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

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

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Emotionally Unstable

7 min read

This is a story about repeating patterns...

Quote

What am I doing? It feels like I'm making the same mistakes I've made a bunch of times before. It feels like I'm re-living 2015, and I didn't like how things went that year, so I'm desperate to avoid making those mistakes, but I feel like my mood disorder has got me stuck in an inescapable pattern.

Strictly speaking, I have two mood disorders: bipolar and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The latter disorder means that I'm unable to escape a downturn in my mood as summer turns into winter, unless I head to warmer climate. The former disorder means that I'm prone to episodes of mania, which I always like to believe I'm in control of, because I enjoy the mania and find it immensely useful for creativity and productivity.

Looking back to 2015, at the time I felt like I was enjoying playing a pivotal role in the number one project for the biggest bank in Europe. In retrospect, I was very unwell indeed. My behaviour was quite erratic and unpredictable and it's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly why I feel like I was doing good work, now that I think about it. For sure, I helped bang some heads together and get things moving to meet some key deadlines, but I was definitely suffering very badly with a severe episode of mental illness, and I hadn't been working on the project for very long so I expect my contribution was negligible. This is what gives me a great deal of fear that I'm repeating the same mistakes: that history is repeating itself.

In 2015 I was working a lot of overtime. I was working most weekends. I was working extremely hard - long hours - and I had the additional pressure of moving house, given that I was homeless and living in a hostel. Also, it hadn't been very long since I had been in a dreadful state, with my brain chemistry completely messed up. I had terrible insomnia. I was a big mess.

Today, I have a house and a cat. My home life is comparatively settled, although I've had some relationship problems lately which have been very destabilising. My working routine is not too taxing - I have a short commute to the office, and the hours I work are strictly Monday to Friday. If I leave the office at 5:30pm, that's a long day for me. In 2015 I was routinely staying in the office past 9pm, and often to 11pm, and then staying up all night writing emails, which was not at all healthy or conducive to good mental health.

In some ways I feel that I'm in much better health than I was in 2015, and I stand a much better chance of getting through an incredibly stressful period at work without losing my mind. However, late on Friday I lost my cool at the office, and the emotions that have been bottled up started to come out, which wasn't very professional. I started to speak my mind way more than I should have done, and I started to send off messages with a scattergun approach. I stopped approaching problems in a calm and methodical manner, and instead I acted with desperation and superstition. I was afraid that all my hard work was in ruins. Strangely, I thought I was dreaming; or rather having a nightmare.

I suppose my sleep quality is compromised at the moment. Several nights a week I don't sleep well because there's a technical problem I can't stop thinking about. My dreams are all about my work. In fact, my dreams are nightmares, where I attempt again and again to resolve the problems I left at the office. As soon as I wake up, I rush to the office to pick up where I left off.

A colleague has mentioned in private that I should take it easy; not get so obsessed over the project. A colleague has correctly identified me as somebody who can make themselves sick through overwork - at risk of burnout; at risk of a breakdown. It's good advice - that I should try to maintain some balance. Becoming obsessed by work is very unhealthy.

Yesterday, I left a rambling garbled and emotional voicemail for a colleague, begging them to let me do something over the weekend. I spent time trying to find colleagues who would help me with a piece of work, and ended up getting somebody to do something for me at 11pm. It's too much. It's too intense. It's too crazy.

I have no idea if I'm eternally doomed to suffer from delusions of grandeur, and to repeatedly burn out, only to look back and realise that my negligible contribution was laughable; pathetic. I have no idea if my perceptions are warped and I'm unable to grasp just how bad an episode of mental illness I'm suffering from. It's hell being so functional, and having so much feedback which seems to corroborate all the apparent evidence that I'm being incredibly productive and useful, but yet I also have a whole load of evidence that the end result always seems to be the same: burnout, crash, disaster, destitution, destruction. Am I a fool for hoping that this time is the time when everything finally works out for me, and I get the glory I crave?

