inside voice

get up, it’s late
don’t snooze
you idiot
read your emails
check your messages
no one’s answered, they all wish
you’d stop writing
get up
why’d you stay up so late?
why’d you drink so much?
you make awful decisions
do your stretches
what’s happening today?
this weekend?
what’s for breakfast?
turn on the news
you idiot, you’re uninformed
get up
make a list
you’re late
you’re an idiot

message that guy
fraidy cat
take some initiative
message him, no not like that
or that
delete that
you idiot
don’t let him know you’re keen
he’ll be repulsed
just message him, you spineless hag
he won’t reply
he was so relieved to get away from you
why’d you talk so much?
everyone knew you liked him
you made them uncomfortable
you’re an idiot

why’s she looking at you?
what’s on your face?
did you put on a shirt?
she thinks you’re foul
suck your stomach in
you should wear makeup
you need to run more
you need to eat less
you’re hideous
you’re late
they regret hiring you
they wish you weren’t here
say hello
suck your stomach in
don’t interrupt
they think you’re an idiot
what are you doing today?
what are you achieving?
what are you doing after work?
you should have done that yesterday
you’re an idiot

suck your stomach in
don’t laugh like that: hyena
teeth and desperation
they all hate you
you idiot
say something, contribute
don’t just stand there
awkward giant
suck your stomach in
tone it down, you’re making a scene
you child
you’re an idiot

what if Donald Trump wins
what then
what can you do about
how hateful the world is
you need to limit waste
you need to recycle more
the oceans are dying
the bees
you don’t care enough about the bees
you’re so narrowminded
find credible sources
read other perspectives
you’re wrong
you’re an idiot

my God, stop talking
he hates you
suck your stomach in
he can see the hairs on your face
he’s disgusted
stop trying
you’re an idiot

you’ve drunk too much
they all know
they’re judging you
you look like a f—ing idiot
you’re a f—ing idiot

why are you awake?
you will never be loved
you’re an idiot

get up, it’s late
what did you do last night?
you’re an idiot you’re an idiot you’re an idiot



Author’s note:

For as long as I can remember, this is what I’ve heard inside my head just about every waking minute of every day, except when I drown out the voice with intense physical activity, or with alcohol. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I came to understand this horrible voice didn’t come as standard; that not everyone had one, and that I could combat it. That what I was experiencing was anxiety.

This is the sound of high-functioning, manageable anxiety. I’ve had access to support – both professional and personal – when I’ve needed it. And I’ve been able to understand more about my brain’s strengths and weaknesses, and how to manage them. I believe that talking honestly and openly about mental health is the most powerful first step to ensuring everyone who needs that support – particularly those for whom mental health is much more complex and difficult – gets it.

And so, for World Mental Health Day, I’m being honest by publishing something I’ve written numerous versions of over the space of a year. It’s terrifying. But maybe in some small way it will help. 


10 thoughts on “inside voice

  1. Reblogged this on DebWasHere and commented:
    This was all too familiar. I often wonder how I would explain to people what goes on in my head…and this came pretty close. Thank you for putting it into words.

  2. For what it is worth you are one of the bravest, cleverest, nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a professional relationship with … And I am delighted to call you my friend.
    You are most certainly not an idiot and the people around you are generally in awe of your achievements.
    I know how hard it is to quiet the voice within and I am proud of you for sharing. If only we all knew the struggles of the people with whom we spend our days then each of us may feel a little less scared and a lot less isolated..

  3. Jane, by having the guts to go public about your struggles suggests to me that you are more comfortable in your self now, a self I have always admired as an intelligent, successful young woman. For what it is worth these are some words of advice I’ve found useful. If God (or whatever you believe in) had meant us to be perfect, we would have been created that way. And, one I found especially useful: women, as they grow older, become more powerful. Men just fade away having reached their peak at 24….. I believe everyone has their own inner demons. It’s how much notice we take of them that matters.

  4. Hi I have just this thing. The ‘idiot’ or ‘knob’ etc and dropping of the stomach all day long. For me clothes are also a big problem in a way that’s related I think. I’ve seen another blogger post recently with what you’ve described also. It seems to be quite standard in how it manifests itself. I’m in my early 30s and really don’t have anywhere left to turn but to face it. I’d be very keen therefore to hear what steps you’ve taken. No worries if you can’t be arsed tho, I’ll try somewhere else.

    • I’m glad you left a message. I can’t recommend strongly enough speaking to a psychologist, who can help with strategies to manage how your brain works. Even one session might help, and depending on where you live you may be able to access this for free or at low cost (for e.g., in Australia where I’m from, as long as you see a doctor first, you can talk to a psychologist for free, and I believe the U.K. may have a similar thing under the NHS). I struggled with the idea of “seeing someone” but it was a wonderful process of understanding not that I was ill, but rather that my brain worked in a certain way and there were things I could do to get the best out of it. I wish you all the very best.

      • Or a psychologist? Because I’ve given cbt a shot in the past and in fact am off to an appointment with an nhs referral to one tomorrow, but I’m not sure if cbt is really the thing. I would be grateful if you’d just clarify that- whether you are talking about something other than cbt.

      • I would definitely talk to your doctor as a first point, but a psychologist should have a range of strategies (CBT might be one of them) to offer depending on your situation. Based on my very limited experience and non-medical background, I understand that some people find CBT helpful, others don’t. Your doctor and psychologist should be the ones to advise you.

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