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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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God Bless The Police

5 min read

This is a story about law and order...

NYPD

My neighbour's burglar alarm has been going off continuously for over 24 hours. I spoke to my neighbour late last night who told me that she wasn't able to drive because she had drunk a bottle of wine. I said I would gladly pay her cab fare, but she refused to do anything about it last night. The alarm was still going off this evening, and I have been making attempts to contact my neighbour all day.

I phoned the police.

God bless the police.

They turned up less than an hour after I got off the phone to them. The police are very nice people. One policeman came in my house to hear how loud the alarm was and he said that he'd have broken into my neighbour's house and taken a hammer to the alarm, if it was him - he wasn't even joking.

In all seriousness, the police were pretty clear that I can't break into my neighbour's house - I would be arrested for breaking and entering. I can't afford to be arrested when my government security clearance is at stake, which is vital for the job I do - I can't afford to be on the wrong side of the law. My conduct has to be beyond reproach.

The police tried to contact my neighbour. Another neighbour tried to contact my neighbour. We managed to find my neighbour on Facebook, and the police managed to find an email address. We tried to figure out where she might be. My neighbours were out on the street, chatting to the police. It was all a bit embarrassing, but it's pretty awful being in my house with the burgular alarm blasting for over 24 hours.

I contacted the local council's noise pollution team and they told me that unfortunately the law changed, literally in the last week, such that the courts won't grant a warrant to break into a house and cut off the burglar alarm during "unsociable hours". Literally, if this had happened last week, the warrant could have been issued and the police could have gone in and cut the dratted alarm off. The lady I spoke to at the council was incredibly helpful and nice, and very apologetic about the fact that the law has changed so recently, so nothing can be done. Perhaps tomorrow I will have more luck with either my neighbour or the noise pollution team.

Meanwhile I found a better pair of earplugs which have rescued me from similar situations in the past, although they're so good that I could easily sleep through my own alarm clock and be late for work, if the alarm keeps ringing on Sunday night.

My neighbour's attitude sucks, but the response of the police and the local council has been great, and my other neighbours have been really great too.

It's really distressing to have this constant noise nuisance in my home, stopping me from peacefully enjoying my weekend, but I feel really glad that certain parts of civilised society are functioning so effectively. I would never have expected that dealing with the police and the local council would bring such swift action, and my admiration for the work of the police has only grown greater. I already held the police in very high esteem, given the difficult job that they do, and I felt bad to involve them in a matter which should have been quite easily resolved without their assistance, but I did try my best to handle the matter directly with my neighbour and the police agreed that the situation was intolerable, with the alarm going off for so long.

This whole episode has been rather tame and dull compared with other more colourful moments of police involvement in my life, but still, it's put rather a dampener on my weekend.

My new life in this new city is not taking shape as quickly as I hoped it would. My Saturday night has been a relatively dismal and disappointing affair. I was supposed to be going on a date with somebody who I really hit it off with last week, but she cancelled on me. I thought I would make the best of the weekend anyway, but instead I have been plunged into a terrible mood by this alarm situation and I was very nearly tempted to act in a very rash way which could have had dire consequences. I'm pleased I managed to remain patient and polite with my neighbour and I haven't let this relatively minor incident trigger me into doing something regrettable.

Not the most exciting story, but perhaps it's interesting in terms of how far I've come, dealing with things in an adult, mature, law-abiding and good-neighbourly way, when so often in the past I would have smashed things to pieces in moment of rage.

 

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Lost Cause

7 min read

This is a story about predictions...

Recycling

Bookmakers and actuaries are extremely good at predicting the future. The profits of these well-established enterprises depend upon accurate predictions, based upon a vast amount of historical data. Better statistics lead to better predictions, which lead to accurate odds and sustained profitability. If it wasn't possible to predict the future in this way, there wouldn't be a business model for life insurance or gambling.

Unfortunately for individuals, generalised predictions are fairly accurate while individual predictions are not. It is no use asking an actuary when you will die, so that you can plan your life accordingly. The actuary will not be able to tell you whether you'll die of a heart attack age 45, or whether you'll die in your sleep age 95. Those extra 50 years present a considerable problem for the individual, but the actuary does not care, because they spread the risk of having to pay out on life insurance across a large group. On average, the insurer will win. However, none of us can know whether we're going to die prematurely or live unusually long.

It might seem prudent to avoid smoking, drinking and consumption of excessive calories. It might seem prudent to go to the gym every day. It might seem prudent to eat a balanced diet, containing a mixture of fruit and vegetables, full of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and other chemical compounds your body needs to repair itself and stay healthy. However, while we can say for certain that smoking and obesity will lead to health complications, none of us can make choices to assure ourselves of a long life.

One day you might just drop dead.

The temptation to use statistical analysis to make predictions for an individual is overwhelming in a world where we have discovered the classical laws of physics. We presume that we are able to predict the future as easily as we can predict the trajectory of a missile. Unfortunately, individuals do not follow simple parabolic curves. While there are statistically significant correlations - good predictors - this does not mean that we can know the future life of a human, after gathering a few crummy data points.

All we have managed to unearth so far about the mysteries of human life is that we can understand risk not destiny. You might have genes which appear to doom you to a certain fate, but those genes are not always expressed in the way which we expect. The sequencing of the human genome has failed to provide the crystal ball that it was promised to deliver, but instead revealed the unimaginable complexity of epigenetics. No clear genes have been found for things such as diabetes and depression. There is no gene which hard-wires our life expectancy into every cell.

Who could have predicted that smoking would be banned in public buildings and the workplace, drinking culture would become diminished, supermarkets would import food from all over the globe, such that strawberries would be on their shelves all year round, and the workplace would become so safe and so sedentary? Who could have predicted that mental health problems would reach such epidemic proportions that the leading cause of death amongst 20 to 40 year old men would be suicide?

Ultimately, the biggest thing affecting my life expectancy appears to be a choice which I'm free to make.

I've never smoked and I quit drinking 4 months ago. I eat a balanced diet and I'm a healthy weight. These things are happy accidents. Every afternoon my anxiety builds to an increasingly intolerable level and every evening I feel suicidal. I live alone and have no friends or family nearby. I have no children, pets or partner.

My life is on a knife-edge.

If you were going to bet on the statistically probable outcome of my life, you'd have lost a lot of money already. I'm afraid to say that I'm an outlier and I have refused to conform to the predictions. I'm a single data point and as such I'm not statistically significant on my own, but the significance of my own life and its outcome is, unsurprisingly, important to me.

It's a hard life being an outlier. Literally, almost everyone is betting against you. It will be harder to get an education, get a job, get a home, borrow money, find a partner, get life insurance, get a pension... all of these things are thwarted by people who believe that they are able to predict my destiny. I'm continuously confronting people who believe I'm a lost cause, and therefore not worth taking a risk on.

We can see that this attempt at prediction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When racial stereotypes become pervasive - for example - then we see that minorities are harshly and unfairly prejudiced, which harms their chance of success and reinforces the correlation between uncorrelated factors. Skin colour should not be a good predictor of socioeconomic outcome, but the data overwhelmingly shows that it is.

From the moment you enter the vast educational system, you are being sifted and sorted in a way which tests you and gathers data on you, in order to attempt to predict your future. Something as random as getting an illness will affect your school attendance data, which will be used against you as a predictor of supposed future failure. You are constantly at risk of flagging yourself as a "disaster waiting to happen" and suffering lifelong prejudice due to the systemic attempts to analyse individuals statistically.

I suppose I now revel in the fact that I'm a living contradiction. My problems with mental health, addiction, alcohol, hospitalisations, psych ward stays, trouble with the police and refusal to be sifted and sorted by the mainstream education system, are not in agreement with the predictions that I should end up bankrupt, in jail and/or dead, having lived a life with no useful contribution to society, and in fact having been a burden. I'm the guy your mother warned you about. I'm the one who isn't supposed to be allowed to freely roam the streets. I'm the one who all the gatekeepers have in mind - I'm the one they want to keep out, but yet I'm very much on the inside.

