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

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False Economy

3 min read

This is a story about value for money...

Torn jeans

I watched a documentary about the manufacture of jeans, and I was surprised to learn that most of the jeans which we buy in our high-street shops come from a handful of factories, in Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Indeed, almost 80% of the jeans we buy come from nearly identical factories. The premium brand jeans are made in exactly the same factories, using exactly the same method, and by exactly the same machines and people. The only difference between £300 jeans and £30 jeans, is the label, and the style.

Of course, you might say, style is everything. For sure, I don't want my jeans to be too heavily faded, too baggy, too skinny... but also too plain. Having a bit of character is what makes a pair of jeans look good - fashionable - instead of being just a plain old pair of blue denim trousers.

You might think that, knowing the facts that I do, that I wouldn't be so foolish as to assume that my mid-priced jeans would last longer than a cheaper brand... but you'd be wrong.

The knee just tore on my premium brand jeans, which cost me about twice as much as I've ever spent on a pair of jeans in my life. I suppose I've owned these jeans for two years, and worn them almost every day, so in terms of value for money, we could say that they've cost me something like 18 pence per day... which sounds quite reasonable, to me.

The problem with "pre-distressed" jeans is that, although they look 'good' from the moment you put them on, they end up looking progressively more and more scruffy, until people just assume that you're so poor that you can't afford new clothes; until they cease to be fashionable and instead become part of a dishevelled look, which nobody finds particularly attractive.

Anyway, I've done something which I've never done before in my life, which is to purchase clothes without trying them on in a shop. I had a horrible retail experience on Sunday, where I had to queue in the rain to get into the shop, and then queue again to purchase the product I was buying. Also, given that my city is in a second lockdown, it seemed more civic minded to do my shopping online.

At least I don't have to be in the office anytime this year, so nobody at work will see me wandering around in jeans with a massive rip in the knee. I literally only ever own one pair of jeans which I love and wear all the time. I suppose I should buy several of certain items, when I find something I like, so that I have a like-for-like replacement when the item(s) eventually wear out. I've done that before, with a few things, and it's a good strategy for somebody like me, who has a very small wardrobe.

I'm sure you probably came here hoping to read something a little less mundane than a 500 word essay about my worn-out jeans. Sorry.

 

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Overdue Holiday

4 min read

This is a story about stamina...

Me

It's been over 13 months since I had a holiday. My holiday plans for last year got really screwed up. I need to have a couple of winter holidays, for mental health reasons - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) exacerbates my bipolar, and can make me suicidally depressed, as was proven last Christmas. I ended up spending Christmas and New Year in a hospital bed, instead of on a beach, because that's what happens.

Of course I can technically keep working for years, without a holiday. The problem is, I get tired and irritable, which damages my relationship with my colleagues. Nobody wants to work with somebody who's tired and irritable.

The past 13+ months haven't just been a continuous slog at work, without a holiday. The past 13+ months have included an enormous amount of work on a very high-profile project of national importance. There's a lot of pressure. Sure, I thrive on pressure, but not everybody's going to be a fan of my style, when I'm tired and stressed, which is to not suffer any fools gladly; I can be extremely impatient and intolerant of fuckwits.

Of course, if I get the chance to keep working on the project I've been involved with for a long time, then I'm going to have to look after myself. I'm going to have to take some holidays. My health - mental and physical - demands that I take some holidays.

In a lot of ways, it's great for colleagues to have the consistency of me being around, all the time. In other ways, it's bad for me to be around all the time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and familiarity breeds contempt etc.

One of the bosses who I admired the most, even if I didn't particularly like him, was notoriously short-tempered and impatient. He was extremely quick-witted and blazingly quick at everything he did. I always swore I would never ape his demeanour, because it wasn't very pleasant for colleagues, but when I came to building and running my first startup, I admit that I had a very sharp tongue; I reduced my co-founder to tears.

The boss who I attempt to copy, is a guy who was a 'shit umbrella' for the team: he fended off all the pressure, and kept the workload and general demands at a reasonable level, so that the engineering team could work without unhelpful and annoying people hanging around saying "is it done yet?" constantly. He used to give estimates which were extremely conservative - being over-optimistic, over-promising, will always lead to stress, pressure, being rushed, and ultimately a poor quality, late and disappointing outcome. My ex-boss created a great environment to work in, and I'll never forget that.

As discussed at length, I'm desperate to achieve financial security, and as such there's a great temptation to never take any holiday, when I suffer a double-whammy financial blow when I take a holiday: the loss of earnings AND the cost of the holiday. Of course, it's a false economy if I end up getting sick or losing my job, because I've overworked myself, but I've always taken things to the extreme.

