It seemed to irk a multimillionaire friend that I didn't consider myself to be in the top 2% of the world's wealthiest people. In terms of cash, assets and in terms of income, I meet none of the test criteria which would consider me to be one of the top 2% of the world's richest. However, we should think about how we perceive ourselves, no matter what the hard numbers say.
Most people I know consider themselves to be "working class made good". That is to say, they have very many anecdotes about "how hard" they "had things as a child". The claims are very reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch, where a group of men attempt to outdo each other in their boastful claims about how well they've done for themselves, from humble beginnings.
Eventually the boasts become rather dubious:
I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down t'mill, and pay t'mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.
The point of the sketch is to mock reverse-snobbery and the exaggeration of how hard things were "in the olden days".
I think there's something innate in us which assumes we're in the less fortunate "half" of those who we have everyday interactions with. We feel more in common with the supermarket checkout assistant than we do with somebody we see driving a supercar. When we see somebody who is undoubtedly on a modest wage, we assume our own income and assets are closer to that person, than to a person who is making a vulgar display of their wealth.
This is something I wrestle with every day: am I rich, or am I relatively - compared to my peers - quite poor?
My friends all own houses (or at least the mortgage companies own them) and they all drive quite new cars (although they could be on hire-purchase). My friends go skiing from January to March. My friends can be seen sunning themselves in luxury holiday destinations on a regular basis. It's easy for me to form the opinion that I lost all my money, and I'm pretty much starting from zero. In fact, I'm starting from a highly indebted place.
Then, I have a wake-up call and I realise that some of my school-friends who do exactly the same job as me have not enjoyed a fraction of the cumulative career earnings, which I have. I've had those ski holidays and those luxury trips to exotic locations, and nobody can ever take those experiences away from me.
Sometimes my life flatly refuses to give me all the things I need at the same time. If I have a house, then I don't have a job. If I have a girlfriend then I don't have any money. If I have friends then I don't have my sanity.
The getting of the things - the difficult things - is more difficult than you can even imagine. In fact, it's better not to imagine, to plan and to worry. Be one of those people who drifts along aimlessly. Making hard things happen is too stressful.
I'd love to say that I'm genuinely disadvantaged and held back, but the truth is that despite my very best attempts to ruin my life and destroy my future, things keep happening which are quite good; enviable.
Gathering together my boxed belongings dating back 20 months, during which period I very nearly died in a city which was completely alien to me, and denied any visitors (although I was in a coma anyway) and the strange way with which I've wended my way back into civilised society, via a doctor who read my blog, via an alcoholic who recently committed suicide, via a kitesurfer who I've never worked with and via an army of friends who ceaselessly keep me in the land of the living, via the ethereal world of the internet... that's not easy.
My body started to protest before I even lifted the first precious box of my belongings into a van. I live betwixt and between the land of the fully conscious, and the land of the intoxicated: Those whose senses have been dulled with pills, powders and liquids.
I feel greater affinity for the afflicted ones - the alcoholics and the addicts - but it would be churlish of me to count myself amongst their number, as I lay my head down on a pillow in a house worth half a million pounds (I'm just renting it BTW).
I expect you've made your mind up, whether you're better or worse off than me, but be aware that your perception can be warped, and you're more likely to consider yourself less fortunate, than more fortunate - it's a common feature of human psychology, no matter how illogical it is.
In closing, I would say that I am very very tired and I am in a lot of pain, with some obvious problems with my muscles and kidneys which might require medical intervention, but I'm also walking around my gigantic house, unable to believe that rolling the dice has made this happen for me. I'll curl up in my sleeping bag in a minute, and wake up in the morning like a child when Santa Claus has been to visit. I definitely think of myself as one of the lucky ones.
I suppose the reason why my episodes of mania synchronise perfectly with periods of high stress and exhaustion, is some kind of defence mechanism - perhaps an evolutionary adaptation; something deliberately left in my genes, because it's served a useful purpose during unsettled times throughout the history of humanity.
It's problematic for me to work in an open-plan office at the moment. It's problematic for me to be surrounded by so many mild-mannered and quiet individuals, who seem happy to spend all day looking at their email inbox, waiting for something interesting to appear.
How my colleagues manage to cope in an environment that's pretty stale and ultra-conservative, I don't know. Big personalities and loudmouths are not the kinds of people who become long-serving members of my organisation. In fact, a girl I dated from my office said she cried when she got her security pass, because its expiry date was 10 years in the future. "Nobody would choose to work here" she said.
