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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Manic Rant

4 min read

This is a story about image...

Ferret

I have completely forgotten that people perceive and judge me, often by the public persona which I present. I have completely forgotten that people read what I write, who are my friends and work colleagues. I have completely forgotten to present a mask; a fake artificial image of how I want to be perceived, through an entirely fabricated story, which never really happened.

Without alcohol as a crutch, I am almost entirely reliant on a daily dose of writing, as catharsis for the overwhelming thoughts and feelings, which have no other outlet.

I sit down in front of the blank page every day, and I write as if nobody is reading, but it's not true: there are people reading.

My brain has been impaired, more than usual, because of extremely low blood sugar. I've consumed an average of fewer than 300 calories, on average, during the past 4 days, which is a ridiculously low amount. Of course, I've successfully managed to drop a kilo of weight (2.2 pounds) in under a week, but I've put my already fragile mental health under extreme duress.

Thinking about what I've written from the perspective of a hypothetical person who I want to like and respect me, it seems as though my words have been regrettable. I've launched into various tirades against the whole of humanity. I've ripped ordinary folks to pieces, with long grandiose delusional rants, written in a state of temporary mania.

In fact, my mania is not-so-temporary. It seems as if my mania can last months, if not years. I suppose the kind of mania which more traditionally manifests itself - spending money, taking risks, being sexually promiscuous, gambling, drinking, taking drugs, having grandiose delusions - is pretty clearly not present, but I know that I'm quite cunning at hiding my 'true' mood. Of course, there's no hiding how I really feel, because it's all documented here, but that's by design. On average, most of my work colleagues won't be reading this, so on average, most of my work colleagues won't know how utterly insane I am; how mentally ill I am.

I've thrown caution to the wind, somewhat, and started writing whatever the hell I want, without thinking about the consequences, insofar as my professional image and reputation. I don't think it's deliberately self-sabotaging behaviour, but I certainly don't feel like I'm desperately clinging to my source of income, terrified of getting booted out of my client's organisation because of my madness... which is a big change from the preceding couple of years.

Of course, I've not yet earned enough money to retire, so any loss of income would be pretty catastrophic. There's no good reason for me to burn and bridges, and in fact there are many good reasons to preserve whatever reputation I have painstakingly built. However, I'm also really tired and in desperate need of a holiday.

I've lost all control over what comes out of my mouth, and what gets written down on this page, at least in terms of a well thought-through plan, or in terms of some in-depth thought into the possible consequences. My mouth has already run at a million miles an hour, and whatever stupid stuff I was thinking has already been heard or read, long before I've had a chance to consider the implications and regret it.

I would quite like to repair my image, and to even possibly enter a new era, where I'm perceived positively; where people once again think of me as a reliable, dependable, likeable, useful sort of person, instead of a maniac who has to be tolerated, begrudgingly, until the earliest opportunity to boot me out.

It doesn't feel, day to day, as if I'm skating on such thin ice, versus the conflict I was going through before, and the regrettable way that I was acting, but my perceptions are exceedingly wonky: I am no doubt spewing a near-continuous stream of reputation-damaging, insulting, aggravating and otherwise regrettable things, which are rapidly destroying any goodwill which I had accidentally accumulated.

There are so few working days now, for me to limp through, before I take a long-overdue holiday, but that's no reason to think that I can't totally screw everything up.

 

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Too Many Hours in the Day

4 min read

This is a story about time to kill...

Commute

I wouldn't call myself a workaholic, but I hate to be bored, with nothing to do at work. I like to keep myself busy; to keep my mind busy.

It seems extraordinary that I would struggle, then, with evenings and weekends. If I've got something better to do with my time, then why do I hate being bored at work? Why do I insist on having such busy working days, when I'm obviously so bored in my leisure time.

The reality of my situation, is that I'm completely tied to a time and a place. Given that the prime hours of my waking day, and the majority of days of the week, I have a commitment to be available at more-or-less a moment's notice, it would be very difficult for me - although not impossible - to get involved with another major project, in my leisure time.

Psychologically, I'm not built to context-switch. I spend the majority of my income-earning hours context switching, to the point which would make most people's heads spin. My approach to my work doesn't allow for any long periods of concentration, although the role does demand concentration: the only solution is to work extremely quickly, and get very good at context switching. It's enormously taxing, to have your train of thought interrupted continually, and to manage to still be productive; to not forget any of the important details.

