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

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

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Paper Trial

7 min read

This is a story about being swamped by bureaucracy...

Paperwork

Once my administrative affairs are in a neat and tidy state, it's not too hard to stay on top of things. As various demands for money with menaces arrive, I can deal with them more-or-less on the spot, and my life ticks over with only a small amount of time required each day to open mail and pay bills, or complete other bureaucratic tasks.

Moving house, especially as a business owner, is a seismic event.

The more frequently a person moves, the more the administrative burden grows, until it becomes almost unbearable. Each previous address requires a significant amount of effort, to convince the various suppliers of gas, electricity, council services, broadband, telephone, water, sewerage, home insurance and a billion other things, that you are no longer liable for the bills. Each new address immediately demands that some payment is made in advance, and it is a very manual process to automate the collection of future payments, such that bills don't become a monthly ordeal.

As a business owner, I have a responsibility to change the adress on no fewer than 5 different government services, which ensure that I am compliant with taxes and my duties to the public to be transparent as a director and shareholder.

As a car owner, I have a responsibility to ensure my drivers license has my current address, my car is also registered at the correct address and my insurance is updated to the current address.

All kinds of things like mobile phone contracts, bank accounts, life insurance policies, home insurance policies, subscriptions to various services and other similar stuff, all has to be changed to my new address.

If I want to visit a doctor or a dentist, I will have to register locally, and they will want to see some proof of address.

The administrative burden of being a British Citizen is bad enough, but the deeper into civilised society you get, the greater the amount of work is required to handle all the consequences of moving house. Failure to remember any one of the very many things - such as a TV license - can result in huge fines for non-compliance with the duty we have to keep our records up-to-date and stay on top of all the millions of letters which get sent every day, demanding money with menaces.

I accept that I receive a great deal of services in return for my money, but because my life is supported by a patchwork-quilt of organisations, each making their own unique demands to be dealt with and paid in different ways, the complexity and effort involved becomes quite staggering.

For some segments of society, they are paid in cash, they pre-pay their gas and electric by loading "credit" onto a key, which they slot into the meter in their house, they buy mobile phone credit in shops, and otherwise they're relatively free from the burden of the very many organisations which I regularly have to deal with. Moving house, for some people, is as simple as moving their stuff - nobody will be chasing them for money, simply because they forgot to tell anybody they were moving out.

When my life became chaotic, I got very badly behind on my administrative duties, but I did manage to avoid total disaster. My paperwork is a dreadful mess, but I can find the relevant pieces of paper that I need, eventually. The process of getting on top of things is extremely distressing, but I usually manage to make the effort required before I'm overwhelmed with punitive fines and costs added by organisations, who seek to profit from people who are swamped by the unfair burden placed on individuals.

Individually, the demands being made do not seem unreasonable, but cumulatively it becomes an absolute nightmare. I count 24 items on my todo list for today alone, all of which are urgent and essential, and delays would be very costly. If I was unwell for a month or two, I could easily be financially ruined by the bloodsucking parasites who hope to profit handsomely from a mental collapse; the circling vultures.

I opened two letters which recently arrived, and was gobsmacked to see demands for £3,000 worth of services I haven't even received yet plus I have decided to defer other costs which most people would consider essential, such as insuring the contents of my home. When I add up all the charges I'll have to pay, for example for getting a new driving license and for changing my car insurance address, it amounts to a sum of money which would be financially ruinous for most ordinary people. No wonder so many are in financially distressed situations, having to borrow from loan-shark payday lenders just to cover ordinary everyday household expenses.

I am fortunate that my dogged determination to protect my credit rating and persevere through a period of illness which would have seen me bankrupted, unemployable, unable to rent a home and unable to get gas & electric supplied - plus all the other unseen consequences of having a black mark against your name - has now seen me emerge from a very precarious period in a much more financially robust situation, where I won't be forced to borrow money to cover unexpected expenses, I hope.

It seems like a very rigged system. Those who are struggling are very harshly punished, further compounding their misery and stress, and destroying any hope they might have of escaping their predicament.

I don't understand why it's not possible for me to simply put a vast sum of money into a bucket and let the bloodsuckers and the vultures squabble over who has a valid claim for it. It upsets me that such a heavy burden falls on me to do the work of figuring out all this crap for these organisations, lest they inflate their demands for money so much that they'll ruin me, despite my ability to pay - I'm able and willing to pay, but for god's sake make it easy for me, can't you?

The pile of mail that's accumulated in my new house, even though I've not yet told anybody I've moved, is quite frightening. The complexity of running a modern life is too much, on top of the demands of commuting and working a full-time job. It's unfair to ask a single person with no support, to plough through the bureaucratic bullshit.

I can see why people kill themselves over seemingly trivial things. Life is pretty easy when you have a settled and secure home life and everything is set up so that it ticks over with almost zero intervention, but you must understand that life's not like that for me - I'm swamped with paperwork, and a single error can easily be compounded to result in a demand for life-destroying sum of money, once all the bloodsuckers and vultures have added their unreasonable fees.

It might seem silly to worry about "just a bit of admin" but in actual fact, it determines my entire life outcome. To ignore any one single thing could cause a cascading catastrophe, and see me destitute, homeless; ruined. Living with constant housing insecurity is unimaginably awful, compounded by the ridiculous situation of all the various organisations making competing demands all at once.

I'm in the depths of admin hell.

 

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Lightning Rod

6 min read

This is a story about empathy...

Clouds

I sometimes wonder whether I caused myself some long-term health damage by taking ecstasy tablets - MDMA - every weekend for approximately 18 months, when I was in my late teens. I think that whether it did or didn't affect my neurological development, it certainly affected my personality and outlook; my approach to dealing with other people. I've adopted my attitude towards openness and honesty as a response to the empathy and trust I felt, due to the effect of mind-altering substances. I liked connecting with people at a very profoundly open and unguarded level. I liked putting my faith in humans and assuming that nobody wanted to hurt me.

The net result in later adulthood has been a rather extreme set of values, by which I live my life. I've always favoured trust and a kind of blind faith that nobody's going to screw me over. Throughout my twenties and thirties, I've always had a belief that I don't need to bother protecting myself.

