Community Contributions: Keeping Secrets

Forum member Alan Smithee asked a series of questions regarding what we share and what we keep secret due to mental illness. She asked:

Do you keep secrets from your partner because of your mental illness (MI)? Do you keep secrets from your best friends because of your MI? Do you only share some things with other MI people and not non-MI people?

I’d like to pull two specific threads out of these questions: The first is the basic question of keeping secrets. This is not a matter of whether we keep anything to or for ourselves, but whether we keep secrets specifically because of our mental health. The second thread is the issue of degree — degrees of closeness, degrees of relatability — which, in short, asks whether certain people or certain relationships warrant more honesty.

Lastly, I’d like to add one more layer to Alan’s questions: Do you lie? Beyond simply keeping some things private, beyond issues of omission, do you lie to keep your secrets?

  1. said:

    This is remarkably tricky for me to answer, but I’m grateful for the emotional minefield Alan has submitted for discussion.

    I could give a short version and simply say “yes” to All of the Above. The truth is that at different times in my life I’ve done more and less secret keeping and lying. Today, I’m working really hard at reducing that sort of thing. I’m still very much a Closeted Crazypants in professional circles, but I am trying to be more open and forthcoming with friends and family — MI and nonMI alike. I try to imagine that, like all friendships and relationships, with more time and more trust and more experience with another person comes more comfort in sharing.

    Further, I am finding that in the past (and sometimes present) there were symptoms and behaviors that I was (am) extremely embarrassed and ashamed to admit out loud. Those are, of course, the hardest to share…but what I am learning is that coming clean about those can be an effective tool for curbing those behaviors and keeping those symptoms in check. By not keeping secrets, I hold myself accountable to my support system AND there are others with new knowledge and compassion to sometimes see in me what I can’t acknowledge. But, yes, being that open is a wildly new thing for me, and it takes practice and more trust than I ever thought I could give.

    On the question of degrees of separation/closeness: that requisite trust is something that must be earned. I am forcing myself to be better at sharing, but let’s not get willy nilly about those with whom we share.

  2. Alan Smithee said:

    I swear I am responding soon. I am thinking a lot about my own question, trying to answer it and wanting a free time to thoroughly give my thoughts. I will do that soon! Thank you BE for reactivating this amazing site.

  3. I keep a lot of secrets. But there are certain places where I tell the truth, like on my blog, or when I am doing public speaking about MI. I have a few friends I confide in about some things, but not really any who I can confide in about everything. I have a lot more people in my life who are not close enough to allow in, and I don’t trust them enough to even let them know much about me at all. I do tell lies. I think sometimes the act of not telling the truth is lying. I pretend to be feeling better than I real am, to be capable of doing so much more than I really can, to be happier than I know how to feel, and to have less obstacles in my way than I really do. In this way, I have to say I am very much a liar. But isn’t everyone?

  4. Meredith said:

    I lied the other day by not telling my wife I was meeting a friend on our camping trip. When I have a strong connection with someone who I connect with either through my blog or because he/she is bipolar, I do it on the sly. I feel guilty that I have to turn to others to get some needs met and that I would rather walk on the beach with one of them than sit at campsite with my wife and 2 friends I don’t really like. To me, it made sense that she had her friends and I had mine for an hour or so. But I also knew it was wrong not to tell her. By hiding it, I was making it taboo or saying something was wrong with it. This has happened more than once and I hope I can deal with it better each next time.

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