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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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Manic Rant

4 min read

This is a story about image...

Ferret

I have completely forgotten that people perceive and judge me, often by the public persona which I present. I have completely forgotten that people read what I write, who are my friends and work colleagues. I have completely forgotten to present a mask; a fake artificial image of how I want to be perceived, through an entirely fabricated story, which never really happened.

Without alcohol as a crutch, I am almost entirely reliant on a daily dose of writing, as catharsis for the overwhelming thoughts and feelings, which have no other outlet.

I sit down in front of the blank page every day, and I write as if nobody is reading, but it's not true: there are people reading.

My brain has been impaired, more than usual, because of extremely low blood sugar. I've consumed an average of fewer than 300 calories, on average, during the past 4 days, which is a ridiculously low amount. Of course, I've successfully managed to drop a kilo of weight (2.2 pounds) in under a week, but I've put my already fragile mental health under extreme duress.

Thinking about what I've written from the perspective of a hypothetical person who I want to like and respect me, it seems as though my words have been regrettable. I've launched into various tirades against the whole of humanity. I've ripped ordinary folks to pieces, with long grandiose delusional rants, written in a state of temporary mania.

In fact, my mania is not-so-temporary. It seems as if my mania can last months, if not years. I suppose the kind of mania which more traditionally manifests itself - spending money, taking risks, being sexually promiscuous, gambling, drinking, taking drugs, having grandiose delusions - is pretty clearly not present, but I know that I'm quite cunning at hiding my 'true' mood. Of course, there's no hiding how I really feel, because it's all documented here, but that's by design. On average, most of my work colleagues won't be reading this, so on average, most of my work colleagues won't know how utterly insane I am; how mentally ill I am.

I've thrown caution to the wind, somewhat, and started writing whatever the hell I want, without thinking about the consequences, insofar as my professional image and reputation. I don't think it's deliberately self-sabotaging behaviour, but I certainly don't feel like I'm desperately clinging to my source of income, terrified of getting booted out of my client's organisation because of my madness... which is a big change from the preceding couple of years.

Of course, I've not yet earned enough money to retire, so any loss of income would be pretty catastrophic. There's no good reason for me to burn and bridges, and in fact there are many good reasons to preserve whatever reputation I have painstakingly built. However, I'm also really tired and in desperate need of a holiday.

I've lost all control over what comes out of my mouth, and what gets written down on this page, at least in terms of a well thought-through plan, or in terms of some in-depth thought into the possible consequences. My mouth has already run at a million miles an hour, and whatever stupid stuff I was thinking has already been heard or read, long before I've had a chance to consider the implications and regret it.

I would quite like to repair my image, and to even possibly enter a new era, where I'm perceived positively; where people once again think of me as a reliable, dependable, likeable, useful sort of person, instead of a maniac who has to be tolerated, begrudgingly, until the earliest opportunity to boot me out.

It doesn't feel, day to day, as if I'm skating on such thin ice, versus the conflict I was going through before, and the regrettable way that I was acting, but my perceptions are exceedingly wonky: I am no doubt spewing a near-continuous stream of reputation-damaging, insulting, aggravating and otherwise regrettable things, which are rapidly destroying any goodwill which I had accidentally accumulated.

There are so few working days now, for me to limp through, before I take a long-overdue holiday, but that's no reason to think that I can't totally screw everything up.

 

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Winter is a Nightmare

4 min read

This is a story about the worst of all worlds...

Snow

I was already depressed and anxious before the winter started, but now I'm really depressed. I get seasonal depression very badly every winter, but this winter seems worse than ever.

The most dreadful combination of factors, includes the exacerbated isolation of not having any local friends or family, magnified by the pandemic lockdowns, being single, not drinking, unmedicated, on a diet, tired, hungry and generally pretty pissed off with life, having worked 16 months back-to-back without a holiday; only a single day off, except for the very occasional bank holiday and a period where I was hospitalised with multiple organ failure, which doesn't really count.

Poor me. Poor me etc etc.

Yep, this is self-pitying stuff, but I don't care: I'm miserable and this is the only coping mechanism I've got.