I have no idea how or when I'm going to take a holiday, especially in the context of a second-wave of Coronavirus and the subsequent second lockdown. Already, the UK has more new cases than the UK's own threshold for quarantining visitors from another country. I feel pretty certain that I would end up spending my entire holiday in the hotel room, under quarantine. Another consideration is that I'm now single, and as such, would be holidaying alone, which I would hate.

I do need to take a holiday, and I will always find a way to achieve something if I set my mind to it, but there are many reasons not to take a holiday - money, coronavirus - and the prospect of being abroad, alone, is not enthusing me to the idea.

 

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5 Year Blogging Anniversary

2 min read

This is a story about writing...

Platform 9.75

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Repeating Myself

4 min read

This is a story about being in lockdown...

Rat race

I didn't write during the total lockdown of the pandemic, quite deliberately, because I knew that I would get very repetitive, and that I would drive myself slightly insane. Having insight into my own mind, and being able to introspect, is a great gift - at times - but when artificially constrained, such as being in lockdown, it's difficult not to overthink, and to over-fixate on the discomfort of the situation; better to just go with the flow.

I'm still in lockdown.

Of course, I can now travel to the shops, visit a café or restaurant, travel, and do lots of other things, which I previously couldn't. That's correct in theory but in practice, I'm still in lockdown. I only leave the house to buy food.

It's not through choice that I'm in lockdown, although it appears, at first glance, to be the case.

Theoretically, I'm rich again; debt free and with some savings in the bank. However, the economy looks totally screwed, forcing me to consider the security of my future income, and of course my housing security and other important essential needs. Having been homeless and slept rough, I'm more reluctant than most to go back to living on the streets, especially after working so hard to get back on my feet.

So, I'm working as hard as I can, for as long as I can. Given the opportunity to earn money in a global pandemic, and a global recession, I'm going to fill my war chest as full as I can.

It's miserable.

Most people have got their "summer holiday" heads on in the Northern Hemisphere. Most people's moods are 'artificially' lifted by the warm summer weather, despite the backdrop of a rampaging pandemic and terrible recession. Of course, things have been artificially propped up, to temporarily stave off the wave of redundancies, evictions, bankruptcies and other cataclysmic economic events, which will hit like a tsunami in the autumn. Most ordinary people are overjoyed the lockdown is lifted and are enjoying their regained freedoms, with seemingly little regard for the bleak future.

Not me.

I'm miserable.

Of course, if I've managed to "make hay while the sun shines" then I'll be somewhat better placed to ride out the storm than those ordinary people who are currently frolicking in the sun. On the flip side, they'll be happier and more well rested. I'm risking burnout and/or breakdown, pushing myself as hard as I'm pushing myself... but all I want is COLD. HARD. CASH. As much cash as possible AND I WANT IT NOW.

Waking up every morning, there's a finite amount of money I can earn, because time and energy are finite quantities. This is simultaneously a motivation ("I can earn a lot of money today") and a something which is quite depressing ("I can only earn a small amount versus what I need").

Perhaps if you saw my personal finances, you would think that my mentality is vulgar; privileged. However, my mentality is based on many years spent homeless; destitute. Of course, I'm fortunate that my life isn't ruined irreparably, and that I've enjoyed the occasional period of exceptionally high quality of life, in-between the chaos, trauma and near-death experiences.

Because it's a marathon, not a sprint, I am whinging and complaining the whole way. I try not to, but I'm not built for steady plodding. I want to get rich quick, or die trying... anything else is intolerable.

Of course the reality, compared with most ordinary people, is that I am getting rich quick. I'm absolutely sure that you would have no problem at all, thinking of really great ways that you could spend my so-called 'disposable' income. However, I don't look at that money as 'disposable'... I look at it with despair, knowing that it's not enough to give me the security I need, to protect me against homelessness, destitution, bankruptcy, and all the other things which nearly killed me.

Sorry for repeating myself.

 

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Who Should We Murder?

5 min read

This is a story about the collapse of civilisation...

Come into the factories

We like to laugh at the stupidity of 'primitive' civilisations which used to make human sacrifices to the sun god. However, we also live in an era - today - where we make human sacrifices to imaginary concepts.

