Skip to main content

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

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

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Time Poor Cash Poor

6 min read

This is a story about digging yourself out of a hole...

Coins

Why don't people realise the futility of situations? Why does nobody do the basic arithmetic to see that a situation is hopeless? Why can nobody see their hopes and dreams slipping away?

I was watching a documentary recently about people who are working but still struggling to make ends meet. I cannot claim that I myself am in that situation, but that's because I work doing something which is thoroughly incompatible with my mental health, which very few people could stand to do. There are not long queues of people wanting to do what I do, because it's awful, but it is very well paid. So, I'm not struggling while I'm working - doing something I hate - but I wanted to write about the reality of existence, for those who want to do something which doesn't make them unhappy and unwell.

Unfortunately, compromises have to be made.

If you want to be an artist, a photographer, a travel blogger, a social media person or do some other unnecessary BS job, or to generally d1ck around in academia, not really producing anything useful, then you will have a fulfilling time at work but you're not going to be very well paid.

It seems as if there are a whole heap of other jobs out there which are also not very well paid. Pretty much whatever you do, you will be paid badly, unless you're involved in something unethical, like banking, insurance, accounting, drug dealing, human trafficking, slavery, prostitution, racketeering, extortion, fraud and other forms of profiteering from human misery, such as being a landlord or other leech/parasite.

If you want to buy a house and escape some of the coercion which forces us into dreadful jobs - lining the pockets of the capitalists - then you first have to go and get a dreadful job and work hard for many years, doing something unethical and unpleasant, making yourself sick. There is no way to both do something you love AND escape the clutches of capitalism.

On the aforementioned documentary were some folks approaching retirement age who were living in rented accommodation and had no pension to speak of. This was as a direct consequence of choosing to enjoy their lives and not sell their souls, to work doing dreadful bullshit jobs. Upon reaching retirement age, there was one gentleman who was having to drive an Uber for many many hours a week, simply to pay rent and bills. There was literally no hope of these people ever escaping old age poverty, especially when health problems eventually left them unable to work.

Unfortunately, only people with rich parents get to d1ck around studying something interesting and then finding a job in a related field, or being eternal students, mucking about in the safe and secure world of academia reserved for spoiled brats. Unfortunately, unless you've got family wealth behind you, you'll have to get a sh1tty job and even then, it won't get you anywhere unless it's really sh1tty.

What do we really want? We'd like to retire early. We'd like to retire with a decent income. We'd like to have a good standard of living up until the point we retire.

We do we really get? Paying rent and bills which eat up all our incomes, no holidays and no hope of ever buying a house, followed by no hope of ever retiring. All we have to look forward to is watching climate change wreck the Earth, while the world descends into anarchy and chaos because there isn't enough money to pay pensions or look after the vast number of old people who want to receive greater benefits than their contribution. The demographic bulge will sink our civilisation, as gazillions of baby boomers all demand an amazing standard of idle luxury living which they don't deserve.

We are time poor and cash poor, with no hope of hard work ever paying off - our hopes of owning property and having a valuable pension fund are ludicrous, even if we slave away to the age of 70 or more.

The only hope is to suffer the misery of dreadful miserable jobs for horrible unethical companies, doing horrible unethical things. The only way that the numbers add up is if we work for banks and suchlike, destroying the global economy and destroying the environment in the name of greedy profit. However, is this really a good approach when it means that there'll be no planet left to enjoy by the time we retire?

Who has the time to stop and think about such things?

There was a quote from that documentary which I thought was apt:

“The only way I am able to cope with the future is by not thinking about it. If I thought about it I would just give up”

Pretty gloomy and negative, but also pretty positive of that person to avoid thinking about stuff, so that they didn't give up. Why not give up? Why not grasp the nettle? Why not face the unpalatable truth: that all our efforts are doomed. Why bother working so damn hard when it's not going to result in being able to feel secure in your home and secure in your old age?

It strikes me that we live lives of incredible desperation and anxiety, where we work incredibly hard, commute horrible distances, pay vast amounts of our hard-earned cash in rent and bills and generally fail to get anywhere; we struggle for nothing. Why bother?

I read something else that said the only people who get to read many books are prisoners. Who else has the time?

It's a dismal situation to be in; this present time. You can do anything you want, so long as it involves spreadsheets for some multinational corporation which is intent on destroying the planet, extracting every last drop of sweat from their stressed-out workforce and leaving them stressed, anxious and depressed, before dumping their used husks in a great pile of spent human bodies, like trash.

I am saving up my money in order to have a nervous breakdown.

 

Tags:

 

Hard to Count

8 min read

This is a story about beans...

Cray

IT projects routinely go over budget and fail to meet their deadlines. IT projects routinely fail spectacularly. The worst projects of all are government IT projects, which very often get cancelled, having failed to deliver any value at all.

Anyway, on an unrelated matter...

IT projects that I work on are a bit different. I like to deliver things; I don't just want to work and not worry about whether anything useful is getting done; I'm not happy to let projects fail. It'd be easy to get carried away with my own ego and delusions of grandeur, but I make a difference to whatever organisation I work for, on whatever projects I work on.

Sometimes I get the sense that I've over-estimated the value of my contribution. Sometimes I feel like maybe I'm the tiniest of tiny cogs, and my contribution is negligible. Perhaps it's a co-incidence that I can get big complex IT projects over the line, when more usually they waste a heap of money and then fail. Perhaps I'm getting carried away with mania, which is deluding me into thinking that I do anything useful at all.

A colleague of mine repeatedly says that it's easy to create a great piece of complex software if you're the only person who designs and builds it, but I think he's wrong. Sure, I really don't think it's a good idea to have 100 people working on a piece of software that could - and should - be written by just one person, however, a lot more can be achieved by a small high-performing team than a single individual.

A commonly recurring theme with my bipolar disorder has been episodes of irritability, impatience and general intolerance for asshats in the workplace. Quite regularly, when tight deadlines loom and I'm feeling exhausted, my desire to work with "dead wood" people who make things worse, not better, reaches its limit and I really want the 'team' members who are slowing everything down to butt out, back off, step back and watch the professionals at work.

What about this 'team' stuff then? Am I even a team player?

I refer you back to what I said about small high-performing teams. In order for a project to deliver a high quality end product on or before the deadline, it's often necessary to have fewer people, not more. It's the bane of my life, having dead wood in the team. I'm absolutely a team player... I just don't want the dead wood around the place, messing things up and slowing everything down.

I should qualify: I'm fine with team members who are there to listen and learn; I'm fine with people who are developing their skills; I'm fine with people who are quite junior and in the early stages of their career. If you've been doing software development for decades and you're rubbish at it, then no, I really don't want you in my team. One thing that particularly irks me is very highly paid consultants who are rubbish at software development. If you're slow and dreadful at your job, despite being massively overpaid, stay the f**k out of my way and don't slow my projects down.

Is it so hard to hire good people? Is it so hard to identify the underperformers, especially when their output is out of alignment with their remuneration? Surely it's a simple cost:benefit analysis, where some individuals are nowhere near worth the money, and in my opinion are actively damaging to both projects and morale.