It seems as if I made a decision about what's important and what isn't important. Like, I spend very little time deliberating over how to save a few pennies buying a particular food item. I spend very little time doing my taxes and other administrative tasks. I spend very little time on anything which doesn't have a significant purpose. I don't understand why people spend such an extraordinary amount of time doing things which are unpaid, unprofitable and are simply busywork.

I flit between two modes: hyper-focussed, or incredibly bored and distracted. When I'm in the latter mode I feel hyper-receptive to current affairs. I feel as though world events are far more important than any of the daily nonsense in my life. I struggle to reconcile the absurdity of capitalism, rent, money, jobs and other trifling things, with climate change and the billions of people who are hungry. Entire days or weeks disappear and I seem to have done nothing more than become engrossed in the news, angered and saddened.

The circumstances of my adult life have mostly sidelined me, with me helplessly spectating from my comfortable office. However, I'm acutely aware that my position in some very large organisations means that I'm complicit in the suffering that I see. I know exactly how close I've been to the epicentre of seismic world events, which have been catastrophic for humanity.

I suppose that the physical damage that I've wrought, through pollution and war, is hard to connect with my day job, but it's not hard to see that I've been very close to the money, which has greased the wheels of capitalism. The nature of my crimes against humanity are so hard to explain and esoteric that it would be easy for me to let myself off the hook, but if ever there was a case of a global conspiracy, it would be my participation in the brain-drain which is global technology, and its abuse as a mechanism of enslaving everyone.

It seems harmless enough, all this geek stuff, but then I see the dreadful things which the internet has inspired people to do. I read the dreadful things people write and share with each other. I read the dreadful ideologies and manifestos of dreadful people. I see how the internet has connected dreadful people together, amplifying their dreadfulness.

"Guns don't kill people, people do" goes a popular slogan, but it's not true... the people who make guns are just as culpable as the people who use them. The same has got to be said of social media influencers and the platforms they use. What started as a network for academics to share research has been invaded by the masses, and they're not interested in improving their minds: they're vile hateful people who gang together with like-minded dreadful shits.

The internet has become highly efficient at refining both the best and the worst ideas. The most depraved and disgusting things exist and thrive on the internet in frighteningly huge numbers. The internet has turned one person's subconscious bad thought, which lived safely in their brain, into a collective thought which is broadcast across the globe. It's strange saying this as a libertarian left-leaning engineer, but I kinda feel like humanity is not mature enough to have the internet.

I'm very well aware that my sanity has been very questionable during the last 6 years and my grip on reality is probably tenuous at best. I'm very well aware that my mental illness means I must surely think more like a terrorist or some other enemy of society, than I do like a regular person. I read about the world's worst monsters and I check myself for similarities: delusions of grandeur, paranoia and irrational hatred of certain groups of people.

I groan and hold my face in my hands when I remember things I've said and done. I know that I've been through some periods when I was ranting and raving about things. I know that my thoughts were an incoherent jumbled mess at times. I know that during very bad episodes of mental health problems, I've struggled with delusions of grandeur and paranoia. I can remember it all very clearly and I'm very embarrassed by my own behaviour.

Today, I blend it fairly well with ordinary society. My colleagues at the office seem to have readily accepted me as 'normal'. A substantial number of people deal with me and find my behaviour to be normal.

Internally, I find it hard to process everything. My brain mostly screams that I should be doing something - anything - in reaction to the world I observe all around me, but I deliberately subdue my instincts because I've learned that if I keep still and keep my mouth shut, vast wealth floods into my pockets. I'm essentially bribed into knowingly participating in the maintenance of the status quo.

It's quite hard to sit and read the news and not react.

 

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The Banality of Existence

4 min read

This is a story about the less glamorous jobs...

Car tyre

Some very simple things in my life are surprisingly difficult to organise and cause a great deal of anxiety. The accumulation of things which most people would consider trivial, is a consequence of a phase of my life which I should not probably be living through.

Those who have stuck together with their peer group, going through school, further education, higher eduction, university and forays into academic realms beyond, have had a well-trodden path to follow, which has made it extremely easy to go along with the herd.

Society corrals us through life, into jobs, relationships, and the process of "settling" somewhere. We become attached to a place, either because it's where close family live, where we spent the bulk of our time studying, or perhaps because it was where we spent the bulk of our career.

The weight of expectation placed upon us by our families, friends and the media, pushes us towards marriage and children.

We're carried along by a rapidly flowing river, with the currents too strong for us to swim against. The bulk of our destiny is inevitable, not free will or choice, like we would like to believe.

My car needs servicing, I need a haircut, I need a new belt, there is administrative paperwork which must be submitted to a government agency, there are numerous annual insurance policies which require renewal. I am continually harried and harassed for my time and money, by an unending queue of people who won't leave me in peace.

I try to comply with the demands of so-called 'normal' society but I find that there are gatekeepers everywhere, intent on frustrating me, delaying me, or thwarting me altogether.

I attempt to do my job to the best of my abilities, and I feel guilty about doing non-work tasks during my working day. I attempt to invest time each day in relationships outside my workplace: friends and family. Once commuting time, meal preparation time, housework time, washing time, hygiene time and all the other mandatory deductions from my leisure time have been made, there are then the other tasks: The letters to open, which no doubt demand money with menaces, or require me to fill in some ridiculous form and mail it, so that a bureaucrat somewhere can justify their job.

My photo album contains a depressing number of photographs which are not of pleasant things I've observed, but do in fact contain details I need for the operation of a fairly simple and humble life. The picture above is of one of my tyres, so that I could find a place to fit my car with the correct ones.

My photo album contains numerous pictures of my passport, driving license, bank statements, utility bills, council tax bills and other official documents, which are regularly demanded as proof of my identity. I spend my life perpetually proving that I exist and satisfying other demands of gatekeepers, who would prefer to see me homeless, penniless and destitute.

I suppose I'm not alone in this farcical existence, but it gives me little comfort to know that many of us - those who don't have the security of a permanent job and the ownership of our home - are constantly asked to jump through so many hoops.

