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Not a Good Look

9 min read

This is a story about receiving advice...

Pixelated

Just a little over a year ago I made a new friend via the Internet. We bonded over our mutual desire to kill ourselves and made what can only be described as a suicide pact. We are close, speaking on a more regular basis than I do with anybody else. I value their advice.

My friend had been advising me to find a therapist, given the apparent futility of my efforts to break the cycle and begin to live a more stable, happy and contented life. My childhood trauma, bitterness, resentment, insecurity and lack of self-esteem are all plainly on public display, every single day that I write. It must be frustrating for those who follow my story for any period of time, and who attempt to support me, to see me repeatedly struggling with similar themes, and apparently making no progress. There is a well-meaning desire to want to help me, or for me to help myself.

There aren't a great number of people who can offer me advice that I will listen to, given that most people haven't experienced the extreme events, which have left me almost dead, destitute, homeless; threatened to end my life so many times. I only tend to trust the advice of those who have suffered; those who are afflicted and who understand suffering. Most people think that yoga, kale, jogging and mindfulness are the cure-all solutions to any problems, because they have never experienced truly awful things, and they never will.

I should listen to my friends. I do listen to my friends.

Advice often comes as a shock to me. It might not be my immediate instinct to accept what people say without question, but I always mull things over at length. I'm always prepared to consider the possibility that I might be wrong, and more often than I care to admit, I do end up accepting that I was wrong about something.

My friend criticised my public aggressive rant, concerned that it was not a good look.

I agree.

However, I have always prided myself on not being a person who thinks only of superficial appearances. It would have been disingenuous of me to hide away a bunch of things that I was thinking and feeling. It wouldn't have been true to myself or my mission to expose myself - make myself vulnerable - to hide my thoughts and feelings, and instead to present a fake version of myself. That has never been my style.

A work colleague reads my blog quite regularly, and they even took the time to comment on my "aggressive rant" which further made me think that my friend has a point. Seen in the context of acting unprofessionally, I most certainly worried about my image, and how my behaviour was "not a good look". If I was making an idiot of myself on LinkedIn or in the office, then I would be mortified. I am very familiar with the pressure to wear the corporate mask and to pretend to be the consumate professional - the bland corporate drone - at all times. This blog is the complete antithesis of the relentless coercive pressure to present a fake image of bland obedient corporate unblemished perfection, and the antithesis of everything you'd ever say in the office, write on your CV or otherwise share with your colleagues.

If I was all about image then I wouldn't have started this blog at all, sharing the very most unflattering things about myself.

My friend has a point: my rants are most definitely read by a couple of colleagues at the organisation where I'm currently working, and what they've read very much undermines the image that I've worked hard to cultivate. They must think I'm some kind of monster; a dangerous unstable lunatic.

I found there was too much effort involved - too much paranoia - in maintaining the bland grey perfect unblemished corporate drone image, and worrying that the mask might slip. I found that it was making me unwell, the pressure to maintain the perfect image.

My friend's advice is sound, and I am definitely thinking that I've probably gone too far. I have spent the day thinking about whether to censor myself; to delete what I wrote. I have spent the day thinking about whether I was too harsh; unfair and excessively biased.

It's a little surreal: advice given from one member of a suicide pact to another. For me, being suicidal means that I'm beyond caring what people think about me; I have transcended dignity and accepted that I place a higher value on ending the suffering than my image. I agree with my friend about the "not a good look" thing, but when I am well and truly ready to die, I don't care how it looks or what people think about it; I don't care about a world which contains nothing but misery, anxiety, stress, depression and pain.

My friend is probably right, in that there's a slim chance - a negligible chance - that I could pull through this f**king nightmare and decide that I can extract some enjoyment out of life, and I would regret things that I've said; I would feel differently about my image, but it would be too late to take back my words. My friend is right, that for those who see themselves as likely to carry on living, they have to think about things like their image and their reputation. I've been writing this blog for years saying the same unflattering things about myself, and presenting myself in an unflattering light, and it's shocking how infrequently I feel as though I made a mistake in making myself look like a "complete psycho" (to use my friend's words).