It's not that bad.
I like it.
I'm just not so sure that everyone who's within earshot of me is my greatest fan. I have a foghorn-like voice in two situations: 1) when I'm scared and insecure, and 2) when I'm manic, like I am now.
I suppose I knew that mania was cropping up - rearing its ugly head - but it served a purpose. I needed to find a place to live and make all the necessary moving preparations. I needed to continue to work hard at my job, while also finding the extra energy and the motivation to do something I hate: Moving.
The mania has propelled me to move very fast, but it also causes my brain to speed up dangerously. A colleague told a joke about friction coefficients - a classical physics joke - and I said I could come up with a better one about quantum mechanics, in only a few seconds. According to my colleague, it took me no more than 15 seconds to invent a "XXX walks into a bar..." type joke, which was actually pretty good considering I thought of it on the spot AND it involved two really fundamental things about quantum mechanics. Nothing to do with Schrödinger and his cats, but actually to do with Planck and his constant... but I digress... both jokes have a very small audience who'd appreciate them.
I'm fizzing and crackling with so much energy at the moment that I'm physically uncomfortable to be around. I think I'm literally giving people near me headaches.
One of the first things I said this morning was "do chairs really exist?" which was supposed to be funny, but my colleagues reaction was to tell me it was too early to start talking about philosophy.
I didn't get to sleep until 3:30am or maybe even 4am.
Does the lack of sleep cause the mania, or is the insomnia a symptom of the mania? It's impossible to know.
It's not like I couldn't sleep, but I can't see how else I can fit everything into the 24 hours of the day, without some late nights. I know that I need regular bedtimes. I know I need lots of sleep. But, there's so much to do.
The busier I am, the more productive I am, strangely. Today I did all kinds of horrible jobs that I wasn't looking forward to, like buying a washing machine, booking a van to move my stuff, arranging to have broadband internet installed, arranging to have my post redirected and a zillion other admin jobs, but I also managed to do a piece of work that I'd been putting off for days and days.
Where I'm finding the energy from to maintain my daily writing, as well as the development of NickBot™ and the migration of my website from one hosting provider to another, I have no idea, considering that I also have a demanding full-time job and I waste at least 50% of my time saying stupid things out loud and distracting people.
I guess I was wasting a lot of time and energy on a bad relationship, so escaping that has released me from a lot of pointlessly exhausting nonsense. I was very trapped. I was very miserable.
I'm very stressed now and I felt momentarily like I was very alone, but perhaps that's what prompted me into a frenzy of activity, sending out lots of messages to people I care about, trying to surround myself with people who care about me. There's a horrible period of stress approaching rapidly - moving day, and subsequent days - but I'm pretty well prepared for it, which I'm surprised about, because I can often become too overwhelmed by anxiety to even leave my bed. I'm surprised that depression hasn't laid me low.
All of my psychiatric problems can be considered acute: i.e. they have been spontaneously provoked into existence by the extreme set of life circumstances that I'm simultaneously dealing with. This is adjustment disorder which is just another way of saying "your life is hell right now" and that quite rightly, my brain and body are compensating for the extreme demands placed upon me.
I'm pretty terrified right now, of screwing up the good relationship I have with my colleagues and my workplace. People have been patient with me, but that patience is wearing thin. It's unusual for a manic episode to last so long, but I've managed to keep myself sustained for periods of 6, 8 and even 13 weeks before... but it always led to a horrible crash. There have always been disastrous consequences for allowing too much of my mania to overspill into the open-plan offices which I work in.
I try to rein myself in. I try to put my headphones in and keep my head down. But, then somebody wants to ask me something. Then I overhear something and my red-hot brain which is travelling at a million miles an hour immediately sparks off and I'm talking - interjecting - with something which I think is profound, but nobody can keep up with me... I'm just acting a bit weird and annoying, from the point of view of my colleagues.
I'm working from home for a couple of days. I'm going to try to pace myself and remind myself that I've got a nice long overlap of my tenancies, so I don't have to move everything all at once. If I forget anything, I can always make more trips. There's no need for me to put so much pressure on myself.
I'm pushing hard in every area of my life, simultaneously. I want my colleagues to think I'm a brilliant genius who can do anything. I want my perfect house, fully furnished and looking beautiful. I want to feel instantly at home in a city which I've barely visited. I want my side project - this website - to make a giant leap forward, in terms of technology.