I never really thought of myself as a details person. Certainly, names and dates often seem to be filtered out by my brain, along with other trivia deemed worthless. I'm completely clueless about pop culture. I'm utterly divorced from tabloid gossip drivel. I'm culturally disconnected from the bulk of my colleagues, for example.

Although it's pretty obvious that I'm an arrogant and aloof individual, condescending, conceited and full of a misguided and misplaced sense of superiority... I don't actually think that my life is better than anybody else's. In fact, I am acutely aware that my life is considerably worse than the breeder plebs who spend their life watching soap operas with their grubby progeny, and otherwise festering in a pit their own ignorance and stupidity: sounds like bliss.

There's nothing quite like the miserable realisation that you made a substantial wrong turn in your life, and it's too late to make different choices. Once you're beyond the point of no return, inured into a life of isolation, then your fate is sealed. Just as it was when I was a schoolchild, as an adult it will be immediately obvious that I don't fit in.

What I'm left with, would be considered extremely valuable, for those who couldn't wait to fulfil the will of their genes, as a mindless vessel for DNA replication. I sleep as much as I want - which is a lot - and I have as much leisure time as I want. Perversely, I have too much leisure time, and I wish I could work twice as many hours in the day, and 7 days a week... but it would be so irregular that it would cause more problems than it would solve.

My strategy is to sprint and coast. I am working as hard as I can, in the hope that I can take a short career break. I am working as hard as I can, so I can enjoy a period of time to pursue whatever I want, uninterrupted.

Of course, everyone's strategy is to work as hard as they can, so that they can have a lengthy period without work... for most that is retirement. For me, that's not an option... I'm working to a constricted and constrained timescale; my choices are limited. I don't know why other people think - naïvely in my opinion - that they'll get to enjoy their retirement: the omens are not good, health-wise, financially and more generally in terms of the benefit that's been promised, versus the likely reality. Your strategy is to defer that period without work until later life, gambling that your health will be OK. My strategy is to live my life within the parameters of what is for certain; that I have my health right now, today.

It might seem appallingly churlish to complain about long evenings and weekends, bored, but I assure you that the time is filled with seemingly interminable suffering.

 

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Content Warning

4 min read

This is a story about shock...

Razor blade

Apparently, it's the done thing these days, to preface content with trigger warnings and content warnings. Many television programs will be followed by a message saying "if you have been affected by any of the issues covered by this program..." and accompanying telephone numbers and websites of charities which specialise in a particular aspect of human awfulness. I wonder whether it's making a difference or not.

Presumably, the issue is not comparable with, say for example, photo-sensitive epilepsy. I struggle to agree that the epileptic seizures which are caused by flashing lights, are comparable with content rife on the internet. It's routine for news-readers to warn viewers that "the next segment contains footage of flash photography" or "some viewers might find this next part distressing"... but, so far as I can tell, almost all of television is distressing in pursuit of shock value entertainment.

It's hard to reconcile the horror movies, adventure movies, action movies, celebrities eating creepy crawlies, nature documentaries and every other thing which we consume, willingly, as entertainment, with the apparent sensitivity of enough members of the public, that everyone needs to prefix everything they ever say or do with "content warning" as a preamble.

Of course, just like respecting a person's preferred pronouns, there's an element of reasonable social decorum. I do not, for example, drop my suicidal thoughts into casual smalltalk with my work colleagues. I do not, for example, regale my work colleagues with anecdotes about lying on the bathroom floor, slashing my forearms open with a razor blade; blood pissing out of multiple self-inflicted incisions. That would be too shocking.

I wonder, conversely, if I should have prefixed a simple message I sent approximately a year ago to my work colleagues, with a content warning: "my kidneys have failed".

It's hard to balance mental illness, with the unreasonable demands of civilised society. It's expected that I should behave like everything is absolutely fine, at all times, and otherwise keep my suicidal depression confined to a range of behaviour which is sanctioned by the Committee on Acceptable Conduct in Large Organisations, which is the authority on such things, making the ultimate decision on what is, and what is not, allowed in the workplace in terms of human existence expressed truthfully.

It makes sense, of course, that everybody should be so exhausted and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, all the fucking time, but nobody is allowed to talk about it. That makes perfect sense.

Not.