In an attempt to count my blessings, I guess I've only gotta work for three more weeks before attempting to take a long-overdue holiday. My finances are heading in the right direction. My weight is headed in the right direction. My fitness is headed in the right direction. The project, which has been my all-consuming passion for the best part of a couple of years, is at least not in terrible shape, which is something of a minor miracle. I don't have to waste my life commuting, which is good. I don't dread my alarm clock going off or struggle to get up in the morning, which is definitely a miracle.

My mental health is definitely in tatters, as I swing from suicidal depression to manic ranting, but the rigid structure and routine I've installed in my life, is holding me steady. It beggars belief that I have managed to save as much money as I have, work as much as I have, and produce as much as I have, while undergoing a near-continuous mental health crisis, which very nearly killed me less than a year ago... even getting hospitalised with multiple organ failure didn't much disrupt my stride.

I know that winter is a dangerous time - a threat to my life - and I had successfully employed some great techniques to cope: namely, getting the hell out of this miserable country and going somewhere hot, as much as possible during the winter. Of course, as soon as I found myself trapped here last winter, it was curtains. We will see what happens this year, but there's a glimmer of home that I might escape both the terrible winter weather, and the threat to my life which implicitly comes with being in the UK during the winter.

The period when I had the most face-to-face contact with other humans, was during the height of the pandemic, when we stood on our doorstep and clapped for the NHS. I was getting a daily dose of talking to other humans, in-person. Now, I spend the long winter evenings and the miserable weekends totally alone.

Of course, almost everything which I hate about my life, appears to be a choice: I'm choosing to not drink any alcohol, I'm choosing to diet, I'm choosing to be single, I'm choosing to be unmedicated. All of these choices are good for me though, so it's not really a choice, but a necessity. I know that in the long run I will have substantially improved my bank balance, flattened my tummy, and maintained my sanity, none of which would be possible without short-term sacrifice.

I'm sitting here with my stomach gurgling angrily. I over-indulged with food at the weekend, although I was still well below my calorie requirements and as such, still dieting. However, my weight loss is not progressing as quickly as I want it to, so I'm fasting for 40+ consecutive hours. The hunger is made all the worse, by all the other things I've got going on.

Still, just three weeks to go, I tell myself. Just three weeks before I attempt to take a long-overdue holiday.

 

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Dreading the Weekend

4 min read

This is a story about time as an enemy...

Clock

I suppose almost all of us live for the weekend, or the equivalent: the working week can't pass quick enough, and our precious leisure time doesn't last long enough. "Is it Monday morning already?" we ask ourselves rhetorically, with disappointment in our voices.

Not me.

Although Friday does hold a special significance for me, it is only that I have successfully completed another billable week, earning myself a chunk of cash, which takes me a step closer to financial security. Given the choice, I would work 7 days a week, in order to achieve financial security 40% quicker. I do not look forward to the weekend, at all.

Of course, it doesn't help that my social isolation has increased, from one extreme to another: I never see another soul, at evenings and at weekends. The only people I see are strangers at the supermarket. The only words I exchange - in person - are with the cashier at the checkout. Given that I shop for food roughly every three weeks, that's an existence which is more extreme than almost anybody on the planet. A goddam Tuareg in the Sahara sees more people than me; has more social contact. A goddam monk who's sworn an oath of silence has vastly more social contact than me.

could theoretically do something about it. For sure, I could join a book club; I could become a train spotter; I could develop an interest in ornithology; I could dress up as a superhero and go to comic conventions: the world is my oyster, but - so it would seem - I'm not seizing any of the infinite opportunities open to me, to build a real-world social network.

Why not?

Why am I not out there in the big wide world, making friends and meeting people?

I have, for example, deliberately decided to be single for a while. All of the COVID-19 stuff seemed to be making dating very complicated, what with various lockdowns and restrictions on the lives of single people, and besides, I wanted to lose some weight: restaurant meals and alcohol were never going to allow me to lose weight. Also, there's nothing quite as crazy-making as people. Recently, I was the victim of a tirade of abuse, for example, which was completely unprovoked; unjustified. I haven't got the time or the energy to be abused by nasty crazies. I really don't need my inbox brimming with hateful abuse, which bears no relation to anything I've ever said or done in my life. I'm quite glad to be able to ignore that kind of unjustified abuse, because I'm not looking for a girlfriend, or indeed trying to make any kind of connection with anybody: I'm just trying to survive the winter.

