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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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What Next?

4 min read

This is a story about dreams...

Penny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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5 Year Blogging Anniversary

2 min read

This is a story about writing...

Platform 9.75

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Pattern Recognition

5 min read

This is a story about AI...

Eyes passim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Emotional Burnout

4 min read

This is a story about stress...

Beans

We all experience periods of stress. Most of these are short-lived. There's a natural limit to how much stress we can take, for a given period of time, before we have a breakdown.

This snapshot in time - eating beans directly out of the can using the business card of a lawyer specialising in mental health cases as a spoon - tells an interesting nonlinear story.

We like our stories to be linear.

I have no idea where to begin my story.

If I start my story on the day when I first slept rough, I would say that things got worse before they got better. Sleeping rough was not "rock bottom" at all, and I find the whole notion of "rock bottom" to be ludicrous and unhelpful.

If I start my story on the day when my homelessness ended, again, the arc of the story is complicated. Although I never slept rough again, I would say that my life was - at times - a lot worse than when I was no fixed abode; homeless.

If I start my story on the day when I got myself into my latest period of employment, uninterrupted for 3 years as of today, then the photograph above is a confusing one. Why the hell was I eating uncooked beans directly out of the can, in the dark, using a business card as a spoon?

I can't think of any good time to start my story. This year started with a hospitalisation for kidney failure and a breakup. There is no time which I can point to and say "THERE!" to indicate the point where my life got steadily better and better.

The problem with a precarious existence, is that it's incredibly draining. I live in a hypervigilant, hyperalert, super focussed and energised state, where I haven't been sick for many years, except to be hospitalised in a near-death state... although frankly I would have carried on working if I could. I just want to dig myself out of the hole.

Perhaps I've done OK at times, allowing myself to have a few holidays in recent years, which has been awesome for my health and sense of wellbeing. The prospect of a sustainable life has seemed more within grasp, having granted myself the luxury of a few holidays, but also we must accept the facts: security continues to elude me, despite many years of hard work; my life still hangs by a thread.

Thinking back to when I first escaped homelessness, the first time I recovered within a matter of months; unencumbered by debt or other problems. The second time, I seemingly bounced back quite quickly, although my finances never really recovered. The third time was bound to sink me - without a trace - but a few lucky breaks and I've been able to cling on by my fingernails for a few years... but I always ask myself "was it worth it?".

We shouldn't underestimate the toll that the desperate attempts to regain stability, health, wealth and prosperity, have cost me. To live on the edge of losing everything, and being cast out from mainstream society, is an unbearable burden that nobody should have to endure; yet alone for years and years on end, unrelenting.

Presently, the situation is particularly unbearable, because I am seemingly on the "home straight" where everything seems to be within my own power to succeed; the only person who can screw things up now is me...  or so it seems. In reality, it's not like that. The demands of recent years are catching up with me. You can't put a person under such extreme pressure for such a very long time, and not expect them to crack under pressure eventually.

My worst fear - of course - is that I will crumble before I reach escape velocity. Many people feel this, but few have a story to rival my own.

It's strange. Seeing the finishing line is worse than when I was just plodding along with the vague hope that at some future point I might recover. Living eternally in a "nearly but not quite" state is unbelievably exhausting.

 

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I Can't Afford to Dream

3 min read

This is a story about being stuck in a hole...

Concrete beds

Why did I get so angry and upset yesterday over something so seemingly trivial? I think I'm exhausted from 3 years of uninterrupted hard work, stress and struggle. I've been battling to dig myself out of the hole I'm in, so I certainly haven't had the opportunity to dream.

For those people who are surrounded by their friends and family, comfortably in their routine: paying their mortgages, kissing their husbands/wives and kids good night, working their steady jobs, stuffing money into their sizeable savings accounts and pensions... those people can dream, because they're in a position of security and stability. Their lives are predictable, so they're able to dream. Of course, they are somewhat trapped by domestic bliss, so they kinda have to dream, because it's unthinkable that they would ever cut loose from their comfortable lives... but also, they know they really don't want to have a life of stress and insecurity like I have.

