Why Sharing My Story Helps Me Fight Isolation

By Alison TedfordAugust 1, 2016

“I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are!”

These powerful words form part of Mary Lambert’s “Secrets.” I listened to the song with my seven-year-old son in the car, and he piped up from the backseat, “If everyone knows what her secrets are, they aren’t really secrets, are they?” I told him that’s the point. I understand where Mary is coming from as an artist because it’s where I’m coming from as a writer too. I have written openly about my struggles with eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. I have done so deliberately, for a number of reasons.

Sharing my story helps me fight isolation. I don’t want anyone to feel alone – I certainly don’t want to feel alone in my struggles – so writing is my way of using the buddy system. Because there can be an incredible amount of shame and embarrassment when dealing with mental illness, it’s often easier to open up if you see someone else share their story. When I write, it’s me going first. I go first so someone can print out what I wrote and save it when they need encouragement. I go first so someone can forward it and ask someone, “Hey, I’m having a hard time with this too. Can you help me?” Hearing someone else open up about a similar struggle is also reaffirming. It helps validate your own experiences. It reminds you that you’re struggling with a real illness and that other people have it too. It reminds you that there is treatment available and that hope is real.

Sometimes everything isn’t fine, and that comes through in what I write too. I can’t face the world with a smile as fake as cheese in a can. That’s just not who I am. I am no preservatives, unfiltered, unapologetic, and real. I want people to trust me, and that involves telling the truth about where I’ve been and where I am. I don’t want to contribute to a culture that only shows the highlight reel. Why? People will have a hard time relating to me if they think I’m perfect. I’m not offering anyone my true self in concealing my difficulties. We learn from the things we struggle against; we learn about each other and ourselves. Hiding the darkness that comes before the light is like being a travel writer who only talks about the destination. We all know the substance and the real work happened in the journey.

Being open about the things I have trouble with can give hope to people who are experiencing similar adversity. My greatest success as a writer has been in writing about the things I’m passionate about, one of which is recovery. You can develop an eating disorder, have panic attacks, suffer from depression, and still find help. I’m proof that you can do all that and hold down a job, raise a baby, get an education, and help other people. There is life – abundant, exuberant life – after darkness. Writing about what I’ve experienced can help prove that to be true.

Given the stigma surrounding mental health issues, it can feel impossible to share part of your story. In keeping my secret struggles or triumphs hidden, I feel like I would be endorsing the view that mental illness is something to be ashamed of, and it’s just not. I’m sharing part of my story in a healthy way because I refuse to keep it in the dark.

So no, I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are.

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Comments (9)

  1. JESS D.

    Thank you-I decided to share my secrets a few days ago again. I had hidden in my house for a year and a half. I got tired of ALWAYS OPENING UP and telling my SECRET FIRST and it seemed like it didn’t matter or help anyone. Now, I’ll just be me. I’m not responsible for them.

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  2. Tinamarie

    Thank you! I really need the inspiration and this gave me hope in this dark day.

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  3. Michelle Turner

    Thank you. I have never suffered from mental health issues and for that I am grateful. I always say that I am too selfish and that may be the case. I have, however, seen my big, strong, brother and my kind and caring mum suffer from depression. They suffer purely because of chemistry, serotonin levels in the brain that aren’t working properly, according to doctors. Stories like yours and the akf campaign, help me to understand how to help them, and maybe prevent me from following the same route. So again, thank you for your article, you should never feel ashamed of your secrets, and together we will share our secrets and rid the shame of mental illness.

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  4. Diane Kenley

    I really need to do this, share my story, finally write it down.

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  5. Anonymous

    So true

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  6. rhiannon

    I love this. I think it surprises a lot of people that I’m willing to write fairly openly about OCD and anxiety (among other things). But honestly, keeping it in was way worse.

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  7. Bellla

    Hear hear. Every one of those reasons are why I share too.
    Proud of you! And proud of your son for your car chat
    Thanks for this
    God bless

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  8. Gabi

    I really want to share with other people what I am feeling, but i just can´t trust them… where I live, no so many people know about depression o anxiety, I have tried to tell them, but they just will say “You will be fine… you are just stressed” or “You are crazy, you are not sad” so thats when i stop and keep it all to my self. I know that starving o harming my self won´t do any good, but i just feel like falling to an empty hole, I feel alone.

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    1. Lucas Bertolin Bortolus

      Hi Gabi, my name is.Lucas, i dont know if your coment is recent or not, but i have to say, i ve losted someone very close to me two years ago, and i never told anyone about my girl, and that thing trashed me by inside, i was in a shitty roon with trash and i didnt care, i was litteraly killing my self, but i saw this site about an year ago and that thing about the secrets is true, when you talk with somebody, is like that turture stop. Please talk to somebody and help yourself even me or anyon, just talk.(and sorry for my bad english I’m Brazilian)

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