It's too much, and there will be a price to be paid.
I need to be super careful.
I can't afford to lose my job, for example.
I can't afford to lose anything, in fact.
Everything teeters dangerously on a cliff edge.
But, I've kind of gotten used to living on the edge.
If nothing else, at least this period is quite life-affirming and I'm coping remarkably well. Even when I got in trouble with the big boss the other day, I managed to rescue things very rapidly and get back on good terms. Even when I wasted days and days procrastinating, I caught up very rapidly. Even when I felt that there was too much to do in too little time, to move house without dying of stress and anxiety, everything seems to be falling into place.
I've written twice as much as I meant to, of course, because I can't quite rein myself in; I can't quite pump the brakes and slow myself down.
So long as I keep doing what my colleagues are doing, which is mostly killing time looking busy, then I'll probably get through this difficult period without doing too much damage. Less is more.
This is a story about the stuff dreams are made of...
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.
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.
Despite much whinging and complaining about the anxiety being caused by house-hunting and the difficulty of getting through all the vetting procedures, credit checks, references and suchlike, I have managed to secure myself a lovely big house to live in.
The house is unfurnished.
This isn't even my furniture.
I stole the photograph from the rental agent's website.
Wherever I go in the world, I have friends. Even though I hardly know anybody in the city where I currently live, or the city where I'm moving to, or the city where I work, I will always have friends. Why? Because I have so many people who care about me in the world. I'm such a lucky guy that my lovely global friends write to me, leave me lovely comments on my blog, or even just leave a little 'heart' on something I've written.
I know that some people might feel like social media, blogging and the internet in general is a virtual reality. In their mind's eye, the internet is populated with shy introverts, who never speak to each other and never make meaningful lifelong friendships. They're wrong.
A huge percentage - the vast majority - of my friendships began online, and then progressed to meeting in person and staying in touch regularly. My best friends and those who've been there for me through thick and thin, in times of darkness and in times of light... those friends almost all originated from the internet.
Whether those friendships were made via dial-up internet bulletin boards (BBS), discussion forums, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social media is presently popular, is a complete irrelevance. Whether or not those friendships were first initiated using the communication medium of the internet, as opposed to a chance face-to-face meeting, is irrelevant.
I started making a list of all the people who've given me significant support during some very difficult years of my life, and the more I kept digging though the archives of the internet, the more amazed I was at how many names there were on the list.
I started trying to mention some of those people on Twitter, to thank them for being such great friends. As I sent out the Tweets I'd keep realising that there was somebody who'd perhaps gone quiet for a little while, and I hadn't been in touch with recently. Everybody I mentioned has been a hugely supportive, kind and caring friend.
I started to realise it was almost impossible for me catalogue and give thanks to everybody. How can I rank the contribution of my friends, to improving - and in some cases saving - my life? How can I even begin to comprehend just how many people I've been lucky enough to connect with, in a meaningful way, such that we could talk just like we'd known each other our whole lives?
How can I be sure I didn't miss anybody? For sure, I have more friends than my brain can cope with, which is an amazingly nice situation to be in.
The internet is an incredible thing, but it's the aggregate value of all those wonderful people that makes it so amazing. The global reach of the internet means I have friends on every continent. It feels like wherever I go in the world, I'll always have a friend.
I'm moving to a city I've never lived in before. I don't really have any friends there. I don't know my way around.
But, wherever I go, I have my connection to an entire world of wonderful friends, who will support me along the way. Sure, some of them live too far away to help me unload my moving truck and unpack my boxes. Sure, some of them live so far away that they're unlikely to be able to drop in for a housewarming party. However, it's an immense comfort, especially during unsettling and stressful times, to have the wonderful luck of having so many friends in the world.
I'm not sure why I put up that picture of a house which doesn't even contain any furniture.
I'm not sure if I'm insecure, and I want you to see that I'm at least going to be living somewhere nice, once I've bought some furniture and moved in.
I also wanted to share that picture, because you're all moving in there with me, because you move everywhere with me. You moved from London to Manchester with me, you moved from Manchester to Swansea with me, you moved from Swansea to Newport with me and now you're moving from Newport to Cardiff with me. You were with me when I was in all those new cities. You were with me when I was living all on my own in that hotel room, out of a suitcase, for so many months.