"What do you want to do with your life?" people ask me. A seemingly innocent question, but it's not. The question presupposes that I have any choice, when I obviously do not. My choices are between what I have to do - I'm forced to do - or death. Well, perhaps not immediate death, but in fact a much, much worse death.

If I don't do what I have to do, then bankruptcy, eviction, destitution and exclusion from society swiftly follow: I'll be a homeless tramp, unable to get a job, unable to rent a place to live, unable to do anything, except die from the loss of dignity and the harshness of homelessness and sleeping rough.

I'm creditworthy, so of course I could get into heaps of debt, pretending like I'm able to live a certain lifestyle without consequences. That seems to be what students do in the UK, where tuition fees are £27,000 and maintenance loans add another £30,000... £57,000 of debt, living a lifestyle you can't afford; putting off today's problems until tomorrow. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to get myself into that much debt.

There's no point dreaming until I've got the money to pay for those dreams.

Sure, you go ahead and have your dreams. You can afford to dream. Even if you can't ditch your husband/wife, kids, mortgage and job, you can still dream, and it's harmless. You can dream about getting a new kitchen or bathroom. You can dream about re-carpeting your hallway. You can dream about whatever you want, because you're in a position of wealth and privilege; security.

My dream consists of getting enough financial security to be able to afford a nervous breakdown without capitalism destroying me; killing me.

 

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Why are you homeless? Just buy a house lol

3 min read

This is a story about people who are so privileged they don't realise they're incredibly privileged...

Nettles

I was having a pretty good week. I've made good progress financially, and I'm proud of the work I've been doing on an important project. I've achieved a lot; I've been highly productive.

I'm gaining some financial security, slowly but surely.

Then somebody sent me a listing for a remote piece of land.

Utterly depressing.

In fact, suicide-inducing.

In order to be able to afford said piece of land - with an asking price of half a million pounds - I will have to work flat-out for another year or two just to be able to afford the deposit and then I wouldn't be able to live on the land, because I would have to work for the rest of my life to pay the mortgage. Naturally "remote" does not correlate with "within commuting distance of employment".

Utterly demented.

As an act deliberately designed to make me depressed and suicidal, it could not have been more perfectly designed.

I don't plan on working until my health is failing, and then dying the moment I'm able to escape from the rat race. I'll just kill myself now and save myself the effort, energy, stress and misery.

I'm utterly furious.

I spend my time thinking about perhaps buying a piece of land and a caravan for £15,000 in order to escape from the rat race. I am not in the league of people who think that a half million pound piece of land in the middle of nowhere is anything other than something which I can't afford and is utterly impractical, given it's nowhere near any place of employment; anywhere it would be possible to generate the income to pay the massive mortgage. My priority is to have secure housing. My priority is to escape the clutches of the parasitic idle class, and to live free from the tyranny of rent or mortgage for a while.

Of course I'm privileged to have the vague possibility of being able to live in an old caravan in a grotty field, but I would also settle for a tin shack, or even a tent. Basically, I'm prepared to live like a person in a developing world slum, if I can escape the rat race.

Unless you've lost years of your life to sickness - hospitalised and otherwise unable to work - you don't understand that the things you take for granted, like your house, can be snatched away if you have a period of ill health. I know I can't have a huge mortgage, because I can't guarantee that I'll be able to work 12 months a year. At times I've barely managed to be able to work 3 months a year. I know what it means to lack financial security and housing security: I've been homeless, penniless and almost bankrupt; destitute.

I refuse to go back to that life, of having my health, wealth, home and dignity all snatched away from me. I'll just kill myself instead.

I deliberately haven't looked to see if I can buy a tiny piece of land and a caravan for £15,000, because if I can't then it's time to kill myself. I'm worn out. I'm burnt out. I've had enough. I need a break. My health is failing and I can't participate in the rat race any longer.

