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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.

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I'm [Not] OK

6 min read

This is a story about keeping people updated...

Invert

It's been nearly 2 weeks since I wrote last. I know I've had gaps but this feels like a really long one. Gaps are usually a very bad sign. It's worth worrying about me if I'm not writing. Things are probably going badly if I'm not writing.

I was coping by using a combination of alcohol, sleeping pills, tranquillisers/sedatives and a heck of a lot of comfort eating. I've been teetotal and medication-free for a while now. I'm dieting too. I'm slimmer but I feel awful. Stopping taking all the pills has been brutal. Not having anything to 'take the edge off' has been horrible. The anxiety has been unbearable.

Some concerned friends have sent me messages, but I've felt too swamped to reply. Work is exhausting and there has been the looming holiday, which has caused added stress rather than being something to look forward to: How am I going to afford the loss of earnings as well as the expense of the holiday? My work situation is looking very uncertain for when I get back from holiday, which is a horrible situation to be in, worrying about money instead of enjoying some well-earned time off.

My relationship is good but it's caused some sleepless nights. I'm desperately trying to avoid worsening my exhaustion and sleep deficit, but it's almost impossible to catch up. Stopping the sleeping pills has caused my sleep quality to deteriorate. It's a miracle that I'm still reasonably productive and functional.

The last thing I want to think about is the travel and logistics of going abroad. Buying holiday clothes sounds like fun, but it's another item on a todo list which makes me very stressed out. I'm struggling to figure out when I can fit in all the things I need to do between now and my departure date from the UK. I suppose as long as I've got my passport and a buttload of cash then I can figure things out, but it's not pleasant to be so ill-prepared for a trip.

I'll be 40 years old in exactly one week. I decided to have a barbecue at my house when I was feeling somewhat more buoyant about the way my life was going. Now I feel like cancelling the gathering, because I'm stressed about the extra unnecessary hassle. Having guests over to my house reminds me that I've still barely moved in - I don't have much furniture and the place is a bit of a mess. I don't feel well placed to make my guests comfortable. I have a lot of anxiety about it being a really awkward occasion, with a handful of my long-suffering friends having made the long journey to the provinces, in order to make smalltalk with strangers... a real chore for them.

I'm working as hard as I can in order to feel proud about my contribution to the project I'm working on. I'm desperate that my contribution be remembered as something valuable and that my colleagues recognise the effort I've ploughed in. Work's become a bit of an unhealthy obsession and I'm significantly over-invested, emotionally. I can picture myself getting very depressed when I'm forced to leave the project because of contractual shenanigans, and through no fault of my own.

My life is deeply unbalanced; unhealthy. I'm not drinking alcohol and I'm dieting, so I've lost weight, and I've managed to get a bit of sun, so I look quite healthy, but inside I'm very sick. The stress of the past years seems to have ratcheted up as my life has become more 'normal' and 'stable' recently - things were easier when I was living out of a suitcase, in some ways, although I appreciate that I was very miserable and living much more unhealthily.

Readers who've followed me for any significant length of time will probably have a better idea than me as to whether I'm in a better place today than I was a few months ago, a year ago, several years ago. Things feel terrible but they probably aren't.

The stresses seem to be the same as ever, particularly concerning my security vetting. A colleague contacted me to say they were reading my blog. They seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of working with me, despite what they'd read, and the feedback seemed generally positive. It's the first time that a colleague has been brave enough to tell me that they've been reading my blog. Of course, the security vetting people have been reading too. I wonder if the security vetting people are as sympathetic to my stresses, and look favourably upon my ability to maintain an impeccably high standard of professionalism in the office, whilst undergoing some horrendous chaos in my personal life; struggling so much with my mental health. I wonder if all the talk about being sympathetic towards mental health issues is just hot air.

I wanted to write a short update, because I know people are worried about my uncharacteristic quietness. I've kinda failed. I'm doing OK, but I'm also really struggling too. Plenty of reasons to be concerned, but things are not completely ruined and on collision course with disaster... in fact I might even weather this storm and emerge in a reasonably good situation.

I'll try to write a little more regularly, but I don't want to be a stuck record, endlessly moaning about how unpleasant the effect of stopping medication is. I don't want to wallow in misery.

It's summer. I have money. I have employment for a little while longer. I have an awesome holiday booked. I have a very nice girlfriend. I have a cute kitten. I have a big house. Things are not terrible.

I'm not taking any medication, not drinking, dieting. I'm losing weight and my brain is getting back to a stable state without any alien chemicals. It's good to be free from the shackles of chemical dependency.

If I can push through this tricky period and keep the wheels turning, then I think my forties are going to be a much better period of life than parts of my thirties. It does feel good to be turning a corner as I reach an age when I should be growing old less disgracefully.

I've written more than I wanted to but I hope you'll forgive me. You're all up to date now.

 

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Beach Body

6 min read

This is a story about going on a diet...

