Thirty.

30. Thirty. The big 3-0. I want to mark this time. (peep that pic of me celebrating graduation in late May)

If you would have asked 20 year old me what the next 10 years held…she would have thought that it sounded scary and wonderful, but it could never be her. She blamed everyone for her problems. She was endlessly in love with Joseph Anthony but She was months away from the hardest break up she had faced. She was wonderfully oblivious that her life was about to change courses in a big way. She didn’t really have a lot of close friends outside of Joe. Hannah was dating David and you all didn’t really get along with David. She had a less than ideal relationship with her family and believed that it was beyond repair. There were a lot of questions about where my life would lead me. She was also very secure with herself. She of course thought she could improve in her exercise and diet, but she had confidence and it was obvious. She had no idea that these fleeting, endorphin filled time was mostly a product of her bipolar.

 

This didn’t seem like a big deal until I thought of how fast it went by. How quickly 30 years of my life happened. What have I accomplished?

 

I am well established in my career. I have been in the health care field for 10 years.

I got my master’s degree.

I moved to Texas and back.

I have a pet kitty that makes my days better (You count your kids right?)

I received my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder and started treating it.

I repaired many relationships that I had broken.

I have moved countless times, and it has allowed me experience more than one small bubble in Arizona.

I bought the newest car I have ever owned this year.

I made the big decision to start fertility treatments and become a single mother by choice.

I have realized that it isn’t a relationship I fear, it is that I wouldn’t be accepted or understood. I am asexual.

I have made peace with the fact that I will most likely have my mom living with me for the rest of her life. I am truly okay with it.

 

30-year-old me is on a camping trip in the future. This is 29 years and 359 day old me. Present me is sitting in my room. She is in Mesa and live in a crappy one-bedroom mobile home with mom. That is right, you now care for your mom. Mostly financially because she can’t work but is still independent.  She sleeps in a recliner because you haven’t been able to afford the lift bed she needs. We just got approved for the apartment we are moving to. You prefer to rent an apartment over owning a home and having all the responsibilities or renting a home and having to landscape. This apartment is a dream. You have always looked at the high-end apartments as something you dream of living in. You dreamt of living in a beautiful apartment that looks like a model home. You love the idea of living in a really nice place and decorating it so that you are proud of it.

You love living with your mom. You rarely argue, and she holds you accountable on your self -improvement.

You packed up your shit, quit your job, and drove to Texas where you lived with your dad and Nicole for a year. Much needed. Super impulsive.

Things are rocky with your sister right now. She is following your footsteps and headed down an emotionally destructive path. That is a scary thought seeing as how you went without a diagnosis for your bipolar until you were 25. You have had a couple of relationships that fizzled out. It has been 7 years since your last one. It only feels like an embarrassment to say that when you imagine other people’s reactions. You are oddly okay with this. You have spent the last 7 years working on yourself, nurturing your mental health and mending relationships. You reconnected with Joseph. He turned into a real bar fly when you two hung out together. I do mean hook up if you are wondering. Turns out he had an ex-girlfriend living in the same house. You still love him, and you still think he is selfish and inconsiderate. He has gotten weirder and less mature if that is possible. He loves to wear leggings and outlandish attention drawing outfits and attend raves. He did meet a girl last year. They are expecting a boy next month. You don’t know that Joe has grown up, you think he just found someone to act like a kid with. She has a son in high school….don’t know if that was a teen pregnancy or she is that much older than us.

Hannah is still your true friend. She has changed A TON. She stands up for herself, has really matured career wise and is making more than you! She still feels like she doesn’t know what she is doing with her life. She is living it. She needs to look around. She is still letting pretty boys walk all over her. You constantly build her up and she is so critical of herself and her appearance. She got a boob job that she hates…and botox! As long as it is safe and makes her happy, I will never judge her.

You made the decision that you would start fertility treatments and become a single mother by choice. It is a long and expensive process, but you want it badly. Your mom and grandmother both had issues and could not have any kids after 30. Your aunt Cherril has cervical cancer. She isn’t doing well either. She has decided to not have any kind of treatments and doesn’t even want to take pain medication.