Thanks, buddy. Why don't you fuck off with your half-a-million-pound remote fucking shit? Good for you, cunt. I'm just trying to not end up sleeping rough again, you piece of shit.

 

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Step Ten: Don't Suffer Fools

10 min read

This is a story about the hard-of-thinking...

Doorway

I have a friend who can only be described as a racist and an anti-feminist. It's worth letting that sink in for a second, and then repeating. I have a friend who can only be described as a racist and an anti-feminist. How can this be possible? How could I be friends with a racist anti-feminist?

At first, this friend began to announce his anti-feminist views publicly on social media, which was a shock to me, because I had presumed he was an educated left-wing metropolitan liberal elitist, like myself: a product of the university system, and therefore his political viewpoint and stance on such matters as racism and sexual equality could be presumed to be correct. My presumption was wrong. He began by strongly asserting his anti-feminist stance, suddenly and shockingly, in a very public manner. I did not know how to react, except through a combination of condemnation and ignoring it.

Then, this friend began to indicate a right-wing viewpoint very publicly, on social media. This was perhaps less of a shock, given that he had shown himself to hold views which I despised, on the subject of sexual equality, but it was still nevertheless, shocking to see somebody who I considered to a be well educated, erudite and thoughtful individual, sharing content which was so right wing that it was bordering on outright racism. I did not know how to react, so I used a combination of condemnation and ignoring it.

Then, this friend became openly racist, in public, on social media. This was again, shocking, because I never imagined that I would ever encounter a racist amongst my small group of hand-picked friends, almost all of whom have enjoyed privileged socioeconomic advantages, university educations, professions and share a similar set of politics and values. I did not know how to react, so I used a combination of condemnation and ignoring it.

After my friend had spent some considerable length of time espousing views which I found vile and abhorrent, I was faced with a choice: should I cut all ties with this friend? It seemed to me that I was duty-bound to do so. My upbringing had provided no explicit guidance on how to handle this precise situation, but it seemed as though the right thing to do would be to pretend as though I had never been friends with my friend, and to distance myself from them as much as possible; to cover up the fact that we were ever friends and to sever all ties. It seemed like I was supposed to eject that person from my bubble.

I realised that if I did eject that person from my bubble, then I would never have any insight into the mind of an anti-feminist right-wing racist, and I felt that it would be detrimental to me, given the homogeny of the views of my other friends. The views of all my other friends are all so broadly similar, that I had never encountered a viewpoint which I felt compelled to condemn, much less acknowledge existed: in my liberal metropolitan elite world, I thought that racism had been defeated, along with sexism and anti-feminism. I thought that there were only small pockets of knuckle-dragging racists to be found in the poorest and most deprived communities, where the poor brutes knew no better so I was perturbed that a person who had enjoyed such socioeconomic advantage might turn out to be such a racist and anti-feminist.

I invested a substantial amount of energy in condemnation of my friend's views, attempting to persuade him to change his ways, but I made little progress.

I considered again, whether the wise course of action was to abandon the friendship and to block him on social media; to distance myself from him and to pretend that we had never been friends. Again, I felt as though I was committing some kind of immoral act, by not tossing our friendship into the dustbin - something I felt a weight of expectation to do without hesitation, the moment that any friend said anything which was remotely incorrect according to liberal dogma. Racism, certainly, is the ultimate taboo and I knew that it must carry the harshest penalty - immediate ostracisation, and denial that we were ever friends; immediate castigation and abandonment.

Yet, I did not abandon the friendship.

Does this make me a racist sympathiser? Do I endorse my friends anti-feminist views? Of course not. Do not be so ridiculous.

Recently I've had the opportunity to probe the origins of my friend's views, and quite quickly discovered where he had erred. He enthusiastically cited the extremely strong link between race and crime, in the United States - particularly that black men are disproportionately incarcerated versus the overall number of black U.S. citizens in the general population. This, for him, was concrete proof that "the races are different" and therefore his racism was justified. Naturally, I pointed out that correlation does not equate to causation, and by far the biggest cause of criminality is poverty - the race argument is null and void: the statistical link disappears when we control the wealth variable.

