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

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

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Emotionally Unstable

7 min read

This is a story about repeating patterns...

Quote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sensitive

5 min read

This is a story about spectator sports...

HP

Politics and protesting is a kind of hobby for the middle classes. In the absence of a football team to support and matches to attend, the middle classes engage in similar tribal behaviour with their political party affiliations and their favourite political causes. Instead of an irrational hatred of a geographically proximate football club to one's own preferred football club, the middle classes hate the political party on the opposite wing from their own chosen party. The reds hate the blues and the blues hate the reds, whether it's football teams or political parties.

The issues of the day have rather vague and nebulous non-threats. Terrorism and immigration do not affect us day to day. Climate change does not affect us day to day. Brexit does not affect us day to day. Very few of us will be victims of terrorism, man-made climate change or economic catastrophe due to leaving the European Union. Why get so worked up about these things?

Given that most of us are idle in our bulls**t jobs which needn't exist, we have plenty of time to read, listen and watch the news. We have plenty of time to engage with social media. We have plenty of time to partake in manufactured outrage and to work ourselves up about things which have no bearing on our day to day existence.

My mental health is fragile.

The constant media bombardment with nonstop news coverage of the political drama is something that affects me more than it should. I think I'm somebody who feels quite a lot of empathy - a lefty libertard snowflake - and I am often taken in by my perceived onslaught on the vulnerable members of society. I'm one of those bleeding-heart tree huggers. I feel a great outpouring of sympathy for refugees and asylum seekers, homeless people, alcoholics, drug addicts, neglected and abused children, neglected and abused animals, and indeed our ecosystem. I struggle to go through life with a "take are country back" (sic.) attitude, and to ignore the climate emergency, the refugee crisis and the misery inflicted by economic disaster and austerity. I struggle to distance myself emotionally from current affairs.

I'm acutely aware of how little I am contributing towards worthy ideals. My bulls**t job requires me to drive a car and otherwise pollute the planet, as well as robbing my labour from any efforts to build a better world. It would, in fact, be better if I just stayed at home; far less polluting. If I didn't have to go to my bulls**t job then I would have all the time in the world to knit my own yoghurt and wipe my bum with a chinchilla, or whatever it is that tree-huggers are doing these days in order to save the planet.

It's highly toxic to my mental health to be forced to spectate. It's awful that I have so little opportunity to be a productive member of a new, better society, helping to build a better world. It's really crappy that the coercive demands of unrestrained free-market capitalism dictate that I have to choose between homeless destitution, or selling my soul and being part of a society which is destroying the planet, in pursuit of endless profit and growth, with no regard for sustainability.

I feel as though I'm an aerial, a satellite dish, receiving an incomprehensible and unprocessable torrent of information at all times. I feel tuned in to so many things, and those things all cause me pain.

I can't do anything about the pain.

I see something about climate change and I want to alter my lifestyle completely, to reduce my carbon footprint, but then I remember that I'm trapped by capitalism.

I see something about homelessness and I want to build social housing, but then I remember that I'm trapped by capitalism.

I see something about asylum seekers, refugees, drug addicts, alcoholics, mental health problems, suicide, youth unemployment, bullying, child abuse, animal cruelty... and I want to quit my bulls**t job and to build a better world, but I can't because I'm trapped by capitalism.

Instead, I'm trapped on the sidelines, watching with horror. Instead, I plough my intellectual energy into social media, writing and worrying; thinking about what the solutions are to the world's problems, and arguing with people who want to "take are country back" (sic.) and otherwise perpetuate the situation ad nauseam.

It makes me unwell, hoovering up all this information - all these world events - all day long, and thinking about the problems, and worrying, and using my rational brain to think about solutions... solutions that I'll never be allowed to put into practice, because I'm trapped making profit for billionaires; trapped by capitalism.

I hate being this sensitive. I hate being tuned into everything. I hate being powerless. I hate being sidelined. I hate spectating.

I'm a productive busy thoughtful person. I'm also very sensitive.

It's agony right now, being forced to spectate while everything burns.

 

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I'm Scared

5 min read

This is a story about faking it until you make it...

Taxi

Being at zero - break even - is perhaps the worst possible position to be in. I've put in two years of continuous hard work and I've got nothing to show for it, but it's been incredibly difficult to reach this point. In fact, I'm not even at break-even, but on paper it looks as though I might possibly reach that break-even point, provided that I continue to bust my balls for the next two months and I don't get sick.

Of course, there might be other obstacles; bolts from the blue. I feel certain that somebody is going to take a dump on me. In my experience, there's always somebody who wants to take a dump on me.

Given that there's only one way I can travel in the event of a somebody taking a dump on me, there's only one place I can end up, and that's back in the nightmare which I've suffered through, while desperately trying to get back on my feet.

I have gritted my teeth and worked through the adversity and the uphill struggle of coming back from being discharged from hospital after nearly dying, only to be sacked and evicted and nearly go bankrupt. I had psychologically prepared myself for the stress and the anxiety and the exhaustion. I had anticipated the likely setbacks. What I cannot deal with is having to re-live the f**king nightmare.

If I get sent to jail, do not collect £200, do not pass Go, then I will tip the board on the floor and refuse to carry on playing, because this stupid game has gone on too long. I've been too close to 'winning' for far too long and the suspense is literally killing me. I have suspended all self-care and concerns about my health. I have suspended all my needs. I have suspended everything. I just work. I work and I work and I work. I work all the f**king time and I'm not prepared to have that hard work not pay off.

This isn't a game to me. The threat of homelessness, bankruptcy and career ruin hang over me, threatening. My health is not reliable; cannot be taken for granted. The consequences of somebody taking a dump on me are severe. I fear it.