Flip flops

571 days ago I decided that I was allowed to drink heavily and eat whatever I wanted. I had at least a bottle of wine every day and ate mostly fast food. I decided that this was my reward for working virtually non-stop: to guzzle gallons of alcohol and devour mountains of fatty food. My evenings were spent in McDonalds, KFC, curry houses and pizza places. My evenings were spent drinking glass after glass of red wine.

Unsurprisingly, I put on weight.

I was living in a hotel for a while, which was next door to a gastropub. I lived on calorific food, like lasagne & chips, washed down with large glasses of red wine. When I got back to my hotel room, I would continue drinking large glasses of wine. I decided that it was my reward for the miserable life of living in a hotel, to eat and drink with gay abandon.

I put on more weight.

Then, I noticed that I was putting on weight. I noticed that I had a tummy. I got out of the shower one day and I saw my own reflection in the mirror, and I realised that I had gained a belly. I've never really had any problems with my weight, so I was kinda shocked, although by this point I had been gaining weight steadily for roughly 9 months.

I didn't change my behaviour.

I did stop living in the hotel. However, I lived on takeaways and beer. I had a takeaway almost every night of the week, and I washed all that fatty food down with vast quantities of beer. I was going to the supermarket on an almost daily basis to re-stock the fridge with beer.

Then I stopped drinking.

My alcoholic friend killed himself. He drank himself to death. His alcoholism had raged out of control for a long time and hadn't claimed his life, but health complications quickly began to create a compounding problem and he knew that he was going to die; his quality of life was rapidly deteriorating. This event, coupled with my unhappiness about being a little overweight, was enough of a catalyst for me to quit drinking.

I was teetotal for nearly 5 months.

Then, I started drinking heavily, eating restaurant food and having takeaways on a regular basis. I drank loads of white wine and ate lots of very rich gourmet food. I had lost some weight by simply being teetotal. I had reached a point where my weight was under control and I felt better about my appearance, but then I quickly undid that by drinking and eating so much.

Now, I'm trying to lose weight again.

I'm not trying very hard to lose weight. All I've done is cut my daily calorie intake. I've stopped drinking - mostly - and I've stopped having takeaways and restaurant food - mostly - and I've stopped having large lunches. I've stopped eating breakfast. I've stopped snacking. On average, my weekly calorie intake has been cut pretty drastically.

I still don't do any exercise.

I joined a gym at one point, but I never actually went. The circumstances of my job changed and I found myself living in the hotel. It was hard to motivate myself to go to the gym when I had the miserable existence of living in a hotel. The highlight of my evening was my gastropub meal and red wine, so I can't imagine that there'd have been much point going to the gym.

I should do some exercise.

I'm making some very big changes to my medication at the moment. I'm tapering off high doses of tranquilisers and sleeping pills, in order to be medication-free by the time I go away on holiday, the day before my 40th birthday. I have less than a month to rid myself of physically addictive benzodiazepines and highly psychologically addictive sleeping pills. I have a horrible month ahead of me, filled with rebound anxiety and rebound insomnia. It's not easy to stop taking medication and it's extremely unpleasant to rapidly stop. Going cold turkey is not even an option - I could have seizures.

I'm making good progress.

Apart from last night, where I got extremely drunk and ate a gigantic burger and chips, Friday night where I drank two bottles of white wine, and Monday evening when I had a takeaway, I've not been drinking, eating takeaways or eating in restaurants. I've also managed to reduce my sleeping pills by 33% and my tranquilisers by 50%. I'm changing a lot of things all at once. It's very difficult to change so many things all at once, especially while I'm going through a very stressful high-pressure period at work, with some very demanding tight deadlines.

It'd be wonderful if I was superhuman and I could work full-time, have very little sleep, write every day, look after my kitten, keep my house clean, quit drinking, go on a diet, stop taking addictive medication AND do some exercise, but I'm afraid that it's too much to ask - the exercise will have to wait until life gets a little easier.

I know that I'll get more enjoyment out of my holiday if I'm fitter and in better shape, but the holiday is the respite I desperately need; the rest and recuperation; the reward for 571 days of almost continuous work, with the exception of a week-long jaunt to Turkey and two weeks in Mexico. My last holiday was nearly 7 months ago, and I've been through a house move and a breakup, as well as working exceptionally hard.

The beach body will have to wait, although my small lifestyle adjustments will help. The weight isn't just going to magically disappear, but I shall have to content myself with stopping the rot - I simply haven't got the bandwidth to be able to exercise on top of everything else on my plate.

 

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Wet British Summer

3 min read

This is a story about our maritime climate...

Rainy window

The UK experienced an exceptional couple of summers in 2017 and 2018, but this year our luck seems to have run dry. During the Easter bank holiday weekend, the weather warm enough to make barbecues and picnics a pleasant thing to do outdoors - although I strongly advise against indoor barbecues - and shorts and flip-flops briefly became suitable attire.

Since Easter it's been pretty wet. Of course there have been many pleasant days, but not enough to encourage me to spend much time outside. It's about 14 degrees celcius at the moment (57 degrees Fahrenheit for my North American readers) which does not feel at all summerlike.