My friend persists with arguments, born in the time of the eugenics movement, and pseudoscience which is regrettably ubiquitous, which appears to provide legitimate research proving a link between race and IQ. Of particular fascination to my friend was any data which showed that black people had significantly lower IQ than white caucasians. Naturally, I pointed him in the direction of how these dreadfully low-quality academic papers were published in fringe journals, bankrolled by racists, and received little or no peer review; their findings utterly discredited and the quality of the work found to be nothing better than abysmal.

My friend and I have regular conversations, and each one is at least interesting which is far more than can be said for any discussion I might have with fools who hold viewpoints, simply because of anecdotal evidence, or because the liberal media finds the narrative to be particularly popular with its readership. If I was the editor of a left-wing newspaper, read by wealthy metropolitan intelligentsia, of course I would publish news stories about black lesbian disabled homeless women being raped and murdered by the patriarchy, because outrage sells newspapers. However, the anecdotal evidence gathered by those of us who wander around with a bleeding heart - myself included - does not have any validity, beyond our own confirmation bias: we seek out so-called evidence to reassure ourselves that our values and beliefs are correct.

My patience has run out for idiots who waste my time, parroting media narratives instead of using their so-called intellect to direct their energies towards the truly important issues. Racism, domestic violence and sexual discrimination are very real and they cause terrible suffering, but to mistakenly believe - as so many do - that women, for example, are at greater risk than men, is demonstrably absurd and grossly incorrect. Men are 85% more likely to be violently assaulted. 79% of all murder victims are male. Again and again, the exhaustive research has overwhelmingly and incontrovertibly demonstrated the truth all around us, yet there are wilfully ignorant idiots on both the left wing and the right wing, who continue to perpetuate myths and lies. My friend the racist is just as bad as the former friend who chose to block me, because she preferred to live in her bubble, believing that women are the victims of the majority of violent crime and murder, when in fact the polar opposite is true.

My friend the anti-feminist racist is wrong to hold the views that he does, and I hope that one day he might be persuaded by the overwhelming evidence and convincing research, but at least he is still talking to me and I am still able to challenge his erroneous thinking. The woman who I thought of as a friend, who would characterise herself as a feminist, has actually proven herself to be sexist: to deny that male victims of violence and murder far outnumber female victims, is pure delusion, driven by sexism. To block me on social media and to pretend our friendship never existed is quite typical of a sexist or other person who holds abhorrent views which they do not wish to be challenged. Only by remaining in our isolated bubbles can our wilful ignorance persist. I have lost any further opportunity to persuade - with great ease - my former friend, the sexist, of the overwhelming body of evidence which shows the appalling situation suffered by male victims of violence and murder. This is a predictable characteristic of weak-minded fools who rely too heavily upon the media to instruct them on how they should think, in place of an intellect which they sadly lack.

My energies are presently consumed with work, health and of course, having a brief period of sobriety, which these steps partly document.

My point this evening is simple: the world is full of idiots, and one should rely upon high quality evidence and research, not popular opinion within your social media bubble. Of course, one must be careful not to fall afoul of pseudoscience and the temptation to draw incorrect conclusions from raw statistics, but provided you keep a group of intelligent friends around you, then you will at least have a better chance that any mistaken beliefs you hold might be corrected. The ignorant idiots who wish to surround themselves with likeminded fools, are no loss, and no effort should be expended upon them. I am glad that I am friends with somebody who holds detestable views, and I feel no regret for losing the friendship of somebody who holds no views at all other than the media narratives which are pedalled by the limited sources upon which they rely on, in the absence of their own intellect.

In closing, we should be reminded once more: men suffer dreadfully. The life of a man is virtually worthless. That suicide should have been allowed to become the biggest killer of men in the prime of their life, with few tears shed, is an awful state of affairs, and it is accompanied by other terrible things: 97% of workplace deaths, 78% of all murders, 75% of all suicides, 65% of all violent assaults... the list is virtually endless. Men are overwhelmingly the victims, yet this is not the impression which a person would gain, if they keep themselves inside their bubble.

