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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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Dumbest Guy in the Room

4 min read

This is a story about being opinionated...

Boardroom

I cannot shut up. I will not shut up. I could not shut up, even if I wanted to. Sometimes I do want to shut up, although my colleagues would probably snort with laughter at such a notion. In fact, sometimes I can force myself to shut up, a little bit, but it doesn't last very long.

The problem is, that thoughts pop into my head - relevant, useful thoughts - which then spew out of my mouth, after only a moment of hesitation to see if anybody else is going to say anything. To say that I engage my mouth before my brain is quite untrue. In fact, my brain is very thoroughly engaged, meaning that I seem to have ample time to process everything that's being said, think of something relevant and useful, to deliberately hesitate to think about who else might have something they want or need to say, and also to simply give other people a chance to make a contribution... then having completed that process, I speak.

The way that people act in large organisations is weird. Whenever there's a large meeting, like a town hall, whenever somebody asks "any questions?" there's an unwritten rule that nobody is supposed to ask any questions. I follow that rule, because otherwise I'd be hated by my colleagues. I mean, more hated than I am already for being so outspoken.

I've started to get really bored of the sound of my own voice. I very much dislike hearing myself so much. I worry a great deal about how much I talk, versus most of my other colleagues.

I'm the dumb guy in the room. I'm the guy who doesn't seem to realise that we all get paid anyway, whether I make a contribution or not; that we all get paid anyway, whether I'm paying attention or not; that we all get paid anyway... so why bother? The smart guys in the room know that it's best to zone out, switch off, not contribute, keep schtum, and just hope that it somehow makes the working day pass a little more quickly.

It doesn't.

If you go to lots and lots of interminable boring meetings, for sure you don't want to prolong them for any longer than they absolutely must do. For sure, there are good reasons for hating the desperately ambitious people, who ask questions for the sake of making an impression with the more senior members of staff in the organisation, when everybody in the room really wants to go to lunch or go home. For sure, it's idiotic to waste so many people's time, showing off to a roomful of colleagues.

But.

I'm able to get out of bed in the morning because I care about the project I'm working on. When I don't care, the depression is so bad that I can't get up; I can't face it; I can't face the boredom.

I don't know how people do it. How do people, for years and years, turn up at an office for 40+ hours a week, just to make up the numbers; just to be zoned out and not interested in making a contribution?

For sure, there's a difference in how assertive people are. For sure, I'm at the extreme end of assertive, bordering on downright aggressive: I will be heard. For sure, I must be drowning others, more hesitant than I, out of the conversation; out of the discussion.

It's a dumb move. Work is, primarily, a popularity contest. Promotions are based on how much a person is liked by their superiors, not on merit, qualifications, experience, hard work, grit, determination, attitude, or any of the other bullshit which we're told is what promotions are based on. No. Sorry. Wrong. It's all based on popularity. If you want to get promoted, you must be popular with those who are making the promotion decision. It's that simple. No exceptions.

Mercifully, I don't want to be promoted. I'm already director of my own company. I can't be promoted: I'm already the top dog; the main man; the head honcho.

Mercifully, I don't have to play the corporate game. I can just get on with my job, as a professional, which means being as productive and useful as possible, to ensure a successful project outcome.

Sure, I'd like to be popular as well, but I find it's hard to be effective, productive and be popular: the two are often mutually exclusive.

I definitely don't want to be an asshole though. That would suck.

 

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I ❤️ a Crisis

3 min read

This is a story about the proverbial hitting the fan...

Hotdesk

It's often said that most fires are started by bored firemen who want to be heroes, but there are too few fires to fight. Eventually, when we've prepared for the worst for a very long time, it is us ourselves who precipitate a crisis, because we can't stand waiting for the blows to rain down upon us any longer.

Similarly, my profession incorporates a lot of planning for disasters. Quite literally, part of my job is to consider what would happen in event of nuclear holocaust, tsunami, hurricane or other apocalyptic event. If I wasn't planning for disasters to happen, I wouldn't be doing my job right.

I am not, by the way, planning to launch any kind of nuclear attack.

Banks have lots of empty desks like the ones pictured above. These are disaster recovery desks. In the event of a disaster, in theory, the financial markets could continue to function: the traders who have survived the disaster would be able to make their way to the nearest building which still has power and data, to carry on working. This is business-as-usual for the banking and wider financial services sector: it happily plans for the destruction of civilisation, while ensuring that asset prices are still protected. The world might burn to the ground, but at least the shareholders retain most of their paper wealth, is the ethos.

The thing I live in fear of the most is: boredom.

I was incredibly worried that the next 6 months of my life were going to be excruciatingly boring. It's my professional duty to ensure things are as boring as possible. I'm paid handsomely to ensure that things go smoothly and successfully, but it makes for a pretty boring life. I much prefer life when everything's on fire. It's bloody brilliant when everyone's losing their cool all around me, and I get to have some fun being the hero, fixing stuff; enjoying some pressure and excitement. But, it would be unprofessional of me to deliberately - or at least provably - cook up a crisis.

