Why Francesca Shares Her Story

One of the most common questions I am asked is why I choose to share my story. What prompted me to want to tell my story? Am I worried about what other people think? What about the people who are offended by my story?

Here’s my answer: I’m more afraid of enabling a culture of silencing mental illness than offending someone or being the butt of someone’s joke.

You’d be surprised how many people have reached out to me because my story has helped them. That’s what it’s about. My goal isn’t to create attention for myself, my goal is to help someone else avoid getting as low as I did.

I will never again live my life afraid of my sharing my story. I will never fall back into a pattern of silent suffering. When I first started sharing my story, I faced so much backlash.

What if future employers see this or future admissions committees?I promise myself this, I will never want to be in an environment where mental health is looked down upon. What I have gone through shows great strength and courage. If that is a problem for you, then I apologize that you have a closed mind and I hope you are able to one day see mental health from a new perspective. What if I feel differently 10 years from now? I hope that with every day that passes by, I remember what I went through, I remember the secret tears, I remember all of the pain. But most importantly, I hope I remember all of the healing and all of the people who pushed me down and the ones who showed up for me when I needed them most. What if someone who is a part of my story feels hurt by my story?I cannot control someone else’s emotions or thoughts. If you feel guilty or hurt by me sharing my story, I hope you get the help you need to not allow someone else have that much power over your emotions.

To all of those who think that sharing my story is about them, it’s not. It’s about making sure that I am not part of the problem, that I am not someone who enables a culture of silence, and that I am doing everything I can to make sure anyone out there who is suffering alone knows that someone is there for them.

And, next time you want to judge someone for their mental illness, think about this:

Can you imagine ever feeling so low that your next action is to attempt to end your life? Do you know how painful it is to feel like the world is better off without you? It’s not a selfish act these people commit. When someone gets to this point, they are only thinking of everyone else in their lives. They are thinking how much better off these people would be without them in it. They are NOT thinking of taking the easy way out, they are trying to protect those they love by removing themselves from the equation. Can you imagine feeling like you have to starve to be accepted? Do you know what it is like to feel so tired and hungry but afraid to eat? When someone gets to this point, they don’t want attention for their disorder, they want to feel confident in their skin. Can you imagine feeling so anxious that your body’s response is to throw up blood? Do you know how painful it is when your stomach tightens, and your head feels flushed? When someone gets to that point, they don’t want attention for throwing up, they want to feel safe and secure. If you haven’t gone through it, you cannot possibly understand those feelings. Do not ever try to lessen someone else’s experience or pain because you don’t understand it. Do not ever judge someone for suffering, instead educate yourself on how you can help and encourage an open discussion.

It’s ironic how we have created a culture that is so sensitive to jokes, but not sensitive towards mental health. We have created a culture where people think mental health is just a state of mind that you can choose to snap out of. We have created a culture that judges people for being vulnerable and for suffering from an illness. We force people to suffer in silence, then when someone we know or love gives in to the illness, we call them selfish or wish they felt comfortable talking to us. (Note: I said “gives in” not “gives up.” It’s not giving up, it’s giving in to the darkest thoughts in your mind.) We, as a society, have failed all of those people. We chose to silence those who have tried to speak up about their mental state by making it a joke. As a community, our job is to help others, support others, and empower others. Our job is not to create an uncomfortable atmosphere for those who are suffering.

The truly funny thing is we all face some degree of a mental illness. We all suffer from a degree of an anxiety disorder or a mood disorder (depression) or an eating disorder (binge eating, anorexia) or a trauma-related disorder. Not everyone has the same support system or resources to get better. Some people have mild anxiety while others breakdown daily. Some people have mild seasonal depression while others struggle to get out of bed every day. Some people are afraid to eat a bite of cake while others can’t stop eating it. But, none of us have the right to judge anyone else. None of us are perfect.

In one month, it will be an entire year since I hit my rock bottom. I am beyond proud of myself for how far I have come over the past year. I do not apologize for any part of my story nor do I feel any shame for it. I will always share my story and empower others to do the same. And, I will never forget what I’ve gone through. There are so many people who think they know me but have no idea who I truly am at my core. I have been beaten down and I have fallen apart, but, more importantly, I have fought through it all and I have risen past it. And, more than anything, I hope I save just one person from giving in.

This is why I share my story.

originally published 03/2020

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