I talk a lot about the darkness of mental illness, the demons that hide in your brain, lying to you about reality. It really sucks. Yet recovery involves another organ, the heart.
I say this after listening to the incredible Brene Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher, who talks in several of her books about “whole-hearted living.” That means putting your whole self into something, which in turn means being, you guessed it, vulnerable. And that, is terrifying.
For me, being whole-hearted means letting people see my darkness. Not everyone. When you meet someone new maybe it is best to save the demons for day two. Yet family, friends, and loved ones want to know you, not the masked you, the doppelganger you that you bring out to hide your demons.
Because here is the truth, are you ready for it? We all have demons. And true, honest, authentic connection comes from being honest about those demons. And what is even better is that those connections are like Kryptonite to the demons in your skull.
For some, they’ve grown up with a support system that has always accepted them and their demons, giving them confidence to be authentic. Yet for me, my demons have always isolated me. And I know I am not alone in that regard. And if your mental illness has isolated you in the dark, know that you are not alone either.
Yet yesterday I said I was going to try to sugar coat things less, so here goes. Being that vulnerable with a mental illness is fucking terrifying. Like deer-in-the-headlights-paralyzed terrifying. Before you even finish opening up, your mental illness convinces you that no one will love you that everyone will leave you. Maybe you try to soften the blow of your darkness by throwing in some self-deprecating humor. And the fear for me makes you feel like your heart is going to leap out of your chest. And it takes a long time for it to get easier. I have been with my wife since 2016 and have known he since 2008 and I am still terrified by the thought of opening up and being vulnerable in front of her. But fuck it, she hasn’t left yet, so maybe it is time to give my brain a brake and lead with my heart.
And since it is Friday, I wanted to end on a positive note rather than telling you all how the thing you need to do to be whole-hearted, according to Brene Brown, is terribly terrifying. And that is that you will find people that will run toward you and not away from you. “You Are Not Alone,” is more than a pep talk to those in the darkness, it is a commitment that the world is not as afraid of your demons as you might think. I have met truly incredible people who have said, “who cares, I’m weird too, we all are.” And that stops the anxiety and depression in its tracks, gives the demons in my head a brake, and gives me the chance to be whole, or at least whole-hearted.