Content warnings and trigger warnings seem oppressive to me, in the same way as alarm clocks and the fact that it's apparently not acceptable to say "fuck off that sounds really boring" to your boss, when they ask you to do something. Things have reached a very sorry state of affairs, and I don't know why or how they got this bad.

Obviously, people who describe themselves as having "no filter" are probably just inconsiderate assholes. People who describe themselves as "telling it like it is" are insufferable twats.

We should probably try to tread a more subtle line, between making ourselves into corporate drones, masking all our our humanity, lest it make us less of a perfect career automaton, versus unleashing all of our violent mood swings and internal existential dread upon the world, 100% of the time. There's probably a happy compromise between the two extremes, which in my perfect world, basically encompasses an almost unlimited amount of duvet days. I'll happily accept buttoning my lip, provided I can stay at home and still get paid, when there's nothing worth doing and I can't face the world.

A colleague who's not spend much of his career attempting to climb the corporate greasy pole, was quite incredulous that he should have to curtail some of the more colourful aspects of his unique personality, lest his short spell in the organisation where we met, meet an untimely demise. My own working day is a near-constant battle, to bite my tongue, in order to preserve my income.

It seems reasonable that, if I was a broadcaster with a national or international reach, and millions of viewers/readers/listeners tuning in every day, then I would have to act in a more responsible manner. However, I'm just a ranting maniac who has turned his incomprehensible ravings into words published on the public internet, along with so many others that it's all lost in the sea of noise.

I'd like to say that it's all a deliberate defence mechanism, but the truth is that I really do need to vent like this, and it's mostly reflexive; automatic... very little premeditated thought goes into it, as it must be clear to see.

Oh, also: content warning.

 

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Winter is a Nightmare

4 min read

This is a story about the worst of all worlds...

Snow

I was already depressed and anxious before the winter started, but now I'm really depressed. I get seasonal depression very badly every winter, but this winter seems worse than ever.

The most dreadful combination of factors, includes the exacerbated isolation of not having any local friends or family, magnified by the pandemic lockdowns, being single, not drinking, unmedicated, on a diet, tired, hungry and generally pretty pissed off with life, having worked 16 months back-to-back without a holiday; only a single day off, except for the very occasional bank holiday and a period where I was hospitalised with multiple organ failure, which doesn't really count.

Poor me. Poor me etc etc.

Yep, this is self-pitying stuff, but I don't care: I'm miserable and this is the only coping mechanism I've got.

In an attempt to count my blessings, I guess I've only gotta work for three more weeks before attempting to take a long-overdue holiday. My finances are heading in the right direction. My weight is headed in the right direction. My fitness is headed in the right direction. The project, which has been my all-consuming passion for the best part of a couple of years, is at least not in terrible shape, which is something of a minor miracle. I don't have to waste my life commuting, which is good. I don't dread my alarm clock going off or struggle to get up in the morning, which is definitely a miracle.

My mental health is definitely in tatters, as I swing from suicidal depression to manic ranting, but the rigid structure and routine I've installed in my life, is holding me steady. It beggars belief that I have managed to save as much money as I have, work as much as I have, and produce as much as I have, while undergoing a near-continuous mental health crisis, which very nearly killed me less than a year ago... even getting hospitalised with multiple organ failure didn't much disrupt my stride.

I know that winter is a dangerous time - a threat to my life - and I had successfully employed some great techniques to cope: namely, getting the hell out of this miserable country and going somewhere hot, as much as possible during the winter. Of course, as soon as I found myself trapped here last winter, it was curtains. We will see what happens this year, but there's a glimmer of home that I might escape both the terrible winter weather, and the threat to my life which implicitly comes with being in the UK during the winter.

The period when I had the most face-to-face contact with other humans, was during the height of the pandemic, when we stood on our doorstep and clapped for the NHS. I was getting a daily dose of talking to other humans, in-person. Now, I spend the long winter evenings and the miserable weekends totally alone.

Of course, almost everything which I hate about my life, appears to be a choice: I'm choosing to not drink any alcohol, I'm choosing to diet, I'm choosing to be single, I'm choosing to be unmedicated. All of these choices are good for me though, so it's not really a choice, but a necessity. I know that in the long run I will have substantially improved my bank balance, flattened my tummy, and maintained my sanity, none of which would be possible without short-term sacrifice.

I'm sitting here with my stomach gurgling angrily. I over-indulged with food at the weekend, although I was still well below my calorie requirements and as such, still dieting. However, my weight loss is not progressing as quickly as I want it to, so I'm fasting for 40+ consecutive hours. The hunger is made all the worse, by all the other things I've got going on.

