I want you to think about something: what would you reveal if you had the opportunity to say anything? We all have secrets that we haven’t shared for a variety of reasons. I am an incredibly open person. I’ve worked my entire life to be this way. Still I have a rich internal world that I’m hesitant to share with anyone. I obsess about how other people will react or how they will treat me differently. We keep things a secret because we don’t want to be judged, and that is normal. However, it’s also perfectly natural to have a desire to share your feelings even if you may be hesitant to do so.
When I was a teenager, I felt a lot of self-induced shame due to the stigma of mental illness. I have become braver and saying the things that I need to say. Founding Stigma Fighters with Allie Burke, Sarah Comerford and Courtney Keesee has made me a stronger person. I am braver because of these wonderful human beings.
In 2014 I came out of the closet and told the world that I had panic disorder on The Huffington Post. It was terrifying at the same time. I recognize that each person has a different perceptive on mental illness. It’s challenging to reveal that you have mental health issues. Some people may be worried about their loved ones judging them. Perhaps they won’t get it, or lack the ability to respond with empathy.
This is why we accept anonymous submissions submissions to Stigma Fighters. It’s important to share your feelings rather than hide in the shadows. The fact that people don’t feel that they can share their feelings about living with mental illness is a testament to how pervasive stigma is. We as a society need to fight these preconceived notions and work up the courage to speak our truths. Mental illness isn’t WHO you are, it is what you manage.
If you don’t feel safe revealing your identity, but you still want to share your story, you are welcome to remain anonymous for now. It might take you a while to have the courage share your story, and say that you live with mental illness. We support you in whatever way you feel comfortable sharing.
Anonymity is a tool that can empower you if you use it wisely. You may feel freed after writing what you’ve experienced. Do the best that you can in this moment. We are listening and we care.