Often times, our peak holiday months of July and August can be a washout, but May and June are warm, dry and very pleasant, and September can be a wonderful time of "Indian summer".

I've made plans to be abroad for my birthday - my 40th - so I should be guaranteed good weather, although I suppose it depends on what your definition of "good" is. I shall be very happy if it's windy, seeing as I'm going kitesurfing on a little island off the coast of Africa.

The seasons and the weather affect my mood a great deal and I have neither the energy boost that summer brings or the lethargy of winter at the moment. Flying to more southerly climes seems very decadent in the middle of the UK's summer, when our weather is supposed to be at its best, but I have the excuse that it's my 40th birthday so I should celebrate in style.

I'm attempting to complete my thirties with dignity more becoming of a man entering his forties. My thirties were a real mixed bag, which included some incredible achievements, but also some jaw-dropping adversity. The "wealth" that I carry into middle age takes the form of an immense amount of extreme experiences, including a great many which I do not recommend other people to imitate, but I still treasure them all - even the bad ones.

This summer seems to involve a lot of hard work. There is a lot of pressure on me at work, as well as some financial worries caused by job uncertainty. However, I cannot deny that there are elements of my life that far exceed my wildest expectations: my beautiful girlfriend, my gorgeous kitten, my lovely house... and I'm having a reasonable year in terms of getting back in contact with my sister and my friends.

I'm writing sporadically at the moment, because of the many competing demands placed upon me. After boasting yesterday about how well my kitten was doing at using her litter tray, she soaked my duvet in the night, and then took a pee on my work shirts in the morning, leaving a trail of pee across the bedroom floor as I hurriedly moved her into the correct receptacle while she continued to urinate.

If I'm writing in a bit more of a "this is what I had for breakfast" boring diary style at the moment, I apologise. Lots of irons in the fire. Spread very thin. I promise to write some of my usual off-the-wall bizarre essays again soon.

 

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Proud Parent

5 min read

This is a story about vomit, excrement, snot, urine, blood and suchlike...

Litter trays

As a 39-year-old non-parent, I've had to suffer interminable anecdotes about the vile stuff that comes out of children, for over two decades, while working full-time in an office full of people who were incessantly breeding. I've heard everything that should never be uttered in a professional environment, where those who have decided not to completely dedicate their entire lives to their bestial destiny as preordained by their genes - those who have risen above the reproductive drive of a simple-minded animal - should not be subjected to interminable near-identical stories about babies and children.

However.

Now it's time for me to get my revenge.

My kitten likes to take a dump in the woodchips and she likes to urinate in the gravel. My kitten is extremely fussy about where she evacuates her bowel and bladder. Her absolute favourite thing to do is to urinate on my bed and defecate on my coat, but I banned her from both rooms where she was doing that.

In my presence, my kitten must have urinated on the duvet on my bed at least 10 times now. I know that my washing machine has been very busy indeed. I know that many parents can relate to having their washing machines full of items which have been covered in pooh, sick, urine, snot and other horrible substances. My own parents decided not to use proper nappies so that they'd have more money to spend on drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, so I definitely know that they can relate to having to put stuff covered in bodily waste into the washing machine.

Essentially, what I'm doing is potty training.

When I see my kitten about to take a wee on my duvet, I pick her up and move her to her litter tray. I have 4 litter trays - two downstairs in the kitchen, and two upstairs in my bedroom, so that she can be quickly manoevered into the one she seems to prefer for urination.

So far, I have managed to save my duvet from being soaked in kitten pee at least three times.

The first time I managed to move my kitten into the litter tray and saved my duvet, I felt like such a proud parent. I was so pleased to see her going to the toilet in the place that she's supposed to.

Another time, she went for a wee in her litter tray all on her own.

She's a kitten who's been raised in a good environment, and she has a very nice home where she's stimulated and not stressed; she has a nice balance between lots of fuss and attention, and quiet cosy places for her to retreat to as well. She's simply quite different from a regular domestic cat: she's 5 generations from an Asian leopard cat, which means that she's pretty wild. She deliberately saves up her pee as a scent marker, which is what many domestic tom cats do. She is also incredibly smart, so she pees to show her displeasure at any lack of fuss and attention from her humans. She expects things to be the way she wants them to be, or else she does a dirty protest.

Mercifully, she doesn't pee or poop anywhere she shouldn't except the duvet... and only when she wants to get a reaction out of her cat parents. She has [almost] complete freedom in a very large house, and aside from some houseplants which have taken a beating, she's been very well behaved.

She is a fusspot. It's taking a lot of effort to make sure her litter trays are in perfect and pristine conditions until she's fully settled and 'potty trained'. Of course - like all pet cats - she came from the breeder knowing how to take a poop in a litter tray, as well as knowing where to pee, but it was distressing for her to be adopted and taken away from her mother, brother and sisters, as well as all the other people and pets she knew in that house. I can be fully forgiving of the occasional dirty protest when she's not got things just the way she wants them.

So, hard work, but I'm still overjoyed to see her furry face, even if I just nip out to the shops for an hour and am pleasantly reminded that I have a beautiful kitten as a pet. She's inseperabale from me. She's sitting on my lap as I type this. She can't bear to be in a different room from her humans.