Still, just three weeks to go, I tell myself. Just three weeks before I attempt to take a long-overdue holiday.

 

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Changing the World for the Better

4 min read

This is a story about maximising impact...

Tent

Assuming that you care about leaving the world in a better state than you found it, which of course you do not, the topic is an interesting one to explore as a thought experiment, given that the real-world possibility of you or I making any meaningful sacrifices in noble pursuit of a better world, is precisely zero.

So, let me quickly explain all the ways that you think you are making the world better, but you are not: recycling, buying a more economical car, thinking that your child[ren] will be the next Einstein[s] and will solve the climate crisis, sponsored fun-runs, charity giving, sharing stuff on social media, hand-wringing, deluding yourself that your tight-fistedness regarding the radiator thermostat is in any way motivated by man-made climate change, and not sheer unadulterated selfish money-grubbing greed.

Fundamentally, you and I will make so-called 'changes' to our lives, as long as we don't have to change anything at all. We will happily tick an online checkbox which says "make my flight carbon neutral" so long as the amount of money it costs is so little that we don't notice it at all. We will buy products which claim to be eco-friendly, so long as they don't impact our household finances. We will drive a more economical car, because it costs us less money to fill up with fossil fuel, and it drives just the same as one which makes no such pious claim.

Then, we must consider those who have dedicated their lives to charity work.

We must admit, in all truth, that charity has had a very long time to prove its worth, and has yet failed to make any meaningful difference to the world: hunger, poverty, deprivation, preventable disease and other man-made catastrophes are more prevalent than ever, and additionally there is famine and a refugee crisis brewing, which will affect billions, as a result of man-made climate change, which charities - such a Greenpeace - have failed to arrest, despite their long-lived popularity and vast sums of donations which are received every year.

From examination of the data, the conclusion is inescapable: the charity sector is run almost entirely for the benefit of those who work within it. Sure, a few people are helped, in order to maintain a flimsy façade of plausibility, but the data is too overwhelming: charities whose mission is to eradicated poverty, are not eradicating poverty; charities whose mission is to eradicate hunder, are not eradicating hunger; charities whose mission is to eradicate preventable disease, are not eradicating preventable disease.

I'm sorry to be uncharitable, but charity has been an abysmal failure.

I'm sure that those who work in the charity sector are very full of themselves and their work, no doubt buoyed by the heart-rending stories of a the handful of individuals who were the one-in-a-million that actually got helped. However, looking at the big picture: the only success of charity, is as a useful way for capitalism and its supporters, to pretend like they're doing something about the problems it creates. It is extremely cheap for a large multinational corporation, to spend a tiny fraction on corporate and social responsibility, and to milk that for all the PR opportunities it presents.

Fundamentally, charity is aiding and abetting society's ills; charity is perpetuating and endorsing human misery; charity is propping up a status quo, which creates the very problems which it declares as its charitable mission to eradicate.

There are some very well-meaning well-intentioned and very smart people who work in the charity sector, undoubtedly, but the data is dismal; the prognosis is stark... charity has failed, completely and utterly, except as a lickspittle of capitalism, allowing things to get as bad as they have done.

The solutions are twofold: firstly, the smart people need to quit charity work, and get into the multinational corporations, to muzzle those dangerous beasts; to give those amoral entities a moral compass. Secondly, the smart people need to quit charity work and get into governments, to muzzle those dangerous beasts, and give politics a moral compass.

We cannot have it, where all the smart humans with a conscience are neatly compartmentalised into a sector where they can be easily controlled and marginalised, except as a useful vehicle for corporate PR. We cannot have it, where corporations and governments, are entirely staffed by conscience-lacking avaricious selfish greedy humans, entirely without internal opposition from colleagues.

 

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I Recant

5 min read

This is a story about irresponsibility...

Collapse

I did something which I knew was wrong. I looked at my website visitor data and it went to my head. I acted irresponsibly.

I'm just one guy, writing in my spare time.

Even if I worked full-time at this, there's a very finite limit of what I can offer people one-to-one.

With the power of the internet, I can reach vast numbers of people, but there's not a lot I can do for them as individuals. The power of a website is to broadcast, and the ability to meaningfully reply is a problem which hasn't been solved by technology yet: there is no machine which can pass the Turing Test, let alone provide effective crisis counselling.