Now, a situation has fallen in my lap. Instead of dreading the next few months, I'm looking forward to working my butt off to sort things out, with a high-pressure drop-dead deadline. This is the stuff I really relish. This is the sort of stuff that gets me out of bed in the morning, as well as the generous remuneration.

I love it when stuff goes wrong.

 

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An Essay on Mortality

8 min read

This is a story about premature death...

Skull

I was having a panic attack recently. My pulse was racing, with my heart feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest. I was short of breath; I felt like I couldn't breathe; like I couldn't get enough oxygen. I was sure that I was going to die. Then, I realised that I didn't mind if I died. In fact, I decided that I'd be quite glad to be dead. As soon as I thought that, the panic attack abruptly ended.

It occurred to me that my attitude towards death - and mortality - is not at all typical, and as such warrants some discussion.

It's the nature of my profession, to deal with things using strict formal logic. As a result of spending a 23 year full-time career immersed in a world which will truck nothing vague, ambiguous or downright logically flawed, I have ended up being somewhat unable to think in the wooly way, which most ordinary people do. Most people have no attention to detail. Most people are unable to think logically.

The problem with thinking logically, is that it means that life's absurdity is laid bare, and various psychological horrors are visited upon the poor person - me in this case - who make their way through a world which does not utilise reason and logic.

Firstly, to be afraid of death, there must be a reason for wanting to be alive. What is that reason?

"I want to see my kids grow up"

But, why do your kids want to be alive? What was it that you were offering your children, when you decided to have them? What life was it that you thought they might want?

We still have to answer the same question: why does anybody want to be alive?

If your answer is something related to kids, grandkids, great-grandkids or suchlike, then you, I'm afraid, are no different from a slug, a wasp, an amoeba, or any other imbecilic creature, which is driven by its genes to do nothing more than make more copies of its genes. You are, I'm afraid, not a very bright spark. You can stop reading now.

"I like my life; I like being alive"

Okay, this is good stuff, but what is 'liking'? What does it mean to like your life? What does it mean to like being alive? Probably, you mean that you enjoy pleasure, in some form or other. Perhaps you enjoy food, perhaps you enjoy sex, perhaps you enjoy drink or drugs, perhaps you have a hobby. Whatever it is, you are basically a sensation-seeker, and/or pleasure-seeker. This is a little more logical than the slug-wasp-amoeba type morons we mentioned before, but it can still be easily exposed as nothing more than idiocy.

Our brains are evolved to give us small hits of dopamine to reinforce behaviours which increase our chances of individual survival, or increase our species' chance of survival. It's obvious that eating would be enjoyable, because if we didn't eat we'd starve to death. It's obvious that sex would be enjoyable, because if we didn't have sex our species would die out. Again, when we analyse the behaviour, we find that it's nothing more than genes pulling the levers, trying to get us to make more copies of the genes.

"Everything is meaningless"

Yep. Bingo. Everything IS meaningless. Every single bit of evidence of your existence will be obliterated, to the point that it will be as if you never existed. All of your stupid pictures you posted on Instagram, which you think are so great, will be gone, along with any evidence of the human race, the Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way. In the inevitable heat death of the universe, the spreadsheets which your boss asked you to email, are so cosmically unimportant, that it's laughable that you even bothered to send them.

In the context of the ridiculousness anthropocentricity, I struggle to understand what the difference is between a 'premature' death, and a death which supposedly happens at the 'right' time. Of course, I empathise with those who have lost loved ones, too 'early', but logically, death is inevitable. It seems like we are creating a problem, where none need exist.

I do have strong views about the sanctity of human life, insofar as one human killing another, directly or indirectly. I am incensed with rage at lazy baby boomers and other greedy capitalists, hoarding scarce housing, during a housing crisis; forcing people into miserable minimum wage zero-hours contract McJobs, which cause suffering and suicide at epidemic proportions. Of course, you might ask why I would care, when such concerns are of cosmic insignificance; in the long run, we're all dead. The answer is easy: life is so absurd, so I treat it like a game. I can see that the game is horrendously rigged, but at least I can see that it doesn't matter if I die - I can't 'lose' per se - so I can play to 'win' in ways that nobody else does. While others try to spawn as many progeny as possible, or accumulate as many shiny round pieces of metal, or paper with numbers on, or both... I'm free to do whatever the hell I want, within the confines of a mortal body, trapped by nature's weakest fundamental force, on a rock floating in a vacuum, orbiting a nuclear fusion reaction.

I don't revel in the absurdity of life. I am miserable and I suffer. I have no answer for how to be happy. In fact, I think that happiness cannot co-exist with knowledge, beyond a certain point. Perhaps if I had one piece of advice, it would be to avoid theoretical physics and cosmology, because they seem quite incompatible with happiness - ignorance is bliss.