The squeals and cries of "the economy!" in the face of a deadly global pandemic, indicate that global free-market capitalism demands human sacrifice at the alter of Mammon. In a more civilised society, we wouldn't kill people for the sake of an abstract concept, such as money. Money can be created at will, with the stroke of a key on a keyboard: it doesn't exist; it's not a physical commodity; we can continue to grow and harvest crops, rear cattle, fish the seas, build houses, make clothes and do all the other physical, tangible things that we need to, in order to be healthy and happy. We do not need money. To demand that people die for the sake of money is exactly the same as sacrificing people to the sun god; equally delusional and psychotic.

We've been looking for people to murder for a long time now. In the UK, we've had many years of wanting to murder non-whites, under the guise of so-called "anti-immigration" policies. Instead of looking at how we can improve our quality of life, instead our efforts have been ploughed into worsening the quality of lives for people. The 'hostile environment' policies of Theresa May were as damaging to vulnerable white working-class people as they were to the non-whites they were designed to injure and kill. Given half a chance, 51.9% of the country would be out on the streets slitting the throats of anybody they didn't deem to be like them: non-whites, gays, transexuals... and probably a lot of the liberal metropolitan elites too. Why stop there? They wouldn't. They'd kill anybody they had got a grudge with too, and still not be satisfied. When the food and medicine ran out and the power went off, they'd then kill and eat their own children - "Spoiled little brats... I showed THEM who's boss".

As a self-confessed leftist and Benthamite utilitarian, I must say that I have indulged in a few wealth redistribution fantasies. I don't think that we should kill and eat the rich, but we could certainly take 90% of their wealth, in order to lift living standards for billions of people.

On closer examination does murdering a few people really seem so bad for the greater good? We must explore the question.

Let us think about a mass murderer who's beyond hope of rehabilitation. Even if we do not sentence the mass murderer to death as a punishment, it is costly to imprison them. Why would we waste valuable resources on somebody with zero utility, who poses a very real and significant risk to the general public, and indeed anybody in charge of keeping them imprisoned. It seems to make sense to kill the mass murderer.

What about billionaires? We don't need any billionaires, but we certainly need their wealth. It seems fairly obvious that we should take and redistribute the wealth of billionaires, but what do we do with them? Well, I see no reason to kill them - what harm are they, once they're stripped of most of their wealth? If they build more wealth, we'll just take it off them again. In fact, perhaps stripping them of wealth encourages them to create more - a win:win situation. They can remain obscenely wealthy, but not so much so that we have any hunger, homelessness or exploitation left in the world.

What about Jews?

Let's imagine that hypothetically - although I must make it clear that I am exploring this anti-Semitic canard purely to illustrate how ridiculous it is - lots of Jews are billionaires. Well, why decide to treat the Jews differently? It's perfectly philosophically and ethically acceptable to strip the billionaires of most of their wealth, provided they are left with plenty and aren't mistreated. Why would we single the Jews out, even if there are lots of Jewish billionaires? Just go after the billionaires and don't persecute anybody because of their religious faith, right?

I'm not saying that choosing a particular identifiable group and murdering them isn't "economically sound". In fact, it's definitely "good" economically to commit murder, as the many wars from history will attest. If you kill somebody and take their wealth, you become wealthy and there's one less mouth to feed; one less person to house and clothe. Of course, murder seems completely logical, if you believe that "the economy!" and money are the most important things in life.

Of course, then there's the temptation to murder Jews and/or non-whites. Why not just redistribute wealth though, instead of committing mass murder? Why not target the wealthy and not Jews, Muslims or non-whites? If you are in favour of wealth distribution I will support you, and so will the majority of other people. If you are in favour of persecuting Jews, Muslims and non-whites, then I will fight you every step of the way.

 

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Blogger's Digest - Day Seven of #NaNoWriMo2019

10 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Seven

How does one set about making new friends in a new city, when you reach an age where everybody has coupled off and settled into their cliques? This was the question which weighed heavily on my mind, acutely aware as I was that my Brighton colleagues' life priorities were completely different from most of those who I'd worked with in London. Maybe I was just getting older, but it seemed like everybody was married with at least a couple of children. Trying to arrange a night out required a lot of notice and pre-planning - childcare arrangements and what little remained of parents' social lives became a logistical nightmare, and the a well-attended social function could not be held on an ad-hoc basis.

There was a thriving sports and social club, which catered for 5-a-side football, squash and badminton, and a smattering of other sports. As part of my efforts to calm the hyper-competitive side of my personality, I decided to avoid sports, which left me with few other social opportunities which were workplace-related. There was a company Christmas party, a department Christmas party and a a team Christmas party, but for the other 11 months of the year, there was nothing. From 'getting to know you' casual conversations with my colleagues, I understood that their entire lives were spent ferrying their children from party to party: an endless procession of parties and social functions for kids, but an adult night out was something which parents only enjoyed a handful of times each year.

