This is the hardest and most personal thing I will ever have to write.

As I’m writing this, it is 4:30am. I have hardly slept in the past 24 hours, although it makes a change from my usual twelve hour sleeping shifts. I never have trouble sleeping, but tonight I do.

My head is buzzing around like you would not believe. It feels like it might explode into a billion shards if I can’t calm it down, and part of me wishes that it would. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have spent my entire day in tears. Not just a couple of silent droplets every now and then, but that kind of loud, ugly crying where you can’t breathe properly and you feel like your organs are collapsing. I ran out of tissues, so I have a mountain of screwed up kitchen roll next to me. That stuff is not gentle on your nose.

How do you explain to someone what’s going on in your head when you can’t even comprehend it yourself?

I have not been to uni for maybe two weeks. I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to make anybody understand that I cannot possibly get out of bed when I have no physical disability, but somehow my head is stopping me from getting up. It’s like it’s too heavy to move. The inevitable anxiety that I will face the moment I step out of the haven of my room is too much to bear. The questions, the conversations, the smiles, it’s all too much. There is no polite way to ask somebody not to talk to you because you feel like your head is going to splatter everywhere. There is no way of hiding in a lecture theatre or a seminar room when you feel you may burst into tears. The thing is, I can feel myself falling. I can see everything I want getting further and further away from me as I get behind, and yet that makes everything feel even harder. I’m failing. I’m a failure. I messed up.

Because of all the anxiety (and the inability to get out of bed and make it to the supermarket), I’ve found myself eating a whole lot less than I should be doing. All of a sudden my jeans have a lot more room in them, my skirt is getting baggy, my watch is falling down my wrist. My cheekbones feel more prominent when I’m washing my face and my stomach looks flatter as I skim the loofah over it in the shower. It’s dangerous, and I know it, but it’s the first time I’ve liked my body in a long time. That’s the most terrifying part. I’m petrified for myself, and yet I can’t seem to do anything about it. I look in the mirror and see the sallowness, my dark circles, my frizzy hair, my broken out skin, and I’m disgusted with myself in every way possible, but I look slimmer. I’ve been forcing myself to eat more lately, but it is a conscious effort rather than a natural process. I wobble about a bit and sometimes everything still goes dark when I stand up, but at least I’m trying.

I have just been through a break up with the person that I thought was the love of my life. That’s not the kind of stuff you go through easily. My break up was definitely not the cause of the way I’m feeling; in fact, it was actually the other way around. He was my entire support system, and losing that has been a real blow. I have never felt more lonely, isolated, and unwanted. I tried to throw myself into talking to other people, but I have come out the other side feeling even more insignificant than before. I just wanted somebody to care about me, validate me, make me feel less alone. It doesn’t work like that though. No matter how many times a stranger tells you that you’re “well fit”, it doesn’t actually mean anything. They can’t possibly compare to words said with love and meaning. All my current relationships with people feel empty and desolate, even with people I consider my best friends. I can’t connect.

My head feels like it has fallen into my chest. My heart feels like it has shattered in the pit of my stomach. My stomach feels like it has dropped out of my body completely. I am a shell of my usual self, with no filling and no feeling. I can’t focus enough to read, I feel like I am face to face with a brick wall creatively, and I can’t bring myself to even act normally. People tell me to keep busy, but how can I when I can’t focus on anything at all and I can’t even leave my room? I could probably do with a higher dosage of medication, but I have only just come down from a higher dose that made me feel like a permanently exhausted robot. I feel like I can’t possibly win, no matter how much medication I take. I feel lost.

A few days ago, my flatmate said to me, “you’re such a yes person, but then when it actually comes down to it you change your mind”, and it’s true. I say yes to things because I want to do them. I sign myself up and tell myself it will be fun and everything will be okay. I make plans with people and I get excited. But then the days race past and the pre-planned coffee date is looming, and suddenly I feel like I can’t do it anymore. I can’t possibly be seen by anybody today, I am too revolting. And the excuses pour out: I’m not well, I have work to do, I can’t afford it.