I have friends with life-limiting illnesses, and to them, my essay must seem very rude and inconsiderate; arrogant. I have friends who have loved ones who died 'prematurely' or who are dying (of something other than... well... what I don't know. Newsflash: we're all dying). I know that death is a real taboo, presumably because our genes are hard-wired for survival. It's been a big evolutionary advantage, to select against anybody who doesn't fear death, or who's prepared to talk about death as a preferable alternative to life.

When we view life as suffering, struggling and misery - which it is - then we must ask ourselves again: is it better to be dead? Of course, we originally asked why we wanted to be alive, but when we ask ourselves the much more straightforward question, why do we want to be dead, then the answers come much more readily. Here are a few reasons to be dead: you don't have to get up in the morning, you don't have to go to work, you don't have to do anything you don't enjoy, you don't have to make any effort, you don't have to feel any pain, you don't have to suffer, you don't have to struggle, you won't be tired any more, all your troubles will be over, you won't worry about anything, you won't be stressed anymore, you won't be anxious, you won't be depressed, you won't worry about being fat, you won't worry about being ugly, you won't be lonely, you won't be frustrated... you get the idea. There are infinitely many reasons why being dead is better than being alive. You like sleeping, don't you? Being dead is like, the best kind of sleeping, because you never get woken up by your alarm clock; you can rest forever.

I'm really not sure what's scary about death at all. I'm really not sure why more people don't choose death, when life is so shitty.

It seems so churlish to reject life, when there are lots of slug-wasp-amoeba people out there who are desperate to mindlessly do the bidding of their genes. We're so culturally indoctrinated to repeat the mantra that we love our life, and that life is precious, that we often forget that we don't love life - that life is utter shit - and that life is worthless. If you don't think life is worthless, you should take a trip to the developing world, to remind yourself of the human suffering that's inflicted in your name.

I've written about twice as much as I hoped to, but I suppose this is a subject dear to my heart, insofar as I feel suicidal most of the time.

Perhaps one day, depression will lift and I'll look back on this essay with different eyes. Perhaps one day, in the not-too-distant-future, I will kill myself. I think the latter is far more likely than the former, according to a great deal of bitter experience.

 

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What Next?

4 min read

This is a story about dreams...

Penny

Here is money. Don't spend it all at once. A starving African child would be grateful to have this money. A boomer could buy a house, go out to the cinema, get a taxi home and still have change left, from this money.

A conversation I keep having with a friend who also suffers from existential angst, ennui and general loathing of the rat race, is what I'd do if I was free from the tyranny of rent/mortgage and career considerations. My friend thinks that things would be no different, except perhaps I would be bored. I disagree, but I don't have an easy answer. I have no burning desire to re-train as a landscape gardener or a vet. I have no desire to swap one career - profession - for a different one.

Having had a 23 year long career, and previously - as a child - suffered the consequences of my parents being lazy loser drop-out druggie bums, who refused to get a job and stop scrounging off their parents. My childhood experiences certainly made me want to go a very different way with my life: to be a valuable, productive member of society; to make a contribution; to have a career and a profession. Now, I want to drop out. I want to drop out of the rat race. I want to be a bum; a tramp even.

The time I spent homeless was chaotic, traumatic and stressful at times, but I have very fond memories of a lot of the time, where I connected with people, community; I had a social life. Life was enjoyable. Now it is not.

The friends who I have, who are free from the tyranny of a bullshit job which they can't afford to lose, lest they lose their home, their money, their credit rating and their dignity... they are not bored. They are busy. They spend time talking to people, about stuff other than how horrible the commute to the office is, and other job-related stuff. They find people they like and they hang out with them, instead of being coerced into spending the vast majority of their waking hours, corralled together with people who are equally resentful about having the prime years of their lives robbed so cheaply.

The gap-year-university-I-built-a-school-in-africa-yah-boo-jolly-hockey-sticks brigade are perhaps happy with their lives, because they had pleasant privileged upbringings, in private or selective schools, surrounded by other socioeconomically advantaged kids at all stages, including when they went to university, which continued into first jobs... marry the girl of your dreams and you've always got plenty of money for a house, car, holiday, and school fees for the next generation to carry on doing what you've always done - the best of everything, always.

We must consider that I never went travelling and I never went to university. Couldn't afford it.

I enjoyed a bit of the London young professional scene, but it's quite an uphill battle if you don't have your group of university buddies as a social group.

I found a group of kitesurfers, who became my social group, which was wonderful.

But it all went wrong. They've all got kids now, but I'm divorced. The childless man, who doesn't fit in anywhere. People have moved on with their lives.

Being homeless was great. Homeless people are a community. It's important to be part of a community.

Obviously I don't aim to be homeless, but I am considering it. Such is the extreme level of my misery, that I feel like I'd be happier homeless; cut loose from the tyranny of capitalism, rent/mortgage, career, salary, job, office, commute and all the rest of it, which makes no sense when none of the rewards are there - I'm not supporting a family, I'm not raising children, I'm not benefitting from any work-related social life.

