Mental Health and Janine’s Life-Long Struggles and Successes
Mental health issues is something that my guest, Janine Francolini struggled with for years. In her mid teens, this developed into an eating disorder and by 17 years old, she was hospitalized after her first suicidal attempt. After years of struggling with mental health, she is here today to share her story.
The trauma began at age 7, under the torment of a teacher, she would cry every day. Having been left untreated, her stress levels increased over time leading to extreme anxiety. “Sixth grade, [I] started to get extreme, extreme anxiety attacks. I would have hives on my body—it was really bad.”
Her mental health continued to suffer into her late teens when she describes her first suicidal attempt. “I was in complete blackness. I was always thinking about suicide, not sleeping… I don’t know how I functioned.” She planned her suicide for months and tells us how it consumed her thoughts, “It’s a little scary that it was so easy and calm. It was like, this is the night—It was a Sunday night—these are the pills. I went to bed and took the pills. It was easy to do. That’s … wow…” Looking back, adult Janine would tell her teen-self not to hide her feelings and worries. To share them and be more open about her mental health.
Janine delves deeper and tells us about her trials with an eating disorder and also about her successes. “I never weigh myself! Since the pregnancy I never weigh myself.” We talk about relapses and what alerts her that she may be having unhealthy thoughts. When she’s having those, “I’m so fat” thoughts she talks to her friends about it and she talks to herself about it. She confesses, “I have to be honest; the past five years… it’s been hard work to stay on top of it [mental health]. I’ve got my system down. It’s very relaxed. I don’t starve myself, I don’t diet… I just try to work on self-love and self-acceptance.”
She speaks to something that a lot of us don’t realize. That our relationship with ourselves takes a lot of work and effort. Just as we need to spend time on our relationships with others (whether they be romantic or work related), we need to invest in ourselves and our mental health. We need to take inventory of our thoughts and how we treat ourselves. She goes on to say, “The bottom line here is that I can’t go to these dark places of helping advocate for people in prison or people with serious mental illness or homelessness when my light isn’t turned on. For Janine, checking in with herself has become a way of life. She checks in with herself moment to moment, just as someone might have to be aware of their blood sugar if they have diabetes.
As I do of all my guests, I ask Janine what has been the greatest gift from her experience with mental illness. “Knowing that depth of darkness, the greatest gift has been the ability to hold space for others and to be able to do this work in the world. There is nothing that shakes and rattles me. Nothing.”
If she were speaking to someone who was contemplating suicide, she would try to connect with them. “The isolation is lethal. So, I wouldn’t judge, I wouldn’t say things like, “Oh, it’s going to get better, don’t worry.” Because when you’re in that spot, you just want to be seen and heard and have that space held for you, where you’re at.”
I hope that you have learned something really amazing from Janine’s story. If you’re dealing with mental health, if you’re suffering from suicidal thoughts or an eating disorder, reach out. Get help, there is support out there. Do your self work, figure out what your triggers are and figure out how you can be healthy, happy, whole and move forward.
Follow Janine Francolini on Twitter @flawlessgrats
Learn more about Janine’s work to end the stigma about mental illness at www.flawlessfoundation.org
Read her great blogs on The Huffington Post here!
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