This takes so many forms other than what you’d traditionally expect. It’s not always what you don’t say (aka silence), it’s what you leave unsaid that is the key. I can talk all day long about the positive things going on in my life, and I can make my life appear so much more interesting than it actually is, but ask me something personal, deeply personal, and I will stumble for words. I will suddenly become very inarticulate…
Talking about my problems to friends and family can be excruciating sometimes. I worry so much about what they will think of me, and if I am a burden to them. So instead of taking a risk and sharing my feelings, I will hold onto them. I do not get a thrill from sharing my story, I struggle with shaming it instead of embracing it, this is why so few people know what has happened to me this past year. Typing these words is even hard, I keep writing and deleting them worrying I am revealing to much.
This is like living two separate lives in one body. The private life of struggle and the public life of success and happiness. The students around me never knew I felt the floor swaying as I walked from class to class and the moments of panic where I’d clutch onto the wall fearing I’d fall.
When I finally called a friend about my struggles right as everything took a turn for the worst, she asked me if I was engaging in these behaviors in order to get attention….
“No one knows,” I replied. “Not even my parents. Just a few professionals at my school. I’m not out for attention, I am ashamed.”
I’ve learned that people who are hurting the most do this. There are people all around you who could be struggling with something that they aren’t ready to share.
Here are some secret signs of hurt. These make me feel incredibly vulnerable, but I believe they are worth sharing to help others.
Public isolation can be used to get attention. This is when someone is out with a group of friends and chooses to wonder off/be more reserved in order for someone to confront them, but private isolation is different. This is not going out with that group of friends at all. This is staying alone at your house or apartment and choosing loneliness over connection.
This is using excuses not to engage in social activities in fear someone may ask you how you are doing and what you have been up to. I know I always feared that someone would find out what was going on.
A (Discreet) Unwillingness to Talk About Themselves
This is one that I struggle letting go of. Everyone has that one person in their lives who complains about their life more than living it. I made a vow to myself that i would never burden the people in my life with my issues. I figured that everyone has their own, and they didn’t need to hear mine. And I worried that people would find me crazy, emotional or even stupid if I told them.
What I would do was continually ask my friends questions about themselves and if they asked me what I was up to, I would reply “Oh you know the same old same old…” Then I would ask them another question about themselves. I became very good at dodging questions like that.
Being pathetic or needy to my friends is something I don’t want, and they don’t want that either, but what I need to realize is that hope, recovery, and happiness takes a group of people to achieve sometimes. You can talk about your pain without being overbearing.
-You have to ask someone who is secretly hurting very direct questions about themselves.
Trying Too Hard
When I was hurting the most I became obsessed with being perfect, or I guess the idea of being perfect. I would spend hours in front of the mirror looking at myself and making sure that every hair was in its place. If everything looked/seemed perfect then no one would possibly know I was hurting right? If I could just prove somehow that my happiness was legitimate then maybe I could believe it too.
My personality changes the moment I step out the door when I am hurting. I can go from having a crying fit in my car to cutting up in class, and making others around me absolutely hysterical. It’s a terrible gift, sometimes beneficial, sometimes detrimental and downright exhausting.
Laughing It Off
I am so guilty of this one all of the time. I don’t know if this is a coping mechanism or simply my natural reaction to something that is hard for me to talk about. Ask anyone who has had a deep conversation with me, and they will tell you that I actually smile a lot during it.
Weird right? I know…
Maybe the act of laughing or smiling makes the subject matter feel less serious or threatening to me. Usually, if a question is hard for me I will smile and look away. If I get used to talking to that person sometimes this will disappear.
This is not to say that everyone one who is secretly hurting exhibits these traits. This are just examples of what I have experienced. If you choose to hurt in secret, one thing you can do is at least find a very small group of people to tell. This could be loved ones or it could be a professional, but having at least one person you can let down your guard with can get you through the week.