Looking back to 2008 and 2011, I was able to make it to the finishing line with a gigantic project for JPMorgan and a TechStars program technology startup accelerator. I was able to deliver, but at huge personal cost. Both times I ended up in a terrible state. I was too fixated on the specific delivery date, and I didn't think about what would come afterwards. I didn't handle the anticlimax well at all. The episodes of depression that followed the frantic manic energy which allowed me to deliver on time, were so destructive that all my hard work was destroyed... or was it? JPMorgan was able to process quadrillions of dollars of credit default swaps, using the software I designed and built. My tech startup was able to continue trading profitably and getting new customers, even though I was too sick to work. The cost was to me personally. I was ashamed that I couldn't continue to function at the same intensity, and I assumed that everyone would hate me for getting sick. I threw away those opportunities, because I assumed that they were ruined. I assumed that everybody saw me as damaged goods; unreliable and untrustworthy.

I have no idea if I'm destined for another personal disaster. I certainly worry that I won't be able to cope with the end of my contract, and the end of my involvement with the project I'm so unhealthily obsessed with. I suppose I need to mitigate against any probable crash in my mood. I suppose I need to plan ahead.

I can't imagine I'll be able to find a good contract locally. I can't imagine how I'm going to juggle my need to find a well-paid contract, with my cat and my house rental agreement. It's a stress that I really don't want to have to deal with right now. It's stress that I really wish would go away - if only my contract could be extended for another year, that would be perfect.

My life is a rollercoaster, so we would expect my mood to be too. It's hard to unpick my mood disorder from the circumstances of my life. I like to think that my mood is dictated by the time of year and other things that are going on, such as whether I'm in a good relationship or not. I like to think that my extreme moods will abate as my life improves.

 

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Addicted to Sadness

8 min read

This is a story about being deliberately stuck in a rut...

Pills

It's fairly common for people charged with healthcare and wellbeing duties to blame the victim. "You don't want to get better, do you?" comes the accusation, when somebody's feeble attempts to help have failed in the face of an intractably difficult set of problems. "You like being depressed, don't you?" comes the victim-blaming response to the failure of a person whose profession is allegedly to help sick people get better.

I read an illuminating article the other day, which shed further light on the mindset which continues to perpetuate medicine and psychology's abysmal failures in the field of mental health. While claiming to practice evidence-based treatment, doctors and psychologists have no basic grasp of the evidence, which clearly shows an epidemic of mental health problems and dreadful outcomes - complete and utter failure, no less. However, in the face of this appalling failure, doctors and psychologists have decided to blame the victims, stating that the patients who don't get better - who are indeed the vast majority - are to blame for their own illness.

The charge, in a nutshell, is that depression and sadness have become a 'comfort zone' for the sufferer, and to attempt to get better would risk disappointment, so instead these untreatable people who are intent on remaining depressed, are competing with each other to see who can be the most depressed and miserable.

What a load of BS.

It's true that I have written endlessly about how depressed and anxious I am. It's true that I've written repeatedly about my certainty that I'm doomed to failure. It's true that I've felt hopeless and helpless; powerless. I've felt like my situation can never be resolved and that my life will never improve.

I've been convinced that my life will never improve.

I've been convinced that my life will never improve so does that mean I've made no attempt to improve it? Does the fact that I spurn medication and therapy indicate that I am intent on remaining depressed and anxious? Is my negative outlook a self-fulfilling prophecy? Am I to blame for my own misery?

Yes, doctors and psychologists would love to blame me for my own depression.

I say that it is them who are the defeatists, responsible for people's depression.

I say that it is those who do not listen and do not care, who only want for quick and easy fixes, who condemn the patients they claim to want to help, to a life of misery and depression. I blame the doctors and the psychologists for the epidemic of mental health problems, because they claim to offer effective evidence-based treatment, but the treatment is ineffective. All the evidence is overwhelming: the treatments on offer DO NOT WORK and often times make the patient's life much worse.

The solutions to the mental health epidemic are as complicated as our busy complex lives, unsurprisingly. The solutions do not come in the form of a pill or a simple cognitive therapy. The solutions are not simple, because the problems are not simple.

