Tag Archives: Mental Health

Love Bombed

Trigger warning: this blog post contains references of emotional manipulation.

September 2013. I dragged my overpacked suitcase from London Bridge for 20 minutes in the pouring rain to my sister’s house. The wheels had snapped off somewhere along Bermondsey Street, so I basically was just dragging a 30kg box full of interview clothes, shoes, and essentials to start my new life in London. I looked up at the 3-storey Victorian townhouse. It was an 8-bedroom house-share full of early twentysomethings starting out in their professional careers. The walls were crumbling, and the dirty dishes were stacked high in the kitchen, but it instantly felt like home – even if I was living in my sister’s bed.

Including a small stint in East London, I would go on to spend the next two years living in this house (albeit with my own bedroom.) It was in this house that my sister lived, and then subsequently my brother, where I met some of my closest friends today. Those first couple years hold some of my fondest memories, with house parties, festivals, Notting Hill Carnivals, dates, ‘movie and duvet’ nights, sleepovers, and hangovers. Where our different pockets of friends from house-shares and university fused together to create memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. It’s been seven years since I first fell in love with London; the people, the opportunities, and the endless possibilities.

After a few weeks of applications and interviews I finally secured a job in marketing and product presentation at a reputable company. I was proud of myself for having the courage to start a new life and wanted to move on from everything that was a part of my old one, including any romantic involvement with Caleb. The new dating app, Tinder, was picking up in popularity and I decided to give it a go. This is how I met Reggie. We matched on the app and he asked me out on what would be my first ever dating app date.

So, on one cold, winter evening at the end of November I headed to the Southbank Christmas market to meet Reggie. I nervously hovered outside the National Theatre until I saw a tall guy with dark hair and light eyes approach me, smiling. I was instantly attracted to him. We quickly hit it off and were soon ambling down the Southbank laughing and flirting, mulled wine in hand. We headed across the river to Gordon’s Wine Bar and perched on an outside barrel, where we shared a bottle of red wine. I was giddy with the sheer romance of it all, the fairy lights, the Christmas spirit, and the insanely sexy man who couldn’t stop grinning at me, telling me how lovely I was. Damn I should have moved to London sooner.

Once we finished our wine we headed back over the river. Walking along Hungerford Bridge, Reggie casually mocked me for something which made me laugh and then promptly caused me to start coughing. I leant on the railing whilst I spluttered, and Reggie gently patted my back. I turned to apologise for my outburst, only to see Reggie smiling at me with a certain look in his eye. I swallowed. He leant in, one hand cupping my lower back, the other behind my neck and started to kiss me. I swooned inside. It was like something straight out of a romantic movie, and we were the leading characters locked in a passionate embrace in the middle of the bridge. We eventually broke away, grinning sheepishly at each other. Reggie then walked me back to Waterloo where I was staying over at a friend’s house. I got ready for bed that night in a dream like state. It had been the most perfect first date.

The following few weeks passed in a blissful blur. For our second date we went ice skating at Winter Wonderland, complete with falling on my arse and being scooped up into Reggie’s arms for second rom-com style kiss (foot flick with shoe blade pointing precariously in the air.) For our third date we snuggled by the fire in one of the oldest pubs in London and when it came to closing time, I subtly suggested going back to his flat (a toothbrush and spare pair of knickers already packed discreetly in my handbag.) One date even ended with Reggie picking me up and swinging me around amidst a water foundation display in Mayfair. I felt like I was living in a movie; I was Bridget Jones, and he was my Mark Darcy!

On our fifth date whilst sat outside snuggling under patio heaters at a pizzeria, Reggie leant over the table, took hold of my hands, and asked me to be his girlfriend. He went on to say how wonderful I was, and that it just felt right. I was surprised of course, we’d only been dating a couple weeks but nonetheless, I was over the moon. My housemates teased me about how it was so soon, but I just considered myself lucky, it was almost too good to be true…

I was so happy (or so I thought). I was living the fairy-tale. Boy meets girl, boy is crazy about girl, girl is delirious with infatuation and promptly comes off anti-depressants because she has finally found the antidote to cure her sadness! This was all nonsense of course. Fairy-tales are not reality and investing all your future happiness within one person is not advisable, and likely a sure recipe for disaster. But I was (and still am to a certain extent) a hopeless romantic and being so young and naïve; I let myself get swept up in this supposed whirlwind romance. Within the few short weeks leading up to Christmas Reggie had become my everything. Until all of a sudden, he wasn’t.