If those who think they can gaze into the future by studying my data had their way, I wouldn't have a job, a house, any money. The system has tried very hard to railroad me into certain outcomes, because it's what was expected and predicted.

I genuinely don't know whether I'm going to kill myself or if my depression is going to lift and life's going to become pleasant and bearable. I've lived with depression for long enough to know that my choices will have little effect on the outcome. No amount of prescription medication, therapy, yoga and other such things will have the intended effect. It has always been the least expected things in my life which have wrought the most important changes.

If I was betting on myself, I suppose I would bet that I'll die at my own hands. If I was betting on myself, I suppose I would bet that I won't be able to escape the debt trap. If I was betting on myself, I suppose I would bet that I will crumble and break, because that seems like the obvious thing I would do, from looking at the black marks against my name. If I was going to bet according to statistics, I would definitely bet against myself.

However, we know that fundamentally the universe does not obey classical physics, when we study the underlying laws, but instead there is inherent uncertainty. Outcomes are nondeterministic. Knowing my past does not allow anybody to know my future. There is a nonzero probability of every possible outcome, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

My day-to-day life is dominated by a single question - am I going to kill myself? - but despite being the best placed person to answer that, I do not know the answer. Events unfolding are as much a surprise to me as they are to you.

 

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Antipsychiatry

5 min read

This is a story about refusing help...

Pharmacy

If you spend enough time with general practitioners, general psychiatrists, specialist consultant psychiatrists, registered mental nurses, specialty doctors and all the very many other mental health professionals who are part of inpatient and outpatient clinics, community mental health teams, crisis teams and all the other apparatus which is supposed to treat mental health problems, one begins to realise a rather unsettling truth: there aren't very many treatments and they don't work very well.

Psychiatry is a young branch of medicine and it doesn't have a lot to crow about. Since the days of asylums and lobotomies, psychiatry has been dogged by scandals, including the extrapyramidal side effects of medications which have left patients with lifelong irreversible unpleasant problems. The data do not show encouraging outcomes. In fact the outlook is dismal and appears to be worsening as the toxic conditions which create mental health problems, seem to be intensifying. Rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity... these are all soaring. Treatments are not effective and vast numbers of people are condemned to suffer with their illnesses AND the side effects of the medications.

I've been lucky enough to have access to private medical care, at times, and even with the very best professionals and medications, there is not a vast difference between what's available from the public healthcare system. It's all pretty crap and it doesn't work very well.

This is not a damning indictment of those who dedicate their lives to trying to treat mental illness, but simply a cold hard rational analysis of the facts.

The conclusion I've reached has been that there's an over-medicalisation of non-medical problems. The bulk of my problems have stemmed from the collapse of my relationships. I got divorced. I am estranged from my family. I've been forced to move to cities where I have no friends - no social support network - in order to work jobs which have been unsuitable for my health. I have the enormous pressure of having to work full-time, to pay rent, bills and service enormous debts, which is unbearable for a person who's having a crisis.

My mental health would be vastly improved if I had a partner, a social support network of local friends, financial and housing security and a job with reduced hours, until this crisis is resolved. Healthy diet, sleep hygiene, exercise, sex, physical affection, sunlight, fresh air, social contact, hobbies and interests... these things are all essential for human wellbeing. None of those things can be prescribed by a doctor.

During the worst days of my addiction and rough sleeping, I noticed that my fellow homeless alcoholics and addicts were not without some routine and social lives. Romantic relationships are not the exclusive preserve of those who live in houses and have jobs. The life of a homeless drug addict might be chaotic to the outside observer, but a less prejudiced analysis reveals no less structure, no less need for comfort, no less humanity. Those who have fallen into habits of addiction and homelessness might find the community of drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless to provide the social support network and sense of community, which they'd struggle to find living anonymously behind a front door.

Does anybody really know I'm here... in this house... in this city? In many ways I have found my contact with hospitals and the police to be of great comfort. I have found the nonjudgemental members of the NHS and police force to be incredibly kind and compassionate people. It's nonsensical, but I've been happy to be hospitalised or arrested. I've been happy to be in a cell or on a hospital ward, with somebody checking on my welfare. Behind my own front door I could be hanging by the neck, dead, and nobody would discover me for days or maybe even weeks.

My problems are mainly attributable to unmet basic needs: hugs, face-to-face conversation and a sense of belonging.

Because of the obvious things which need to be fixed in my life, it seems wrong to seek medical help, when my mood could be radically different if all the broken things were fixed. It might sound like a fun adventure, going to new cities, but the reality is very miserable and lonely. The reality of my present life is that I don't pick up the phone to speak to anybody when I'm feeling dangerously depressed - who would I phone? What would they do? It's not like anybody can nip round to check I'm OK.

Humans are social creatures, but I live on the periphery. I live on the periphery of life itself, always in danger of death or medical emergency. The state of being suicidal should be considered a medical emergency, especially in men of age 20 to 40, where suicide is the biggest cause of death. My perception of the danger is not warped, given my history of suicide attempts and hospitalisations.

There isn't a pill or some psychological therapy which would be effective... especially not when so much of my life is broken. It's not a medical problem. Sure, I have an underlying mood disorder, but the highs and lows of bipolar don't make me as unhappy as my social isolation does.

How I set about fixing things, I have no idea. The task seems insurmountable.

 

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The Achievements of One Week

6 min read

This is a story about post-traumatic stress...

Fire

Tuesday was a very bad day. Tuesday was a constant panic attack. Tuesday held nothing for me but relentless anxiety. Tuesday passed very slowly.

Tuesday is past.

Today is Friday.

Today is almost OK.

When I look back on today at some point in the future, I'll probably realise that today was pretty bad, in the grand scheme of things, but compared to Tuesday, today has been a doddle.

It might seem like I was making a lot of fuss about nothing, earlier in the week, but I assure you that I was suffering a very real medical emergency, which would have seen most people hospitalised.

The brain can render us very sick and needy, when it malfunctions. My brain was badly on the blink and even in a hospital I would have been very uncomfortable. Doctors could have eased my suffering with powerful tranquillisers administered intravenously, which would have been the ethically correct thing to do, but on Tuesday I went to the office, which was torturous beyond my capability to describe.

There simply are no words for the things which are at the limit of human survivability. Torture can make us lose our sanity. Trauma can lead to loss of life.

It might look on the face of it as if I'm an ordinary person doing ordinary people stuff, but the fact is that few of us live in perpetually precarious situation. We either fail and fall, or else we stabilise. We tend towards stable outcomes: Stable failure and stable success. I'm relatively unique in having not yet failed sufficiently to block my path from achieving desirable outcomes. Despite drug addiction, alcoholism, near-bankruptcy, homelessness, brushes with the police and debilitating mental health problems, I remain persistently employable and able to access goods and services which are normally denied to a whole swathe of society, to which I belong.

Nobody has realised I'm not supposed to be here.

Nobody has realised that all their vetting procedures and gatekeepers have failed to send me packing, back to the hell hole I crawled out of. Nobody has realised that I'm one of the ones that we're supposed to spurn and turn our backs on. Nobody has realised that I look, sound and smell like I'm one of the "OK" ones, when in fact I'm very much one of the "not OK" ones.

The longer I'm allowed to stay and warm myself by the fire, the stronger I get and the more chance is there is of me achieving stable success.

That's not supposed to happen.

Every societal system has in-built measures to toss people to the wolves. I'm not supposed to be in a big house with a wood fire and a fridge full of food. I'm not supposed to work in a fancy office doing brain-work. I'm not supposed to have any financial security, housing security or prospects. Society would like to see me dead in a ditch.

