How I Realized the Beauty of Confiding in Others About My Mental Illness
Some of the best connections I have made in the past few months have been after confiding in people about my mental illness struggles. There is something so pure about vulnerability, and I am ashamed that I tried so hard for so many years to rise above my vulnerable side and only show strength. I am ashamed that for so long, I was too afraid of judgment to talk about my mental wellness with others. I have realized now that talking about your struggles is one of the main contributors in the healing process. The ability to discuss your thoughts, feelings, fears and struggles with people allows them to not only see all sides of you but gives them the confidence to confide in you as well.
I have spent so much of my teenage and adult life trying to put on a front that I was fine. I was too embarrassed to talk about the medication I was on, or the struggles I was having in therapy. I was embarrassed to admit that I had problems and figured no one would understand. What I have realized recently is that there are so many people who have their own struggles, they just need to feel safe enough to talk about them in order to do so. Since I have realized that admitting to and owning my mental illness struggles is normal, I have also realized that my willingness to talk about it will encourage others to talk about their struggles too.
Most of the people close to me have been close to me for years. I am quite good at making new friends; however, the majority of friendships I have are surface-level. This is because I have never been confident enough to let them get deeper than that. In the past, every time mental illness would get brought up in conversation, I would simply say, “yeah, I have experienced some mental health stuff.” I have learned that it is OK to say, “yeah, I have actually struggled with major depressive disorder, anxiety, specific phobia and obsessive tendencies for as long as I can remember.” Even writing those words in this essay feels liberating — like I am finally coming to terms with having to face these struggles in my day-to-day life and they are nothing to be ashamed of.
This realization hasn’t come easy — I remember having a kind of “ah-ha” moment last year when I was going through a depressive episode. I was on the phone with one of my coworkers in a different town, and I was really struggling with finding the words to explain to her what I was feeling. I didn’t want to bombard her with all of my “issues,” but I also wanted to be honest with her. I knew that she could be trusted, so what was holding me back? I realize now that it was my pride holding me back. I was ashamed that I had to face those things and even more ashamed that I had let it seep into my work life. I remember her outright saying, “look girl, we’ve all got shit going on. Tell me what you’re thinking, and we can just have a chat about it. No big deal.” So, I did. I finally opened up to an individual who wasn’t a therapist or doctor in what seemed like forever. I finally had an informal conversation about what I was feeling, how I was struggling, and how I felt like I could (and wanted to) lean on her for support.
Since that day, since I realized it doesn’t have to be a big deal every time it gets talked about, I have had similar conversations with multiple people — all of which end in an “I’m here for you,” “And I’m here for you” moment — often which have led to the blossoming of beautiful friendships.
I realized that whether the people we confide in have the same struggles as we do, there is a beauty in the bond that can be created when allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. There is a beauty in being open and honest with people, but more importantly, there is a beauty in being open and honest with yourself.
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