Probably pretty boring and gross stuff, but there we go - revenge for every story you ever told about dirty nappies and other childrearing anecdotes.

 

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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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A Fool And His Money

5 min read

This is a story about wartime thrift...

Paradise

There are a couple of sayings which really annoy me, because they are untrue and misleading. The first is "if you watch the pennies the pounds look after themselves" and the second is "a fool and his money are easily parted". The people who quote these sayings most often are terrible advice givers whose own wealth - if they have any at all - has not come from thrift or lack of foolishness. The people who quote these sayings are absolute idiots.

We can use other common sayings to demolish the idiocy.

"You've got to speculate to accumulate" and "buy low sell high" are both pretty obvious and self-explanatory, aren't they? These sayings are far more useful than the former ones, but there's a problem: most people don't have any spare money.

I placed a sizeable bet yesterday which looked as if it was going to provide a decent return on my investment. In fact, I lost the bet, but I was able to hedge my position and as such I didn't lose more than I was prepared to risk. In no way was my betting foolish. In fact, my betting was very smart because I was in a position where I stood to make a considerable capital gain, and my risk was hedged. The main thing we should remember though, is that I was not only able to afford to place the bets, but I was also able to afford to lose the money. Most people do not have the luxury of being able to speculate like I can, because they don't have the 'disposable' income.

Other things I've spent substantial sums of money on in the last year include my house, the furniture within it, a bengal kitten and a lot of cat supplies, a holiday to Turkish Disneyland and a holiday to Tulum in Mexico. I consider none of this money to have been wasted.

It probably seems pretty whacky for a 39-year-old single man to go on holiday to a theme-park resort, but what the hell is wrong with you if you don't want to ride rollercoasters, water slides, surf artificial waves as well as enjoy some winter sunshine in a place which was created with precision engineering to bring absolute delight to its visitors? I laughed with joy at so many of the little surprise things on that holiday, including the delightful theme-park hotel which was designed very much for children, but I assure you can be enjoyed just as much by any adult. That whole holiday was perfect, except that I felt a little lonely and out of place as a single man in a family resort.

My decision to go to Tulum in Mexico was taken on a whim, because my [ex-]girlfriend had told me that she had dreamed of going there for years, but she didn't possess the financial means for that trip to ever come to fruition for her - she would never have been able to save up enough money to visit one of the most desirable holiday destinations on the planet. The arrangement worked well for me, in that I was able to get some more winter sun and do some kitesurfing, plus all the Mayan ruins and stuff were very cool. Some people might say that I was taken advantage of financially, given her complete lack of monetary contribution, but it was a manyfold times more enjoyable trip because I had her company and I took pleasure from taking her to her dream holiday destination.

I've been spending lots of money eating out in restaurants, getting takeaway deliveries and I just booked another holiday. It's been over 6 months since my last holiday, so I think I've earned it.

I spend a lot of money.

Money flows in-between my fingers, as if I was grabbing handfuls of fine white coral sand on one of the beautiful beaches where I sometimes take my holidays. Does it bother me that I spend vast sums of money instead of hoarding as much as possible; living like a miser? Does it bother me that all I have to show for the money I've spent is an amazing house, a beautiful kitten and some incredible memories of unforgettable experiences? No. I'm no fool.

I've ploughed money into seemingly lost-causes, such as donating small sums of money to a friend who I'm trying to financially support through a difficult period of his life, to the point where he can hopefully be self-sufficient. It's damn hard escaping poverty. I feel as though it's my duty to spread the wealth. I feel as though it's very unfair that I can make lots of money because I already have plenty of money. Those who have the most money make the most money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That's unfair.

I think it's victim-blaming to say that the poor would become rich if they were more careful with their money, and I find that kind of thinking very offensive.

 

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Not Enough Hours in the Day

8 min read

This is a story about domestic bliss...

Red light

I enjoy a certain degree of freedom in my daily routine. I can arrive at work at any time between 8am and 10am. I can leave work at any time between 3:30pm and 5pm. I can work from home. I can take a half-day or a whole day off. I can take as much holiday as I want. It seems like my life is very flexible and I'm very time rich, as well as being handsomely remunerated for my efforts.

I'm somewhat obsessed with the project I'm working on. I know that the project has hard deadlines and I know that I'm playing an influential role in making sure that the project is delivered on-time. It might sound arrogant, but I know that there's a lot of cheap talk and the number of people who are "doers" is far fewer than the number of people on the payroll, who like to talk about doing stuff, but aren't driven and determined enough to carry anything through to completion. I need to stop short of outright criticism of my colleagues, because everyone plays their part, even if the project would go more quickly and the work would be higher quality without a handful of low-performing individuals: not my circus, not my monkeys.

I'm completely besotted with my girlfriend. I have a limitless desire to spend time with her. I think she's wonderful; the best.