My perceptions might be warped, but I feel like I'm more time poor than ever, which isn't supposed to be the case for a childless man who has been working a full-time career for over two decades.

I'll stop moaning now and get back to my administrative tasks.

 

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Perfect Storm

4 min read

This is a story about life at the limits...

Cliffs

I suppose that it's a regular complaint of mine that I'm feeling overwhelmed, and it's a regular boast that I've been through some substantial periods of adversity. I'm also aware that the picture I've selected to accompany today's blog post is not exactly very stormy, but it's the best I could come up with in the circumstances.

I stopped writing for a while, which was because my friend killed himself, and also an enormous project kicked off at work, and also I had plans to get myself across the Atlantic Ocean and back again in one piece... plus all the many other important things to numerous to list. In short, I didn't make the time to write and there were a number of very good reasons why I took a break from writing every day.

Now, my friend's funeral is done, my transatlantic jaunt is done and the enormous project at work isn't going to be finished any time soon, so I must resume my daily writing duties, even on days when I don't feel like writing.

This morning I woke up and I felt terrible. I considered not going to work. I got to the office and several of my colleagues told me that I looked awful and said that I should go home. There was snow forecast and local schools were closing. My colleagues weren't doing anything except staring out of the window and/or talking about stockpiling food. I came home early and worked from my bed.

Unfortunately, I have my 'day job' plus my company to run, plus this website, which I have started to attempt to migrate from one place to another, although all these things are behind the scenes. I also treat my writing a bit like a job, in that I sometimes force myself to write even when I'd much rather be doing something else, or I've got a lot on my plate.

The things that get neglected are my sister and my niece, my friends, all the phone-calls I never answer, all the messages and emails I never reply to, and all the tasks which can be deferred for as long as possible. I need a haircut. My car needs servicing. Today is the final day that personal taxes are due to be paid in the UK, and I was close to the deadline as usual. I need to find a new place to live. I need to renew my car insurance. I need to see if my former friend's mum still has my stuff - the majority of my stuff - still stored in her garage, or whether she's disposed of it, since the fallout with the friend.

I quit drinking back in early December, although I did have a couple of drinks on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Quitting drinking helps, actually. I feel fitter, healthier and I've lost some weight. I find my life to be much improved versus the recent period when I was drinking heavily every single day.

Something's gotta give though.

Today it was my health. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, it was also my health. Every day I take too many sleeping pills and too many tranquillisers.

Eventually, the weather will improve, my finances will improve, my routine will stabilise, I will get the housing security I need, I will have the regular social contact I need, I will get the exercise I need, I will replace my run-down old car with a newer nicer one, I will replace my worn-out clothes, I will pay off my debts and I will get a haircut.

Not today though.

 

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Lack of Progress

5 min read

This is a story about being trapped in a nightmare...

Sleep tight

Theoretically, I've now earned enough money to pay back my guardian angel. My debts have been rapidly repaid and the total sum outstanding, which started at about £54,000 in January, has now been reduced to an amount closer to £14,000 worth of credit card debt, which is a staggering amount of money to pay back in the space of 10 months.

I have my VAT to pay every quarter, my personal taxes at the end of January and my corporation tax in July. Those are not small sums of money.

I have my expenses to cover: rent, bills, car insurance, car tax, petrol, tyres, oil, servicing, roadworthiness testing, hotels and food while working away from home. My business incurs expenses, such as my accountant and various costs associated with running a business.

I can't just sit in a dark room eating dry bread and drinking tapwater.

That's the optimistic viewpoint.

The pessimist in me realises that I can't actually get at my own money which I generated through my labour, without incurring even more tax than the fuckloads that I pay. My money is tied up in my business.

If I leave my money in bank accounts controlled by me, there's a chance I could get sick and not be able to repay my creditors. In that eventuality, my hard-earned cash will be hoovered up by circling vultures who are keen to plunge me back into the nightmare of being trapped by mountainous debts. One slip up and it'll be right back to square one.

It's happened before.

Getting through the whole of October without a disaster is a big deal. Getting through this year without any hospitalisations or months and months of destructive madness is a big deal. However, I had a pretty good shot at escaping the nightmare in both 2014 and 2016, but everything still went to hell.

It terrifies me that I have to work the whole of November - without a break - to well and truly settle my important debts and cement the gains I've made. It seems like an impossible amount of time to carry on working in circumstances which are thoroughly incompatible with my mental health.

Single, in a town where I only have two or three friends - who I almost never see - and living out of a suitcase in a hotel, would be toxic to even the happiest and most stable person's sense of wellbeing. I do it because I have no other choice. I do it because it's the only escape route from the never-ending nightmare.

Once my debts are repaid, sure, I can take any job I want. Of course I'm not going to struggle to find lots of people who'd love to underpay and exploit me. Of course I could easily shackle myself to some dreadful job which pays peanuts, but not until my debts are repaid.

It seems like I'm making progress when I consider that I started this year homeless and without a car, but those things are also liabilities. I need to pay rent for the duration of my fixed term tenancy contract and I'm liable for any damage. I need to keep my car insured, taxed and certified as roadworthy, or else I will get big fines. Sure, I have the money to make these problems go away, while I'm working, but what if I get sick?

The longer I'm forced to continue my toxic living and working arrangements, the more problems I'm storing up for the future. There's a price to be paid for the stress, the misery, the boredom and the dreadful circumstances of a life that's devoid of any job satisfaction, security, intimacy, companionship, face-to-face friendship and conversation. My life has a tiny fraction of the human interaction which would be considered normal and healthy. I'm a recluse who lives in isolation, fearful of doing anything or getting excited about anything, because I need to focus all my energies on pretending to be a boring wage slave, for the sake of my debts.

I'm not short of ideas of what I could do if I had my freedom. It's not a lack of imagination. It's a simple lack of capital problem. All my money is spoken for.

I don't even want to think about how long it's going to be until I've well and truly paid off 100% of my debts and taxes and I'm a free man. I don't want to torment myself.

When I'm feeling anxious, I get pessimistic. When I'm feeling anxious, I see my progress through very pessimistic eyes and it feels like I've made no progress at all.

