Waiting for today...: Mums the Word

Sunday, December 29

Mums the Word

I remember when I was a teen, my best friend told me that I was secretive.  I must admit, there was a part of me that was offended at the time.  Although I thought myself to be more private than secretive, I shared so much of myself with my best friend.  As I began sifting through  my current feelings, I realized that I did not have a concrete understanding of the differences between the two words: secrecy and privacy.  Privacy is a withholding of something from public view or simply keeping something to oneself.  Usually, when something private is revealed accidentally or purposefully it gives positive insight to the revealers’ personality, preferences, etc.  On the other hand, secrecy is the deliberate hiding of something from the public.  When a secret is revealed, by accident or on purpose, it often brings shame to the secret keeper.  Secrets are kept secret because it is thought that they will hurt the revealer or the one to whom the secret is revealed.
So I guess she was right.  I have secrets.  Some that may go to the grave with me and some that I may be able to discuss in therapy but with much fear and hesitation.  But I am also private and the thing that I am most careful about revealing at this point is the diagnosis and treatment of my mood disorder.   While slow to disclose even the minor details, I have told my mother, a close friend who is also undergoing treatment and two sisters from my congregation.  When I told my mother about my decision to add medication to my therapy, she responded “Well do you have to be on it for the rest of your life?”.  It was a good question but her tone was discouraging.  It should not be foreign to anyone not living under a rock for their entire life that a certain stigma comes with the diagnosis of mental illness and especially if its treatment includes medication.  Most would rather allow their life to go into ruins before they would ever admit that they suffer from mental illness.  I should know.  I was one of them.
There are several reasons why I decided not to share my recent difficulties with others who I’ve deemed near and dear to me.  Being African American and a Christian, does not afford me much support from those in the community that look like me or those that share my faith; which is pretty much everyone that I know!  Only recently has there been a move to openly discuss mental illness in the African American community.  Mental illness has always been a taboo subject among people of color.  To admit that you suffer from a mental illness is shameful and a sign of weakness.  As an African American woman its worst:  you get labeled crazy.   As for many in the church, there is no such thing as mental illness.  It is usually viewed as a snare that the enemy lays in an effort to deceive the faithful.  Many others believe that those suffering from mental illness are possessed by demons and must be exorcised.  I have my own beliefs about mental illness and Christianity. It includes the fact that: Christians suffer with mental illness!
Yet the primary reason why I chose to keep my ordeal “private” lies in the characters I have chosen to surround myself with.  These characters are often unnecessarily critical, over opinionated and are quick to re-package what they perceive as bitter into something that is more palatable for them instead of trying to truly understand me, regardless of how uncomfortable they are.  I've tested these observations with trivial matters and the results were predictable. However, in most cases I need not say anything at all before I am inundated with their egocentric ideas about how I should live my life!  Am I resentful? Yes.  Do I think that maybe certain individuals will be more considerate of my fragility and needs?  I would like to think so.  But for my own wellness, I’d rather not risk it… yet.