Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

It’s a funny thing, not being able to leave the house. Some days, I can just leap out the door with only a slight twinge of ‘what if?’ and other days just sitting up in bed feels too risky (what if I sit up too fast and all the blood rushes to my head and I fall and knock myself unconscious on the corner of my bedside table and bleed to death?)

Sometimes I can poke away a full pizza and have room for dessert. I can lick my fingers and touch the table and touch my face without worrying about the transfer of germs. Other times, my partner has to beg me to drink tiny sips of water because I’m too scared to drink for days (what if I catch dysentery?) and I go grey and get vertigo from dehydration.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies took me to my darkest days. It is a difficult read for someone with OCD and agoraphobia, and it’s one of the few books I’ve read that has described aspects of my mental health so accurately that I began to feel the first frissons of a panic attack while reading certain parts.

The premise of the book is that Norah, who lives with her mum, has agoraphobia and (I assume) OCD. She hasn’t left the house in years except to go to her therapy appointments and she doesn’t see that changing any time soon, but she starts to become more curious about the world outside when Luke moves in next door.

It was a difficult read, but I enjoyed it. There is no magic solve, there is no ‘a-ha!’ moment, and the love interest isn’t used as a plot device to cure Norah of her mental illness, and that’s why I liked it. It carries no airs and graces. It’s ugly and upsetting with only a small sliver of hope, and that’s what mental illness feels like for me. It was true.