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The Different Reactions I Get When I Tell People About My Mental Health

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I have anxiety and depression. I can openly admit it to myself, but it’s sad that I feel scared telling other people about it. I don’t usually come out with it straight away. I have to be willing and ready, but I do often feel the need to tell people I’m close to — just so that they are aware I have a mental illness and are prepared if I suddenly lock myself away, or get lost in the middle of a conversation.

I tend not to tell people I’ve only just met, but opening up to friends and family can be hard. You never know what reaction you’re going to get. The few people I have opened up to have given a mix of responses. My parents showed concern and worry, which stressed me out. Some people might jump to conclusions and follow the stereotypical stigmas and myths we try so hard to break. Others have replied with, “Oh, wow! Me, too!” But the best response I’ve ever had is part of why I love my friends so much: “Ah well, let’s go to the pub!”

How do you handle people who just don’t understand? If I’m honest, I don’t know. It has happened to me a couple of times. I’ve been asked how it feels: “What is it like? Can’t you just get over it?” My response is, “I can’t explain it,” partly because I can’t, but mostly because I’m afraid to say it out loud.

If I spoke out with the parts that I could explain — how horrifically scared I get when it’s triggered, the excruciating loneliness even though I’m not alone, how it makes me want to go hide in the bathroom and hurt myself, how I fantasize about suicide — I’m scared of the way they would react.

You don’t have to tell people; do what you’re comfortable with. It’s a completely personal decision. It can be helpful to tell people about your mental health for many reasons. If you’re afraid, take your time, and assess the situation first.

Be prepared for people to be dismissive; some people won’t understand. When you tell the right people, it can be a huge weight lifted from your shoulders, and it can be quite comforting to know you have someone you can turn to.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: December 9, 2016
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