The running of my home - the laundry, the cleaning, stocking the fridge and cupboards, taking out the trash - is relatively easy but I am quite house proud and the novelty of my relatively new house has not yet worn off. I would very much like to continue to add furniture and decorative items to make it a more and more lovely place to call home.

My kitten is amazing. Having a cute litte furry companion has exceeded my wildest expectations. My kitten plays "fetch" when she's feeling active, or cuddles up when she wants a rest. She's always entertaining, she's so beautiful to look at and her fur is so soft to stroke. She does, however, urinate and defecate where she shouldn't when I make a mistake like leaving her unattended with a laundry basket full of clean clothes for a few seconds, or not realising that her litter needed changing because it was clumpy beneath the surface. I've spent a lot of time washing duvets, bedding, clothes, and mopping the floor, as well as scooping up poop. I expected to have to make sure she was fed, entertained and had a clean litter tray to use, but there has been some extra stuff to deal with, like clearing my bedroom and dining room floor of anything she might urinate or defecate on.

I was just about coping with a very simple life, where I was working, sleeping and eating. I was going to bed at 9pm. The highlight of my week consisted of a trip to the supermarket. My life was pretty barren and empty.

Almost overnight, I have a girlfriend and a kitten. It made me feel very guilty that I got up and went to work at 7am and didn't get home to see my kitten until almost 11pm, because my girlfriend and I had gone to the cinema after work and then eaten at a restaurant.

FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF ANY DOUBT: MY KITTEN IS LOOKED AFTER DURING THE DAY EITHER BY ME, WORKING FROM HOME, OR BY MY GIRLFRIEND. MY KITTEN IS LEFT ALONE VERY INFREQUENTLY, AND ONLY FOR SHORT PERIODS OF TIME.

I'm also having to re-adjust to a significantly reduced amount of sleep.

I was sleeping from 9pm to 7am - 10 hours a night - and now I'm lucky if I get 6 hours a night on work-nights, which is a significant reduction. Assuming I needed just 8 hours sleep (but actually I need more) then I might lose as much as 6 hours total sleep during the working week. With only Saturday and Sunday available for catching up, and assuming that a 1am or 2am bedtime doesn't seem unreasonable on a Friday and Saturday night, means I can catch up only as few as 4 hours, assuming that I went to bed at 2am and had a lie-in until midday (i.e. 10 hours sleep). Given that it takes 1.5 times as much sleep to catch up, I am running a major sleep deficit - I am never getting the chance to catch up on any sleep. It's very simple mathematics to see that I am getting increasingly tired.

My day should be quite easy to divide - 8 hours sleep, 8 hours leisure and 8 hours sleep, but that's not possible if you have to get up and go to work at 7am, and you're not able to go to sleep until past midnight on a work night. For those who are able to sleep as long as they want during the mornings, they can easily ensure that they don't get too tired. For those who can have a nap during the day, they can catch up. I don't have those luxuries, because I need to get up and go to work at 7am, even though I do have a lot of flexibility which I don't use because of the demanding project I'm working on.

Flexibility comes at a price.

I'm dedicating myself to supporting my colleagues in delivering a very large and complicated project with a huge number of team members. It's important that I'm able to get some work done in the morning - 8am to 9am - and in the evening - 4pm to 5pm - when there aren't any meetings or interruptions.

Sure, I've worked hard enough to be able to slack off a bit, but I really don't want to decimate the reputation which has taken substantial effort to earn.

I pretty much just need a holiday.

Somehow I'm managing to stay functional and not lose my mind with exhaustion. Sleep deprivation will quickly erode your ability to think clearly, stay sane and be relaxed about life. Only those who have the luxury of being able to sleep as much as they want are able to not worry about bedtimes and the health and wellbeing consequences.

I suppose I've worked hard enough and proven myself such that I could become an unreliable part-timer who nobody would rely upon, but I enjoy my role as somebody who's been steady and dependable - ever-present - which is vitally important when you're trying to help a large number of people to deliver a very complex set of objectives. Leadership could be seen as a job title which is awarded for long service, or help from your daddy, but most of the time leadership is a set of attitudes - qualities - which make your colleagues trust you and look to you for guidance; leadership is just something that some people can do when others aren't interested, lack the aptitude, or lack the confidence and experience.

In terms of eyes on the prize, I know that I will cut back on my hours in the office and give myself some days off, for the sake of my relationship, my mental health, my physical health and because there literally aren't enough hours in the day. I have a pile of personal administrative tasks which I've ignored for a few months, costing me serious amounts of money.

I'm desperate for a holiday.

It's been 6 months since I had a holiday.

This is a recurring theme in my life: I work too hard and it makes me sick.

I'm going to publish this now. As you might have been able to tell, my blogging has been an early casualty, as the demands on my time have increased and my waking day has stretched well beyond what I'm able to cope with, without losing more sleep than I'm possibly ever able to catch up on over the course of a weekend.