Society does however worry selfishly a lot about its own sons and daughters. Because I suppose I exude somewhat of a heady mix of intellectual poshness, combined with whatever youthful vulnerability still remains in a 39-year-old man with grey hair at his temples, I guess I confound expectations of what a junkie looks like. I'm not what anybody expects a homeless bankrupt to look like. I do not embody what anybody thinks of when they think of a psych ward patient. I do not look, sound or smell like the thing which I so obviously am, if we scratch beneath the surface.

Of course, my ruse is premeditated. I know that if I keep my mouth shut and my head down, nobody will pay me much notice, and I'll slowly be able to recover from the horrors of my past. I know that if I can go unnoticed and unfettered for long enough then I'll be able to have regained firm footing, to better enable me to flourish.

I'm aware that any period I look back upon as a period when I considered myself to be doing OK, with retrospect has turned out to be a false summit. Everything I've ever achieved has crumbled. It would be foolish to imagine that I'm doing OK at the moment, simply because I'm doing better than I was a week ago, a year ago or 5 years ago.

That's the really terrifying thing for me: 5 years ago I was very much beginning the descent. I attempted to dab the brakes, but then found that the brakes weren't working. I knew that I had to avoid long-term irreversible health damage, criminal convictions, damage to my credit rating, bankruptcy and damage to my professional reputation, but I still managed to find myself looking down the gun barrel of a heap of problems that were going to see me destitute on the street.

I'm not sure how I've managed to face down the threats to my life and livelihood and emerge from the thicket relatively unscathed, at least on the surface. I suppose it's all down to a handful of people who've conspired to assist me, in ways which run contrary to the conduct we consider ordinary and normal. A handful of people have taken risks with their lives and their money, to see me live with continued opportunities, as opposed to lasting and disastrous consequences.

I suppose in the popular parlance, I've been "enabled".

I hate that negative phraseology, to stigmatise those who help addicts and alcoholics. I hate the idea that an act of kindness is actually something bad; something foolish. I find the whole concept detestable.

I feel bad about how unwell I have been feeling this week, which should have been a celebration of how much the help I've received was a worthwhile investment. I feel bad about feeling bad.

The reality is that through the awful panic attacks, I still have a lovely house and a well-paid job, so I just need to stick to the plan - "home stretch" as my guardian angel said to me today.

My life follows a very nonlinear path. Of course I remember how bitterly I complained about living out of a suitcase, how pleased I was with a new relationship, how much invested I was in my Christmas and New Year holiday, how quickly my opinion changed about the relationship and how anxious I was to secure my housing situation. Of course I remember the highs and lows. I remember the devastation and the jubilation at many points along the way, with crystal clarity.

This is my very weird life. Suicidal depressed anxious thoughts, then white sand beaches and blue skies, luxuriating on holiday, then darkest blackness, then roaring log fires in a large period home, then more blackness. Why should this not be the case? Why would we expect any different?

Things were dire earlier in the week. Things are dire now, but dramatically less so.

 

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Rehabilitation of Offenders

5 min read

This is a story about second chances...

Victim care card

When I got home after work this evening, the burglar alarm was going off in my next-door neighbour's house. I didn't know it was the burglar alarm, but when I later went around to see if my neighbour was at home, I could see that the back gate was hanging off its hinges. I became suspicious. The lights of the alarm were flashing and it was clear that nobody had been home for a period of some days. I wondered if there had been a break-in.

I phoned the police.

Why wouldn't I phone the police? There was a reasonable amount of evidence that there'd been an intruder: The intruder alarm was going off and the back gate was hanging off its hinges. The house was obviously unoccupied to me - an ordinary law-abiding citizen - so I imagined that it must have appeared much more obvious as a target to anybody who practiced acquisitive crime.

In the UK we have a non-emergency number for reporting such things, which I didn't really hesitate to use. Why would I not do a good-neighbourly deed of reporting something suspect to the relevant authorities? Why would I not set the wheels in motion, so that anything out of good order could be set back straight again?

Selfishly, I really wanted the alarm to stop ringing, because it was really noisy inside my house.

The alarm is still ringing now.

I gave the police my name and date of birth. They asked me if I still live at my old address. They told me the street name. I told them I don't live there anymore.

So.

The police have got my name and data of birth correlated with my address on a computer system somewhere.

That's somewhat alarming.

I suppose I'm no stranger to the police, but still, I've got a clean criminal record. I've never been convicted of a crime. I've never been to court.

I don't even have any spent criminal convictions. That is to say, that I've never been a convicted criminal ever in my life.

In the UK, after a certain amount of years, a person is no longer required by law to disclose their criminal record to potential employers. In the UK we give people a fresh start; a second chance. In the UK we rehabilitate our offenders... those who learn their lessons and pay their debt to society are allowed to have their sins forgiven and forgotten... although of course we must remember that some crimes have victims, those victims have suffered, and those victims may continue to suffer.

We have taken a choice as a society. We have decided to let ex-convicts be given second chances.

I'm a non-convict.

It was coincidence that I was driving home and I was thinking about the grilling I'm potentially going to get over the data that the police hold on me. My employer is entitled to see all the data that the police have. My employer is entitled to ask questions that nobody else in the country is, because it's in the interests of national security.

I have to be thoroughly vetted.

My background is thoroughly checked.

My data follows me around. My data will never be expunged. My data is held permanently on record.

Perhaps I'm asking too much - asking to be too close to the inner circle. Perhaps it's an unreasonable request, to be accepted into every single part of society as a law-abiding obedient servant of the Crown, fine upstanding member of the community and citizen of the United Kingdom. I know that I have erred in the past, but the nature of my errors is something that lives on only in the memory banks of the police computer databases. No court has ever found me guilty of committing a crime. I've never set foot in a courtroom. However, the data records show that I have had some contact with the police, and I expect I'll have to explain that to my employers.

The police telephoned my neighbour and she returned home to check her house and her belongings were secure. I have ingratiated myself with my neighbours - obtaining the telephone numbers on both sides - and done a good deed. Is my dark past behind me now? Have I now re-entered civilised society? On balance, do I owe a debt to society or have I contributed amply?

It does concern me that my past behaviour might be used as a predictor of future behaviour, and as such prejudice my career progression and perhaps even deny me things such as housing, but that day has not yet arrived. I am anxious about what the future has in store for me, given what's plainly visible to those who have access to my data, but I proceed on the assumption that if there has been one thing clearly established in my adult lifetime, it's that I've been dedicated to my job, not breaking the law.

I assume that I'm going to be given my full set of opportunities. I assume that I will not fall afoul of any prejudice.

It's kind of a scary time though. I have to trust the system.

 

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Some Of My Problems Are My Own Fault

5 min read

This is a story about responsibility...

Suction cup

Why does it matter that the toilet roll holder in my house is held onto the wall with a suction cup? Why does it matter that somebody cut some corners somewhere? Why does it matter that somebody did a sloppy, careless job? Why does it matter that people act without concern for the consequences? Why does it matter that some of us want to be idle?

We bring up our children on a diet of propaganda about everybody having to pay their way in society - nobody getting a free ride - when our intention all along was to propagate sufficiently to be idle in our old age. We imagined that the older children would raise the smaller ones. We imagined that the more mature and adult members of our family would feel some responsibility towards their DNA donors, as they reached the end of their lives.

I guess we hope that our children won't know any different. If they're born into a terrible world, they won't be able to imagine a better one, so they'll accept their terrible fate. Is that the logic? Somebody needs to explain it to me, because I don't understand.

My life lacks meaning and purpose.

What if I met someone so amazing and beautiful that they convinced me it was a good idea to have children, because I knew how much happiness and satisfaction - peace - it would bring me as an animal, although very much in conflict with my own human consciousness.

My body was evolved for the propagation of my genes. My body's sole purpose for existence - in evolutionary terms - is for sexual reproduction. To act in defiance of my basic instincts is physically painful, like putting my hand in a fire.

I stopped following the instructions at some point.

I've lost my way.

Loneliness and isolation should drive me to be social. Horniness and reproductive instincts should drive me to impregnate. Fear of death and extinction of my genes should drive me to seek to protect and replicate as many copies of my genes as possible. All the many millions of years of animal evolution have led to this point. Everything in my genetic programming tells me to carry on doing what every ancestor has ever done, since the dawn of life itself.

However.

I've gone off-script.

I think that filial affection, sibling bonding, family ties, clan association and a genetic predisposition towards hostility directed at those of significantly differing DNA makeup - a wish to see those who don't share common genes perish - somehow bypassed me. The thing that's far louder in my head is the conscious voice that sprung into existence, perhaps as an evolutionary accident, but which has managed to narrate things to the point where that voice directs my behaviour far more than my bestial instincts.

I suppose I'm what you'd call anti-social. Perhaps criminal and deviant. Society has generally decided that I'm dangerous and should be shunned and marginalised.

Born into a household full of addiction and alcoholism, not feeling planned or wanted and not seeing any good role model in my parents, I found myself always somewhat the odd-one-out at school and in other social situations. I think I decided very early on that I'm unlovable. My life goals were always confused. The hedonism I saw my parents practice, with no regard for societal norms, conflicted with the nonsense they spouted in their state of intoxication, which claimed to be motivated by higher ideals: Values. I never saw any values, but I came to understand - conceptually - what values there were in the world, and why a person might hold a certain set of values.

I can simultaneously hold in my head all the various reasons - such as social cohesion - that a group of individuals might subscribe to a common set of values, whilst also knowing the payoff for breaking the rules. I knew, for example, from a very early age that getting a drink or a drug into my system must be worth any amount of societally imposed consequences, for that is what I saw throughout my upbringing.

My father talked openly about his criminal conviction for drugs, while my mother boasted about drug smuggling and encounters with the police, and both seemed proud and happy to have flouted the law and earned the disdain of wider society. They seemed to revel in their place as societal outcasts, earned because of their deviant behaviour and refusal to change their wicked ways.

Yet, it seems better if I imagine myself to have been immaculately conceived and have lived my adult life with no unconscious bias left-over from childhood. It seems as if I should be judged on the basis that my values are identical to everybody else's. It seems that every choice I've made should be viewed as having been made with complete free-will, and without the influence of my upbringing.

I fess up.

I done it.

I done a bad thing.

It's all my fault and I've got nobody to blame but myself.

There. Happy now?

 

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Thing my brain told me to say

12 min read

This is a story about being an observer...

Life through a lens

Regrettable social media rant number 4294967295.

Mushrooms.

If you don't like them, then don't eat them. Agreed?

We can sell them. We can have them in our supermarkets. We can have them in convenience stores. We can can find them on amazon dot com.

We can tolerate the buying, selling, cooking and consumption of mushrooms. Agreed?

We can see that mushrooms grow everywhere - they spring up in surprising places. Mushrooms are deliberately cultivated, because so many people enjoy eating them and choose to have them as part of their diet. We also regularly see mushrooms growing wild, i.e. not due to any deliberate human action or inaction.

Nobody needs to sow any seeds. Nobody needs to do anything.

Poppies and hemp are ubiquitous species that most laypeople would recognise as a cash crop farmed in a monoculture: Massive fields full of the same thing, planted and being nurtured by humans. Mushrooms are different because mushrooms grow wild all over the many islands of the United Kingdom.

We can tolerate the existence of mushrooms. Agreed?

We have not embarked upon any eradication programs to rid ourselves of a popular edible foodstuff that grows wild in our environment, without any human cultivation. We have not tried to wipe out a source of human nourishment which many people choose to have in their diet because they enjoy the flavour, texture and smell of mushrooms.

Yet.

Bizarre as this sounds...

I picked an edible foodstuff from where I found it growing wild, and I ate it. During the briefest of moments, when the mushroom was picked and was being transferred to my mouth, I was breaching the law.

During the few elapsed seconds it took me to pick a wild mushroom, put in my mouth and swallow it, I could have been arrested and prosecuted for a very serious crime that carries extremely harsh punishments.

That's weird, right?

Weirder still is that once the mushroom was in my stomach I was no longer arrestable or prosecutable. If I had lowered my mouth over the mushroom, bitten it and swallowed it, arguably no crime was committed at all. If somebody else had picked the mushroom and dropped it into my open mouth, then I didn't break the law.

Even weirder is that the punishment I might have received for picking a wild mushroom and moving it to my own mouth to be swallowed, appears to imply that my actions were very gravely deleterious to society and the wider human race. The maximum punishment I could have received as a sentence for my crime would be 7 years in prison and be to fined an unlimited amount of money.

There are only x trillions of pounds sterling equivalent of all global currencies in circulation worldwide, but the law would allow for me to be fined quadrillions, quintillions or indeed an infinite amount of money. Why not fine me a googol pounds? Why not fine me a Graham's number of pounds?

What for? What did I do that was so bad? What was wrong about my behaviour? Please explain it to me.

Usually with crimes, there are victims. If you perpetrated a crime where there was a victim, harm was caused to property, or there was antisocial behaviour, then you need to be punished. That is obvious.

For example, if I killed somebody, injured somebody or raped somebody - or otherwise caused harm to a victim and/or their property -  then I would need to be punished. We democratically decided what the punishments for crimes should be. We made our own laws via the democratic system. We have elected to have a justice system, policing and punitive institutions. Our laws are an approximation of what the majority of people would deem unacceptable behaviour in our society. We each individually differ with our opinions on what is right and what is wrong, but collectively, we have agreed upon one set of laws, which apply to almost all of us.

Let's just take a second.

To digest.

Let's now try to swallow all of this.

 

Pause.

 

Possession of mushrooms is considered to be exactly the same as possession of crack cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and other "class A" controlled substances.

Cannabis plants haven't spontaneously started growing all over the United Kingdom. Somebody had to plant the seeds. Somebody has to cultivate the cannabis plants. Deliberately grown cannabis plants, which required so much human effort to bring to these islands where the plant varieties do not naturally occur, incur only the wrath of the law we reseve for "class B" controlled substances.

Nobody is selling cannabis leaves in my local supermarket. Nobody is making TV cooking shows where cannabis leaves are considered to be an edible foodstuff included in a meal.

Cannabis leaves don't really need to exist - have no need to exist - because they're not a common part of people's diet.

Even if you selectively bred and cross-bred cannabis varieties with the aim of creating a more palatable leaf, you would struggle to persuade many people to eat the leaves.

If we study all recipes for appetising food that have occurred anywhere since the we first started making intelligible marks onto things - beginning with cave paintings and carved objects - we see no evidence of cannabis leaves as an ingredient that you'd want in your salad.

This is an assumption, based on observable human behaviour over countless millennia, but the overwhelming evidence indicates that we collectively agree that cannabis leaves don't belong in our mouths as part of our diet.

I would ask for you agreement, but I think you should be allowed to eat a cannabis leaf to decide for yourself whether you like the taste. However, I can assure you that all the countless recipe books aren't wrong: cannabis leaves taste bad.

Once again: cannabis leaves taste terrible, hence why they have not become a popular meal ingredient.

Cannabis leaves have no place alongside the other leafy vegetables we consider to be human nourishment.

Agreed?

Mushrooms aren't to everyone's tastes, but they are an ingredient in recipes which predate written language. Mushrooms were known to be food before humans even invented the word "food". The human animal finds the taste of mushroom flesh to be appetising. The human animal always prefers to eat mushrooms not lemons. Although a diet of lemons might technically sustain you, I suspect you would be hard-pressed to find a single person in 7.6 billion who chooses a diet of lemon-like foodstuffs as a significant source of their daily calorific nourishment requirements.

