Anxiety Disclosure and Its Importance
Disclosure is an important part of living with any mental illness, anxiety included. For those unaware, disclosure simply means letting the people in your life know that you are mentally ill. In a future post, I will share some more practical advice for when you disclose, but right now, I want to focus specifically on why I feel disclosing anxiety is so important, and why I feel everyone with mental illness should disclose.
My Struggles with Anxiety Disclosure
First, the obvious: anxiety disclosure is hard, very hard. You’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position, and that’s never easy. Furthermore – and this cannot be mentioned enough – there’s still an unconscionable amount of stigma attached to being mentally ill.
This is part of why, for much of my life, I rarely disclosed my anxiety. Obviously, my family knew. But when I entered college and began to become more severely impacted by my mental illnesses, I tried disclosing and it didn’t go well. I’ve never been comfortable talking about anything personal, so that was a strike against me. I kept hearing all the tried and true narrow-minded responses we’ve come to expect. “It’ll pass,” “Everybody feels that way sometimes,” or, my favorite, “You just have to work harder.” Hearing things like this discouraged me from opening up in the future.
So what changed? A debilitating episode at the end of my time in graduate school completely reoriented my perspective. At that point, I realized:
- This was never going to get any easier,
- If I had any hope of functioning healthily I needed to expand my support network, and
- Nothing was going to get better if I kept my struggles to myself ("Mental Health Stigma Says There's Pride in Silent Struggle").
A Few Benefits of My Anxiety Disclosure
With that in mind, I want everyone reading this, if you have a mental illness, to disclose.
Taking care of yourself will continue to get easier after disclosure. The more people you tell, the more your support network will grow, and the more people you can go to when you need help. If you’re worried about the people you’re going to tell reacting negatively, I get that. But consider this: if they honestly do react negatively, are they really someone you want to keep in your life? Would you not rather keep around those who will be with you unconditionally? Hard as it may be, negative reactions can help you to cut out people in your life that are unnecessarily toxic.
Also, disclosing provides people the opportunity who may not necessarily be familiar with the nuance of mental illness the opportunity to be exposed to it. The more people who are exposed, the less strange, foreign, or scary mental illness will seem, and the more we can continue to tailor our society to better accommodate the mentally ill.
Finally, if you need support, whether it’s at work, school, or elsewhere, nobody can give you that support if you don’t disclose. To borrow a sentiment from the TV series The Newsroom, you can’t solve a problem until you recognize that there is a problem.
Stay tuned, in the coming weeks, for another post on practical strategies for disclosure of anxiety and other mental illnesses. Until then, I hope you all take this advice to heart, and will seriously consider disclosing to those in your life.
DeSalvo, T. (2019, June 26). Anxiety Disclosure and Its Importance, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2019/6/anxiety-disclosure-and-its-importance