The hours pass painfully slowly. It would seem like any sensible person would do something, if they were suffering as badly as I claim to be, but it's not true: in my circumstances, you'd do the same thing... eyes on the prize. You too, would suffer in the short-term, even if it seemed unbearable, because you would also know that there's only one route ahead; only once choice, although it appears to completely ignorant idiots as if there are more choices. There are not. There are no other choices.

I look around at the options, and all I see is futility. I don't want to pretend that I believe in a sky monster. I don't want to pretend that I like Salsa dancing. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in trains. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in birds. I don't even want to pretend that I'm interesting in boring and unintelligent, unambitious provincial hicks, who've never travelled and experienced other cultures, with no aptitude for free thought and certainly no capacity to entertain the notion that life should be lived in a way which is dissimilar to that of slugs, wasps and other simple beasts, like the pram-faced breeders spewing out an endless stream of pink screaming flesh into a life of misery and disappointment.

Eyes on the prize: I'll never have enough money to live out my natural life at an acceptable standard of living, but mercifully I can choose the precise day of my death, to co-incide with both what is bearable, and what is affordable.

 

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GO AWAY SPAMMERS

6 min read

This is a story about information overload...

Spam comments

This is why we can't have nice things. I've written more than 1,100 high quality essays, most of which have undergone some kind of proofreading, and some light editing, amounting to an aggregate total well in excess of 1.3 million words. Those words were not written by a machine-learning algorithm at the click of a button. No. They were written by me, by hand. Every. Single. One.

Some of my readers were kind enough to leave comments.

A lot of my readers were kind enough to leave comments.

There was a time, before I got beaten by the spammers, when I was able to read all of those comments, and reply to most of them. The battle is lost. The spammers have won.

I have removed the ability for members of the public to comment, although you can still reply to my content on Twitter or Facebook if you want your comment to be public, otherwise email me or direct message me. I promise, I do read everything that reaches me, but it was very hard to see the real comments, lost in amongst the vast quantity of spammy rubbish.

I find it regrettable that I've had to disable public commenting, because in just a few short months some half a million people - many of them in crisis - have been brought to my website looking for information relating to suicide. Many of my readers write to me and tell me one very important common thing: my writing is honest and authentic, and relatable, in a way which so much of the "stop! don't do it! you've got so much to live for!" clichéd stuff out there, causes a bunch of suicidal people to immediately ditch that site and move onto the next.

I'm not so big-headed, egotistical and suffering from delusions of grandeur, to claim that I'm offering anything other than what it says in big bold letters on the carton: I have a mental illness and I'm plagued by suicidal thoughts, which I write about; I have attempted suicide several times, which I write about. If you came here looking to be saved, you should try crisis counselling. The number for suicide crisis counselling appeared when you searched on Google. It was literally the top hit. If you didn't phone them or click the number one Google suggested website, that means that you know what you're looking for, and it is not somebody saying "don't do it!" over and over and over and over again, ad nauseam.

You've heard it all before.

Anyway.

Sorry. I had to turn off comments. I had to hide all the spammers comments. I had to get rid of that horrible load of spammy crap. I should have done it sooner, but I was putting it off. I put it off for too long and the situation got out of hand.

I know which posts were the spammers favourites, and it really makes no sense.

I seriously don't advise you read these, but I'm going to list them here, because I need Google to realise that they should re-index the pages, and they should hopefully see that all the horrible spam is now gone.

The kind of stuff that they were spamming with was mostly harmless, but there was a lot of illegal stuff, and immoral stuff too. Basically, it was a bunch of bad people, trying to leverage my 1.3 million word artwork for their own financial reward, which sucks.

The posts, which I really don't advise you read were:

Day nine of my attempt to write a novel in a month, while publishing the draft manuscript live.

The fourteenth day of that novel writing attempt.

Something I wrote while I was on secure psychiatric ward, five years ago.

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and other parts of the well known acronym.

My profile... although people are probably just clicking that. I have no idea if it's the spammers or not.

Some stuff about being a sensitive soul... who'd have thunk it?

Day thirteen of that same half-finished novel.

Some weird rantings from five years ago... the day before I lost my job

Typical political dross as you might expect to find anywhere on the internet.

Some stuff about burnout. I write a lot about burnout.

... etc etc ...