It's vitally important that I maintain perspective, given that my life is at stake. This sounds hyperbolic of course, because we have been brought up to believe that men are strong, when demonstrably a man's life is extremely precarious - the evidence is overwhelming.

During the last couple of days of my "Sober October" I'm particularly mindful of the precarity of my existence, combined with a great deal of stress regarding my work and a matter which hangs over me, threatening to end my career. I feel unwell. I am in need of some winter sunshine. I need to take a break, having worked very hard for a lengthy sustained period. My future hangs in the balance and my health is fragile; my efforts and energies invested to reach this point presently count for nothing - no safety or security has been achieved, and things are as uncertain as they ever were.

With this in mind, it is with very little regret that I refuse to suffer fools gladly and lose so-called friendships, to whomsoever proves to be immovable in the face of overwhelming facts, preferring instead to treat me with sexist contempt and hold little regard for the danger my life is in.

Survival is paramount.

 

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Step Nine: Prioritise

8 min read

This is a story about the critical path...

Backpacks

Having attended 8 different schools and basically had my sense of stability and security snatched away from me at every opportunity, by my selfish parents, during an upbringing where they prioritised their own antisocial desire to take drugs in isolation above everything else, I've learned the hard way what's important and what's not.

I place a very high value on loyalty, but I know from bitter and disappointing experience that there are extremely few people who are at all loyal in the world. I very rarely encounter anybody who I would describe as loyal, let alone trust. Because my parents forcibly removed me from anywhere I was becoming settled and secure, on so many occasions, it was necessary to find a coping mechanism for the destruction wrought upon any relationships; any attachments which I had formed. Through no fault of my own, and indeed through the wickedness of my parents, I was forced to become able to remain emotionally detached from people, such that I could disentangle myself without the heartbreak, repeatedly perpetrated against me, while my parents pursued their antisocial selfish drug-taking lifestyle.

Repeatedly moving house also destroys a child's sense of security in their home and their bedroom. What's the point in getting attached to a place if your parents are going to wrench you from it, the moment you begin to feel at home? Again, I was forced to develop coping mechanisms for the selfish antisocial drug-taking lifestyle, which perpetrated such an unsettled home life upon me, leaving me with no sense of 'home' or 'belonging' - these things are meaningless terms to me.

"Where are you from?" people often ask me. How on earth do I answer that question? I have had a childhood which no child should've had to suffer. Children need stability and security; consistency. Children need their friends; children need their house and their school and they need a place which they can call home - be it town or village. If you rob your child of this, you are an evil and wicked person.

Where I currently sit, on my sofa with my cat snuggled next to me, there are approximately ten books which I haven't read, six board games which I haven't played, a few other items of furniture and some fake plants, all of which I would consider entirely disposable. If my house burned down and I lost every single possession, it would be a mere inconvenience to process the insurance claim - there is nothing in my life which I'm emotionally attached to. Even my cat, who I adore, could be re-homed and live a very happy life. It would, I admit, be hard for me to return to cat-free existence and I would soon seek to get another cat at the earliest practicable opportunity, but while I do love my beautiful kitten, I know that her loyalties lie with whoever is feeding her; cats are not loyal and they do not truly reciprocate love, because they are simple creatures, although incredibly beautiful and loveable.

Why have I led this essay with such a bitterness-filled tirade? Well, it sets the scene for the important point I'm about to make.

If you need to achieve something very, very hard, you have to know what you can afford to lose.

To go on the journey from penniless and homeless, abandoned by friends and family - or at least given a temporary wide berth because they mistakenly and misguidedly believed they needed to protect their families from "that homeless guy" who they used to call their friend or relative - then you need to know what is on the critical path, and what is not.

