of cash does motivate you to get out of bed in the morning, and to stay at your desk with your mouth shut, when really you can't stand being in the office.

You'd think it wouldn't be that hard, being a bit bored, going to a few meetings, talking to people, saying fairly standard things that are obvious. Having the exhaustion of being unwell, plus being in pain and discomfort, make things hard for sure, but in a way, it's been an excuse to be fucked up on drugs for 4 days and get paid an obscene amount of money for the privilege.

It seems fairly clear that if I can dial the intensity down to 4 or 5 from 11 - and the dial only goes to 10 - and ease my way into a gentle routine that I can just about cope with, then I'll be able to blend in for years. There's no reason why I wouldn't be liked and respected. There's no reason why I can't be perceived as doing a great job, even though I'm not doing anything useful. That's the main thing I need to remember: I'm specifically there to not do anything.

Saying the right thing at the right moment - being the smartest guy in the room (as someone I know once jibed) - comes easily to me, and it does unfortunately command a disproportionate amount of respect versus doing some real work instead.

---

I'm not sure which week was more comfortable. Certainly hospital was more physically comfortable, but I was highly stressed about losing my lucrative hard-won contract and being too tired to be able to function when I started work. My job is extremely easy and I anticipate no problems, except coping with boredom and my propensity to blow a fuse with frustration at the snail-like pace that everything moves at.

Sleeping in my own bed has been far superior to the hospital bed, but getting up in the morning is never pleasant. However, my lie-ins were so ruined in hospital - by irritatingly early breakfast and the like - that I have actually been getting ready for work, relatively painlessly.

Commuting is hell, but because I know it's hell, I'm able to impassively observe the shit that I'm going through; detach. Commuting is the price that one must pay, if you wish for your gross income to exceed a year's average salary in the space of just 8 weeks.

How can anybody handle such contrast? It's insane. It's surreal.

How can I walk out of a hospital, against medical advice, and go straight into a brand new job where they're oblivious of just how sick I am and how messed up my brain is by strong medication? Can't they see that they have an imposter in their mix? Obviously not.

That, effectively, sums up the bipolarity of my life. The ups and the downs. The highs and the lows. What more extreme example could I come up with?

 

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Will to Live

6 min read

This is a story about insecurity...

Sussex river

The self preservation instinct varies by individual. In theory, we should all be equally risk-averse, because all genetically heritable traits must surely code for self-preservation, by definition. Any genes that would make an individual less likely to want to live, would literally die out. However, we know that people willingly jump out of perfectly good aeroplanes, while others are afraid to leave the house.

When life becomes one long unrewarding fruitless struggle - endless anxiety - then it seems logical that you'd give up hope of things ever getting better. "This will pass" people say. It doesn't. They're wrong.

I've done most of the stressful things in life: moved house, made new friends, asked a girl out on a date, got a job, paid bills, started businesses, balanced the books, paid my taxes, fixed a broken down car, fixed a water leak, fixed a gas leak, been punched in the face, got divorced, been arrested, been locked in a cell, been hospitalised, ran out of money, been homeless.

So, I've been through a lot of shit and survived. I've dealt with a heap of very stressful situations and I managed to get through them without having a nervous breakdown. However, I'm not exactly thrilled about having to start over.

I had become careless with my life, because I'd been suicidally depressed for so long that existence offered nothing but unrelenting pain.

My life attitude has generally been this: start today with whatever I've got, and make the best of it.

It's heartbreaking when you try your best for years and years, but you're thwarted at every turn. Imagine you've patiently observed, practiced and developed your skills. You're doing all the right things, but it's not working because somebody is working against you. I try to win people over. I try to get people onside. I try to convert the bad apples into good apples, rather than chuck them in the bin.

I'm named after a heroin addict: Mr Grant. I don't know his first name. If I took my mum's name, I'd be Nick Newton. If I took my dad's name, I'd be Nick Edmonds.

I had a blazing row with my mum when I was a child, over whether it was ever ethical to write somebody off as a lost cause. Unsurprisingly, my unshakeable belief - for as long as I can remember - has been that nobody is born bad, and nobody should be abandoned. Even the idea of casual dating is unpalatable to me: pick a partner and stick with them; be loyal.