I'm lucky to have so many friends who go with me wherever I go. I'm lucky to have friends in every time zone, so I can speak to somebody at any hour of the day. I'm lucky to have turned so-called 'virtual' friendships into lifelong friendships, where we speak regularly on the phone, and we are intimately involved in each other's lives.
I'm grateful. Without your help, I wouldn't have made it this far. Without your help I'd have died in Manchester. Without your help, I'd have been too anxious and depressed to get through the difficult things I've been through: To move to strange new cities, start new jobs and find new places to live. Without your help, all those lonely nights living out of a suitcase in a hotel would have been unbearable.
If you decide to permit personal privacy, then you must also accept that there will be a point at which you simply have to trust somebody. There is nobody who can say without a shadow of a doubt that I'm not keeping any terrible secret(s) and there is nobody who can predict the future. Even with perfect knowledge of the position every atom in the observable universe, there is no machine capable of predicting the future. Even with vast amounts of data collected about a person's past behaviour, it's not capable of making an accurate prediction about their future behaviour, without prejudicing those who are unfairly punished by whatever guesstimation algorithm is used.
There's a joke I used to enjoy which goes like this: If you have some goldfish, you probably have a pond. If you have a pond, you probably have a garden. If you have a garden, you probably have a house. If you have a house, you probably have a family. If you have a family, you probably fuck your wife. Therefore, if you don't have any goldfish, you're probably a wanker.
This is the problem with making predictions from incomplete data. Even with nearly complete data, we're still not very good at making predictions. Weather forecasts are pretty accurate for a few days into the future, but hopelessly inaccurate beyond a week or longer, except to say that summers are hot and winters are cold (or vice-versa for the Southern Hemisphere).
I wrote this earlier, to express my frustration regarding renting a house. It's a questions-and-answers thing I had to endure, in order to satisfy a landlord that I'm able to pay rent each month.
Q: What's your employment status?
A: Full-time employment
Q: What's your salary?
Q: Who can we contact at your company to verify your employment?
A: The board of directors, or better still, why not just check at Companies House, because it's a matter of public record
Q: Can we see 3 months of payslips to prove your income?
A: My £702 monthly salary? Yeah sure. No problem.
Q: Are you self-employed?
A: No. See above.
Q: Are you sure you're not self employed?
A: I'm sure that I'm employed full-time as a company director, for which I receive a salary. I'm also a shareholder, which entitles me to a share of any dividends that the board of directors decides to pay. It's exactly the same as being the CEO of a public company, except the shareholders cannot trade their shares via the stock market.
Q: If you're like a CEO why do you need to rent a house?
A: Have you ever heard of a startup? It's a bit like that, only without the rich parents.
Q: So you don't have any money?
A: No, you're getting me confused with startup founders. I have enough income to pay my rent.
Q: Where does the money come from if you don't earn it as a salary?
A: Dividends are paid to me from the companies which I'm a shareholder of.
Q: How much do you get paid per month, in dividends?
A: It depends on the company profits, and what the board of directors decide. It could be zero. It could be zero for months.
Q: This is too complicated for me to understand. Would you mind if we took a look at all of your personal bank accounts, for the last 3 years?
A: No problem. Would you also like to perform a rectal exam and fondle my testicles too?
So, despite the fact that my position as company director is a matter of public record, as well as the accounts of my company - anybody who wants to is able to view those records online - I'm still expected to share my personal bank statements with complete strangers.
A friend and I who both own and operate our own companies, joked that we should maintain an account specifically for the purposes of pranking the organisations who ask to invade our privacy. We would make regular purchases of items from retailers and service providers, where the name shown on the bank statements would be considerably embarrassing, for most members of the public. Thus, we could troll these organisations and perhaps change the culture from secrecy and shame, to something more open. I applaud the Swedes, for example, for making every citizen's tax declarations public... essentially meaning that you can find out how much anybody earns.
As regular readers will know, I'm quite the opposite of a secret-keeper. I've published every bit of 'dirt' which somebody hope to 'dig' on me, onto this public website.
Meanwhile, my hopes of renting a place to live hang in the balance, while the minutiae of how I spend every single penny are pored over by a bunch of strangers, who will ultimately decide whether I'm worthy of having a roof over my head, or whether I should be cast onto the streets.
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 myhome... 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.