I gravitated towards a group of alcoholics, who had either been quietly relocated from London to Brighton, having spent a month drying out at The Priory rehab, paid for by the company, or some of those whose behaviour was slightly more disgraceful were now kept on a tight leash: short employment contracts and zero tolerance for their prior antics, which had often involved going AWOL for days or even a whole week, and returning to work in a very bedraggled state.

The tolerance of workplace alcoholism was ubiquitous in investment banking. At a certain level of management seniority and age, I couldn't think of a single individual who wasn't excessively partial to their particular drink of choice: red wine, whiskey or vodka. Physical features of these senior colleagues told the whole story: red noses, liver spots, bags under their eyes, beer guts and a haggard look which added ten or fifteen years onto their appearance. They were some of the most brilliant, entertaining and hyper-intelligent people I ever had the pleasure of working with. It was a crying shame that none of them seemed to live beyond their mid fifties, and many were dead by their mid-forties. Given that I had known so many of my former colleagues die from alcohol-related illness, I was certain that investment banking must have a problem far in excess of the national average - alcoholism was practically institutionalised.

During the summer, I had a brilliant time. My new group of friends knew lots of wonderful beer gardens and other sun-traps where we could enjoy several pints of beer or cider, before staggering back to the office. After work, there were delightful terraces to sit on, drinking, while the sun went down. Looking out at the holidaymakers enjoying the beach and the sea, we vicariously partook of their wholesome activities - we felt like we were part of their healthy lifestyle, when in fact we were drinking vast amounts and going home incredibly intoxicated every night.

I suppose that wearing the so-called "beer jacket" meant that when late September arrived and there was a chilly morning, I was a little shocked. I hadn't put a lot of thought into what life would be like aboard my yacht, during the winter.

With a fan heater on a timer switch, I was able to make the bathroom warm enough to make showering bearable. With thick quilts, blankets and warm clothes, I could keep myself cosy enough throughout October. However, as the temperature dropped lower and lower, it was clear that I needed to make a drastic change - my ability to heat the yacht, and its insulation, were woefully inadequate for the UK winter.

One of the reasons for purchasing the yacht had been that I knew I would be able to live aboard it very comfortably in the Mediterranean, or other more southerly and pleasant climates, if my job didn't work out - I owned a truly mobile home. But, the voyage would now be unbearably unpleasant and quite dangerous, with winter almost upon us - gale-force winds regularly swept eastwards from the Atlantic, along with gigantic waves and an immense amount of rain.

Sailing during the late Spring to early Autumn period was amazing in the English Channel, which is one of the windiest places on the planet. Force 4 wind with gusts of force 5 can be very enjoyable for an experienced sailor - exciting - but wet-weather gear is still required even at the peak of summer, because the spray, rain and wind-chill can quickly turn life at sea into a very cold and hostile environment. With the autumn bringing monster waves and storm-force winds, along with biting cold wind and water which feels like ice, there is nothing at all enjoyable about sailing after the end of October.

The prospect of being hit by repeated storms as I battled my way south, attempting to reach the Gibraltar Straits and the warmth of the Med, or perhaps the Canary Islands, was nigh-on suicidal. If I didn't break my mast and have to be rescued, perhaps I would be seriously injured, killed, or at the very least spend a very long time freezing cold and regretting ever having left port. Any crew member who agreed to help with the passage would either be mad or inexperienced and incompetent - it wouldn't be responsible of me to even ask anybody to undertake such a dangerous trip with me.

Meanwhile, I had met a girl - Sian - using a dating app, and I had been spending an increasing amount of time at her house, motivated in no small part by the fact that she had central heating and double glazing. We were an odd couple, given that she was a Gender Studies lecturer at the University of Sussex, and everybody had assumed that she was gay, including her parents. She was also extremely left wing and a regular participant at protest marches: particularly anti-capitalist marches. I thought that my investment banking background would mean that we'd be entirely incompatible, but she was well read, well travelled and had some fascinating opinions which she expertly articulated, so she was incredibly entertaining company. She also enjoyed frequent sex, which was unusual for somebody who'd had so few partners that her nearest and dearest assumed she was deep in the closet.

