Sometimes telling the truth seems nearly impossible, especially when it’s something that we can’t even admit to ourselves.
The path of life is very tricky. Some of us are brought up in sheltered environments where our parents try to shield us from the harsh realities of life. Others are told from the start that life is tough and only the warriors will thrive. My parents favored the protection route, believing that it was better to conceal entire truth about the less-than-pretty things in life.
But what does concealing the truth mean for everyone involved?
I remember the day my father called to tell me my beloved stepmother had killed herself. “She shot herself” is all he said. No explanation. It would be weeks before I would learn that Amy was an alcoholic who could not find the fire within to fight her disease. I was in shock. To me, Amy was all hugs and tenderness. I had never seen her drunk or out of control. I never saw the bottles of alcohol stashed in dresser drawers or any other evidence that this otherwise happy, shy, loving woman had dark demons battling for her soul. And my dad never thought to tell me any of this before it was too late.
I was mad. But, even more so, I was confused. Why wouldn’t he have shared this with me before? I thought that I could always count on my dad to give me his honest opinion, without the bullshit and sugar coating. And here I was, feeling lied to.
At first, I didn’t get it. And I was pissed. But, in retrospect, I know exactly why he didn’t tell me about Amy’s sickness: it’s because some things are so sad or shameful that we don’t even want to admit them to ourselves, let alone those closest to us. It’s this secret shame, embarrassment and sadness that, at times, keeps us from being completely honesty with the ones we love – and even ourselves.
For me, this became an issue when I was struggling with an eating disorder. I couldn’t bring myself to admit it to my friends and family – and not because it was a reflection of the strength of those relationships. Rather, there are certain things in life that, for whatever reason, we simply cannot admit at the time because we know that our honesty has the power to hurt those we care about and, for a lot of us, not taking the risk is safer and easier then admitting there may be an issue.
In the end, though, we are really doing a disservice not only to ourselves, but also to those who trust us to be honest, no matter how hard it is.
I think about this a lot when I am reflecting on my own road to recovery. As anyone who’s been there knows, there is such a tremendous amount of guilt and shame associated with any type of eating disorder. I felt defeated and ashamed. It felt like a weakness – and I’m not prone to (admitting) weakness. But it was only when I was finally able to chuck that notion that I knew I would win this fight.
The road to a more open and honest life begins at that moment when you can look at yourself in the mirror and say “I have a problem and I need help,” or “I don’t know what to do, but I know something isn’t right.” Once you take that giant first step, the rest will fall into place in due time. You will also find that by allowing yourself to let others in on your secrets, the load becomes so much more manageable. Of course, on this road, you are in the driver’s seat, but after allowing the truth to come out or into that proverbial car so to speak, that drive can change the course of your life.
As they say, the truth will set you free. But it will also set those who love and support you free as well.