Hi, I am Francesca.

My story with mental health is one with so many layers, aren’t most of these stories that way? First, it would benefit to mention that I was very close and supportive of this initiative when it first started. I was blown away with all the people raising their hand to share and the openness that proceeded.

I was also almost judgmental of the people who didn’t want to take part… Now let’s backtrack for a quick moment just to point out that even getting around to start writing my own story has taken OVER A YEAR. Yeap, talk about the pot calling the kettle black, the ultimate hypocrite talking about how important it is to share and be open yet there I was closed as a book buried deep in the earth.

That is when it hit me hard all of sudden on one rainy morning while I was busy staring out the window waiting for time to literally just pass by so I could go back to bed. It was time to finally be brave and be transparent about my journey.

The first time I gave into my depression and my anxiety I was 21. It was a collapse of a relationship with so much emotion and depth to it paralleled by trying to re-process the loss of my father. I was left with no choice but to surrender. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember my mom flying overseas to bring me home and going to my Dr numb and lifeless. I took the drugs and I waited…

One day I woke up and I swear to god the sky was blue again like a switch had been turned on in my brain and I could actually breathe again. Everything wasn’t better overnight but I had the strength to get out of bed and to start doing the work, start moving forward in my life once again.

And then we all lived happily ever after… Just kidding.

Now here we are nine years later the story hasn’t changed much. I do my best to do the things that I know help me, I deal with the panic attacks as they come, I even take the drugs until they stop working…  Then I go off them and things are usually good for a while – until they aren’t.

The cycle continues, back in the hole… paralyzed wondering how I let this happen again. Shouldn’t I know better by now??  eventually, I clamber out of the darkness usually with new drugs and bigger distractions ….

The thing that has been killing me lately is a simple thought that this is it – this is me. I guess there really is no climbing out of this hole for good. The dark is always lingering just waiting for the perfect moment to come back down and encompass everything I am.

So what does that make me? A manic depressant? Broken? What does that mean for me? Medication for the rest of my life? Living in constant fear that it always somehow manages to just come back and there is nothing I can do about it?

Now the real truth bomb – I feel guilty, guilty that I can’t do better, guilty that I can’t seem to actually get better. Guilty that the people in my life who love me and have to choose to stand by me will always live in fear of me ‘relapsing’ so to speak, falling back into the same darkness we all know so well by now. Guilty that I’ve become a burden. Guilty that I have such a wonderful life and am so privileged, but yet can’t just be fucking happy.

I will also admit that I am probably the worst at asking for help, so much so that I may not even know what that means. But then I feel alone, isolated, misunderstood, and forgotten. So the cycle continues…

Yet in my heart I want to believe this can’t be it, this can’t be me. I don’t want to be defined by cycles of anxiety and depression for the rest of my life.

I believe there is room for a greater understanding around mental health, there is room for a more open honest conversation around navigating a life affected by things such as depression and anxiety. I believe our medical system needs to do better, the support needs to be stronger. I believe our education system needs to do better – this needs to be addressed before the next generation ends up worse for wear due to our fear of expression and tiptoeing around uncomfortable topics.

We live in a world so busy and fast-paced, so commercialized and disconnected is it really any wonder so many of us suffering from mental health fall between the cracks? Is it any wonder that I feared to share my story would make me weak? That being honest would be admitting yet another failure?

I believe that there is hope for things thing’s to get better and if sharing my experience is even a sliver in the path of that direction then it is all worth it. Maybe someone will relate, maybe someone can offer advice from a point of view where they have been where I am and come out the other side…

All I know is that mental health is very real. It is part of every single day of my life. I know I am not the only one. I also know that the statistics are growing. More and more people deal with mental health in their day to day lives, even children. That breaks my heart because I know we can do better, we have to do better.

So my closing words –  if you are currently hanging out in your own dark hole wondering if this is it… I’m waving at you and wondering the same damn thing.

With my deepest gratitude for taking the time to read this story,