I suppose the guilt I had carried my whole career, particularly around my direct involvement in investment banking during the financial crisis of 2007/8, meant that I had become more left-leaning and somewhat of a skeptic, regarding capitalism. I knew that people had lost their homes, businesses and vast numbers of people had become dependent on food banks, as a result of the irresponsible actions of people like me. I had suffered no hardship - ever - in my adult life, and I was never going to be forced into a zero hours contract job at McDonalds or to become part of the 'gig economy' delivering takeaway food on a bicycle. I had profited handsomely during the boom years, and I had continued to enjoy an exceptionally high standard of living, without interruption. Guilt had driven me to educate myself about the hardships faced by ordinary British people, and I now read The Guardian as well as The Financial Times; I read the New Statesman as well as The Economist magazine. Having been surrounded by Conservative voters throughout my life, I had lately become more open-minded about Labour policies. I had begun to read books which were harshly critical of the many failings attributable to Neoliberalism, and made a convincing case for socialism, social enterprises and sustainability; the green agenda.

Sian also really liked wine and movies, which was great. It was an ideal way to spend the winter: snuggled up watching challenging award-winning subtitled films which had achieved much critical acclaim in liberal arts circles, getting drunk, having a debate about how to fix the world's problems, and then having great sex.

While she was naturally reluctant to introduce her investment banker boyfriend to her friends, many of whom were right-on feminists, activists and viewed every act of coitus with a man as a victory for the patriarchy, and a terrible defeat for the oppressed minorities, we were - in a strange way - quite compatible. Perhaps it was a relationship of convenience, and it certainly allowed me to defer the problem of how to heat my yacht.

Sian had sudden bursts of uncontrollable excitement. "You MUST take me out on your boat!" she would say. At other times, she remembered that my yacht and my luxury-brand car were emblematic symbols of everything that was wrong and unjust about the world. She asked me to park around the corner from her house, lest one of her friends notice that she was dating a wealthy man, and worse still, an investment banker.

I had the sense that our fundamentally different paths we had taken through life - her through academia and me through an investment banking career - meant that we were never destined to have a long-lasting relationship. I liked her a lot and I certainly never thought or acted as if what we had was casual but there wasn't the same pressure that I was used to, when I had been looking for the right woman to marry and have children with. We were content, snuggling under our blanket, sipping wine and watching subtitled movies; we weren't grasping and reaching... constantly struggling to achieve more and more. It felt nice. It felt healthy and normal.

Equally, I wondered how Sian would be received if I received an inevitable invite for dinner with my boss and his wife, once word got around that I had a girlfriend. My drinking buddies had been seeing less and less of me, until the point where they no longer bothered to ask me if I was going to join them for after-work drinks. They were sure to tip off our gossip-hungry colleagues, and I wouldn't be able to brush off their questions by saying "it's nothing serious" or "it's early days" for very much longer.

If Sian was appalled by my two obvious vulgar displays of wealth and status - my car and my yacht - then she was going to struggle when we went for dinner with my boss and his wife, at their home, which might as well have been wallpapered with £50 notes and built with gold bullion bars, because it screamed "I'M RICH!" at the top of its nouveau-riche voice. I dearly wanted to spare poor Sian an evening of biting her lip, while my boss' wife no doubt wanted to complain about the difficulties of selecting a good private school, and the expense of stabling their horses, with the tactlessness of a woman who's never encountered an ordinary person in their entire life.

I was content, however; content to see out the winter in this fashion. Life was good; life was treating me very well.

 

Next chapter...

 

World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day 2019

5 min read

This is a story about annual events...

Hampstead Heath

I sometimes forget that I have a 1.3 million word repository of 4 years of my life documented in exquisite detail. Given that I have chosen to manage my mental illness - bipolar disorder - without medication, it's extremely useful to have everything written down. Memories are easily corrupted. It's easy to romanticise the past. Past traumas can be forgotten. Pain fades from memory. By having everything stored digitally like this, it's easier for me to avoid getting stuck in a cycle of boom and bust; making the same mistakes again and again.

Mental illness combined with some dreadful circumstances which exacerbated the problem, like an abusive relationship followed by an inevitable divorce, plunged my life into utter chaos. I was homeless and slept rough. I was sectioned and kept in secure psychiatric institutions. I very nearly lost everything.

Today is both World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day. The two things go hand-in-hand, but the choice of day was a coincidence, I expect, although ironically it's quite apt.

There is a powerful relationship between mental health and other problems, such as being able to work, having money problems, having relationship problems, homelessness, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, self harm, suicide and crime, amongst other things. To say that drug addiction causes mental health problems, for example, is a mistake of confusing correlation and causation. To say that mentally ill people are more likely to become homeless is a mistake of cause and effect. As you might imagine, not having a secure, dry, affordable, pleasant place to live is toxic to good mental health - how can anybody be expected to have any kind of sense of wellbeing when one of their most basic needs is unmet or under threat?