You write. You write in notebooks, on the back of paper plates, you have a blog, you bounce around on your ideas and just end up writing them all in a jumbled mess.

You lost your confidence and have gained at least 100 lbs. But your confidence was gone long before the weight came. After Sean, you were down. You were approaching the BPD diagnosis, but this sent you on a journey that you can credit your life to.

You started gaining weight and staying home. You went to the doctor for weight loss and then disclosed how you were really feeling, and she referred you to a specialist. Between the sadness and the weight gain, you felt ashamed. You stopped going out and packed on more weight. You are hyper aware of those around you. Careful never to agitate or inconvenience anyone. You have actually become pretty boring. You rarely show emotion and are too concerned about other’s opinions to be the silly person you were.

 

You hope that your next 10 years bring more joy, revelations about yourself, dreams come to fruition. You hope to overcome your biggest obstacle. Yourself.

In the next 10 years, you will have a baby. You will do two rounds of IUI before you get pregnant. You will become more confident in your work. You will increase dramatically in your salary as you are beginning to really establish yourself. You will become more involved in politics and religion…after all the wise Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Women belong in all the places where decisions are being made.”. You will continue learning and educating yourself through reading and may even entertain the idea of a doctorate. You will most likely lose your grandparents. That is going to be the kick in the stomach of the decade. I hope you are somewhat graceful in your grief. I doubt this though. You will most likely have some issues in managing medications and potentially start being reckless at this time. I hope you come back here and remind yourself of how far you have come and how many people go through this.

My first 30 years have been challenging to say the least. I was dealt a tough hand and it didn’t help that I was manic for most of it. I have made strides in my mental health that have definitely rippled into the rest of my life. I am happy. Genuinely happy. I have you fine people to thank for some of that.

 

Exploding With Emotion.

I am not an outwardly emotional person. Behind closed doors, I spill it all. If you asked my mom or friends, they would never describe me as boy crazy. I had plenty of crushes but I just am very mindful of how I present myself. I think this is why, when I get into the room with my mental health provider, I am a puddle. I explode with what I can only describe as relief. I feel like I spend my days trying to control my feelings for fear that I am going to push someone too far. When I finally let the emotions flow, so do the tears. I am passionate, hopeful, empathetic. I am all of these things to the extreme. I try to help people who didn’t ask for my help. I cling to people who just want to walk away. I bet everything on a maybe.

That burst of tears that I feel when I go to my appointments, the one where I just feel relieved and heard? I feel that here. I feel that with every post that is written and I can relate to. I feel that with every comment shared on my own writing. I feel heard, I feel understood. I imagine this is how people who run feel (ugh running amirite?). I have heard people describe it as cathartic and how they love leaving everything and just being in the quiet with themselves.

I leave it all on the page. I am sure that I can’t be the only one who “journals”. My journals are just lists, scribbles that don’t mean much, a to do list, a grocery list, a goal, a dream I had last night. I don’t intentionally journal. I don’t even write full sentences or dates. I just release my thoughts onto a page in whatever format or stage they might be in. Sometimes, all I have done is budget. It feels good to see it on paper. One day, when I am gone and my kids clean out my things, they will realize how insane I really am. I have stacks of notebooks with scribbles in them. The same way a child might color random pages in a coloring book with half of them never completed.

Thank you for being the only real “Journal” I have ever had. Thank you for consistently making me feel understood and sane, even when I know that I am not at times. Thank you for encouraging me to come back and carry on.

Depression Makes Me Flaky

Canceling plans and  not showing up to things when I say I will has been a constant in my life recently. I am falling back into depression which makes me want to stay home all of the time.

Day to day activities like going to work have been very challenging. Yesterday I couldn’t make it through the day so I left two hours early. When I got home, those feelings of emptiness evaporated. My boyfriend had off yesterday so I got to spend some extra time with him which is always a plus since he works a lot.

Yesterday I also was flaky in my personal life. I lied to my friend saying I was working the day of her wedding and couldn’t come. Why would I do that? The regular, not depressed Megan wouldn’t do that.

I also flat out didn’t show up to my cousin’s last soccer game of her lifetime. I told her I would be there then just didn’t go. I feel so horrible about it, what kind of cousin am I?