January 2014. I came back to London after the Christmas break and since Reggie had spent New Year’s Eve out of the city, I was desperately looking forward to seeing him again. He had been a bit distant over the last week or so, but I put it down to him being busy catching up with family and friends back at home. Besides, we’d spent a perfectly lovely day together before each going home, so I didn’t look too much into it. But three days into the new year I hadn’t heard from Reggie and he had been ignoring my messages. At first, I told myself that he must just be busy and then I began to worry, what if something had happened to him? By the fourth day I decided to drop by his flat in Oval to see if he was back in London.

Reggie answered the doorbell on the first ring and looked shocked to find me (his supposed girlfriend) on his doorstep. Aside from the shock he looked perfectly well.

“Oh, you’re here… why haven’t you answered any of my messages?” I asked him.

“Er…why don’t you come inside” he said opening up the door.

I followed him into the kitchen where he made us both a cup of tea. He was trying to act normal, but I could tell something was off.

“I didn’t know you were back in London… is everything OK?” I tentatively asked.

“Yeah… just been a bit busy y’know,” he shrugged.

“Oh, right” I replied, biting my lip. “I missed you…” I said, raising my eyes to meet his. I couldn’t fathom why he was acting so weird. Surely, he could see I was starting to get upset.

“Yeah, you too,” Reggie replied, looking away from me.

My gut instinct kicked in and my stomach started to churn.

“Look, if something’s up you can tell me… that’s what girlfriends are for” I added meekly.

Reggie sighed and sat down at the table. “Look, Jess, I think maybe now isn’t a good time for me to have a girlfriend” he said staring into his cup of tea.


“But… but you were the one who asked me?! I replied, incredulously. “I don’t understand… if something has happened you can tell me.”

“Nothing has happened. I just think I should be alone right now.”

“But I don’t understand… what has changed, Reggie? We were absolutely fine when we last saw each other not even two weeks ago! … If you just talk to me…”

“I think you should go now, Jess”, he cut across me.

I blinked dumbly in shock. Why was he acting so differently? This person wasn’t the same guy I was developing feelings for before Christmas. I nodded, picked up my coat and bag and left his flat. I managed to walk all of 200 yards down the street before sitting on the curb and breaking down into shuddering sobs. I caught my breath and roughly wiped my mascara streaked cheeks. I picked up my phone to call my dad, in what would be the first in many breakup calls he would receive from me over the coming few years.


The following weeks after my breakup with Reggie I would come home from work each day and climb straight into bed where I’d sleep the whole evening through to morning. The intense lethargy was so extreme that I couldn’t even go to a friend’s house for pre-drinks without ‘napping’ on their sofa whilst people drank around me, carefully tucking me in with blankets. I couldn’t explain the absolute sadness that seemed to engulf my whole being. Surely this wasn’t normal? People didn’t just feel this kind of grief at the end of a six-week long relationship?! Two months ago, I hadn’t even known that Reggie existed for God’s sake! So why did I feel this low… what was wrong with me?

I went to the doctors and my GP advised me that I had come of my anti-depressants too soon. They usually suggest gradually being weaned off them over six months even after you feel well again. By simply just stopping taking my pills I had effectively gone cold turkey. What I was feeling was an acute relapse of depression, which had been triggered by the end of my relationship with Reggie. I started taking my pills again and promised to gradually lower the dosage over time, but that still didn’t explain Reggie’s behaviour. I couldn’t understand how someone could be so vehemently into you one week and then turn completely cold and indifferent towards you the next. It felt so cruel. I convinced myself that it was something that I had done. Maybe I had misread the signals? Maybe I had been too needy? Maybe… I just wasn’t lovable enough.