We might dismiss housing concerns, believing that local councils and "the government" ensures that nobody goes homeless, but it's lazy and ignorant to believe that housing is not the number one concern of people in crisis. The root of all problems is not mental health or drugs, or Brexit... it's housing.

The proportion of people's wages spent on rent or mortgage payments, has steadily risen, while wages have fallen in real terms. Vast numbers of people are on zero hours contracts or work in the 'gig economy'. Unemployment figures do not tell the real story: millions of people live under constant threat of eviction; homelessness.

Do I really have to spell this out?

Living with the constant threat of losing your home is incredibly stressful.

People are working all the hours they can to try to make ends meet, and they are still only one or two missed paycheques away from being chucked out onto the streets. One hiccup and they'll be homeless. Living with that kind of daily threat creates intolerable anxiety.

If you put somebody under an enormous amount of pressure and stress, for a very long period of time, it will negatively affect their mental health. It's inevitable that the lack of affordable housing in the areas where there are job vacancies, would create a mental health epidemic.

In London, where there are the most jobs, the housing is also the most expensive, over competitive and overcrowded. Yes, there are lots of jobs in London, and they're better paid than elsewhere in the UK, but the housing is terrible quality and massively overpriced, plus there are heaps of people competing for the few place to live, and the nice places to live are virtually unattainable except for the mega-rich.

Where I currently live, I pay a fraction of what I used to pay in London, and I have a lot more space, but when my contract ends I will struggle to find another one nearby - there simply aren't as many jobs in the area, hence why far fewer people want to live here and why the cost of living is lower.

This is capitalism in action. This is supply and demand. Capitalism is maximising how much money it can extract from our pockets, before we all go insane and/or kill ourselves. Capitalism is highly efficient at creating the maximum misery, in its pursuit of the maximum profit. Capitalism is not about freedom or choice. Capitalism is about the immoral destruction of human lives, in order to deliver relentless 'growth' at the expense of our quality of life.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I have emerged from that dreadful chaotic period of mental illness and homelessness, and I now enjoy a reasonable standard of living, but I am painfully aware of how insecure my existence is; how quickly I could be turfed out onto the streets again. I'm acutely aware that my mental health cannot be taken for granted, and the pressure to keep earning vast sums of money, month after month, to line the pockets of an idle capitalist, is incredibly toxic to my mental health.

 

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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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Getting Rich From Racists

5 min read

This is a story about happy hedging...

Pro-EU March

Frightening numbers of racists feel emboldened by Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Brexit and the alt-right, such that "immigration control" has turned into outright xenophobia, Islamophobia and generally abhorrent views that any non-white should be deported. It seems OK to say openly in an office to a work colleague that you're against the idea of an asylum seeker fleeing a warzone - fleeing persecution, torture, murder - shouldn't be allowed to receive the assistance which we should offer to the unfortunate victims of conflicts which the UK illegally started.

Frightening numbers of these racists are turning out en masse to vote for political parties which don't even have manifestos - their manifestos are unwritten, because if they wrote down the values that they really stood for then they would become proscribed organisations and their leaders and members would be prosecuted for hate crimes.

Tonight, there's a chance that The Brexit Party will gain its first member of parliament. We should remind ourselves that the leader of The Brexit Party stood proudly in front of a giant billboard showing Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives, proclaiming that the UK is at "breaking point" with the amount of asylum seekers in the country. This is pure unadulterated racism. The UK has processed fewer than 30,000 asylum applications, while Germany has processed far in excess of a million. How can the UK be at "breaking point" when Germany has taken at least 40 times as many asylum seekers? Why is immigration even considered to be an issue in the UK, when we're the 5th largest economy in the world? It's pure racism: hatred of people because of their race.

I placed a bet in 2016 that the UK would vote to leave the EU. I received extremely favourable odds.

I placed a bet in 2016 the USA would vote to elect Donald Trump as their president. I received very favourable odds.

I placed a bet in 2017 that the Conservatives would get the most votes in the UK general election. I received favourable odds.

I placed a bet on May 23rd that The Brexit Party would get the most votes. I received reasonable odds.

I placed a bet today that The Brexit Party's candidate for Peterborough would be elected as MP. I received acceptable odds.

Each of my bets has been a simple bet: that most people are racists and most people are dishonest. If you ask a person "are you a racist?" they will invariably answer "no", but if you ask a person if an asylum seeker deserves to find safe haven in the UK, or whether they should drown in the sea, most people will think that they should drown in the sea, or die in the warzone they're fleeing.

Each time I place a bet, I take the winnings from the previous bet and place those winnings onto the next bet. My winnings have substantially accumulated.