Of course, my progress could be sabotaged and any hope of recovery could be completely destroyed, by circumstances beyond my control, like somebody deciding to screw me over at work. That's my biggest fear: that my contract will be prematurely cut short, because somebody decides they're not happy with me getting back on my feet.

Perhaps you think it's right and proper that I should be living this never-ending nightmare life. Perhaps you think that I should be put through this ordeal. I certainly don't expect any special treatment. I work ridiculously hard to uphold my end of the bargain and honour my commitments. Perhaps you want bad stuff to happen to me, and for me to fail.

So long as I can pay my guardian angel back everything I owe, I don't care what happens to me. My conscience is clean once I've paid back my guardian angel. My moral obligations have been fulfilled once I've paid my guardian angel back.

I know I have the rare and enviable opportunity to be very rich if I keep working as hard as I do, but I'd honestly rather go and live in a cabin in the woods at the moment, and have some relief from the relentless pressure, anxiety and misery.

 

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The Journey

11 min read

This is a story about three years of my life...

Hotel room

I was living in an ultra-modern hotel in Canary Wharf and working for HSBC at their head office. I was a member of the team working on the bank's number one IT project. Shortly beforehand I had been living in a 14-bed hostel dorm and I'd narrowly escaped bankruptcy and destitution. I was working 12 hours a day, 6 or sometimes 7 days a week. I was exhausted and the tiredness, stress and unsettled life was driving me literally insane. I was suffering with delusions of grandeur, paranoia and my behaviour was erratic and unpredictable; I was extremely tense and irritable. I was on the brink of having a breakdown.

River panorama

I rented an apartment on the River Thames near the office. The rent was obscene - £500/week - but I was earning great money working for HSBC and I was working very hard, so it seemed affordable at the time; it seemed like a nice reward for all the hard work. It felt like justice that I'd been able to get myself off the streets and into such a lovely place to live; to have gone from homeless and sleeping rough in a park, to having a luxury Thameside apartment with panoramic views over London.

My glasses

I was dating a BBC journalist. I was rapidly gaining a Twitter following. I felt like everything was happening for a reason. I felt like it was my destiny to do something important. I was consumed with mania; I was obsessed with the idea of a grand gesture. I had been deeply affected by my homelessness and near-bankruptcy and destabilised by the exhaustion of sleeping rough and in hostel dorms. The IT project was very stressful and I was under a great deal of pressure from HSBC management. My mind was a mess. I was very severely mentally ill.

Psych ward terrace

I woke up one morning and I couldn't go on. I couldn't face the office. I wanted to kill myself. I went to my doctor who sent me to hospital. 13 hours later I was admitted to a secure psych ward. I explained that I was financially distressed and very stressed at work. The psychiatric team recommended I stay in hospital for at least 2 weeks, but I needed to be back in the office if I was going to keep my job, to be able to afford the rent.

Golden Gate Bridge

I discharged myself from hospital after a week and flew to San Francisco. I figured that if I was going to kill myself I might as well do it somewhere iconic. A friend picked me up from the airport and I borrowed a bike. I cycled straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. Seeing old friends, however, made me change my mind about committing suicide.

Sleep out

I lost my job with HSBC and I "slept rough" in the shadow of the head office skyscraper in Canary Wharf. I thought that this would be the pinnacle of my journey. I thought that having been used and abused by HSBC then unceremoniously dumped out onto the streets to suffer bankruptcy and homelessness - having managed to get myself a job at the bank while of no fixed abode and living in a hostel - would be deliciously poetic. It was, but my journey had barely begun.

Self harm

I quit drinking for 121 consecutive days. I starved myself. I thought that I would go on hunger strike. I thought that I would sleep rough on Christmas Day. I was really angry and upset with the world. Self harm and substance abuse dominated my life for several months. I got into heaps of debt just staying alive.

Cruise ship

I survived the winter. I got another job. My life was OK except for persistent suicidal thoughts. I hated the project I was working on but I persevered because I was in a lot of debt. I loved where I was living - every day in my apartment was like Christmas Day because the view was so awesome. Living by the river was an incredible privilege. I took a holiday and went kitesurfing. My quality of life was improving slowly.

Cooking with bath salts

I met somebody very special and fell totally in love. She accepted me for who I was, including the all the bad bits, such as my prior issues with substance abuse. She was the first person I'd been in a relationship with who'd been able to read everything about me on my blog and to understand my flaws. We had a good relationship. The project I had been working on came to an end and I was jobless again. I wrote and published my first novel - she proofread it and helped me with the ending and other ideas. She was very supportive and I was confident I'd find work again easily.

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve watching the fireworks over London, sipping champagne on my balcony with the woman I loved - it seemed like the New Year was full of promise, but I was worried about getting another job and I was still in a lot of debt. There was a lot of pressure.

DVT

Disaster struck. I got deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my left leg, which swelled up to twice the size of my right leg. My kidneys failed and I ended up in hospital on a high dependency ward having many hours of dialysis every day. The potassium in my blood spiked to a life-threatening level and I was constantly at risk of cardiac arrest. I was very sick.

Drug shrine

My stay in hospital caused me to lose my job. Losing my job caused me to collapse psychologically and become very depressed and despondent. The DVT had caused terrible nerve damage and I had a lot of neuropathic pain, as well as a numb left foot. I started to become dependent on painkillers. I sought powerful antidepressants for my low mood. Pictured on the table are: codeine, dihydrocodeine, tramadol, diazepam, alprazolam, mirtazapine, venlafaxine, dextroamphetamine, zolpidem, zopiclone and pregabalin, which are all highly addictive. Because of this cocktail of prescription drugs I suffered an episode of medication-induced mania - temporary insanity - and broke up with the love of my life.

Manchester flats

I ran out of money. I had to pay a huge tax bill and I had to go even deeper into debt. I was virtually bankrupt. Out of desperation I was forced to put all my worldly possessions into storage and leave London to take a job in Manchester. The job in Manchester included an apartment as part of the package, which was lucky because I didn't have enough money to pay rent or a deposit - I was totally broke. Moving house and leaving London was incredibly upsetting and traumatic. The new job was extremely demanding and exhausting. I was very lonely and isolated in an unfamiliar city with no friends or family; no local connections.