My core beliefs have been tested to breaking point. I've lain myself wide open to be taken advantage of, and people have come and filled their pockets at my expense.

"Where are your friends when you need them?" my flatmate asked me a few times. "They're not there when you need them" he said.

In fact, I never phoned my friends for help. Ironically, the one time I phoned my friends for a favour, was to get rid of my flatmate - who owes me thousands of pounds in unpaid rent and bills - when he refused to leave.

Of course, my friends have been there when I've needed them, but I have a strong instinct to take my problems away from the people who I care about. I don't suck people into the turmoil of my decaying life. If I'm in trouble, I don't want that trouble to spill over onto my friends. If I'm going to kill myself, I'm going to throw up barriers - defences - to stop people getting too close to ground zero.

I haven't been ready to have anybody in my life, because I started to believe the bullshit: I started to think that I was a good-for-nothing write-off lost cause.

Now, a couple of people have stuck by me and been physically present through some of the horrors, and we've come out the other side. With every bit of loyalty, love and care that I've received, it's helped me to heal and repair a little more. It's hard to be objective, but it feels like things are getting better for once.

Everybody needs at least one person who believes in them. One person who'll be there when you really need somebody. One person who's trying to help, not thwart.

I find myself writing with consideration for their feelings and how they might perceive things. I'm starting to think about a positive future, rather than just brain-dumping before I die.

This blog was supposed to be a time-capsule; a smoking gun; a suicide note. This blog was supposed to contain all the things that hold some horrible people to account. It's so much easier if the target of your malice goes down without a fight and quietly dies.

She said to me "awwww, you wrote me a love letter" and it's true. In amongst the bitchy sniping at a bunch of arseholes who've screwed me over, there's a new theme developing: I care about hurting somebody's feelings and damaging a burgeoning relationship. There's something precious to me that I want to protect.

It's fairly hard to think "I hope we don't break up" and "I want to die" at the same time. Obviously, it'd be a logical fallacy to hold both thoughts simultaneously. Reason is a very poor way to tackle emotion, but it seems to be quite hard to be suicidal when you're cuddling on the couch... although not impossible.

When you care about somebody, you can feel insecure: "what if I lose her?"

It's progress, of a kind. I wouldn't say that dating is ever a reason to live, but having a significant other who you're crazy about is an improvement on a situation where your own emotional pain fills your world, to the point where you have no capacity to think or care about the people who would be sad if you were dead.

"Suicide is so selfish."

No, you simply haven't understood. It's you who is selfish, if you expect somebody to endure intolerable agony for your benefit. Believe me: people don't want to die because they're selfish; they want to die because they can't stand the pain and suffering anymore.

Guilt-tripping never works, but kindness, care, compassion and loyalty seem to be a winning combo.

 

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Only Smarties Have the Answer

2 min read

This is a story about a pill for every ill...

My pills

There was a young man who swallowed a lie, about how hard work and loyalty to his company would make him successful. It left him exhausted and with depression, that wiggled and jiggled inside his brain. I don't know why he swallowed the lie. Perhaps he'll die.

There was a young man who swallowed 150mg of Bupropion - a fast acting antidepressant - to cancel out the depression and exhaustion, that wiggled and jiggled inside his brain. Perhaps he'll die.

There was a young man who swallowed 5mg of Olanzapine - a mood stabiliser - to cancel out the hypomanic highs that were created by the Bupropion, that was supposed to fix the depression and exhaustion, that wiggled and jiggled inside his brain. Perhaps he'll die.

There was a young man who swallowed 15mg of Mirtazapine - another antidepressant - because the Bupropion wasn't working so well any more on its own, to fix the depression and exhaustion, that wiggled and jiggled inside his brain. Perhaps he'll die.

There was a young man who swallowed 25mg of Lamotrigine, to raise his seizure threshold so he could take more Bupropion, stabilise his mood more and as a third antidepressant, to fix the depression and exhaustion, that wiggled and jiggled inside his brain. Perhaps he'll die.

There was a young man who swallowed 10mg of Diazepam - an anti-anxiety drug - because by now he was pretty jittery from all the damn drugs, that were supposed to fix his depression and exhaustion, that wiggled and jiggled inside his brain. Perhaps he'll die.