What next? Seriously, I just want to drop out, and to find other drop-outs; other people who couldn't stand the rat race so much, that they ditched their mortgages/rent, careers and other things which are like a miserable trap, unless you are coerced into that system, because you need to provide a decent home for a child to grow up in, which my parents never did. I can be a nomad and at least I won't be fucking up any children's lives.

 

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5 Year Blogging Anniversary

2 min read

This is a story about writing...

Platform 9.75

To date, I have written and published 1,357,076 words on this blog. Today is the 5 year anniversary of me starting this blog. I have published 1,086 blog posts, which is an average of 4 per week. I think many writers would be pleased to write and publish something at least 4 days a week. I'm quite proud of my achievement.

Here are some facts about the past 5 years, in chronological order:

  • I was homeless when I started, on September 6th, 2015
  • I was £21,000 in debt when I started
  • I rented a super cool apartment by the River Thames in late September, 2015
  • I was locked up for a week - voluntarily - on a secure psych ward in October 2015
  • I flew to San Francisco to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, at the end of October 2015
  • Hospitalised for a few weeks with kidney failure, caused by DVT, January 2017
  • Moved to Manchester in July 2017
  • Suicide attempt on September 9th, 2017. Hospitalised in a coma in intensive care
  • Sectioned and held involuntarily on a psych ward, waiting for an appeal for 12 days
  • Won my appeal, but stayed on the psych ward voluntarily for another two weeks
  • Became homeless again
  • Moved to Swansea in October 2017, still homeless
  • Lived in a load of AirBnBs in London midweeek, due to work
  • Debt reached its peak of £54,000. I only had £23 left to spend.
  • Rented an apartment in Swansea with lovely panoramic sea views, in March 2018
  • Moved to Cardiff in March 2019
  • Suicide attempt on December 18th, 2019
  • Hospitalised with kidney failure for almost 3 weeks - discharged January 2020
  • August 2020 my peak of £54,000 debt is fully repaid. I am debt free.
  • I have £300 of savings, having subtracted all taxes and other monies owed

Here are some other interesting facts about the last 5 years:

  • I've worked 44 months out of 60 (73% of the time)
  • I've earned £530,000
  • I've paid £240,000 in tax
  • I've paid £83,000 in rent
  • I've paid £50,000 interest on debt

The numbers are actually pretty impressive, for somebody who's been so sick, homeless and generally suffering a very chaotic stressful life. I'm surprised I've been such a generous contributor to the economy, actually. I've philantropically handed out vast sums of money to banks, governments and landlords. I am, truly, a ragged-trousered philanthropist.

 

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Pattern Recognition

5 min read

This is a story about AI...

Eyes passim

You might think that it's incredible that a chess grandmaster could look at a chess board for 30 seconds, and then be able to place all the pieces on another board, in exactly the same positions as they were on the board they only saw for a brief time. That they can do this is not a sign of intelligence, but of pattern recognition, which is an acquired skill, honed through thousands of hours of practice. That's not to say that it's not impressive, but it's the hardware - the human brain that we all possess - that's impressive, not the individual.

I don't think we can all become chess grandmasters, if we want to. For us to want to spend those thousands of hours to develop the pattern recognition in our brains, we'd need to be motivated. It's beyond the scope of this essay to explore why some people memorise wild birds, train timetables, telephone numbers, or a whole host of other useless trivia, but let's just say that it's personal to the individual; some people just really like trains.

The patterns I wanted to write about today, are not like the patterns that can be discerned on a chess board, telling a grandmaster the story of how that particular game developed, and where it is heading. The pattern I wanted to write about is the boom and bust cycle of my mood, which has been going on for enough time now, that I feel like I can somewhat second-guess where things are going.

An ever-present worry is that the possibility of escaping the cycle will slip through my fingers, as it has done so many times before. In fact, it seems - from past events - to be an inescapable cycle; I'm eternally doomed to never escape.

Principally, I worry that I'm getting too cocky and arrogant; to certain of myself at work; too comfortable. Long gone are the days when I bit my tongue and tried to keep my head down. Long gone are the days when I was diplomatic and non-confrontational.

It feels a lot like a very regrettable period in 2015, when I felt certain that I was making an invaluable contribution to the organisation, project and team that I was a part of. While that might true, beyond a reasonable doubt, I was plagued with mental health problems. I suffered bouts of weird paranoia. I was emotionally fragile. I was unpredictable. I had some very strange thoughts about what was going on. I flipped wildly between doing a good job, and some rather odd obsessions.

Eventually, I broke down, was hospitalised, then suddenly decided to fly to San Francisco, then decided that I didn't want to come back, so I sent a series of really provocative emails, hoping to get sacked, which didn't work... until it did.

Perhaps it's unlikely that such an extreme set of events will ever repeat itself. I was hospitalised at Christmas and yet I bounced back from that, thanks in no small part to how kind and supportive my colleagues and the wider organisation I'm involved with, have been. My struggles with mental health have reached the point of colleagues needing to 'have a word' but I hope that things have quietened down since then, instead of continuing to escalate.