A few years ago when I was going through a rough patch, and old friend told me that I was “spiralling downwards”, and those words stuck with me. In this case, I feel a whole lot more like I’m spinning rapidly out of control. I have never been in such a dark place in my life, and it’s very hard to try to explain things to myself, never mind other people. The moment you first catch yourself thinking about death, you try to brush it off. But then it’s 2am and you’re in floods of tears telling somebody that death is all you want and suddenly your life is very different. It’s all too easy for somebody to say “get help”, but it’s not that easy for me to actually do. When you’re too anxious to make a phone call to a doctor or a counsellor, too stuck in your own head to explain your situation, crying too hard to even form the words you need, or too scared to admit that you need help in the first place, it’s actually really hard.

Now, it’s 5:20am, and I am making toast. A pretty basic thing to do. Except this is something I’m really proud of. I will likely feel sick afterwards, but at least I’m eating. Some days you need a sticker just for making it to the kitchen and making toast. I’ve had a lot of those days lately, but I’m getting there.

This has been a very difficult post to write, and one which I have read over a million times. Yes, I’m oversharing, but this is the only way that I can try to get people to understand. I have completely fallen apart from the inside. I do not skip uni because I am lazy, I do not hide out in my room because I am antisocial, I do not leave social events early because I am boring. I hope that people can try to recognise that now.

This is not a cry for attention. This post is about ending the silence that cloaks mental illness. It’s not fair that so many people suffer and can’t talk about it. They can’t tell their bosses the real reason they couldn’t make it to work today and they have to make up excuses to avoid going out with a friend. I’m sick of silence. I have lost track of the amount of times I have faked an illness or a family event because I had a panic attack trying to leave the house or cried the moment I looked in the mirror and couldn’t stop. I don’t want to be silent anymore. I want people to learn, to accept, and to help each other.

I am not saying that mental illness gives anybody a free pass. I am well aware that I have hurt people because of what goes on in my head, and it’s not a valid excuse. I am responsible for my words and my actions. I know that always flaking on plans is a pain in the neck. I do not expect people to treat me differently, because I am still accountable for the things I do. Sometimes I just need help to do the simple things.

I am not asking for your sympathy. I am asking for your understanding.


6 thoughts on “Spiralling

  1. Olivia, this is a stunning piece of writing that clearly articulates what you are going through. Thank you for putting into words what few of us could otherwise understand. First of all, you are SO on the right uni course. You are a superb writer. Great writers tend to have a super sensitivity to life and the universe. I like to think writers are plugged into the infinite. This is both joyful and hellishly painful. That you are able to write about your hell is super positive step forward.

    If there is anything –anything — we can do to support you through this, please just text/email/call. There is s terrific Mental Health Crisis support team at Royal South Hants hospital near the uni. You can even call them to self admit for help. Please also know you can contact the chaplaincy at Solent for confidential support. Virginis Adnan is the main contact.

    I am here if you need someone to listen.


    1. Thank you so much for this Devon, and thank you for all the support you have offered me. It has been so reassuring to have the support of all of the staff at Solent, and I really cannot thank you enough.


  2. I agree totally with Devon this is a stunning piece of writing Olivia. You have a real talent. Unfortunately many artists are super-sensitive so need to shield themselves psychically from the outer world to protect themselves. To do this burn incense (white sage – I’ll put some in my bag for next time I see you), keep the room bright, play uplifting music, watch uplifting movies, stretch, sleep, eat well and as soon as you feel bad get in the shower. Being under running water will instantly take negative thoughts away. Also I’d like to give you the following. very powerful affirmation. Say it often and write it down so you can pin it on the wall and see it repeatedly: “I am loved and I am worthy. I am safe and I am free. I am powerfully protected. I am master of my body and ruler of my mind.” These things will help I promise. I really look forward to seeing you no matter how briefly and you don’t need to talk. With very best wishes.


    1. Thank you so much for your continual support and this really lovely message. I am definitely going to take up this advice and try to create a more positive environment for myself so that I can improve my mindset. It is very easy to feel lost and overwhelmed, but sometimes the most simple things can help to clear my head. Thank you so much for your advice and support x


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