I spend a lot of time dealing with brain-dead individuals who think they should get paid a lot of money for jobs they're thoroughly incompetent at, as well as being so utterly unbelievably stupid that they would put a Terms of Service contract onto their website, which was stolen from a fast-food restaurant.
Unfortunately I have to deal with lettings agents who think it's OK to charge the best part of £400 or more, for putting a document in a photocopier and then filling in a couple of blanks, such as the name of the tenant and the amount of rent payable.
Like, I mean, how much do you actually think you should get paid for filling in 5 pieces of information onto a document you don't understand, and doing a bit of photocopying.
The UK government has helpfully provided a very nice model contract, for anybody who is looking to rent out their home. This document includes all kinds of useful guidance, such as "it's not OK to demand sex in lieu of rent" for f**kwits who think they can write whatever the hell they want into a contract, and it somehow supersedes the laws of the country.
You cannot, for example, draw up a contract that allows you to punch me, stab me and/or kill me, and avoid punishment for the crime, because I signed a so-called waiver. I cannot waive my rights using civil law. The criminal laws of the country will always take precedence over any contract law. That is to say that my statutory rights are not affected by any bullshit piece of paper that I sign.
When you buy a pair of shoes, you'll sometimes sign a piece of paper that says you can't return them and get a refund. However, that doesn't affect your statutory rights, and you're quite within your legal rights to return the shoes if they're faulty or defective in some way.
The law defends us from all sorts of unscrupulous unethical chancers who want our money but don't want to work for it - in short, they want our money, but they're not going to do any work to get it. Those people are called the rentier class who believe they're entitled to money for nothing.
The rentier class piss me off.
I just want to have a place to live. I want to have a secure home. That's all I want.
Here is an email, which I took the time to research and write on my goddam Sunday afternoon, when I'm supposed to be relaxing:
Dear XXX XXXX,
Many thanks for showing me around XXXXXXX on Saturday afternoon, and your prompt reply to my queries was greatly appreciated. I am interested in renting the property as it adequately met my requirements, but I felt I should write to you with regards to keeping a pet cat. The answer you supplied is not satisfactory I'm afraid.
I must draw you, your agency and the landlord's attention to the matter of UK law, when it comes to the keeping of pets. The Consumer Rights Act (2015) stipulates that the keeping of a pet cannot be reasonably refused, unless the pet would cause a nuisance to the occupiers of neighbouring properties or significantly increase wear and tear to the property. According to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999) The Office of Fair Trading deems a “No Pets” clause unlawful.
The law is very clear: "[a] landlord cannot exercise a blanket ban on pets". Your quote "the Landlord has stipulated No Pets at the property" which is an incontrovertible piece of written evidence of unlawful behaviour on the part of the landlord, you and your agency.
The property is unfurnished and has hard floors throughout, such that the keeping of a cat would clearly not increase wear and tear to the property. A cat would certainly not cause a nuisance to the occupiers of neighbouring properties. I noticed several neighbourhood cats during my visit to the property.
Given that the landlord has unreasonably refused for me to keep a cat at the property, which is an unlawful contravention of The Consumer Rights Act (2015) as a goodwill gesture I am prepared to offer a modest increase to the deposit and an additional contract clause whereby the tenant accepts any responsibility for pet damage to the property. This would give the landlord an exceptionally high level of protection, for the incredibly unlikely event that an ordinary domestic cat might cause damage or additional wear and tear. This extra money would be held in the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) in addition to the substantial deposit already proposed by your agency.
Naturally, the Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement would be amended, so that it is contractually stipulated that the keeping of one single cat was permitted. Any additional pets would require consent from the landlord, which is standard practice.
It is not my intention to turn the landlord's property into a zoo. It would be perfectly reasonable - for example - for the landlord to refuse the keeping of a large dog, which would be likely to bark loudly and thus cause annoyance to the neighbours.
My request is most reasonable and the UK courts will robustly defend my legal right to keep a pet cat. I hope you will forgive me for reminding you again that it is not lawful for a landlord to "exercise a blanket ban on pets and should not turn a request down without good reason".
I humbly suggest you and your agency thoroughly familiarise yourself with the laws of England and Wales pertaining to landlords, tenants and letting agents, such that your future business is conducted lawfully. The necessary statutes which you and your agency should familiarise yourself with are: The Landlord and Tenant Act (1985), Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999) and Consumer Rights Act (2015).