The world is addicted to my productivity. The world is addicted to my mental illness. The world does not want me to be well. The world wants me to be sick.

Yes. That's right. The world wants me to be sick.

The rat race is incredibly stressful and is tailor made to create mental health problems. Capitalism is incredibly toxic to mental health. Yet, we cannot discuss these things. Instead we must blame ourselves. Instead we decide it is us who is badly adjusted to society, and therefore it is us who is defective and needs powerful psychiatric medications to 'correct' our faults.

Obviously, when more than 50% of the population is struggling with some kind of mental health problem, then we can see that society is defective, not the individuals.

We ask mothers to leave their children in the hands of strangers, in order to commute long distances and work in offices. We ask fathers to miss out on seeing their kids grow up, because they have to spend so much time away from home, working. Our houses are a crippling financial burden. The lengthy commutes are stressful in rush hour traffic and jostling in crowds on packed trains and busses. We leave the peaceful rural countryside and journey into grey polluted overcrowded concrete centres of commerce, where the noise and the lights and the huge number of people is an assault on our senses.

We aren't supposed to live like this.

We aren't supposed to spend our whole lives fighting so hard; struggling. We weren't built to be so distant from our families and our communities, living lives of quiet desperation in concrete jungles, with so much stress about money. We were never evolved to spend so much time commuting, bored, working bulls**t jobs in offices. It's unnatural. It goes against our fundamental human nature.

We tell ourselves "it's not forever" as we attempt to pay off enough of our mortgages and save enough money into our pension pots to be able to quit the rat race, but the truth is that it is forever - we can never quit the rat race, and that's depressing.

I am making a little progress. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. My quality of life has improved an immense amount versus a year ago, when things were much more precarious. In a year from now, with a little luck, I might finally be enjoying a little financial security, and therefore be a lot less stressed.

My problems are simple enough, but not simple enough for those who think that there's a pill which can almost instantly cure all my problems. My problems are simple enough for anybody who takes the time to stop and think, but who has the time? Much easier to just suggest that an hour of therapy a week is adequate to solve my rational depression and anxiety about the unbearable unpleasantness of the rat race and the abysmally awful situation which capitalism creates.

I will have no hesitation in ceasing my misery-filled essays, once I have escaped the source of the misery. I am not addicted at all to feeling sad. How preposterous to suggest that I enjoy feeling depressed. How offensive to suggest that I'm to blame for my own unbearable feelings.

I choose not to feel sad, depressed and anxious. I choose happiness. I choose joy. However, these choices are not available to me: it is necessary for me to work long and hard, in intolerable conditions, in order to be able to choose happiness. At least I have an opportunity to achieve financial security, when most people do not.

Of course I would love to solve the world's problems. I can see that society is producing an epidemic of mental health problems - the evidence is overwhelming. I would dearly love to be doing something to improve the human condition, end climate change, end poverty and generally allow people to live happier and more fulfilling lives, but I realise that it's impossible. I assure you that I work extremely hard, attempting to improve my own situation, but it takes a lot of time. I've made extraordinary progress, but there is still a long way to go, and there are regular setbacks.

In some ways I wish that my situation was more hopeless, so that I would feel enabled to do whatever I wanted. I feel as though I am duty-bound to pursue the great opportunity that has been presented to me. I am lucky enough not to held back by black marks against my name, such as a bad credit score, a criminal record, a bankruptcy or other things which condemn so many people to a life of poverty - they will never be afforded the opportunity to earn large sums of money, and therefore to be able to escape poverty by the conventional route. It would be somewhat immoral of me to throw away my good fortune and allow myself to be eaten by the vultures, when I still have the opportunity to work my way out of my intolerable situation, although it's incomprehensibly awful to work your way back up from the bottom, with the constant threat of failure.

I most definitely do not live in the 'comfort zone' of hopeless depression. Instead, I live with the unbearable anxiety and stress of trying and struggling, knowing that all my effort might be wasted, due to a single setback. Yet, I do struggle. I do try. I most definitely am ploughing every ounce of energy that I possess into attempting to escape my dismal plight.