I feel like a hideous monster that needs to run back under the bed. That I should’t talk to anyone because I will only let them down in the future.

Reflecting on my actions my stomach turns, my heart races and I can’t shake the feeling that I am a terrible human. My depression has such a deep influence on me that I haven’t made any decisions without consulting it.

“Depression, I was invited to a party what should I do?”
“We are not going. We are staying home, Megan.” 

My hands are stained red with guilt that I am a bad person for telling lies and being a flake. I was raised to always tell the truth but lately my nose has grown 5 times it’s normal size.

Does your mental illness make you act out of character? Do you ever cancel plans because you’re not mentally well?

What Anger Is To Me

Please don’t tell me that a smile and your sorrow just don’t go together.

I would not look upon my anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight. I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, and with non-violence.

When I get angry, I have to produce awareness: “I am angry. Anger is in me. I am anger”. That is the first thing to do.

Thank you for being with me. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Angel love and rainbows.

Love, Francesca.

My Healing Journey

At the beginning of the year my number one goal was for me to work on healing myself from the inside out. I had put my own inner healing on hold for a long time. I had pushed down the most painful memories of my childhood in hopes I would never have to think about them again. Over these last eight months more and more old wounds have been resurfacing. Old wounds that I forgot were even there were resurfacing. This was finally my time to work on healing myself.

 

I grew up in an abusive household facing abuse from my mother on a daily basis. I suffered from this abuse from a very young age up until my early adulthood. I suffered from physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. The most damaging towards me was the psychological abuse.

 

Growing up I always knew there was something “off” about my mom because of the way she treated me. I was the oldest child and I guess my mom figured she could take out all her aggression on me. My brother was extremely lucky because my mom treated him completely opposite of how she treated me.

 

A month ago I read a book about healing from Narcissistic abuse. It opened up my eyes to what narcissistic abuse is all about and it confirmed for me that it was the abuse I suffered from growing up. It confirmed my theory that my mom was a narcissist and the symptoms & actions described fit my mom perfectly.

 

My entire life I could never fully be myself. My mom was the one who called all of the shots during my childhood. It didn’t matter what I wanted to do, if she didn’t like it then I couldn’t do it. It was like my mom was trying to live out her life through me. I wanted to play piano and my mom hated that, she threw away my piano books because she didn’t want me to play it. I wanted to do gymnastics, but she told me no & convinced me that I was never good enough to do it in the first place. She hated me having friends and never let me hang out with my friends. This occurred throughout my entire childhood.

 

She terrorized me, manipulated me, and controlled me my entire life. This book opened up my eyes to how abusive a narcissist can be and how evil they can be.

My mom caused me immense pain growing up. She told me things no child or person should ever have to hear especially from your own mother. I was screamed at so many times. She told me lies like that she didn’t want me born, she wished she aborted me when she had the chance, no one in my family likes me, I’m a burden, I have no friends, I’m fat, I’m not pretty, and I’m not good enough. She RARELY told me she loved me & meant it.

 

Now that I’ve reached adulthood and have started my own healing, I feel like I’m starting to find myself all over again. My mom never let me express who I was so I was always fitting into the mold she wanted. I finally feel like I’m starting to find my own identity and who I truly am as a person.

 

At first I felt like I was going through an identity crisis because I didn’t know who I was as a person at first. It’s forced me to dig deep inwards to get in touch with my true authentic self. I’m still learning who I truly am on a daily basis. I’m starting to finally feel free again since I no longer have to conform to what she had led me to believe my entire life.

No Longer Hiding my Emotions

Over the years I’ve become extremely good at hiding my emotions from others.

I grew up with the belief that sadness & tears made me weak so I did my best to never cry in front of people.

I believed that my problems didn’t matter because out there in the world there was someone else with bigger problems than mine.

I believed that people wouldn’t care about what I was going through or that I would be considered a burden.

These beliefs have stayed with me up until this very day. While I’ve gotten more & more comfortable sharing my emotions & problems with others, it’s still something I struggle with today.

This has probably been one of the most difficult habits for myself to break because it’s become natural for me to just hide my emotions & bottle them up never sharing with anyone.

