Why I'm Still Finding it Hard to Talk About Mental Health | Let's Talk

a girl with blonde hair, blue eyeshadow and cat eyeliner looking at the camera, shocked, with a selection of feature frames behind her, on a turquoise wall behind the girl. The girl is francesca sophia
I'm going to start this post with a disclaimer: I think talking about mental health is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your own self-care. I think being able to talk about how you're feeling is so so important, and I definitely would love to be able to be more open and honest about it.

I know what you're thinking: girl, haven't you shared a post on this very blog about your mental health? And again, about your #MeToo story? But bear with me on this one.

I got treatment; got medication; went to therapy; I told my close friends what was going on...and I have to admit, I kind of thought that was it. I'd done all the brave stuff and now I could sit back and look after myself.
And, theoretically, that is the case, for the most part.

I have good friends, a supportive family, a boyfriend who empathises, whether they have been through mental health issues or not. I am on the right medication (I hope!), finally.

But there's a heck of a lot more that comes after that.
Having a crappy, anxiety-prone, self-hating day at work isn't something I have ever been able to explain to my boss. If I can't make an appointment to meet my fella's family, I can't explain that I can't even get out of bed that day. If an acquaintance, an old school friend, a new blogging pal, wants to meet up, and I get so anxious that I end up having a panic attack on the tube, I don't want to admit that.

Why?
Because it's scary. Because I'm still afraid of getting the reaction I got in secondary school 'Fran, you can only come if you won't act so...depressed'. I'm scared of being 'let go' from another job and constantly blaming my anxiety, my change of medication. I'm scared of being judged, or having someone think I'm less capable because of my mental health.
Is that necessarily realistic? Is everyone going to think that? No. Probably, no one in my life would - whether in a work or a social environment - but the fear stops me, anyway.

Maybe one day, mental health will be something openly discussed; until then, I'm going to keep trying to be more honest about mine.

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#MeToo | Let's Talk (TW: Rape/Assault/Abuse)

a black and white picture of a girl (francesca sophia) holding her phone up and taking a picture of the photographer; she is not smiling, and has winged eyeliner, and long, dark, curled hair.
Much like my mental health post from a while ago, I never thought I'd write this. Even when #MeToo became a regular feature on my timeline, even when I tweeted about it myself, I didn't think I'd ever quite be in a place where I wanted to share my story.

When I was 15, I was raped. I was at my best friend's funeral, and a 'friend' spiked my drink. I didn't remember much the next day, but he was happy to fill me in on what I'd missed; he seemed to think he'd done nothing wrong, so I figured I was just being 'sensitive'. Unfortunately for him, I have a bit of a weird reaction to drugs/medication, so I'd also thrown up all over him. He said this made us even. I figured he was right.

I let it pass. I figured I was wrong, for drinking too much, for being sad, for not realising there was something in my drink that I didn't recognise.

4 years later, it happened again. This time, by the person I thought was the love of my life. He'd never laid a hand on me, until I'd broken up with him. Then he laid every hand he could on me. He tracked me down when I moved to university. He stalked me. He made me feel unsafe, no matter where I was.

When I finally moved back to London, he called my job to find out where I was. He hacked into my Facebook account and messaged the guys he thought I was seeing, to 'scare them away'. It worked, for the most part. To this day, very few of the people who were around me at that time believe it was anything other than a 'hysterical' message from me. I lost two of my very best friends over it.
It culminated in me being part of a court case. Until he visited my house and beat me so brutally I thought I'd die.
I didn't even tell my mother until several months later, when the wounds had healed. Even now, I shy away, pretend the incident was less than it was. Even now, I look at the people who love me, and question how they could, when I am so clearly deserving of less.

I will spend the rest of my life checking who's walking behind me. Wondering if it's better not to join in with social events at work or outside of it, because I might 'give the wrong signals'. I will live in fear, for what these people thought they had a right to. And I will wonder, always.

But for now? I will simply say #MeToo.
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Five TV Shows I'm Recommending To Anyone Who'll Listen | Life

5 tv shows you should watch; white text on a gold sequin and glitter background
Since making the change and leaving my previous job, I actually have some free time on my hands at the end of the work day, which means I've finally been able to have some one-on-one time with my beloved Netflix account & TV (which, sadly for me, isn't quite 4K TV Panasonic).
As a result, I've been catching up with (and discovering!) a few new TV shows, so I figured I'd share my top ones.
Obvious Trigger Warnings are in bold, but please check before you watch, as I may have missed some! 

