The Weight of a Secret | Coping with Depression and Anxiety

Secret keeping is such a common occurrence that we rarely think of it as a sickness. While we don’t want to over-pathologize normal human behaviors, it’s important to recognize what’s happening when we hold onto a secret. Secret-keeping keeps us in the vicious cycle of self-depreciation and can isolate us from others. It can make us feel so alone, we can barely see a way out. It can hold us down in the throes of addiction, or unhealthy eating patterns, or continued dysfunction in our relationships.

I often find myself reminding my clients that secrets keep you sick. The pattern of secret keeping frequently comes from a place of shame, of thoughts that others won’t like you, will be angry with you, or will otherwise respond to you in a negative way. Isn’t that the reason little kids lie? Not because they are malicious and conniving, but because they are trying to avoid the adult finding out. Adults, in the same way, carry around secrets motivated by fear. Fear that if others discover this ‘thing’ about you, they will not love you, will not like you, or will not want you. This shame will eat you alive.

Part of personal growth and healing stems from a place of putting your struggles into words and allowing others to stand as witnesses to your truth. This is a challenge for most people, but the relief that can come from just saying the words out loud is immeasurable. The weight of those words, held inside as a secret, can weigh down our hearts and our heads, so as to make being productive and managing the stress that life throws at us on a daily basis near impossible. Secrets make us sick because they hold us hostage in the darkness, in the muddiness of the “yuck.”

The stigma of mental health is perpetuated by secrets; because people don’t always openly talk about their struggle with depression or anxiety. Instead, we pretend it’s not there. We pretend we don’t walk around in perpetual pain from the loneliness, the loss, or the fear. We pretend we are not struggling to balance all of life’s responsibilities and maintain our relationships in a healthy way. Stop pretending and break the silence. Finding a friend, loved one, or counselor to talk to will feel relieving. Let someone help you carry the burden until it’s no longer there.

Written by Lauren Robbins, MS, LPC, LADC