Keeping anxiety a secret from others can be a huge burden. I know, because I kept my anxiety a secret day after day, year after year for fifteen years.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe.
The secret felt like a lead anchor dragging me down. It was so heavy I could hardly move, both emotionally and physically. I was drowning emotionally.
I thought that if others found out my “secret,” they would believe what I believed about myself… that I was a worthless person who had no place in this world. They would discover that I was faking it. I was really not as intelligent, or nice, or all-together as I appeared. They would discover that I was falling apart on the inside.
Once I decided to share the “secret” of my anxiety with a safe, trusted person, guess what happened?
My anxiety lessened. I started to feel free. It was like a glass prison had been shattered. The anchor I had put around my own neck lightened considerably and I realized that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
There WAS a way to conquer anxiety and gosh darn I was going to take back my life no matter what it took!
It was EMPOWERING.
Anxiety makes you feel like you are alone and not “good enough.” These feelings naturally lead to silence. Breaking the silence is a powerful way to challenge the negative thoughts that perpetuate anxiety.
By breaking the silence with a trusted person, you are saying to yourself that you ARE good enough… you ARE normal…you ARE smart… you ARE capable, and much more.
I am not suggesting that you climb the top of a mountain and announce to the entire world that you experience anxiety. It’s up to you to decide when and with whom you would like to share.
If and when you decide to share, don’t start this conversation when the TV is blaring, the kids are clamoring for dinner, you’re studying for a big exam, or you’re rushing to get ready for work. Choose a quiet, private time so that you have the time and space to speak and the other person has the time and attention to listen.
When you decide to “come out of the closet,” here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Choose a “safe,” trusted person who loves you unconditionally. This person could be a parent, spouse, sibling, a close relative, or a good friend.
Expect that the person may not know how to respond or may not respond the way you’d like, even though they want to help you. It might help if you ask for what you desire up front when you broach the topic, for example:
“I have something important to tell you about what I’m going through right now. I don’t expect you to understand or to “fix” this problem. I just ask you to be here for me and keep that unconditional love coming my way as I work through the recovery process. Some ‘I love you’s’ and hugs would be great!”
Some people find it easier to tell a more emotionally detached third party rather than a loved one, and that’s OK too. You might choose a psychologist, minister, or counselor with whom to share.
If you don’t know of anyone with whom to share, do an Internet search for an online anxiety support group and break your silence there. Another alternative is to record yourself talking about your anxiety. Then play the recording back and listen compassionately, acting as your own safe person.
Breaking the silence about your anxiety with a safe person can be an empowering step in the recovery process!