The reality is, and I wouldn’t know this until years later, is that I had in fact been ‘love bombed.’ Oh, it’s a thing, people! Love bombing is a form of emotional manipulation where someone (usually someone you’ve just met) overwhelms you with loving words, actions, and gestures which may at first seem ‘too good to be true’ – and it usually is. At first victims of love bombing can romanticise the situation and confuse it with notions such as ‘it was meant to be’ or ‘love at first sight’, but in reality, the love bomber is a master manipulator, taking advantage of your love language in order to hold power over you. Love bombers are quite often narcissists, who struggle with true emotional intimacy and are more interested in holding power over someone or having the upper hand in a relationship.

Reggie was your textbook love bomber. He laid it on thick to begin with, saying all the right things and making all the right gestures. Carefully spinning his manipulative web, and pulling me in closer, like a preying spider sensing a vulnerable fly. And just when he had me where he wanted me, he switched. Reggie’s initial charm began to dissolve, he became distant and less attentive. When I look back on my brief relationship with Reggie there were a multitude of red flags. In hindsight, I remembered that he seemed to get pleasure out of deliberately ignoring me or putting me down. At the time I was emotionally vulnerable, and his approach was very subtle and therefore all the more dangerous. He had an artful way of insulting me, followed by a compliment, so that I always had to double guess myself if I should be offended or not. This type of manipulation is commonly known as ‘negging’, more details of which you can read on my sister’s blog: Dear Men, Quit Negging Me.

Reggie would make elitist comments to ‘playfully’ put me down, teasing me that I’d attended a former polytechnic university, whilst he himself had attended a Red Brick university. He would constantly patronise me, asking me about work and then casually dismissing my response as if it was trivial. And when we had sex, his whole demeanour would change. During, he seemed enthusiastic, maybe even a little too enthusiastic, biting my neck just that bit too hard. But afterwards when I’d try to cuddle, he’d push me off or roll away. One time just before Christmas I was over his flat and we were in the middle of having sex when Reggie asked if he could take photos of me on his new camera. I said yes thinking it would be something fun and sexy we could do together. But it wasn’t. Reggie would ask me to pause in a position, take a photograph and then look at the picture and laugh at the position of my body or the expression on my face. This wasn’t about having fun together; this was about humiliating me. Afterwards I got dressed feeling ugly and ashamed, whilst Reggie occasionally flicked through the camera reel sniggering to himself.

For years afterwards Reggie would occasionally crop up (usually when I’d just broken up with someone). He’d message out the blue saying something like he’d come across my dating profile on whichever app, and would I like to catch up over a drink. Reggie was a master in emotional manipulation and in the beginning I’d stupidly take him up on his offers to meet. Nothing would ever happen but I’m sure my just agreeing to meet him no doubt massaged his ego and gave him some form of control. I also think there was an element of trauma bonding. This is when a victim of emotional abuse forms an attachment to their abuser. The abuser typically uses cycles of abuse and then some form of reward to keep you trapped psychologically and emotionally. This would explain the intermittent times where Reggie would shower me with attention and affection and then all of sudden could turn cold and make a cruel, negging comment at my expense. I fortunately (if you can say that at all) only experienced this for a few weeks but many others can experience this kind of abuse for years as it can be extremely difficult to break a trauma bond.

Until the last time a couple years ago, when Dennis had just broken up with me, and Reggie got in touch again (I swear men have some kind of sixth sense!). I initially agreed to meet for a drink. But the day before I was sat at my desk and my phone flashed up with a message from Reggie making some ‘funny’ (patronising) comment about my job. God he was such a dick. And then the penny finally dropped. Why would I meet up with someone who had only ever made me feel bad about myself? Any encounters with Reggie had only ever served him and never me. I promptly messaged back to cancel our drinks – quite frankly, he could go fuck himself as far I was concerned. I made the decision there and then to never entertain Reggie and his ego again.