There's nothing I can particularly point to in 2015 which was driving my mental health to deteriorate, versus my present predicament. In 2015 I was homeless, and then managed to rent myself an apartment, which was - perhaps - an enormous stress, which finally caused me to lose my mind, temporarily. In 2015 my finances were much more distressed than they are today, although my situation is still not rosy: some debts and tax liabilities still hang over me like a dark cloud, although in theory I have the money to cover those costs.

In 2015 I knew I couldn't step off the treadmill for a single second, or else I would be ruined. This, of course, was too much pressure and I crumbled. My guardian angel was kind enough to avert disaster, but who could have foretold that a kind person with deep pockets would appear in my hour of need, to help me avoid bankruptcy, destitution, devastation, ruination and all the rest?

Today, I'm probably at break-even point. If I couldn't work tomorrow, or for the next few months, I might perhaps be able to avoid sinking deep into debt, but it would feel just as bad as 2015, because I've fought so hard for so long, to get back on my feet. I suppose things are a little different, because I've worked virtually non-stop for 3 years, without a major incident, except for the hospitalisation at Christmas, which - mercifully - hasn't completely derailed me.

I wish I could just put myself into "sleep mode" for the next 6+ months. Wake me up when the boring waiting game part is over. Wake me up when I have some financial security.

 

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Who Am I?

6 min read

This is a story about identity...

Punting

I'm always rather taken aback by anybody who asks who I am, given that I've written and published more than 1.3 million words, which have exhaustively documented who I am... or so I thought.

I suppose for an ordinary middle-class person, the question "who are you?" is really one of a few standard questions, which allow a person to be quickly bracketed; pigeon holed. Let's explore those questions, and the answers.

"What do you do?" - this is the classic middle-class question. The question could be rewritten more accurately as "how do you sell your labour to the capitalists?". The thrust of this question is to establish whether a person has a respectable job. If you're a solicitor, an accountant, a doctor or suchlike, then you are a person of interest because several assumptions can be made, which means a lot of subsequent questions can be skipped. Really, the question we'd love to ask is "how rich are you?" but it seems a little vulgar, so middle-class people take a rather indirect route in an attempt to establish an answer.

My answer to "how rich are you?" is that I have £26,000 in my bank account, I own a car worth £1,500 and a handful of possessions worth no more than a few thousand pounds. My salary is £732 per month. I am not rich.

My answer to "what do you do?" would rather obfuscate the fact that I am not rich, because I am a company director and IT consultant.

"Where did you go to university?" - this is another classic middle-class question. Obviously an Oxbridge education means that you're most likely rich, because most Oxbridge students are rich. There are the red-brick universities, such as Manchester and Birmingham, the Oxbridge reject universities like Durham and Exeter, and the highly regarded universities such as Imperial, UCL and suchlike. Then, there are the Russel Group universities, which are respected. If you went anywhere else, you're probably poor and/or stupid. It would seem more direct to ask "are you stupid?" but this is considered rude.

My answer to "are you stupid?" is no.

My answer to "where did you go to university?" is nowhere, which is rather confusing, as this would seem to suggest that I wasn't clever enough; my exam results weren't adequate. Nope. I had unconditional offers from some of the best universities in the UK. I didn't go because I wanted and needed to earn money, which I did by getting onto a graduate training programme with the UK's number one aerospace and defence company, age 17, despite not having a university degree. See - not stupid.

"Where do you live?" - yet another middle-class cliché. Of course, the real question is "how much is your house worth?". Through indirect questions, the questionner is attempting to establish whether you own a big house in a desirable area, which is likely to indicate that you're rich.

My answer to "how much is your house worth?" is that I don't own a house. See earlier answers.

My answer to "where do you live?" is a leafy suburb of Cardiff; certainly an extremely desirable area. Oh, and for a bonus, I live in a 4 bedroom house with period features, worth about £350,000... but of course, I don't own it. Well, frankly nobody owns their house, do they... except old people. The bank owns the house and they let you live there as long as you pay the mortgage. It's not yours. The title deeds at the Land Registry state who the owner is: the bank.

"What do you drive?" - this is one of the more shallow and transparently money-obsessed questions, but one that very often gets asked; a surefire attempt to socioeconomically bracket somebody... to feel the thickness of their wallet. Again, you might as well ask "are you rich?" but we already asked that one, so maybe the question should be more "what status symbols do you own?".

My answer to "what status symbols do you own?" is none. I don't have an expensive watch. I don't have a flashy expensive car. I suppose my pedigree cat perhaps qualifies as a status symbol, but I don't think of that cute little ball of fluff in that way.

My answer to "what do you drive?" is an 11-year-old car, with a big dent in it where an idiot drove into it in an otherwise empty car park, which I haven't been bothered to fix yet... because, well, it's an 11 year old car, so who cares? Of course I like cars. I could spend some of my £26,000 on a fancy car, but I won't, mostly because I hardly drive anywhere.

Those are pretty much the only questions that seem to matter to the middle-class people who are trying to size me up. They're certainly not trying to get to know me so these questions are sufficient to bracket me, somewhat.

