Quiet As It’s Kept
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, ‘quiet as it’s kept’, you know that’s it’s usually followed by something that’s supposed to be a secret, but clearly isn’t. I’ve heard it used and have admittedly used it myself. There are somethings that should be kept quiet. But there are others, like mental illness, that is often kept quiet and can lead to the destruction of families and help continue generational ‘curses’.
As I’ve said and written about, I take medication for my anxiety and depression. Along with the meds I take to control my asthma and allergies I’ve got a nice little pharmacy going on in my nightstand drawer. One night recently Josephine was watching me take my meds – I can’t remember why she was here but she was. Because she has to know everything, she asked me what the pills were for. I didn’t hesitate to tell her about the allergy and asthma meds – we actually both take the same meds for them – but I paused when I got to the others. I grappled with how to explain the other pills. To be honest, I considered lying to her. Who wants to tell their 7 year old that they take pills every day to keep them from going off the deep end? But I didn’t lie. I told her the truth, in a simplified, kid-friendly way: that my brain doesn’t work like other people’s and this medicine helps my brain work so I can get things done. She seemed okay with that and moved on to the next fifty questions she had lined up for me (side note – she’s going to make a great journalist one day because she gets right to the point with her questions). And when she’s older and more emotionally aware, I’ll explain what anxiety and depression are.
My whole point in that story is that for centuries, we have lied to our families, within our families, about mental illness. We have put Uncle Johnny in a room at grandmama’s house and just said he’s a little off. We’ve pretended that we didn’t notice the changes in Aunt Suzy after a traumatic event in her life, and said she’ll get through it. We’ve brushed off the fact that Cousin Patrice still had imaginary friends at 15. And don’t get me wrong; part of our denial or dismissiveness comes from a misunderstanding by the healthcare community about what mental illness is and a lack of trust in medical professionals.
But we can’t keep quiet anymore. We cannot shame and stigmatize our family and friends who are hurting. And we cannot be ashamed to say that we’re hurting. You don’t have to tell everyone, or post it on social media, or write a blog. But if you have someone you trust in your life, reach out to them. And if you have children, when they are old enough to handle it, you owe it to them, we owe it to them, to tell our stories so that they won’t be ashamed if they are diagnosed with a mental illness.
Because quiet as it’s kept, things won’t get better by keeping quiet.
Until next time…