I never promoted myself as a crisis counsellor, but I did very vociferously talk about the need for people to be able to talk about their suicidal thoughts, without being shouted down with "YOU'VE GOT SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR" clichés. I did write, at great length, about the vast numbers of people who can't find anybody to talk to who's going through what they're going through, and isn't some well-meaning busybody whose misguided good intentions are actually driving some suicidal people away. It's undeniably true: people are searching for stories which aren't bullshit fantasy make-believe nonsense about how everything's going to be OK and "this will pass soon" because people know that's not true: they've lived with suicidal thoughts for so long, that they know that it doesn't pass, a lot of the time.

However, I am not equipped. I am not equipped to read and respond to vast amounts of people's tragic stories, all day, every day. I very badly want to be able to, but my mood and energy fluctuates wildly, and so does my ability to read and respond. I can't promise to always be available to chat. I can't promise to always be able to read and respond in a timely manner.

I'm not sure if I ever made a promise to anybody, but I suppose I got carried away, and I had increasingly encouraged people to write to me. I don't discourage it, but I think it was irresponsible of me, to be reaching so many people in crisis, but yet to be so ill-equipped to deal with that deluge... it's heartbreakingly tragic that there are so many people out there in the world, searching for the "easiest" way to kill themselves.

I'm not a wishful thinker. I'm not an idiot either. Although I applaud those who say "if I just save one life, that's enough" and indeed that attitude is theoretically enough to save everyone who needs to be saved, if we all adopted that attitude... unfortunately, the statistics and data points that it is not enough. That's not to say that those who volunteer to work on crisis counselling phone lines aren't working hard enough. It's a simple statement of fact: whatever we're doing in the world of suicide prevention, is not working.

So, I'm taking an unorthodox approach. I'm writing about my struggles, without trying to create any Disney Hollywood fairy-tale fantasy happy ending. There's no happy ending to my story. My story doesn't have an ending like: "and they all lived happily ever after". Nope. This is not a rags-to-riches story. This isn't a story of recovery. If you came here looking for that, you came to the wrong place. In fact, I know why people came here, and they are not looking for saccharine-sweet sugar-coated false hope, because there's plenty of that already in the world. So many people write to me to tell me that they're so glad that they found somebody writing with honesty in a relatable way, that I'm never going to stop doing that.

My mistake; my irresponsibility... that's been in getting greedy and actively trying to get more readers. My crime is in letting the huge number of readers go to my head, and starting to think that I was doing anything more than simply telling a relatable story, with honesty.

In short, I'm sorry. I don't have anything other to offer you than my story. I'll stop being so arrogant and pretending I'm anything other than an ordinary guy, telling his own story of depression and suicide attempts, for anybody who wants to read it. I'm sorry I got big-headed and thought that I might be making a different. I'm sorry for my delusion of grandeur.

I'm going to now delete one of the blog posts I wrote, which was definitely straying into the territory of delusional; written when I was thinking that I was making a difference, in some way... when I thought I was doing something useful. Now I see that it was irresponsible.

I'm sorry.

 

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No Consequences

4 min read

This is a story about machine learning...

Up a tree

We like to believe in karma. We like to believe that evildoers will get their comeuppance eventually. We like to believe that virtue will be rewarded eventually. We like to think that there are natural laws, which bring everything into equilibrium: what goes up must come down.

Not true.

I find it very hard to objectively analyse my present situation: is it a punishment, or a reward? Is this one of the best periods of my life or one of the worst? With no absolute scale - no universal yardstick - it's impossible to measure myself, either against prior experiences, or against other individuals.

Very quickly, we get bogged down in difficult questions: is the 'winner' of life, the richest soul in the graveyard, or the poorest? We instinctively ascribe success to the rich, but we do not consider how much they might have sacrificed in order to accumulate that wealth. "Can't spend it when you're dead" goes the old saying. It's true: how much living to people miss out on, because they're saving for a rainy day which never comes?

One of my life's most treasured experiences was homelessness and sleeping rough. Of course, it was insanely traumatic at the time, but as time has passed, all that I'm left with is the happy memories; the hair-raising anecdotes; the adventures.

Perhaps I never truly believed that I was ruined; that my life was destroyed beyond repair. But, how could I have known enough about the future, to predict the astronomically remote possibility of the crucial events which helped me claw my way back from the brink of oblivion? How could I have known that things would work out OK in the end? How could I not have given up any hope of ever re-entering civilised society?

