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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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Functional Alcoholic

5 min read

This is a story about demon drink...

Bucket

I have placed a ludicrous amount of pressure on myself, having decided that I'm going to create a great reputation for myself by being a major player in a massive important project, for a big organisation. I've been attempting to be all things to all men, and be in all places at one time. I have been attempting to be manyfold times more productive than anybody else, in order to demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt that I've been a major contributor and driving force behind the success of the project. I've staked my name and reputation on a successful delivery.

How do I sleep at night?

Vodka.

I bought a bottle of vodka on Monday and now it's all gone. I never drink spirits. Except I have done this week. A whole bottle.

I know this is a bad sign.

This is how alcoholism starts.

Alcohol is a terrible coping mechanism. I was very drunk last night, except somehow I wasn't. I carried on drinking even though I wasn't getting any more drunk. I woke up and I was worryingly OK.

I should have been throwing up.

I wasn't.

It's not the drinking that's so much of the worry, it's the getting used to it. When I can neck a bottle of vodka over the course of 3 evenings, and still turn up to work and be productive, then I'm on a collision-course with disaster. Not the kind of disaster where I turn up for work in a dishevelled intoxicated state - that would never happen - but the kind of disaster where I end up dying of liver failure in my 50s, having been an alcoholic for more than a decade.

I think spirits are a step too far. Spirits spell disaster. The hard stuff is dangerous.

It's been shocking, the effect of strong alcoholic drinks - I've not found a limit where I start to feel unwell, and the hangovers are too unbearable, which is very dangerous. I also have failed to find any point where I think "I've had enough" or "I'm adequately drunk". Strange, that I would never reach a point where intoxication becomes unpleasant; aversive. That's worrying.

So. No more spirits. No more vodka. I need to stop that particular stupid idea immediately.

I do have an enormous amount of stress, which is reaching its peak. The deadline is almost here. The end is nigh.

I'm not sure how my colleagues in other teams are coping. I'm not sure how people who have a lot of responsibility, professional pride and reputation at stake, are coping right now. One colleague who's worked at the same organisations that I have - notably JPMorgan and HSBC - alluded to having a similar hard-drinking predilection. Alcoholism is ubiquitous in the Square Mile. Alcoholism is notorious in banking. I've lost numerous friends and colleagues to alcoholism, from that world. It was practically a rite of passage to end up in The Priory, all paid for by JPMorgan or whoever, in order to dry out and then come back to work.

It's ridiculously demanding work, delivering huge IT projects for gigantic organisations. The alcohol goes hand-in-hand with the project work, because otherwise people's blood pressure would be too high and the stress would be unbearable. Work hard, play hard. It's all good fun, until somebody dies 10 or 15 years later from alcohol-related illness.

I've been patting myself on the back, but nobody's really officially recognised my contribution, as yet. Why should they? So many people are working hard. So many people are involved. So many people are stressed and under pressure. Why should anybody single me out as special, in particular?

I veer between feeling confident and pleased with the project I've been involved in, and feeling that there's something really fundamentally wrong which is going to ruin things. Some nights I go to sleep content, and wake up excited to improve things. Some nights I can hardly sleep with worrying about an unresolved problem, and I wake up with anxiety, not knowing whether I'll resolve the problems satisfactorily.

Taking the edge off every night, self-medicating for my insomnia and anxiety, I have been drinking far too much. I drank bucketloads over the weekend. This week has been ridiculous for alcohol consumption. It's terrible.

This whole period is terrible for my health. The pressure is relentless. The workload is relentless. The demands I place upon myself to perform and excel are huge; I'm so determined to achieve something great, to prove to myself that I'm still a talented and capable engineer, who can deliver huge projects on time with high quality.

I keep telling myself that I need to keep pushing myself, just a little longer. The finish line is in sight. Not long now.

 

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Someone to Look After

4 min read

This is a story about nurturing...