Psych ward fence

I tried to commit suicide. I took a massive overdose: I'd been stockpiling my prescription painkillers and I knew that 8+ grams of tramadol was likely to be fatal. I sent a tweet when I believed I was beyond the point of no return. I thought nobody knew where I lived. I thought there was no chance anybody would get to me in time. I was wrong. I regained consciousness a few days later in a hospital's critical care ward on life support. I was later sectioned for 28 days and admitted to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Hay bales

A doctor from Wales discovered my blog and invited me to live on their farm in a converted garage. I had no money, no car, no job. I had nothing.

Rat race

I almost went bankrupt but a friend got me some work in Warsaw and in London. I was living in AirBnBs and working in the Square Mile from Monday to Friday and living in Wales at the weekends.

Keys

I bought a car, I got a local job, a local girlfriend and I rented an apartment. Briefly, I had everything I wanted and needed, although I went even deeper into debt. The pressure, stress and turmoil which I'd endured to get to this point was unimaginable; just to get to a position which most people would take for granted as the minimum acceptable things for a normal ordinary liveable life.

Papered windows

The local project ended and I was jobless again. The relationship ended. I papered over my bedroom windows and withdrew from the world. The journey had destroyed me. I was spent.

Cashflow

An obscene amount of money flows through my hands, but it all ends up in the pockets of those who I owe money to. I'm desperately trying to keep my head above water. The financial pressure is immense; unbearable. The journey has been incredibly long and arduous. There's still a very long way to go before I reach security and stability; before I'm comfortable, happy and content.

Empty wine bottles

In the last year alone, I've managed to move house 3 times, work 4 different jobs, travel to 4 different countries, date 2 girls, survive a suicide attempt, be admitted to 3 different hospitals, quit addictive painkillers, sedatives, tranquillisers and sleeping pills, be arrested and locked in a cell, buy a car, rent a place to live, stay in 17 different hotels and AirBnBs, and somehow stay on top of my mountainous debts, not go bankrupt and even pay some of that crippling amount of money back. My only remaining vice is wine. I'm completely unmedicated and I don't abuse any substance other than alcohol. It's a remarkable journey for just 12 months, but the journey has been much, much longer than that.

In the last three years, I've written and published a million words and connected with thousands of people all over the globe.

To be precise, to date I've written exactly 1,001,020 words and counting, on this blog.

It's the world's longest suicide note.

If you want to understand why I'm suicidal you just have to read it all - it's all written down in exquisite detail. To save you the trouble of reading all 1 million words I've summarised the last 3 years for you right here.

The pressure; the stress; the exhaustion. Where is my reward?

I've travelled so far and I've achieved so much but yet I feel like it's gotten me nowhere. I should be rich but in fact I'm up to my eyeballs in debt. If you want to know where that debt came from, I just explained it to you. I didn't get into debt buying frivolous things and being profligate. I didn't make particularly bad choices. I'm not stupid. Where's the payoff for working so hard? Why did I bother?

My name's Nick Grant and I drink too much but otherwise I'm an ordinary regular guy. I do my job to a high standard and I'm liked and respected by my colleagues. I pay my taxes. I pay my rent and bills. I contribute to society as a productive member. I do ordinary stuff and have ordinary needs.

I'm 39 years old and I have nothing but debt. I have nothing much to show for my 39 years on the planet.

I'm lonely. I live a double life. The person I am in the office is different from the person I am in the comfort of my own home. Nobody at work would ever suspect that I've slept rough, been in trouble with the police, been hospitalised many times, been sectioned and had horrific problems with addiction. Nobody would suspect that my mental health has caused me horrendous difficulties when exacerbated by stressful life events, like divorce, moving house, losing jobs and everything else that's happened to me in the past 5 or so years.

My solution to the instability in my life was to create a backbone that has run consistently through my ups and downs: my daily writing. To have been able to write a million words has been immensely stabilising and has brought me into contact with so many wonderful kind and caring people. I quite literally owe my life to those who've followed me and my blog, especially via Twitter. Without this connection to the world I would be dead.

Today, I've crossed a seemingly arbitrary imaginary finishing line, in having written and published a million words in less than 3 years. It might seem ludicrous and pointless, but if you consider it in the context of the journey I've been on, you can see why I've wanted to document it.

If you've followed me on some part of this journey, I'm really grateful to have had your support. Thank you.

 

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Sprint Finish

10 min read

This is a story about marathon running...

Stansted Airport

I'm quite pleased that I have this blurry photo capturing the moment when a stranger borrowed my iPhone charger in an airport. That stranger became my accountant and he's been on the journey with me, from a newly incorporated business to the point where I'm now turning over a 6-figure sum of money and making decent profits. My accountant has been one of the few constants in my life during a period which has been extremely wild and erratic.

Another particularly notable feature of the 5-year journey which has brought me - finally - closer to the point of getting back on my feet, is that I've never stopped moving. Through frantic and frenetic activity I've managed to avoid death, bankruptcy and a million and one other dreadful fates. By persevering with a very simple plan - to earn a lot of money as a consultant - I've managed to weather some pretty dreadful storms.

I admit that I did try to have myself declared unfit for work and to obtain the state welfare support I'm entitled to, but most people I meet seem to quickly form the opinion that I'm perfectly fine and healthy. Most people think I'm entirely capable of rescuing myself from even the most diabolically awful situations. It's pretty obvious that I haven't been enabled by anybody, although I'd be dead as a dodo if it wasn't for my guardian angel, who helped me move from London to Manchester, then Manchester to Wales, as well as being there for me during various hospitalisations and wotnot. To say I've arrived at the point I'm at today all on my own is not true at all. Of course I wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes without help and support, but I haven't received any of the help and support from the government that you'd think would be available to a vulnerable person - the safety net simply doesn't exist.

You would think that all your taxes which you pay would give you some kind of insurance, so that you wouldn't be penniless and homeless if you couldn't work. You would think that all that tax would mean that you'd be looked after if you were incredibly sick and vulnerable. Unfortunately, the welfare state is not at all kind to anybody who appears - with a lazy glance - to be of sound body and mind. Despite letters from GPs, psychiatrists and social workers, there are gatekeepers who are so compassion-fatigued and have so few resources to dispense to so many needy people, that there's no safety net at all.

Early intervention would have saved me a lot of near-death experiences, hospitalisations, contact with the police, wasted money, wasted time, wasted energy and health damage. Early intervention would have been far more cost effective than dealing with the consequences of assuming - incorrectly - that I'd cope just fine if I was simply left to my own devices; made homeless and otherwise abandoned by a nanny state which always promised to protect me, in return for the vast sums of taxes I've paid. I wasted a lot of time and effort on the mistaken middle-class belief that the welfare state exists for the sole purpose of protecting the vulnerable members of society. I thought - as so many middle-class people do - that I simply needed to ask for help from the relevant services charged with doling out lifesaving support and I would received what I needed.

It turns out that the UK operates what can only be described as a hostile environment for anybody who falls on hard times. It turns out that vast swathes of the civil service - with a mission statement to supposedly to help society's most vulnerable - are actually acting as gatekeepers and making it almost impossible to access any kind of help or support. Instead, the rigmarole is intended to frustrate, annoy and exhaust until you become disillusioned, disheartened, discouraged and generally lose faith in a government which promised to look after you in the event of an unfortunate turn of events, in return for a hefty portion of your income. The safety net turned out to be a lie and you'd better not waste too much time being angry and disappointed, because you're still broke and homeless... you have to find your own way to survive. No wonder so many people in the UK grow and sell cannabis or peddle other drugs - the black market economy provides much needed cash to society's most vulnerable, impoverished and desperate.

I suppose the argument would be that I could walk into a job quite easily, but that's pure stupidity. It's impossible to get a job and keep it if you're homeless and you have severe mental health problems. It's impossible to get a job when you're hamstrung by addiction and alcoholism. It's impossible to get a job and keep it when you're flat broke. It's a catch 22 situation. There are plenty of people who could theoretically get back on their feet, but they'll never be able to without some initial help and support - they need somewhere to live and some money; they need treatment for their addictions and alcoholism; they need time to stabilise their medication and get counselling for their mental health issues. Allowing people to become homeless - destitute - and to commit suicide is barbaric. Yes, it might seem to the wealthy ultra right-wing conservatives like it's some brutal form of social justice - survive or die; fit in or fuck off. Personally, I want my taxes to be spent on people who can't work, even if it means that I have less money to selfishly spend on myself. I want to pay into a national insurance scheme which creates a safety net for the most vulnerable and impoverished members of society.

In the second half of 2014 it dawned on me that I was wasting my time asking for help from the state, so I complied with exactly what the hostile environment was designed to do: I tried to go back to work. Naturally it was a disaster. You can't force sick people to work. Sick people can't work.

I've struggled along working for 4 hit-and-miss years. I've had a rollercoaster ride. I have periods where I'm working out of sheer desperation, which of course makes me incredibly sick, so I crash and burn every time. Because I seem blessed - or cursed - with the appearance of a man who's got his shit together and is doing just fine, I end up quickly embedded in huge organisations doing very important project work. Because of past achievements I'm given responsibilities which nobody in their right mind would dream of giving to a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic junkie with mental health problems. The projects are hard enough, without also having to worry about where I'm going to sleep, whether I've got enough money to survive from day to day, and of course dealing with my mood disorder and all the of the problems associated with substance abuse.

Imagine doing an opiate, benzodiazepine and alcohol detox while working a full-time job. Imagine doing drug rehabilitation while working a full-time job. Imagine undergoing psychiatric treatment for severe mental health problems while working a full-time job. Imagine living in a 14-bed hostel dorm while working a full-time job. Imagine not knowing whether you'll be able to afford to keep travelling to work until payday - the ultimate catch 22, where you can't even afford to work your full-time job. That's been my life.

Some of the practical difficulties have been eased in the short-term with vast quantities of debt. I've borrowed heavily to be able to make my living and travel arrangements more compatible with working. I've gone deep into debt on the presupposition that it will enable me to earn enough money to dig myself out of the hole. In addition to the hard problem of working when seriously unwell, I've also had mountainous debts threatening to destroy me.

All of this is exactly what the government wants. The government wants us all to be heavily-indebted wage-slaves who live incredibly insecure lives, so we're easy prey for the capitalists. The government doesn't want us to get fat, happy and lazy. The government doesn't want us secure enough to be able to demand fair and reasonable working conditions and remuneration commensurate with the value of our labour.

I've worked incredibly hard, especially so during the last 9 months. I've earned a lot of money, but none of it has flowed into my pockets - it's all gone to pay the capitalists for their loans, which was the only way I could stay afloat and keep playing the game. If I'd declared bankruptcy I'd never be able to earn a decent wage ever again, rent an apartment or buy a house. The system's set up to screw you whichever way you go; you're forced to become a slave.

With gritted teeth and dogged determination it's been possible to struggle through 9 dreadful non-stop working months and get to the point where it looks as if I'm getting on top of things. I've had a period of what appears to be stability. You could be easily fooled into thinking that forcing me to work when unwell has actually proven the right-wing ultra-conservatives to be correct - that it's OK to economically enslave people; that it's OK to tell society's most vulnerable that they have to choose between starving on the streets, or a minimum wage McJob which won't even cover the cost of incredibly frugal living.

It might not look like it but I've actually done an incredible marathon run and I'm doing a sprint finish. It might not be immediately apparent but it's quite remarkable that I've survived what I've been through and I'm still going. I need to keep going. If I can't keep going then all I'll fall back into the hole as soon as I collapse exhausted in a heap. Every time I'm forced to push myself beyond the point which is sustainable and healthy there's always a price to pay. There's a price to be paid for forcing vulnerable needy people into work.

It might not seem like things have been very hard for me if we extrapolate backwards, but we need to think about where I've come from and what I've been through, not what my current situation and prospects are. My current situation is still pretty dire - there's a long way to go before I can retain my gains permanently; I'm a long way from escaping the debt trap and being free from tyranny. My health is not reliable. My future is incredibly uncertain.

