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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.

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My Life in Pictures (Part Three)

7 min read

This is a story about thirteen doors...

Bedroom

I just woke up. There are my shitty blinds. It's the blind on the right that has the massive gaping hole for people to peek through. You'd have to be able to get into my back garden to peek at me, and go round to the area where the patio table is, and press your nose up against the glass, but you would wouldn't you? It's interesting seeing inside somebody's private world.

Broken blind

There's the little peep hole. I know it doesn't look like much, but believe me it's enough to make me feel a little paranoid. Obviously when I'm unwell my small amount of paranoia can become a large amount of paranoia. That innocent looking small gap is equivalent to being stripped naked in front of a packed theatre full of gawping onlookers, when I'm not very well.

Hello world

There I am waving, stood in my bedroom next to my bed. My apartment has a really weird layout. I'll show it to you. Let's try to walk down the corridor to get out of my bedroom. Come on! It'll be fun!

Blocked door

Oh dear, we're not going to be able to get out that way, are we? The door's all blocked up with stuff I've piled up. What the hell? How are we going to get out?

Long corridor

Oh hello again! As you can see there's a second door that leads out of my bedroom. This door leads through my walk-in wardrobe type thingy, and through to the rest of my apartment. I've stacked all those boxes up behind the other door because that other corridor is completely useless, so I use it for storage.

Bedroom door

That's my bedroom door.

Wardrobe door

That's the door to my kinda-walk-in wardrobe. Similar to my bedroom door, isn't it?

Blocked door

That's the other side of the first door I showed you - the one with all the stuf stacked up behind it. Don't open it!

Bathroom door

That's the bathroom door. I'm not going to show you the bathroom. If you've seen one bathroom you've seen them all. Doors however come in all shapes and sizes and I'm sure you're fascinated by this parade of plain white doors that I'm showing you.

Back door

That's my back door which leads into my back garden/patio. I don't go out there much. You could go out there and go and peek at me through the gap in my blinds.

More doors

There's my toilet door and the door that leads into the main hallway, where the front door is. How many doors is that so far? I count 7. I'm going to show you 13 doors and I'm sure you're riveted. We're not even halfway through and I bet you can't wait to see the next 8 doors!

Front door

There's the front door. Let's not go out there because somebody will see me taking photos of doors and think that I'm a weirdo. Spoiler: I'm a weirdo.

Basement door

What the HELL is THAT goddam door? Let's have a look shall we?

Garage door

Oh it's a door to the garage. There's the garage door. I'm glad we're seeing this door because I was getting a bit bored of all those plain white doors. We're well over halfway through and here's a bit of welcome variety to keep us enthused about this journey through my life, told via the medium of door photographs. Let's go back into my apartment!

Kitchen door

That's the door into my kitchen. I mostly leave it open. I should shut it when I'm cooking, but I mostly keep it open. I like the smell of fried onions when I wake up in the morning.

Dividing doors

These doors divide my kitchen/diner from my living room. Perhaps I shouldn't have counted these doors, but I think they're doors like any other and should be included in the full total number of doors in my home. As you can see, you're getting a sneak preview of my living room thanks to the glass panels in the doors.

Kitchen

There's my kitchen/diner. As you can see by the unwashed dishes and letters piled up on the dining table, I live like a total slob. Also, you might be getting the impression that my apartment is rather spacious for little old me, living all on my own. It seems a bit wasteful to have so much space for myself, but I did used to live in a bush in a park, so I think I deserve it, as much as anybody deserves anything, of course.

Snack attack

There's the sofa where I can usually be found reclining. As you can see, I haven't put any effort into tidying up and there's plenty more evidence of my slobby lifestyle - the floor is strewn with discarded crisp packets, cheeses string packets, Pepperarmi sausage packets and mini chicken bite packets, which are within grabbing distance of my preferred relaxation spot: lying watching the TV or tapping away on my laptop.

Castor oil plant

I'm not allowed to have pets but I'd have a cat if I could. Instead of a cat I have house plants. This one is a castor oil plant. I like the castor oil plant the best, because the seeds have ricin in them, which is an incredibly potent poison.

Pot plant

This is my least favourite plant. I don't even know what type it is. It's not really thriving. It's not very interesting.

Umbrella plant

This is my umbrella plant. I like this one, but I really want a cheese plant. A cheese plant is probably going to be my next major household purchase.

London sunset canvas

Here's the last photo I took from the balcony of my apartment in London, before I had to leave and go to Manchester because I'd run out of money. That apartment was lovely. The one in London I mean, not the one in Manchester where I tried to kill myself. You can see what my life in London was like in my previous blog post: My Life in Photos (pt2)

Lounge door

Oh no! I had quite forgotten why you're here: to see 13 doors. I nearly forgot to show you the last door in my little photo exposé. Your life would have been quite incomplete if I hadn't shown you the final door in my home. This one leads directly from my lounge and into the entrance hallway, where you can exit the front door and beat a swift retreat. Are you going now? Really? So soon?

View from the sofa

Good I'm glad those visitors have gone. I can lie down on the sofa in my usual spot. I might watch something on the idiot box. I've got a great position here, lying down watching crappy TV shows. I'd love to just spend all day every day lying right here.

Bye bye

Thanks for visiting! Bye! I'm not going to get up. You can show yourselves out. You know the way now. You've had the full tour, now piss off. I'm just going to lie here on the sofa and treat myself to a nice little rest after the exhaustion of giving you a tour of my life, told through 13 photos of 13 doors.

If you're still hungry for more, you can see what my life was like at a couple of other points in time in the last year, although there are no more pictures of any doors, I'm sure you'll be disappointed to learn. Check out:

Please, when you're reading my old stuff bear in mind that I was very unwell when I posted that stuff. I preserve it for posterity, as I am wont to do.

I hope you enjoyed peeking through my blinds.

 

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The Flight I Never Took

7 min read

This is a story about missed connections...

San Francisco Flights

Like many people, I have a large collection of digital photos. My library starts in 2005, when a group of friends and I pooled our holiday snaps from a trip to Venezuela. Travel photography is the main thing that featured until my life started getting erratic. I have an increasingly random muddle of photos and screenshots, like a breadcrumb trail leading back to saner and more stable times.

2008 was the beginning of a much more exciting life than I had led before. I quit my investment banking career, developed some iPhone apps, retrained as an electrician, called off my wedding and went back to IT consultancy work. Having lived under the dark storm-cloud of an abusive relationship for far too long, I finally decided I'd had enough and broke up with my fiancée. I made a new group of friends and rebooted my life - as a prescription for depression, that shock treatment worked perfectly.

Fast-forward to 2011 and I knew that my relationship - back together with the girl who my friends call "the poison dwarf" - was destroying my world and ruining my happiness. I spent 3 amazing months in Cambridge and I'd fallen in love with somebody else, but I was too loyal; too faithful; too committed to give up on a failing relationship and go for what I really wanted.

In 2012 I capitulated and tried to follow doctor's orders - I started taking medication - and went back to the life I hated. I returned to the investment bank I'd previously worked for and tried to pretend like I was OK with that. I even got married to "the poison dwarf". I tried my very hardest to put on the boring grey suit and pretend like I was able to work doing the 9 to 5 office routine that I'd done for years and years, but my heart was broken.

I guess I never really got over the fact that I hadn't followed my dreams; followed my heart.

2013 brought the inevitable divorce, which necessitated selling my house and figuring out what to do with all my worldly possessions. In short, I didn't want anything to do with my toxic old life: the place and the things and the pain of everything getting ripped to shreds was just too much to bear. I wanted the whole lot to burn to the ground so I could start over. I wanted a fresh start.

I tried to court that girl from Cambridge who I'd fallen in love with - she liked me too and things were going well. It looked like I was going to break free from the gravity that tried to pull me back into a black hole. Despite me telling "the poison dwarf" that she could take as much as she wanted, she tried to destroy me. She just needed to leave me alone to get on with my new life, but she made the process of divorce into an unbelievably horrible disaster. Despite my attempts to make things quick and painless and give her a big cash settlement, she sabotaged my every effort.

In the midst of the acrimonious divorce, I tried to get away from the worsening British weather and get some rest and relaxation before Christmas. I was going to go to Florida and do some skydiving, and then I was going to go to San Francisco to see my friends in the Bay Area. The house should have been sold; the cash should have been in the bank - it wasn't, because "the poison dwarf" had screwed up the easy house sale that I'd worked so hard to make happen.

I was too sick to take my flight to America.

I think of 2014 as my annus horribilis given that I spent about 11 weeks receiving inpatient treatment, essentially for the problems caused by getting screwed over as a vulnerable person, by my ex-wife. She'd demanded a quick divorce and I'd said "take whatever you want" but then she made it unspeakably awful. After a rotten birthday where I found myself well and truly homeless, I repeated my magic trick of 2008: I got myself back into IT consultancy and made a load of new friends; I flew off to Tenerife with my new girlfriend and went kitesurfing. From the depths of despair and near destruction, I rose up and rebuilt myself.

What happened in 2015, 2016 and 2017, combined a winning formula of highly paid IT consultancy work and my ability to make new friends and rebuild my life, with the sensation-seeking desire to maintain a novel lifestyle: if nothing else, my life has been very exciting for the past few years.

Whereas most people live in fear of tarnishing their professional reputation and losing everything they own and hold dear, I found those things became incredibly cumbersome when I was unwell. To maintain appearances and pretend like everything is just fine, is immensely energy-draining. It's almost driven me insane, worrying about what former work colleagues and bosses think about me; what people know about my chequered past. Far, far, far more than the abuse my body has suffered, and the mental health problems I've been through, the biggest problem in my life has been worrying about people finding out the very things that I've catalogued on the pages of this blog, quite publicly.

We are now approaching a third San Francisco flight that has been booked, but there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding whether I will be going or not. I dearly wish to see an old schoolfriend who was pivotal in raising the alarm on social media, to the fact that I was in the process of killing myself - in essence, he was the last person I spoke to while still alive, telling him that I was sorry I wouldn't be seeing him in November [because I'd be dead].

Twitter conversation

It fucking horrifies me that the managing director of the company who I was working for at the time - who booked my flights out to San Francisco - was in the process of attempting to terminate my employment while I was on life support in intensive care... because he'd read this on Twitter!

Given that I've stubbornly refused to die, I feel like taking the trip to San Francisco in defiance of the arsehole who didn't care whether I lived or died. That gobsmackingly awful human being deserves to have to see me alive and well, taking a trans-Atlantic flight to go and see an old friend who actually cared about my life.

I feel like I might be calling on you - my social media friends - to help me raise Hell to show that vulnerable people shouldn't get screwed over by unscrupulous arseholes.

So, this is my call to action: I'd like to speak to you and I'd like your support in turning up the heat on people who put personal profit ahead of human lives. I've been wondering what to do with myself, and this feels like an important point; this feels like something symbolic.

Whether it's my ex-wife who literally said "I'd rather be a widow than a divorcee" or my ex-boss who literally fired me for being dead, I want to stand up to these fucking arseholes.

 

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31 Days to Go

6 min read

This is a story about goals...

Calendar

A friend of mine said in 2010 that he was going to blog every day for a year, to see if had the discipline to be able to write a book. He achieved his goal and now has 2 books published, as well as continuing to write his blog for over 8,000 subscribers, and tweet to nearly 4,000 followers. He's an inspiration.

What's impressive about what a couple of friends have done, is that they've managed to blend their professional expertise with things that they're passionate about. A couple of inspirational friends' blogs include a mix of creative writing, photography, their hobbies, as well as being part of their work portfolio.

Given that I'm passionate about mental heath, addiction and homelessness, and ways of improving the lives of vulnerable members of our society, that rather clashes with my day job of being an IT consultant to a bunch of elite and uncaring capitalists. My colleagues would shit themselves if they knew what was going on behind my neatly presented and unassuming façade.

I wandered up a bit of a career cul-de-sac. "Do what you love and money will follow" is just utter bullshit. There are so many people in caring professions, or very creative people, who are absolutely flat broke. Hate the boring shit that you do and money will follow has most certainly proven itself, over the years.

You've got to be quite flukey to hit that sweet spot, where you love what you do and you're well paid to do it. Please stop telling people who are demotivated and disillusioned with the rat race to quit their jobs and do whatever they want. Cottage industries are allowing people to just about eke out a living, but only as a form of charity where we feel that we should support our friends and family in their dreams. Of course we don't really want to buy all those cupcakes or hang those revolting paintings on our walls, but we feel that we should do our bit to support them.

When you get yet another charity sponsorship request, and you can see all the names of your friends and colleagues who have donated, you are duty-bound to make a similar contribution. What are you really contributing for? Are you contributing for the good cause, or are you contributing so that your friend or colleague can delude themself that they're making a difference.

While charities tell us they're being innovative and making a difference, with everything from rock concerts to gamification, the reality is that the rich:poor divide is growing. Charity has failed. The middle classes give away pocket change. The working class are forced to donate through taxes on their stupidity, like the National Lottery. However, the rich are absolute selfish c**ts.

And so, I find if very hard to reconcile the rhetoric of the world - "do what you love" - with the reality of needing to pay my rent and bills. I find it very hard to ignore the pragmatism of working for somebody who will pay me the market rate, versus being exploited by somebody else because I enjoy what I do.

I write this blog, because there is no other outlet that will pay for my creative output. I can draw as many cartoons as I want, write as much as I want, sing, dance, record videos of myself... everybody else is doing just the same, and it all costs absolutely nothing.

Some writers on Reddit said that I should see writing as a job, and pointed out that if people are prepared to work for nothing (and so many are) then of course the wages will tend towards zero. Only the high-profile columnists and established authors with the marketing power of a publisher behind them, will be able to keep their heads above water and be heard in the midst of the deafening white noise.

I'm 11 months into my little project and I have over 6,000 Twitter followers and my blog's been read in nearly 100 countries worldwide. However, it's hardly like I can quit my job and declare myself to be a writer, even though I love writing and mental health is an important issue: an epidemic.

I need to grind out the next month.

One month from now, I will almost have reached financial security for the first time in 3 years. I will have had 6 months clean, which is a big deal, because I've been limping along with relapses for so long. I will have also been writing every day for a whole year.

My mental health is in a shockingly bad state. The stability of my life still hangs by a slender thread: how would I pay my rent and keep a roof over my head if my contract was unexpectedly terminated? The state of my finances is improving every day, but I'm still several months away from building up any kind of safety net.

However, one more month and I have something to celebrate: the wolf will be somewhat further from the door.

Doing "Go Sober for October" was probably a mistake, because I rely on alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety. Being stone cold sober landed me in a psychiatric hospital, because I had zero protection: nothing to cushion the blows and relentless pressure from the horrible hostile cut-throat business environment.

Yes, in theory I could go a little easier on myself, but in practice it's not true. I have a narrow window to make things work. When your mental health is unreliable, it's a good strategy to get rich quick. It doesn't look unusual to have a string of short contracts, but my mood disorder would stand out like a sore thumb to some HR person, poring over the gaps in my CV, if I was in the dreaded arena of permanent employment (a.k.a. worker exploitation).

I'm being a scrappy little hustler, and clawing my way up the cliff face. I might make it. I might fall to my death. Let's wait and see what happens.

 

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The Anonymity of Noise

6 min read

This is a story about gushing all over the Internet...

HSBC Future

What happens when you lay your soul bare for public examination? Well, don't worry about it, because everybody is pouring their private lives out into the public domain on social media and via email, text message and other electronic communication mediums.

I have overcome my fear of dying alone. My frustration with life now outweighs my fear of death. Now my only fear is of being survived by anybody who knew me. The way that people misremember you will be your legacy.

We all write and create so much content these days. Digital cameras are ubiquitous. We create thousands of photographs and videos. We write hundreds of thousands of words in emails, text messages and social media posts. Our digital footprint is huge.

You would have thought that there would be shame, embarrassment, regret in sharing my most private secrets, but the more I do it, the more I am liberated from the desire to prove myself worthy. I like admitting I am fallible, that I have made mistakes, that I have gone astray. It's exhausting fighting the rumour mill and trying to maintain a spotless image.

I'm actually struggling to return to the 'real world'. Spending every day with nothing more important to do than write is nice (who knew?). I'm sure that those of you with jobs and kids must hate my guts for the fact that I reject responsibility and instead, my time and energy is ploughed into pontificating like a student, like a child, like a spoiled teenager.

Presumably you see that sitting an exam with known 'correct' answers is pointless? Allowing yourself to be measured, to be sifted, to be sorted... subjecting yourself to the degradation of allowing somebody to sit in judgement over your intellectual value. Surely you can see that being channelled through such a system is brainwashing you? You might as well get "KNOW YOUR PLACE" tattooed to the inside of your eyelids.

Writers, photographers, musicians and other artists must struggle to be heard over the cacophony of "me too" voices. Any douche with an iPhone is a photographer or a film-maker these days. Any douche who can play three chords on a guitar is a musician. Any douche who's not completely tone deaf is a singer. Any douche who can string a coherent sentence together is a writer or a poet.

Pearl Jam

When was the last time that you stepped back from what you were doing, and questioned your place in the big picture? When was the last time you examined your reason, your motives, for doing everything you do?

An experiment was conducted on public transport, where a person would ask somebody who was sitting down "can I sit there?" indicating that they would like the person sitting down to give up their seat. There was no obvious reason to give up the seat, such as being pregnant, old or having an injury. We just want to sit down. Perhaps an unreasonable request, when at least second in line for that seat.

The result from the expriment was that, a large proportion of the time, people would give up their seat and allow the other person to sit down. Sometimes the person would ask "why?" and the reply "because I want to sit down" would be given. An unreasonable reply, perhaps, but that was enough of a reason for some people to give up their seat after initially questioning the justification.