February 2014. It had been a couple of months since Reggie had broken things off with me, and he had already got a new girlfriend *rolls eyes*… and even though I still felt incredibly sad about the situation my friends urged me to try dating again, at least as a distraction. So, on one cold evening in February I sat on my sister’s bed after work and re-downloaded the Tinder app to my phone. I re-enabled my profile, and a few matches filled my inbox from the intervening three months. At the top of the inbox was a message from an attractive, Australian guy. Seb. It read: “30 seconds ago I matched with you, and my life changed forever.” Those infamous first words.

Sad Jess

November 2020. I’ve tested positive for Coronavirus so I’m writing this post whilst in self-isolation. The UK is in its second lockdown. But it will be fine, right? It’s only four weeks, we’ve done this before. Only this time it feels different. It is different. Gone are the bright summer mornings and barmy, light evenings walking the dog through the countryside. Instead, it has been replaced with cold, and often rainy grey London, with its eerily empty streets and shuttered shops. It doesn’t help that I’ve been unwell for the best part of three weeks now. No, this time it feels different and there’s no two ways around it. It’s hard.

Since the prime minister’s announcement a couple weeks ago stating the country was entering lockdown again, I’ve felt a building unease in the pit of my stomach. The other day I awoke after another restless night’s sleep feeling nauseous with anxiety (and now I realise, probably a fever too). I ate my breakfast, and I couldn’t shift the feeling; I showered, and I still couldn’t shift it. My flatmate, Jonny asked if I was OK as I seemed dazed and out of sorts. I nodded, convincing myself it would pass. But by lunchtime I had pins and needles in my hands and sweaty palms. And by mid-afternoon I had reached breaking point and burst into tears. I hadn’t felt this kind of anxiety in years.


February 2012. I had graduated from university the summer before, broken up with my boyfriend, Darren, and had completed a three-moth unpaid internship at a PR agency in London. Broke, with no job or plans, I moved to my dad’s house in a small town near the Cotswolds.

I was 23, and quite honestly, I felt lost. At school and university, you’re taught skills and knowledge in the hope that it can be applied to a job that you’ll land once you have your desired grades. You’re taught how to write a CV, covering letter and standard interview skills but nothing prepares you for real life. Not really. Up until the age of 22 I had followed a structure of everything I ‘should’ be doing, and I fully acknowledge the privilege I have to have had those opportunities available to me. Nonetheless, once the scaffolding of early life came down; I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.

I secured an entry level job in marketing and sales for a company in the town centre. It was a small town and having not grown up there I didn’t know anyone my own age. I was single for the first time since I was 16 and although I dated a few guys briefly, I felt quite isolated as I didn’t have any close friends nearby. But then I met Caleb.

Caleb was originally from Australia but worked quite high up in the marketing department at the company’s head office in America. He was young, charismatic, and always up for an adventure – he was the breath of fresh air I needed in the small, isolated town. Caleb would fly over to the UK every couple months or so and being the same age, we would often go grab a drink or go to the cinema after work. Very quickly we developed a secret, albeit casual, relationship (or so we thought).

It started with Caleb picking me up before and after work in the company car, but before long I was spending every night with him at whichever hotel he was staying at for the duration of his stay. At the weekends we’d take road trips to London, Manchester and Liverpool or mini breaks to Amsterdam and Barcelona. But despite feeling like we were in our own little bubble, there is no such thing as a secret relationship at work, and very quickly colleagues began to clock on to our romantic indiscretion.

My director, Kane, who you may remember from my ‘Yeah, Me Too’ blog post, noticed how much time I was spending with Caleb and his jealousy was quite transparent. He would often make subtle, snide remarks about Caleb to me, and gossip spread through the office about how Kane was seen peeking through his office blinds to see if Caleb and I got into the same car after work.

I was never happier at that time than when Caleb was visiting, but when he’d have to go back to America, I’d feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Gone was the romance and adventure, and I was left with the reality of my life in a small town in a job I didn’t really care for. Caleb’s absence would only highlight what I already knew deep down to be true; I wasn’t happy.