Please stop blaming depressed people for their own depression.

 

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Mood Disorder

5 min read

This is a story about self perception...

Normal

If somebody wants to patronise and annoy me, they'd be well advised to talk about what excellent "insight" I have into my own madness. Of course I can step back and examine my own behaviour - to see how it measures up from an outsider's perspective - and of course I can pinpoint problems. After all, it's me who's had to live with a mood disorder my whole life.

The times that I forget that I have a mood disorder are the ordinary everyday ones. When I am lacking in energy and motivation, when I am consumed by anxiety and when I am otherwise decimated by depression, I remain functional and productive, so it's easy to assume that I'm healthy, happy and normal. Because I do an excellent job of carrying on regardless of how terrible I feel, even I can assume that I'm not suffering any dangerous mood fluctuations, even though I'm stalked by powerful suicidal impulses.

When I suffer bouts of mania and paranoia, I'm well aware that my perceptions are warped and that I'm not thinking normally. It's much more easy to identify pathological thinking rooted in deep mental health issues, and to compensate accordingly, because at least those extreme problems are easier to isolate. Sure, during impulsive moments I might lost control and let my issues get the better of me, but I've become very practiced and adept at self control and techniques to prevent meltdown and disaster.

Currently, my productive, creative manic energy gets ploughed into a big complex project, at work. I'm unhealthily obsessed with the project, but of course that's the reason why I'm getting so much done. I need to regularly remind myself that "it's only a job" and that I need to take regular breaks, and holidays whenever I can. Nothing will ever be as intense as founding a tech startup, so I feel pretty immune from burnout, but of course I'm at risk, just like anybody.

My mood no longer seems to follow a predictable alternating pattern of episodes, flipping between depression and mania. Instead, my mood is provoked into a state by external factors, such as stressful events. My mood is not under control, but instead it is bludgeoned into compliance with the predominant need of the day, which is to earn money. I simply can't allow my mental illness to get the better of me, lest I face financial ruin.

Of course, the net result is that beneath the thin veneer of a man in control, competently and capably carrying out his duties in the course of his career, there are violent mood swings which require an incredible amount of effort to keep in check. How on earth I manage to get up and go to work when I'm suicidally depressed, I do not know. How on earth I manage to keep my big mouth shut when I'm manic, I do not know. All I know is that I spend about 80% of my energy forcing myself to comply with behaviours which are not compatible with my mood.

I have no mood stabilisers to help me. I have no antidepressants. I've decided from many years of experience that it's easier to manage my moods without pharmaceutical intervention. Yes, antidepressants help in the short term, but it's impossible to get off them without a crash. Yes, mood stabilisers help in the short term, but it's impossible to get off them without mania. Instead, I have opted to "feel everything" - I ride the wave of every extreme mood, as it see-saws up and down.

I've attempted to make lifestyle changes to help with my mood disorder. Instead of earning dog-sh1t money and being exploited, I'm well paid for what I do. Instead of rotting in some dead-end job, I'm valued for what I do. Instead of scraping along with hardly any money, impoverished, I have opted to earn enough to not really have to look at my bank balance very often. What I really need is a substantial lump of cash in the bank, so that I don't worry about taking time off when I'm sick, exhausted or depressed, but for now I'll settle for at least not having to worry about money while I'm working. I do of course worry about what will happen when I'm forced to stop working, but I hope that the work keeps coming. My stress around my income security causes me problems, but I can't fix everything all at once.

I got bored of obsessing over my mental health, like I got bored over obsessing about my bank balance. It seems to me to be better - healthier - to concentrate on the things which bring home the bacon, instead of things that aren't profitable. Budgeting is always stressful and never profitable. My life is so much better since not worrying about spending and not worrying about medications, although obviously there are still major problems.

Hopefully I'm well positioned, given that I'm not doped up to the eyeballs on a bunch of psychiatric medications, so as soon as my circumstances improve, so will my mood.

