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06th Oct 2015

In Her Shoes: “I Spiralled Into A Black Hole That I Tried Desperately To Claw My Way Out Of”

"It's something we need to talk about."


“It’s something we need to talk about.”

With college terms kicking off around the country, we caught up with reader Joanne in the most recent instalment of our #InHerShoes series to talk about her education and the period of time that changed her life.


“Some people look back on their college days as the happiest days of their lives.

Others remember those first couple of months in a new job, getting ready to conquer the world.

For me, all I remember is a black haze. And it’s a haze that still overcomes me every so often.

I have never really put words on this time in my life before, so forgive me if it doesn’t come across as clearly as you might like now.

I’ll try my best.

Heading to college was, like for thousands of other students every year, an exciting and challenging new chapter in my life.

Two Female Students Celebrating Exam Results Together

Getting my Leaving Cert results kicked off what I thought would be an adventure of a life time. A time where I’d make lifelong friends, fall in and out of love, and study and get lost in something I felt passionately about.

That was the case for the first two years (minus the ‘in love’ part, more like ‘in lust!’).

And then, something happened.

This is where it gets hard to explain. There was no life-shattering moment or major event that caused what I call ‘the haze’.

All I know is is that suddenly, I just wanted to cry. All of the time.

Sad woman in the room

Anything would set me off: a story on the news, a friend reaching out to me, somebody in my part-time job giving out to me for something minor.

I suddenly couldn’t cope with the challenges life threw at me.

I convinced myself that I was a horrible person. I berated myself constantly, inwardly telling myself I was useless, a pathetic excuse for a human.

In many respects, I still feel that way – though I’m learning how to deal with that now.

Everything was laced in despair. My grades started slipping, my love and zest for life disappeared.

I didn’t want to go out anymore, I wanted to curl into a ball and get lost in a book or a movie. A place where no one would talk to me and I wouldn’t have to talk back.


Friends tried to pull me out of the ‘funk’ I’d landed myself in and sure enough, I’d switch on a bright smile and go out and socialise as if there was nothing wrong.

It was, and still is, a mask I wear and only those that know me best could see the hint of tears in my eyes, the lack of interest in anything going on around me.

Somehow, I got through the remainder of college, and graduated with a degree that I was relatively happy with. I could have done better, but a lot of us are guilty of thinking that through the wonder of hindsight.

Heading out into the working world, things picked up once more.

I found myself in a happier place as I was so busy and distracted I didn’t have time to think.

That’s where the danger lies – that moment when I have time to think too much.


And for two or three years, I kept that at bay. It wasn’t easy, but any time I started to look inward too much, I’d pull myself back out and throw myself wholeheartedly into another task, another distraction.

I was so busy ignoring what was going on in my head that soon, friends began to fall by the wayside as I cancelled plans to keep up with the delicate juggling act of work, more work and a huge variety of hobbies.

I kept a core group of friends, two of my closest ones since my school days, but anyone I had met in college no longer featured in my life.

When I realized the gaping hole of friendship that was there, it was already too late. They’d moved on and had already started living lives that held no place for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wallowing in self-pity. But it was these stark moments of realisation that made me reassess what I was doing with life.


Was work and my career really more important than cherishing shared memories with those closest to me?

I decided they weren’t.

And so, I cut back on work and everything else that I had going on.

Suddenly though, I had time to think again.

The distractions were no longer there.

It was just me. Alone with my thoughts.

I spiralled down into a black hole that sometimes I sank deeper into, while other times, I tried desperately to claw my way back out of.

The self-loathing inner voice reappeared.

I looked suspiciously at my friends and work colleagues truly believing that they all secretly hated me and just put up with me because they felt sorry for me.

And the crying began again.

I couldn’t cope with any pressure, any stress. Everything was too much for me.

stressed young woman sitting on sofa

I fell into such a dark place that at one stage I wondered, what is the point anymore?

That thought consumed me for a few weeks, if not months.

It terrified me, yet part of me agreed with it. What was the point?

Again, the beautiful mask of ‘everything’s okay’ remained firmly intact in front of friends and family, and to this day, though I am slowly coming out of this and getting help, I’m too embarrassed to admit how low I went.

A friend of mine was my saving grace. She saw through my mask, she saw through my bright-eyed enthusiasm and saw beneath it all to me – the real me.

Stressed businesswoman

I was surprised when she didn’t run away screaming. But she held firm.

We talked, I cried, I tried to explain.

Words failed me then, as they are probably doing now. There are no words to describe the darkest and blackest of all emotions.

Most importantly of all though, she helped me to find my voice. To find help.

That stage is currently a work in progress.

Am I happier? Yes.

Am I feeling more secure in myself? Somewhat.

Has the dark haze gone forever? Not just yet, but I’m definitely learning how to cope with it.

A shot of someone finding an exit from a dark tunnel

There is light at the end of the tunnel and though it might be quite dim, it’s there flickering away in the recesses of my mind.

I know there are loads of twists and turns ahead, I know that it’s not going to be easy, but now thanks to my friends, my family – who have rallied behind me – and the wonderful life lesson I’ve learned that it’s okay to talk, I feel like I can face up to what lies ahead.

Please, please don’t suffer in silence. It’s something that has to be talked about and something you don’t have to endure alone.

I’ve spent ten years living under a dark and black cloud and that first glimmer of sun on my face has made me want to shine.”

Mental Health Awareness week runs from October 5th to October 11th. You can find more information here