I'm having a difficult time adjusting to the present paradigm. My brain and body are built for crisis mode. I'm able to deal with an endless precession of catastrophic events and survive disaster, but I'm struggling to adjust to the present situation, where I simply need to coast along now that I've re-established myself somewhat. I'm finding it incredibly hard now that I'm no longer in the danger zone - I'm on high alert and super tense, but the worst of my troubles seem to have passed. It's been a living hell but I've beaten the odds. However, I have absolutely no ability to cope with ordinary pedestrian, plodding, slow-paced and hazard-free life. I don't think I'm able to deal with boring daily routine, because my life has been in non-stop crisis for so many years.

So, I'm sprinting to the finish line. I never manage to find steady sustainable consistent marathon pace.

 

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CIP

4 min read

This is a story about preferential treatment...

European sockets

If you Google Translate "Very Important Person" (VIP) into Portuguese, you get "Pessoa Muito Importante" (PMI). It seems like the Portuguese prefer the acronym CIP, but I can't find a definition of what that stands for.

Anyway, as well as getting to spend a couple of days with my friend, I also get to be his guest in the airport lounge reserved for frequent fliers. The big advantage of this is a comfy seat near a power socket, where I can do a bit of work, write this blog post, and otherwise kill time until my flight starts boarding, which won't be for a few hours.

Most of the conversation with my friend during Saturday, Sunday and today, has revolved around middle-class guilt and social conscience. Is it right, for example, that the most wealthy are able to hide their money in Swiss bank accounts and offshore, to shield it from taxation? As a proportion of a person's income or net worth, it's the poor who shoulder the biggest burden in taxes, fees and other things - such as exorbitant interest rates on loans - which prejudice the opportunities of the most disadvantaged members of society, to escape from poverty.

A friend who's a chartered accountant has decided to become an independent consultant, like me. We discussed the tax efficiency of owning and operating our own companies versus paying full income tax and National Insurance on our gross income. Surprisingly, we pay slightly more tax than those who are PAYE (Pay As You Earn) and have their taxes deducted at source by their employers.

Also surprising is the laudable decision of some of my friends who have been lucky enough to become wealthy, to not hide their wealth offshore or in Swiss bank accounts - they're paying their fair share and playing by society's rules; they're giving back to the economies which they profited from. You might say that "laudable" is the wrong word, but there is a considerable burden involved in the administration of complex tax affairs, and the bureaucracy of ensuring that governments receive all the taxes which they are due. Often times, it would be far easier to avoid taxes than to pay them, because there's a whole industry which profits from providing simple and convenient services to the wealthy.

Are we being philanthropic; altruistic? No, of course not. The thing that's driving our behaviour is guilt. We feel guilty that we have been lucky when others have not been. Paying taxes doesn't absolve a person of that guilt, but deliberately avoiding taxes is something extra that the lucky ones should feel guilty about.

What about giving money to charity? Does that absolve a person of the guilt they feel about their fortune in life?

The problem is that a clean conscience can be bought very cheaply. A seemingly large charitable donation might actually be only a tiny fraction of a person's net wealth; a bit of 'disposable' income that wouldn't be missed at all. Even more perversely, tax rules can make a rich person's donation of "pocket change" look like a significant act of philanthropy, while a poor person's unavoidable tax burden is by the far the greater contribution, and yet not recognised as such.

Then, there's the protective bubble problem. If you work on a secure campus or private estate and live in a gated community, you're largely insulated from seeing poverty, homelessness and disproportionately protected from becoming a victim of crime. In fact, just living in a wealthy country, you're insulated from the global wealth disparity created by the subsidies, import tariffs and other economic weapons which are employed to keep the rich rich, and the poor poor.

After 3 days of chatting, my friend and I arrived at the conclusion that we'd have to go through 3 generations of misery to reach a state of global equality and social justice. When I say "we" I mean mostly the wealthiest 2% of people on the planet, which my friend is convinced we can count ourselves amongst; he and I.

How can I disagree with him that I enjoy a life of wealth and privilege which 98% do not, when I'm sitting in a leather chair typing these words on one of my 5 laptops, enjoying free electricity, free food & drink as well as having the leisure time to craft this valueless contribution to the internet's quadrillions of webpages.

It's OK though: I'm a CIP. I deserve preferential treatment.

 

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The Man Who Has Nothing Has Nothing To Lose

4 min read

This is a story about being unhinged...

Toilet graffitti

A highly paid civil servant decided to doodle this cock onto a poster which was affixed to the toilet door, at a government agency which is responsible for the collection of £6bn in taxes per annum. You'd have thought that the kind of people who clear the stringent security vetting wouldn't be the types to do graffiti in toilets, especially the toilets at the highly secure office.

There's nothing in writing yet, but I'm getting the shove... services no longer required. Project delivered, happy client, but there isn't another project at the moment, and I'm quite expensive to have sitting around doing nothing, although the banks I've worked for have never seemed to care much about that.

It's the worst-case scenario. Contract has finished early and no extension. Nothing that's very appealing in the local area; not a lot of choice... in fact, pretty much just one contract I could apply for, which I'm pretty sure I'd hate.

If I go on my holiday instead of working, I'll lose £3,000 of potential income. That's a helluva expensive holiday, when I could just write off the £600 it cost me for the flights and accommodation. Should I work that week, and use the extra money to go on a holiday which'd be much more suitable for me now I'm single? Should I work that week and simply go on a better holiday, to cheer myself up? Should I work that week and be sensible, and save the money, given that I'm about to lose my income?

What have I got now? No girlfriend. My car is about to be declared unroadworthy. No job. I've only got 2 friends in the local area, and one of them I haven't seen for 6 months and the other I've only met twice. All my money is earmarked for debts, rent and bills. I have no surplus which I can use to have an unplanned break from work - I need another contract.