Of course I will always have a predisposition towards mood instability: it's in my nature. However, for most of my life and now included, I do a really excellent job of managing a very difficult mental health condition, although of course I do struggle when I'm under extreme pressure and stress, like I am at the moment.

 

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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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End of my Tether

4 min read

This is a story about being worn down...

Self help

I can't stand the self-help, motivational speaker, trite platitude brigade, with all their bite-sized quotes which reduce complex and traumatic situations into oversimplified cartoons, which bear no resemblance to reality.

I'm sick of trying and failing. I'm sick of slogging along, doing everything that's expected of me as an obedient citizen, while getting absolutely nowhere; going backwards.

I don't know how long it's reasonable to expect a person to struggle, with no progress; no hope of ever escaping the intolerable present-day situation. I've proceeded positively on the assumption that one day I'd turn a corner, but all the evidence is that it's impossible: there's no way out of my predicament.

There isn't any money left, after paying my taxes, my debts and other financial obligations. How can that be right? How can so much hard work and effort amount to zero? How can all those difficult and horrible years amount to nothing? How can all that struggle have been for naught; to be left without a penny?

It's not just about money. It's about the exhaustion of all those years of anxiety and stress - struggle - only to be left facing more years of the same. To say I'm at zero is wrong, because in fact I must keep working just as hard merely to exist. All that effort has not propelled me into a situation where I can take a break - work a little less hard - but in fact I must carry on at exactly the same demanding level, without having a safety net; no financial security, no housing security... nothing.

Why did I bother trying to be kind and generous? Why did I bother being trusting? Why did I bother playing by the rules? Why did I pay my debts? Why did I work? Why did I contribute?

It wasn't worth it.

Hard work doesn't pay.

Kindness leads to being taken advantage of.

I don't regret abiding by the social contract and being an obedient citizen and employee, but I sure can see that it's been to my overall detriment. I've been left for dust by those who were immoral and criminal, not that I wish I had lived my life their way.

I wish the world was different, but it isn't.

I wish the world was fair, but it isn't.

The world isn't disproportionately unfair towards me. I certainly am not one of the most disadvantaged. I would never claim that I've had things any harder than 98% of the world. Still though, it sucks not being able to make progress. The odds are stacked in my favour a lot more than other people, but the end result is the same: zero.

You can't argue with the end result. You can't argue with the effort expended. You can't deny that I've worked hard and it's resulted in nothing. Big. Fat. Nothing.

Zero. I'm at zero.

A man who has nothing has nothing to lose, is one of those trite contrived platitudes that I hate, but it sounds rather worrisome rather than inspiring, doesn't it? Doesn't nothing to lose also imply nothing to live for? Doesn't nothing to lose imply, well, having nothing, which is a rather dismal state of affairs for an adult who's supposed to have something to show for their efforts? Having something to lose means that somebody will act predictably, in order to protect something valuable. Having nothing to lose means somebody acting, well, with nothing to lose, which is terrifying.

The prospect of more of the same - more depression, anxiety and more indentured servitude struggling under the yoke of capitalism - is not at all appealing. The prospect of more years of stress and struggle is most definitely unappealing.

Some might have their morality corrupted by the appeal of get rich quick scams and schemes. Some might have their morality corrupted by the appeal of enslaving their fellow humans. I find such things equally unappealing.

Thus I arrive at the recurrent and inescapable conclusion that my course has run. I've tried and I've failed so I'm giving up. There's nothing more that life has to offer except depression, anxiety, stress, misery, pain, suffering, loneliness, heartbreak, persecution, coercion and exploitation.

I've had enough.

 

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Rock Bottom; Soft Landing

5 min read

This is a story about having nothing to complain about...

Cone of shame

I woke up this morning and I was almost overwhelmed by depression. I think yesterday was a double-whammy of bad stuff, with the uncertainty around my ongoing employment and income - and the belief that I was being screwed over - plus the news that parliamentary democracy is being destroyed by a old Etonian Bullingdon Club public schoolboy elitist establishment Tory, who has no mandate, yet seems to have found a way to thwart the will of our elected representatives.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been so upset yesterday, because things have worked out OK, at least so far as my contract is concerned. However, this contract stuff has dragged on for months, and it takes its toll.