I couldn’t escape the feeling of not having a purpose or not having any control over my own life. I felt tearful a lot of the time or would experience pangs of anxiety, a feeling of unknown dread seeping through my body. I let seemingly small things consume my head and emotions, and I became obsessed with checking up on Caleb’s social media. I would obsess over what he was doing and who with, and anything I saw would determine my whole mood for the day. My weight dropped as I lost my appetite, and it took every ounce of remaining energy to drag myself out of bed each morning. My dad noticed it before I did, and one evening he sat me down and gently suggested that I talk to a doctor about how I was feeling.

I booked an appointment at the doctor’s and my GP confirmed that I was suffering with depression. It felt weird hearing those words. You hear about celebrities and assume ordinary people also suffer with mental health problems, but it’s weird when you hear your own diagnosis. I nodded, dropped my face into the palms of my hands and broke down in tears. I felt sad (of course I did – it was just confirmed that I was clinically sad!) but I also felt relief. Relief at finally understanding the reason behind how I was feeling.

The GP then further discussed my symptoms and my current lifestyle to try and determine what may have triggered it and therefore how I could start to treat it. I expressed that I wasn’t happy in my job, I didn’t live near any of my friends and I felt like I had no direction in life. I knew I had to make drastic changes, but I also didn’t have the energy to put those decisions into practice. I felt constantly emotionally drained and any remaining energy was zapped with bouts of anxiety. So, we discussed the option of medication. We agreed that I would try a mild anti-depressant which would ease any acute anxiety and help clear my head enough from debilitating thoughts so that I was able to make the practical decisions that would ultimately make me feel more fulfilled and happier. Finally, there seemed like there was light at the end of the tunnel.

But working in a small-town work environment, more often than not unfortunately results in a small-town mindset. Instead of feeling supported, a lot of colleagues who had heard whispers of my depression, used it as a form of entertainment. One middle aged woman started spreading rumours that I had an eating disorder, while another woman, who I once considered a friend turned on me and actually screamed in my face in an open plan office after I adjusted the air conditioning. I reported it all to HR, but it was quickly swept under the carpet and put down to women just being bitchy. Kane, finally realising that he couldn’t get what he wanted out of me, transferred me to another department with a different line manager. It was a toxic environment, which only heightened my growing anxiety. I would get home from work and immediately curl up in bed, exhausted from the office politics. I was so tired. Tired of the harassment, tired of the vicious rumours, tired of my long-distance non-relationship and tired of the complete lack of empathy. If I didn’t change something quickly, I would fast reach breaking point.

And then one day I woke up and I knew I had the strength to do what I needed to do. I still felt low and anxious, but I knew I had to start taking back some control in my life. I walked into work, straight pass Kane’s office and into my new line manager’s office. I passed her the envelope containing my notice of resignation. Exactly one month later I packed up a suitcase and moved to London. Which still remains to this day as the best decision I have ever made for myself.


I was 24 by the time I left that company. I had experienced sexual harassment, mental health discrimination and toxic office rumours all within two years at my first full-time job. It was an eye-opening experience of what it could be like to be a woman in the workplace. Once I moved to London, Caleb and I were never romantically involved again but we remained friends and over the intervening years whenever Caleb was in the UK we’d catch up over a few drinks. We even did a trip to Ibiza with a group of friends. Caleb will always be one of the most inspiring people I have met; forever positive, eager for adventure and he has even since gone on to give a TED Talk on travelling. Our relationship is a rare example of two people, previously lovers, who now have a platonic friendship and mutual respect for each other.

I don’t really talk about my experience with depression and anxiety with many people. I guess at the time when I was 24, there was still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health; thankfully in more recent years we have become more open as a society at recognising and talking about it. The few people that I have confided in outside of my immediate family, always express shock that I, a usually happy, positive, and confident person would ever have had experiences of depression. But it’s important to remember that depression and anxiety do not discriminate. It doesn’t matter where you live, what job you have, how many friends you have or what age or gender you are, one in four people will be affected by mental health at some point in their lives. There is no shame in admitting that you are struggling and there is huge strength in recognising that you may need help to overcome it.