Of course, the real answer to "who are you?" is much more complex. So complex, in fact, that 1.3 million words doesn't even begin to answer it.

If you think that I'm a self-centred narcissist, you're probably right, but I've lived with suicidal depression and come close to dying enough times to feel that I'm somewhat entitled (emphasis to underscore my extreme self-centred narcissism) to leave some kind of record of who I was behind, to survive me after I'm gone. I don't have any easily recognisable and understood label, which I can affix to myself: my profession is poorly understood and often labelled as "geek" or "nerd" or something else undesirable, even though it powers the modern world; without IT consultants - software engineers like me - you wouldn't be reading this right now, because the internet wouldn't exist. You're welcome. I'm an alumnus of a prestigious technology accelerator programme, which was held at the University of Cambridge, but of course as you know, I can't claim to be a graduate; I merely beat thousands of other applicants for one of ten precious places; I merely wowed Cambridge Union Society and some packed lecture theatres. What label should I wear?

Loser, I expect.

 

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My First Jobs: Defence and Banking

5 min read

This is a story about guilt...

Conscience

The ethical benchmark by which I try to judge myself is that of a schoolfriend who's a renowned thinker and writer, and an exceptionally clever and thoughtful person; a real inspiration. I'm occasionally reminded that he reads my blog, which is an incredible privilege, but also makes me more acutely aware of my shortcomings in the ethical department.

As the title of this essay suggests, my first job was in defence. In my defence - pun intended - I was 17 years old, and my motivation was to achieve some degree of independence such that I might later be able to choose what I wanted to do with my life. I don't feel like I ever had the opportunity to think "what do I want to do with my life?". It seems fairly commonplace amongst the sons and daughters of middle-class families, that their children find a subject that they find interesting, which they pursue academically at university. I never had any financial support from my family, to pursue any dreams, so I was forced to make pragmatic decisions. There was the opportunity to study for a degree while I was at my first job, but a job's a job... I had no passion for making weapons of mass destruction, so I wasn't motivated to study the subject academically.

I distinctly remember imagining a day when I might find out that a vessel had been sunk by Spearfish or Tigerfish torpedos, and I considered how I would feel if there was loss of life, directly attributable to my work. I suppose I should have thought about it beforehand, but I didn't - I just wanted and needed a salary; I needed to pay my rent and bills.

In all honesty, I didn't quit my job in ethical protest at the defence industry. I quit because I was getting ripped off - I was very underpaid for my skills and experience, and I resented that.

Where could I get paid the most?

Banking.

I'm not proud of it, but my thought process really was as simple as asking myself: where can I get paid the most?

I suppose just about anybody would think "investment banking" when quizzed on where a person might find the highest salary. The late 1990s was not quite the loadsamoney heyday of the yuppies, which was ushered in by Margaret Thatcher, but the City was still awash with money. My motivation was pure greed and avarice, one might say. I put little or no thought into the ethics of my career decision, I freely admit.

In my defence - pun still intended - I was leaving the defence industry, so surely anything I chose would be more ethical than that; more ethical than designing and building weapons of mass destruction.

With hindsight, usury inflicts as much misery and suffering as war.

But.

It would take many years before I understood that.

My first job in the City of London was everything you would expect it to be: an extremely macho and male-dominated environment, with plenty of booze, drugs, strippers and escorts. Awash with cash, our lifestyles were offensively lavish. It was pure vulgarity, writ large.

I was still young, of course... only my second job, but you must also remember that I skipped university because I couldn't afford it when I was 17. But then... but then... I was wearing golden handcuffs.

I kept thinking about going to university to pursue a subject I was interested in. Psychology or psychopharmacology, perhaps. I applied and was offered a place at some very prestigious institutions. However, I couldn't face being poor again. I couldn't give up the lavish lifestyle, once I'd had a taste of it.

It was several more years before I found myself working on a project related to the confirmation and settlement of credit default swaps for the investment bank which processed 70% of all trades. Quadrillions of dollars of credit swaps flowed through systems I designed and built. I didn't really think about it too much, as I was too busy being an engineer: Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department.

I was laid low with depression, which kicked in at the exact same time as the credit crunch and the global financial crisis of 2007/8. I often say I was at ground zero, because it's true.

I still don't ask myself whether what I'm doing is ethical: I'm an engineer, and I like to build stuff; it's only with hindsight that I see the ethical problems. A schoolfriend suggested I sabotage the project I'm working on, which is 'big government' stuff, but it seems benign to me... perhaps I'll see things differently, when it's too late.

I absolutely do not pass the ethics test. I feel like my defence is a flimsy version of: "if I didn't do it, somebody else would have done". I feel like I'm a Nazi saying "I was just following orders".

 

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Easiest Way to Kill Yourself

9 min read

This is a story about dying with dignity...

Bottle of pills

Continuing on with the theme of giving my readers what they want, I've decided to write about the most searched for thing which brings visitors to my website.

