Meagan Francis

Stories / Meagan Francis

Meagan Francis, 33, first experienced mental distress when she was 18 years old after moving away from home to start university.

“I was always worried and anxious as a child,” she explains. “After starting the second semester, something changed. I remember feeling I did not fit in and my peers appeared much better adjusted than me. 

“I started to isolate myself more and more. I took to my bed and lay awake, not sleeping or eating for a whole week.”

Meagan’s friends thought she seemed depressed, but inside her mind was racing.

“A few days later I became increasingly paranoid and starting having some bizarre thoughts. I felt disconnected from my world and believed people were not who they claimed to be.”

Finding yourself takes time

Meagan (pictured on the left in the dark blue beanie) returned home to Auckland and was admitted to her local hospital’s mental health unit. 

“I was told I’d experienced ‘first episode psychosis’. With the help of medication I improved significantly in less than a week.”

She was soon discharged and her care moved to community mental health workers who provided her with amazing support.

“I developed an excellent relationship with them, however I fell in to a deep depression,” she says. “I felt very isolated from my peers, conscious of how I had appeared when unwell and had difficulty concentrating on anything significant. 

“It was hard to believe I would ever return to my normal self but I did. It just took time, strength and help.”

A year later Meagan returned to university to finish her studies and life continued until at age 21, while in her last year of a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, she became unwell again.

“This time I was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. I went to my GP the next day and was voluntarily admitted to hospital. The next three weeks were a blur.”

This too shall pass

Eventually Meagan was well enough to finish her degree and went on to further study specialising in mental health. “Working in a field I’ve had personal experience of/with boosted my confidence,” she says.

Ten years after her second episode, quite out of the blue, Meagan became ill again.

“Round three was most definitely the worst,” she recalls. “I’d returned to New Zealand after living and working abroad and became incredibly manic. I was restrained numerous times in hospital and secluded on two occasions. Mania was followed by another unbearable period of depression.”

Again, with time and support, Meagan recovered and continues to work in health care, aware that she may have to take medication intermittently for the rest of her life.

She appreciates friends who have stuck by her through thick and thin and tries to speak up about her experience as honestly and openly as she can.

“I am finally back on my feet, and will keep going and not give up hope,” she says. “If the darkness returns, I know it will always pass at some stage.”