 

There are about 500 of these, which have been spammed in the last week alone. I should painstakingly go through all 400 of them, and link to them somehow, so that our friends at a well known and popular search engine know to go take a look: the spam has gone now. The horrid people trying to peddle their illegal, life-wrecking wares are gone from my website now. The horrid people who profit from human misery are banished forever, at least from this little island in the swamp of excrement.

I don't know what else to say or do.

To give you an idea of how bad the problem appears to have gotten, it seems like the average number of comments on my 1,100+ essays is somewhere in the region of 2,000, which is a total of 2.2 million spammy comments. I presume that when my 1.3 million words, lovingly crafted by a prose-smith (me) were vastly exceeded by a tsunami of spam, our chums at the well-known tech giant decided - algorithmically - that enough was enough and they shouldn't send me any more readers. For sure, there are very good reasons not to send people to a den of nothing but spammy illegal crap. For sure, I understand why it happened. For sure, I blame myself for being too lazy, tired, depressed and otherwise consumed with my chaotic and often suicidal life, to deal with some spammers.

This website is a lifeline for me. Writing is a lifeline for me. If I hadn't started writing then I wouldn't have had friends from all over the world, frantically contacting emergency services, which saved my life... in which case, you wouldn't be reading this. I'm not saying I'm glad I'm alive because I'm not, but I'm glad that I have my friends, my readers, my writing, my website and many things. Spammers robbed me of a whole load of readers, which I'm frustrated and really upset about, but I'm working as hard as I can on rectifying the problem.

Please, if you came here feeling suicidal, check out everything I wrote about by clicking on the tag, or check out the previous thing I wrote on the homepage, and follow links from there. I guess that's what a spammer would say, but I promise you that a spammer would not spend 5+ years of their life pouring their heart and soul into a writing project, as a not-for-profit venture and half-assed attempt at creating a work of art.

Thank you, readers, for persevering.

Normal service has resumed.

 

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World Mental Health Day

5 min read

This is a story about wanting to die...

Muddy feet

I've wanted to commit suicide for years and I've made several attempts, all of which have ended up with me in hospital, either in intensive care, and or high dependency, for weeks... months and months if you add up all that time. You might say that you think that I don't want to die, because I haven't succeeded [yet] and you would be correct: I want to want to live; I want to not want to commit suicide. But I did want to die and I did want to commit suicide. When I came out of a coma in intensive care in hospital, a doctor asked me if I was pleased that they saved my life. Honestly, I was not pleased at all.

More often than not, depression - as a mental illness - has no rational explanation. Grief and other circumstantial depression, although devastating, can be explained with relative ease; can be well understood. Stranger, it seems, is depression where the cause is not so immediately obvious.

Examining my own depression and wish to commit suicide, we can see a number of obvious circumstantial problems:

  • Estranged from family
  • No social support network
  • Very small number of close friends, none of whom live nearby
  • Enormous debts
  • Single
  • Can't remember the last time I had a hug
  • Boring, unrewarding and unchallenging profession [at times]
  • Physical illness, making me unable to work [at times]
  • No [realistic] prospect of escaping my predicament
  • No hobby/passion
  • Isolated, hermit-like existence
  • Troubled past; guilt, shame and regret; some bitterness

So, if we take all of that in aggregate, it seems like no wonder that I would be suicidally depressed, discounting even the irrational and almost-impossible to explain depression, which inflicts so many people whose lives do not have these problems (although they might have their own set of problems).

Let's revisit my circumstances, today:

  • Money in the bank; savings
  • No debt
  • Plans to see my sister and niece
  • Two friends who live nearby, although one is locked down due to COVID-19, so we can't meet
  • Rewarding and challenging work
  • Well-paid work; feel respected and valued
  • Physical health is OK, just a little unfit
  • Have managed to escape enormous debts, and become debt-free, against the odds
  • Have a hobby/passion: mountain biking
  • Leave the house to go mountain biking

Okay, so there are still some areas which need improvement but it's an incredible turnaround from my situation, which I've had to endure for years. I have to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming. Nobody should have been able to escape from the homelessness, near-bankruptcy, crushing debts and the total destitution which I faced alone. It's like I had my death sentence commuted; it's like I received a royal pardon.

The picture at the top is of my muddy feet. Nobody goes out in the mud and the rain, in the cold autumn/winter of the UK, unless they are in a good place in terms of mental health. I'm not saying that I'm 'cured' or even that I'm 'happy' but I'm making some real tangible progress. I have hope for the first time in years and years.