I lied.

I'm not going to write about the easiest way to kill yourself but instead, I'm going to write a detailed account of when, why and how I'm going to kill myself.

***

If you came here looking for suicide methods, I wrote about that at length here.

If you still want more detail, have a read of this.

***

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that life can be pretty damn abysmal, if luck doesn't go your way. Sure, if you're reading this then you're lucky enough to have access to a computer, tablet and/or a smartphone, and you're able to read. For many, that would be considered a privilege, but in reality it's a curse: it would have been far better to remain stupid and ignorant, and not be troubled with existential angst.

Secondly, we need to acknowledge that there's no legal or moral requirement to continue living, if life is hell. There's no reason why we have to die of 'natural causes' in old age, which pretty much means dying in agony from cancer or some other dreadful disease, or otherwise dying when your body parts become completely worn out. Why would anybody go through life with uncertainty - a surprise death hanging over them at some unpredictable future date - and the inability to plan ahead?

Thirdly, we need to acknowledge that the freedom to choose is what makes us different from the beasts - the animals - who are driven by instinct; driven to survive at all costs. Why would we choose to act in a bestial way - barbaric and primitive; animalistic - when we are blessed with a huge brain and the tools of cognition and reason; advanced thought and language. We are able to plan, so why do we not plan our lives to include a predictable and known date of death?

Of course, my ideas are not original. There are plenty of dystopian novels, films and other art forms which depict fantasy worlds where euthanasia is part of those imagined societies. Of course, I'm not talking about euthanasia for you I'm talking about euthanasia for me.

If we recognise that the world is overpopulated, overcrowded, over-competitive, and that the natural resources of the planet are being over-utilised, then it seems like a very selfless and generous act, to quit living before becoming a burden on the healthcare sector. Of course, I'm talking about me and me alone here. I very much wish any older people who want to live as long as humanly possible, a long and healthy life. If you want to live, good for you... but I very much think that if you came to this website then you're not 100% sure that living is for you. Anyway, this is about what's right for me, and me alone.

As soon as I'm dead, my estate can be given to my sister and niece. My death frees up the resources that I possess, such as housing and a job, that could be utilised by a younger person. The money I hoard - arguably to protect myself from any period of unemployment, and for my retirement - can go into the hands of the living, instead of being hoarded in the hands of the dying. I can much more accurately plan for how much money I need if I know when I'm going to die.

I've decided that it's too expensive to buy a house and have a pension. I had a series of major setbacks in my life, which wrecked my finances, and now it doesn't make financial sense to plough all the money I need today into things which I might need tomorrow. If I'm going to live until I die of natural causes, I might need a lot of money, and in order to ensure my pension pot goes as far as possible, it'd be better if I owned my house and wasn't paying a mortgage or rent anymore. Having a pension and a mortgage-free house would rob me of money which I need now while I still have my health. Why do I want to have housing security and financial security during a period of my life when I'm old and senile, in pain and discomfort; dying?

Also, suicide is a form of protest. Why should my parents enjoy dying before me, when they ruined my childhood, and consequently my later life? Why should my parents' generation die without seeing the horrors they have inflicted upon the younger generation? Why should the capitalists continue to delude themselves that capitalism is a good system, when clearly it exploits people and the natural resources of the earth, to the point of irreversible devastation and destruction of our only habitable planet?

There's nothing worse than playing by the rules of the game, when everybody else is cheating. Being an honest player in a rigged game is torture.

I've done the calculations. There's no way I can keep playing this stupid game. I quit.

Did I mention dignity?

Dignity is important.

If your parents and the wider world have not given you the opportunity to have dignity - to live as an independent adult with an acceptable quality of life - then personally, life is not worth living. Sure, if your parents are neglectful, abusive, selfish, narcissistic shits who took no interest in helping you achieve an acceptable quality of life - helping you to live independently - then you might still have the opportunity to pull yourself up by the bootstraps; you might have the opportunity to work hard and get yourself to where you deserve to be, through sheer force and determination. However, you need to do the calculations. If your calculations tell you that you'd need to work 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, 13 months a year, for the next 250 years, in order to achieve financial security, housing security and other basic human needs, then you are playing a rigged game. This is not a case of petulantly blaming everything on our parents, although it's undeniable that they deserve the lion's share of the blame. No, this is not about expecting that the world owes you a living. This is simply saying that no matter how hard you work you have to run just to stand still; the game is rigged and you won't accept it; you won't play a rigged game anymore.

So that's the why.

When is easy: my career spans four decades. It'll soon be time for me to have a long-overdue career break. In the absence of any new route to earn money, which is not part of the capitalist society which I refuse to prop up any longer, I refuse to continue to play the game. Therefore, I just need to do the calculation to work out how long I can maintain an acceptable quality of life; how much does my minimum standard of living cost? With that number calculated, I can then set a very precise date for when I need to be dead by.

What about the how?