I advise you to inform your client of any laws which he or she might not have been aware of, such that any more unlawful behaviour might be avoided in future. Perhaps you might then be so kind as to respond again to my question about keeping a pet cat, when you are next able to speak to your client.
It disappoints me that your agency who charge fees of £311.54 for the simple preparation of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement, should be so woefully ill-informed of the laws of the United Kingdom. Ignorance of the law is no defence in court. I am especially disappointed that you are charging a substantial professional fees for your services, when you are conspiring with your clients to break the law.
My advice is offered at the cost of a leisurely Sunday I could have spent spent relaxing, so I hope you appreciate the effort I have made in providing you with a comprehensive summary of how to conduct your business and advise your clients, without breaking the laws of England and Wales, which would be financially costly and reputationally damaging. Consider my free advice to be a goodwill gift.
I assure you that my only intention is to rent a property, with the statutory protections afforded to me by UK law, such that my right to live in peaceful enjoyment of the property as my home is not legally infringed. It seems like a reasonable request to me. Would you agree?
I trust this message finds you well and I hope to receive a reply at your earliest convenience.
I hope you had a good weekend.
That's my politest possible way of saying you can't fuck with me, you rentier class c**t. And demanding to enjoy the same freedom in life that those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth get. We should not have a two-tier society, where the rentier class don't have to work, and the rentier class should not make unreasonable demands, such as disallowing the proletariat the comfort of having a pet.
On this day 5 years ago, I tried to help a homeless alcoholic called Frank. I made a lot of notes. As my divorce disrputed my attempt to get my life back on track in London, dragging me back to Bournemouth to empty and sell my house, it destroyed my fragile new life and plunged me into the very world of homeless hell, which I had usefully compiled notes on. I did manage to help Frank, but ironically crosssed paths with him later on - as I was descending into hell, he was well on his way to recovery.
On this day 4 years ago, I got myself off the streets, out of the 14-bed hostel dorm, and back into banking. I went to Barclays, which quickly dug me out of debt and restored some long overdue health, wealth and prosperity to my life.
On this day 3 years ago, I went to HSBC and repeated the same magic trick of managing to get myself back off the streets, out of the hostel, into a lovely Thameside apartment, and out of debt. Feeling like my life was going well, I went to a hackathon to create technology solutions to the refugee crisis.
On this day 2 years ago, I was lying to my girlfriend and my guardian angel, because the project I'd been working on had ended prematurely and I hadn't bothered to get another contract. Instead, I had tried to treat my own depression with medication prescribed by an online pharmacy, destabilising my mental health - inducing hypomania - and causing a subsequent relapse.
On this day last year, I woke up as a resident of Wales for the first time since being born here. The day before, I had been discharged from a psych ward in Manchester, England, following a suicide attempt which was very nearly successful.
I'm pretty upset that divorce was such a destabilising distraction at a time when I desperately needed a clean break, and I'm struggling to forgive and forget my ex-wife and parents sabotaging all my hard work; destroying my chance to follow through with well thought out plans which were subsequenty proven to be correct and successful.
I can blame the Barclays thing not working out on a couple of idiots who got fired for trying to screw me over, but in all truth, I wasn't very stable. I was too outspoken. I didn't keep my mouth shut. I made mistakes in my personal life. I had lapses.
I can blame the HSBC thing not working out on the sheer pressure and workload of working on their number one project, while also dealing with homelessness and cripling debt. I can blame a friend who asked me to help him get a job. I can blame a few loafers who benefitted from my hard work. But, again, I was too outspoken. I wasn't at all stable. I was so exhausted and stressed that I was very strung out and very manic.
I can blame not wanting to immediately get another contract 2 years ago on the fact that the project had been so mind-numbingly spirit-crushingly boring, and I'd been so de-skilled, that I'd lost all self-confidence. I really couldn't face any more of the same awfulness without taking a break. However, it was still my so-called 'choice' to relapse and I knew the consequences were likely to be dire, although I kinda "got away with it" that one time.
I can blame attempting suicide and nearly dying on the fact that I knew instinctively that I was in deep trouble. The contract in Manchester didn't pay enough to get me out of debt. I knew I was going to get shafted by a very unpleasant and immoral wannabe Labour MP, who embodies none of the values of socialism. I was working too hard for too little reward, but I also made bad so-called 'choices' such as getting mixed up with a social group who mostly bonded over recreational drug abuse. There was no way I was going to be able to quit physically addictive sleeping pills, tranqulisers and neuropathic painkillers, as well as working a very demanding job which didn't even pay enough to make any kind of dent in my debts. Suicide was my choice, in the face of overwhelming odds stacked against me.
So, here I am in Wales.
What's going to be different this year?
I'm in approximately the same financial position that I've been in all those previous years. My mental health seems to be the same, swinging between suicidal depression and mania.
Just gotta keep my mouth shut.
Gotta make sure I don't go on any crusades, trying to save anybody.
Put on my own oxygen mask before helping others.
This year is different because I've been working for 10 consecutive months without a major fuck-up. Of course, there have been fuck-ups, but they haven't caused me to lose my contract or otherwise let my client down. I've delivered a couple of projects quite successfully, to the great satisfaction of my clients.
This year is different because I've had an affordable place to live of my own since March, and I don't have anybody mooching off me or otherwise trying to ride my coat tails. I don't have anybody pressurising me to subsidise their laziness and inability to make good on their financial commitments. I don't have anybody using my gas, electric, water, sewerage, council tax and broadband, and running up thousands of pounds worth of rent arrears.
This year is different because I've had contract extensions and managed to have consecutive contracts, such that I've hardly stopped working at all.
This year is different because I've been working on my skills and making myself more confident and employable. I've felt increasingly capable and good at my job, without getting too deep into the territory of delusions of grandeur.
This year is different because the pressure is markedly reduced and the stress levels are more manageable, despite crushing mountainous debts. There have been really awful times - such as renting a place to live - but I seem to be well established in a good routine now, such that I just need to keep turning the pedals.
I drink too much. I'm unfit.
However, in the space of 11 months I'll have managed to buy a car, rent an apartment, pay off £21,000 of debt, and save up enough money to pay a hefty tax bill. I don't enjoy living out of a suitcase, but I'm not slumming it anymore. I've been able to take a weekend break to see old friends in Prague and I have a week-long holiday to Turkey booked, which will be my first proper holiday for over 2 years. I stay in a nice hotel midweek and I eat in a gastropub. This is the self-care aspect, which didn't really get taken care of in previous years. There's no point working as hard as I do unless it's delivering some quality of life; I might as well just kill myself if life's going to be an unrewarding slog.
I sometimes can't believe what comes out of my mouth, in terms of the fucking rage which is somewhat pent-up inside me. This is a summary of the many false starts I've had, and nearly-but-not-quite moments, where it looked like I was going to make a breakthrough and get properly back on my feet. It's incredibly frustrating to repeatedly do the impossible - quitting addictive drugs, getting off the streets, out of the hostels and back into mainstream civilised society, while also dealing with a major mental health problem - and to see that there's nothing wrong with my approach per se. On paper, everything should go perfectly and quickly restore me to health, wealth and prosperity, but it does require a run of good luck, and that luck is very much dependent on the co-operation of other people.
Who do I want to blame? Capitalism? Banking? Bad bosses? Wimmin? Parents? Even friends?
I spend a lot of time writing very aggressive angry stuff.
I can't believe what I write.
Maybe this year won't be any different, because I'm a spoiled overprivileged vile bitter old man, who doesn't take any personal responsibility; I'm too quick to blame others.
The holes in my wall tell a story. I picked up a massive wardrobe and moved it to block the entrance to my bedroom in an attempt to barricade myself in, because I wanted privacy so badly; I so desperately wanted the certainty of knowing that nobody would barge in on me unexpectedly. In fact, I spent the best part of two days and nights without sleep, attempting to secure my bedroom against would-be perverts hoping to barge in and catch a glimpse of me in my nest of shame.
Obviously, it's somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When somebody spends a couple of days dismantling beds, bookcases, chests of drawers and heaving heavy pieces of furniture into their barricade, it's pretty noisy and the work is exhausting. As a person gets more physically tired and sleep deprived, they gey clumsy and they make mistakes, such as toppling a massive heavy thing with sharp corners into a wall, gouging out plaster and leaving an ugly hole.
My body is covered with battle scars from my efforts to keep my shame private. I have an enormous scar on my left calf and another one on my right thigh. I have a broken nose from where I was balancing a piece of furniture above my head in an attempt to cover a window.