My mental health is incredibly fragile. My 'recovery' (hate that word) is incredibly fragile. I have no idea whether my mood is going to crash, worse than ever, and I'll be back to being suicidal. Every time I attempt suicide, there's a very good chance I'm going to succeed. You might think that I'm just being melodramatic and/or attention seeking, and that I have no intention of committing suicide, and never did, which is why I didn't succeed. If you like, I will share my medical notes from the emergency department and intensive care/high dependency: I didn't succeed because I was incredibly lucky; for example, the medical team gave me about a 30% chance of survival, last attempt. The time before, I had even less chance of survival. There's no denying the truth: when I have attempted suicide, it's not a cry for help, nor has it been 'botched' by me... it's been pure blind chance that I've been discovered before I died. I've never phoned emergency services or phoned for help in any way whatsoever; quite the opposite.

So, on World Mental Health Day, I'm really sorry for all the people in the world who are suffering. I feel your pain. I share your pain. It makes me very sad that mental health problems are so prevalent in the world. I wish we would do something to help improve the circumstances of people's lives, because that can make a huge difference. Instead of giving trillions of dollars/pounds in bailouts to banks, we should be giving each and every family a life-changing amount of money, so that they can afford to live without debt, in secure housing, and not have to work shitty soul-destroying jobs; we need the time to connect with our community and maintain a social support network; to make [and keep] friends.

Look after yourselves today, and every day. Email me if you're feeling suicidal.

 

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Profligacy

7 min read

This is a story about out-of-control spending...

Wallet

This is my wallet. It doesn't contain any cash. In fact, it doesn't contain very much at all. It's very thin, although not as thin as my favourite wallet, which unfortunately wore out. I like having a thin wallet.

My wallet contains a 'debit' card for my personal account (known as a checking account in North America, I think), a 'debit' card for my business account, and two credit cards. Also, I keep my drivers license as photo ID, and some stamps, in case I need to mail anything. So, that's 4 bank/credit cards and a card-sized driving license: 5 cards in total. That's all I need.

Sure, I need a little cash from time to time. Frustratingly, I had used the small amount of cash that I carry to pay for something, when I needed to pay the guy who cleans the windows in our street, so I had to live with dirty windows for a little while longer than I would have liked to.

Cash tends to stay in my pocket for so long, that often it ceases to be in common circulation: the UK is replacing all of its 'paper' banknotes (they were actually more like a kind of fabric, but that's just a geeky fact for you) with 'plastic' ones. The UK is probably the world's number one place to launder money, so of course we need to have wipe-clean waterproof money.

Anybody who's used a plastic banknote to insufflate a powdered substance into their nose - not me, obviously - will tell you that the new banknotes will damage the delicate membrane of your nose and cause it to bleed, quite often. However, at least you can wipe the blood off. Paying for stuff with bloodstained banknotes is rather embarrassing (but not the reason why I don't carry much cash - I just don't need/use the stuff, for any purpose).

If you've followed my blog, or you know me as a close friend, then you'll know that I've suffered from depression which has been quite relentless and uninterrupted; interrupted only by suicide attempts, I should probably add. My will to live has been long absent.

I was starting to give up and abandon all hope of surviving for more than a few more months. I was certain that if Christmas didn't kill me, like it almost did last year, then I'll certainly die in April or May next year. Basically, I could see no future for myself; no point in suffering any longer.

Then, I had a great idea: I'll buy a really fancy gaming computer, so I can play driving simulators, flight simulators, turn-based strategy games on a big monitor, and retro console games... generally get into gaming in a really big way.

But.

It was not a good idea.

Part of the reason for my depression, is because I'm home alone, in front of a screen all day. Part of the reason for my depression, is because of my sedentary lifestyle. Part of the reason for my depression, is that I lack real-world social interaction with people.

In short: the gaming PC was a bad idea.

But.

Then I had a really great idea, which was to buy a mountain bike.

I mean, I already have a mountain bike, so why would I buy another one? The mountain bike I have is the best that money can buy (to me at least) so why would I buy another one, if I couldn't buy a better one?

Good question.

Mountain biking is hard work. I used to be young, skinny and fit, but now I am old, fat(ter) and unfit. I am by no means obese and I am by no means so unfit that I can't do exercise, but my health and fitness have been grossly neglected during my interminable depression, as well as during lockdown, which made things even worse. I did try to finish the lockdown fitter, thinner and generally healthier than when I started, but, it was very hard. The best I managed to do, was to stop the rot, a little bit.

Pedalling a mountain bike uphill is hard work. You have to move the weight of the bike, the equipment, your clothes and your body, uphill. My super nice mountain bike weighs 24 pounds (11kg), my equipment could be zero I guess, if I was going for minimum weight, my clothes, including shoes, could be as little as 4 pounds (2kg)... but the heaviest thing is me. I weigh at least 22 pounds (10kg) more than I did when I used to ride my mountain bike regularly. So, basically, if I was to ride up a hill, it would be like me riding up that hill with a whole extra mountain bike on my back. Plus, I'm unfit too.

So what's the solution? Lose weight, right? Catch 22.

The best way to lose weight is to exercise, but if your favourite form of exercise - mountain biking in this case - has gone from something which is difficult but enjoyable; rewarding... into something which is so exhausting that it will destroy you to just go up one single hill, then the barrier to entry is too high.

What did I do? I bought a mountain bike which assists with my pedalling, to make it feel like I'm 22 pounds lighter. In fact, the mountain bike I bought can also assist with the pedalling so much, that it's like I'm young and fit too! Of course, I still have to pedal, and that still requires energy, so I'm getting the exercise I need to lose weight and to get fit again.

What I also did was buy a bunch of other stuff: waterproofs so I can go out in the rain, super-padded underwear to protect my ass (because it got soft since I didn't ride a bike for a long time) and a whole bunch of other really expensive stuff. Could I have done without that stuff? Sure. I guess I could carry a heavy mountain bike for miles and miles because I got a puncture. Sure. I guess I could get soaking wet, because it's autumn now and will soon be winter. Sure. I guess I could get run over by a car on the way to/from where I'm riding, in the dark autumn/winter bad weather. For sure, I could have avoided getting that stuff and said "I'm not going out on my bike today, because it's raining/dark/I've got a puncture or whatever".

You bet I'm worried that my spending is out of control. I spent a whole month's income.

Every. Single. Penny.

Like, no money for rent, no money for food, no money for bills, no money for transport... no money for anything except my bike, and the stuff to go with it. I spent every single penny of last month's 'wages'.

So, am I stupid? Am I rubbish with money? Am I a lost cause.

Well, I wanted to commit suicide for a very long time, but now I'm just excited about riding my bike; now I've got a reason for living again. I'm not sure how long that's going to last, but money really can buy happiness, it seems; or at least money can get rid of depression, temporarily. Maybe, like a drug, the depression will only go away for a really short time and I'll have a terrible hangover/comedown. I expect that's true, but let's not be too hasty. Last time I did something like this, I got fit, healthy, happy, more social, more attractive athletic body, identity, self-esteem, and I had a lot of fun. Let's wait a while before we start calling me stupid for doing this.

 

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Electronicat

5 min read

This is a story about technical stuff...

Electronics

Of all the hobbies I thought about getting into, most of them were sedentary; indoors. I thought about getting some kind of retro games console. I thought about getting a new games console. I thought about getting a gaming PC. Then, I thought about maybe doing something really geeky. I started looking into software-defined radio, with the intention of making a home-made radar, perhaps, or doing my own mobile phone base station. All of this, I decided, was expensive and wouldn't help me with my need to get outside and exercise.

I did some of the projects on the cheap. I managed to turn my 5 year old laptop into a pretty decent retro console, with nothing more than a cheap game controller pad. I got a whole buttload of electronics experiments I could do with a super cheap tiny little computer (pictured). I managed to make a home-made sonar. Not quite radar, but not too bad for a bodger.

Still, I found myself spending most of my time looking at a screen, indoors.

Also, although the projects have provided some intellectual challenge, they haven't really opened up any social avenues. I'm sure that if I got really involved in - for example - the software defined radio community, online, then I would kinda get 'social' contact out of that, but I already get more than enough online social contact. The thing I'm missing is real world social contact.

I know from past experience that when I've done something ridiculous, like suddenly deciding to get into kitesurfing, it's taken my life in a brilliant direction. I've travelled the world, in search of the best wind and waves, and made lifelong friends along the way.