My entire life I’ve done my best to remain strong through all the difficult situations I faced up until now. I didn’t let others see or know the true pain I was in. There were periods where I would spend many nights crying myself to sleep at night. I didn’t want to dump my own problems on anyone else because I didn’t want to be a burden. I ended up not only carrying my own weight of problems, but the weight of those closest to me as well. I put off working through & healing my own issues, to help the ones I loved most.

It’s taken me up until now to realize that it’s important to take care of our own selves first. I neglected my own healing & stuffed my emotions deep down inside of me. In order to be of service & help to others in our lives, we must heal ourselves from within as well.

Because of the difficulties & pain I’ve faced, I never want others to feel alone or feel like they’re a burden. I am here for anyone and can be that shoulder for you to cry on. Never feel like you are a burden to others or that your problems don’t matter because they do! No matter how big or small the problem you’re faced with, it still matters.

Confronting Your Shadow Self

“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” – Carl Jung

This last month I stumbled upon something new called shadow work. It was something I’ve never heard of before and it intrigued me. Shadow work is when you take a closer look within yourself at the parts of yourself that you hide. The “dark side” of your personality; the negative parts you might be ashamed of, fearful around, or feel guilt around. It’s something we all have inside of ourselves, but it can be hard to acknowledge and address it.

The psychologist Carl Jung was the one who coined the term “personal shadow.” This is the part of the psyche a lot of people tend to neglect and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Even when you pretend it doesn’t exist your personal shadow can operate on it’s own without us being fully aware. It’s when the unconscious mind assumes control while our conscious self goes on autopilot. The longer you repress your shadow the more you start to see those qualities in the others around you.

At the beginning of the year, one of my resolutions was to work on my self-awareness and to heal myself from within. I spent the last three years focusing on my physical health; I didn’t spend as much time on my mental health and inner work as I should have. Something I’ve learned through my journey is that the mental transformation is just as powerful if not more powerful than a physical transformation.

Shadow work is for everyone, as humans we all have parts of ourselves we like to hide or feel embarrassed to share with others about. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles like the abuse my mom put me through for almost 18 years. All of those painful memories & experiences I had growing up, I pushed so far back in my head wanting to never think about them again.

When I stumbled upon shadow work it made me realize that I need to stop pretending that the memories don’t exist. Yes they are painful and I’m embarrassed about some of them, but they are going to resurface at some point in time so I can fully move on and continue my growth. Diving into the shadow work and committing to the process was a little scary for me. What scared me the most was fully addressing all those memories & allowing myself come to terms with them.

One of the first steps of shadow work is addressing the memories or emotions you’ve hid from for so long. You also must figure out and identify possible triggers that cause certain emotions with those memories. When you’ve identified the memories & triggers you can start to work on moving on from those to create new beliefs that will bring positive light into your life.

For me this is just the beginning of my own shadow work and bringing awareness to those dark parts so I can bring in new light. If this is something that does intrigue you I encourage you to look more into it as well. It’s something that everyone can benefit from and will only bring in more positivity in the long run.

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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Sometimes, life gives you lemons. At other times, it throws them at you. Really, really hard. Especially if you’re not looking.

In one moment, you might think you’ve got everything under control:

  • Job = secure
  • Bills = paid
  • Clothes = washed
  • Social life = uhhh…work in progress
  • Prescription = filled

And in the next moment…pure chaos. Cheers, life.

Whether as the result of some external event (eg. an untimely incident or unexpected circumstance) or internal influence (eg. a chemical imbalance in the brain or a traumatic memory), chaos hides around every corner waiting for the chance to strike, threatening dysfunction and disorder.

I believe that in small doses, chaos can bring a healthy amount of excitement and unpredictability to our lives. A life without chaos is a life without challenge; there is a yin to every yang, as they say. But to someone suffering from a mental illness, chaos poses a substantial threat. If we’re already struggling to keep our heads above water in day to day life, chaos can easily overwhelm us.

Depression is a constant battle, and when we’re treading water it’s easy to spend too much time staring into the abyss below and wondering what would happen if we stopped paddling. We get so caught up in the chaos and fear that we lose sight of the bigger picture and start behaving irrationally. Life throws us lemons, so we pick those suckers up and squirt the juices into our eyeballs. Not exactly the best move.