There was a young man who was going to swallow 2,000mg of potassium cyanide, to end the depression and exhaustion, that wiggled and jiggled inside his brain. Of course he would die.

 

Top picture, from left to right: Mirtazepine, Olanzapine, Bupropion, Diazepam, Lamotrigine.

 

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The War on Childhood

10 min read

This is a story about how to fuck up a kid...

Statue holding hoop

I love the symbolism of this image. What it means to me is this: we have to jump through hoops, like some kind of trained circus animal.

What made you decide that you could give your kids a brilliant life? What made you decide that creating new life on an overcrowded planet was a great idea?

Was it the fact that climate change is an undisputed problem, and your children will inherit a drowning world?

Was it the fact that neoliberal capitalism has given us a cruel ruling elite who have enslaved most of humanity in menial jobs, and left the rest to starve?

Was it that a small handful of oligarchs, monarchs and plutocrats control all the world's wealth, and the chances of being elevated from poverty are the same as being hit by an asteroid, twice, on the way to collect your lottery winnings?

Was it that the social structure of the tribe, the clan and the extended family has now all-but ended, as we are forced to roam the entire planet in search of a golden opportunity that does not exist, and we are forced to content ourselves with social media, text message and video-chat interactions, that are in place of actual face-to-face human relationships with our nearest and dearest?

It won't be long before our babies are whisked away from us at birth, and we can do nothing but follow their progress on a Twitter page, as they forge their way through an educational system designed to produce compliant drones, who have no hope but to join the enslaved masses in some soul-crushingly dreadful job. And the reason why we never get to see our children? So we can continue to pursue our unfulfilling jobs for as many hours as we can possibly work before collapsing with exhaustion.

I have this little fantasy about being a dad. In my fantasy, me and some imagined partner are woken up early in the morning by our two children. One child is a toddler, and the other is slightly older but still a preschooler. The kids clamber into bed and we all spend the morning watching cartoons together. Then we all get up and dressed and eat pancakes together around the kitchen table.

Then, I also have this imagined version of reality.

I wake up before the kids, get showered and dressed although I'm desperately tired. I then have a stressful commute through traffic and endless crowds of people. I arrive at a job that I hate, because it's boring and stressful, underpaid and my bosses have nothing but contempt for me and the capitalist scum who run all the corporations have no gratitude or respect for the workers who toil to line their pockets. I get to look at a photograph of my children on my desk, but this is merely a form of emotional bribery. Without the picture of my kids on my desk, I would question what the hell I was even doing, and just quit the awful job.

In my imagined version of reality, I work extra late to try and impress the bosses and get a precious promotion that may allow the basic essentials of life to be bought without constant financial struggle to make ends meet. Every time the car breaks down or some home improvements are needed, it always costs more than any savings that have been put away as contingency for these eventualities. A debt spiral has been happening because of having to use short-term borrowing to simply meet the cost of living. Then more debt was incurred servicing the first debt. This wasn't money that was spent on frivolities, but on such things as fixing broken plumbing and essential child-rearing equipment like cribs and pushchairs.

My imagination tells me that, in reality, I would then struggle home late through yet another stressful commute, only to find that the kids are already in bed. My partner is exhausted from the demands of working a part time job that brings in marginally more money than the cost of the childcare that we must pay for so that she can have her very badly paid job. Juggling work and childcare arrangements, she must travel twice as far as a normal commute, in order to pick up and drop off the kids at their daycare facilities. The household budget is super tight, and extremely diligent use of discount coupons, shopper loyalty schemes and knowing the cheapest supermarket to obtain our groceries for each product, is the only way that a few extra pounds can be found to balance the books.

Exhausted and stressed - in this imaginary reality - we collapse into bed. The pressure that me and my imaginary partner are under means that we are arguing all the time, so we aren't having sex or any kind of physical intimacy anymore. We are just two exhausted scared and anxious people, trying to survive and hide the desperation of the situation from the children.

The children - I imagine - are browbeaten into believing that they have one shot at getting good school grades and not fucking up their lives. Me and my imaginary partner tell our kids how important it is that they study hard and try their best, so that they can go to university and get a great job. We repeatedly tell our kids that life is a struggle, and the world is a mean place, and that they should stop laughing and playing, and knuckle down and do some damn homework.