It's 8:30pm and I need to start thinking about getting ready for bed. I need to make sure my kitten has food, water and a clean litter tray. I need to make sure I have clean clothes for work tomorrow. I need to make sure the house is in good order, so my kitten can be left to her own devices while I'm at the office. It might sound unthinkable that my day has consisted of sleep, work, 10 minutes of TV and a short amount of writing, and now I'm about to start getting ready for bed, but when sleep gets borrowed it has to be paid back - I cannot go to bed at 1am on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night, without having to reclaim 1.5 times what was lost, which is impossible when I'm working on such a high-profile and intensive project.

A holiday is the solution. I need a holiday.

 

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Seemingly Unimportant Decisions

7 min read

This is a story about success and failure...

Baked beans

There was a time, almost exactly a year ago, when I covered my windows with thick paper - so my bedroom was in complete darkness - and I ate baked beans out of a can with a business card as a makeshift spoon. There was nothing particularly wrong with my life at the time. I was earning a fabulous amount of money, my home had amazing panoramic sea views, I had a lovely girlfriend. What could possibly have brought about this rather dire turn of events?

It's important to me to feel like I'm succeeding. It's important to feel like I'm making progress. It's important for me to be able to picture a future that goes beyond the next week or the next month. I need to be able to see a clear pathway to a life that I will find happy and sustainable; fulfilling.

Of course, my path has never been blocked by any insurmountable obstacle. I never doubted for a single moment that my kidneys would start working again when they failed. I never doubt that I'll be able to find well paid work. I never doubt that at some point, eventually, I'll be able to quit the rat race.

The question is: how long will it take to achieve my modest and reasonable desire to feel secure in a happy, sustainable and fulfilling life? How many times will I have to move house, move city? How many times will I have to get a new job? How long until I own my own house again? How long until I have adequate cash reserves to pursue my dreams?

For many people, they already have their answer: they will never escape poverty. For the vast majority of people on the planet, they will be poor for their entire lives, and they will live a miserable, stressful, hand-to-mouth existence.

I'm not most people.

I'm not special or different.

I'm not entitled to any preferential treatment.

I don't deserve to be able to pursue rich-man's hobbies, such as writing, art and indulging academic fetishes.

However, I can tell you how long it will take to be able to free myself from the coercive tyranny of capitalism, and the answer is not "never". I'm fortunate, very fortunate that I do have a route to freedom; a route which most people do not have - they'll never escape the clutches of poverty.

Perhaps my decisions to black out my windows and eat cold beans from a can with an improvised spoon were part of a petulant tantrum; a result of impulsive impatience, in the face of a long and unpleasant waiting game. This is probably the closest approximation to the truth.

If I thought that my quality of life was going to remain below an acceptable minimum for any great length of time, and that the number of years of unpleasantness I was facing were too many for me to bear, I would make decisions... I would make decisions with drastic consequences.

It might seem illogical to you that I would make decisions with terrible consequences, when there are literally billions of people who would kill to trade places with me. However, it also seems illogical to me to make a decision with terrible consequences, such as continuing to tolerate an intolerable life, or worse still, inflicting that intolerable life onto some children knowingly brought into the world in awful circumstances. Surely we have to acknowledge that suicide is an option. Surely we have to acknowledge that contraception and abortions are preferable to miserable deprived hungry children, raised in filth and squalor.

Who am I to decide what the minimum viable quality of life is for somebody else, or the children they spawn? You're right: I can't make that decision for anybody except myself.

As things stand, the quality of my life is pretty exceptional, but there is still an unacceptable level of precarity. There is a greater risk of me falling below the minimum threshold for continued existence, than there is for my peers. I'm lacking vital things, such as a local support network, a supportive family and the willingness to re-endure suffering which I've already experienced beyond the amount I'm prepared to accept.

Of course, it would take a perfect storm, losing my girlfriend, my job, my money, my house and my health, for me to decide that I've had enough. However, I know how easily my flimsy, fragile life can collapse with alarming speed. This is not due to anything specifically weak about myself and my situation, but entirely due to my first-hand experience of calamitous life events.

It's probably true that if something bad happened in my life, I am now in a much more robust position and able to quickly remedy the situation before things collapsed. It's probably true that I'm better prepared than almost anybody to deal with adversity - I have the experience and I've dealt with dreadful things plenty of times. The question is, how much would it take for me to decide I couldn't be bothered to fight anymore?

As it stands, I work very hard to mitigate risks. I think the unthinkable. I anticipate theoretical problems and solve them before they even present themselves in reality. I know where my most vulnerable areas are, I've imagined my reaction, and I've imagined exactly what positive steps I would take in the event of disaster.

I'm quite insecure and anxious, but it's understandable. I don't have the luxury of anybody underwriting my risk. Ultimately, I know that I can fall very, very far. That's my life: a high-wire tightrope walk without a safety net.

Imagine the young trainee doctor I wrote about last year, who killed himself when he thought he was going to be declared unfit to practice medicine. He could have gotten a job at McDonalds. He could have been a beggar. Surely it can't be that bad to be alive, fit and healthy, can it? Surely he should have been happy that he wasn't a starving African child with mutilated genitals? That's not the way it works, I'm afraid. There are people who have terrible lives, but that doesn't mean that other people can't have terrible lives too, even if they are not absolutely terrible. Terribleness is relative to our lived experiences. Terribleness is a function of our very real and tangible hopes and dreams being dashed to pieces on the rocks.