I had booked a lovely holiday when I got the news that my contract, which was supposed to finish at the end of the year, was being cut short by 6 months. The holiday looked like an expensive mistake, when seen in the context of ending up without an income.

I went away on holiday thinking that I would have to find a new contract when I got back. The anxiety surrounding having to find a new contract didn't completely spoil the holiday, but it weighed heavily on my mind the whole time. It was very hard to forget how much money I was losing, due to not working, and how much money I was spending. It was very hard not to worry about having to go back to London in order to find work, given that there are fewer large organisations who might need my services, outside the capital.

I came back and the carrot of another couple of months work was dangled, but it took a long time to materialise as an actual contract, and then yesterday it looked like I was getting screwed over. Perhaps the middle-man just wanted to squeeze me for a bit more profit, by paying me less, but it also looked like I might have been strung along only to be left with nothing at the end of the week; out of a job.

As it turns out, I've got an extra couple of months, but I'm still two months short of what I had back at the beginning of the summer, when my contract was extended to the end of the year and it looked likely that there was enough work to last into 2020. I never count my chickens, but I did have ink dry on a contract when suddenly that income security was yanked, in a fairly incomprehensible way, given that I had a good grasp of deadlines and what was achievable, but a manager is a person who thinks that 9 women can have a baby in one month.

I woke up and I thought I couldn't face work; I couldn't face taking my kitten to the vet to be 'fixed'. I thought I couldn't face anything - I was too burnt out from too much stress and anxiety - and I knew that if I was laid low with depression, then my life would quickly collapse; destroyed by rent and bills.

My job is interesting, my colleagues are great, I like the city where I live, my house, my girlfriend, my kitten. Life can be good when it's good, and I'm definitely in my comfort zone in terms of my work and my daily routine, but there's a heap of uncertainty, stress and anxiety, which have nothing to do with anything except being thwarted. I know I can easily do the job that's asked of me. I know that I can competently and capably deliver, provided nothing and nobody thwarts me. I know all the steps between here and the finish line. The only thing that's going to throw me off is being deliberately thwarted by somebody.

I know I repeat myself endlessly at the moment. It's kind of like a mantra, repeated to ward off evil spirits. I feel completely powerless to influence my own life. Day-to-day living is easy - a paint-by-numbers exercise that I've done a million billion times - so it's the f**kwits who are sent to thwart me who constantly threaten to destroy everything, who I'm powerless to stop.

This is my life: fed to me in two-month chunks, in a perpetual state of anxiety and stress, doing easy stuff that I've done millions of times before, but with the constant threat of ruin hanging over me; no security and no respite from the pressure.

I try to concentrate on working hard, knowing that if I do that then everything else should fall into place, and if it doesn't then there was nothing I could do about it anyway, but it's bloody awful having the carrot dangled for years and years but always being thwarted, just at the moment when a breakthrough seems almost within reach. F**k my life.

I was very nearly consumed by suicidal depression, but things improved today. I got up. I took my kitten to the vet. I did my work. I secured a whopping two whole months more income; marginally postponing the day when I'm forced to discover that there's no f**king work near where I live.

 

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Je Suis Fatty Gay

2 min read

This is a story about fatigue...

Unmade bed

I had planned on going out kitesurfing more than once, while I was on holiday in Mauritius. I had planned on spending some time in the sunshine today. I had planned on seeing my sister play roller derby.

In the end, I was too tired.

It's been a while since I was unable to get out of bed, but I think it's economic necessity and the opportunity to make hay while the sun shines, which means that I am just about able to force myself into an uncomfortable daily routine - working in an office 9 to 5 Monday to Friday - but the rest of the time I'm tired and I want to relax; to sleep.

My life is a bit boring, given that it consists of work, eating and sleeping, but it makes me more miserable, feeling duty-bound to do activities. I definitely need the rest, because my working days are demanding, and life's been very stressful in recent years, which has left me exhausted.

