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Some Words of Encouragement

All the Things We Never Knew

I chose to write about mental illness in All the Things We Never Knew for one reason–to give people hope. It was excruciating to watch my former husband descend into mental illness and not know where to turn or who to ask for help.

The unexpected gift of writing on this topic is that people now share their most closely held stories with me; they are vulnerable and open, recounting life experiences that aren’t generally water cooler talk.

After hearing about my book, the big burly guy who sat next to me on an airplane told me in detail about his brother, an Iraq war veteran, who suffers from PTSD so severely he sweats through his sheets every night. “He served three tours,” the man said, “and he’s still at war.”

A hairdresser told me about her battle with postpartum depression, and how, after months of seizures she believed were caused by anti-depressants, she attempted to take her life. If her baby hadn’t crawled in the bedroom as she was downing a bottle of pills, she says, she wouldn’t have found her way to recovery.

An older gentleman listened quietly to my brief description of the book and then whispered, “You young people are so brave. I’ve never told anyone about my depression.” I smiled and said, “I’ve never told anyone else I’m not young.” We shared a good laugh.

One in five Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. But, those numbers don’t hint at the tens of thousands of people who suffer in silence. Darkness wins, shame wins, and people feel more alone, and unworthy of love.

Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “Emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty.” It fuels our daily lives. As a therapist in her 12th year doing research, Brown says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage; to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest.” What stops many from showing vulnerability is shame. Shame, according to Brown, is not guilt. It is a focus on self. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, and eating disorders.

So, here’s my message: If you are one of those people shaming yourself, denying yourself love, hiding from your emotions, know this. You are not alone. There are so many people who want to hear your story and they want to help. People who care are waiting to hear from you at Lines for Life, NAMI, Trillium Family Services, and your local County Mental Health services. These people will fight for you, with kindness and compassion. Be vulnerable, be open, and do not give up. Demand hope. Demand recovery. You are worth it.

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6 replies
  1. John Ross Barnes
    John Ross Barnes says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Sheila. Been listening to you for years and until word of the book, would have never known that your life also had been majorly affected by mental illness. It is Very alienating, and having someone with your public exposure getting this involved does help. Looking forward to reading your book.

  2. Holly
    Holly says:

    Thanks so much, Sheila! I have lived with the shame, thinking that I had no business being depressed when I compared myself with so many other people. I never wanted those around me to feel like they contributed either. I was afraid admitting so would prevent me from getting a future job that I might want. It’s a hard, isolating world to live in. Before I became severely depressed, I never really understood depression. I thought people could think their way out of it or just exercise, since that is proven to help. Those things may be helpful for mild depression or if you have a support system where someone is pulling you out of the darkness to do those things, but someone that is deeply depressed has no will or motivation in them to do those things, even though they know it would help. I truly thought my family would be better off without me. I’m better now and I plan to write about my recovery and that of another loved one when he is old enough. I also had genetic testing done that revealed some really interesting data so I know I will always be susceptible. It’s a great motivation to keep my lifestyle in check. Not taking care of myself while dealing with a very difficult situation is what lead to my initial downfall. Thank God I am better now. I have a passion to help others dealing with this and in doing so, through nutritional therapy, I’m finding it’s way more common than I think most people realize. There are so many people that are seemingly happy and have a good life but live with these struggles inside themselves. So thank you. I am SO looking forward to your book. I am also interested in somehow contributing/volunteering for some of those services you mentioned but I haven’t formally pursued it yet.

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