Grow up! Concentrate! This is important! Pay attention! You have no idea what the real world's like! We rebuke our little kids. We are desperately anxious that our children should not suffer the same fate that we endure. Endless arguments over schoolwork and bad grades. Endless stress about whether or not our kids are thriving in the rigid educational system. Every bit of spare time we have goes into educational activities. We can't just make a fort out of cushions... we have to turn it into a history lesson, or a lesson about the physics of why buildings don't fall down. Everything is twisted into an opportunity to try and cram a bit more knowledge into our little kids' craniums.

Your kid drives themselves nuts with the pressure and expectation placed upon them. Kids are sensitive to their parents anxiety. Kids are like sponges, and they're getting the message loud & clear about how important it is that they apply themselves and try their hardest. Some kids will respond, and will allow themselves to have their personality dissected, sifted and sorted. Some kids will quietly allow themselves to be judged and graded by complete strangers who couldn't give two fucks about who they are as an individual.

Then, finally, it's time for the big wide world that we've promised our children is the whole reason why they can't have a childhood. The whole reason why we didn't let our kids play in the dirt, or spend time with their friends, was so that they could have their noses in books, writing essays or taking mock examinations. Now, it's time for your kids to spread their wings and be whatever they want to be.

Use your imagination! Follow your dreams! Find your passion! We tell our precious children.

What we really mean is: go get a sensible job for a reputable corporation, shovelling shit for the capitalists.

Childhood was jettisoned in favour of academic achievements. We told our kids they couldn't be friends with some of the other children, because they were too stupid and a bad influence. We told our kids they couldn't laugh, play and have the simple joys of their childhood, because there was too much at stake. Our kids' precious future was on the line. It was life or death.

And now, your kids have the same shitty job that doesn't pay the bills and is inadequate to support a family. Your kids busted their balls to get their grades, go to university, follow their dreams. Guess what? There aren't any jobs for historians or philosophers. There aren't any jobs where you need to speak dead languages like Latin or Ancient Greek. There aren't any jobs for artists.

Your kids are going to have to get a job keeping score for the capitalists, while they wait for the planet to become totally uninhabitable. It's a football game with 21 referees and 2 goalkeepers. It's a rowing race with 20 coxswains and 2 rowers. Over 80% of the 'economy' is made up by service sector bullshit.

This is it? This is what you you wanted to give your kids? This is the life that you thought your children would be so happy to live? Did you think about this stuff? You did think about this stuff, didn't you? No? Why didn't you think about this stuff?

"Everything will be alright in the end"

No. It probably won't be.

Things probably won't be alright in the end, because everybody has that attitude. Through collective wilful stupidity, and a desire to ignore the evidence in front of our eyes, we spawn yet more children in the hope that one of the little fuckers is smart enough to solve the world's problems. It's like setting alight to the basement of your house, in the hope that it will put out a fire in the roof.

Don't get me wrong; I love kids. I think kids are cute and I love the way that they make me feel happy when I look after them. I definitely feel very fulfilled as an animal, when I'm playing make-believe daddy, and imagining that I might have kids of my own. There's definitely something biologically right about reproducing one's genes. However, ethically it would seem to be the wrong thing to do.

You know, you made your choice, and I like you and your kids. But collectively it's fucking insane.

I would say that the only way to redeem yourself now would be to pull your kids out of school. Go and live near your parents, uncles and aunties. Form a little village of your relatives. Let your kids play and be children. Teach your kids about the grave responsibility that faces them, but don't fucking bullshit them. Stop selling this lie that hard work and a lost childhood will somehow pave the way for a happy adulthood.

Just look at the goddam stats. Soaring rates of mental illness and suicide. Almost everybody hates their fucking job and doesn't get to spend enough time with their families. Almost everybody is stressed as fuck about money, job insecurity and the uncertainty over whether they will be able to provide housing, food, clothing and everything else they need for them and their children. It's fucking awful.

But, you know what? There are more of us than the goddam capitalists who want to maintain the status quo. Sure there are police and the army, who are there to make sure that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. However, the system only continues to function while we all collectively help to prop it up. Are you happy? Is this what you want for your children? Is this it?

Is this it?

 

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