My life is very nice - enviable - in a lot of ways. My beautiful cat keeps me company, and she likes company too; always wants to be nearby, getting involved with everything I'm doing, which is not always ideal when working on a microelectronics project, for example. For sure, I have options and opportunities which a lot of people can only dream of.

However.

I am also more socially isolated than you can possibly imagine. Estranged from my family, far from friends, without a support network. The litmus test is this: if you're hospitalised for a major medical emergency, who's there for you? I can answer that question. I can answer that question very well, and the answer is not good, although mercifully I did have a work colleague and a friend who happened to be visiting from abroad, who were kind enough to visit me, hooked up to a dialysis machine for 4 hours a day; a hospital stay of more than 2 weeks; a medical emergency that pretty much nearly killed me.

That's not a dig at my friends, of course. They've become used to leaving me sleeping rough or otherwise homeless. They've become used to leaving me in hospital, dying, alone. That's fine. I've come to terms with that.

I do have some VERY good friends. I am lucky enough to have one or two friends who would help me, if I asked. The rest... I'm not sure if I can even call them friends... more just people who I used to know, but now they're just strangers who I happen to see updates from on Facebook. They might as well be celebrities who I read about in tabloid newspapers or gossip magazines.

This wasn't supposed to be a dig at my acquaintances [former friends]. This is about what I'm doing to sort my life out, to make it bearable.

Possibly, by getting back into mountain biking, I have opened up the possibility of making some friends and building a support network; having a social life. We'll have to see. "Social life" might just be something which I'll never regain; I'm too old to be able to [re]build one now, having lost my old one. Anyway, I remain optimistic.

For the first time in forever, I felt motivated to start to plan for the future, in a way that's not just planning for my suicide. I've been planning what to do when my backside isn't so sore, and I can ride my new mountain bike again - where am I going to go?

Suddenly, winter doesn't look quite so bleak. I have good winter clothes and a reason to be outdoors, in the wind, the rain, and the mud. Not many people have the strange twisted kind of brain that I do, where I love extreme weather: keeps the fair-weather tourists away. On the bike ride I went on, on Saturday, there was not a single other soul on the mountain. I'd hardly describe it as "perfect conditions" but in the forests around the summit of the mountain, I hardly noticed the rain; I was going to get covered in mud anyway. It was delightful; ecstatic; euphoric... to be hammering down deserted mountain tracks, without having to worry about crashing into anybody. A far cry from the queues to get into shops, which seems to be something that the ordinary folks are spending their time doing.

Of course, everything's more fun when there's a social aspect, so I'm hoping to find some people to go mountain biking with, but people are already contacting me (which is unheard of) to arrange some biking trips, which is a good sign; a sign that I might get the healthy habits which I need in my life, along with a truckload of fun and adventure.

 

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Infamy

3 min read

This is a story about wanting to be noticed...

Why I write

This is not a pity party, and everyone has an equally valid claim to misery and depression, but it's important - to me - that I relate this part of the most influential period of my life.

At home, I could do nothing right, and was largely ignored other than as an ornament; a clothes horse; a performing animal, let out of its cage to delight the adults, as a party trick, and otherwise told to be quiet and keep out of the way.This, I think, is not unusual, but was greatly exacerbated my lack of a sibling until the age of 10, and my parents' extreme anti-social behaviour, which left me isolated in the extreme: often in very remote rural areas; far from friends and schoolmates.

At school, I could not avoid attention of the wrong kind. My parents' obsession with training me as their performing animal, for their party tricks, meant that I was either alone, or doing my routine for adults. I had no relationships with children, before school. If you want to fuck up your children and ruin their lives, it's quite easy: do everything in your power to make them different so that they don't fit in; deprive them of every opportunity to socialise; force them to act like little adults, instead of allowing them to be children - that will guarantee that they won't fit in at all at school, and they will be bullied from dawn to dusk, every. single. fucking. day.

Good manners and confidence in the company of adults did, briefly, confer an advantage in the workplace. This supposed 'maturity' was useful for making a good first impression. Employers certainly mistook me for a person who was mature beyond their years, but this was entirely superficial: a party trick learned, because it was the only way I was able to receive praise as a child - from the small amount of adult company my parents kept; those rare occasions when I was trotted out and expected to perform. However, I had no maturity at all - the social isolation, the neglect and the deprivation, was masked and hidden behind impeccable manners and precise diction; expansive vocabulary, learned from books.

