Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
Recently on America’s Got Talent, a young magician tried to convince us he could turn invisible. His costume, which was painted to look like bricks, was an epic fail even as he stood in front of a brick wall. Turns out he was joking, and only attempting to divert our attention. His invisibility trick fooled no one, although one might say we could see right through him!
Today I interviewed a man who believes he successfully hid his alcohol and crack cocaine use from his family and friends. This may be true because addicts are good pretenders. However, we all are great at acting and putting on a quite a show!
Who hasn’t put on a happy face and kept dark secrets tucked away? Each of us has a front. We make our first impressions usually by being the most acceptable we can be in the moment, then spend the rest of our time trying to keep up the standard we portrayed. While we can overuse the concept of tact and propriety, there is the opposite extreme of blurting every little thing that pops in one’s head. The middle ground is where honesty and humility meet.
Secrets tie us back. We find ourselves unable to move from the past, from behind the mask, and from lies that prevent peace of mind. “We are only as sick as out secrets,” is a line heard sometimes in therapeutic circles. We walk among crowds feeling alone. In our homes we think we are invisible. In relationships we are dissatisfied. We feel emotionally unsafe.
Our secrets make us lonely. We believe, “No one really knows me. If they did, they wouldn’t accept me.” Sometimes we become manipulators (without knowing it), striving for proof that we matter. We turn to work, food, drinking, pornography, self-righteousness, television, drugs, and other escapes to forget the past and to deny our desperation.
We think we are the only one. Wrong.
These issues are common. We are looking so intently at our pain we miss the fact that nearly everyone is experiencing the same invisibility and disappointment! It is not a world where everyone is happy but one. If I had a dollar for every time someone says to me, “You seem to be doing great…” based on what they see on Facebook, I’d have a fast-growing savings account. We compare everyone’s outsides with the secrets and pain we feel on the inside. It’s an unfair comparison. You know why?
That is because secrets make us feel invisible. If we are holding back our true selves, why do we so easily assume other people are being open? Generally speaking, people stay locked up behind the “I’m fine” facade.
We have choices. Here are a few of them:
- To get professional help
- To work at slowly developing safe friendships
- To find like-minded people in support groups
- To open-up with wisdom, carefully choosing someone you know will not judge. (Therapists can be a good option here.)
An amazing thing happens when we start to reveal our fears and secrets. People who struggle in the same way find us. One of the first lines you will hear is, “Me too.”
Invisibility will vanish, and you will see you have never been alone.
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
*picture from Kozzi.com