Our Family Secret…Break the Shame of Mental Illness

With all the discussion this month on mental health, I couldn’t help but reflect on the importance of this issue. I have to start off by expressing gratitude for the fact that we are finally talking about this topic and beginning to remove the veil of shame that still keeps too many individuals in the hopelessness and despair of mental illness.  We still have a long way to go, but I am thankful that there seems to be a global commitment to finally bringing light into a very dark and scary place.

The reality that we are finally facing is that we are all affected in some way, shape, or form by mental illness.  Every single one of us, myself included, have either experienced some form of depression or anxiety or know someone who has struggled in the grips of mental anguish. Whether through personal experience, or through the experience of a loved one, it is an awful place to be.  As I write that last thought, I realize what an understatement that is. Words fall short in describing the pain of mental illness.

If you are currently experiencing the pain of depression or anxiety, I urge you to seek support.  There is absolutely no shame in admitting your struggle, and in fact, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to do so.  Consult with a family doctor, a therapist, or a trusted friend or family member.  Admitting you need help and reaching out for support are the first steps to healing and breaking the cycle of secrecy and shame.

Here are some ideas on how you might be able to break free from the Family Secret we all share:

1.  Write down the names of all the people in your life that you trust.  Go through them one by one and ask yourself “Who can I begin to share my struggle with and feel safe in sharing?”

2.  Write down how much you want to share with them.  Remember, when you are disclosing something that you may have held as a secret for many months or even many years, it’s okay to choose how much you would like to share, with whom, and at which pace.  You are in control of the sharing process.  The most important thing is that you are seeking help and not going at this alone.

3.  Connect with this person.  Let them know you would like to talk with them about something important.  Let them know that it may be difficult for you to have this conversation with them and that you are in need of their supportive ear.

4.  Choose a place to connect that feels safe and where you have adequate privacy.  Share as much of your story as you feel comfortable.  If you need additional support from your friend, ask them if they can provide you with some. Remember that this person is not your therapist and will be limited in the amount of support they can provide.  You have now begun the process of disarming the power that secrets hold.

5.  Seek professional support.  Consult with your family doctor or a therapist about additional resources, interventions and ideas on how to manage your particular experience.  You are a unique individual and your experience deserves unique attention.

Today is a great day to move towards mental wellness!

Leave a Comment