Wind back to September 9th 2017 when I tried to kill myself. Why did I go through that hospital treatment to save my life and restore me to physical health? Why did I go through that psychiatric treatment, to make me safe to release from hospital? Why did I go though the stress of moving to yet another city where I don't know anybody? Why did I work my arse off and have the misery of living out of a suitcase, staying in a different AirBnB every week? Why did I work my arse off getting security vetted and landing a cushy public sector contract? Why did I spend every spare penny I had getting a car and an apartment? Why did I wine and dine and generally woo and wow a girlfriend? Why did I bother? Why did I think that I'd get anywhere; that I'd make any progress; that I'd ever be able to get ahead in life? Why did I think I'd ever be happy; content?

I'm not sure if I'm a danger to myself, others or both. I'm unhinged. I'm mad. I'm deranged, demented and disturbed. What the hell am I going to do? How the hell am I going to react? Who or what am I going to blame?

Desperate people who believe they have nothing to live for - that their lives are not worth living - are dangerous, aren't they? Can you think of anything more dangerous than somebody who's got nothing to lose?

Fear of consequences is the thing that keeps our behaviour 'in check'. What possible consequence could be used to threaten me or control my behaviour? Why on earth should I behave myself? What reason have I got to give a damn about consequences? I've got nothing to lose.

I've played by society's rules and it's gotten me nowhere because the game is rigged. I've conformed and complied and it's been to my detriment, because there are so many who lie and cheat and break the rules. I had hope and I had things that I didn't want to lose, but now I don't. That's a dangerous situation. That makes me a dangerous person.

I'm liberated. Too liberated. Too liberated for society to tolerate... depending on my completely unpredictable behaviour.

Should I be locked up?

 

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First, Do No Harm

6 min read

This is a story about primary care...

Your GP Cares

Primum non nocere is in and of itself a non sequitur because the use of Latin and other languages of classical antiquity is primarily intended to deter the hoi polloi from becoming educated. The number of doctors who are able to train, qualify and practice, is something that is tightly controlled in order to maintain high salaries - artificial scarcity - as opposed to allowing the unrestricted proliferation of medical knowledge which might improve the health of the nation.

Those who profess the Hippocratic Oath might be able to stay true to the vow they have sworn if they practice the treatment of acute illness in a hospital - dealing with curable disease and injury - but in the treatment of chronic illness in the community, as General Practitioners (GPs), can we say the same?

If we look at a few obvious statistics, we can see that medicine is failing. Average life expectancies have started to fall and chronic illness has seen a dramatic rise. There is an epidemic of mental health problems, and suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.

Of course, one might say that the root causes of these conditions are non-medical.

It occurred to me that a significant piece of the NHS has already been privatised, in that many general practice surgeries are owned and operated as private profit-making enterprises. This seemed to present a significant conflict of interest, so I decided to conduct an experiment.

I asked a GP a simple question: when you're treating a patient, do you think about their healthcare needs, or do you think about other things? The reply was shocking.

"It's not about [the patient] it's about everybody else"

I'd had my suspicions for a while - gathering plenty of evidence - that those who profess to do no harm might actually have been corrupted into serving other purposes; into betraying their profession and failing in their duty of care. This was the final confirmation that my worst fears were realised, and there are powerful actors within the healthcare system who place other things above the health of their patients.

By co-opting doctors into the capitalist profit-driven sector of the economy, and by co-opting them into the welfare system, we are asking doctors to choose between their luxury cars, the private school fees for their children, and other trimmings associated with their high social status, versus increased taxes to pay for the welfare state. By placing the most vulnerable people in society in front of the doctors, when seeking incapacity benefit, the government is pitting one group against another.

If the study of economics has taught us anything, it's that people respond to financial incentives. While a GP might argue that they're saving valuable taxpayer money, which might be spent on the NHS, by denying incapacity benefit to a vulnerable member of society, one must also admit that the GP acts in rational self-interest. Less money spent supporting society's most vulnerable means a lower tax burden and more money in the pockets of the profiteers, which include GPs who are partners in their practice.

The first principle of do no harm forbids a doctor from weeding out malingerers based on their best guess. To cut off somebody's incapacity benefit is definitely harmful, and there is no diagnostic test which could decide with a high degree of accuracy who is the malingerer and who is genuinely unable to work. If the doctor in question truly cares about their patients, they would have no option but to choose the option which gives most benefit and inflicts least harm.

We see so many suicides because patients are fobbed off with inferior treatment options, because it's a cheaper alternative to give somebody pills than to give them psychological therapy. While I understand that being cost-conscious might be seen as being pragmatic, it again violates the principle of do no harm. To fob a desperate and vulnerable person off with ineffective medication, when better treatment options are available, is tantamount to negligence. If a doctor has a consultation with a man under the age of 45, they must surely be well aware that suicide is the thing that is most likely to cause their death, and they should therefore treat it as a serious threat to their life. To call people's bluff and knowingly prescribe ineffective treatment is obviously the reason why suicide rates are so scandalously high.

I imagine that some doctors - although egotistical and in love with themselves - have a tiny piece of them that wants to make a difference and save lives. I think that exhaustion and the pressures that are felt by ordinary people are imposing themselves on doctors now, who are struggling to send their children to the best private schools (boo hoo) and are feeling compassion fatigued because of burnout. If we can relieve the pressure on GPs, they may become more willing and able to work in support of their patients' needs, as opposed to "everybody else" (read: being the government's job police).

I strongly believe that we have an urgent need to change primary care, so that it becomes not-for-profit, and patient healthcare can become the primary objective. Perhaps profits are not the primary motivator, but money has a corrupting influence which can be clearly seen when you speak to a GP who is/was a partner of a practice. Co-opting healthcare professionals into the job of coercing vulnerable people into bullshit McJobs, where they are exploited by the capitalists, has absolutely nothing to do with healthcare and is most certainly harmful.

I've witnessed first-hand how this care for "everybody else" - instead of patients - has become shorthand for the compassionless, sympathy-lacking, bullying, hectoring and suicide-inducing grotesquely twisted vision of so-called medicine, inflicted on society's most vulnerable people.

If you want to be the job police, and you think that suicides are an acceptable price to pay, so you can feel superior and send your kids to private school, perhaps medicine is not for you.

 

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