The true story of a girl who had to start again – and the creativity that protected her.
Content warning: depression, self-harm, marriage breakdown
There comes a time in every course of life where an individual must examine their level of contentment and satisfaction. This time of reflection leads to some form of action, where said individual will either continue on their present course or alter direction. This very notion flooded the chalice of my mind a year ago, at a time when my happily ever after became a concept that dizzied rather than dazzled.
Involved parties will be protected; therefore certain details will be excluded. However, to execute the significance of this narrative, it is imperative to note that a series of unfortunate events saw my castle crumble. Fire met gasoline, and every dream I had of love in its truest form were dashed and divided like a million stars in the night sky. I was 23, my marriage had ended, and the white picket fence vision I held onto for so long became almost blinding.
My name was Franchesca, and I was born and raised in Canberra. I am an Aquarius, and have three younger sisters. They are beautiful, each richly entwined with innocence and conviction. I went to an all-girls high school, and studied a Bachelor of Science in Psychology soon after leaving. If I were to address one aspect of my former self, it would be my continual, wholehearted conviction in true love. Visions of reciting phrases whilst picking petals off daisies trance my mind.
On the 20th of February 2016, I became a wife. On the 20th of March 2017, I was admitted into a private mental health facility. To a bystander, these dates may act as mere numerical recaps, but to me they marked defining factors that changed the entire course of my existence.
The beast that is depression is a funny thing. It has the ability to either rob you of control; for example, lacking the incentive to shower daily because you cannot fathom the reflection of your naked body in the bathroom mirror; or the capacity to endorse radical extremities.
The beast cast its spell on me through the latter, and October 1 2017 saw me pack my car with the only things I could call my own, and drive as far away from Canberra as possible. I left behind all that I had known for 23 years, and after driving for 13 hours, I arrived in the humble city of Adelaide. I knew almost no one, and held almost nothing to my name. The only thing I had in excess was the burden of grief that patiently sat on my shoulders, steadily carving its claws into the skin of my neck. I spent my first night in Adelaide sleeping on a couch, fuelled by fear of the unknown.
I write this one year later. In the past year I have set up a new life for myself in the best way I knew how, and with the limited means I had. It was not the lure of the unknown that inspired my new beginning, nor was I craving the particular freedom that comes with a new address. Despite the palpable grief that, even still, lingers through the chambers of my heart, Adelaide became a place of sanctuary and refuge.
Here, one year on, my heart feels open. With a different name and a different life, I am still trying to connect the dots. Here are my words to my younger heart:
It has been a year since you travelled over 1,000 kilometres unaccompanied. There is so much I want to say, but we both know how peculiar I can be when it comes to the arrangement and combination of letters. However, there are a few things I will voice.
You know that beast that lives on the back of your shoulders? You will soon invite it down for a mug of hot cocoa. Although hesitant at first, you will sit with it, listen to it, and begin to understand it. The beast will tell you about its origin, and how there were monsters that hurt it, too. You form a pact with the beast, and together you master the art of domestication. You will learn how to tame the beast, and recognise both its triggers and moments of vulnerability, better preparing you for the journey that is your life. Self-harm will change form and eventually turn into something life giving. You will stop drawing lines on your skin, and begin to draw lines on anything you can get your hands on; icing on cakes, glitter on baubles, and paint on canvas will become the children you never had, nurtured with both consideration and compassion. These will be your gifts to the world. You will create walls of inspiration where you sleep, and even begin postgraduate study. You will spend over 500 hours with individuals battling addiction to substance, and come to realise that each and every person encounters an addiction of some sort.
Although it has been over a year since you moved interstate, grief still haunts you, and there are moments where you will continue to feel like your life is measured out in goodbyes. After being a slave to your past, you will change your name to Isla, derived from the name of a Scottish island, and ghosts from your past will bicker, “Why?” However, remain a little cautious talking to individuals who have a home. They may have little idea what it means to seek refuge, for home to be wherever you rest your head.
Trauma has built a labyrinth of walls around you, Franchesca, but within you lies the lantern that will shine a light on the exit.
Words by Isla.
Featured image by Joseph Antoniades.