1. STRANGER THINGS
On the incredibly slim chance that you haven't given this a go yet, please do - it's low on gore and jump scares, but it's creepy, with a satisfying 1980s-era-setting. The soundtrack is exceptional, the story is intriguing, and Winona Ryder is back on top form. A couple of my friends were hesitant to watch this because the central cast were so young, but it's engaging, from the word go.
Available on Netflix.

2. THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE
Based on a science fiction novel of the same name, 'The Man in the High Castle' is an 'alternate history' series, based on life after Nazi Germany and Japan won WW2, and took over the US. It's heartbreaking, hopeful, and thoughtful, all in one go, and terrifyingly...believable. If you're a history buff, you'll love this, but it's pretty emotive, so be careful.
Available on Prime Now TV.

3. AMERICAN VANDAL
This mockumentary is the one if you're into Serial and Making a Murderer; it's essentially about a boy getting expelled from high school due to graffiti-ing penises on his teachers' cars. But did he really do it? And can Pete and Sam, the unlikely sleuth-documentarists, work it out, before it's too late? Watch and find out!
TW: Drug use.
Available on Netflix.

4. TIN STAR 
This is one of those shows that I never thought I'd watch - despite Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks shining throughout the entire season - because it seemed a little 'grittier' than my usual choices. But one episode in, and I was sold. It's a tale of revenge, at its heart...and murder. And pretty much every conspiracy theory you can imagine. It'll keep you guessing, in the most exquisite way.
TW: torture, alcoholism. 
Available on Sky Atlantic & Now TV.

5. OZARK 
I genuinely never thought I'd be able to take Jason Bateman seriously, in a role that wasn't comical - 'Arrested Development' has always been one of my favourite shows, and him being in a tense thriller? Mind blowing! Ozark is, at heart, a series about money laundering, in the drug trade. But it's something so much more; it's about family, and betrayal, twists and turns throughout.
TW: torture, drug use.
Available on Netflix.

What are your top TV shows, lately? I'm always looking for new ones!
*This post contains sponsored content.
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The New & Improved University Checklist | What to Take to University

What to Take to University | Free Printable List; a first class honours degree in psychology from the University of Kent
It's that time of year; you've just got into university, and in the rush to say goodbye to all your friends, sort out accommodation, and plan your Freshers' events, you're pretty sure you've forgotten about twelve different things that you're supposed to be packing to take to university with you. Luckily for you, I've been there, done that, and got the foam-encrusted Freshers' t-shirt to show it, and this is my new and improved, freshly updated, 'What to Take to University' checklist!

Everything below is organised into sections, and all the ones I've linked are available for free next day delivery if you want to take advantage of the free Amazon Prime for Students (which I'd 100% recommend because it saved my butt on many occasions).
the word bedroom written in gold
Making your bedroom comfortable and homely is one of the most important parts of the 'big move', so I'd definitely recommend a tonne of fairy lights, photographs, and trinkets, as well as the essentials:

  • Bedding - most universities will require you to bring your own duvet & pillows, as well as a duvet cover and blankets; here is the duvet that lasted me all three years at university, and here are the pillows. Don't forget at least two duvets (you'll be washing your own) - Tesco have some great ones at pretty friendly prices. 
  • Doorstop - a lot of uni halls have heavy doors which shut automatically,  so a lot of people tend to wedge theirs open so housemates know they're home. Because of this, door stops are always sold out in university towns for the first few weeks of term, so stock up on yours before you go! This is a good heavy duty one.
  • First aid kit - this is pretty important, for obvious reasons, but also keep in mind that you will get Freshers' Flu, and you'll need all the cold remedies you can find. This is the first aid kit I have, here, Check out my tips for keeping yourself healthy here.
  • Hangers. Get a bulk pack, you'll need them, but try and get them closer to your halls rather than bringing some from home. They're bulky!
  • Hot water bottle/electric blanket - personally, I feel the cold a lot, and university housing is notorious for having pretty awful heating, so stock up on something to keep you warm. 
  • Laundry bag/basket. I had a couple of these, which would then double-up as storage for moving, too.
  • Noticeboard - some university rooms come with these, but make sure to bring pins - they were sold out everywhere for a good few weeks at the start of term near my campus, nobody had remembered them! 
  • Room spray - you won't be allowed candles on campus, and it can get pretty stuffy. 
  • Wall calendar - although a lot of universities give this out during freshers'. 
  • Waste bin - for those tricky assignments. 
  • White tac - the normal blu tac can stain walls, so white tac, here, will protect your precious deposit!
the word kitchen written in gold
I was in self-catered accommodation when I first went to uni, but if you intend on paying for your meals, you obviously won't need the cooking utensils. 
  • Baking trays - you'll need at least 2, because someone will inevitably steal one/ask you to put some food in for them/throw it out the window. I swear by these silicone ones because they're super durable and easy to store. 
  • Bottle opener - no one else will bring one. Seriously. I'd actually recommend a Wallet Ninja, which has a bottle opener, screwdriver, phone stand, and a bunch of other cool things you won't realise you need. 
  • Dishware - bowls, side plates, dinner plates, glasses and mugs - you probably don't need a full set of four, depending on how often you plan on having your family visit, but I'd recommend about 2 of each, in case you break one!
  • Cutlery - buy a huge set. I started with 16, and ended up coming home with about 5. Something like this is probably a good idea. 
  • Can opener. 
  • Colander. 
  • Flask - for early morning lectures across campus in the freezing cold. Do it. I still have this one from when I was in uni, it lasted me well! 
  • Cake tin - in my experience, having a few treats around to offer people never hurts.
  • Frying pans & saucepans - you don't need to invest too much in these, but a basic variety like these should see you through, especially if you want to try my cheer me up tacos!
  • Pyrex dish - pretty optional, but I used to make a big pasta bake or casserole on a Sunday, then keep some leftovers for evenings I had late lectures. Plus, if you can bake, brownies are a sure fire way to make your new housemates love you!
  • Spatula
  • Tongs
  • Wooden spoon
  • Knives - when it comes to knives, buy a few good quality ones, instead of a cheap knife block you'll never use. They'll fall apart in a hot minute and you'll be left desperately searching your uni shop to see if they stock them. I've had these since university! 
  • Chopping board.
  • Pizza cutter - I went without, and found myself saying 'I wish I had a pizza cutter' at least five times throughout the first term.
  • Tupperware - get a tonne of these, in various sizes. You'll use them more than you'll realise. This set is one of the best options out there.
  • Oven gloves.
  • Tea towels.
  • Food bags & clips.
  • Any dried food you can take with you - in case you don't get to shop on the first day!
the word bathroom written in gold
I managed to nab an en-suite whilst I was at uni, so this is a pretty extensive list; if you're sharing, just be aware that you won't have as much bathroom storage!

  • Towels - two bath & two hand towels, I'd suggest. You might also want old towels for if you bleach/dye your hair. 
  • Cosmetics, skincare, bodycare products - these go without saying, I'm sure, but bare in mind if you're moving to a campus-based university that it won't always be easy to pick up your favourite products. 
  • Razor & blades - do yourself a favour and get these in bulk, you'll thank yourself later!
  • Shampoo & conditioner.
  • Toothbrush & paste.
  • Shower caddy/bag - if you're sharing a bathroom, you'll need something like this to carry your stuff to the shower.
the word studying written in gold
You know, that thing you're technically at university to do? The campus shops will sell out of stationery pretty quickly at the beginning of term, so it's best to take the most vital things with you.
  • Academic diary - you won't be reminded of your deadlines anymore, so you'll need one of these. I swear by the Dodo Acad-Pad.
  • Folders/binders - keeping the 200 lecture slides you're printing out a week safe and in one place as you go is going to save you a lot of stress down the line. 
  • Highlighters - do yourself a favour and get the printer-safe variety
  • Post-its - if I could dedicate my degree life to one specific item, it would be the humble post-it. I love them, and am obsessed with them, and they come in a cat-shaped dispenser.
  • Printer & spare inks - I got an all-in-one printer from Amazon (here), because it worked out cheaper than paying 5p per sheet at the campus library - some lecturers expect you to take lecture slides to make notes on, so it's a worthwhile investment!
  • USB sticks - take a tonne. You'll lose at least three and have nothing to save your essay on. 
  • Superglue - it sounds stupid, but someone will break your stuff/their stuff/fixtures in your apartment and you'll be glad to have it.
the word 'etc.' written in gold
These are just a few extra bits and pieces that might make life as a Fresher in a new city a little easier - not essential, but worth the extra effort!
  • Copies of your CV - if you're wanting a little part time work during your first year, it's so often first come first serve, so getting in there early with your CV could be a good idea!
  • Exam certificates - they'll probably want these for enrollment, so bring 'em along.
  • Housing contract - this'll have info about your rent and any deposit you put down.
  • Passport - a lot of people leave this at home, but you'll probably need it for applications. 

a university checklist pdf
If you'd like to download the printer-friendly version of this checklist, you can do so above - hope it helps, and have a blast! 

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