The power of a secret

Growing up in the hoard, I don't remember my mom ever telling me NOT to tell other people what our house looked like. It was just understood by other actions that this wasn't something to be discussed at Sunday School, during classes, or even at family dinners. It was our "dirty little secret".

The secret was so powerful that even once I'd left home, I told no one what I'd left behind. People could often sense there was tension between me and my mother, but I'd never told them why. I really didn't even know how to put it into words. How do you paint a word picture that looks like this?

Mom's living room, 2009

But for the very first time, I found out that my family knew our secret! They had known all along! And even more shocking, it was revealed that the problem had begun before I was born.


The secret we carry is often internalized. We believe it is "our" secret, and thus the blame and responsibility must somehow lie within us. For a child, that means the messy house, the chaos of too much stuff, the lack of privacy and healthy interpersonal boundaries must somehow be a result of our value.

"If only I didn't take too much of her time and energy, our house would be clean..." 
"If she hadn't kept me, her life would be exactly what she'd hoped..." 
"If only I would stop making messes and having needs, we wouldn't be in this mess..."

But those are all lies. The mental illness that robs our parents of themselves, also robs us as children of a healthy perspective. It deceives us, warps our view, and tarnishes our self-worth.

However, when we find the strength to expose the secret, even to just one safe person, we find the power of the secret is broken. We find the strength within ourselves to be multiplied. And that is the first step toward building a healthier life--exposing the secret.

I hope that you find the courage to tell even one person the secret that holds you, binds you up in knots, tangles your dreams, and haunts your every relationship. I know, for me, that letting the cat out of the bag was the first step in personal freedom and empowerment. You can do it too!


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