By August 2014 I was off anti-depressants (gradually weaned off over a few months as recommended by my GP). I had been on them for about a year in total and thankfully, I have not had the need to go back on them since. I am not saying that they are for everybody and your GP should always be your first port of call when looking at treatment options. It’s important to remember that anti-depressants are not a ‘cure’ for depression, more an aid to ease the symptoms so you don’t become so consumed by it. They may be used in addition to other forms of treatment such as therapy. In my case, they helped me at a time when I needed to level out my head enough that I could make practical decisions that would help my mental health in the long run.

I’ve learnt over the years what my triggers are, and I’ve got better at identifying and mitigating them. Although, it’s important to remember that even recognition doesn’t make you immune. I can recognise that I’m anxious now and even what’s triggered it, but it doesn’t necessarily stop the waves of dread that periodically wash over me, leaving me fatigued and tearful. Living though a pandemic and then being unwell with said virus was not something I, or anybody for that matter, could ever really prepare for.  

Distress in my romantic relationships used to be a big trigger, where I’d actively look for things that would make me feel worse, almost like a form of self-harm. For a long time, I believed that I wasn’t worthy of love, and that is why none of my relationships worked out. I’m sure a therapist would correlate this particular trigger and behaviour with bad experiences I’ve had with men from a younger age, right through my twenties, and they’d probably be right. But I’ve gotten better at not allowing men to have that kind of influence over my mental health. Over the years I have grown stronger in myself and mind. I know what my boundaries are, and I no longer have time for the people who don’t respect them. And if I have to, I will walk away from a relationship that is harming me, even if it breaks my heart. Heartache is painful and like many other forms of grief can be temporarily debilitating, but my mental health will always be my first priority.

I’ve also learnt that whilst someone doesn’t choose to struggle with their mental health, you should try to take responsibility for your own mental wellbeing where possible. If you know that something is a trigger or is likely to affect your mental health, then make the right decisions for you. In the past I have chosen to end relationships both romantic and platonic, change jobs, move home, or remove myself from certain situations as they were having a detrimental effect on my mental wellbeing. It’s not usually an easy decision, often it’s uncomfortable or hard, it may be a conflict of heart and mind or you may be labelled as ‘selfish’. But there is nothing noble about being a martyr at the expense of your own mental health. I try to strike a healthy work and social life balance where I can and have rest days where I’ll curl up in bed with a book all day. I like to do activities that can boost my mood and ease any building anxiety, like going for a long walk, yoga and running. And I’ve been known to disable my social media for months at a time when the negative impact far outweighs the positive.

I don’t claim to be an expert in mental health, I can only reflect and write on my own experiences of it. Although, I’d like to express that for anyone who finds themselves struggling, to remember that you are not alone. How you are feeling, as hopeless as it may seem at the time; it is not permanent. Some people may tell you to ‘cheer up’ or ‘snap out of it’ and I don’t believe that they are helpful or even possible statements. But it is important to remember that even your darkest moments are temporary and there are better days ahead. I urge you to talk, whether it’s to friends and family, a trusted colleague or to a professional. Just the action of trying to communicate your feelings to someone else can be the first step in identifying an issue, and therefore a step closer to treating it. And if you see someone else struggling, reach out to them. A chat over a cup of tea may seem small and insignificant (and very British), but it could make all the difference.

2020 has been a traumatic year for the world over. With an entire global population’s mental wellbeing being tested in one way or another. We are living through a pandemic. We have had to socially distance from our friends and family. We have lost jobs and loved ones. Our whole way of being has altered, of course this has affected people’s mental health, how could it not?! But as a race, humans are resilient, and we find a way of carrying on, together.

I finish this post as I finish my time in self-isolation and am permitted to venture into the outside world again. I walk the short distance to my local park in South West London and as I enter the gates, I feel the sunshine on my face, warm on my closed eyelids. I take a deep breathe to fill my lungs and the anxious knot in my stomach loosens slightly. I wiggle my clammy hands in the gentle breeze. I breathe out, a long stream of steam in the cold air and I open my eyes. You’re OK Jess, it’s going to be OK.


If you are struggling with your mental health here are some organisations which may help: