I’m pretty sure that telling your loved ones a deep dark secret about your mental health is one of the scariest and most vulnerable things you can do. Kind of like giving a speech in front of a thousand people in your underwear.
and one of the worst parts about struggling with mental illness in secret, is that we isolate ourselves because we’re ashamed. We feel like we’re the only ones going through that particular pain, or that no one else could possibly understand, or that we just need to toughen up and get over it.
We create the reaction in our own heads that we’re afraid of getting from others, and so of COURSE it’s so terrifying to think about telling another human being, let alone someone we love - we’ve already practiced, over and over, all the hurtful things that they could say to us because we tell ourselves that every day. No one is better at hating us than we are.
But, as my personal hero Brené Brown so famously said, “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment. The less you talk about it, the more you got it.” Which is why I suggest to people, when they’re getting ready to tell a trusted loved one about their eating disorder / depression / mental illness / etc, the most important thing is that you’re TALKING about it. It doesn’t matter HOW you do it, as long as you get the conversation started.
One of the most effective ways I’ve found to get the conversation started is to WRITE A LETTER. Not only does it create a comfortable and safe buffer between you and that person (and between you and your feelings), but it also gives you a runway to sit down and really think about how you want to express yourself. It allows you to see, on paper, the things you’ve been through. It gives you a perspective that, perhaps, all the things you thought were just “something you need to get over” are actually things deserving of help. That YOU are deserving of help.
When you’re done with your letter, you can do a number of things:
I promise: even just the simple act of writing the letter - even if you don't do anything with it! - can help bring you to a new mindset about your recovery / journey with mental illness.
Something to note: even though we fight every single day to end the stigma of mental illness, that doesn’t mean it’s not still something the other people in our lives feel on a daily basis. There is still a lot of misinformation and prejudice — and often the people we love, and those who we want to be understanding and supportive, aren’t. That is not your fault. You cannot control the circumstances in their lives that have made them feel the way they do about things. But you CAN control taking charge of your recovery. You can control who you let into your lives. If this experience shows you someone’s true colors? Trust that.
You are worthy of recovery, and you are worthy of people who believe that, too.