I was in my therapist’s office, silently biting my lip, fidgeting my feet and terror in my eyes. My therapist has hit a raw nerve, a wound that wasn’t fully healed yet. Something I have shut down and did not allow myself to feel.
As soon as the secret compartment in my heart was knocked on, I was on high alert. My fears were rising. To me, my emotions were secret. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Slowly, my emotions were eating away at my inner linings, making me feel so much more insane. The more I fed my fears and secrets, the more they thrived… creating a monster so big and all the while making me so sick.
My therapist kindly and slowly probed, trying to figure out what has set me off; why I’ve shut down and refused to talk. When I told him that I am afraid of my secrets being out in the open, of being shamed and rejected, he said this, “We are as sick as our secrets.”
That statement was the most powerful statement of my life in the past three years. I have learned that when I lock up my fears, emotions and depressive or manic episodes, I am allowing myself to be defined by my disorders. And I don’t have to be defined by it. I am so much better and so much stronger than my conditions. But when it’s a secret and I carry it alone I am as sick as my secrets.
Yes, my fear of rejection is very big. And when I share what I am going through with you, I am afraid that you will shut me out, knock me down or make fun of me. But the risk of me keeping it inside and allowing it to take up space in my heart is far greater. So, I have taught myself to become vulnerable and open up and share my secrets. Because only together can we destroy them. Only together can we learn to fight the demons and together we can reduce and eliminate the shame and fear that comes with exposing our secrets. And when I let you in on one, I know I will never be as sick as any secret, disorder or mental condition.
Keeping those dark secrets also saps our energy from us. When all the energy is needed to fight the mental illness, depression and anxiety, we can not afford to have our little amount of energy going into keeping a secret. When there is no benefit to it, only self harm.
If you are a friend I open up to, accept and respect my vulnerability. I have chosen to be stronger than the devil in me. Validate that. No matter how you feel about it. You don’t have to give advice or share your opinion. All I expect is just for you to validate the fact that I have shared something that has been eating away at me. Acknowledge my strength. After you have done that, you can ask me what I expect. I am open and honest. Ask me whether I just wanted to share or if I want advice. Ask me if I want help and if so how you can be of help. If I tell you that I need help and it’s something you can’t do, please tell me. I appreciate your listening and honesty and I’ll know that I can always come back even just to talk.
And to all of you carrying heavy baggage in your heart. It’s time to rise up and be stronger than your sickness. It’s time to grow and to stop leading a life defined by our secrets. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Open up to a good friend. Share your fears. Talk to your therapist. Because you know what? We are as sick as our secrets.