I'm getting rich from racists.

I shouldn't thank the racists for being racist, because I would much prefer it if my fellow citizens would stop being racists, but I have little ability to influence their abhorrent views. I have very little ability to stop racists from being racist, so I am vocally outspoken against racists like Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and the whole shower of sh*ts who support them. I also bet as much money as I can afford to lose on the outcome that I least want to see: that the racists continue to thrive in this climate where the condemnation of racists and racism seems to have been replaced with outright unashamed undisguised blatant racism; where people are openly racist in every part of UK life.

I have to suffer a dreadful racist at work, but at least I'm being financially compensated.

Does it seem immoral to profit in this way?

Perhaps I will take my substantial winnings and use them to fund anything I can do to stop the rise of racism. I can spend the money going to anti-fascism protests, anti-Trump protests, and anything I can do to promote progressive, inclusive politics, which condemns racism and introduces laws to prosecute those people who would gladly see asylum seekers drown in the sea, rather than offer them safe haven. The UK is very much not at "breaking point" unless we are referring to the emboldenment of racists.

I will be bitterly disappointed to see The Brexit Party gain an MP in parliament, but I will also be significantly richer, which will not make me any less sad about the sorry state of the United Kingdom, and its vast hordes of horrible disgusting contemptible racists.

Perhaps you think I should be spending my money directly on supporting the political parties who oppose racism and have the resources to fight men like Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, but it seems like a rational economic decision to me, to enrich myself... hopefully to the point where I can afford to dedicate my time and effort to fighting against these horrible people and their horrible supporters.

Rejoice with me tomorrow, if The Brexit Party is defeated, even though I will have lost a very large sum of money. I don't care about the money. I just want the racists to stop being racist and f**k off.

 

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Lööps

9 min read

This is a story about having a pity party...

Minitel

My memory and perception of time are very badly affected by strong medication. Every day ends the same for me - swallowing 6 pills and falling unconscious - and every afternoon and evening the fog clears and I'm overwhelmed with anxiety, due to the medication effects wearing off. The routine is useful because it helps me stay functional and earning a lot of money, but I'm stuck in a loop which only contains working, sleeping and eating. Days are indistinguishable and time passes incredibly slowly.

I write repeatedly about suicidal thoughts because I'm very trapped. I've become physically dependent on medication and the withdrawal effects are intolerable. I struggle to recognise the pattern in my moods, because my memory is impaired. I function perfectly effectively at work because of the monotony of what I do, and the fact I'm using skills I grasped as a child, long since mastered and turned into muscle memory and reflex. Everything in my life is something I've done a million times before. There are no new and novel challenges in my life. There is nothing which I could embark upon as a voyage into the unknown, except for death I suppose.

I think about getting a girlfriend, making friends, finding a new hobby. I think about buying more furniture and generally making my home more comfortable. I think about getting on top of my mountain of administrative bureaucratic tasks. None of these things are new or interesting to me - they're simply chores.

I'm blessed with a large amount of people who I'm in contact with via the internet. I'm never short of somebody to talk to via message or email. Some friends have stayed in contact and I've even made some new friends quite by accident. Perhaps I take all this for granted, but I'm just stating the facts.

I see my situation as unavoidable. I see my choices as so limited that I actually have no choices at all. The claim might sound unlikely, but my analysis is invariably correct. I'm in the process of creating choices for myself, while the world works exceptionally hard to thwart, frustrate, delay and annoy me. I'm not so paranoid that I believe that anybody's "out to get me" but in my lifelong experience there are always setbacks which far exceed a person's capacity to insulate and protect themselves. We live with the constant peril of our car breaking down or some other unexpected financial disaster wrecking our carefully laid out plans.

In other ways, my life is frighteningly random. I was almost bankrupt when a friend recommended me for a job, which rescued me from certain ruin. One year later, that friend killed himself. Another friend recommended me for another job, which has led me indirectly to where I am today. My improving financial situation is entirely a fluke and it's likely to end up in financial disaster at any moment. I've been maximally leveraged for far more years than I care to remember. My avoidance of homelessness and destitution is thanks to blog readers who have offered assistance. These rescuers have appeared in my hour of need, not through any coherent cries for help which I've communicated, but instead through the randomness of life.

Similarly, I expected to die in September 2017. I had planned and premeditated my suicide attempt. I had been systematic. I had done my research and I was sticking to the script. Again, random people off the internet intervened in collaboration with old friends and I was saved... just.

