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5 Things You Should Know About My Boyfriend I Am His Queen Shirt, hoodie, tank top
I’d taken enough downers to tranquillise a dinosaur, and still I was awake
I startled my mum one day when I screamed and punched the air. “I’ve just got 1,000 likes in 10 minutes!” Whether I hit 1,000, and how quickly, was my gauge of mentally determining how well my life was going. It was like rolling a six or pulling an ace. I had become addicted to the high. My relationship with social media had crossed over from problematic to deranged. I had not slept for more than a few minutes at a time for seven days. I ran through all the downers I’d taken to try to dull my zapped-out brain. Enough to tranquillise a dinosaur, and still I was awake. I’d suffered from insomnia since I was a child. Now I sat up and scrolled; I never had to be alone with my thoughts.
Eight months after starting the account, I hit 100,000 followers, and to celebrate I took a picture of myself in my underwear, covered in Happy Meal boxes. The number immediately slipped back down to 99.9k. I was treating Instagram like Candy Crush, emoji-bombing strangers in an attempt to lure them over to my page. If I can get to 100,500 I’ll be safe, I thought. A change in algorithm had seen my engagement drop dramatically, which meant I was now getting far fewer likes and comments.
I’d also seen the tide turn on the clean-eating era. Wellness wasn’t going anywhere, but the food fad I’d so accurately satirised was dying out. Wellness witches were cutting ties with “eat clean”. The term had been vilified by dietitians, its links to an eating disorder called orthorexia – an obsession with only eating food believed to be healthy – becoming more widely known. I felt the slow creep toward irrelevance.
I was on a train to a gig when the realisation hit me. I called my mum: “I don’t think I know who I am.”
‘Stella and I were trapped in a bad marriage, but I knew she was still my meal ticket.’ Photograph: Karl Grant/The Guardian
The next day I told my doctor that I felt that if I got out of bed, I would surely die. I explained that I hadn’t slept in weeks, that I wanted to live out the rest of my existence alone, in a cave, or I didn’t want to live any more. He asked if I had private health insurance, then admitted me to the Priory. I stayed for a month. But it didn’t stop me posting. I continued gigging on day trips out of rehab; not even hospitalisation could quell my need for validation.
Eventually, after trawling confectionery aisles and realising I had well and truly wrung the joke dry, I seriously considered what life would be like without Deliciously Stella. Quitting Stella didn’t mean quitting Instagram, I reasoned. It was the character I’d fallen out of love with, not the app. I bit the bullet, and decided to kill her. I posted a black and white picture of myself frowning, and wrote that Stella had fallen into a food coma – and the prognosis didn’t look good.