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Beating the bullies

Teenage Luton country singer Olivia Lynn told David Hennessy about topping Taylor Swift in the charts after enduring bullying that was so bad that she ended up in hospital and she ‘didn’t want to be here anymore’.

A Luton teenager who suffered horrendous bullying at school has beaten the bullies to launch a country music career, even topping Taylor Swift in the iTunes country chart with her debut single, Modern Girl. She has now followed it with Anchor in The Storm.

Oliva Lynn, 16, was bullied at school so badly that she had to drop out and be homeschooled.

The torment got so bad, it even ruined the thing she loves most, singing, for her.

However, she says she is now in a much better place. She has completed her GCSEs and gone on to study performing arts at college.

Her recent debut single debuted at number two and then quickly rose to the top spot in the country iTunes charts, outranking names as big as Taylor Swift and Johnny Cash and making the top 40 in the main charts.

Olivia told The Irish World of her success: “I didn’t even expect it.

“When I released Modern Girl, I wasn’t even thinking about the charts.

“I was more worried about if people were gonna like it or not.

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“When I heard that it had got to number two and then number one in the country charts and then obviously it got like into top 40 on  iTunes charts as well, I was over the moon.”

From Stopley in Luton, Olivia has had the support of The Irish Show on L&D Radio and Luton Irish Forum.

“The support from everyone has been absolutely amazing.

“I couldn’t even ask for better support.”

Although the bullying she suffered at school was so bad it put her in hospital, Olivia says music has been a lifeline.

“Music’s been a massive, massive help.

“It sounds really cliche and cringey saying music saved me but it’s just something that has always kind of been a support system for me whether it’s listening to music, singing it or writing songs.”

There was a time when she could not imagine launching a singing career as Olivia admits she did not want to be here anymore.

She remembers: “The first day of high school, I was actually called a word which was really upsetting and downgrading for women and I didn’t understand what the word meant.

“I was 12 at the time, I didn’t have a clue. And then I came back home, and told my mum.

“My mum told me what it meant and I burst into tears because I was embarrassed. It was upsetting. I was a child.

“I was really shocked.

“I always had been kind of picked on, little things here and there.

“And then in year 8, it got progressively worse.

“I think people think of bullying as just physical, but it’s emotional. It’s mental. And there’s indirect bullying.

“It’s like an emotional torment. It’s horrible.

“I was hearing things behind my back. People would walk past me and say something loud enough so I could hear but not to my face so I couldn’t really do anything about it.

“A few girls came up to me in the cafeteria and surrounded me and were like, ‘No one wants you here. No one needs you here.’

“When you’re being told that so many times as a young, impressionable child, you can kind of believe them.

“I’m being told that I was fat, my body wasn’t nice, I wasn’t good enough.

“And sadly, it got so bad that I did end up in hospital with it, but that’s not even the half of it.

“There was physical as well. I had a binbag held over my head. Someone tried to suffocate me. I was punched in the throat multiple times, kicked on the floor and my head bashed in by a group of boys.

“Sexual comments were made about me at such a young age.

“It just got out of hand and I didn’t really tell anyone about it because I didn’t want to put the stress on other people.

“When you’re in that situation, you kind of feel like you can handle it yourself but you can’t.

“I ended up telling my mum and dad about it and they obviously were very, very supportive.”

And it is just as well that Olivia did reach out for help. Not only was she having dark thoughts, the bullying had taken a physical and emotional toll.

“However, I was in such a dark place that I didn’t want to be here anymore.

“I did sadly end up in hospital.

“I felt like I had nothing to live for.

“I kind of stopped eating.

“The reason I stopped eating was because I started getting very stressed and I started to gain really bad ulcers in my throat and my tonsils. I physically couldn’t eat anymore.

“I was diagnosed with anaemia, which is low iron. I was then diagnosed with a food phobia.

“A few months later, I was then sadly diagnosed with OCD.

“I think a lot of people mistake OCD as just the cleaning OCD but the OCD For me it was a more control of my life.

“I never really had control of what was going on in high school and I wanted to gain that control back so I think that was part of the eating thing was, I wanted control over what I was eating and stuff.

“My OCD is more intrusive thoughts and actually it got so bad that I kind of wanted to just sleep it all off.

“At the time I had suicidal thoughts.

“I was very depressed and had really, really bad anxiety.

“And I then I was diagnosed with separation anxiety with me and my mum.

“And that is just because when one person is there for you 24/7, through thick and through thin.

“She was the one who was helping me through all this and she was the one who was there for me. She was the one whose lap I cried on at night and she was the one who was coming into my bedroom at two o’clock in the morning and helping me get back to sleep because I had a night terror.”

The bullying even robbed Olivia of her love of music.

“I’m really happy that I did carry on and I didn’t stop singing.

“Because if I stopped singing, then I wouldn’t be where I am now.

“And that’s a horrible thought.

“There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter what the situation.

“I stopped singing because I was being picked on about my singing.

“I was like, ‘I’m done, I’m not being a singer anymore. I’m done with singing, I’m done with acting’.

“I just stopped going to school. My daily routine was literally laying in my bed on a daily basis not eating, no basic hygiene- I know it sounds disgusting but when you’re in that mental state it’s so hard to work up the courage to get out of bed in the morning.

“There were days I didn’t even get up.

“I obviously was pulled out of school and then I decided I was going to be home schooled.

“That is quite possibly the best decision I’ve ever made in my whole entire life.

“It has changed my life completely.

“I did my GCSEs so now I’m going to college four days a week.

“And I finally got back on the horse with singing as well.

“Ever since I left that school at that time, my life has just turned around.

“I think little Liv, little 12 year old me would be super, super happy that I did stay on, I did hold on. Although it felt like it was never gonna get better and it was an endless cycle.

“I’m just in a completely different place than I was when I was younger.”

Olivia was honoured with Luton Young Achiever at Luton’s Best Awards for her efforts in raising money for Young Minds UK and Grief Encounter but also raising awareness of the support available for young people.

As part of Generation Z, she released a song to raise awareness about bullying.

“In that group, we all had our own experiences, our own battles.

“People think mental health is quite a taboo subject. People don’t really like opening up about mental health and they kind of think it’s almost embarrassing.

“I want to kind of change that stigma around mental health. I don’t like the fact that people find it embarrassing to talk about, I don’t like the fact that people find it attention seeking to talk about.

“I think everyone should be able to freely.

“We’ve got to stay strong.”

Having endured such hard times, it is now extra sweet for Olivia to be in the place that she is in.

“Obviously seeing myself in the charts is mental. I’m absolutely buzzing.

“Doing interviews and stuff like that, I get even more excited.

“The fact that other people will listen to what I have to say, after being shut down for so long, it’s an amazing feeling.

“You know, when I was young and in high school and stuff, no one ever wanted to listen to a word I had to say.

“I was always told to be quiet, shut up, get on with it.

“And now that people actually want to hear what I want to talk about, and they understand what I’m talking about is such an exhilarating amazing feeling as well.

“At the minute, it just almost feels like I’m in a movie. It’s absolutely mental, absolutely crazy.”

Modern Girl is out now.

For more information, click here.

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