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‘I wanted to be the Instagram cool girl, the renegade who sat on the sidelines, satirising people who really cared.’ Photograph: courtesy of @deliciouslystella
“So. Are we laughing or are we crying?” my flatmate Liv asked as I scrolled down into the dreaded comments section. The usual suspects were there, calling me ugly or fat. But the winner of most creative remark must go to the man who said I looked like “an orc on a day trip to Earth”. Liv looked at me for permission to laugh. “Go on,” I huffed, “fill your boots.”
Liv and I had bonded over our shared bouts of anxiety, and I’d been pretending for a while that mine was lying dormant. Although the rational part of my brain knew that I can’t be for everyone and everyone isn’t for me, I couldn’t help but take criticism personally. I also suffered from seasonally affective disorder, and found every autumn extra hard. Usually I’d just ride it out, switch on my light box and start going to therapy, but now I needed some extra help.
I’d been on and off SSRIs since I was 21, usually discontinuing them because of side-effects. I booked an appointment with my psychiatrist and explained what was going on: I had gone viral on Instagram and was busy trying to get more people to follow and like me. Could he help? (I explained that under no circumstances was he to put me on the pills that stopped me orgasming.)
After bursting into tears in a strip club, I knew I couldn’t look after myself any more
“Have you spoken to your therapist about the ‘like’ thing?” he asked. “Sure,” I lied. He prescribed me a drug called Mirtazapine. The only side-effect I had to worry about was weight gain; I decided it was worth the risk. I reasoned that I didn’t yet feel bad enough to take the pills, but I wanted them there, just in case.
Between work, the book, press interviews and Instagram, I was starting to burn out. Without other influencer friends or a dutiful other half, I often had to ask whoever was in the vicinity to take a photo of me. Did they think I was silly and vacuous? I tried to ignore the whisper of my low self-esteem, but soon I was unable to sleep. I staggered through my day job like a zombie, then went home to drink wine until I passed out, waking a couple of hours later with an anxious start. I decided to take the pills.