My lived experiences encompass sleeping rough in Kensington Palace Gardens as well as dining nearby on a private terrace overlooking a lush green roof garden with flamingos, and London's skyline providing the backdrop for me proposing marriage with an exorbitantly expensive engagement ring, before clinking glasses with finest champagne. That is an example of the range of my life experiences, from utter failure and destitution to incredible wealth and success. It's impossible to un-experience those things, and to reset the "minimum viable quality of life" to a level of my own choosing.

Could I be poor and happy? Quite possibly, but I very much doubt that I would be happy flipping burgers, getting paid minimum wage on a zero hours contract McJob and giving all my hard-earned money to capitalist leeches for the privilege of being alive.

If you flip burgers and you are happy, then I'm pleased for you. If you're a starving African child with mutilated genitals and you're happy, then I'm pleased for you. Please also recognise that I cannot un-experience what I have experienced in my life and I cannot choose how to feel.

 

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Not a Real Person

7 min read

This is a story about living a lie...

Bengal kitten

I've been accused by a BBC journalist as being a fake - creating a contrived story - although she did come to visit me when I was held in a secure psychiatric ward, so I wonder whether she continued to suspect my authenticity after that. A recovering alcoholic from the South-West of England, who had recently started a blog, and a mutual friend of ours who had lost a child to suicide, decided that I was a journalist. Most recently, a person who I considered a friend who had once offered to accomodate me when I was facing homelessness, but then quite suddenly retracted that offer, said that they had considered my bipolar diagnosis "doubtful" and told me that they'd "lost faith in [me] as a real person". These are just some of the examples of people who have taken an interest in my story, only to later suggest that I'm a fictional character; a figment of my own imagination.

It would be quite nice to be a fictional character. Assuming that this blog is written by a human being and not an artificially intelligent Nickbot™ then it seems logical to further hypothesise that the author lives a pleasant life free from mental illness and the mood instability of bipolar disorder. It sounds really nice to be a fiction author or journalist, who has the time to create a character for the world to read about. It sounds like a super pleasant existence, being able to write a fake blog about a fake person and to inflict fictional unpleasantnesses upon that non-existent person, instead of a real human being having to experience terrible things. It sounds a lot better to me, that there should be a "real person" out there who is having a nice time, and that all the bad times never happened at all - they were all just stories.

Unfortunately, I feel pretty real. If I pinch my skin it hurts. If I slap my face it hurts. When things are going wrong, it hurts. When things are stressful, it's very unpleasant. When things go wrong, it's awful.

I really wish I wasn't a "real person".

It seems like a lot of effort to go to, spending 4 years of your life writing 1.2 million words, to create an artificial entity - a fictional person living in a fictional world - when it must be clear that I derive no monetary reward from this endeavour. Do you think I get paid a salary to write this blog? Do you see any adverts anywhere? Do you hear me promoting products? How does the "real person" make their money and why would anybody pay money to create a fictitious "Nick Grant" character?

The most disturbing and upsetting part of accusations that I'm not "real" is that I've been hospitalised 3 times with multiple organ failure as a result of trying to end my own life. I've spent months in secure psychiatric wards. I've spent years trying different medications and suffering their side effects. I've seen so many doctors, specialty doctors, mental health nurses, psychiatrists, social workers and various support workers who are part of community mental health teams and crisis teams. I nearly died a whole bunch of times... like, serious not messing around, major medical emergency, miracle I'm still alive kind of nearly died.

Am I supposed to be sorry that at the moment my job is going well, which has earned me a lot of money, such that I've been able to get a lovely big house, furnish it, get a gorgeous bengal kitten and meet a beautiful girlfriend? Am I supposed to be apologetic about that? Am I not supposed to have any of that?

Bipolar disorder has been destructive and destabilising and has caused me to have to start my life from scratch. Bipolar disorder has caused me years and years of dysfunctional behaviour, which stopped me from having a happy life and enjoying health, wealth and prosperity. Am I supposed to stay stuck eternally in that perpetual state of mood instability, which was so extreme that my life was ruined?

If I knew what the 'cure' was for bipolar, I'd gladly tell you what it is, but as I've written before, I don't think I'm cured at all. A lot of hard work goes into managing my mental health condition without medication. In fact, choosing to be unmedicated is one of very many difficult decisions I've made, along with choosing to work, when I would much prefer to abandon all responsibility and assume that there's a magic pill which will 'cure' me enough for me to be able to sit around watching TV collecting my government handouts.

I have episodes where I appear to be very functional. Am I supposed to be sorry about that? These episodes where I'm functional don't come for free: I work very hard to keep my mood as stable as I can.

You're right: I'm no longer sleeping rough. You're right: my circumstances have improved considerably. You're right: my life looks somewhat enviable. How many times have you slept rough? How many times have you been hospitalised with multiple organ failure? How many months have you spent under lock and key on a secure psych ward? How many different strong psychiatric medications have you tried? How many doctors have you had? How much have you lost? What's the lowest you've ever got - have you ever lost literally everything and had to start your life again from scratch?