I wonder how much better things would be in the workplace if highly paid consultants who aren't worth the money were booted out, and the projects were delivered by underpaid graduates who are little superstars, producing huge amounts for very little cost. Actually, I know the answer because I've worked on those teams - with the right guidance, the graduates will deliver every single time.

The lack of meritocracy and the ageism in the working world is particularly galling in the IT industry, where archaic knowledge and experience has zero value. Perhaps my young graduate colleagues might benefit from a little senior leadership and a good architect, but whatever mistakes they might make are irrelevant because they're so damn quick. It's criminal that an overpaid and underperforming consultant might earn 5 or 6 times more than a bright and productive quick-witted graduate; graduates proven to be 5 times more productive.

Why do I learn so much from my graduate colleagues, but so little from overpaid consultants? I have learned lots of quicker, more efficient and more modern ways of doing things, when my older colleagues are just doing the same dumb s**t that they've done for years. Sure, it's been uncomfortable to have to re-learn vast swathes of stuff, but the benefits are obvious, having bitten the bullet and decided to take my younger colleagues seriously; to treat them with the respect they deserve.

What about respect in general for my colleagues? I respect my colleagues who have decided to take permanent jobs and be underpaid. I respect my colleagues who've chosen to avoid the cut-throat and stressful world of the job market, and instead opt for long careers with a single organisation. I respect that there are different life choices and needs, that some people need job security, and that very few of us had the opportunity to learn IT skills as a child, to the point of those skills becoming innate and instinctive. I respect that it's a very good idea to hire highly paid consultants, in order to upskill your permanent members of staff. It's part of my job, to train, coach and mentor my colleagues who are permanent employees of the organisations I work for. It's part of my job to be patient with the permanent staff members and to help them reach their full potential.

I spend a lot of time worrying about whether I'm just telling people what to do, and whether I should take a more pre-considered approach where I allow my colleagues to think for themselves, rather than just being typists while I dicate instructions. Is there any value in me instructing somebody to do something I could do myself in a fraction of the time? Should I just race ahead, and then spend time explaining what I did and why, once the deadline is safely dealt with? Would it be better to simply let my colleagues watch me work? I know that it's very hard to think for yourself if somebody is telling you what to do, and that if I was doing people management I would avoid any micromangement like the plague, because it discourages independent thought, learning and initiative-taking. I know that the kind of people I want to work with are ones who can work independently and solve problems for themselves, but I work in an unusual situation where there are tight deadlines, but I'm also expected to train my colleagues to be self-sufficient to some extent, which is impossible in the timescales.

Explaining to management that more people does not equate to more productivity, and that the deadlines are not realistic to be able to get all the work done AND do all the training and handover that's necessary to make me completely redundant, is an impossible task. I'm eternally plagued by the mistaken notion that one day, there won't be any more need for IT professionals because all the IT work will be finished and the IT people will all be redundant - this has proven to be the most ridiculous nonsense, but an enduring fantasy of f**wits in every organisation.

I should qualify that I really like my colleagues, although I'm a bit frustrated with one or two very highly paid consultants who aren't worth the money. I should qualify that I really like the organisation I'm currently working for. I should qualify that I really like the project. It's all interesting and people are nice and even the management are pretty good, which is rare. There's not much pressure and the deadlines are not realistic, but they're achievable, which is usually a miracle for an IT project, especially in the sector I'm working in. I have no real complaints or criticisms of any colleagues or the organisation and its management team, not that this would be the place to air those grievances, of course.

I write a little tongue-in-cheek, because I know that colleagues from two different parts of the UK are reading this from time to time, and I wonder what they will think if they happen to read this particular post. I cringe of course at my arrogance and my delusions of grandeur, but I also struggle to know whether I'm making a significant contribution, or whether I'm just a tiny insignificant cog in an incomprehensibly huge machine, so I'm prepared to poke the bear a little.

 

Tags:

 

Scrutiny

9 min read

This is a story about influence...

Mound of wires

One of the great benefits of operating my own homebrew website is that I get to see the visitor analytics in all the glorious detail. I can't be certain, but I have evidence that I can count some work colleagues, my girlfriend's mother and other important people as readers, who have never mentioned that they are readers, but I see the evidence all the same.

A colleague from another part of the country was kind enough to tell me that they'd been reading my blog. That was a first. I've had plenty of evidence of colleagues visiting in the past, but they've never explicitly told me that they've read any of my blog.

I sometimes feel a little bit paranoid and vulnerable, having the contents of my messy mind and messed-up life so publicly on display, but I assume that anybody who's going to take the time to read is going to hopefully empathise with my situation and see that I'm mad, not bad.

I write about this scrutiny quite often. Often times I am angry about the invasive nature of security vetting, background checks and suchlike, given my lengthy career and achievements, which I feel should be enough to free me from the tyranny of gatekeepers. Often I implore the lurkers to imagine me at my very worst; to judge me based on their prejudice. Often I wail with agony about those who are seeking to dig dirt; to find reasons to reject me.

Conversely, I'm acutely aware that anybody can access this repository of innermost thoughts and feelings at any time. I'm relatively well-informed about who's reading, thanks to my website's detailed analytics. I can see who's reading, when and for how long, and I can make educated guesses about the impression they might form.

It might seem sensible to present another side of myself, given how important it is to be a bland corporate drone or ideal boyfriend material, in the eyes of colleagues and my girlfriend's mother. It might seem sensible to write under a pseudonym. it might seem sensible to present a sanitised mask; to present only my greatest achievements and to trumpet my successes and finest attributes.

I found it was rather toxic to my mental health to live so much of my life worrying about my professional reputation; worrying about my corporate image; worrying about how presentable I was as a fake person. I found it exhausting keeping my CV spotless and otherwise maintaining a perfect career. I found it exhausting, worrying about gaps in my employment history and whether the organisations I worked for were prestigious enough to be impressive. I found it exhausting making sure that my job titles and projects were grand and magnificent, to maintain the perfect corporate image.

If I really was worried about becoming unemployable and losing my income, then surely I would tear down this website and its associated social media accounts and set about expunging anything unflattering from the digital realm, wouldn't I? If I was a credible professional person, surely I would have a bland corporate identity: faceless except for the unblemished stream of non-stop corporate accolades and achievements, presented in dry bullet points, clothed in a grey suit and completely lacking in any personality or personal identity.

I find it exhausting and toxic to my mental health.

I find it intolerable that the corporate world wants to steal so much of my valuable time, but also my identity, and to insist that I conform to an unrealistic, unhealthy and impossible conception of what the 'ideal' corporate drone would look and act like.

My reaction has been to create an "anti-CV". This homebrew website is everything that colleagues, prospective employers, girlfriends' mothers and others, would never normally see, hear or read about a person. Here is everything that you'd love to know but would never usually be able to find out. Here's all the dirt that gatekeepers wish to dig, presented clearly and concisely.

My thoughts are a little jumbled and confused. I don't know who's friend and who is foe. I don't know when I'm being judged harshly and unfairly, due to prejudice, and when my readers are feeling empathy, sympathy and generally taking an interest in my wellbeing.

I know that some colleagues and others read because they're interested in who I am as a person, and perhaps they even care about me and would like to see me succeed. I know that hardly any of my readers are looking to cause me harm. In fact, most readers are concerned about my welfare and they use my words with kindness: worrying about me and thinking about ways in which they could help me.