In my experience, the people who have "Done [Me] Wrong" carry on their lives with clean consciences, without a care in the world about the damage they've done. Yes, my rants are "not a good look" but they are part of the psychological make-up of a person who was bullied every day from the age of 3 or 4 years old until about 16. Every. Single. Day.

Some powerless people, abused for many years, will snap and commit violent acts. Some powerless bullying victims will fantasise about getting revenge. What I do is I write honestly and candidly. Does it mean that I forgive and forget and live a happy and contented life? No. That was never the point.

Why should we forgive and forget? It's drummed into us that we'll be happier if we forgive and forget, but who's beating that into us? I call BS on the idea that we should forgive and forget. Why aren't the victims of bullying and abuse entitled to an apology, instead of being expected to suck it up? Why aren't the victims of bullying and abuse entitled to write and talk as much as they want about the years and years of suffering they endured at the hands of the bullies and the abusers?

Perhaps I might mature one day and see that I was foolish to hold onto so much bitterness and resentment, and to spend time and energy yelling into the great wide world, with my words never reaching the people who wronged me. It seems like incredible folly to expend so much effort, writing words which will never be read by the perpetrators of bullying and abuse, because they run away and put their fingers in their ears, determined to never feel a twinge of guilt for the trauma they inflicted. Why get so worked up and rub salt in the wound? Why not let the scars heal?

I'm undecided. While my life is still intolerable and I'm on the brink of bankruptcy and homelessness, plagued with suicidal thoughts, then I will continue to write about my suffering. I see no reason to ever stop writing about the awful things which cause me such great distress, while my life is in danger. Why would I ever shut up and pretend like everything is OK?

As you can tell, I'm conflicted. I value my friend's opinion, but I also have to live my life my way. It's me who has to figure out a way to get through the day. I am mulling over my friend's advice, and I think about all the people who spend a moment to share their thoughts with me.

Of course I feel out of order and that my behaviour is not how I would like it to be. Wouldn't we all want to be Mr Nice if we had the choice? Wouldn't we all want to be some Jesus-like figure who forgives everybody? Wouldn't we all want to be that one cool dude who lets everything wash over them with cool calm serene composure and dignity? Wouldn't we all want to wear a permanent smile, even when somebody is taking a dump on us?

I want to be Mr Nice but I don't feel able to be right now, because real life; because real danger; because real trauma, abuse, bullying, baggage, distress, anxiety, suffering and all the other things which plague me.

I wondered how many friends I'm going to have left if I make it through this f**king nightmare and reach a point where I have some financial, housing, social, relationship and career stability. Then I realised that the thought was a non-sequitur. If I don't make it through then I have no use for friends, because I'll be dead. My friends are the people who can understand the gravity of the situation. In that regard, I can't really understand why anybody would invest in a friendship with me, given that I make no secret of my relentless suicidal thoughts - I really don't hold out much hope that I'm going to pull through and reach the point where things improve.

In conclusion, I feel some regret and remorse that I might have spoken too harshly about people who undoubtedly wronged me - those are just facts - but who could perhaps be excused, forgiven and forgotten, without a public outburst displaying just how upsetting and distressing things have been, but also how much bitterness and resentment I was carrying. Not a good look, for sure. Not a dignified response. Not what Mr Nice would do.

I am not Mr Nice. I'm just some suicidal guy trying to get back on my feet.

 

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Thwarted

3 min read

This is a story about middle men...

Train toilet

I was out schmoozing the client, celebrating a job well done; an almost but not-quite completed project and successful delivery. I was out doing what I do day in and day out, which is to keep my game head on and to be laser-guided towards the goal, for my client.

My client is a middle man, so I suppose I am not really client-centric, but if I please the end client then my client must surely be pleased, because if their client is happy then their contractual obligations are being fulfilled and they are likely to get repeat business. What's good for the end client - who I spend 40 hours a week with - is ultimately good for my client, who subcontracts their work to me.

I get the impression that I am being thwarted.

My extensive experience in my industry tells me that I'm being screwed over.

My intuition tells me that I am about to be shafted.

