Frank Warren is the creator of PostSecret and a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring Frank to your campus to speak about mental health.
I posted this image on the PostSecret Facebook page last week and it reached nearly 5,000,000 people.
I don’t know the specific reasons why so many people chose to share this simple message. Maybe as an adult, someone still feels the shards from a broken past. Or maybe some find solace in the idea that no matter how meaningless life can feel sometimes, we can always find purpose in reducing suffering. Perhaps a young person read this and clung on to the hope that the pain they are working through today could be the source of a gift that later in life offers help and healing to others.
I have one of my secrets in all six of the PostSecret books. In the second book, My Secret, this one is mine.
When I was younger I felt like I was going insane.
One of the stories I tell about this at PostSecret Live events is how my parents’ divorce led to a lot of stress and even violence in my home. One night, I ran from my mother, hid in my room and locked the door. My mother retrieved our floor mop that had a metal rinser attached to the head and used it to break through one of the panels in my door so she could reach in, unlock the knob, and come after me. When she entered my room, I had already left through the window.
I had escaped but the worst part was still to come.
It had been snowing that night and I didn’t have time to get my shoes. So with my mothers’ head through the open window watching, I ran down the street to my friend’s house with my shoeless feet. When I arrived, I was thankful not to see his parents’ car in the driveway. He let me in and asked me why I was shivering out in the cold snowy night without shoes. I have forgotten what my reply was but I can still feel the shame I felt then when I told a lie to hide my secret.
Every time I share that story I feel like I get a little more ownership of that painful part of my past. That sense of becoming unbound from our secrets is something I have heard from the PostSecret community too. One email I received from a girl who, like me, had a broken bedroom door said:
Hearing other stories about people who had an abusive parent like mine doesn’t depress me because all this time I thought I was the only one. And just knowing there are other kids out there who share my story, it doesn’t make my secret go away, but it does make my burden feel just a little bit lighter.
Reading over a million secrets and sharing our stories over a decade has been very revealing. Perhaps the three revelations that I have learned about our secrets are these:
It’s an illusion that we are alone with our secrets.
We decide if our secrets will be gifts we can share or ghosts that haunt us.