Mental Illness and Emotional Vulnerability


This week I opened myself up to some close friends who didn’t yet know about my bipolar and alcoholism. The conversation shifted to topics where it became convenient for me to disclose this information to them in a natural way versus making some sort of out of the blue “announcement.”

They received the news quite graciously, and I felt neither judgment nor fear from them, but more support and curiosity than anything. They asked some questions about my experiences and shared some stories of other people they have known with the same conditions.

Yet, as I lay in bed that night, I couldn’t help but worry about the possible effects my disclosure may have on our friendship. Will their behavior change towards me in the future, even if subtly? Will they think differently of me? Will they be wary of me? Distrust me? Fear me? Worry about me?

Ironically, I am worried that I may lose the intimate connection I have with them due to me sharing one of the most intimate things I could have shared! I feel very emotional vulnerable. Most people avoid being emotionally vulnerable, myself included, because we don’t want to be rejected or hurt. But then I got to thinking…

When we put on a façade or hide who we really are so as not to be rejected or hurt, aren’t we in a sense already rejecting and hurting ourselves? If I am not being my authentic self then I am rejecting who I really am. That is so sad to me. Oh, how I don’t want to treat myself that way! To not allow myself to be who I truly am hurts my self-esteem and confidence, which in turn hinders my ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships.

When we do it to avoid being uncomfortable, aren’t we already uncomfortable? Now, I realize being uncomfortable comes in different degrees, and maybe putting on a façade is less uncomfortable than being real, but I think there comes a time in every relationship where the façade has to be dropped in order for true joy to occur. If your goal is to merely have a warm body next to you then keep the façade, I suppose. If, however, you want more than that, consider being emotionally vulnerable at some point in time.

When we hide who we really are to avoid losing friendships or relationships, if that were to happen, do we really want those types of relationships to begin with? Like I mentioned above, if your goal is to have someone, anyone, in your life then maybe so. If, however, you want the real thing, the good stuff, then love yourself and be real.

This brings me to a final point. In order to be our authentic selves, to be emotional vulnerable without the risk of wanting to harm ourselves if rejection were to happen, we first must have some level of self-love and self compassion in place. Getting to this point is not easy. It took years of therapy for me to get to this level, and even now I still have a fear of vulnerability, but I know I will be ok if I do lose those friendships.

If your fear is great, I suggest you work with a counselor or therapist or spiritual advisor. It is definitely worth the effort to be able to be emotionally vulnerable. Your life will be much better for it.


11 thoughts on “Mental Illness and Emotional Vulnerability

  1. Great post. I tend to be open by nature. Others are more private. It is ultimately a personal choice. But for those of us who take the risk, I believe we do ourselves, those we love, and others like us a service. To overcome our own internalized stigma, we must believe that others can see us for who we are, not just our diagnosis.


    • Kitt, thank you so much for your comment. I am more private by nature, and quite honestly, envy those like you and Dyane who are not. I agree it is a great service to all to be more open. And believe me, I want to believe that others can see me for who I am and not just my diagnosis, but the fact is that many people cannot. And knowing who those people are and are not ahead of time is not always possible. That’s why it is, as you said, a risk. A risk I took this week. I don’t think I’ll regret it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Kitt that this is a great post and it’s so beautifully written. I have very few “live” friends and they all are very aware of my bipolar disorder since it’s nothing short but tattooed on my face! 😉

    Over the past month I communicated with a husband & wife whose son adores my daughter & they are in the same 2nd grade class. Via texts only, we set up a playdate last week in which I drove their son to my home from school (5 minute distance – I mentioned to the mom that I had been a class carpool driver and a co-op parent at a preschool to lend me “credibility”) and I cared for him during the afternoon. The Dad picked him up and we hung out and talked for a while. Very down-to-earth and kind. A fireman. (The mom is the director of a preschool.)

    The parents could have Googled me and found out about my bipolar in 10 seconds. I don’t know if they did or not, but we had a repeat playdate yesterday and they want to make it a weekly thing. This is my new challenge – how to deal with my feelings about this matter, and to see if/when I’ll disclose to them for any reason.


    • Thank you for your kind words! I admire your and Kitt’s ability to be so open about your bipolar disorder. I am a very private person and would no more disclose that I had diabetes for no reason than I would any other disease. This week I just happened to have reason to tell them about it so I did. I am sure all will be fine. It still just makes me feel vulnerable because like it or not stigma for mental illness is very real. For diabetes? Not so much.

      Liked by 1 person

    • How much easier it seems to be vulnerable with God than humans though. Knowing His love is unconditional of course!

      Getting comfortable with others’ imperfections as well as my own is probably at the heart of the matter here. I’m working on it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never used my life with Mental Illness as a “What’s your sign?” type of ice-breaker, but if a reference to it fits comfortably into a conversation it just might find its way into the mix.
    Might help people understand why they like me, or why they find me interesting, or why my outlook and demeanor are the way they are.
    I’m not embarrassed by any diagnosis or prognosis, and if I let folks in on the fact that I deal with Depression and Anxiety and ADD, it might help them get a realistic picture of what that’s all about.
    Not everyone with Depression is going to kill themselves. Not everyone with Anxiety goes through life like a basket case on a caffeine bender. Not everyone with ADD is off chasing squirrels all the time. Just some of the time…
    like down at work. When, because of my ADD, I had to exercise my rights and protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act and pretty much demand that my physical placement in our office had to be changed. I needed to be as secluded as possible in what was essentially one massive room, taking up half of the first floor, likely 5,000 square feet housing no less than eighty people.
    My production was suffering and my job was on the line.
    After having been denied in my request to be moved, I finally got the reasonable accommodation met by letting not just our office (I worked for the County) but the Human Resources, Risk Management and Labor Relations departments know that – per the mandates of the ADA – if things were not rectified within forty-eight hours then I would have the ACLU crawling up their asses so far that they could taste the Patchouli oil.
    Once our Office Director found out about my problem and first heard about my request, it was all taken care of within the space of a five-minute meeting.
    It was next to impossible to have your location changed in that place. The seating plan was e-mailed from some burning bush up on Mt. Bureaucracy. But all of a sudden, I was moving.
    I knew word would somehow get around about what happened because a number of my co-workers knew about my ADD. I spoke openly of it when appropriate and, indeed, work related. A few of my close friends knew how if aggravated my Depression and Anxiety, and I justifiably figured the rumors would fly.
    It was Casual Friday when I actually made the move, wearing a t-shirt that said:
    “My doctor says I have ADD, but… LOOK!!! A SQUIRREL!!!!”
    That’s been my attitude about my challenges in general. Go ahead and reach your own conclusions, make your catty little remarks about it behind my back, I frankly couldn’t care less.
    My making light of it while also being open and insightful and possibly educational and enlightening about it took all the fun out of it for other people who would just use it to trash me.
    And if it makes someone think any less of me?
    They need help, and I have the name of a really good therapist for them.


    • Sounds like you went through quite the battle at work to gain accommodations. Good for you for you for fighting for it! Many people, if not most, wouldnt have, or would not even known that was an option.

      I appreciate hearing about your experience and take on the matter. You seem to have a healthy sense of confidence and security about who you are and what you stand for. That is very admirable and something I strive for.


  4. Pingback: Taking Risks by Disclosing You Have a Mental Illness | Write into the Light

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