My paranoia stems from my childhood, when I was constantly bullied, at home and at school. Nobody respected my privacy or my right to live a dignified life. My paranoia stems from an abusive relationship, where I was punched in the face, screamed at and generally verbally abused, and regularly had to put a door in-between my ex and I, which she would spend hours aggressively kicking while I was trapped in a room with no toilet, food drink, or exit other than to face the violent abusive woman on the other side of the door. My paranoia stems from not having a space of my own where I can lock the door and feel confident that I'm the only one with the key; feeling like I have no right to privacy and that I can expect somebody to barge in at any moment. Being a guest in somebody's home is not the same as having your own safe space. Being a prisoner in your own home is truly traumatic.
I built myself a summerhouse in 2009 and then insulated and carpeted it in 2013. I finally had my own miniature house with a front door I could lock, although it had no running water or toilet. I improvised a water supply using the garden hose and locked myself in there until my ex-wife moved out. I would have starved to death if she hadn't, but I didn't care... I wanted to escape from that abusive relationship.
I could have had a clean break, but my ex-wife put me through hell with the divorce. I arranged a quick and easy house sale, which would have allowed us both to get on with our lives, but she sabotaged me at every opportunity. She ruined my chance of escape and recovery. She sabotaged my efforts to rebuild my life.
London is not a good place to be sick and poor.
London is not a good place to be paranoid.
London is not private.
However, at least London is anonymous. I completely lost my mind on the streets of London and nobody paid me the blindest bit of attention. Nobody would remember my face. I'm never going to see anybody who remembers me when I was insane, penniless, homeless, destitute and in a very shameful sorry state indeed. London was the perfect place to recover from the trauma, without getting paranoid about my neighbours witnessing what should be a private affair.
Privacy is important when you're struggling. Privacy is important when your life is filled with shame.
Invasion of privacy sows the seeds of paranoia, leading to psychosis and schizophrenia. Human interest is a powerful force, which is the reason why fly-on-the wall documentaries and reality TV shows are so enthralling, and why we love to read people's blogs, diaries and journals. It's impossible to tear your eyes away from the spectacle of somebody struggling. People will line up like it's a fucking spectator sport, watching somebody suffer and not doing the slightest thing to intervene or otherwise fucking off and minding their own business. People know when they're being watched. Knowing that you're being watched makes everything a million times worse. "Why don't they do something or just fuck off?" you think to yourself, and soon it's all you can think about; the audience is spellbound and they'll literally spend hours watching and talking amongst themselves: "ooh it's awful isn't it?" and "yes I know. it's been going on for ages" ... but they never get bored.
I've recovered a remarkable amount since those dark days of 2013/4. In fact, I've made a miraculous recovery, but it's very far from complete.
I've gone from owning my own home and a summerhouse, to now renting an apartment. I've gone from financial security to mountainous debts. I've gone from having every right to privacy, to the situation where I have to show my bank statements to letting agents and allow my landlord to come into my home. Instead of being my own boss, I have to submit myself to security vetting and allow people to pore over the details of my private life. I've been poked, prodded and generally put into a goldfish bowl to be gawped at by numerous doctors, consultants, psychiatrists, social workers and a whole heap of wannabe amateur psychiatrists, who think they've got me all figured out, but who fail to recognise that it's grossly insulting and patronising for them to take a lazy glance and think they know me.
Things are very difficult.
I've had so many years and months of shame and swallowing my pride, and it fucking sucks.
I've had so many people judge me who I really didn't invite to pass judgement, and who really have no place, prying into my private affairs. I'm doing a good job of living a normal life within society's rules. I don't deserve to have people sitting in judgement of who I am, what I am, and whether my thoughts, feelings, actions, intentions, character and other attributes of me and my personality, are somehow acceptable to the self-appointed nosy busybodies.
Where is my space where I can feel safe? Where can I be free from the tyranny of the judgement of puffed-up pompous twats who think they know best and they have a right to barge in on me in my private shame; to embarrass me.
That's why I work so damn hard. I'm trying to earn enough to buy a place which is mine and nobody has the right to come barging into. I'm trying to get my little slice of privacy and free myself of the tyranny of having to kowtow to other people's judgement... most often other people's inferior judgement.
Please, give me some space. Have I not always used it wisely? Have I not proven myself to be very capable of doing amazing things, when given the space; the trust?
I have my shame, which I'm attempting to de-fuse by making everything about myself as public as possible, but it's a slow process. I feel like I'm only halfway there.
I have my flaws. I have things I want to keep private.