The Trouble With Secrets


Hi Jo, I have also found that secrets make our journey lonely and isolating. And I think it's true to say that family members keep secrets 'to keep their loved ones safe and secure'. But we don't have to keep secrets. We choose to. As you know, secrets can be small - like not saying we have a headache and we keep on helping when all we want to do is rest - which doesn't do much for our health and wellbeing when we don't. And keeping secrets can also be HUGE with legal or safety implications that are harmful on many levels.

That's why I've come to believe that it's important to 'keep the focus on me' - because otherwise our whole world becomes about the person we love which puts pressure on them as they worry about us or feel our concern. And our worldview gets so skewed with this focus on them that it's an unhealthy way to live.

So keeping the focus on me, I think that keeping secrets can be about how I see myself and how others might see me. When someone we love has a mental health, alcohol or other drug problem and they go off track (stop taking their meds, start taking illicit drugs and become unwell for example) then we can feel like a failure. We might even blame ourselves. It must be because of something we said or did or something we didn't say or do. It must have been because we were not supportive enough or we didn't care enough. It must be to do with us not them - especially because they are suffering in ways we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy. Feeling guilty and blaming ourselves becomes an unhealthy pattern of living for everyone.

But with a calm mind and some distance from the problem it becomes clear that the problem is not what we said or did, or what we didn't say or do. It's actually about how mental illness changes how people think, feel and act. It's about how powerful alcohol or other drugs are and how clever they are at tricking the people we love into into thinking that they are their friends and supports. It's about how medication works and how someone can feel better when they take their meds and they don't want to have a mental illness and so they stop taking their meds and become unwell. So feeling guilty and blaming ourselves is 'faulty thinking'.

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