My behaviour is a little erratic. I do struggle with dreadful suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, which threatens to do me great harm, but yet I do not know quite what I'm doing: is this a cry for help, a form of therapy, a coping mechanism, self-sabotage, a folly, foolish stupidity? What consequences are there for acting in contravention of the expected behaviour of a corporate drone? What consequences are there for not complying with social norms; suffering in silence?

I feel happier when I'm writing vast amounts every day, because I feel that I'm a moving target; I feel like the energy and the productivity wards off anybody who might think me stupid, idle and easy to pigeon-hole. I feel like writing wards off anybody who might seek to sum me up with a simple sentence, thinking that they've understood me. I want to be complicated. I want to be interesting. I want to be eccentric. I want to be hard to understand. I don't understand me, so why the hell should you come here and think you've got all the answers?

As usual, I've written more than I intended. Nobody wants to read more than about 700 words, and even then, my thinking is disjointed and hard-to-follow. I've reverted to a stream-of-consciousness comfort zone, where the words pour out, but there's no clear thread of thought and I'm not saying anything except a hotchpotch of jumbled thoughts and feelings without any clear conclusions or intersting insights.

Perhaps there's a human interest angle, but I'd like to return to the time when I wrote think-pieces which explored ideas, as opposed to diary-esque brain dumps, written in a desperate attempt to neutralise overwhelming negative thoughts and feelings which threaten to consume me.

Another thing which occurs to me is how little my mind is occupied. My job is very easy and my working day is pretty boring. My evenings are often spent in social isolation. In fact, most of my life is socially isolated. I have no local friends. My job is not very sociable. There are few social occasions in my life. I am estranged from my family.

I wonder if I'm lonely, but I don't think that I am.

I can remember being lonely in the past, but I don't feel those feelings at the moment.

My brain is very busy.

My brain is intensely noisy.

My brain will continuously present things to be anxious and depressed about, unless it is occupied with something taxing to think about.

Writing is an ideal occupation.

However, my writing is somewhat scrutinised. My girlfriend will read this. My friends will read this. My work colleagues will read this. My sister might read this. Strangers will read this.

Strange.

In some ways I'm incredibly isolated and I mostly inhabit my own mind, alone. In some ways I'm socially disconnected; removed from the normal social interactions that most people have with their friends, family, kids, colleagues and suchlike. I spend vast amounts of time in my own company and/or lost in thought. I can spend a whole day in a trancelike state, thinking.

In other ways I'm not isolated at all. At least I have a mechanism for connecting me with people, even if it's rather atypical. I don't mind that there are work colleagues and my girlfriend's mum, who read my rambling thoughts without acknowledging that they are there, reading in the comfort of their office. I don't mind that I don't really know precisely when I'm communicating, and who precisely I'm communicating with. I don't really mind that I don't get the feedback of knowing how my words are being received. I don't really mind that I'm transmitting - broadcasting - and I don't know how far my words are travelling or where they're landing.

Of course I worry that the more I write, the more I expose myself as a fool. If I write enough, I'm sure to expose my sheer idiocy. I'm hardly considering my words precious and choosing them with extreme care, given the prolific nature of my writing. Those who've read vast amounts of what I've written have said how repetitive I am. Should I have expected any other result, given my approach?

So, the rather unsatisfying conclusion is that there is no conclusion. I find it useful to write regularly, in the interests of allowing my creativity, productivity and identity to have some room to breathe, given the restrictive nature of the bland corporate world in which I inhabit. I find it useful to maintain a digital identity, lest I become paranoid about anything less-than-perfect emerging in other areas: at least my humanity is contained all neatly in one place here, where I can keep an eye on those who come to poke around. I find it fascinating that anybody would bother to try to find me, and would bother to read about me, especially given the vast tracts of drivel that I've written, such as this one.

 

Tags:

 

My Therapist Warned Me About You

7 min read

This is a story about psychoanalysis...

Sofa

I'm trying to think of a time in my life I'd happily return to, but if I'm honest there are things I've learned and perspectives I've gained that tell me that I'm better of now, here, today, in the present. Of course my life could be a million times better if I could re-live a substantial portion of my life, but that's equally applicable to all of us. With the benefit of hindsight we'd all be astonishingly successful, but that's not the way life works.

My present-day existence is tolerable, only because I've embraced traumatic events, instead of trying to run away from them. The trauma lasted so long and was so, well, traumatic, that the only way I could make sense of the world around me was to turn my experiences into stories. Pretending like bad things never happened to me wasn't working - I became paranoid about anybody ever discovering the truth about my dark past. Now, a lot of the trauma from the past 4 years, and some of the trauma that predated this public over-sharing, has now been turned into harmless words. It's hard to attack me about things from the past when I own those things; I've accepted those things.

Perhaps it's a little defeatist to tell stories about sad and bad events. We seem to assume that we must become rich and powerful before we have a God-given right to share our stories. We seem to assume that only famous people are allowed to take to the stage and tell the world about their lives. We seem to assume that only stories of conventional success are interesting.

Perhaps my story is not interesting.

It's interesting to me.

To make a realistic appraisal of my insignificance in the universe would be fatal to my sense of wellbeing. Nobody wants to truly perceive just how much of a non-event they are. Nobody wants to accept that their entire life's achievements will be soon forgotten. Nobody wants to accept that the deeds of even the greatest humans are comparably insignificant to any other human who ever lived and died. To gain true perspective and see yourself as just another nobody in a sea of 7.6 billion nobodies is deeply undesirable; extremely toxic to a person's mental health. So, almost all of us imagine ourselves to be leading lives of significance; we imagine that it makes a difference whether we live or die, even though this is demonstrably untrue.

I've grappled with a strong desire to kill myself for as long as I can remember. The struggles haven't seemed worth the effort. Whether it was loneliness as a child, growing up without any siblings to the age of 10, bullied every day at school, or whether it was as a frustrated young adult, held back by ageism and somewhat slow to gain an identity that I was comfortable with - to grow into my own skin - I always had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted from life, and how life should treat me. Life began to yield eventually, but there was always a fly in the ointment; something that spoiled things. I wonder if I've learned to be more content. I wonder if I've lowered my expectations.

I think I've adjusted my life goals to suit the limited opportunities available to a person who has been smashed to smithereens. I've contented myself with simple, basic achievements, like having a girlfriend, a kitten, a house, a job, a car etc. etc.

I've given up on the idea that I might achieve anything which would bring me fame and glory.

This must be a coping mechanism. My brain must have decided that it was too frustrating and upsetting to go through a lengthy period of traumatic events, leaving me far too disadvantaged to be able to achieve anything except mundane ordinary existence. I congratulate myself at the end of each working week, for the mediocre achievement of not dying. I congratulate myself for things I achieved when I was a young adult. I congratulate myself for very ordinary boring things, such as doing chores or getting out of bed.

This is my life now; my future - killing time waiting to die, trying to keep myself reasonably comfortable while my body slowly deteriorates. I wonder if all my tough talk about life being not worth living will turn out to be hot air. Will I get a sensible job with a good pension? Will I start planning for retirement? Will I start trying to preserve my dying body? Will I grow to fear death?

The biggest achievement that I'm pleased with in my life so far is that I'm still alive. I've doggedly and determinedly kept going through ridiculous adversity, not with any particular grace or dignity, but with a bloody-minded stubbornness, working through the most intolerable conditions. I wouldn't wish the unsettled life of precariousness on my worst enemies. I wouldn't wish the boring monotony of rebuilding a life, dollar by dollar, upon my very most hated foe. Years and years this so-called 'recovery' has dragged on, with so few surprises, so little joy and so much boredom. When people speak to me about wanting to do something they love, I almost want to spit in their faces, because they do not know how privileged and entitled they are.

Perhaps it is me who is entitled. I am, after all, alive and well am I not? I have the girlfriend, kitten, house, job, car etc. etc. when so many people have so little.

Sure.

But I also paid a very high price. I'm not saying I earned what I have or I deserve what I have, but I definitely paid a very high price. The hardest part has not been the hard work, but the acceptance of my circumstances: that I would be better off pushing through years of miserable boring toil, than cutting my losses and suffering irreparable damage. It would be easy to re-invent myself and pursue something new and exciting except that reality forbids it. Bills still need to be paid. I need a roof over my head. I need to eat.

Pursuing a life that's more compatible with my mental health is not an avenue that's open to me. I'm forced to do what I'm good at, because it brings in the cash, even though it's destroying my happiness. I've chosen the path of least resistance, because I'm not in a position to put up any resistance, lest I drown.

I'm not sure what I'm rambling about. I suppose I'm just making a general complaint about spoiled brats who do whatever the hell they want, thanks to their wealth and privilege. Perhaps it's hypocritical, given that I've written so many words that are practically career suicide - who am I to write so honestly and candidly, when it obviously puts my lucrative career at risk?

I suppose I'm daring the universe to take away my hated career. I'm daring fate to block paths for me so that I don't have to suffer the consequences of my rational decision to take the highest paid work, doing the most unsavoury and unethical jobs.

My mind is meandering because I'm thrashing around trying to find some meaning in a cold uncaring godless meaningless universe.

I write and nobody challenges me. I write and nobody tells me to stop. Nobody tells me I'm out of order. Nobody tells me I've gone too far. I push, but I'm not pushing against anything. I write as therapy, without a therapist.

 

Tags:

 

I'm [Not] OK

6 min read

This is a story about keeping people updated...

Invert

It's been nearly 2 weeks since I wrote last. I know I've had gaps but this feels like a really long one. Gaps are usually a very bad sign. It's worth worrying about me if I'm not writing. Things are probably going badly if I'm not writing.

I was coping by using a combination of alcohol, sleeping pills, tranquillisers/sedatives and a heck of a lot of comfort eating. I've been teetotal and medication-free for a while now. I'm dieting too. I'm slimmer but I feel awful. Stopping taking all the pills has been brutal. Not having anything to 'take the edge off' has been horrible. The anxiety has been unbearable.

Some concerned friends have sent me messages, but I've felt too swamped to reply. Work is exhausting and there has been the looming holiday, which has caused added stress rather than being something to look forward to: How am I going to afford the loss of earnings as well as the expense of the holiday? My work situation is looking very uncertain for when I get back from holiday, which is a horrible situation to be in, worrying about money instead of enjoying some well-earned time off.

My relationship is good but it's caused some sleepless nights. I'm desperately trying to avoid worsening my exhaustion and sleep deficit, but it's almost impossible to catch up. Stopping the sleeping pills has caused my sleep quality to deteriorate. It's a miracle that I'm still reasonably productive and functional.

The last thing I want to think about is the travel and logistics of going abroad. Buying holiday clothes sounds like fun, but it's another item on a todo list which makes me very stressed out. I'm struggling to figure out when I can fit in all the things I need to do between now and my departure date from the UK. I suppose as long as I've got my passport and a buttload of cash then I can figure things out, but it's not pleasant to be so ill-prepared for a trip.

I'll be 40 years old in exactly one week. I decided to have a barbecue at my house when I was feeling somewhat more buoyant about the way my life was going. Now I feel like cancelling the gathering, because I'm stressed about the extra unnecessary hassle. Having guests over to my house reminds me that I've still barely moved in - I don't have much furniture and the place is a bit of a mess. I don't feel well placed to make my guests comfortable. I have a lot of anxiety about it being a really awkward occasion, with a handful of my long-suffering friends having made the long journey to the provinces, in order to make smalltalk with strangers... a real chore for them.

I'm working as hard as I can in order to feel proud about my contribution to the project I'm working on. I'm desperate that my contribution be remembered as something valuable and that my colleagues recognise the effort I've ploughed in. Work's become a bit of an unhealthy obsession and I'm significantly over-invested, emotionally. I can picture myself getting very depressed when I'm forced to leave the project because of contractual shenanigans, and through no fault of my own.

My life is deeply unbalanced; unhealthy. I'm not drinking alcohol and I'm dieting, so I've lost weight, and I've managed to get a bit of sun, so I look quite healthy, but inside I'm very sick. The stress of the past years seems to have ratcheted up as my life has become more 'normal' and 'stable' recently - things were easier when I was living out of a suitcase, in some ways, although I appreciate that I was very miserable and living much more unhealthily.

Readers who've followed me for any significant length of time will probably have a better idea than me as to whether I'm in a better place today than I was a few months ago, a year ago, several years ago. Things feel terrible but they probably aren't.

The stresses seem to be the same as ever, particularly concerning my security vetting. A colleague contacted me to say they were reading my blog. They seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of working with me, despite what they'd read, and the feedback seemed generally positive. It's the first time that a colleague has been brave enough to tell me that they've been reading my blog. Of course, the security vetting people have been reading too. I wonder if the security vetting people are as sympathetic to my stresses, and look favourably upon my ability to maintain an impeccably high standard of professionalism in the office, whilst undergoing some horrendous chaos in my personal life; struggling so much with my mental health. I wonder if all the talk about being sympathetic towards mental health issues is just hot air.

I wanted to write a short update, because I know people are worried about my uncharacteristic quietness. I've kinda failed. I'm doing OK, but I'm also really struggling too. Plenty of reasons to be concerned, but things are not completely ruined and on collision course with disaster... in fact I might even weather this storm and emerge in a reasonably good situation.

I'll try to write a little more regularly, but I don't want to be a stuck record, endlessly moaning about how unpleasant the effect of stopping medication is. I don't want to wallow in misery.

It's summer. I have money. I have employment for a little while longer. I have an awesome holiday booked. I have a very nice girlfriend. I have a cute kitten. I have a big house. Things are not terrible.

I'm not taking any medication, not drinking, dieting. I'm losing weight and my brain is getting back to a stable state without any alien chemicals. It's good to be free from the shackles of chemical dependency.

If I can push through this tricky period and keep the wheels turning, then I think my forties are going to be a much better period of life than parts of my thirties. It does feel good to be turning a corner as I reach an age when I should be growing old less disgracefully.

I've written more than I wanted to but I hope you'll forgive me. You're all up to date now.

 

Tags:

 

Straight

6 min read

This is a story about bad character...

Road sign

I have been thinking about changing my tagline from "the world's longest suicide note" to simply "Nick Grant - drug addict". The reason for doing that would be exactly the same as writing and publishing 1.2 million words which very publicly document every facet of my flawed character. The idea is to thumb my nose at the notion of having a 'perfect' CV with no gaps on it; to ridicule the concept of living a blemish-free existence of civil obedience; to write down all the things that we would normally brush under the carpet and pretend never existed.

We have become incredibly paranoid about our so-called reputations, when demonstrably the world is such a big overcrowded place that nobody is really paying very close attention. You can squat on your boss' desk, curl out a gigantic turd onto his or her keyboard, wipe your ass with your resignation letter before casually tossing it onto the floor, pull up your trousers and walk out of your workplace, and I promise you that your precious reputation will not be soiled, unlike the aforementioned keyboard.

Perversely, I wrote a very long suicide note - the world's longest - as insurance in case I did kill myself, but also as a therapeutic process as I tried to talk myself down from the ledge. The same is true of "Nick Grant - drug addict" - I would never label myself as such except in pre-emption of those who would like to find a convenient pigeon hole to put me in.

Because the words "drug addict" have such negative connotations I would never be so bold as to label myself as such if I was a drug addict. I choose this emotive label for myself because I feel confident that I'm the living embodiment of the antithesis of what we imagine a drug addict to be. I choose this pejorative term deliberately because it makes a mockery of anybody who attempts to sum me up in two words or fewer - I've written 1.2 million and do not yet feel satisfied that I've written enough to capture my essence on paper.

Analytic data tells me that colleagues have found me via Google and have read a little about me. I am undergoing security vetting and I know that this website has been viewed by people who are partly responsible for the information gathering, which will ultimately result in the decision to approve or deny my security clearance. These people scratch the surface. These people come looking for easy answers; a convenient couple of words to sum me up. Why not give them those words? I say that those words should be: drug addict.

My achievements in my career are beyond reproach. My contribution in the workplace has proven to be exceptional on countless occasions. Records also show that I've never been charged with a crime, convicted of a crime, declared bankrupt or otherwise fallen afoul of the courts of law. One might say that I'm a model citizen.

Why would a model citizen write 1.2 million unflattering words about themselves? Why would a model citizen risk their reputation, by way of candid public declaration of their faults and mistakes?

I'm completely fed up with the way that society is constructed: the way that we are continually looking for faults and reasons to reject people. I find it quite tiresome and bothersome that so many so-called gatekeepers exist, whose purpose only seems to be to pointlessly thwart, frustrate and annoy. Would I care if our nuclear weapons were guarded by violent criminals or our banks lent our savings to reckless bankrupts? The question is a non-sequitur, because it pre-supposes that the gatekeepers are being successful; it presumes that the systems are working and society is functioning effectively - it is not.

Technocrats have forever dreamt of being able to capture enough statistical data on every individual that behaviour can be predicted and the future can be known. There is a widespread belief that something as brief as a curriculum vitæ can tell you everything you need to know about a person's value. With credit checks, criminal record checks and other searches of vast databases, we presume that we can know a person's character, and deny them access to mortgages, loans, rented accommodation, mobile phone contracts, jobs and myriad other things we might consider to be essential parts of life. We presume that school attendance records, exam grades and university diplomas are "good predictors" of future success, and I would agree, except that it's straightforward to see that conventional success is only available to those who look good on paper - correlation does not equate to causation.

Our 19th century education system was designed to destroy free will, independent thought and break children's spirit, to prepare them for a life of manual labour, toiling in the mills and factories. Our ubiquitous snobby worship of "A" grades and first-class honours from Oxbridge does not acknowledge that 99.9% of our citizens will reach their mid-teens feeling like a failure, which is entirely the point. "If only I'd paid attention at school" we are supposed to tell ourselves, for our whole lives, accepting of our abysmally awful place in society.

I write this document because I hate the destructive force that the pressure of academic and career achievement is placing on society, to the detriment of our mental health. I think it is grotesquely unhealthy to live in a permanent state of anxiety, believing that a single slip-up - a bad exam grade or a gap on our CV - could ruin our entire future.

I loathe those who seek to reject. For those who seek a reason to reject me, please have one: drug addict. There you go. Please take those two words and f**k off. Leave me alone. I'm too busy trying to stay alive to be swamped with anxiety about lazy, simplistic, crude attempts to pigeon hole me and toss me away like a piece of trash. If you came looking for some dirt I'll save you the digging and send you away with a handy soundbite; a convenient label.

It pleases me that my 22-year career contradicts the label which could easily consign me to the dustbin. It pleases me that hundreds of colleagues from the past two decades would bear witness to my manyfold valuable contributions. It pleases me to send you away with two words - drug addict - which conjure up in the mind a character so different from the one who has spent 40 hours a week working very hard, and achieving a great deal.

In summary, Nick Grant: drug addict.

 

Tags:

 

Gas Leak

7 min read

This is a story about todo lists...

Gas meter

My list of simple mundane and relatively easily-achieved tasks seems to keep growing, despite the frenetic pace with which I am doing things. Most of my energy is ploughed into the project I'm involved with at work, which is reaching a critical juncture, but there are also other deadlines bearing down on me.

My car's roadworthiness test must be completed within the next fortnight. I had few problems with the car last year, but it's getting very old so I am not expecting to be so lucky this year. Certainly, there is a wheel bearing which needs replacing and the dashboard tells me that it's 5,000 miles overdue for a service. I would be very surprised if it did not cost me several hundred pounds and leave me without my car for a few days. The timing is not good, because I really need to be in the office every single day of the working week at the moment.

It might sound silly, but my hair needs to be cut twice in the next month. My hair is well overdue being cut - especially in the warm summer weather - but I will also want to get my hair cut again soon before going away on holiday. I'm planning on spending quite a lot of time in the sun, so it makes sense to have my hair cut short before going abroad, otherwise my skin will be pale under my mop of hair.

For a whole week of the holiday, I will be expected to wear quite smart clothes - a collar and trousers with some smart shoes - instead of the casual beachwear which is my usual attire when on holiday. I like to spend my entire holidays wearing a T-shirt, board-shorts and a pair of flip-flops, but the resort where I'll be staying insists on outfits more befitting of a golf clubhouse or country club. I usually stay in laid-back surfer crash-pads, and I'm not a member of a golf club or a country club, so my wardrobe lacks chinos, polo shirts and other clothing items which are de rigueur in the kinds of places where rich old men hang out, flaunting their wealth. Therefore, I need to go shopping, to buy a whole bunch of clothes which I only really need because of the dress code at the holiday resort where I'm staying for a week.

My clothing situation is generally pretty bad. I only have one pair of jeans which are not completely worn out, and wearing board-shorts to work would be unprofessional. I wear a smart dress shirt every day along with a fine-gauge knitwear V-neck jumper - it's a kind of uniform for me. However, the weather is improving and the office has no air-conditioning, so I would like to have a lighter pair of trousers to wear and some other shirts, which will look smart and professional without a jumper. My summer shoes are falling to pieces. Some of my colleagues wear sandals, but I've never seen any colleagues wearing flip-flops and I think it would be unprofessional of me to do so.

In order to pay for the most ludicrously expensive and over-the-top ridiculously luxurious holiday I've ever had in my life, I will have to do some quite clever accounting: juggling money around the place, so that my cashflow is not impacted. There are lots of parts of the holiday with a balance to pay, and I need to be careful to make sure that I don't use up more than 50% of the credit limit on any of my credit cards, which would adversely affect my credit rating.

My credit rating is super important right now, because I'm undergoing security vetting which is an incredibly invasive and exhaustive examination of every aspect of my life, including my credit history. It's important that I manage my money well so that part of the vetting process proceeds in an unproblematic fashion.

Spending 17 nights away from home and skipping 12 working days poses a big problem for the project I'm working on. The timing is less-than-perfect, putting it mildly. I need to take a holiday - I'm exhausted - but I also need to ensure some very important milestones are not jeopardised, plus my job is under threat and the loss of income is a source of stress. I will not be returning from holiday feeling relaxed, because I will need to secure myself a new contract as quickly as possible.

My todo list also includes difficult things, such as tapering off medications which I no longer want to be dependent on. There's relentless pressure on me to keep cutting my dosages, so that I'm medication-free by the time my holiday starts.

I need to get ready for a barbecue I'm planning on throwing to celebrate my 40th birthday. This requires the purchase of an actual barbecue, plus charcoal and all the food, of course. Further, I will probably have to make sure I have adequate beds and bedding for any guests who are staying over. I have plenty of time to prepare, but it's another deadline that is looming.

My kitesurfing equipment really needs some TLC before I go away on holiday and I need to purchase her a kitesurfing harness for my girlfriend if I'm going to teach her how to kitesurf while we're on holiday. Some of my kitesurfing equipment is more than a decade old and likely to break, unless I replace the worn-out parts. Having an equipment failure in a remote part of the world is likely to be expensive and/or cause me to lose valuable time on the ocean.

None of this is beyond the wit of man, but it's very hard to take care of all these odds and sods when I'm extremely time poor and quite exhausted by my very demanding job. I suppose things will happen at the last minute and everything will be alright, but I also anticipate that the next two months will drain every bit of energy I possess. I suppose there will be the occasional moment - on holiday - when there is nothing pressing in the complex itinerary: a flight to catch, a long drive, or indeed a smart outfit to be donned in order to simply grab a bite to eat.

These are almost all first-world problems, and indeed wealthy middle-class problems. I know that many British people on low incomes will struggle to get their decrepit old cars through their roadworthiness tests, but at least I have the financial means to pay for any unexpectedly high garage bills, although at some point it's not economical to spend hundreds of pounds on a car which is worth less than my smartphone, and I would be better off buying a new car, which at least I am fortunate enough to be able to do... although I would question whether it's a smart move getting a new car when my future employment is uncertain.

As you can see... I've got quite a lot going on at the moment, and not enough hours in the day.

 

Tags:

 

Beach Body

6 min read

This is a story about going on a diet...

Flip flops

571 days ago I decided that I was allowed to drink heavily and eat whatever I wanted. I had at least a bottle of wine every day and ate mostly fast food. I decided that this was my reward for working virtually non-stop: to guzzle gallons of alcohol and devour mountains of fatty food. My evenings were spent in McDonalds, KFC, curry houses and pizza places. My evenings were spent drinking glass after glass of red wine.

Unsurprisingly, I put on weight.

I was living in a hotel for a while, which was next door to a gastropub. I lived on calorific food, like lasagne & chips, washed down with large glasses of red wine. When I got back to my hotel room, I would continue drinking large glasses of wine. I decided that it was my reward for the miserable life of living in a hotel, to eat and drink with gay abandon.

I put on more weight.

Then, I noticed that I was putting on weight. I noticed that I had a tummy. I got out of the shower one day and I saw my own reflection in the mirror, and I realised that I had gained a belly. I've never really had any problems with my weight, so I was kinda shocked, although by this point I had been gaining weight steadily for roughly 9 months.

I didn't change my behaviour.

I did stop living in the hotel. However, I lived on takeaways and beer. I had a takeaway almost every night of the week, and I washed all that fatty food down with vast quantities of beer. I was going to the supermarket on an almost daily basis to re-stock the fridge with beer.

Then I stopped drinking.

My alcoholic friend killed himself. He drank himself to death. His alcoholism had raged out of control for a long time and hadn't claimed his life, but health complications quickly began to create a compounding problem and he knew that he was going to die; his quality of life was rapidly deteriorating. This event, coupled with my unhappiness about being a little overweight, was enough of a catalyst for me to quit drinking.

I was teetotal for nearly 5 months.

Then, I started drinking heavily, eating restaurant food and having takeaways on a regular basis. I drank loads of white wine and ate lots of very rich gourmet food. I had lost some weight by simply being teetotal. I had reached a point where my weight was under control and I felt better about my appearance, but then I quickly undid that by drinking and eating so much.

Now, I'm trying to lose weight again.

I'm not trying very hard to lose weight. All I've done is cut my daily calorie intake. I've stopped drinking - mostly - and I've stopped having takeaways and restaurant food - mostly - and I've stopped having large lunches. I've stopped eating breakfast. I've stopped snacking. On average, my weekly calorie intake has been cut pretty drastically.

I still don't do any exercise.

I joined a gym at one point, but I never actually went. The circumstances of my job changed and I found myself living in the hotel. It was hard to motivate myself to go to the gym when I had the miserable existence of living in a hotel. The highlight of my evening was my gastropub meal and red wine, so I can't imagine that there'd have been much point going to the gym.

I should do some exercise.

I'm making some very big changes to my medication at the moment. I'm tapering off high doses of tranquilisers and sleeping pills, in order to be medication-free by the time I go away on holiday, the day before my 40th birthday. I have less than a month to rid myself of physically addictive benzodiazepines and highly psychologically addictive sleeping pills. I have a horrible month ahead of me, filled with rebound anxiety and rebound insomnia. It's not easy to stop taking medication and it's extremely unpleasant to rapidly stop. Going cold turkey is not even an option - I could have seizures.

I'm making good progress.

Apart from last night, where I got extremely drunk and ate a gigantic burger and chips, Friday night where I drank two bottles of white wine, and Monday evening when I had a takeaway, I've not been drinking, eating takeaways or eating in restaurants. I've also managed to reduce my sleeping pills by 33% and my tranquilisers by 50%. I'm changing a lot of things all at once. It's very difficult to change so many things all at once, especially while I'm going through a very stressful high-pressure period at work, with some very demanding tight deadlines.

It'd be wonderful if I was superhuman and I could work full-time, have very little sleep, write every day, look after my kitten, keep my house clean, quit drinking, go on a diet, stop taking addictive medication AND do some exercise, but I'm afraid that it's too much to ask - the exercise will have to wait until life gets a little easier.

I know that I'll get more enjoyment out of my holiday if I'm fitter and in better shape, but the holiday is the respite I desperately need; the rest and recuperation; the reward for 571 days of almost continuous work, with the exception of a week-long jaunt to Turkey and two weeks in Mexico. My last holiday was nearly 7 months ago, and I've been through a house move and a breakup, as well as working exceptionally hard.

The beach body will have to wait, although my small lifestyle adjustments will help. The weight isn't just going to magically disappear, but I shall have to content myself with stopping the rot - I simply haven't got the bandwidth to be able to exercise on top of everything else on my plate.

 

Tags:

 

Intellectual Hunger

6 min read

This is a story about brain training...

Hotel food

I spent a week living in a Warsaw hotel, making sandwiches in my room, using a shoe-horn to spread mayonnaise and mustard on the long-life bread bought from a nearby convenience store which mainly sold alcohol and snacks. This would hardly be a great example of ingenuity - a sign of a brilliant mind at work - but it certainly addresses the first part of this short essay: hunger.

Hunger is not just about food, so I thought I would get the food part out of the way at the beginning.

We can be hungry for sex, love, companionship, social contact. We can be hungry for thrills; adrenalin. We can be hungry for substances of abuse, including alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. There are all kinds of hunger, not all of which can be satiated with food, although we can often try to use food to fill the gaping void inside ourselves. Comfort eating is something I find myself doing when tired, bored or otherwise hungry for something other than food.

I wanted to write about intellectual hunger.

There are some questions which don't require much brain-power to answer, such as: how am I going to feed myself cheaply for a week in a hotel that's nowhere near anything except a couple of shops which mainly sell alcohol? The answer to this question is not one requiring intellect, but instead the answer simply requires lowered standards and the willingness to suffer a little.

Another question might be: how am I going to increase my standard of living as much as possible, as quickly as possible?

Again, this second question is quite easy to answer and requires very little thought or effort of the mind. The answer to the question simply requires more lowering of standards and willingness to suffer. Ultimately, one can always sell a kidney or make bodily orifices available for sexual gratification of paying punters. Problems of this nature are not taxing or interesting, in an intellectual way.

With too much of life occupied answering trivial questions and doing the unpleasant obvious things - prostituting yourself and living in vile conditions - we arrive at a far more interesting question: why bother?

4 years ago it was obvious to me that I knew exactly what I needed to do, how I was going to do it and how long it was going to take, in order to restore myself to health, wealth and prosperity. The prospect of repeating tasks which had become so repulsively boring and easy to me, although somewhat stressful too, was doubly abhorrent because of the lack of novelty combined with the lack of intellectual challenge.

I think in many ways it would have been much easier to accept a fate imposed upon me by circumstances, and abandon the pursuit of an outcome which was almost too far out of reach; almost too unbearable to suffer while en-route.

When I say "easier" I mean intellectually nourishing.

What right do I have to spend my days talking to interesting intelligent people? What right do I have to spend my days reading interesting books? What right do I have to explore ideas, have discussions and write down my thoughts? What right do I have to publish what I write? What right do I have to be allowed readers? Why should I be entitled to have any of those things?

I suppose I accepted that a more interesting course through life was not available to the likes of me. Those who are fortunate enough to ask themselves "what kinds of things do I find interesting?" or "what would my perfect job be?" and to then use these answers to formulate a life which is compatible with capitalist society, are not in the same socioeconomic boat as me. This is not to say that I'm deprived and disadvantaged, but merely that I'm incredibly pragmatic and quite unwilling to risk a decline in my living standards, back to a time when I was sleeping rough and the most pressing question of each day was: where shall I sleep to stay dry and keep me safe from violence and robbery?

So, my 4-year writing project began. I scratched my itch as best as I could with the facilities at my disposal. I have written and published as if I am one of those entitled brats who gets to spend their time choosing from an almost unlimited menu of very pleasant options, because their socioeconomic circumstances protect them from the peril of destitution.

I'm still surprisingly far from ever being able to ask myself "what would I like to study?" or "what is my dream job?" but the vast majority of us will never be fortunate enough to be able to do anything other than suffer the coercion of capitalism, and to do unpleasant things in order to survive.

It seems churlish to complain, given that I have certainly been able to feather the nest recently, and I do my complaining in far more pleasant surroundings than a bush in a park, sleeping rough.

Although I'm time poor and nowhere near being financially comfortable enough to feel confident in risking any major alterations in my chosen life course, I am lucky enough to be emerging from an incredibly lengthy period of suffering, in order to shore up life's practical considerations: housing etc.

Theoretically, it's now a matter of months until some very real and tangible results arrive as a result of a very sustained campaign, which has been excruciatingly boring and predictable, with very little freedom of choice.

In conclusion, I appreciate that my situation is fast becoming an enviable one, and soon I will have the freedom to make choices which offer more intellectual nourishment, which has been so lacking during the 4 year period where I simply had to do whatever it took - to suffer - in order to preserve all future opportunities, and avoid any catastrophic life-changing disasters which would force me down another path.

 

Tags:

 

All Is Lost - A Photo Story

12 min read

This is a story about lost causes...

Brushes up well

Look at that well-presented man: a professional on his way to work for Barclays at their head office in Canary Wharf as an IT consultant earning £600 a day. Look the attractive Georgian façades of the London townhouses of Camden, where he lives. The major high-street bank he works for has conducted extensive background checks on him and found him to be a fine upstanding member of the community: a model citizen.

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is a homeless man. That's right. This man is no-fixed-abode. This man lives in a hostel with other homeless people. This man was sleeping rough until very recently.

Hostel room

Look at this hostel dorm. It's got brand new beds and clean linen. It's empty. This looks like a pretty nice hostel dorm, doesn't it? Perhaps you wouldn't mind sleeping here. This would be tolerable for a while, perhaps if you were backpacking, wouldn't it?

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is a hostel dorm I stayed in when I was travelling - for leisure purposes - and the people who stay at this hostel are wealthy backpackers. This is not the hostel I stayed in when I was homeless. When I was homeless I stayed in hostel dorms that were full of drug addicts, alcoholics, people with severe mental health problems, thieves, violence, sexual assault, and they were exceptionally dirty and disgusting. The hostels I stayed in when I was homeless were full of everybody's crappy possessions which we carried around with us - we didn't live out of small backpacks, because we were homeless. When you're homeless you carry everything you possibly can: all your possessions. Try to imagine 14 people in a single room along with every single thing that they own. Try to imagine that's where you live - you're not just having a jolly old time doing some backpacking. That's WHERE YOU LIVE and you have to go to work, in the midst of all that chaotic s**t.

Hampstead heath

That's a nice view isn't it? That's Hampstead Heath. It's a nice place to walk your dog or go for a run. It's a nice place for a picnic. Hampstead Heath is a lovely place to go when the sun's shining. Perhaps you'd like to take a swim in one of the bathing ponds?

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is near the spot where I slept rough, to avoid being robbed, beaten up and/or raped. What you are actually looking at is a place where a homeless person can hide themselves in the undergrowth at night and avoid the perils of sleeping rough. What you are looking at is where I slept for a couple of months. Guess what? It's not always sunny. Sometimes it rains. When it rains you get wet. Very wet. A tent is conspicuous. It's hard to sleep rough, stay dry and avoid becoming a victim of crime when you're so vulnerable. Try to imagine not having a proper bed or any kind of security for you and your stuff - you're totally out in the open, in a remote area.