Perhaps I don't believe that I really am back. Certainly my present life is very odd, versus anybody else who considers themselves to be a fine upstanding example of a model citizen, carrying themselves through life productively, and as a valued member of society. Where are my wife, children, mortgage, car loan, life insurance, home insurance, car insurance, dental insurance, unemployment insurance, phone insurance, insurance insurance and suchlike? Where are the trappings which trap me? I certainly do not behave like a model capitalist consumer.

I am continually willing the world to block my way; to throw me out on the street; to cut off my income. I am continually willing the world to chuck me out of the club; to bar my entrance from civilised society. I am continually willing civilised society to force me out and into the underclass. I am continually willing those around me - work colleagues for example - to snap and lose their patience, and to say "you don't belong here! get out!".

I fantasise about total isolation, without a gun to my head: a little patch of ground to lie down on, where nobody will bother me, ever. I fantasise about being free from coercion.

I can forget about how coerced I am when I am busy, so I try to be frantically busy at all times. I never want to be alone with my thoughts, because I am so horrendously coerced: I'm not allowed to be idle for a single second. Every ounce of my productive capacity is milked, and then it's milked some more for good measure, but it's still not enough to pay for the privilege of breathing: somebody will slap an extra tax on me; demand money with menaces. I'm running as fast as I can to stand still, but I'm still going backwards.

Conversely, when I abandon the struggle, the dire consequences are not dire at all. While I spend most of my waking hours contemplating suicide, when I am being coerced, as soon as I collapse from exhaustion and abandon the rat race, life becomes seemingly worthwhile again: a Catch 22. I know that life is easier if you are wealthier, but it's impossible to become wealthy, because the rat race is so unbearable; unwinnable.

I live with dignity: independent, undeniably productive and industrious. I have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that I'm as good as anybody at this ridiculous game, but what good has it done me? I still go to bed alone, exhausted, anxious, afraid, depressed, isolated... but I also have the knowledge that, at all times, I can flush the whole stupid mess down the toilet and I'll be fine... better than fine, in fact... it will be better when the time comes, to cut loose from this coercive life.

 

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Greater Anonymity

5 min read

This is a story about professional reputation...

Radiator key

I had a game plan for this year, which was to write eye-wateringly boring things about my mundane existence, such that the history of my chaotic and traumatic life would be safely hidden behind a wall of impenetrable tedium. Unfortunately, I have not stuck to the plan. However, I have arrived at the conclusion that the best place to hide is in plain sight.

I once attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting - or similar such thing - which annoyingly was in a building immediately adjacent to my workplace. As I predicted, while I was in the process of leaving the meeting and saying goodbye to people in the street, a work colleague emerged from the office and also greeted me; that was my worst nightmare realised: that my private world and my work world would collide.

Today, I can count at least one work colleague amongst my readers, and over the years there have been a large collection of both present and former work colleagues, who have read some of what's published here, publicly for all to see. Most of what I write is frank, brutally honest and candid, and none of it is the stuff which can or would be discussed in a professional context. Sometimes it troubles me, being exposed in a professional reputation sense, but I doubt I do a very good job of concealing my madness in the workplace.

One thing, I hope, is quite apparent to my work colleagues, versus my readers: that I am highly productive, and making an undeniably useful contribution, with just about enough sanity to spend 40+ hours a week in close quarters with people who, presumably, have no plans to call the men in white coats to take me away.

I'm not so stupid as to think that it's not quickly obvious that I'm mentally ill, if you spend a little time with me. I'm not so stupid as to think that my colleagues don't consider me odd; abnormal; different. But, I'm used to being the odd-one-out and I've got over the initial paranoia, which was caused by mistakenly thinking that I had successfully integrated and been accepted as 'normal' when I so obviously am not. I had begun to believe that I had shaken of my miserable childhood and re-invented myself; that I had integrated with normal mainstream society. When the mask slipped, it destroyed me, because I had worked so hard to hide my flaws.

Retrospectively, I see that the effort I put into making myself as homogenous and unnoticeable as possible - the effort I put into fitting in - was essentially wasted.

People. Just. Don't. Care.

Unless you're actively going out of your way to be a problem, most people are too busy with their lives to acknowledge your existence or take any interest in you. Unless you're a massive pain in the backside, and you're annoying everybody, nobody really knows or cares who you are.

Conversely, if you make an effort to be 'different' you are equally uninteresting. Sure, you might think that your carefully constructed identity, with your weird haircut, purple hair colour, piercings, tattoos, and deliberately unusual fashion choices, is something which makes you stand out. No. In such an individualistic society everybody is attempting to stand out, so you are conforming and fitting in by attempting to do so.

Are you damned if you do, and damned if you don't?

Well, I'm very glad to have made a friend, who's a work colleague, somewhat thanks to this website and my writing. The friendship makes an almost infinite amount of being ignored by the world, pale into insignificance. I'd like to say that I don't care when I have a day with fewer readers, but it would be a lie: for sure, I want to be noticed; I want people to be aware that I am, at present, alive, having thoughts, experiencing feelings.

The massive folly that I have built - millions of words written and published - is utterly disproportionate to the number of readers and amount of income that I make, as a direct result of my effort. However, over the years, the effort has brought me some of the best things in my life.

I don't discourage anybody from going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, if they want to, even if they're not an alcoholic... I too, am not an alcoholic, nor am I a recovering alcoholic, nor have I ever been an alcoholic. My relationship with alcohol is entirely controlled by me, not a higher power, or a bunch of anonymous people meeting in a dingy basement, spilling their traumatic stories out to each other. I'm doing the opposite: publicly broadcasting every innermost thought, and most shameful trauma, and here I am... seemingly as normal as anybody. No need to label myself as anything other than "me".

 

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Would You do it for Free?

4 min read

This is a story about labour...

Balloons

A reasonable test of whether or not you love, or even like, your job, is to ask yourself the question: would you do it for free? Personally, I wouldn't willingly choose to participate in ordinary organisational office life, which is not to be disparaging of my colleagues, but there are so many better, more humane ways, to organise ourselves versus large hierarchical organisations, with life revolving around going to a building for the majority of days each week, for a substantial percentage of your precious waking hours.

The part of my work which I will keep doing, whether I'm paid to do it or not, is technology. I have rejected technology a few times in my life, in an attempt to live a life which is more connected and in touch with the tangible: to see my work in physical form. The 'weight' of the entire internet, is estimated at little more than a tennis ball, if you add up all the electrons which are storing and transmitting data, across all the computers, networks, smartphones, tablets, telephone wires, airwaves... the whole shebang adds up to barely a whole lot of nothing. Some kind of massive solar storm could potentially burn out transformers and other parts of the electrical grid, but almost all the physical cabling would survive, along with most of the electrical devices. Conversely, data is mostly so ephemeral, that it barely exists physically, as evidenced by the tennis ball example.

The thing which I do so much of for free, that it might be worth considering whether I should figure out a way to make it pay, is writing. Of course, everyone wants to be a writer, or some kind of artist. The world has no shortage of writers. Plenty of people will do it for free. The same could be said of tech though: the world is full of tech hobbyists, and by my own admission, I would still be doing some kind of tech for free.

I think the vast investment in writing is paying dividends. A former work colleague often spoke of a force-field which he called simply "too much typing" which was the barrier to entry for most people wanting to get anywhere in tech. People are very happy to click a download button, or copy-paste something, but somebody, somewhere, sometime or other, has to do some damn typing.

I freely admit to having been pretty lazy for a lot of my career. Everything I've ever done in tech has been very easy and unchallenging, so there's never particularly been a need for a lot of typing. I'd be lucky if I wrote as much as ten lines of code per day, on average, during many long boring and unproductive days, employed by organisations who wanted to own me, as an intelligent ornament; to ensure that no competitor would have me, but keeping me for no other requirement except to deny others my labour. As such, I too couldn't be bothered to do much typing, because there were no interesting challenges.

It's strange how the job of fiddling with tools but never actually making anything seems to be the pitfall of so many. I was building something for a friend today, and I thought that there were a vast number of things I could be doing, which were attractive alternatives to doing the job in hand, which most other people I've worked with would have done instead. I built something pretty damn ugly and inelegant, but it worked and it delivered interesting and useful results, which the shiniest of shiny things never do. 'Perfect' systems do exist, but they don't do anything: as soon as systems come into contact with the real world, and are forced to do real, useful stuff, then the perfect imaginary world collapses, and the system turns into a big tangled mess. This is why engineers prefer to tinker and polish their tools, and never actually make anything; to stay in the safe make-believe imaginary world of perfection which they've created, bearing no resemblance to reality.

