The Issue of Secrets

In my most recent Balance Roundup, I included a link to the Tumblr blog, My Diabetes Secret.  I had the privilege of being able to chat with the founder of My Diabetes Secret, Christopher Snider.  Chris is the host of the Just Talking podcast, and he blogs at A Consequence of Hypoglycemia.  (If you want to hear what Chris and I talked about, you can listen to the November 19th episode of Just Talking.)

I’ve been following the posts on My Diabetes Secret, and also following some of the responses to the blog, as addressed in this post by Chris. And what has struck me, even though the Tumblr is specific to diabetes, is how universal the pain of our secrets can be.  I keep seeing themes in the My Diabetes Secret blog of shame, isolation, loneliness, weariness, and sadness.  These are the themes that I hear when secrets addressed in my office, too.

And the response of folks who don’t want to talk about secrets–who feel like a blog like My Diabetes Secret is a place for “whining” or “airing dirty laundry”–I hear those responses in my office too.  We have an odd relationship with secrets. With the exception of the secret that you keep about a surprise party or a special gift, secrets are a tool for controlling things that feel uncomfortable or difficult.  That may be done internally, within a family, within a medical relationship, within a support community, you name it.

Secrets perpetuate our fears that there is something within ourselves that is deeply broken.
Our fear that something about us is unworthy of care and compassion.  Something that needs to be hidden if we are to have any chance of being accepted in the world.

I understand the concern that is raised that a space like My Diabetes Secret, or the well-established PostSecret, might appear to be an inadequate way to address serious secrets.  A non-judgmental space like this also means that “trivial” secrets are mixed in with intense and painful secrets.  However, I think that a space like this can create an important first step in dealing with secrets.

If you have been holding a painful secret–one that feels as though it says a lot about who you are as a person–for months or years, a space like My Diabetes Secret might be a huge relief, a place to begin.  Acknowledging your secret in an anonymous forum is a way to test out your ownership of that secret. It’s a way to practice sharing the secret in a safe way, without the risk of rejection or additional shaming that you might face in a more public setting.

And I agree that if you are holding a painful secret you may need more help and support than an anonymous forum can provide.  In fact I hope that you are getting more support than simply that anonymous forum.  I love the fact that My Diabetes Secret includes links to more in-depth support.

At the end of the day, secrets tend to be more harmful than helpful. They contribute to our self-doubt, to our struggle to feel “good enough” in the world.  And I hope that, if you are holding a painful secret of your own, that you begin to look for safe space to share it.  That safe space may be with me or another mental health professional. It may be with a trusted friend or mentor. It may be in a support community.  Or, your first step may be a space like My Diabetes Secret.  Whatever it is, I hope that you take it.

Need help? Let me know.

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