So if it's a choice between mushrooms or starving to death, you'd eat the mushrooms. Agreed?

If it's a choice between eating lemons, eating mushrooms, or starving, you'd choose the mushrooms. Agreed?

If ever there was a more ludicrous example of an approach to what is legally referred to as "The Misuse of Drugs" then it would be criminalising the possession of mushrooms.

We had better build a whole lot of prisons to hold all the farmers, greengrocers, supermarket employees, cooks, chefs, restauranteurs, diners - practically every person in the entire United Kingdom - for having some mushrooms.

Mushrooms are quite literally everywhere: Growing everywhere. We can't control them.

Having a law that talks about "controlled substances" and "Misuse of Drugs" whilst also classifying mushrooms as "class A" - the very most harmful substances to society - is beyond ridiculous.

If ever there was a better example of nature refusing to be controlled by human laws, then it would be mushrooms.

Mushrooms stubbornly refuse to be controlled, even though they are specifically referred to in law as "controlled". They are literally called a "controlled substance" when our own eyes confirm that mushrooms do not care about human laws and refuse to be controlled by any statutory instrument. Mushrooms act in contempt of our courts. Mushrooms spitefully flout our laws.

Mushrooms wilfully refuse to comply with the wishes of Her Majesty the Queen, resisting and obstructing the Crown's agents. Mushrooms have no respect for the individuals who have been elected to represent their constituents as Members of Parliament, sitting in the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster by virtue of the democratic system of governance, as self-determined by the citizens of the United Kingdom.

Ha ha ha.

Joke's on you suckers.

You literally voted for mushrooms, in so many ways. With your pounds. With your electoral ballot. With what you put in your shopping trolley. You voted with your mouth, in so many ways, but mainly by putting mushrooms into your mouth.

You wanted mushrooms. Most people want mushrooms.

Yet, you also allegedly wanted mushrooms to be so very criminal, that their possession, dealing, cultivation and trafficking would deprive UK citizens of their liberty FOR LIFE, detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. However, I suspect that is not what what most people want.

You want mushrooms in your shopping trolley, but the law considers them to be EXACTLY THE SAME as crack cocaine, heroin and crystal meth.

Are you high?

Will somebody please come and lock me up, because I bought mushrooms, cooked them and ate them.

When should I expect the police?

Or should I just hand myself in at the nearest police station?

What should I do with any mushrooms I have left remaining uneaten? Should I put them in my compost bin, like the local council tells me to do, or should I hand them over to the police as evidence?

What would be the learned opinion of any Queen's Counsel who I retained the services of? What would the opinion of the Attorney-General be? What would the right honourable Geoffrey Cox think about my mushrooms? What about the countless mushrooms which continue to exist in flagrant disregard of the statutory instruments which control them, the judiciary, the courts, the police and the other Crown institutions which seek to enforce the laws of the United Kingdom?

Is this what "take back control" looks like? Apparently that's what 51.9% of the UK population democratically voted to do.

Assuming that we regain full control, do you think mushrooms will begin to care about the laws controlling them?

Fundamentally, isn't there just one set of laws we can all universally agree upon?

You can't legislate in contradiction to the universal laws of physics.

You can't just write something down on a "special" piece of paper and expect the universe to comply.

Again, for those who are slow learners: The only laws are the universal laws of physics, which are immutable.

The laws of physics are universal and have existed - and will always exist - while there is a universe.

You can dress up in fancy wigs and robes and prance around in grand buildings. You can put shiny things that you found in the ground onto your head if you like. But you know what? The universe thinks you're an idiot if you do that. The universe thinks you're absurdly insignificant and finds it perversely hilarious that its laws quite literally predicted your existence and your behaviour, but yet you do do not properly perceive what is so obviously observable all around you.

If you think humans make and enforce laws, you are an imbecile, as illustrated by the humble mushroom.

Humans and their behaviour were preordained from the moment of the universe's conception, along with the immutable and universal laws of physics. The laws of physics predicted and explained literally everything.

If you think that mushrooms can be controlled by statutory instruments created by Acts of Parliament, with Crown agents of Her Majesty The Queen enforcing those statutory instruments, then you my friend, have overlooked almost the entire observable universe.

Through simple observation, we can plainly see the irrefutable evidence of the existence of a set of fundamental and universal laws, which are immutable.

In short: Mushrooms exist. Deal with it.

Deal with it by understanding and accepting what is observable.

Do not "deal with it" with acts of human behaviour that the universe doesn't care about. The universal immutable fundamental laws of physics predicted all your BS well before you even thought about it.

Deal with it.

Deal with it all.

Accept it.

You cannot change the laws of physics, no matter how badly you want to. Irrespective of your genius or how you manage to collectively conspire, no individual, group or entire species can ever change or avoid the fundamental universal immutable laws of physics which govern all things for all time.

I know it's a lot to take in, but I suggest you make a start by opening your eyes.

Then, just observe.

Mushrooms exist and we should stop having a tantrum about their existence, because that behaviour is ludicrous, absurd and also totally hilariously predictable. Yet, the majority of us are unforgivably ignorant and act petulantly and arrogantly, whenever we assume that WE make and enforce the laws, when in fact the [universal] LAWS [of physics] MADE EVERYTHING, including us and mushrooms: We're made of the same stuff.

 

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Our Revels Now Are Ended

14 min read

This is a story about the stuff dreams are made of...

There's no bed like home

These our actors as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air. We are such stuff as dreams are made of and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

Apparently there are 125 identical bedrooms in the hotel where I've lived for most of the last year. There are always 5 pillows: Two soft ones, two firmer ones and a stupid little red one, which serves a purely decorative purpose. There's an ironing board, iron, hairdryer and kettle. There's a writing desk. There's a sofa. There are reading lights which shine directly into your eyes if you don't take the time to move them away from the position they're always left in by the housekeepers. There's a plug in the sink that always need to be pulled out and set aside, otherwise the water won't be able to drain away properly when you wash your hands. There are small pieces of information throughout the room that tell me that I can choose whichever pillows I find comfiest, that there's a place to charge my phone by my bed, and various things that tell me how much they [the hotel] cares about my stay. A place for everything and everything in its place.

How many IKEA beds have I owned? How many have I destroyed? How many have I slept in without mishap? How many times have I found myself discovering that IKEA mattresses are different from the standard UK sizes of double and king-size? How many times have I struggled to squeeze an IKEA mattress into a non-IKEA fitted sheet?

How many different beds have I slept in, during the past 5 years?

I can tell you everything about every kind of bed you're likely to encounter in the National Health Service. There are the beds in the crisis houses and psychiatric wards. There are the beds in ordinary hospital wards. There are the beds in intensive care and high dependency wards. I can tell you how to make yourself comfortable in places where somebody will shine a torch in your face every 15 to 30 minutes at night. I can tell you how to make yourself comfortable somewhere that your blood pressure, body temperature and blood oxygen saturation is being measured every hour. I can tell you how to make yourself comfortable when you have 5 canulas, a catheter and a massive femoral veinous catheter in your groin, which literally has taps you can just twist when you want to empty all the blood out of your body.

I can tell you everything about every kind of bed you're likely to encounter in a hostel full of homeless people. I can tell you about bed bugs and other human parasites. I can tell you about snoring. I can tell you about being in a room with 13 people in various states of drink and drug intoxication, and with the entire spectrum of mental health problems. I can tell you what it's like to realise that somebody rummaged under your pillow, stole your wallet, removed the cash, and replaced it back where they took it from, while you were asleep. I can tell you what it's like to have your bags regularly rummaged through in search of anything valuable. I can tell you what it's like to live for more than a year like that, with no fixed dormitory, no fixed bunk... to get woken up at 8am and told that you've got to move to another room, with another bunch of seemingly randomly-selected people who you'll be spending an unknown number of nights with.