How is probably easiest of all. I often thought about cutting a carotid artery or jugular vein, but it seems far easier to simply swallow a deadly poison, such as cyanide, which is easily obtained. The how is really the most boring part of it all. Swallow something highly toxic, and it's done... easy!

It gives me a great deal of comfort knowing that the remaining period of my life will not fall below a minimum acceptable quality. It's greatly comforting to know that no poverty or destitution awaits me in old age. It's great to know that pain, discomfort, illness, senility, incontinence and other dignity-robbing ailments of old age, will be completely avoided.

I know that some people want to live as long as possible, in order to see their children and grandchildren growing up and experiencing major life events - births and marriages - but not living so long that they see their houses get destroyed by rising sea levels and hurricane force winds, and other destructive effects of man-made climate change. I know that some people want to live as long as possible, but not so long that they see their grandchildren selling their bodies in order to fund their education, and killing themselves because their zero-hours contract McJob doesn't even pay enough money for them to feed themselves, let alone live with any dignity.

Nobody's ever going to look me in the eye and ask "why the fuck did you decide to have kids, when you knew that the old people fucked up the planet good and proper, and robbed all the money and property, and expected to sit idle in their massive houses while all the young people killed themselves because they have no prospect of ever living independently with any dignity and an acceptable quality of life?". I'll just be dead.

Of course, suicide's not for everyone. My essay is only about why I - personally - am planning on committing suicide. I absolutely - and without exception - discourage anybody and everybody from doing what I'm planning on doing.

 

That's all about me, me, ME! I wrote some other stuff about suicide methods and how to kill yourself if you're in the mood to keep reading. Please keep reading or get in contact if you're in crisis... or do something to pass the time. I find it incredibly therapeutic to write: it's kept me alive (by a whisker) for many years.

 

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Sobriety Cost Me My Job

4 min read

This is a story about stability...

Coke bottles

In 2015, a bet with a friend, that I could stop drinking for 100 consecutive days, cost me my job. The story is a little bit more complicated than the simple summary I've given, but that's about the long and the short of it.

The brain has a tendency to rebound. That is to say, if you've been very calm, then your brain will rebound and make you anxious. If you've been very happy, then your brain will rebound and make you depressed. Well, mine does anyway.

Mind-altering substances can be destabilising - for me - but they can also be stabilising. For many productive years, I used a combination of stimulants and CNS depressants - caffeine and alcohol - to manage my mood. If I was going too high, I would drink booze to tamp things down, and if I was going too low, I could drink coffee to pep me up. It was a crude system, but it worked.

In terms of how my colleagues perceive me, they like me best when I'm hungover, because I'm quiet and I'm not argumentative. They like me least when I'm hopped up on caffeine, because I'm overly garrulous and quarrelsome. However, I've managed to get through decades of a very successful career in this manner, without any issue.

The issues have come when I've stopped using things like alcohol and caffeine to regulate my mood.

Stopping caffeine was beneficial. I sleep better and I'm more productive; more creative. Sure, if I needed to do a lot of very repetitive easy work, caffeine would help me concentrate, but most of the work I do is very difficult, requiring a lot of flexible thinking - caffeine is not the right tool for the job.

Stopping alcohol has been massively detrimental. I swing between periods of paralysis, where anxiety stops me from doing anything, and periods of irritability. If I'm hung over, I'm happy to coast along and keep quiet. With a clear head I often have little patience, when I'm particularly tired and stressed. Stopping alcohol makes me massively tired, because I don't sleep well.

Once the first couple of sober weeks have passed, I start to have too much energy, very much like when I've had too much coffee. My thoughts race and I'm irritated by dimwits who test my patience to the limit. I struggle with the glacial pace of large organisations, more than ever, when my brain is functioning particularly well, free from hangover or otherwise dulled by alcohol abuse.

It's hugely advantageous, if one must work with dimwits, to chemically lobotomise yourself using alcohol. It's too painful to drag dimwits along, or be held back all the time; it's too frustrating; too time-wasting. Without alcohol, the sheer incompetence and lack of productivity of most of the brainless idiots who bimble along in the corporate world, is unbearable.

Of course I'm somewhat plagued by an underlying mood disorder which predisposes me towards delusions of grandeur and irritability with dimwits, but alcohol really helps. Alcohol has helped me in my career for decades. Without alcohol, I would have gone of and done something interesting but far less lucrative, years ago. I'm extremely well paid, because I'm bribed to work with dimwits. I'm extremely well paid because it's excruciatingly boring waiting for the penny to drop in the hamster-wheel that serves as a brain in some of the dimwits that I work with.

In all honesty, I don't work with many dimwits. I do like my colleagues. There are just one or two who really try my patience and I have so little patience, now that I'm sober.

Sobriety sucks. Sobriety conflicts with my career; my employability; my likability. I need to take a break from drinking though, for the sake of my physical health. I'm about halfway though my month of sobriety, which I'm taking to give my body a break from the damaging onslaught of alcohol.

Hopefully I'll push through this difficult period and become a bit less irritable at work. Hopefully I won't lose my job, again.

 

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