I'm writing this because I feel guilty about squandering some valuable quality time, but I feel so much better for having given myself permission to rest, instead of succumbing to a sense of duty.


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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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Loneliness

6 min read

This is a story about antisocial behaviour...

Tree in forest

What's the shortest journey between two points? If you know where you need to get to and you know the fastest route to get there, would you make that journey? What if the shortest path was also a very painful one?

A year ago I was living in a hotel close to the office. A year ago I was incredibly isolated - single, in a city where I had just one friend, estranged from family and living a pretty dysfunctional life except for my job.

Who cares... I was functional, wasn't I?

I certainly turned up in the office every day looking presentable and I did useful work, but I'm not sure I really was very functional. It's true that I was earning money, paying my bills and I was on a journey towards financial security. I was reliable; dependable; trusted. What else is there in life other than getting up in the morning, putting on some smart clothes and going to the office? What else is there in life other than earning money? I was certainly earning money. I was certainly working.

What do you suppose happens after a major event, like a near-death experience? What do you suppose happens after a major medical emergency which was life-or-death? What do you suppose happens after a lengthy hospitalisation?

Most people would like to imagine that there'd be plenty of time for rest and recuperation after a major illness that nearly killed a person, but I'm afraid the demands of life can't be paused. Unless you want to emerge from your near-death experience and be immediately hurled into bankruptcy, destitution and have life-changing black marks against your name which preclude you from ever renting a property, getting a car loan, getting a mortgage, getting any kind of credit agreement etc. etc. and indeed getting most jobs, which insist on credit checks and suchlike, then there's not a moment to spare, ever.

For sure, I'm a capitalist's wet dream in terms of how meekly I comply with capitalism's coercion and act in the way that's expected of me, selling my labour cheaply and otherwise allowing myself to be shafted by the system. Instead of doing what I absolutely need to do, which is to spend time getting better, instead I have thrown myself straight back into the workplace.

A close friend - my guardian angel - has similar mental health problems as me: depression and anxiety. She has been able to do voluntary work and quit jobs which were toxic for her mental health, and to engage with her local community. She's swallowed her pride and has accepted that she must live with her parents and spend her precious savings supporting herself, for the sake of her mental health.

For me, I've had to choose between the self-esteem destroying effects of living as somebody's charity case, or the toxic world of work. I decided that the latter option is marginally better, given that it at least offers a route towards freedom, although it's a very risky game.

Living under somebody else's roof takes the pressure off in terms of burning money on rent and bills, but there's an emotional toll for anyone who's been raised to be a considerate guest - there is considerable guilt about time spent sleeping and otherwise "treating the place like a hotel". There is a great deal of pressure to be seen to be doing whatever it is that your host thinks you should be doing. There is a great deal of pressure to please your host, which leaves remarkably little time and energy to rest and recuperate.

Working when you are too unwell to work is risky because you must present a corporate mask to your colleagues, pretending that everything is A-OK when really it's not at all. Work is the very last place on Earth that you should be, but you're in the office carrying on like you're fine and dandy. It's horrible to force yourself - day after day - into a situation and environment which is totally toxic to your mental health and is intolerable, but it's somehow possible to present a veneer of cool calm professionalism, such that your colleagues have no idea that you're on the brink of having a nervous breakdown at any moment. It's high risk, high reward - if you can wear the mask and pretend like everything's OK for long enough, your situation will improve, but it's incredibly draining and prevents you from becoming healthy and happy again, because it's so demanding.

One year later, I have my own roof over my head and a girlfriend. I still don't have any local friends to speak of, but I have ingratiated myself with my neighbours and my colleagues are sociable; one of my colleagues has even started to talk to me socially as a friend, outside the office, having found my blog.

I have the dignity and self-esteem that I wanted, in that I am paying my own way and not dependent on anybody, but it's been ridiculously exhausting and risky to take this path. So often I wonder if I should have cut my losses and given up, allowing myself to be screwed over by the system; destroyed by those who seek to exclude and marginalise vulnerable members of society.