As life has worn on, my age relative to my peers has become less obvious, less remarkable. Instead, those deep wounds inflicted in childhood have come to the fore. Exacerbated by extreme stress and intolerable circumstances, the socially isolated child, deprived of a social life and otherwise ill-equipped to face the world with the same skills and experience of his peers, has resurfaced. I feel as though I'm suffering the same horrors again.

In extreme circumstances, we revert to 'type'... our 'true' personality surfaces, and our mask slips.

I wonder to myself, as I write stuff which is read by thousands of people who are suffering a life-and-death crisis in their lives, whether I am flirting with infamy. Why do I not implore them to seek professional help and bombard them with crisis counselling phone numbers?

Maybe I'm evil.

[Note: I lost a few hundred words here, because of an auto-save glitch, but I can't be bothered to re-type what I wrote. I hope it still makes sense without the conclusion, as I originally wrote it]

 

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Aide-Mémoire

4 min read

This is a story about writing prompts...

Book

During a more exciting and varied, but also chaotic period of my life, I habitually made a note of writing prompts for myself. I was able to stay somewhat on top of these sparks of inspiration, and turn them into essays, but the list still grew longer and longer.

I've started writing a list of writing prompts again. Currently it has 10 items on it, which have inspired me to write 3 completed essays, which I've now published.

The other thing which inspires me to write, I must admit, is my readers. My readers write to me, which I'm very grateful for, but even those who do not are inspiring me by reading, because there's nothing worse than feeling ignored, irrelevant or otherwise non-existent. However, there's also a temptation - which I try to avoid - of writing stuff which I know will bring me more readers. What's the point of making art, if you're doing it just for popularity and notoriety - surely that isn't art at all?

The majority of my readers - thousands per day - are new readers. Perhaps [most of] my social media followers and [most] friends have tired of the repetitive nature of my writing; the repetition of my story; the lack of any dramatic change in my circumstances. There isn't much narrative in my writing, because there isn't much narrative in my life. In the adventures of employee man, one day looks very much like the next.

Of course, I am grateful that I have a semi-secure source of income - albeit only in the short term - and I have stability and routine. My health and wealth are thriving, relatively speaking, thanks to the boring repetition which is the backbone of my life.

Perhaps I'll dig some more hair-raising tales of near-death and destitution out of my memory banks, to amuse and entertain my readers, but I did promise myself that I wouldn't dwell on the past, and I would attempt to start a new chapter. I would very much like it if I had a substantial period of boring "this is what I ate for breakfast" type typical run-of-the-mill yawnfest blog vapid bullshit, to put some distance between the chaotic, traumatic and nearly fatal period of my life, and the stable, secure life which seems within touching distance; tantalisingly close.

It feels a little odd to not be in the mood to write, because of low social media engagement, given that I almost exclusively transmit - never receive - and otherwise do not engage myself in discourse; do not engage with the community; do not socialise on social media, per se. A cynical accusation that I want to take, but I never give, could be levelled at me, and I would have little defence; I admit that I don't spend a lot of time keeping up with the lives of my Twitter friends, although I am extremely grateful for their continued support, and the occasional message or cat pic.

Also, I'm a little burnt out. I've been working very hard on a demanding project, and I'm extremely emotionally invested; I've been working with maximum intensity. In addition, of course, I pour my guts out every day onto the pages of this website. Writing and publishing a halfway-decent essay every day is not trivial. Those who say I'm not generous with my time and effort, are being unnecessarily cruel and unkind, if not downright wrong.

I'm not out in the community helping little old grannies cross the road or picking up litter, but people do write to me from all around the world every day, to say that my writing has been helpful - in some way - to them. I'm not saying that what I'm doing is particularly praiseworthy, or patting myself on the back in general, but I do put a lot of effort in, and that effort is not entirely a fool's errand.

Anyway, that was today's essay. I hope you liked it. Even just a teeny tiny bit.

 

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An Essay on Mortality

8 min read

This is a story about premature death...

Skull

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

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

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

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

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

"I want to see my kids grow up"

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

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

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

"I like my life; I like being alive"

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

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

"Everything is meaningless"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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