Sometimes, we need to be better than our emotions. Every now and then, it’s important to look up from the abyss and make sure you’re still headed toward dry land.

Let me tell you about a time life threw me a nice, big, juicy lemon.

A few years ago, I was exploring my home state in Australia, driving through the ranges of north Queensland. On this day I’d driven to the peak of the Eungella ranges and spent the morning trekking through the rain forest, conquering the mountainous trails and generally being in awe of the breathtaking views of the valley below. My companion on this journey was a maroon-red ’02 Toyota Corolla hatchback, that I had affectionately named Colin. We had been through much together in our three-year long relationship, and yet nothing had prepared us for the tribulations we were about to face.

After hiking my last hike for the day, I returned to my four-wheeled friend to find that he was almost completely out of fuel. Shit. I wish I could say this wasn’t a common occurrence, but I haven’t met any genies lately.

I was about 70 kilometres from the nearest gas station, and even further from the nearest town. But I had complete faith in Colin, and he had faith in me. I’m sure that if I coasted my way back down the mountain, I’d conserve enough fuel to make it back to the bowser.

So, down the range I went, gliding gracefully along the winding road in my little red go-go machine. I felt every bump, crack and dip beneath the rubber as we rode the waves of asphalt to the foot of the mountain. Every tweak of the steering wheel, every touch of the accelerator and every pump of the brakes was made with intent. It felt good. I was in complete control.

Or so I thought.

In the distance, a sign was fast approaching. “Eungella Dam, turn left in 500m”.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. I freakin’ love dams. Some might call it “an unhealthy obsession”, but I would call it “don’t judge me, asshole.”

I grew up a stone’s throw away from a dam, and they’ve always fascinated me. They’re a true testament to the ingenuity of mankind; monolithic structures with the capability of harnessing one of nature’s most unstoppable forces – lots and lots of water. Eungella was so far away from home, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity to see this dam again. How could I pass up the chance at one last incredible view?

I pulled my steering wheel to the left, and barrelled toward my new destination. Surely, this would only be a slight detour.

I started bashing through the bush, leaving a large cloud of dust in my wake. The dirt pricked my eyes but I kept them peeled, scanning every bend in the road for a turnoff or parking area. Minutes passed, and as I strayed further and further from the beaten track, I could feel every meter travelled accumulating in the pit of my stomach. Deep down, I knew that I’d made a terrible decision.

“Surely, the lookout is just around the corner. You’ve committed to this, it’s too late to turn back now.” I’d taken a calculated risk, but I was never good at math. The lemon was in my hand, and I was starting to squeeze.

Colin’s petrol gauge was well below empty. I’m convinced that he was completely out of fuel at this point and was running only on the fumes of my sheer stupidity. My red solider, loyal and true, was on his last legs.

I was so focused on seeing this damn dam, that I didn’t notice the next turn was quite a bit sharper than the rest. I brought my foot down on the brake like an anvil, and the car began to slide. Perhaps in an act of protest after being pushed to the brink of exhaustion, Colin threw his back wheels off the road the same way and infant throws his rattle across the room during a tantrum. I went careening into a two-meter deep ditch and came to a humiliating halt.

Great. Now I’m really stuffed. It was going to take some real gusto to get up this slope, most likely wasting the last of my precious petrol in the process.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes, emotions make us dumb. Really dumb.

I was so distracted by the fear of potentially being stranded in the middle of nowhere that I wasn’t thinking straight. Chaos had taken the wheel, and I was being pulled along by a four-cylinder engine of emotion straight into a ditch on the side of the road. I was acting completely irrationally. I’d lost control. I’d chosen to stare into the abyss below when I should be been searching for the safety of the shore.

But no more. It was time to look up.

Let’s turn this ship around.

I put the pedal to the metal, and in a Dukes of Hazzard inspired moment of pure triumph Colin and I aimed for the sky and fired. Without the weight of my emotions holding me down, for a moment, I knew what it was like to fly. I was finally acting level-headed, and the Corolla was back on level ground.

