Someone gave me that little line of advice once, when I was in a bad spot and unsure of what to do next. I had been struggling significantly, but I didn’t want to tell my loved ones about what I was going through. I hate making others worry about me. If I can handle a problem on my own I will- why would I want to burden anyone I care about with my own personal issues if I don’t need to?
But this person brought up a great point. Mental illness and bad behaviors thrive in the dark. It is so much easier for one person to be overcome when they stand and fight alone. Sharing our stories is vital to our success; secrets are the breeding grounds for shame, fear, and unhealthy coping.
It’s not always easy to share your secrets with other people. Even if you aren’t afraid of that person judging you, you still don’t know if they will understand, or if they can, or even want, to help. It’s hard to know who will be a good listener, who will be an ally, and who will prove to be a waste of your trust.
Once you have found even one good person to turn to, don’t keep them in the dark any more than is necessary. While it is by no means crucial, or even healthy, to pour out every thought and feeling to your loved ones, it’s toxic to leave them unspoken and festering when they really are important.
If you’re finding things a little too hard to deal with- if stress is eating away at you, if you’re having harmful thoughts, or if you know you’re partaking in self-destructive behavior- then it’s time to share with someone you trust. If you don’t know who to go to with your problems, even just sharing anonymously on the internet can lift at least some of the weight off your shoulders. It’s a very difficult thing to bring yourself to do, but once it’s done, the relief is incomparable.
I’ve seen what my illness does when I keep it hidden, and I’ve seen it shrivel in the light. I know that letting others worry about me is sometimes best, when I can’t handle all the worrying on my own. Even when they don’t know what to do any more than you do, other people can make you feel like you’re not in it entirely alone. Support gives you a fighting chance. And when you are brave enough to let your private battles become known, your shame has nowhere to go. It’s very hard to harbor shame when other people have heard and accepted you for who you are.
My plea to anyone who reads this today is to reach out. That’s it. Even if that’s only thing you can do today, just let someone know you are hurting. Help is unlikely to come if you never call for aid. Even if you don’t really need help, just having someone else in the world know what you are going through can ease so much of the burden.
The truth shall set you free.