Neuroscientists believe that keeping secrets isn’t healthy for us because part of our brain simulates the potential of disastrous outcomes as a result of sharing our secrets and as such, our body can ramp up production of stress hormones.
For some of us, we don’t just ramp up the production of stress hormones, we experience the equivalent of a stress supernova when our energy implodes internally, and we explode on the outside where everybody can see…
If you suffer from Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a body dysmorphic disorder, ADHD and have vivid memories of being an alcoholic, workaholic, sex addict or drug addict at different points in your life, is it something you want your friends and family to know? It can’t possibly be something you’re comfortable with your superiors and coworkers knowing about.
I don’t tell many people I have Bipolar Disorder. Not because I’m ashamed – I don’t really care what people think. But I am intelligent enough to know that I share the world with others, and how they feel about me ultimately affects how they’ll treat me. I may be immune to their thoughts but I am not immune to their feelings.
I believe that most people who hear the word depression think of 10 things that’ll potentially alleviate the symptoms without acknowledging the possibility (or certainty) that there are neurological factors involved which are unique and particular to that person. Yet, no one in their right mind would say, “Oh, you have Alzheimer’s? Don’t worry. Use this and it’ll help you so that you don’t forget.” Or, “Do this and it’ll help you remember.” Or, “Your life is so amazing, how can you possibly ‘forget’ all of the time?”
We all forget things. Yet we would never feel prompted to tell someone with Alzheimer’s to just stay positive and your memory will be fine or look down on them for forgetting.
The issue with telling someone about your disorder or addiction is that most people don’t understand, unless you’re talking to the small percentage the population that has it, or the even smaller percentage of people who are familiar with psychology or neuroscience.
So, for me, telling someone I have bipolar might be as ineffective as saying that I’m from some tiny, remote country that no one has ever heard of. Most people don’t really know what bipolar means, but the tidbits of information they associate with the word bipolar, such as “highs and lows” and unstable moods, would have them nodding along as if they know EXACTLY what you mean.
I know a lot of ignorant people, who years ago felt uncomfortable when confronted with the fact that a co-worker had ‘come out of the closet.’ They didn’t understand it and to some degree felt threatened by it. Imagine being relatively good at your job; maybe you’ve made and saved more money for your company than anyone else in that position. Then they find out you have a mood disorder or addiction, and though you do a good job, they want you to quit. Not get help, but quit the job which you were elected and hired to do.
Having an addiction or a mental illness does not necessarily mean that you can’t do your job well, but people might be uncomfortable with the fact that maybe you need medication, or that when you get home after a long day on the job, you might be self-medicating to cope with the reality of how you feel. You may not get support from people who believe your issues and their association to you make them look bad, or by their estimates, compromise your ability to do your job.
Coming out of the dungeon with your condition, addiction, or disorder may not get you the understanding or support, and therefore it may not be good for you despite being ‘good for you’. But there’s good news, my friends – change is coming. Slowly but surely.
As someone who’s been in the dungeon, I don’t want sympathy or empathy. I want understanding. I don’t want to be feared or looked down upon. I don’t want to be ridiculed. I don’t want people to think they know all about me because of an article they read online, or a character they saw on a tv show. I am a unique human being just like them, and though my brain may not have produced enough feel-good chemicals for almost all the days of my life, I am thankful that I did not take my own life, and the coping mechanisms I’ve used let me survive for long enough to learn about brain, my genetic predispositions, environmental factors and stressors and even a concussion I experienced that all weighed in on my decision-making ability, or disadvantage to being able to control my impulses.
It may be in your best interest to tell your friends and family, but it may not. It’s up to you. However, there’s one thing that’s for sure -YOU should be the first person to understand your condition or addiction, and be comfortable and confident with the reality that you’re still a very good person despite your time in the dungeon.
About Mickey Von Bron
Mickey Von Bron is a certified personal trainer who specializes in nutrition, supplements and natural methods of improving health and wellness. Having experienced and overcome many obstacles associated with mental health and addiction, he is committed to inspiring people through his own example. His first book, Drug Free June: A Hypomanic Episode, is soon to be published. You can read some of Mickey's other writing about mental health at AliveAndAwake.ca and Light Way of Thinking.