I feel sorry for myself but I can't decide how much of my situation is of my own making and how much was preordained. It certainly seems that whatever I try to do, my life appears to be running on invisible rails. If I try to ruin my life, I cannot, and if I try to improve my life, I cannot expedite or hurry things along.

Every day at work earns considerably more money than I spend. Every month my financial situation improves. However, my risk and exposure are steadily constant. I live with zero security. I live with very real and tangible threats to my home and my income, which also threaten to then cause a catastrophic chain of events that would see me cast from my profession and barred from accessing everything which middle-class people take for granted: bank accounts, mortgages, car loans, house rentals and other things requiring a credit check. Even most jobs with big companies are barred to bankrupts nowadays.

Money ebbs and flows through my accounts. Vast amounts of my wealth is hoovered up by the idle and lazy, who arrogantly expect to be paid money because they already have money. The turnover of money is beyond my capacity to track it. To monitor my accounts would be an exhausting waste of time and energy. Instead I see the vast wastage as preferable to the miserly task of bean counting. At least I know that some of my money ends up in the pockets of people who need it - it flows to me and it flows outwardly again, but at least it is flowing. I have no time or respect for people who cling to money, denying it to the economy.

I've lost count how many times I've lost everything but earned it all back again plus interest. I must have spent several lifetimes' fortunes. The aggregate value of my productivity must be a very big number. I certainly haven't been idle.

My life is very straightforward. Get the money, spend the money.

The straightforward nature of my life is the root cause of my unhappiness. I feel like a rat who has had electrodes implanted deep into its brain, so that it can stimulate the reward pathways by depressing a lever. It's very easy to press the button and get the thing which I'm supposedly living for. Don't have sex, press the lever. Don't have children, press the lever. Don't eat, press the lever. Don't drink, press the lever. I can press the right buttons and get the things which everyone covets - money, houses, cars, boats... whatever.

When you've been in the situation where you can buy whatever you want, including a lifetime's unlimited supply of drugs, then you have become the rat who presses the lever until it dies, because it doesn't eat or drink - it just presses the lever, because the lever is the best that life can possibly be. If you've ever thought "I could die right now because I'm so happy" that's what the rat is thinking when it presses the lever. Nobody should ever experience that... it's too much to handle.

Ultimately, I have reduced life to its most fundamental and primitive components. I understand mortality. I understand the lever. Life has boiled down to a choice between three things for me: pressing the lever, killing myself, or seemingly interminable boredom and suffering; repetition.

I had to make the choice to stop pressing the lever. I did so because of guilt about not repaying a debt to a friend. I could see that I was going to die of thirst, like the rat pressing the lever, and that I would die with a considerable lack of dignity. I turn 40 this year and it's pure pride that drives me towards confounding all expectations that I should end up a dead homeless bankrupt junkie.

I repeat myself so endlessly, but this is how I keep myself on-track. The speed limit of the universe is maddening, because I can see where I want to end up and I can see the route I need to take, but there's no way I can make the journey pass any quicker. I'm very much wishing my life away because I can picture so clearly where I want to be. I see everything that's not on the critical path as superflous. I've jettisoned girlfriends, friends, hobbies and interests, intellectually stimulating work, social contact and - strangely - drugs and alcohol. My life is austere. My life is brutal simplicity personified.

I wonder if perhaps I am on the autistic spectrum. I have rigid and fixed routines. I wear certain clothes on certain days at work, from a pre-planned wardrobe. I eat the same things. I have a place for everything and everything must be in its place. I follow a sequence for everything. I have routes that I always follow. I have a single unwavering approach to life; a single way of getting money and getting what I want. My life is designed to fit a designated path; everything is controlled down to the level of minute details. I have memorised unusual things, such that my words and actions seem to flow out of me automatically, despite the complexity of a task or seeming impossibility of memorising a sequence of keystrokes.

I blend in well enough now in adulthood. It's been a while since anybody called me a weirdo. In fact, I portray a convincing facsimile of a normal person, outwardly.

For a person with a mood disorder, I appear to be remarkably stable, and all the more so considering that I'm not taking any mood stabilisers. I stabilise myself with self-medication and strict routine. It's hell, but it's an internal hell which I manage to hide from my work colleagues.

It pleases me that I've been able to blend in. It pleases me that I've been able to pretend to be normal for lengthy periods of time, and to prove that I can hold down a job, pay my bills and otherwise conform like a regular guy, for sustained periods. It pleases me that I stop and start drugs and alcohol whenever I want - I can be clean and sober whenever I choose, without difficulty.

Everything is a loop. Round and round I go.

The present loop is one of the most boring and most suicide-inspiring.

 

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