By some miracle, I managed to reach the petrol station. I was on cloud nine, and approached the lady at the register like I’d just won the lottery.

“That’ll be $45.67.”

“Here, just take my whole wallet.”

I think we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve decided to squeeze lemon juice into our eyes.

When this happens, often the biggest challenge is having the self-awareness to take a step back and access your current situation, put aside your predispositions and decide what is truly best for your wellbeing. You’ll use any excuse in the book to avoid the answers that are often right in front of your face. You’ll allow yourself to be distracted, and put your wants before your needs. This is destined to lead you down the path of chaos, and one day you might find yourself stuck in the middle of the bush in rural Australia.

You need to know that it’s never too late to grab the steering wheel and turn yourself around. There are many factors that influence our decisions in this modern world, but ultimately, it’s your responsibility to know what is best for you and make the right choices.

If you only follow your heart’s compass, it’ll lead you astray. But, if you play it smart, you’ll find that the little diversions take on a whole new lustre as you start to appreciate life’s various side paths and gravel roads. You’ll be free to pursue your passions comfortably, whether it be writing, mountain trekking, or visiting dams. Know that when your priorities are in order, you’ll have more mental fuel to go the distance in life and enjoy a richer human experience.

So remember to keep your chin up, and keep swimming.

Running Towards Hugs.

I am making moves towards my next goal of moving back home after moving out of state a year ago. I applied and applied for jobs until I finally found something that would suit me. I felt immediate relief in signing the offer letter. I know it was the right choice. It isn’t because I fear not having a roof over my head, a lease ending, a job I am at risk of losing or anything of the sort. I just am relieved to be headed back to something familiar. I let my mental health care fall by the wayside and that it has never been so apparent that what I had been doing was working.

I moved here to remove myself from stressful situations that I was in. I was constantly guilt ridden (because of my own issues) and putting a lot of strain on myself to appease others. I know that moving doesn’t solve all your problems, but being far enough away where I couldn’t volunteer to be the fixer did. What I didn’t know is that I would be moving in with family who don’t hug, who don’t really socialize the way I am used to, and to be frank have a drinking problem. Alcohol has never really been my scene. I have always been aware enough of my own issues to know that alcohol will only worsen them. Being around it is depressing and lonely. On one side, I have a dad who indulges often and I now know why the phrase “functional alcoholic” is a very real thing. He holds a job and he isn’t angry or anything, but it sure pisses off his wife and that negativity is stifling.

I haven’t been hugged or had human contact aside from a handshake it 93 days. NINETY THREE DAYS. You don’t realize the impact such a small gesture makes until you don’t have it. I only hear I love you occasionally (aside from when I call my mom). I don’t see anyone except on the weekends even though I live with them because our hours are so different.

All of this has just piled up and then I stopped taking my medicine. Most of us have been there and thought we were okay, but we probably also had people who said “hey, you aren’t yourself” or asked if we were still taking care of ourself. That doesn’t happen here and my self care abandonment has gone unmentioned if it was noticed.

12 days until I move. I am packing up my stuff and my cat and headed to the land of love.

Take care of yourself wherever you are. Take your medicine. Go to your doctor. Hug someone you haven’t in awhile. Ask someone how they are doing. It sounds so cliche and I really just want to punch people in the stomach when I see their half hearted post about being there for anyone who needs it on facebook. I get it though. I understand the sentiment. I just hope that we can all think of how we feel and how we hide it.

The Silent Sands of Illness



This is a new rendition of a poem I wrote on my blog.

The Silent Sands of Illness

Spheres be fed the blackened beast,

For long to fill his gluttonous feast.

Not life itself could escape it’s grasp.

For death to all the plague they clasp.

Yet random the beast, it toyed it’s prey,

Amused with the game of chance to play.

Ally of time, it’s patient was astound.

Stomach growls the best around.

But who would have thought that the beast – himself,

Could make it’s prey place their hopes and aspirations into a shelf?

What will the prey be bound to do, to make it through?

The beast as it preys, acting as a bough,

A bough of illness.

Amused again by the game and a chance to play,

It’s patients were astound — astound,

by the growls of the beast’s stomach – the growls of the best around.

Thank you for being with me. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love, Francesca.

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