Psych ward

What's this? Is it a prison cell? I haven't been in a prison cell, but this definitely looks a bit like a prison cell to me. There's a window so that people can look into the room, which clearly has a bed, so this must be a place where I slept. What kind of place has windows in the doors so that people can see in when you're sleeping? That doesn't sound great for privacy, does it?

Look again.

What you are looking at is a room in a secure psychiatric ward. The window is there so that the staff can check you're not attempting to kill yourself. The staff check on you every 15 minutes. At night they sometimes come into your room and shine a torch in your face. You can't have a belt, shoelaces, scissors, razor, cables (e.g. mobile phone) or anything else that you could cut yourself with, or strangle yourself with. You can't lock the door to the shower room or the toilet.

Hampstead view

Oh look! There's a view of Hampstead from a tall building. Perhaps we could see the heath from here. This is quite a nice view, except it's kind of in the wrong direction to see any London landmarks. Perhaps this this is the view from an ugly brutalist concrete monstrosity which has now perversely become a desirable place to live as the capital city's property prices have soared.

Look again.

This is the view from the Royal Free Hospital. The emergency services brought me here. I was nearly dead. I was here a long time, while the medical team fought to save my life.

Private room

That's a pretty nice room for an NHS hospital. It's a private room. I must have some pretty good private medical insurance. Perhaps I've come to hospital for an elective cosmetic procedure. This certainly doesn't look like the kind of place where a sick patient would be looked after - it's more like the kind of recovery room that somebody with private healthcare would receive.

Look again.

This is the room at The Royal London which was dedicated to my treatment because my kidneys had failed due to a horrific DVT and I was receiving emergency dialysis for many many hours a day. To my left, out of shot, is a dedicated dialysis machine which I was connected to for day after day. I couldn't have dialysis in the main dialysis ward because my blood was so full of potassium that I was at risk of having a cardiac arrest at any moment. My blood was so toxic that many of the measurements were beyond the capability of the equipment to actually measure how toxic my blood was. I was very sick indeed.

Killavullen

Aha! This must be another trick. That pleasant view of a valley filled with low-lying fog, and mountain tops poking out, in pleasant rural surroundings must hide a darker secret. Why don't I just tell you the terrible truth?

Look again.

This is actually a good moment in my life. One of my friends had invited me to stay with his family in Ireland. I was half-dead so the opportunity for some rest and recuperation in rural Ireland was exactly what I needed. I meant to stay only for a short while, but ended up staying longer because I was very poorly and needed looking after, which is exactly what the kind family who took me in did: they nursed me back to health.

Canary Wharf skyline

Ooooh skyscrapers! We know from the first photograph that I worked in one of those skyscrapers. I also used to live in Canary Wharf and it's actually possible to see my apartment from this picture. I was also working for Lloyds Banking Group at this time, so this must be another good picture, right? Why would I be able to see my apartment and the head office of the bank I was working for though? Where the hell am I?

Look again.

I didn't show you the view out of the window from the private hospital room, did I? This is the view. I didn't really get to see the view much, because I was constantly hooked up to a dialysis machine which was sucking my blood out of me and squirting it back into me, but I did manage to take this photograph. All I can say that's positive about this period of my life is that I didn't die: I was saved [again] by a brilliant NHS medical team.

Hotel room

What now? A hotel room? Not too different from the psych ward room, but with a TV and better lighting. I was living here while working as an IT consultant for HSBC on their number one project, earning £600 a day. Sounds like my life was going pretty well, huh?

Look again.

What have I shown you so far? Homeless people's hostels, sleeping rough, hospitals. I showed you one picture when things were a little better - I was being looked after by my friend and his family - and my life was not in imminent danger. My life is not in peril at this moment, it's true, but I'm clearly staying in a hotel room for a reason. The reason is that I'm homeless. That's the theme of this story: homelessness.

Prince of Wales

This must be the door to the room that I showed you in the secure psychiatric ward. Somebody's written my name on a little whiteboard strip. That was thoughtful of them. Also, making sure that I'm not killing myself, by checking on me every 15 minutes is pretty damn caring. I'm pretty lucky to have this room all to myself and caring staff members to make sure I stay alive.

Look again.

This is not the same room. This is not the same psychiatric ward. This is not the same hospital. This is not the same city. In the first photograph, I had voluntarily gone to hospital because I couldn't keep myself safe. At the time this photograph was taken I have been sectioned and am being held against my will. At the time the first photograph was taken - in London - I could leave whenever I wanted. At the time this photograph was taken - in Manchester - I cannot leave, which is kind of like being in prison: involuntary internment. I was being held in a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) which is where the very most unwell psychiatric patients are held, and this type of unit is highly secure and can only care for 8 patients with a vast number of staff.

Why would I end with this photo?

I was asked to write down in detail where I had been living for the last 5 years of my life, for the purposes of government security vetting, which is a highly invasive process which will rake over every detail of my private life: my divorce, my psychiatric problems, my homelessness, the involvement of the emergency services. The government has access to every single piece of data about me held on every single database, and they are permitted to look at things - like private and confidential medical records - which nobody else is allowed to look at or even ask about, by law.

Why would I publish this?

Do you remember the photograph of the hotel room? That's where I started writing this blog, approximately 4 years ago. I've written 1.2 million words. I've thoroughly documented my life with the kind of candid honesty that the government expect from me when they ask questions like "where have you been living during the last 5 years?". The answer is far more complicated than could be filled in on their forms, so they can read about every detail which doesn't neatly fit into any of their computer systems. I could have asked for extra paper to complete my security vetting forms, but how many pages should I ask for if there are 1.2 million words written down right here and the story is not even fully told?

I chose that final photo because I shouldn't have been alive to take it.

On Saturday 9th September 2017 I attempted to end my life. My suicide attempt should have been successful. Even though I didn't die as quickly as I should have done, and even though the emergency services were able to intervene rapidly, when I believed that nobody knew where I lived or would be able to locate me, I was still having seizures and multiple organ failure. I was unable to breathe on my own. I was very much going to succeed in killing myself, which is exactly what I wanted. I had planned and executed my suicide attempt with precision.

Now, today, I am making an exceptional contribution to one of the government's highest profile projects - the number one project for the particular government organisation who I work for. I have been singled out for special commendation on multiple occasions by very senior government employees. I have worked incredibly hard to make the biggest possible contribution as part of a gigantic team of colleagues. I have busted my balls to go above-and-beyond and exceed all expectations. I have put an enormous amount of effort into delivering valuable skill, expertise, knowledge, effort and energy. I would expect that a significant number of my colleagues would speak very highly of me. In fact, I know that I am held in very high regard.

Also, during the last 5 years, I've slept rough, slept in homeless hostels, slept in hospitals and slept in psych wards. The sum total of the amount of months that I've spent in such places is very significant, but somehow it was hard to articulate this on a security vetting form that's not designed for somebody like me.

Either you believe I'm exceptional or you don't. If you think I'm an exceptional person, you have to decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. What cannot be disputed is my contribution to the teams, organisations and wider society, despite the great adversity I've faced.

Here is some of the information that couldn't be captured on a government security vetting form. Judge me however you want - end my career if you must. What you must understand is that I am not afraid, because I have already died a thousand deaths, so I do not fear one more.

 

Tags: