If You Don't Get It Off Your Chest, You'll Never Be Able To Breathe

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You'll Never Be Able To Breathe

Secrets, secrets, are no fun. Secrets, secrets, hurt someone.

This is the chant my friends used to sing in middle school. It was an excuse to tell each other everything, from details about awkward first kisses to the truth about who was shoplifting from Limited Too, to the behaviors of adults toward us we weren't sure were normal or OK.

Puberty was a weird time and the rules for being nearly adult were unknown. It was hard enough to navigate those years without doing so alone.

But there were other secrets, too. We gossiped behind each other's backs about who had gotten to what base with whom, and who was smoking a cigarette at the park, and what it might mean.

And then there were the secrets we did keep.

Back in those days, my best friend was also my worst enemy. She belittled me, humiliated me, and competed with me for every scrap of attention I ever received. She made sure to let me know that I was in her debt; that without her I was as unpopular and unattractive as middle schoolers come. I believed every bit of it. I believed that without her, I was absolutely nothing.

Until, slowly, I started to realize how trapped the rest of the girls in our clique were, too. As we whispered our secrets to each other, we all began to realize that none of us were so unlovable, none of us so awkward, none of us so wretched.

When my best friend learned about all the talking we'd done behind her back, she was livid. She called me on the phone and spent a furious half hour berating me for betraying her trust. And I lost it.

I stood on the bed and screamed at her that she was a terrible friend. That she never cared about anyone but herself, that she had made me miserable for the last three years, and that I was done being her friend. Then I hung up the phone and jumped on the bed like a little kid for a solid ten minutes.

It was the most liberated and confident I've ever felt in my life.

I learned something that day that has served me well ever since: Secrets, secrets, are no fun. It's not the person you're keeping secrets from who is hurt the most by keeping them; it's you.

When you keep the truth bottled up inside you, when you put your own truth behind the needs of somebody else, you're the one who suffers.

If there's something burdening you, something you wish you could say but for some reason haven't, take a good hard look at yourself and ask why. Why are you putting somebody else's needs so much higher than yours? Why — when the only thing you need to do is tell the TRUTH to feel comfortable with yourself again?

We live in a weird world where the rules of taking care of yourself as an adult are still unknown. There's a message we get from society that we're supposed to take care of ourselves last, that we're supposed to be endlessly selfless and giving, that self-denial is virtue.


F*ck. That.

Honesty is virtue. Honesty is the only way to live freely, and openly. And until we find it in ourselves to speak the truth, we'll always be navigating this weird world alone.

Lea Grover is a writer focused on social issues and relationships.