To Those Who Choose Not to Openly Share Their Mental Health Struggles
Due to the silence, shame and secrecy that has commonly surrounded mental illness for centuries, a new movement is emerging, focused on publicly sharing our struggles, which is both helpful and good. I fully support bringing these struggles into the light and removing the shame and stigma attached to them. It is an important step in creating awareness that a large percentage of people struggle with mental illness, but these people are still strong, worthy and good.
It can validate us and help us heal when we read someone’s story. We also might feel, perhaps, that notion of “me too” or that we’re not alone — we have hope. Someone’s personal story may be the thing that leads us to finally seek help. In some cases, someone’s story may save a life.
People are strong and courageous when they share their stories. It takes a special sort of vulnerability. It can leave us drained and mentally exhausted. I’ve written things that I’ve wanted to take back. I’ve shared and then I’ve panicked and thought “no, I don’t want anyone to know this.” I’ve written things that have scraped my insides bare, that I’ve needed to recover from.
I write and share many things.
But not everything.
And I am not weak for choosing to hold back and maintain a certain privacy as well. Not everyone wants to share their mental health struggles, yet that doesn’t make their struggles less real and they are not less brave.
I sometimes feel as though someone should say that those who don’t want to share the personal details of their mental illness or struggles are also brave and strong. Sharing does not make a person stronger and not sharing does not make a person weaker. Sharing isn’t a measure of a person’s strength or courage.
We could share everything or we could share nothing and our experiences are still valid.
We have permission and the right to care for ourselves and our stories however we see fit.
I am genuinely thankful for the people who bravely share their experiences; but I want to reach out to those reading who think, “I will never tell a soul my story,” or “this is too hard for me to share,” or “it would hurt me if everyone knew,” and say that even if no one ever really knows your full story, you are also brave and strong. It’s sometimes just enough that you know this.
You are no less brave for choosing to keep your story close to your own heart. Please know this.