We are all very familiar with the 'teacher' experiments that show that many people would administer lethal electric shocks to a 'pupil' if we were told to do it by an authority figure. People are very compliant with social norms. We very rarely question things, especially if there is obvious rank and status in play.

How dare I publish my photographs, unless I have done some kind of photography course. Maybe I need to be a fellow of some kind of academy or society of the arts? Maybe I need a piece of paper to wave, as well as the end of my camera lens.

How dare I read academic papers and do my own research, consider my own hypotheses, publish my own thoughts and ideas. Maybe I need to be a graduate from some esteemed academic institution? Maybe I need to have a qualification that says that I was measured by somebody in authority, and found to meet a certain standard? Maybe I need to be gagged and blinded.

How dare I write, unless I have received an advance from a publisher, or have other works published. Maybe I need to have a number of press clippings and a bibliography to prove my words have the necessary importance. Words without quotation, without citation... they're worthless noise.

Fortune Cookie

Have you ever heard of original thinkers? People who don't give a shit who you are, and how important you think you are. People who don't give a shit about rote-learning the same crap as everybody else. People who aren't afraid to question the status quo, or to keep asking "why?" until the limit of understanding is reached, and the shaky foundations of knowledge are revealed.

Sure, a great debate rages about the contribution of laymen and women. Sure, everybody thinks that their contribution is valid, and there isn't enough time to lay bare the fundamental error in every half-baked crackpot idea.

Publish or perish, though, publish or perish. Everything is indexed for search these days. It really doesn't hurt anybody, having these 143,000 words out there in the public domain. It actually helps me, because I have a non-monetary life-insurance policy. It serves to capture a little piece of me, alive. I'm living through my words, because I don't feel like my fingernails are going to grip onto life for very much longer.

Yes, it would be easy to say that this sounds alarmist, attention seeking. However, I know how close I am to death, because I've captured the data and I've done the calculations.

Blog Word Count

I can see the cyclical nature of myself. I can see the downward slide of things

 

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Platform 9.75

3 min read

This is a story of personal development, mistakes and unanswerable questions...

King's Cross School of Physics

I wrote something on the platform of King's Cross, doing the minimum necessary research, all from my smartphone. It wasn't me being smart, or my phone, but the programmers, engineers, physicists, philosophers and authors of all the content, who selflessly published into the public domain, via the Internet, which enabled me to do this.

Of course, there had to be a seed too. That seed was Oxford, and the academic sons & daughters who attended state comprehensive during my childhood, including Ben Werdmüller (CEO of Known, where you are reading this post) who taught me how to program a computer and not just use it for consuming video games. Technology then became both my means of consumption for literature (e.g. Cornell University's ArXiv library) but also low-fi tech, such as the Microfiche film I used to view the first photographs of the Middle East, at St Anthony's College, Oxford Univesity.

Ben's father, Oscar, was at St. Anthony's, with my mother, Gillian. This connection has serendipitously given me a career, a love of photography and an appreciation for the physical books, photographs and human relationships, which can be obfuscated by computer screens and Microfiche viewers. Oscar & Ben also inspired in me a love of sport and teamwork, which is only coming to the fore in the 36th year of my life. Debbie, Ben & Hannah inspired in me a love of writing, drawing and creativity that would normally have been stifiled by my move into a technical industry.

Design Museum Quote

The Werdmüller/Monas family's book of drawings by the children - Ben & Hannah - was one of the most precious objects I have ever had the priviledge of handling. Now my own mum looks after priceless manuscripts and first editions of every book ever printed, for the Bodleian Library, Oxford University. These connections are easy to overlook, if you hadn't lived 36 years in my shoes, which is understandable. We all have our own outlook. We are all independent and unique observers in the Universe.

Thanks to a great piece of writing by Ben, it dawned on me that what I do with my 'head start' in computing is often indistinguishable from magic for the vast majority of people, who are playing catch up. Ego and humility always duke it out in my brain, depending on whether I consider my own unique experiences and opportunities, or whether I compare myself to an 'average' set of experiences and opportunities.

So are ordinary people able to stay abreast of developments in theories pertaining to the fundamental nature of reality? Can a kid from a state comprehensive school read and understand the literature that is published in books and academic papers? The jury's out, but I can highly recommend J S Bell's Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics for anybody who would like to read about the probability of a Physics PhD's socks being of different colours.

In the interests of my own reputation... I don't think I've 'solved' or 'discovered' anything. Just a curious mind.

Quantum Eraser Experiment

Nick Grant repeating the classic "Quantum Eraser" interferometry experiment with a laser and polarising filter, at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, UK (July 2011)

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