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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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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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Workaholic

7 min read

This is a story about substance dependancy...

London panorama

The daily grind. How do you get through the working day? What is your routine?

150 million Americans drink coffee every day. That's roughly 50% of the entire population. No matter where you are in the world, you have some kind of vice to help you limp along.

Coca leaves, coffee and tobacco in the Americas. Tea and opium in Asia. Betel nut and Khat in Africa. Alcohol just about everywhere across the globe.

The workforce will literally down tools and be unable to work, without the substances that they're dependent on to pep them up and chill them out. The world functions through substance dependency.

Presently, I'm under pressure to addict myself to anti-depressants and tranquillisers in order to be able to work. My chemical-free life is unbearable. How am I supposed to cope with the relentless pressure without something to calm my jangled nerves? How am I supposed to cope with the futility of my existence without something to artificially raise my spirits?

Caffeine will alter my concentration span, so that I can feel productive even though my day is largely pointless and boring. Alcohol will shut my brain down and dull my senses, at the end of the day, when all there is to do is worry about having to do the same shitty stuff all over again tomorrow.

Yes, I could fill my life with kids, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, so that I'm too busy mopping up shit and snot to even notice that all I'm doing is perpetuating human misery. The opiate endorphins that are released during childrearing or caring for pets will make my life more bearable, at the expense of the poor unfortunates that I have spawned. Defining my existence by the fruit of my loins is merely handing on the problem to the next generation.

Doing sports merely floods my body with opiate endorphins, as my body tries to manage the pain of the muscle and joint damage that I have inflicted on my body. Yes, it's a 'natural' high, but it's every bit as natural as putting a synthetic opiate into your body, and a hell of a lot more likely to lead to arthritis and injury.

Pursuing adrenalin, through kitesurfing or skydiving, will give my brain a jolt of 'fight or flight' chemicals that I could get by fighting a tiger, or putting amphetamines into my body. The relief of having survived an encounter with a wild animal trying to kill me, will make me feel happy to be alive, but sooner or later you're going to get mauled to death. The pursuit of adrenalin knows no bounds : you will always have to push the envelope a little further each time.

I have a deep moral objection, to having to medicate myself to function in modern society. Just because everybody I know needs their morning cup of coffee, their cigarette breaks, the glass of wine when they get home from work... it doesn't mean that we are living our lives correctly.

Things have gotten even worse in modern life. Now people need anti-depressants and tranquillisers just to hold a job down and not have a nervous breakdown. People are popping pills from their doctor just to hang onto what they've got. "I'll lose my job if I don't have these pills to help me hide my crippling mental health problems" people say. Where is the cause and effect?

Work o clock

What if your mental health problems are a result of your job, your lifestyle, your life? What if your mental health problems are a symptom of having to do shitty work that you hate, and compete in the rat race?

We have been indoctrinated, at school, to prepare ourselves for a world of work, but it's not a real world. We are not supposed to be away from our families. We are not supposed to live with such insecurity, and in such uncaring environments.

From the very first day at school, we are being set up to compete with one another. Only a small number of the kids can get the "A" grades. Only a small number of students will get a first class degree. This prepares us for work, where only a small number of us will get the good jobs. It's a pyramid scheme, so most people are losing.

You've been set up to fail. Your rent is always going to be a significant proportion of your income. Your household expenses are always going to leave very little disposable income. The cost of childrearing will always leave you with less than you really need, to not feel anxious, afraid, insecure.

We are living in a world that has been completely shaped by market economics. The very design of our economy is designed to separate fools from their money, in the most efficient way. If you get a pay rise, the cost of goods and services will automatically rise to compensate. Prices are fluid, dynamic. Freedom is always going to be just out of reach.

Wouldn't you like it if only one parent had to work? Wouldn't you like to see more of your kids than just kissing them goodnight, and stealing a glance in the morning before you have to rush off to work? Wouldn't you like to be close to home, in case there's something you need to take care of, or just to see more of your loved ones? Why do you have to do a shitty commute that takes up hours of your day, and deprives you of time with your family? Why do you have to leave the village where you grew up, and go to the big polluted crowded city, in order to seek your fortune?

But don't worry about such existential questions. Just dope yourself up with tea, coffee, alcohol, antidepressants, tranquillisers. Don't worry about it, just zap your brain with enough chemicals to kill an elephant. Don't worry about it, just keep putting toxic stuff into your body, because you need that job, you need to stay in the rat race, you need to stay competitive.

Students are even taking Modafinil and Ritalin in order to stay awake and concentrate on their studies, because it's so important that they get good exam grades.

Doesn't all this sound like a terrible arms race to you? Doesn't it sound like our efforts to compete with one another are destroying our mental health? Doesn't it sound like we're sacrificing so much of our existence, to do more homework, study harder, work harder, work longer hours, deny our aching heart that cries out to be at home, cuddling our kids and hugging our loved ones.

Aren't we denying our very humanity, and using chemicals to mask problems that we label as mental illness? Wouldn't we all be more mentally healthy if modern society allowed us to be more human than just some worker-drone in an anonymous big city somewhere, with a cruel boss who only cares about productivity and timekeeping?

The lives we lead are collective madness. We are killing one another, not with guns, but with our relentless drive for good exam grades, pay rises and promotions.

I'm in favour of a general strike, because the madness has to stop.

Three Cranes

Let's get some new kind of society under construction, where we worship happiness, not money.

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