We live in a capitalist society (unless you are reading this in North Korea, which I very much doubt) and as such, the cultural indoctrination has been so successful that nobody will piss on you if you're on fire, because they believe that there is some cash value for their urine, or at least expect to be paid in advance for emptying their bladder in order to extinguish the flames. Thus, while it's laudable to do acts of random kindness, most people will cut off your head and shit down your throat, if they think it'll contribute 0.000001% towards getting their kid an "A" grade in their exam.

Money is at the root of everything. Concentrate on getting money and everything else falls into place. This might sound shallow. This might sound like terrible advice. Indeed, it would be terrible advice for any person who had a brilliant childhood where they were raised by normal parents, in a normal house and went to school like a normal kid. Unfortunately, for those of us who were denied that by our wicked selfish parents, we have to buy our way through life; we have to prostitute ourselves. We have no place to call home which will welcome us with open arms - we have been forced into nomadic exile; belonging nowhere and to nobody.

People have been kind to me, but people have been disproportionately unkind to me, such that the net balance means that I have suffered far more than I have benefitted. I am immensely grateful for those few loyal, generous and kind people who have treated me well. My sanity, dignity and self-esteem is only preserved by that tiny group who have chosen not to shun, marginalise, exclude, ostracise and spurn me; to eject me from society and reject me from anywhere I might gain a sense of belonging.

A man's life is worth very little, and I use the word "man" quite deliberately, because it is men who freeze to death on the streets, only to be cremated, with no mourners. There are some women, but they attract a disproportionate amount of sympathy, given that they suffer less violence, and have far better prospects than men do. You might immediately feel that I'm wandering into the territory of a misogynistic rant, but I merely present the simple facts. "Hate" facts you might call them, if there was any malice in my words, but there is not. It's simply a bleak appraisal of a life, as a man, which sees me far more likely to be murdered, assaulted, killed at work, jailed, homeless or suffer any number of horrible outcomes, than if I had been born without a willy in-between my legs.

So, what about the priorities?

Earn money. It's a practical necessity in capitalist society, and without it you will be trampled, spat on and kicked to death. There are no other priorities. Making friends is not important. Having a place to call home is not important. Having a family is not important. Everything can wait until you've got some money. That is the priority: get some money, then everything else will fall into place.

Once you have money, you will find that everything can be bought. You can attempt to persuade yourself that everything you have was not bought, but I can reassure you from bitter experience, that nobody wants to come and visit you in the gutter, if you're penniless; nobody wants to be in a relationship with you; nobody wants to help you... nobody even wants to see you. That's right, if you're poor, people would much prefer it if you were totally invisible.

How does this relate to my own personal version of the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps abstinence-based program to achieving sobriety? Well, it's pretty simple really: step nine says get rich, and don't worry about anything else. The world is full of wealthy drunks, and nobody cares about their alcohol problems. Alcoholism is a disease of the poor. If you're not poor then you're not an alcoholic anymore... you're just somebody who enjoys a drink; you're a party animal; you're suddenly a great guy or gal who's surrounded by heaps of friends.

Of course, don't be so stupid as to lose your money, which can very easily be done when gregariously and generously buying drinks for all your friends, because of course without money you're nothing but a worthless alcoholic scumbag. That's the secret, you see: stay rich and you'll be fine; concentrate on the money and everything else falls into place.

You might think that this sounds like terrible advice, and it probably is. If I screw up and lose all my money, you will laugh at me and tell me that I am a fool, and in all probability I am more likely to fail than I am to succeed, so you are making a cowardly bet, to bet against me. If I succeed, then I don't give a shit who you are or what you used to think about me, because I can do whatever the hell I want; I can have whatever I want.

In this hell-hole of a capitalist society, prioritise one thing and one thing alone: money.

 

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Step Eight: Be Selfish

10 min read

This is a story about looking after number one...

Safety card

I just spent about half an hour searching for a specific picture which I know I took, because I have a photographic memory. I quite clearly remember the harrowing scene depicted, of the person crawling out of a burning aircraft. Perhaps I have muddled up some parody/meme image with my constant snapping of everything vaguely interesting, but I am certain that it was a photograph which I took and have uncharacteristically misplaced.

Why the hell is this important?

Well, every day I have to think of a title, introductory line, a rough outline of what I plan to write, and I choose what I think is an appropriate photo to accompany my piece. It might often seem like the pictures are unrelated, but very often a photograph is the thing which prompts what I'm going to write.

In today's instance, I knew what I was going to write, and I knew which photo I wanted to accompany the piece, but I couldn't find it despite a thorough search.

I imagine that many people are quite thorough and meticulous about organising their lives, and I am too, but in my own unique way. I can quickly lay my hands on on what I need, given that I have taken the various essential tasks of my life and turned them into efficient processes, despite not spending an inordinate amount of time on systematically organising stuff.

I deal with a substantial amount of stuff. I run my own business, which requires me to do monthly payroll submissions to HMRC, quarterly VAT submissions, annual accounts, self-assessment tax return, corporation tax, dividend tax, income tax, national insurance, annual shareholder statements, board meeting minutes, dividend certificates, professional indemnity insurance, 3rd party liability insurance. I live an ordinary life, which brings rental contracts, house inspections, gas and electric meter readings, tenant insurance, home contents insurance, pet insurance, car insurance, car tax, car roadworthiness testing, car servicing, car maintenance, cleaning the house, feeding the cat, scooping my cat's poops and replacing her kitty litter, recycling, bin day, mowing the lawn, composting, buying food, preparing meals. None of this is unusual, but it's not insignificant.

With the continuous unrelenting pressure to do a good job at work, and impress my colleagues, combined with the constant threat of ending up bankrupt, homeless, penniless and destitute, it's an intolerable amount of stress and anxiety, heaped upon me. Although I'm not drowning in ever-growing debt - my income far exceeds my expenditure - I don't have any job security, housing security or financial security. The position I find myself in is immutable: there are no alternative choices I could take.

"Why don't you take some time off?" or "why don't you do some unpaid voluntary work" or "why don't you switch careers?" or "why don't you study something interesting?" are all as utterly ridiculous as asking me why I don't just wave my magic wand and turn a pile of house-bricks into a pile of gold bullion. My situation is completely, rigidly, unalterably dictated by my circumstances. There is no other way to structure my life, other than the way I have done it - my life is like a prison.

Of course, I could always drop out of society, live in a tent under a road bridge, beg for money, eat at soup kitchens. Of course I have the option of becoming totally feral, and foraging for food in the forest, covered in dirt and clothed in rags. Yes, I suppose those are options which are available to me, but we must be aware that society operates a strict one-way street. Once I left society, I would never be permitted to return.

"So Mr Grant, what have you been doing for the past 6 months?" asks the interviewer. "Living in a cave" comes my reply. "Where should we write to you if your application for the job is successful?" the interviewer asks. "I have no postal address" comes my reply. Thus endeth any attempts to re-enter society, once a person has dropped out. I suppose I could get a cash-in-hand job washing cars for illegal immigrants, and sleep rough on the streets, but I think I would rather go back to my cave than suffer such a fate.

The point of this rant is that my life is finely balanced: it doesn't take much extra demand placed upon me, to push me beyond what I can cope with, given that I've already endured such incredible hardship to get here.

My journey has already included rough sleeping, hospitalisations and being locked up in secure psychiatric institutions. My journey has already included recent periods where I had no money and I had no income which is a pretty difficult place to come back from. My journey already took me to the limit of human survival, where I was in an intensive care ward of a hospital on life support in a coma, suffering from multiple organ failure.

I'm feeling pretty fit and healthy, relative to how I was before. I'm feeling pretty financially prosperous, versus the time when I had no money and no income. I'm feeling as thought I have a realistic prospect of re-entering civilised society, as opposed to crushed beneath its heel, like a bug. However, it really wasn't very long ago that I was in dire trouble, relatively speaking.

So, I have to be careful about being too competent and capable, taking on the world's problems; boiling the ocean. Only a few months ago I shunned anything and everything which would add more complexity and stress to my life, cutting things back to the bare essentials, so that I could cope. I'm little more capable of dealing with extra stuff now, but it's easy for me to get carried away. Vast amounts of my precious time can be eaten up when I try to help with some "simple" task, which is always anything but.

It's hard to say "no" as an engineer. We are, by our nature, problem solvers who like fixing stuff. We have dogged unshakeable determination to follow a complex set of tasks through to completion. What use is a half-finished engineering project which doesn't work? What use is half an aeroplane? What use is half a bridge?

I don't really know what my wants and needs are, but I know that it's very important that I fend off things of no value: things that drain my time and energy, disproportionately versus any reward I receive. My blog is an engineering solution to a problem I had, where lots of people wanted to be kept updated about my woeful life, but nobody was offering any useful practical help, so it was a massive waste of time speaking to the rubberneckers who wanted to know every gory detail, despite being completely useless, and indeed counterproductive because it was valuable time wasted which could otherwise have been put to good use, earning money or securing a place to live. If you want a soap opera - human drama - then you can read the pages of this blog, but don't bug me for your own personal show, because I don't have the time.

Of course, I love my online friends and they are very supportive, but only one or two have ever stepped forward to ever offer any real tangible thing of any use. Only one or two have ever made effort and taken risk, in order to help and support me. This is not to say that all the messages of support I receive aren't lovely, and the concern that's felt for me does lift my spirits, but I have to balance that proportionately against the effort involved. Lots of "sorry to hear you're having a hard time" messages won't pay my rent, if I'm in a financially precarious situation, so I have to prioritise work and other practical matters ahead of maintaining online friendships.

As a group of supportive individuals, of course my Twitter followers - and one in particular - were instrumental in getting the emergency services to me and saving my life, so it would be churlish and mean-spirited to complain about the 'burden' of having people who are interested and concerned my welfare. Of course I want more friends, not fewer. Of course I want to maintain a good relationship with as many people as practicably possible, but I have to offset that with the effort involved and the probability of useful, practical payoff. I could never have predicted that Twitter followers would be so swift in delivering the emergency services to me in the nick of time - although I still nearly died - and I could never have predicted that I would receive vital practical things that I needed, exactly when I needed them, due to people who've read my blog. I could never have predicted that my blog would bring me new friends, who make the effort to come and visit me. All of these things are positive, but I also need to be careful, because social media is mostly a black hole, swallowing vast amounts of time and energy, and giving very little back in return.

So, I say this as a reminder to myself: my blog is the way that anybody who's interested in my life can stay up to date, without excessively burdening me. It seems unfair to ask for your own personal update, when I spend so much time and effort crafting these written updates, for the express purpose of keeping anybody who's interested informed.

Of course 1.3 million words are far too many for anybody to read in order to "get to know me" but also somehow too few... either way, I'm struggling to survive day to day through my essential tasks of: work, sleep, eat, write.

It might sound selfish or antisocial, but this massive piece of writing contains everything you might ever want to know, if only you can be bothered to look. Don't ask for me to look for you, because that undermines the very point of having gone to such a great deal of effort in documenting years of my life. There's a search box at the top and I tag every post. Knock yourself out. Go digging. Explore - there's plenty there.

Meanwhile, I just need a simple, basic, undemanding life at the moment, because things are demanding and overwhelming and stressful enough. I don't need any extra work, especially if it's unrewarding versus the effort expended.

This lengthy blog post has taken me all day to finish, because of various interruptions, some of which were very welcome - like a phonecall from a close friend - and others were questionably useful, when I might otherwise have been spending my time doing something more beneficial for myself. Spare time feels very scarce at the moment, so it should be used wisely and efficiently. I went to a great deal of effort to provide a vast trove of information, so it irks me if that effort is not delivering what I want it to, which is to avoid having to repeat myself.

Anyway, I need as many friends as I can get looking out for me, but I have very little "spare capacity" to offer at the moment, and it's wrong to ask too much of me - the resources are out there; you just have to look.

I need to protect myself. I'm no good at saying "no!" and "enough!".

 

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