Kitty

My cat routine starts pre-dawn, being kicked and having my feet attacked. Then my cat shoves her head into my hands, forcing me to stroke her, while I struggle to sleep. In the shower, she wails outside the bathroom unless I let her in, in which case she will destroy the toilet rolls. As I get dressed she repeatedly attempts to go into my wardrobe to urinate. I go downstairs to feed her, and she desperately attempts to trip me up. She charges around crazily, whether I've fed her or not. She occasionally decides that she wants to play rough, and starts attacking my arms and legs.

Throughout all this human-cat interaction, I talk to her. Mostly "no!" and "stop that!" and other cries of shock and pain as she attacks me unexpectedly, but also I meow back whenever she is around. She seems to forget that I'm at home, and she meows forlornly in some distant part of the house and comes running when she hears me meow back.

If I'm pottering around doing chores, I generally chat to the cat, who is my constant companion.

I would be lonely, alone in my big house, but my cat is very entertaining.

I was very stressed about my sleep being disturbed, but I've become used to her being crazy late at night and early in the morning. She can be very annoying and make a lot of noise, attacking things and me, and zooming around at high speed - the drum beat of her paws sounding very loud at unsociable hours of the day - but it's become more normal and routine now. I can cope. It's almost nice, especially in the brief moments when she calms down and wants to be affectionate.

The two cats I've had before have mostly enjoyed sleeping. I've never had a cat with such an interesting personality; so entertaining. She's a nightmare, but I've gotten used to all the new rules I have to follow: I can't leave any paper or cardboard out, or it will get shredded. I can't have nice plants, or else they will get chewed. I can't have floor-standing paper lamps. I can't leave coats, jumpers or blankets lying on the floor, or else they will get peed on. It's kind of like having a puppy, I guess.

I take far more enjoyment out of feeding my cat than I do myself. I put more effort into choosing something that I think she'd like to eat than I do for myself. In fact, I spend far more time doing things for her than I do on self-care. I was thinking to myself about what toys I should buy for her. I have plenty of motivation to look after her, even though I'm neglecting myself.

Her cries are not quite as baby-like as a Siamese, but I was thinking how much her cries elicit an immediate desire to rush to her aid. She's definitely a child substitute, although not one that's going to grow up traumatised and tell me that I was a terrible father. She has a good life and she will be dead long before climate change makes the planet inhospitable, and she can't have any children. She is not tormented by existential angst. She is not deprived; she's spoiled.

If I was forced to leave Cardiff in order to take a contract in London, I would have to rehome her, which would be heartbreaking. Living without a cat again would be a major blow to my quality of life. However heartless it might sound, I still need to get another year of good earning and savings under my belt, to give me that all-important financial security I have worked so hard to get. It'd be awful, losing my kitty, but it's impossible to get a landlord to agree to having a pet in London. Hopefully I can extend my current contract or find another local contract, but I always plan for the worst.

Having a cat has helped me so much during this difficult period, where I'm having relationship problems, and I'm under enormous stress and pressure at work.

 

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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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Cat Fancier

4 min read

This is a story about my fur baby...

Cone of shame

My job is incredibly intense at the moment and I'm at risk of becoming excessively obsessive, but when I see my cat's cute face greeting me when I get home from the office, I'm able to switch off and relax a little. There are things which are causing me a lot of stress at the moment, like an uncertain financial and housing situation, but it's all a little easier to bear in the company of my lovely cat.

I wondered whether I had made a big mistake, getting a very intelligent breed of cat, because her personality is so different to the moggy I had before. Repeatedly wetting the bed as well as being relentlessly hyperactive, I felt that I was getting far more of the downsides of pet ownership, with only a very limited amount of upsides: it seemed very rare that she wanted to sit and be stroked. I wondered whether I had taken on a bigger responsibility than I had expected - and been used to in the past with cats - with none of the rewards that I was used to from my previous cat.

She is very annoying.

However, I have gotten used to how annoying she is. Now I have begun to enjoy her character.

At least once a night, she will have a manic episode where she will decide that she's going to attack me. For a period of 15 minutes to an hour, she will attack my hands, arms, feet or indeed anything that she fancies, such as my legs, knees, or simply my torso. She will bite, scratch and kick me. She will jump on me and wind me. However, it's all rough play and she doesn't mean to hurt me, although she does draw blood. If I want her to stop, she does... but not for long.

Multiple times per day she will attack my houseplants and other fragile things, such as some tall lamps which have paper shades, now utterly destroyed. She does not attack these things when I'm not around. Not wanting to anthropomorphise, but she wants to provoke me: she annoys me for her own amusement. It's a game to her. It used to stress me out but now it's become kind of funny... since I've accepted that I can't have nice things anymore and I've given up being precious about my stuff.

She wants to be with my, wherever I am. It's very nice having a little shadow, following me around. She meows and I meow back. Sometimes she wanders off and then feels lonely, so she meows and then comes rushing to find me when she hears me. She's a very sociable animal.

Since she's been wearing her cone she's not been able to scratch behind her ears, which is something she gets me to do for her. She has an insatiable appetite for behind-the-ears scratching.

Once or twice a day she will have a period where she is desperate to be stroked, and she will force her head into my hand, whatever I'm doing. Typing becomes impossible. Resting comfortably becomes impossible. Sleep becomes impossible. If I sit or lie on my hands, she will burrow furiously in order to push her head repeatedly into my hand, urging me to stroke her. It's so adorable and impossible to ignore.

She has started to enjoy sitting on my lap, or otherwise lying peacefully in contact with me. She has started to have some calmer periods, which are of course blissful.

Stroking her is immensely stress relieving. She also seems to know when I'm unhappy, and she cheers me up a lot. I think she's responsible for helping me to avoid complete capitulation during some recent stressful events.

In short: I'm really pleased I got her and I'm so happy she's part of my life.

 

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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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Je Suis Fatty Gay

2 min read

This is a story about fatigue...

Unmade bed

I had planned on going out kitesurfing more than once, while I was on holiday in Mauritius. I had planned on spending some time in the sunshine today. I had planned on seeing my sister play roller derby.

In the end, I was too tired.

It's been a while since I was unable to get out of bed, but I think it's economic necessity and the opportunity to make hay while the sun shines, which means that I am just about able to force myself into an uncomfortable daily routine - working in an office 9 to 5 Monday to Friday - but the rest of the time I'm tired and I want to relax; to sleep.

My life is a bit boring, given that it consists of work, eating and sleeping, but it makes me more miserable, feeling duty-bound to do activities. I definitely need the rest, because my working days are demanding, and life's been very stressful in recent years, which has left me exhausted.

I'm writing this because I feel guilty about squandering some valuable quality time, but I feel so much better for having given myself permission to rest, instead of succumbing to a sense of duty.


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My Dream Holiday In Pictures

6 min read

This is a story about ludicrous luxury...

Bay

The adventure began in South Africa. I don't have any pictures of Johannesburg or the dreary wet day of my 40th birthday, but here is a picture of a nice bay south of Cape Town, from an epic road trip. Table Mountain is stunning, of course. The scenery was dramatic.

Compass House

It seems kinda vulgar and a little boring to show the inside of luxury boutique hotels rather than the sightseeing, but the holiday was supposed to be about relaxation and self-indulgence. It cost me a heap of cash, so why shouldn't I re-live a little of the pleasant places which I stayed? This place was on the steep cliffs in Cape Town, looking out to sea.

Wine Region

It was winter and it was quite chilly at night in the wine region of South Africa. I certainly wasn't going to go swimming but the missus went in the pool for the sake of an Instagram shot.

Breakfast

There's the birthday boy (i.e. me). Breakfast was incredible. I wish I took more photos at this place. The decor was amazing.

Feet up

In the Eastern Cape on safari. Loved the mosquito netting. There was floor-to-ceiling glass on all sides of this little thatched-roof lodge and I really enjoyed having my feet up on this big bed.

Bathtime

There were really great bath tubs with fantastic views at a few places we stayed, but this was probably the best. Felt surprisingly private and secluded, despite being so exposed. This safari lodge was so beautiful, with all the lovely wood.

Lion

It'd be a rubbish safari if we didn't see any animals. Saw this white lion on the very first morning, which set the tone for the whole thing. I just wanted to relax and recharge my batteries, but it was worth getting up early to see the animals.

Giraffes

Giraffes have super funny faces. Like, they look dumb but friendly.

Elephant

Spent quite a lot of time watching elephants. They're very entertaining; always playing with each other and trying to get a reaction.

Cheetahs

The big 5 game animals don't include cheetahs, but we were super happy to see these guys. We didn't see a leopard but it was pretty unlikely that we were going to. Feel really privileged to have seen as many big cats as we did.

Rhino

Rhinos are like big cows with big horns, it turns out. Cool to see one, but they just eat grass and don't do much. I was wondering if they're super endangered and I might be super fortunate to see one before they end up extinct, but our ranger said they're only endangered based on the rate that they're being poached - they're still quite numerous. This one's horn is worth many tens of thousands of dollars. Having seen the horrendous poverty in South Africa, it's easy to understand why they'd be poached.

Lioness

We saw a couple of 2-year-old lionesses hunting a warthog. That was very cool.

Infinity pool

Mauritius. The island is lush and green and the climate is brilliant. It was still nice and warm in the evenings and perfect for being outdoors in light clothing. The hotel wasn't as nice as the previous places we stayed, but it was still very special.

View

View from the balcony. Super nice to have 7 nights with nothing to do except eat, sleep, make love, swim in the ocean and do other activities, like sailing, snorkelling. I took my kitesurfing stuff but I really just wanted to chill out. I went out kitesurfing once, and the sea and wind were perfect. Probably the best place I've ever kitesurfed.

Waterfall

We did a quick tour of Mauritius, and went to some botanical gardens, the harbour and saw this cool waterfall.

Champagne

The holiday was mainly about food and drink, with incredible views to accompany. We ate fresh sea urchin, which has a lovely sweet delicately fishy flavour, a bit like lobster, which we also ate. I ate and drank with gay abandon the whole holiday and completely over-indulged, which was wonderful.

I spent a buttload of cash but it was my 40th birthday and I wanted to celebrate in style. Also, I've worked incredibly hard with very few holidays, so I felt like I deserved a big treat for all my efforts. Looking back through the photos now, I'm pleased that I spent the money even though it's left me a little more financially insecure than I'd like. The holiday really exceeded my expectations, which is great. So often holidays can cost a bomb but be quite disappointing; never quite meeting expectations. This holiday was full of surprise and delight.

You might look through these photos and think me to be quite spoiled, entitled, and completely out-of-order for ever complaining about my life. Certainly, it was an incredible two weeks and I had nothing to complain about, except perhaps my anxiety about my finances and income, with there being a great deal of uncertainty about my job.

Yes, it was pretty ludicrous to max everything out and go 5-star all the way, but it was a very stress-free holiday and very relaxing. Thinking about it now, I realise that it was a worthwhile investment in my health, even if I could have had just as much rest and relaxation for a fraction of the price. Frankly, I'll probably never spend as much money ever again, because I simply couldn't justify it. I booked the holiday in somewhat of a manic moment, but I'm kinda glad that I did, because when else was I going to do something so spectacular and incredible? It really was the holiday of a lifetime.

I don't feel blue about going back to work, because it was a great trip and I've got great memories. Going through the photos made me realise that I'll be able to go through them a whole bunch of times, remembering all kinds of different things. It was super hard to try to pick a handful of pictures that captured the essence of what the holiday was, because there were so many cool aspects.

So there we go... travelling in style.

 

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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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Fish Eye Lens

6 min read

This is a story about a negative outlook...

Drowned mouse

I've been staring at the cursor for about five minutes, unsure of quite where to begin. I know that it would be wise to avoid conflict and destruction - deliberately looking for trouble - but my mind continuously prompts me to write about the situation which is causing me the most stress at the moment, which is the obscene amount of money I've spent on a holiday for my girlfriend and I, and the horrible flashbacks this is giving me from the time when I was taken advantage of and left for dead.

There's no need to publicly attack my girlfriend. She seems well-meaning enough. If I give her the benefit of the doubt, she hasn't got a bad bone in her body. However, the reality of the present situation is that she's spent a vast amount of my money and has no credible means to pay for her share. I know that the fault is mine, for getting carried away, but the situation is indisputable - she has profited handsomely from my vulnerability, which is something I've been harmed by in the past.

My brain feeds me a constant stream of negativity, because I have made overly-aggressive medication changes. I'm tormented by nightmares in my sleep, and from the moment I wake up until the moment I finally get to sleep, I suffer from invasive thoughts and an incredibly dour outlook on the future. My brain feeds me constant doom & gloom. My brain instantly leaps to the most negative possible outcomes.

I'm disappointed and frustrated that I might not get the opportunity to finish the project I'm working on. My contract is being terminated early, through no fault of my own. I had worked very hard to build a great reputation with the organisation I work for, but it's all for naught. A colleague gets paid more-or-less the same amount and has more-or-less the same job title, but that person has a fraction of my productivity - why did I burn myself out? Why did I work so hard? Why did I bother? It doesn't bother me so much that my colleague is useless and in some ways I find it kind of admirable when somebody gets paid so much for doing so little, but it bothers me that I might not get to finish what I'm working on - I like working hard and I like completing projects. It bothers me when somebody gets in the way of a successful project, by being thoroughly useless. It bothers me that I have to work much harder than I would have to if the under-performers were simply sacked. I have plenty of time and patience for my junior colleagues, but I have no patience for highly paid colleagues who're supposed to do the same job as me, who are not up to scratch and who are jeopardising a project.

I can see that my irritability and intolerance - my lack of patience - is symptomatic of burn-out. I've worked for too long at too high intensity. I've lost all balance in my life. I've lost all perspective. I've lost my health.

My colleague has the right idea. It was a mistake to get emotionally invested in my work. It was a mistake to become excessively obsessed with the project. I hate that I'm being bitchy behind my colleague's back. I hate that I hate my colleague's ineptitude.

I want to go back to the version of me who handles stressful situations with a smile.

I've faced very dangerous situations so many times that I'm usually cool and calm in a crisis.

Why am I so irritable?

I'm losing my grip.

I find myself in a precarious position. Perhaps not more so than other times in the past, but it feels more precarious than ever, maybe because I'm aware that I've got a winning strategy, but I'm still a long way from security. I've got a nice place to live and I've feathered the nest a little, but I don't feel very well - I have no idea how I'm going to avoid a breakdown and keep working at the same intensity, in order to cement my gains. I feel certain that the combination of luck and hard work is too demanding, given how burnt out I am. I needed better luck - I needed my contract to be extended, not cut short. I needed to reap the rewards of the hard work I invested into the current organisation and project... not to be having to prove myself in some new organisation; starting from scratch.

Every morning and every night I have a huge amount of dread: I have the uncertainty of a very invasive security vetting procedure hanging over me, and I have the uncertainty of the local contract market to face. I know that psychologically I'll be destroyed by relatively minor setbacks. I know that I'll find work in the private sector if the public sector won't have me. I know that my skills will be in demand somewhere but I'm sick of living out of a suitcase.

I know that my health is failing. I know that exhaustion is catching up with me. I know that when depression takes hold it will be long and destructive, leaving me unable to work, unable to get out of bed, unable to answer the phone... completely dysfunctional. I know that I'm completely burnt out.

I need to pack bags and travel. It might seem like a nice problem to have, but the holiday will leave me worse off financially and worse off in terms of relaxation. I need to spend 6 weeks in bed with the curtains closed, but instead I'm bankrolling somebody else's dream holiday; for me a living nightmare of stress and hassle.

Perhaps a lot of my perspective comes from medication withdrawal. It makes sense that I would be overcome with anxiety and insomnia, given that I was so dependent on sleeping pills and tranquillisers. It makes sense that my view of the world would be coloured by the destabilised brain chemistry, having abruptly stopped taking strong psychiatric medication.

I wonder what will happen - whether my relationship can withstand this dark mood; whether my colleagues can tolerate my irritability; whether my fragile health will collapse completely and leave me unable to work. I'm not coping at all well, and unfortunately I need to be able to cope with ludicrous amounts of extra stress at the moment. Things will get a lot worse if they're going to stand any chance of getting any better.

 

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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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