In short, I have busted my balls to get a particular project back on track, and to keep the whole team working at a high level of productivity in order to meet some ambitious deadlines. As the deadline looms and confidence mounts that we are going to deliver on time, I always seem to get screwed. If I allow things to slip and projects to struggle, then of course my services are retained, because it is more clear that I'm an essential member of the team, but if I help things to succeed and go well, then the part I play is undervalued and f**king idiots try to rip me off; to screw me over. That's what's happening at the moment.

You'd have thought that the reward for playing a pivotal role in making an important project into a big success, would be to be treated as somewhat indispensable; to be valued. In fact, the opposite is true - the better a project is run, and the more successful you are at making things look easy, then the less you will be valued, to the point of being valued lower than those people who would flounder and screw everything up.

I feel quite certain that all my hard work will be for naught, and that I will get neither the satisfaction of seeing the result of all my hard work reach its fruition, nor seeing any reward for my hard work in terms of being treated with the respect I deserve. I feel quite certain that pen-pushing spreadsheet monkeys have gotten over-confident, and have decided to screw me over.

I feel pretty p1ssed off.

 

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Imitation and Flattery

4 min read

This is a story about rôle models...

Glasses

I was very lost in 2015, without any purpose or identity beyond some things which were destroying me, my self esteem, my legacy, my reputation. I was sinking; doomed. I was trying and failing to regain any control over my chaotic and unmanageable life, and to gather enough dignity to carry on living.

A technologist friend has always helped me to discover things in life which have become integral to my future. He taught me to be a programmer and he got me interested in writing, as well as a heap of other things, like political views, which I now consider to be very much a part of my identity.

My friend has written and published online for countless years, and I have read and I have imitated. He was a prolific blog contributor, touching many lives worldwide. He has lived and breathed social media and embodied his online persona. I have imitated.

My parents chose to intoxicate themselves with drugs and alcohol, and were only concerned with their own selfishness, which mainly revolved around social isolation, lest their neglectful lazy shameful behaviour be publicly exposed. Luckily, I had excellent friends and their parents were inspirational people. I saw in other people's families, the way that things should be and I saw in my peers some ideas about what I could be. Friends have shaped who I am and given me the inspiration to pursue my profession in technology, and my passion for online communities, combined with my love of writing.

To say that I love writing is perhaps wrong. I've written a couple of novels, one of which I'm quite proud with, but I don't write fiction as regularly as I'd like. Perhaps if I was a more natural writer I would always be writing little short stories, or exploring my imagination in other ways, but instead I write these "non-story" stories, every single day if I can.

I cringe a little to think of my friend's judgement regarding the wrong-headed thinking, or mistakes of the past. If ever there's somebody I would be ashamed of disappointing, it would be my old friend. If there are certain standards of behaviour I hold myself to, it's not because of any standards from my parents - alcoholic druggies - but instead it's because of a worldview developed in the company of my friends and their families, whose opinions I seem to have taken to heart.

When I think about, for example, my friend's parents' view on hitting children, then I am upset that my parents were such barbaric ignoramuses, when their peer group was able to comport themselves the right way. If my friends' parents were able to be productive members of society, sociable and not drunk drug addicts; able to raise children without hitting them; able to raise children with kindness and generosity, indulging their children's talents and encouraging them to reach their full potential... then why not mine? I do not know, but I do know that my parents were abysmal failures, while many of my friends' parents are awesome role models, and some of their children too.

"They did the best they knew" is absolute horse sh1t when you have your peers to connect with; you can hold yourself to the standard of those around you, as a minimum. If you're the only antisocial drunk druggie losers who don't have a job, then you sort yourself out and start behaving responsibly, you don't force your child to leave school again and again, and drag them away from their friends, isolating them. That's f**king barbaric awful inexcusably sh1t behaviour.

I meant to write yesterday and I'm sad that I didn't. I meant write merely to thank my friend for inspiring me to write, but also to acknowledge my friend's role in giving me a career, and in inspiring me to think about many things. I meant to write only to speak of the positive, but I seem to have strayed into the territory of the negative.