Even if I bust my balls for the next two months, all that happens is that I reach zero; break-even. I'll be able to pay my tax bills. I'll be able to clear my debts. That's it. That's all I'll have achieved. That's my lot: zero.

I'm not prepared to suffer any setbacks. I've worked too hard for too long to suffer any longer.

I don't have the luxury of thinking about what would be best for my health. I don't have the luxury of thinking about what would be less of a risk to my life. I don't have the luxury of thinking what would be more pleasant and bearable. I don't have the luxury of thinking about what would be more enjoyable or rewarding. I don't have the luxury of thinking about anything except the rocky road which leads to zero.

It's not fun. It's thoroughly awful. The constant threat of someone taking a dump on me, wrecking my efforts, leaving me bankrupt, homeless and ruining my career... it's a heavy burden to bear, on top of working hard doing something which is purely to keep the money rolling in. Other people do jobs that they enjoy. I do the job that's the only one that'll pay the bills and allow me to reach zero.

Reaching zero is not that great.

Think about it.

Would you be pleased with yourself if years of dedicated hard work amounted in nothing? Zero. Zip. Nada.

Would you be pleased if you made tough choices, to live and work in unpleasant circumstances, living out of a suitcase in places where you don't have any friends and family, only to achieve seemingly nothing? Would you be pleased to achieve nothing, having spent years doing work which was incompatible with your health and somewhat intolerable?

There is of course some potential in reaching zero, because at least from that point there's an opportunity to build something, but not if somebody takes a dump on you and your opportunity is taken away. There's no opportunity if somebody takes a dump on you and wrecks your hard work. Hence the fear. Hence why I'm scared.

I'm not even close. There's still at least 2 months hard work just to reach zero. Even when I reach zero, I still have to find another contract, potentially move house... there's a lot more stress on the horizon. However, my concerns are more rooted in the present: I'm scared that somebody is going to take a dump on me and deny me the opportunity to even reach zero. It would be so easy to f**k up my fragile life. It would be so easy to destroy me. Tempting, huh?

Most of my waking hours are plagued by fears of somebody taking a dump on me. The anxiety is awful, not knowing when somebody's going to take a dump on me, but feeling certain that they will. The dread keeps me awake at night and distracts me. I can't concentrate. I can't relax. From the moment I wake until the moment I finally pass out into fitful sleep, in the small hours of the morning, a dreadful fear and anxiety and worry follows me around, making my existence miserable and stressful and thoroughly unpleasant.

I crave a tiny crumb of security, yet instead I have the threat of ruin wielded against me; the threat of somebody taking a dump on me is ever-present.

 

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Not a Good Look

9 min read

This is a story about receiving advice...

Pixelated

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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I'm Not Ignoring You

10 min read

This is a story about being disconnected...

Trespass

I've received a bunch of messages from people who care about me, over the past few weeks. I haven't responded - yet - but I'm not intentionally ignoring anybody. I very much want to reply, but I've struggled to know when and how to do so. I very much want to stay connected but I reached breaking point.

I started writing this blog because my life was in danger but it was too difficult to keep anybody informed about what was going on: my life was too chaotic and unmanageable. I needed a mechanism to keep anybody who was concerned about my welfare informed. Writing a blog post on a regular basis was the easiest way to keep kind and caring people in the loop.

A group of people emerged, who have supported me. I literally owe my life to those who contacted emergency services when I tried to end my life. Without the intervention of those who read my words and decided to act, I should not have made it this far. I have received aid in my hour of need thanks to people who were strangers until they read my blog and decided to help me.

There is a certain amount of thought and effort ploughed into each blog post. There is an investment of time and energy. There is a risk that my words might be used against me. There is fear and there is shame, every time I share something that's unflattering or otherwise make myself vulnerable. There is a sense of responsibility towards those who read and those who care, who have taken the time to understand a little about who I am, and those who have gone to the effort of making a human connection.

I know that if I don't write regularly then people won't check regularly to see if I've written anything new. I know that it's the regularity with which I write which sets me apart from the vast majority of bloggers, who quickly tire of the chore and abandon their blogs. I know that if I stop writing I stop existing, in a way. I know that if I stop writing, regular readers drift away.

What is the reason I need regular readers?

I started writing this blog because my life was in danger. That I write this as a "suicide note" is only partly tongue-in-cheek. That it seems somewhat melodramatic, alarmist, attention-seeking or hyperbolic is a reflection of how little wider society really cares about suicide, and how society loves to call people's bluff.

The reason I couldn't write for the past three weeks is that I was overcome with several competing messages. I wanted to write about the happy thing in my life: that I was getting to go away on a lovely holiday. I wanted to share my amazing holiday photos. I wanted to share something positive, after a very long time spent moaning and complaining about my miserable life. However, money worries and uncertainty surrounding my income, plus a lot of stress about an invasive security vetting procedure, were consuming me. I was filled with dread about the future. I was consumed with anxiety. I was constantly assaulted with an imagined future, where I become penniless and homeless, after such a protracted lengthy struggle.

I thought about presenting the lovely images of my holiday alongside the inner turmoil I was suffering. I thought about sharing picturesque holiday photos with unrelated text, explaining how depressed and anxious I was about the future.

There's a slim chance that the wolf might be kept from the door for another couple of months. After my holiday was finished and I was back in the UK at the airport, I received an email which said that my contract could possibly be extended for another couple of months.

However, my security clearance has foundered. Before I departed on holiday, I was told that I had failed to respond to some correspondance and the assumption would be that I had abandoned my application. I wrote back and said that I had responded within the hour, but then I went on holiday. I just checked: my application is closed and I have no idea why.

I'm unsure whether I should assume the worst or not. There's a chance that I can speak to the powers that be and get my security clearance process re-instated. There's a chance that I don't even need security clearance. There's also a chance that there's problems and there's a chance that those problems could cause other problems, and all my hard work is for naught.

