Last month Mariah Carey, one of the most successful singers and songwriters of all time, revealed that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2001.
Mariah shared a little bit of her struggle, revealing that she was afraid of being defined by the diagnosis and chose to keep it from the public. Mariah says she felt very isolated during that time, and now feels the need to speak up on behalf of other people who may be suffering a similar experience.
Her bravery opened doors for others to share their own experiences and struggles with mental illness.
Opening Up About Your Mental Health
As I have experienced with many patients throughout my practice, opening up about your mental health can be difficult, scary, and emotional. Whether you have already been diagnosed, or you are still searching for a diagnosis, finding how and when to talk about your mental health with those around you is challenging.
Here are some tips that may be helpful when considering how and when to share about your mental illness with others.
When To Tell
It is best to share about your mental illness when you are feeling well. This way you have a calm environment to share and discuss issues with whomever you decide. It is also best to share when it serves a purpose. You may tell a family member because they are worrying about you, a friend so they can understand you, or your employer so they can accommodate you.
Whatever you decide, the most important thing is that you feel ready. The decision to share your diagnoses with others is completely up to you, and you should not feel pressured to do so until you are ready. On the other hand, sharing can bring much needed relief, comfort, and strength.
Who To Tell
When considering who to tell it can be helpful to make a list of pros and cons, and to consider the pros and cons of not telling this person as well. Sharing this information can be risky, and it’s important to remember that you only have to share if you feel it is necessary.
If you have someone in mind that you would like to tell, consider these questions. Will this person be understanding? Is this person a good listener? Will this person be able to provide comfort when I’m feeling down? Most importantly, will this person respect your privacy and not discuss with others? It’s important to surround yourself with people who will be supportive for you even on your worst days.
How To Tell
Finding what to say can sometimes be the hardest part about sharing your mental illness. Sometimes it is helpful to plan out or practice what you are going to say beforehand with a medical professional or therapist. It can also be helpful to share specific examples of your struggles so that they can understand better how you feel and what you are going through.
One of the best ways to receive support from those around you is to suggest ways that they can personally help you through your journey. Even those who are closest to you and want to help, may not know how to do so. You can help them help you by giving them examples of things they can do for you.
Sharing your mental health experience with the public, like Mariah Carey, can inspire and strengthen others, and help break the stigma against mental illness. You don’t have to make your mental health public, however. The most important thing is that you do what you feel is right.
It can be frightening to share your experiences with others, and the unfortunate truth is that some people may not be as receptive or supportive to you as others. Don’t give up in your search for encouragement and support. You will discover that many people want to help as much as they can, and will always be there for you when you need them.