My friend never writes vicious tirades like this, and I know that my ingratitude I show towards my parents could be particularly improper at the particular time, given a traumatic family situation in his life, which is nobody's fault but rotten bad luck.

I wish I could be more positive, but this blog serves as a kind of safety pressure-release valve, which has functioned extremely effectively in enabling me to regain some self esteem, control, dignity and other important things - such as a sense of purpose - when my life has otherwise crumbled around me.

 

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I Love My Job

5 min read

This is a story about inconsistency...

Apple Mac

I often forget that I have a mood disorder - bipolar - because I'm pretty functional and unimpaired, but clearly I'm not neurotypical. Depression seems to my 'usual' day to day mood, or perhaps it just feels like that because depression seems to last interminably long and can't go away soon enough, but hypomanic episodes are all too infrequent and very welcome.

My hypomania has, as usual, produced some useful results, in that I've been able to make fantastic progress at work on the project I've been involved with.

I was feeling disheartened about how much mess had been made and how the 'purity' had been lost of the wonderful system that I had a major hand in shaping, leaving things less-than-perfect. Then, I spent ages hacking away trying to make things better and tidying everything up, and I'm happy again; I feel like I can be really proud of my work.

Why anyone should expect me to feel consistent about things is dubious, given my mood disorder. Of course I'm going to say "I hate my job" on one day and "I love my job" on another. I wonder if the same can be said for my feelings towards life. I definitely have suicidal thoughts on a very regular basis, but it really wasn't very long ago that I had the holiday of a lifetime, which really was amazing, and I have some great things in my life like my girlfriend and my kitten, plus some great friends and a generally pretty enviable lifestyle... although of course I'm working hard and taking some pretty grim jobs in order to pay for that lifestyle.

I can decide whether I love or loathe creating software. When I wrote some iPhone apps, I never ever wanted to touch the code ever again once they were released. I was not at all proud of my code and it was quite arduous making those apps. In fact, I really got to scratch the coding itch that summer, writing code for 16 to 18 hours a day.

I think creating software can be a mood rollercoaster. Sometimes it's difficult and sometimes it's easy. When it's difficult, it can be really difficult and it can feel like a problem is impossible, but anyone who's a good software engineer will persevere and overcome horrible technical obstacles. When you solve a really hard problem, it's a major triumph, but it's emotionally taxing to have that range of mood fluctuation as an integral part of your day job. Many software developers will retreat into their comfort zone, only doing things in ways that they're familiar with; refusing to work with unfamiliar technologies, where they'll suffer the misery of technical obstacles all over again.

I'm not sure whether I love or loathe overcoming technical challenges. I love it when I succeed but I hate it when I feel like I'm not succeeding; that I've finally met my match with a particularly nasty problem.

In the organisation where I currently work, it seemed like the system I was working on was incomprehensibly huge and that the problems were so deeply embedded in the very fabric of what'd been built, that I could do little more than nurse the thing along and make very minor improvements. However, I started to become more bold and ambitious about making changes, until eventually one day I decided to rewrite it all. Everything works like I thought it would, and things are incomparably better than they were when I joined, but maybe I'm biased. I do have hard numbers to back my claims that things are better... things that were taking days take a matter of minutes now.

I always worry that I'm repeating past mistakes, where I've become full of myself and convinced that I'm a major driving force in delivering a major project for a massive organisation. Perhaps I am a major driving force, but things have not always ended well for me when I've allowed my hypomania to run riot. I need to learn those lessons of the past and not allow myself to become excessively tired, where my hypomania turns into outright mania and I start acting strangely.

Hopefully the reality I perceive is not too different from how other people see things. Hopefully I'm not suffering too badly with delusions of grandeur. There seems to be plenty of evidence that I'm doing a good job and I'm well respected, and that my contribution is valued. There seems to be plenty of corroborating evidence to support my claim that I've made a major contribution to the project and can feel proud about that.

I'm really hoping I get to stick around and see things through to completion. There's fairly significant stuff going on in October, and I really want to be part of that, seeing the stuff I've worked hard on getting used in anger. Sure, I'm over-invested and taking things too personally, but I also want to have been part of something to feel really proud about.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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