From Sunday MIscellany's 70th anniversary celebrations for The Arts Council - novelist Niamh Campbell goes on a silent, Vipassana retreat. Listen to Petition above.

The day I applied for a bursary from the Arts Council I also entered a ten-day retreat to learn Vipassana. I was in my mid-twenties and a series of events had dragged me back to my parents' spare room, surplus among the toe-stubbing blanket boxes and childhood Famous Fives. Vipassana, a school of secular meditation, was suggested to me as one of several balms for what I called depression but think of now as a crushing crisis of existential origin: nothing about my life as an adult made sense to me.

On that day, before surrendering my phone and all connections to the outside, before signing a contract to say I would not speak or eat after midday or kill a living thing, I came and went from the laptop. At the moment I needed to leave, I hit submit. The process had a ritual feel.

Months earlier I had been walking down Henry Street when suddenly my misery thickened into fear and, abandoning plans, I rode the bus to my houseshare and stood in the bedroom as sunlight sliced through the Venetian blind. I knew I should sit but I couldn’t sit. As I stood, frozen with dread, my ambient unhappiness seemed to speak to me. It said: nothing will ever be good for you. What I recall now are the bars of sunlight on the tossed-up bed – how radiant was the world, even in or perhaps because of this suffering like a pounding soundtrack.

After submit on the day of the application I was dropped to an off-season boarding school and sat in the canteen among cheerful people who all seemed to know each other. I answered questions from a clipboard. Did I have experience of psychosis? Could I commit to the mental stress? An attractive man with heavy affect, an aura of sorrow at odds with his looks, asked me a few more. I was afraid I mightn’t pass because I was so citified and nervy and ill-fed – the others seemed insanely sedate. When the first gong went we fell silent. We would stay that way for over a week....

Niamh Campbell's latest novel, We Were Young, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Petition forms part of a Sunday Miscellany collaboration with the Arts Council to mark its 70th anniversary. Listen to Nidhi Zak's poem Wandersong and tune into Sunday Miscellany on RTÉ Radio 1 on Sunday 22 May 9.10am for a special programme marking that Arts Council anniversary featuring writers John Banville, Shelly Furlong, Diarmaid Ferriter, Iarla Ó LIonard and Marina Carr.