After a while it gets tiresome.

Eventually, you figure out that when you sleep rough, if you're smart about it, then you can stay away from other homeless people, drunks, muggers, rapists and anybody who fancies doing pretty much whatever they want to you at 4:30am, because it's dark and nobody's around. Eventually, you figure out that you can have more consistency and control over your life if you find yourself some bushes or an overgrown back garden of an empty house to set up camp in. You get used to the noise of the dog walkers and the joggers. You get used to the noise of the commuters. You get used to the noise of the students and the tourists. You get used to the do-gooders, who will make their rounds to check on the junkies and the alcoholics, who cluster together in obvious places. You get used to the official-looking vehicles with their headlights, and the people wearing uniforms with their torches. You start to realise that they have absolutely no idea that you exist, because you are so inconspicuous and under their radar.

Then, you decide that it'd be nice to return to civilised society. You get a bit old to be sleeping rough. It seems somehow shameful, to reach a certain age and have dropped out.

So, you rent a series of dreadful places to live. Each one of those places has a dreadful bed: A bottom-of-the-range IKEA bed with a mattress which doesn't quite fit and slats which randomly fall off their supports, causing part of the bed to collapse unexpectedly; mattresses with a range of stains in varying hues indicating, shit, piss, vomit and blood... as well as perhaps some food stains.

You buy your own IKEA brand-new furniture, and you buy slightly better quality stuff. You buy the bed sheets that are the right size to fit, because you know exactly what size mattress you've bought. You buy a the right size mattress for the bed frame.

Then, you have to move.

How many times have I had to move?

Every time I move, I have to leave the bed behind, because I throw away the old terrible bed, which was unfit as anything more than set-dressing for a property that's being rented out as "furnished". Where would I store a shitty old bed? Where would I store a shitty old mattress? It would cost me more in storage costs, and the transportation costs of moving the shitty bed out and back, than it costs me to simply leave the replacement beds behind.

How many IKEA flat-packs have I assembled and how many have I destroyed?

How many times have I flopped down onto a newly assembled bed, exhausted?

How many times have I had to abandon any attempts at nest-making, because I have to choose my battles carefully?

It might sound like I'm sloppy, careless and perhaps have little respect for the expense and environmental impact of treating material possessions as so disposable. However, none of this stuff disappears. The problem is, that there's no shortage of supply of mattresses covered with blood, piss, sick and vomit stains. There's no shortage of damaged bed frames which do not sturdily support the bed's occupants.

What you have to understand is that I have to prioritise my survival, ahead of the pleasant choices that normal happy healthy stable people get to make. I don't choose to change my bed because I'm remodelling my bedroom. I'm not in the business of doing interior decoration for aesthetic purposes. I don't choose the colour of the paint on my walls. I don't choose my curtains. I've been grateful to have the comfort of a thin foam mattress, in a hostel dorm, on a bunk bed. I've been grateful if my bunk has happened to be close to a power socket so I can charge my phone. I've been grateful if my bunk has been near a window, so I can enjoy the ventilation. I've been grateful if my bunk has been away from the dorm entrance/exit, so people can enter and leave without disturbing me. I've been grateful if I'm not sharing a dorm with dickheads who get up at 5am and start noisily rummaging in their bags, or people with severe mental illness who have unpredictable outbursts just at the moment when you're falling asleep.

What you have to understand is that every different bed I sleep in is slightly different. There might be a family deciding to have an argument in the hotel corridor at 6am. There might be a central heating system where the pipes creak and clang at unusual times. There might be a car alarm that decides to go off all night long. There might be a fire alarm. There might be heavy traffic in the morning and evening commuter rush. There might be patients on a psych ward who want to watch TV at full volume at 7am. There might be patients on a psych ward who are kicking off, and having to be restrained, sedated and moved to 'safe seclusion', which is the modern version of a padded soundproof cell.

What you have to understand is that every bed I sleep in has a different 'vibe' in terms of how private it feels. Ground-floor bedrooms are strange to me, especially when the window coverings - blinds and curtains - aren't very good. Can people hear me masturbating? Can people see me sleeping? How much privacy do I really have? I've spent a substantial time in places where there are observation windows which can be opened by staff members, to check on the room occupant. I've spent a substantial amount of time in places where the furniture is heavy, indestructible and even bolted to the floor. I've spent a substantial amount of time where the windows don't open more than a few inches and have bars on them, and the mirrors are made out of plastic - places designed to be safe places for the care of vulnerable sick people.

Those places have been my home.

I'm about to get the keys to have a house that has 4 bedrooms, 3 reception rooms, 2 bathrooms, a garden and a shed. It's all for me. It's a blank canvas.

If I had the money, I'd have it painted.

If I had the money, I'd buy the furniture I wanted.

If I had the money, I'd buy rugs and lamps, and curtains and coffee tables and occasional tables, and a dining table and chairs and a breakfast bar and bookcases and wardrobes and chests-of-drawers and sideboards and cabinets and desks and organiser systems, where all my stuff could be neatly hidden out of view in little boxes - a place for everything and everything in its place.

If I had the money, I'd just grab the IKEA catalogue and order everything in the rooms, exactly like their designers have displayed them.

It won't be long now.

Soon, I'll have a buttload of money.

But. It's been a long journey, and some really shitty stuff has happened, like my kidneys failing.

So, I'm about to have my millionth billionth IKEA bed, and there's nothing new or novel about it. I've bought the most basic model, with plans to upgrade in future, when I can afford it. I will continue to live out of suitcases, in a house which could comfortably accomodate 2 adults and 4 children. In fact, when I have friends with kids visiting, my house should provide comfort for perhaps 3/4 adults and 2/3 children, plus 0/1 dogs.

Sorry for going on about it, but it's been a helluva journey.

Imagine all those homeless people I met when I was sleeping rough. Imagine all those people who I met when I was sleeping in those hostels. I was just like them: No money, drink problems, drug problems and mental health problems, along with the accompanying police problems.

Imagine all those people who've seen me have false-starts and almost-but-not-quite get my shit together. Imagine how much they want me to succeed. Imagine how many people I've got rooting for me, because it's supposed to be true: It's supposed to be true that we can drag ourselves out of the gutter to become rich and successful, if we work hard enough. If I can do it, can you imagine how pleased all the people - the lifelong friends I made - will be to see me doing well. I owe it to them to aim higher than sleeping inconspicuously in a bush. I owe it to them to be one of the success stories that we're told about, but in reality don't really seem to exist.

I'm pulling an incredibly high-risk manoeuvre, to get myself into a special place. What would be the point of all the hard work, suffering, deprivation and disappointment, if all it resulted in was a totally mediocre end result?  That's not a very inspiring story for my friends who've suffered disproportionately badly at the hands of fate. How awful it would be for those people who had next-to-nothing - like we all did - to see the golden boy smashed to smithereens and getting absolutely nowhere in life. Why bother, if there's no chance of a better life? Why bother, if there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

My actions might seem to have a hint of profligacy to them, and indeed some showmanship and insecure vulgar displays of wealth, but I assure you that if I was such a fool as to simply want to flaunt the fact that I can get rich 'quick' when I need to, I would simply purchase a highly desirable sports-car with a car loan, and rent the most extravagant city centre penthouse I could find, and then flaunt my materialistic lifestyle in Instagram, which would be most vulgar, crude and an insult to every value that a hard working person has.

You also have to remember that my self-esteem was very badly damaged by those years when I was sick, vulnerable and virtually penniless. Psychologically, I do not want to be living with daily reminders that I screwed up my life. For me to feel as though I've left that unfortunate period of my life behind me, it's important that I'm not dragging around 'baggage' which continuously reminds me of what might have been if only I hadn't gotten sick. I think it's a worthwhile investment, to spend a relatively small amount of cash on a home which makes me feel like I'm starting to live the life I always wanted; picking up my life again as if there was no interruption.

If you detect a hint of entitlement then you're probably not mistaken. It's my firmly held belief that hard work should result in commensurate rewards. It's my unshakeable opinion that those who have known suffering and deprivation should not suffer prejudice and disadvantages because of those misfortunes.

If we believe in a fair and just world, where hard work and dedication will allow anybody to achieve their dreams, then we must surely also believe that it's OK for my life to be good... perhaps even enviably good; desirable. Isn't it a good thing that my friends might look at me and say: He's done well and there are some parts of his life that I would like to have for myself. Isn't it a good thing that my friends who never quite escaped the life of sleeping rough, hostels and bedsits, can see that one of their own - a man ruined by divorce, drink, drugs, debt and mental health problems - could clean himself up and return to civilised society, and prosper?

If this piece has a boastful tone, I apologise. If this piece seems premature, given the amount of hard work that still lies ahead, you'd be right to caution me against complacency. If this piece is too much about me, and not enough about those who get left behind, abandoned by society, those criticisms are valid.

As it stands, I've lined up my ducks, but the journey hasn't even started yet. My bed is still in pieces in an IKEA warehouse, with my mattress rolled up tightly in the plastic which it will be delivered in. The task still remains outstanding for me: to assemble my bed, or else sleep on the floor, provided I manage to even get the keys to this dream home without a hitch, which I presently don't have enough money to be able to afford.

 

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I'm Going On A Date

12 min read

This is a story about rushing things...

Packed boxes

I never really fully recovered after getting sick, following my close friend's funeral, which required a huge round-trip across the country. That was a really terrible week, which started with me having to break up with my girlfriend, because she wasn't being very pleasant or supportive at a time when I needed to get me, my suit, my black tie and other funeral-suitable attire to a crematorium hundreds of miles away.

I had to break up with that girlfriend, because my attendance of my close friend's funeral was being jeopardised.

That was a few weeks ago.

I have something else that was being jeopardised: My shelter; my housing security.

I suppose I could have extended my rental contract, but the place was nowhere near my workplace and therefore completely impractical. I'm struggling to cope, even though I've made smart choices to ease the burden on myself, such as staying in a hotel close to my office. If I was to commute from the current home I'm renting, it would add a 3 hours of travelling onto my day, every single day weekday. That's exhausting and pointless.

So, I guess I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to move. The clock was ticking.

It made me very anxious, knowing that there was a day when my contract would simply expire and I would no longer have any legal right to continue to occupy the place I'd called home for a year. Squatters have lost most of their legal rights over the years, and I need to be a squeaky-clean citizen anyway, because of the nature of my work: I'm expected to comply with a much more stringent code of conduct and set of behavioural guidelines, than the vast majority of people - with great power comes great responsibility.

I had back-slid into that toxic relationship after I got sick. Once my friend's funeral was out of the way, I was back home, but I was vulnerable. She cyber-stalked me and found my address. She turned up and I let her in, because I was sick in so many ways. I was physically sick with diarrhoea and vomiting, and I was emotionally sick from the recent funeral of a close friend. I was weak, she turned up and I let her in.

Fast forward to Valentine's day and I had viewed a beautiful house that I wanted to rent and the landlord had agreed to accept my tenancy. I had a house to move to. I had housing security. I had some guarantee of shelter.

She wasn't very happy for me.

In fact, she told me to get out at 11pm, when I was trying to get enough sleep to go to work in the morning. I said it was unreasonable, and that I would leave in the morning. She escalated things. It was unpleasant and unnecessary, but I was not surprised: The relationship was toxic and I had resolved to try to make my escape as soon as I could. I spent the night in a hotel.

I boxed up my belongings and made my current place more presentable, so that it could be more easily rented out. I was getting my ducks in a row, so to speak, in order to keep working my full-time job AND move house. If I don't work I don't get paid, and moving house is expensive.

I thought I wasn't going be able to move for weeks and weeks.

I hate waiting.

Now, I have a date.

I will be leaving on specific date, to start my new life in a new city - a city where I've never lived before.

I bought some furniture today and arranged for it to be delivered soon after I get the keys to my new house. I still need to buy a washer/dryer and have my broadband moved, as well as renting a van or organising a removals firm to help me shift all my stuff from one city to another: Probably the best part of 2 hours drive away, in a fully-loaded truck.

I'm going on a date. That is to say, I'm going to start my new life on a specific date. I can start to look forward to that date. I can start to dream about what it's going to be like living in the beautiful house I've rented.

I've swept problems out of the way. I've refused to allow anyone or anything sabotage my plans to maintain a secure roof over my head. It was the right thing to do: To leave the girlfriend who was jeopardising the holiday I needed, jeopardising my attendance of my close friend's funeral, jeopardising my chances of finding a beautiful new home, jeopardising the stability I need - to keep working my job - while going through an incredibly tough stressful time.

Moving house is hell. Moving to an unfamiliar city is double hell. Moving with the clock ticking down, and nobody supporting me practically - actually packing, moving boxes and assembling flat-pack furniture - is triple hell.

I expect I'll probably start dating again once I'm settled in my new house, but it's low down on my list of priorities right now. Going on a date is the last thing I want to do, when all I can think about is the date when I'm going to get the keys to my new house.

I've brought the move date much sooner, because there's no point in me living in an expensive hotel when I'll soon have a whole massive house to live in. I'm so happy. It's such a relief to have secured a roof over my head. It gives me such an important sense of security, to know that I'm going to have a house that actually suits my needs, and I've managed to extricate myself from a toxic relationship that so often jeopardised the things that I need and I've worked so hard to get.

Already, friends have been getting in contact to arrange to come and visit me. I was overjoyed when a beloved Twitter follower - who I've never met in person - mentioned they might drop in on me for a cup of tea if they're in the area. I've got the opportunity to accomodate my friends and their children as my guests, because I've been lucky enough to rent a huge house.

I adore company and I love to entertain guests, but the place where I was living was a little too far away from London, where most of my friends are, and it was also even too far from places like Bristol, Somerset and Dorset, where I still have a lot of long-neglected friends.

Most of my friends now seem to have children, and I do think that little people are wonderful, even though I've been careful not to spawn any of my own with the wrong person... so I find myself in the enviable position of having the best of all worlds: I will have a large house, which will comfortably hold me and my guests, without it being any trouble at all... in fact, it'll be a joyful thing to have my house filled with life and the noises of habitation. I live a bit like a monastic monk and I wouldn't have any face-to-face interactions or 'normal' human experiences, if it wasn't for things like my day job. Nobody at work really knows the extent of my isolation; my vulnerability.

I moved to Manchester, and that was disastrous and very nearly killed me, quite literally. When my kidneys failed in 2017 and I was on a high-dependency ward, my wonderful then-girlfriend (the one who got away) arranged for me to have lots of visitors, and she was incredibly attentive and supportive. She was my rock. When my heart was broken and I was virtually bankrupt, in central Manchester, where I had no friends or family anywhere within a hundred miles, at least, it was an easy decision to kill myself. I very nearly succeeded, but for the incredible work of the resus and intensive care medical teams at Manchester Royal Infirmary, and the emergency services who got me to hospital so quickly, thanks to strangers on the internet raising the alarm.

I'm moving to Cardiff, which I shouldn't really mention because I risk being positively identified by my colleagues and people whose job it is to vet and monitor employees who have access to highly sensitive information, who might not think it's a wise idea to expose myself so publicly.

However, I'm rushing and I'm stressed and I'm tired and I'm sick and I'm terribly alone, except for the huge group of friends I have across the globe. My work colleagues are lovely, but for the sake of my career, I try to hide my mental illness and personal life struggles. I have a very serious psychiatric mood disorder, which has caused dreadful destruction to my life in the past, so I work very hard to protect my hard-won stability. Anybody who jeopardises my future happiness and security is given short shrift, hence my toxic ex got the boot on Valentine's day, which was only a day earlier than planned anyway... it just seemed heartless to break up with her on a day that has heaps of societal expectation pressure placed upon it.

So, I move to Cardiff on my own - single - which is sort of overwhelming, but at the same time it's such an unbelievably good opportunity to get all the things I need in my life, such as a secure home in a city where I can easily commute to a job which is going well, and maintain as much stability as I can.

As you can tell by the volume of text which I'm writing, and my flurry of social media activity, I've been triggered into a state of mania by the combined recent events and cluster-fuck of stresses placed upon me.

I'll be OK.

I'll just be nimble and quick.

I'll dodge my way around the people who would otherwise sabotage me and the things I work hard to make happen.

I'll cut toxic people out of my life without a second thought. I've fought too hard to get what I've got, so I'm not going to allow myself to be coerced, controlled or forced to live with oppressive insecurity and unnecessary aggravation, when I work so damn hard to ensure that stressful and difficult things happen, with smooth sailing.

I'm single, but no dates for me. I'd be rushing things too much.

Of course, I'm about to get the keys to a gorgeous huge house that I can fill with beautiful things that I hand-picked. Of course, it'd be wonderful to have the comfort and security of a partner to share that with, but if I have to do it on my own, I choose that every time even though it's difficult, because being a good partner means being supportive and making a better life together. If you threaten to sabotage the important things in my life, you'll be shown the door... sorry.

Perhaps I'm just a washed-up middle-aged nobody, with nothing to offer. Perhaps I should be feeling insecure, but I don't. I'm filled up with excitement about all the future possibilities, even though I'm a bit sick, very manic and I've got some awfully exhausting and stressful stuff to get through, which will be incredibly destabilising.

I'm planning on basing my stability on a few simple things: my daily routine, my job (which I'm really good at) and my excellent relationship with my colleagues, and a secure financial and housing situation. The safety net that allows me to do my high-wire act alone is my vast number of friends who I'm in contact with all over the world, who have my back, although I can reassure them that this move is not one of heartbreak and shameful defeat, like the time I had to leave my beloved London home, to take a shitty job in Manchester, and live in a shitty apartment.

I'm going on a date. I'm going from Swansea to Cardiff on a specific date. I know the exact date when I get my keys and I become a resident of a city that I chose to live in... this move is not driven by desperation, this time, and I get good vibes about the place. I still can't quite believe that I can afford to rent such a massive house in an amazing location... but that's Wales, it seems. Wales is my birthplace and the country seems pleased to have me back. Things have gone my way since I came back. Things have gone well, mostly.

Anyway, sorry for the manic rant, but that's what's happening in my world. I expect I'll be blathering on about it for a while, because it's part of the foundation of the stable happy new life I'm building for myself. It's incredibly satisfying to see real tangible progress towards the life I want, when I was so close to death so many times, and I was in every kind of trouble you can imagine: Debts, drugs and abandonment. For a while, my life revolved around hospitals, police stations, psych wards, hostels and sleeping rough.

If I pull this off and manage to get myself stable again, I really feel like I can hang onto things this time. Dating can wait. I feel like I've got so much to offer, so there's no rush.

 

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I Want To Have Nice Things

6 min read

This is a story about losing your home...

Tackley cottage

That little blonde boy in the pedal car is me. That thatched cottage is where I used to live, briefly. I loved that thatched cottage, because it was exactly what a house is supposed to be: It had a roof, chimney, windows with panes of glass criss-crossed, a front door in the middle, flowers growing in the garden. All it needed was a blue sky, some smoke coming out of the chimney, a couple of soaring birds, some white fluffy clouds and a big yellow sun with a smiling face, and it would be the picture that every child would draw, if you asked them to draw a picture of a house.

My time in the "proper house" was very limited.

When I briefly lived this proper life, there was a village green, a village shop, a village post office, a church and graveyard, a railway train station, a bus stop, a pub and a school.

During my all-too-brief proper life, I went to the local school, played with the local children, bought sweets from the village shop, attended events on the village green - when people would literally dance around a maypole with coloured ribbons - and went to church.

My life exemplified everything that is great and good about English countryside living. Former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, lives barely a few miles away from the idyllic Cotswold village where I had my proper life. Prince Charles and other royalty play polo on fields, barely a few miles away from this most quintessentially picturesque English village that you could ever imagine. The TV show Downton Abbey was filmed on location, a few miles away from this beautiful place, where I thought I would live forever.

Life seemed to make sense to me - this was a proper life, and it all made perfect sense, even though I was just a child.

The funny thing is that it still makes sense to me.

All I want is to live in a little house, with a little garden, in a little village and do the things that normal people do: go to work, come home, watch TV, cook food, eat, do gardening, have a pet, feed the birds. All I want is an ordinary life.

Presently, the only piece of furniture I own is a coffee table, which I repurposed as a TV stand. One of the few possessions I own which isn't designed to be carried around easily, is the TV, which sits atop the TV stand. Other than that, everything else can be thrown into a bag... and there isn't very much "everything else" left. Most of my possessions have been discarded, because my life was too chaotic and I was too unwell to cope with safeguarding my material things, when my life and my sanity were at risk and all too often nearly lost forever.

Every time I was forced to move as a child - 8 different schools - it was nonsensical and disruptive; it was traumatic and damaging. Every time I found myself packing my bags, yet again, a pattern was being established: I was being psychologically programmed. The message my parents were sending me was loud and clear: "Don't get attached to anything, anywhere or anybody".

I gave up on the idea of having a settled, secure, normal life.

When I separated from my wife and an acrimonious divorce began, it really didn't bother me as much as it should have done, to lose my house, lose my precious things and to end up sleeping rough - homeless and destitute. I camped in bushes, where I could hide my tent. I slept in a bivouac on heathland. I was invisible in a city with a daytime population of 10 million inhabitants. My home and my bed shrank and shrank, until it was simply the tiny patch of ground on which I stood or lay. My personal space shrank to be no bigger than the volume occupied by the extremities of my body.

When I saw the chance to move from being homeless to living in a very luxurious apartment with amazing views of the capital city, the idea was too attractive for me to resist.

I had two years bursting with pride about how I'd pulled myself up by the bootstraps, and was no longer sleeping rough; no longer homeless. I had to pinch myself every time I stepped inside my home, and was greeted by breathtaking panoramic views over London. That feeling never wore off... the whole time I lived there.

I want that again. I want to live somewhere special. I want that special feeling that I'm living in a proper place, after the awfulness I've been through in life.

Yes, I'm sympathetic towards those who are sleeping rough, and those who are living in a very dire situation. No, it doesn't make me happy just to have a roof over my head.

I've lived anywhere. I've slept rough all over London. I've slept in 14-bed hostel dorms. I've slept in psychiatric wards, hospitals and police cells.

I do NOT want to live anywhere.

It was a big deal when I got the keys to a gorgeous home with sea views, roughly ten and a half months ago. I still feel a great buzz when I visit that place, and I stand at the window admiring the views over the bay. I love that home, but unfortunately, it's not my home... although technically I can sleep there whenever I want, for another month and a half.

I shouldn't be getting stressed out about moving. My life will be much better when I have a home again. Hopefully I can have a beautiful home which I can fill with lovely things. Hopefully I can stay there. Hopefully I won't have to leave. Hopefully my world won't be destroyed again.

Currently, I have no idea where, when or how I'm going to get myself a home, let alone whether I'll have the opportunity to fill it up with lovely things.

My upbringing taught me one clear lesson, again and again: Expect nothing, except to lose everything that you get attached to.

 

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