If you think that somebody who's nearly died a bunch of times and who's slept rough, destitute, has no need or want for a nice house, a gorgeous kitten and a beautiful girlfriend, then you're a complete idiot. You think I'd settle for living in a tent? You think I'd settle for a few ragged dirty clothes? You think I'd settle for one meal a day from my local soup kitchen? Do you think somehow that I should have lowered my sights and curtailed my life ambitions, because I've experienced the very worst that life has to offer? Fool.

If I had the 'cure' for bipolar disorder then I'd share it for sure. In fact, maybe there are lessons to be learned. I've exhaustively documented every single gory detail of my life in the hope that it would be read, and that it might prove interesting and perhaps even useful to the general public. You're welcome.

As for those of you who think I should be sleeping on a piece of cardboard in a shop doorway, begging, because that seems more "real" then I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I like my life better, even if you think you have the right to tell me that I should be deliberately choosing to deprive myself of nice things. I like my nice house, I like my gorgeous kitten and I like my beautiful girlfriend, even if those things don't fit with the narrative which you invented. There's 4 years of my life and 1.2 million words if you want to go digging to find some of the really awful times from my past.

I continue, as ever, to write with unflinching candid honesty about the reality of my day-to-day existence.

 

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Radio Silence

5 min read

This is a story about being absent without leave...

Mast

Friends quite rightly worry about me when I stop writing regularly. Usually, a gap in my daily blogging routine indicates trouble. Often, the trouble can be very bad - the kind that would threaten my life, my job, my shelter, my money... everything could potentially go down the pan, surprisingly quickly.

It's very nice that concerned friends check in on me if I go quiet. It's very reassuring that people care about me. It's very touching that people would take time out of their day to try to contact me, to see if I'm OK.

I am OK.

I've been pretty damn exhausted and struggling to catch up on some much-needed sleep. I've been under a great deal of pressure at work. I've been feeling a bit jittery and anxious - insecure - as I'm in a new relationship and I'm really crazy about my girlfriend, and I'd hate for anything to go wrong. I have a whole new set of responsibilities now that I have a kitten.

One thing I've been doing regularly, at the expense of my blog, is washing duvets and duvet covers, because my kitten has a habit of peeing on them. My kitten is house trained and knows where her litter tray is, but she seems to want to pee on the bed, every single day. She's now banned from the bedrooms. Mercifully, she hasn't peed on my sofa, yet.

Last night I let my kitten roam free and she didn't pee. She didn't spend much time in my bedroom at all. She likes to sleep on a duvet, but I was sleeping under sheets because the duvet was drying. I guess she's taken to sleeping at the top of the house, where it's the warmest - probably next to the boiler. I always worry when I can't find her, but after a while calling her name I can hear her scamper down the stairs, from the very top floor.

Other than washing cat pee, I had a friend visiting from abroad, which was wonderful, and I spoke at length to two other friends. Also, I see my girlfriend a lot, which is amazing - we have very similar tastes in arts, culture and politics, and we can talk for hours. There are lots of good things going on in my life, which is also perhaps why I'm writing less: I tend to use writing therapeutically when life is very difficult.

I'm drinking too much, not exercising enough and I still need to catch up on sleep, but life is very good. I have some stresses - such as an invasive security vetting process, renegotiating my contract at work, and getting official permission to have a cat from my landlord - but on the whole my life is busy, entertaining, exciting and has some extremely pleasurable periods.

I'm in need of a week of rest and relaxation, to recharge my batteries, but the project I'm working on is very demanding and it's an important time to be in the office, making sure everything goes to plan and the project is a big success. I'm sure I can juggle the competing demands on my time, because I've worked hard to earn plenty of brownie points and build a good reputation with my colleagues.

It is a little tricky finding the time to write every day, and I know that it's a healthy habit to write and publish every day. I know that it's useful to keep the people who care about me informed of what's going on in my life. I know it's a worthwhile investment of time, continuing to write this blog.

I am spread a little thin and I am having a few problems with drinking too much, and skating on thin ice with so few energy reserves, leaving me somewhat prone to have a moment of impatient unkindness, either at work or at home. I feel resentful of colleagues who produce shoddy work at snail's pace. I feel jealous of friends who aren't working, who are much more time rich. However, it's my own stupid fault for taking on too much and not looking after myself.

Hopefully, I can start to write every day again. The tone of what I write will probably change. A lot of what I'm going to write about is how I spent a pleasant evening on the sofa, with my cute little kitten curled up sleeping on me, like she is now.

If you're looking for drama, it never seems to be very far away in my life. I have no idea what's going to shatter my pleasant existence, but there'll be some unpleasant surprise waiting for me, I'm sure.

For now, no news has been good news. I can deal with a bit of kitten pee. My life is very good at the moment. Being busy with my girlfriend, busy with my job, busy with visiting friends, and busy with my kitten - that's a nice state of affairs.

 

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