I was struggling to find anything to watch which captivated my attention last night, so I spoke to a friend. That's unusual for me. I live a very isolated existence. I almost never speak to any of my friends on the phone, except for two very loyal friends, one of whom often phones me while I'm at the office. I must make fewer than one phone-call per week, on average.

Overall, my situation is improving, but it's pretty intolerable. I've chosen the fastest route from A to B, but it's an exceptionally intolerable and unpleasant journey, even though I know it's the most direct. I know that this suffering is only temporary and that I will reap some rewards at the end, if I can stick it out, but I do want to quit all the time.

Through this very difficult period while I've been blogging - the past 4 years - I've made some really awesome friends who are very loyal and who have gone to exceptional lengths to help me, including my guardian angel, who's visited me in hospital far too many times. Although my behaviour looks broadly the same, there are undeniable improvements to my situation. My bloody-minded bitter determination to succeed with exactly the same strategy which I've always employed, seems to be paying off, finally. It surprised and gladdened me that during a moment of loneliness I suddenly remembered that I had a whole heap of very dear friends who were available to chat to.

Weirdly, I don't feel lonely, even though I have spent the vast majority of the past 4 or 5 years enduring an incredible amount of social isolation.

 

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Discipline

4 min read

This is a story about daily chores...

Cable

I spend most of my leisure time stopping my kitten from destroying everything that's made of paper and cardboard, wrecking my house plants, attempting to go up the chimney, getting her paws in the soot and ash of my fireplace, peeing on clothes, chewing cables, licking plates and dropping her toy mouse into drinks. It certainly keeps me busy.

My other daily chore, aside from scooping poops out of the 4 litter trays around the house and washing cat-pee soaked clothing and bedding, is my writing. I'm going to attempt to resume writing every day.

The past couple of days I've written far too much.

I needed to write to let friends around the world know that I'm OK. I wanted to also mention the people who've popped up in my website analytics who appear to be work colleagues from a couple of different locations and organisations in the UK, and also my girlfriend's mum, in case they pop back for a repeat visit... wouldn't want to disappoint. I also simply wanted to resume writing on a daily basis.

The good thing about writing lots is that it makes me a moving target: very hard to shoot down.

I'm not going to write much today because I need to get better at writing less. I need to deliver short and sweet little blog posts, not the miserable long essays which exhaust my readers. Even I feel quite embarrassed about the self-indulgence of writing 4,000 words moaning about anxiety and depression, and generally complaining about my lot in life.

Tomorrow I might share some holiday photos, but I'm just trying to settle back into my routine. I thought I would allow a little of the pent-up stuff that was rattling around inside my brain to flow out of me, releasing some pressure and allowing me to consider my situation with a bit more perspective.

I wasn't dreading writing. I was a bit sad that I'd had a three-week gap, but I didn't feel like abandoning the project, although I was quite stressed and anxious that I'd left it too long and I'd struggle to get back into it. I was dreading going back to work, but that's for reasons which I've already gone into at length.

My good intentions have gone to waste regarding resumption of healthy living. I had planned on dieting and being teetotal since returning from holiday, but that hasn't really happened yet.

I don't think I'm going to be able to achieve everything I wanted to achieve within the ambitious timescales I wanted to, but I do feel somewhat rested and that I've had the benefit of a break. I feel like I have more energy and I'm in a much better situation than I was a couple of months ago.

My contract at work might get extended for a couple of months, which brings in much needed cash. Home life is pretty settled and secure - I have a nice house and I love my kitten. My relationship is going well. There's nothing on fire or threatening to cause major problems at the moment. I have the opportunity to enjoy a period of some stable, secure, routine simple living, without too much stress. I can do my writing every day after work. I have my daily routines and systems, and that's the way I like things, in order to manage stress levels down to the point of being tolerable.

I've written more than intended, as usual, but I'm below my maximum word count, which I have been very poor at respecting the past couple of days. I hope I can consistently keep my word count below my maximum, and hone the skill of writing short and sweet little blog posts every day. It takes discipline though.

 

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