We’re only as sick as our secrets

I heard this a lot when I was in the hospital. The therapists there taught us that sharing the things we had hidden in the deepest recesses of our hearts could help us heal. I was super skeptical at first, but as I opened up and talked about the things in my past that had been buried away, I actually started to feel…different. I felt emotions again. Well…*one* emotion. And it sucked. I hated how sad I felt, and it was a crushing sadness. I had no idea how long it would last, but if that was what happened when you opened up to try and let the inner hurt out, well…I figured I could live without it, especially if it was going to leave me a crying mess all the time. And we were pushed to our limits to feel and acknowledge our emotions, and to open up, and to discuss things. I was no small source of frustration to one of the therapists because I simply couldn’t open up and talk about things. She would push and push and try to make me feel, but I couldn’t do it. Not in front of a group of people. If I was going to lose control, I’d do it in private, thank you very much.

As much as it sucked, it was incredibly therapeutic and I discovered that I had to be pushed into emotional turmoil if I were ever going to make any progress on ‘fixing’ me. And once I told the therapists, they did all they could to help keep me working hard on issues that were incredibly difficult to work through…because I was in a safe place, and if it triggered too much, I would be okay. I begged my outpatient therapist to push me just as hard, but she won’t for liability reasons. She said she is willing to push me, but not like they did because she has to make sure I’m safe when I leave her office, whereas I wasn’t going anywhere in the hospital and I could be pushed harder.

But here I am, nearly a month later, and the intensity of the sadness faded, and other emotions have been felt as well. I’ve felt excitement at going out with girlfriends for lunch, I’ve felt happiness at being with my husband, joy at watching my youngest learn to walk…there are still times when I feel sad, but it’s not that deep dark sadness that I felt at first.

Letting out your secrets is a hard and painful thing to do. My therapist has me doing a lot of writing for her, and she also has me working out of a DBT workbook for bipolar patients. The last writing assignment she gave me was harder than I’d expected it to be. She wanted me to write a letter to my schemas, (for those of you who don’t know, a schema is basically  belief that you have about the world that is severely skewed in a negative light, which affects your thoughts and actions; it’s also called a life-trap) and explain how they made me felt. I know my top 6, and I wrote to all of them. It was a painful process.

My main schemas include mistrust/abuse, social isolation, defectiveness/shame, self-sacrifice, unrelenting standards, and insufficient self control. I won’t go into what those all mean here, because I don’t see any point to it. I don’t like that I have these life traps which affect my thought processes and perceptions about the world. I’m especially frustrated that I don’t know how to fix them myself and that I have to rely on my therapist to help me work through them.

I want to be able to do it on my own because that’s just who I am. I help other people with their problems, and I handle my own stuff myself. If I can’t fix myself, then that must mean it was meant to stay broken. This is the attitude I had for the longest time, but it’s recently began to change to where I can accept that if I’ve tried and tried to fix it, then maybe it’s okay after all to ask for help. I just hate asking for help when I don’t know what help I need.

So are we really only as sick as our secrets? I was a disbeliever at first, but now that I’ve started sharing my some of my ‘secrets’ with people I trust…(like my husband, my therapist, my church leader), I’ve noticed a difference. Some have been eye-opening in your face changes in me, and others have been more subtle. I think I can agree that we’re only as sick as what we’re hiding on the inside, and getting it out into the open…to be laid bare for all to see, can be one of the best healing steps of all.