I had thought that my source of income was secure until the end of the year. I had thought that this income meant I had adequate funds to take a holiday and could feel secure in my home. I had thought that my hard work had secured me the support of my colleagues and the organisation who I work for, thanks to the contribution I've made to the projects I've worked on.

I'm not so sure what the future looks like now. It's not utterly bleak, but it's very fragile and precarious.

I'm not sure if the universe wants me to succeed or fail. I'm certainly prepared for failure - insofar as I'm prepared to kill myself if I've been wasting my time - but I must admit that I was quite easily tricked into believing that success was within the realms of possibility. I thought that my struggles against adversity and my hard work was going to be rewarded; my modest desire to live without the tyranny of penniless destitution hanging over me appeared to be within grasp, but perhaps I was quite wrong.

There are systems in place that will quickly swipe my legs out from underneath me and cast me out into the street like a piece of trash. There are systems in place to ensure that I'm expelled from civilised society and unable to put my skill and experience to profitable gain. There are systems in place to thwart and frustrate me; to leave me stripped of dignity and to deny me opportunity. There are systems in place to keep a good man down.

We shall see what comes to pass this week. I have faced a lot of adversity over the past few years and managed to navigate some very nasty situations, somehow keeping hope alive. I've overcome some extremely difficult obstacles. Whether the present difficulties are just more of the same, and I will find a way forward, I have no idea. At the moment I feel as though my exhaustion and depression are going to get the better of me, given that I already used up all my reserves getting to this point. I should be cruising and having an easier time of things, but it appears as though things are going to get harder, if not impossible.

I have a limited amount of time to re-start my daily writing and re-surround myself with my support network, on which I have relied heavily to get to this point. I fear that I've left myself exposed and inadequately protected.

My downfall will be shockingly swift. Depression and exhaustion will rob me of my ability to continue to work and then rent, bills, taxes other demands for money with menaces will bankrupt me, see me evicted, label me as "undesirable" and make me unemployable and unhousable. With a wrecked credit rating and the black mark of a bankruptcy, I won't be able to get well paid work or rent a home - society will have ejected me and I'll be left to sleep rough. It seems hard to imagine that I could fall so quickly from a position where I appear to be wealthy and hold a respected position of responsibility, but I know how quickly everything will fall apart.

I have proceeded with a positive attitude, assuming that everything will work out OK if I just keep working hard, but in my experience nothing works out. Instead, all that happens is that there are major roadblocks. Instead of being able to continue on my trajectory, obstacles are thrown into my path and I am bombarded with missiles. All I want to do is to do my job and do it well, and be able to have a roof over my head, but instead things happen which could not have been predicted by me and which are not my fault. I am continuously thwarted.

I'm sick of being thwarted.

Undoubtedly I work hard. Undoubtedly I'm good at my job. Undoubtedly I will achieve my objectives if left unmolested.

At some point I get so sick of everything that I don't want to carry on living. It's not much of a life, being constantly thwarted. It's not much of a life living with constant precarity, anxiety and insecurity.

I decided to write this blog because it proves my dedication to a project and what I can achieve if I'm not thwarted. I decided to write this blog to prove my work ethic, even if this blog brings me no income. I decided to write this blog as a testament to my own creative and productive powers. I decided to write this blog because nobody could stop me, divert me, distract me and derail me.

I took a holiday.

I took a holiday from my paid income and I took a holiday from my unpaid project. I took a holiday from everything. It would have been nice to relax, secure in the knowledge that I had income and housing to look forward to when I returned, but that was taken away from me; my future was stolen from me, as usual. I was given nothing except anxiety and depression, as usual, as stress was heaped upon my head and my security was snatched away, as usual. I took a holiday anyway, because I was exhausted as hell.

Now, who know what awaits me, except further struggle, further stress, further anxiety and further frustrations and people sent to thwart me. In the context of this uncertainty, forgive me if I decide that I've had enough and that I would like some certainty. This is how I arrive at the conclusion that the only certainty that's available to me is the certainty of suicide. I would like to die with some dignity.

How many productive years do I have left? I'm 40 years old now - happy birthday to me - and I'm exhausted. The prospect of continuing on with such struggle, stress and strain is not at all appealing. I fail to see any kind of enticing future that's realistically attainable, given how hard people have worked to thwart and frustrate me.

In short, I hesitated to write for the past few weeks, because my situation is not improving, although it seemed churlish to complain when I most certainly did have the holiday of a lifetime. Still, it would be dishonest not to admit that most of my waking hours were consumed with stress, anxiety, depression and hopelessness. I didn't quite know where to begin, so I was uncharacteristically lost for words, perhaps only because I never committed pen to paper. Now that I've opened the flood gates, far more words have come rushing out of me than I anticipated.

Given that it's counter-productive to bombard my readers with far more than they can digest, I'm going to wrap this up now. I need to write regularly again. I hope that I have better news tomorrow and my outlook is more positive, but I need to write come what may, because it's my coping mechanism and my lifeline; my blog is my consistent reliable companion and the people who it connects me with are my dependable support network, though the bad times.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Intellectual Hunger

6 min read

This is a story about brain training...

Hotel food

I spent a week living in a Warsaw hotel, making sandwiches in my room, using a shoe-horn to spread mayonnaise and mustard on the long-life bread bought from a nearby convenience store which mainly sold alcohol and snacks. This would hardly be a great example of ingenuity - a sign of a brilliant mind at work - but it certainly addresses the first part of this short essay: hunger.

Hunger is not just about food, so I thought I would get the food part out of the way at the beginning.

We can be hungry for sex, love, companionship, social contact. We can be hungry for thrills; adrenalin. We can be hungry for substances of abuse, including alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. There are all kinds of hunger, not all of which can be satiated with food, although we can often try to use food to fill the gaping void inside ourselves. Comfort eating is something I find myself doing when tired, bored or otherwise hungry for something other than food.