Similarly, I think now, I enjoy writing and publishing, but mainly I enjoy not having to debate or reason with unreasonable people; I don't have to persuade anybody or listen to dull, uninteresting and unintelligent opinions. I am, however, living in a fantasy world in which I can create 'perfection' so long as I don't have to come into contact with reality. That's just fine with me though... I'm doing this for free, so I can do whatever I want.

 

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Church

5 min read

This is a story about assisted dying...

Roof

Having spent an extraordinary amount of time thinking and writing about suicide, as well as receiving a massive amount of emails from strangers in crisis, contemplating killing themselves, I don't claim to be exactly the same as a doctor who has specialised in euthanasia, or a crisis counsellor, but it's quite possible that we might have spent the same number of hours contemplating the same subject. My ignorance is not better than anybody's knowledge, but we are, after all, talking about the unknowable. Anybody who claims to know the unknowable is a charlatan.

The original charlatans would have been witch doctors and shamen, I suppose, claiming to have magical powers. Later, with the decline of magic and the rise of organised religion, the charlatans were, and indeed still are, priests. Debatably in modern times, there are [some] doctors who are charlatans. Anybody who says that doctors are scientific and evidence-led, has not met [enough] doctors, and truly understood their role and behaviour in society.

Of course, it's incorrect to say that the practice of witch doctors, shamen and medical doctors can be dismissed as equally groundless. In fact, we can ignore the obvious stuff - surgery, effective treatment for infection, life-support techniques - and look instead at what's common between the voodoo conjurers and your family doctor: neither of them will save your life, or the life of your child[ren], but both enjoy high social status, and we believe that they possess a power which they do not, which perversely can have a positive effect on our superstitious human psychology.

We must, for a minute, acknowledge that it is better to be soothed by a priest, telling us that we don't have to be afraid of death because we are going to heaven, or indeed soothed by a doctor who is telling us that everything is going to be OK because 'medical science'. Neither, in fact, possess the means to ease the burden of mortality, nor any knowledge to transform the human condition, beyond assistance in invoking a person's own capabilities of inducing a delusion: namely that life is anything other than a meaningless, godless existence, which ends with pain and terror.

Most of us will be so frantically pounding on life's treadmill, that we will scarcely have a moment to contemplate mortality, and if we do, it will be in the context of soothing the anxiety of our elderly relatives, and young children. The contemplation of our own individual mortality is a rich-man's hobby, and therefore something which only a very small percentage of the earth's inhabitants will ever have the wealth and privilege to do.

I might be such an idiot that I'm unable to correctly perceive and comprehend the depth and breadth of my own stupidity and ignorance, but, you would be foolish to deny that I have not had a lot more time to consider things than you, given that I have not been spending the majority of my waking hours attempting to shovel baked beans into the face of my grubby progeny.

It's banal and routine to ridicule first-semester philosophy majors, in the North American parlance, for thinking they just solved all philosophical problems at the first attempt. However, once you've figured out that we all end up as worm food, and all of human history and evidence of any human existence, will be obliterated so completely it will be as though humanity never existed, frankly, then at that point, all philosophy starts to look the same; equally absurd and meaningless.

Of course, subscribing to a certain life philosophy, or indeed a collection of different bits of philosophies, can make the difference between bearable or even very pleasurable periods of existence during a short mortal life, versus the unspeakable horror of experiencing the futility and meaninglessness of everything, raw and unfiltered, until you finally, gratefully and gladly expire.

Human inventions, like the wheel, sprung up independently in different times and places. No one human can ever claim to have a monopoly on, for example, a particular philosophical thought, because that thought can be arrived at independently.

To claim that religion and medicine - or at least, doctors who don't practice any medicine, but merely occupy the high-status role, dispensing ostensibly worthless advice - are totally and utterly without value to humanity is entirely wrong: they are valuable. The church keeps a great deal of humanity occupied with futile pursuits, but we must ask ourselves if it's truly futile, if it occupies people when they might otherwise become, like me, preoccupied with their own mortality. Many medical doctors practice a new form of religion, where we worship them and elevate them well beyond their capability to forestall or otherwise arrest our inevitable death, but is their value over-estimated, if our irrational belief in them eases the passage of our lives.

I wish, very often, that I was stupid enough to believe in god, or doctors.

 

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