I read my sister’s diary all the time when we were children, on one occasion writing notes in the margin telling her to stop complaining about me.
I read other people’s letters, I eavesdropped on people’s conversations, I looked through my mother’s text messages, I hacked my sister’s Facebook account, I made an ex-boyfriend give me the passwords to his Gmail account so I could look through his emails.
Weirdly, we’re not together anymore. I know. It’s confusing for me too.
I admit to all of this with shame but I can understand now why I did so.
I wanted access to the inner-most thoughts of those around me, because I wanted to know how they saw me.
I didn’t have enough confidence in my own sense of self so I thought I needed validation from outside sources in order to even begin to understand who I was.
This obsession with what other people thought of me began when I was a teenager.
Before that I was weird and I didn’t fit in with the other children in my class, but I didn’t care.
It was only when I entered secondary school that it started to feel vitally important that I be accepted by my peers, and I started to change facets of my personality so that I would become more ‘acceptable’.
I started dressing in a certain way, I would temper my sense of humour, I tried to be as nice as I possibly could be so that no one would ever have reason to criticise me.
I would only admit to finding certain boys attractive if friends of mine agreed he was good looking, I laughed at sexist jokes because I didn’t want to be seen as humourless, I allowed myself to be treated badly by boys because I didn’t want as high-maintenance.
I chose my university, Trinity, because it was seen as being the most prestigious in Ireland.
I travelled every summer to get away from my small town, all the time obsessing over whether the people in my small town would think I was cool for doing so. (Newsflash, Louise: No one cared.)
I starved myself in order to ensure my body would conform to what society said was appealing. I wasn’t happy, but I looked like I was happy, and other people thought I was happy, and wasn’t that the same thing?
I was 25 when I moved to New York to work for a fashion magazine.
I was living in the most exciting city in the world, working with A-list celebrities, in a job that a million girls would kill for.
I came home at Christmas, 30lbs lighter than when I had left in September, and a trip to the doctor revealed that my body was once again under severe pressure due to malnourishment.
I was, at 25, a heart attack waiting to happen.
And I knew I had to do something. That something involved a lot of therapy, and the willingness to finally figure out who I was, and what I wanted for myself.
‘Do you love, fashion?’ I asked myself, and the answer came quickly.
I liked fashion as a way of expressing my creativity.
I loved beautiful clothes and I could appreciate the artistry involved in producing a gorgeous photograph. But it didn’t make my heart sing.
I’m aware that sounds as if I’ve been overdosing on Oprah but it’s the truth. Our society doesn’t encourage us to dream.
As teenagers embarking on adulthood, we are told to be practical, to get a job that will pay the bills, to ignore our intuition and to be rational.
Our society likes reason, sense, linear lines of progression. It tells us that to follow our heart is a foolish way of living. Well, I believe that it’s the only way of living.
I came home to Ireland on September 1, 2011.
I told my parents that I was going to take a year out to write a book.
There were no guarantees, I didn’t know anyone who worked in publishing, I didn’t even show anybody the book until I started sending it out to agents.
I had no idea if it was any good or not, but I knew that I felt alive when I was writing, that I felt happy and fulfilled in a way that I didn’t think was possible for me.
I sat at my desk every day because it was making me whole.
Before my first novel, Only Ever Yours, was released, there was a split second where I felt vulnerable and exposed, as if it was I was handing over my diaries for the world to critique.
But then I realised something. As nice it would be to hear positive feedback on my work, it felt much less important to me than it would have a few short years ago.
The real joy was in the work itself, shaping the words to my will, creating a world, and people to inhabit it.
When I let go of an idea of what success should look like and concentrated on doing the thing that I loved, that was when success actually came.
And what is success, really? How do you define it? Isn’t carving out a life for yourself where you are content the greatest success of all?
So I say we should find what we love and do as much of it as we can.
Dare to dream, and dream big. Don’t listen to those who say your dreams are stupid.
Don’t listen to the cynics who say it’s impossible, that you need to be rich, or beautiful, or have well-connected parents to make your dreams come true.
It has to happen to.
The question I always ask myself is this — why not me?
Why shouldn’t it happen for me?