I wanted to write about intellectual hunger.

There are some questions which don't require much brain-power to answer, such as: how am I going to feed myself cheaply for a week in a hotel that's nowhere near anything except a couple of shops which mainly sell alcohol? The answer to this question is not one requiring intellect, but instead the answer simply requires lowered standards and the willingness to suffer a little.

Another question might be: how am I going to increase my standard of living as much as possible, as quickly as possible?

Again, this second question is quite easy to answer and requires very little thought or effort of the mind. The answer to the question simply requires more lowering of standards and willingness to suffer. Ultimately, one can always sell a kidney or make bodily orifices available for sexual gratification of paying punters. Problems of this nature are not taxing or interesting, in an intellectual way.

With too much of life occupied answering trivial questions and doing the unpleasant obvious things - prostituting yourself and living in vile conditions - we arrive at a far more interesting question: why bother?

4 years ago it was obvious to me that I knew exactly what I needed to do, how I was going to do it and how long it was going to take, in order to restore myself to health, wealth and prosperity. The prospect of repeating tasks which had become so repulsively boring and easy to me, although somewhat stressful too, was doubly abhorrent because of the lack of novelty combined with the lack of intellectual challenge.

I think in many ways it would have been much easier to accept a fate imposed upon me by circumstances, and abandon the pursuit of an outcome which was almost too far out of reach; almost too unbearable to suffer while en-route.

When I say "easier" I mean intellectually nourishing.

What right do I have to spend my days talking to interesting intelligent people? What right do I have to spend my days reading interesting books? What right do I have to explore ideas, have discussions and write down my thoughts? What right do I have to publish what I write? What right do I have to be allowed readers? Why should I be entitled to have any of those things?

I suppose I accepted that a more interesting course through life was not available to the likes of me. Those who are fortunate enough to ask themselves "what kinds of things do I find interesting?" or "what would my perfect job be?" and to then use these answers to formulate a life which is compatible with capitalist society, are not in the same socioeconomic boat as me. This is not to say that I'm deprived and disadvantaged, but merely that I'm incredibly pragmatic and quite unwilling to risk a decline in my living standards, back to a time when I was sleeping rough and the most pressing question of each day was: where shall I sleep to stay dry and keep me safe from violence and robbery?

So, my 4-year writing project began. I scratched my itch as best as I could with the facilities at my disposal. I have written and published as if I am one of those entitled brats who gets to spend their time choosing from an almost unlimited menu of very pleasant options, because their socioeconomic circumstances protect them from the peril of destitution.

I'm still surprisingly far from ever being able to ask myself "what would I like to study?" or "what is my dream job?" but the vast majority of us will never be fortunate enough to be able to do anything other than suffer the coercion of capitalism, and to do unpleasant things in order to survive.

It seems churlish to complain, given that I have certainly been able to feather the nest recently, and I do my complaining in far more pleasant surroundings than a bush in a park, sleeping rough.

Although I'm time poor and nowhere near being financially comfortable enough to feel confident in risking any major alterations in my chosen life course, I am lucky enough to be emerging from an incredibly lengthy period of suffering, in order to shore up life's practical considerations: housing etc.

Theoretically, it's now a matter of months until some very real and tangible results arrive as a result of a very sustained campaign, which has been excruciatingly boring and predictable, with very little freedom of choice.

In conclusion, I appreciate that my situation is fast becoming an enviable one, and soon I will have the freedom to make choices which offer more intellectual nourishment, which has been so lacking during the 4 year period where I simply had to do whatever it took - to suffer - in order to preserve all future opportunities, and avoid any catastrophic life-changing disasters which would force me down another path.

 

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All Is Lost - A Photo Story

12 min read

This is a story about lost causes...

Brushes up well

Look at that well-presented man: a professional on his way to work for Barclays at their head office in Canary Wharf as an IT consultant earning £600 a day. Look the attractive Georgian façades of the London townhouses of Camden, where he lives. The major high-street bank he works for has conducted extensive background checks on him and found him to be a fine upstanding member of the community: a model citizen.

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is a homeless man. That's right. This man is no-fixed-abode. This man lives in a hostel with other homeless people. This man was sleeping rough until very recently.

Hostel room

Look at this hostel dorm. It's got brand new beds and clean linen. It's empty. This looks like a pretty nice hostel dorm, doesn't it? Perhaps you wouldn't mind sleeping here. This would be tolerable for a while, perhaps if you were backpacking, wouldn't it?

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is a hostel dorm I stayed in when I was travelling - for leisure purposes - and the people who stay at this hostel are wealthy backpackers. This is not the hostel I stayed in when I was homeless. When I was homeless I stayed in hostel dorms that were full of drug addicts, alcoholics, people with severe mental health problems, thieves, violence, sexual assault, and they were exceptionally dirty and disgusting. The hostels I stayed in when I was homeless were full of everybody's crappy possessions which we carried around with us - we didn't live out of small backpacks, because we were homeless. When you're homeless you carry everything you possibly can: all your possessions. Try to imagine 14 people in a single room along with every single thing that they own. Try to imagine that's where you live - you're not just having a jolly old time doing some backpacking. That's WHERE YOU LIVE and you have to go to work, in the midst of all that chaotic s**t.

Hampstead heath

That's a nice view isn't it? That's Hampstead Heath. It's a nice place to walk your dog or go for a run. It's a nice place for a picnic. Hampstead Heath is a lovely place to go when the sun's shining. Perhaps you'd like to take a swim in one of the bathing ponds?

Look again.

What you are actually looking at is near the spot where I slept rough, to avoid being robbed, beaten up and/or raped. What you are actually looking at is a place where a homeless person can hide themselves in the undergrowth at night and avoid the perils of sleeping rough. What you are looking at is where I slept for a couple of months. Guess what? It's not always sunny. Sometimes it rains. When it rains you get wet. Very wet. A tent is conspicuous. It's hard to sleep rough, stay dry and avoid becoming a victim of crime when you're so vulnerable. Try to imagine not having a proper bed or any kind of security for you and your stuff - you're totally out in the open, in a remote area.

Psych ward

What's this? Is it a prison cell? I haven't been in a prison cell, but this definitely looks a bit like a prison cell to me. There's a window so that people can look into the room, which clearly has a bed, so this must be a place where I slept. What kind of place has windows in the doors so that people can see in when you're sleeping? That doesn't sound great for privacy, does it?

Look again.

What you are looking at is a room in a secure psychiatric ward. The window is there so that the staff can check you're not attempting to kill yourself. The staff check on you every 15 minutes. At night they sometimes come into your room and shine a torch in your face. You can't have a belt, shoelaces, scissors, razor, cables (e.g. mobile phone) or anything else that you could cut yourself with, or strangle yourself with. You can't lock the door to the shower room or the toilet.

Hampstead view

Oh look! There's a view of Hampstead from a tall building. Perhaps we could see the heath from here. This is quite a nice view, except it's kind of in the wrong direction to see any London landmarks. Perhaps this this is the view from an ugly brutalist concrete monstrosity which has now perversely become a desirable place to live as the capital city's property prices have soared.

Look again.

This is the view from the Royal Free Hospital. The emergency services brought me here. I was nearly dead. I was here a long time, while the medical team fought to save my life.

Private room

That's a pretty nice room for an NHS hospital. It's a private room. I must have some pretty good private medical insurance. Perhaps I've come to hospital for an elective cosmetic procedure. This certainly doesn't look like the kind of place where a sick patient would be looked after - it's more like the kind of recovery room that somebody with private healthcare would receive.

Look again.

This is the room at The Royal London which was dedicated to my treatment because my kidneys had failed due to a horrific DVT and I was receiving emergency dialysis for many many hours a day. To my left, out of shot, is a dedicated dialysis machine which I was connected to for day after day. I couldn't have dialysis in the main dialysis ward because my blood was so full of potassium that I was at risk of having a cardiac arrest at any moment. My blood was so toxic that many of the measurements were beyond the capability of the equipment to actually measure how toxic my blood was. I was very sick indeed.

Killavullen

Aha! This must be another trick. That pleasant view of a valley filled with low-lying fog, and mountain tops poking out, in pleasant rural surroundings must hide a darker secret. Why don't I just tell you the terrible truth?

Look again.

This is actually a good moment in my life. One of my friends had invited me to stay with his family in Ireland. I was half-dead so the opportunity for some rest and recuperation in rural Ireland was exactly what I needed. I meant to stay only for a short while, but ended up staying longer because I was very poorly and needed looking after, which is exactly what the kind family who took me in did: they nursed me back to health.

Canary Wharf skyline

Ooooh skyscrapers! We know from the first photograph that I worked in one of those skyscrapers. I also used to live in Canary Wharf and it's actually possible to see my apartment from this picture. I was also working for Lloyds Banking Group at this time, so this must be another good picture, right? Why would I be able to see my apartment and the head office of the bank I was working for though? Where the hell am I?

Look again.

I didn't show you the view out of the window from the private hospital room, did I? This is the view. I didn't really get to see the view much, because I was constantly hooked up to a dialysis machine which was sucking my blood out of me and squirting it back into me, but I did manage to take this photograph. All I can say that's positive about this period of my life is that I didn't die: I was saved [again] by a brilliant NHS medical team.

Hotel room

What now? A hotel room? Not too different from the psych ward room, but with a TV and better lighting. I was living here while working as an IT consultant for HSBC on their number one project, earning £600 a day. Sounds like my life was going pretty well, huh?

Look again.

What have I shown you so far? Homeless people's hostels, sleeping rough, hospitals. I showed you one picture when things were a little better - I was being looked after by my friend and his family - and my life was not in imminent danger. My life is not in peril at this moment, it's true, but I'm clearly staying in a hotel room for a reason. The reason is that I'm homeless. That's the theme of this story: homelessness.

Prince of Wales

This must be the door to the room that I showed you in the secure psychiatric ward. Somebody's written my name on a little whiteboard strip. That was thoughtful of them. Also, making sure that I'm not killing myself, by checking on me every 15 minutes is pretty damn caring. I'm pretty lucky to have this room all to myself and caring staff members to make sure I stay alive.

Look again.

This is not the same room. This is not the same psychiatric ward. This is not the same hospital. This is not the same city. In the first photograph, I had voluntarily gone to hospital because I couldn't keep myself safe. At the time this photograph was taken I have been sectioned and am being held against my will. At the time the first photograph was taken - in London - I could leave whenever I wanted. At the time this photograph was taken - in Manchester - I cannot leave, which is kind of like being in prison: involuntary internment. I was being held in a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) which is where the very most unwell psychiatric patients are held, and this type of unit is highly secure and can only care for 8 patients with a vast number of staff.

Why would I end with this photo?

I was asked to write down in detail where I had been living for the last 5 years of my life, for the purposes of government security vetting, which is a highly invasive process which will rake over every detail of my private life: my divorce, my psychiatric problems, my homelessness, the involvement of the emergency services. The government has access to every single piece of data about me held on every single database, and they are permitted to look at things - like private and confidential medical records - which nobody else is allowed to look at or even ask about, by law.

Why would I publish this?

Do you remember the photograph of the hotel room? That's where I started writing this blog, approximately 4 years ago. I've written 1.2 million words. I've thoroughly documented my life with the kind of candid honesty that the government expect from me when they ask questions like "where have you been living during the last 5 years?". The answer is far more complicated than could be filled in on their forms, so they can read about every detail which doesn't neatly fit into any of their computer systems. I could have asked for extra paper to complete my security vetting forms, but how many pages should I ask for if there are 1.2 million words written down right here and the story is not even fully told?

I chose that final photo because I shouldn't have been alive to take it.

On Saturday 9th September 2017 I attempted to end my life. My suicide attempt should have been successful. Even though I didn't die as quickly as I should have done, and even though the emergency services were able to intervene rapidly, when I believed that nobody knew where I lived or would be able to locate me, I was still having seizures and multiple organ failure. I was unable to breathe on my own. I was very much going to succeed in killing myself, which is exactly what I wanted. I had planned and executed my suicide attempt with precision.

Now, today, I am making an exceptional contribution to one of the government's highest profile projects - the number one project for the particular government organisation who I work for. I have been singled out for special commendation on multiple occasions by very senior government employees. I have worked incredibly hard to make the biggest possible contribution as part of a gigantic team of colleagues. I have busted my balls to go above-and-beyond and exceed all expectations. I have put an enormous amount of effort into delivering valuable skill, expertise, knowledge, effort and energy. I would expect that a significant number of my colleagues would speak very highly of me. In fact, I know that I am held in very high regard.

Also, during the last 5 years, I've slept rough, slept in homeless hostels, slept in hospitals and slept in psych wards. The sum total of the amount of months that I've spent in such places is very significant, but somehow it was hard to articulate this on a security vetting form that's not designed for somebody like me.

Either you believe I'm exceptional or you don't. If you think I'm an exceptional person, you have to decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. What cannot be disputed is my contribution to the teams, organisations and wider society, despite the great adversity I've faced.

Here is some of the information that couldn't be captured on a government security vetting form. Judge me however you want - end my career if you must. What you must understand is that I am not afraid, because I have already died a thousand deaths, so I do not fear one more.

 

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Cake And Eat It

9 min read

This is a story about a completed jigsaw puzzle...

Summer house cake

When I was 28 I was so depressed that I couldn't work. I couldn't face the outside world. I couldn't face the office 9 to 5 Monday to Friday routine. I couldn't face the glacial pace that projects moved at. I couldn't face the lack of productivity. I couldn't face the wastefulness of large organisations. I couldn't face the dead wood, being dragged along by those of us who wanted to actually create some f**king software.

My behaviour became erratic. The symptoms my my mood disorder - bipolar - made me a dysfunctional individual for long enough to cause problems in an ordinary office type environment: mainly my lengthy absence due to to the aforementioned depression. Nobody had ever much cared about me being hypomanic in the office, because it allowed me to deliver very complicated projects on time, to a high standard of quality.

I quit my job in 2008 and sat in my garden making iPhone Apps - mainly games. They sold very well and I was number one in the App Store charts for a brief time. Suddenly, I was earning a lot of royalties and I was comparatively wealthy.

I decided that I hated office work and corporate IT work - I hated big software projects - but that I should start a small business. I retrained as an electrician. I did all the training, bought a van and started trading.

Electrician

My electrician business traded profitably, but I kept getting asked to do freelance software work, which paid twice as much as my electrical work, and I was obviously much better at it, given that I've got 20+ years of commercial software experience and about 18+ months of commercial electrical experience. It's a lot less stressful being a software consultant than it is being an electrician.

I decided to combine my entrepreneurial side - the iPhone Apps and the small business - to create a startup which would have a software product which could be licensed, so that I could make money while I slept: it was a scalable business model.

During all this erratic behaviour, I was making a ton of money, I designed a built a beautiful summer house in my garden, I had a wakeboarding boat, I threw lavish garden parties. I was having the time of my life, except I was in a very toxic, abusive relationship.

I ended the relationship and my life continued to improve. In fact, my life kept on improving.

Soon, I was enrolled on a prestigious startup accelerator program which takes 8,000 applicants for every place, and only offers 10 teams the chance to be mentored by senior executives from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Paypal and a bunch of other great tech companies, plus the opportunity to pitch on "demo day" to a packed auditorium full of venture capitalists and angel investors, and raise a huge amount of investment.

My company was already profitable enough to pay my co-founder and I a decent salary and hire our first full-time employee. That was entirely bootstrapped: the company was built from nothing. My co-founder and I built a profitable startup without taking a single cent from any member of friends or family, or risking any of our own money.

This was my cake and eat it moment.

I worked too hard for too long. On the accelerator program mentor madness was fine for the teams who just had an idea, but my co-founder and I had a profitable business to run. We had customers who needed supporting. We had sales deals which needed to be closed. The rest of our cohort were happily burning the money they'd raised - making a loss - while our startup was living within its means and growing organically... in fact it was growing rapidly organically.

The problem was that toxic, abusive relationship.

She wasn't kind. She wasn't supportive. She didn't want me to succeed. She was just plain mean and totally inflexible; uncompromising. It wasn't fair, because I had supported her when she wanted to change career, and I had also been a very loyal loving boyfriend. Of course I could have split up with her and run off into the sunset with a lovely girl from the tech startup scene who could see the potential in me and the potential of my startup, but I let loyalty and a sense of "doing the right thing" get the better of me.

Since then, there hasn't been a lot of cake eating.

Divorce became extremely acrimonious in 2013, after a harrowing period when the abuse and the trauma was sufficient to give me PTSD - I was barricaded in rooms and defecating in a bucket to avoid physical harm and at least give myself what little protection I could. Verbal abuse and violent kicking and punching of the door was so frequent it was literally torture. My abuser was keeping me trapped with threats of violence, and I starved, I was thirsty and I had to sh*t and piss in a bucket.

Mercifully, we separated in August 2013.

Trauma doesn't heal overnight.

The divorce dragged on into 2014, ruining my second startup and depriving me of all my liquid capital - my money - which I needed to start another business. The divorce ruined me every bit as much as the toxic relationship and abusive marriage did. The divorce left me so physically drained, traumatised, financially taken advantage of, exhausted and stressed, that I broke down completely. I ended up sleeping rough. I ended up homeless. I was wrecked.

Briefly, at the end of 2014 I had a nice apartment in Swiss Cottage, a lovely commute on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf and a well paid consultancy contract with Barclays. Was I having my cake and eating it? No. The divorce and the separation had caused me such horrible PTSD and financial distress that for almost that whole year I had been sleeping rough and in a homeless hostel. My life was very fragile; my recovery was only green shoots.

In 2015 I had an amazing apartment overlooking the Thames with panoramic views of all the London landmarks. I had a great consultancy contract with HSBC. Was I having my cake and eating it? No. I was so distressed by the financial troubles I'd had that I worked unsustainable hours and got very sick, and had to be hospitalised. I had to be kept in a secure psychiatric ward for my own safety.

In 2016 I had the same apartment. I had a great consultancy contract. I was less stressed about the erratic nature of my life and the financial boom and bust, but I certainly didn't feel comfortable spending money.

In 2017 I had the same apartment and a great consultancy contract with Lloyds Banking Group. A large blood clot - a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) - formed in my leg and it caused the complication that my kidneys failed. I nearly died. I was sick for months with agonising nerve and muscle damage. Out of desperation I took a short contract in Manchester. It was so miserable that I tried to kill myself. I very nearly succeed - I was in a coma for 4 or 5 days in intensive care. I was sectioned and kept in a secure psychiatric ward for my own safety.

By the end of 2017 and into 2018 I had recovered enough to be consulting for an investment bank in London. I was commuting from Wales and staying in crappy AirBnBs. I was well paid but it was the most miserable life. I was homeless, single and coming to terms with having survived a suicide attempt which should definitely have killed me.

Then I got a consultancy contract in Wales. I had a nice girlfriend in Wales, I had a job in Wales and I had a very nice home in Wales with panoramic sea views. I was about to have my cake and eat it.

Then, soon after booking a short holiday, my consultancy contract ended early because the project was finished - I worked very hard and delivered early.

I got another consultancy contract in Wales. I still have that consultancy contract in Wales. I have a girlfriend who I think is amazing and I'm crazy about her. I have very serious feelings for her. I was about to have my cake and eat it.

Now my consultancy contract is ending prematurely. I worked hard and managed to rescue a very important project which was running late. I was working very hard to deliver our project early.

Clearly I work very hard. Clearly, I'm lucky enough to create these opportunties where I could have my cake and eat it but so far nothing's worked out for me.

It may well be possible for me to still have that amazing holiday we've got planned, but it will always be slightly spoiled by the stress of knowing that I don't have secure income when I get home, which makes me worried about money.

You can understand why I'm worried about money, can't you?

You can understand why it's so terrible that my holidays get ruined by having my consultancy contracts unexpectedly cut short, especially when I work so hard and make such a big contribution.

Of course, I could throw caution to the wind and take that luxury holiday anyway. If there's one repeating theme in this story, it's that I always bounce back from adversity. I could risk it all and go ahead with that holiday, which I desperately need and want.

I've been lucky. I got to go to Turkish Disneyland on my own. I got to go to Tulum in Mexico. My luck ran out eventually I guess. I have a beautiful girlfriend who is kind and loving and supportive, I have a gorgeous bengal kitten, I have a very nice great big house. I have a little financial security, but paying for a luxury 2-week holiday has a major negative impact on my meagre financial resources, seen in the context of how bad things can get: months in hospital, sleeping rough and nearly dying on several occasions.

Perhaps it's just not my destiny to have my cake and eat it.

 

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Help or Hinder

6 min read

This is a story about giving a hand up not a handout...

Empty cupboard

In my 39 years on this planet I've come across a few people whose lives I've tried to intervene in to produce a positive outcome. I'm somewhat undecided as to whether I'm helping, hindering, or making no difference except to myself, because I've wasted time, energy and money where it might otherwise have been invested in my sister, my niece or my friends and other important close relationships.

I try not to over-invest in anyone or anything. I'm heavily invested in work, but I still treat it like a job and I don't work too hard or take things too personally - work is just a means to an end; an efficient way of complying with capitalism's coercion.

There are two individuals who I have invested a significant amount of time, effort, energy and money into helping. I should qualify what I mean by "significant" when it comes to money. I expect that to most of my readers "significant" does not have the same meaning as it does for me. The only sums of money which have had a significant impact on my life have been related to my divorce and £8,000 of unpaid rent and bills which an ex-flatmate owes me. This is not a boast - it's simply the honest truth about my good fortune in life.

The first individual was a homeless alcoholic man I met in a park. He was making a great deal of effort to deal with the clusterf**k of issues he faced, which were bereavement trauma, commensurate self-medicating alcoholism, physical health issues related to sleeping rough, and the general reluctance of the welfare state to see his life as valuable. He had been repeatedly denied the holistic care that he needed: bereavement/trauma counselling, a residential alcohol detox, a residential rehabilitation program, a hostel bed and welfare payments to allow him to eat without begging until he was physically and mentally well enough to be able to work.

It seemed as if this first fellow was worth helping, because I could at least get him off the streets, into a hostel, and provide as much support as possible to help him navigate the maze of state services in order to get the alcohol detox and rehab that he desperately needed, as well as navigating a further maze of state services in order to get welfare payments to give him a meagre income while he recuperated.

To my mind, it was worth the money of renting a room for this guy and meeting him every day, to help support him through interminable meetings with the local council and various bureaucrats who act as gatekeepers, stopping sick people like him from becoming well and getting back on their feet.

The second individual was a young cocaine addict I met at a rehab. He was mostly adhering to the rehab program, although he had failed a drugs test on a couple of occasions and was obviously not committed to an unrealistic level of abstinence from drugs and alcohol. I felt sorry for this young chap because he'd already badly screwed up his life by getting a criminal record, yet he was clearly an intelligent and enterprising fellow. I suppose the second individual's issues were more complex, having to do with upbringing and the company he kept, which was liable to keep him forever in a life where recreational use of drugs was commonplace, and drug dealing was also an ever-present temptation, for easy money. I wouldn't be able to give an oversimplification of the underlying issues, so I won't even try - it would do a great disservice to that young man.

To my mind, it was worth the money of providing financial assistance to the second guy, because I hoped that he would see me as a friend, instead of a parent or other authority figure; I hoped that he would naturally arrive at the conclusion that it's a good idea not to abuse the kindness of friends, and begin to change from the mindset of "borrowing" and stealing from friends and family to feed a drug habit, to a new form of behaviour where he would see that some people are kind and patient. I thought he could use another person in his life who wasn't going to get fed up with his lies, his dishonesty and eventually his behaviour being so resistent to change that he would end up abandoned. I felt I could help because I have deep pockets and a lot of patience.

With the first individual, he got his hostel bed, his alcohol detox, his rehab, and now he's lived 5 years clean and sober, he got married and he's starting his own business. He's my big success story.

With the second individual, he's managed to rent a room. That's about where the good news ends. The second individual has had vastly more financial investment from me, which seems to have made very little net difference... in fact, he seems to be more in debt now than when I started trying to help him. My tireless patience and refusal to abandon him seems to have only ever once become apparent to him, when he asked me why I kept forgiving him, which was a wonderful moment. At least if I'm the one and only person in his life to have never abandoned him, and that's caused him to question whether he should "borrow" and steal from his friends and family until they cut ties with him and abandon him, then that's progress of a sort.

I'm conflicted about whether I should continue to support the second individual. I suppose I made a decision early on that the way I was going to help him was to not abandon him, so in a way I'm committed. What can be said for certain is that he is exceptionally talented at p*ssing off his friends and family and losing any source of income, such that he regularly becomes destitute, so there will probably be many more occasions where he will slowly realise that it's very useful to have me as a loyal friend who's decided to support him no matter what, purely for the point of teaching him the lesson that not everybody will abandon you: there is some value in treating certain loyal friends with more respect than everybody else.

My girlfriend tells me that I'm being used and that I should abandon the second individual, given his repeated demonstrations of an inability to learn, and an inability to recognise a golden opportunity to receive assistance. I've regularly offered to help in life-changing ways - to break the cycle he's stuck in - but he's been impossible to persuade. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

This essay is not about what a worthy and wonderful charitable individual I am, but in fact about the ethical dilemmas I face about whether I'm helping or hindering; whether I'm investing my considerable resources in the right places.

 

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Be Careful What You Wish For

4 min read

This is a story about girls, girls, girls...

Sleeping kitten

Life is always so filled with trepidation and uncertainty. My employment contract expires soon. My housing contract currently stipulates "no pets". My relationship status is still very much "dating". I can picture some kind of nightmarish scenario where I find myself homeless, jobless, single and with a hungry kitten to feed - that would be the worst-case outcome, which is of course what I imagine will happen when I'm feeling anxious.

On the flip side, everything could work out nicely for me. My contract could get renewed. My housing contract could be amended to allow me to keep the kitten I'm getting. My romantic interests could develop into a serious committed loving relationship. All these things are within the realms of possibility.

You could characterise me as somewhat of a control freak. I like to have things nailed down. I like to have certainty.

Perhaps I should have made different choices. I could have chosen permanent employment, instead of doing consultancy. I could have bought a house with no covenants or other contractual legal sticks to beat me with. I could have married the first girl who'd have me. Perhaps all these things would give me more certainty in my life - more security - but in my experience it's not possible to use legal contracts to guarantee anything: Life is intrinsically uncertain.

Empirically, it's obvious that most marriages will end in divorce. "Forever" is not something that anybody takes very seriously when they say their solemn marriage vows, nowadays. Perhaps it's always been the case that most humans are liars and cheats, and it seems to me like there are very few guarantees that you're not going to get your heart broken.

Our lives are based upon an immensely complex and surprisingly fragile economic system, which is liable to threaten our ability to house ourselves at almost any moment. Most people live lives of economic precarity, with very little money saved up in case they lose their job - two missed paycheques and the majority of people would be in a great deal of financial difficulty.

Humans are incredibly adaptable creatures and things which seem like catastrophes are often not as bad as we initially think: we so often find a way of overcoming adversity.

A considerable proportion of my time is spent worrying about losing my job, losing my home and having my heart broken. I suppose I've already had everything bad happen that could possibly happen - losing my job, my money, my house, my wife - and it felt like the end of the world; something I'd never be able to recover from. My life is certainly not fully repaired but occasionally I dare to dream that I'm going to end up in a far better situation than I ever would have been if I hadn't lost everything and been forced to start again from scratch.

It's not particularly in my nature to be risk-averse and I think I'm happier that I'm not trapped in a bad job, a bad marriage or a bad mortgage. My life is kinda scary, which isn't great for my anxiety levels, but there's no way that I'd be in such an enviable position if I hadn't taken huge risks. I'm glad that I'm taking risks and they're paying off, although obviously I'm aware that the more risks I take, the more chance there is of something bad happening.

Empirically and anecdotally, I do seem to get everything I want though.

One week from now I should have a gorgeous bengal kitten, all things being well.

 

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