One of the most valuable lessons I have learnt in my quest be true to myself is about the letting go of big secrets and the healing that begins when we transform big secrets into big struggles.

I not referring about the every-day-variety small secrets like the chocolate stash I keep hidden from my kids in my bedside table, or the new pair of shoes I paid cash for to avoid the conversation with my husband about why I really need yet another pair of brown ankle boots.

I am talking about big secrets. The sort of secrets that keeps you awake at night and have the power to shoot a lightning bolt of terror through you stomach at the very thought of them being revealed to the world.

One of the AA slogans is You’re only as sick as your secrets. This is a truth I have experienced first-hand, not because I am an alcoholic, but because I was in a long-term relationship with one.

The deeply-troubled man I fell in love in my 20’s, was a larger-than-life, funny and fun-loving guy. He was also a high-functioning advanced alcoholic who was extremely volatile and violent.

During the years I spent in a relationship with him, to the outside world it looked like I was living the #goodlife but my big secret was that I was living with frequent, escalating, terrifying episodes of physical and emotional abuse.

For me, my secret of living with violence felt like a black pearl lodged in my heart, coated over the years by feelings of shame, it grew larger and more painful slowly but surely, layer by layer.

The first time my ex-partner had in the strangle-hold we were on holidays in Paris. It was 2am and after hours of drinking I had gently suggested that perhaps it was time to call it a night. He went berserk. Two kind French men intervened and pulled him off me and asked me if I wanted them to call the police. I explained with a tremendous amount of shame that there no need to call the police, because the man trying to strangle me was my partner.

The last time my he had me in a strangle-hold was many years later, on a Sunday night not long after the notorious third bottle of wine I had come to dread has been polished off. But this time it was different – my secret was out.

A few months earlier I had confided in a good friend about what was going on. My big secret had been transformed into a struggle. And although I could not see it at the time, I now understand that was what made all the difference that night.

I will never forget the moment shared the grim reality of my living situation with a work colleague who had become a good friend over coffee one day. My friend did not judge me. She did not lecture me. She did not attempt to offer a solution. She simply looked me in the eyes and gently said “Cassie you are a sparking diamond”.

Having ‘survived’ the experience of sharing of my shame-drenched secret with just one other person gave me the courage to do something different on that last night of violence.

That night, after my partner had fallen asleep, I hurriedly packed a small carry-on roller bag and quietly crept out the front door of my home, caught a bus into the city and checked into a budget hotel near my office. Thanks to the help of EAP, a non-nonsense psychologist, support of family and good friends and a wonderful organisation called An-Anon, I never went back.

Secrets are a very real burden in our lives. One study found that that people who are preoccupied with a big secret estimate that a hill is steeper a target further away.  Keeping big secrets sucks enormous amounts of energy, stifles our growth and contributes to feelings of low self-worth, isolation, depression, being unloved, unlovable and inadequate.

Our secrets may relate to past traumas, how we speak to ourselves, how we numb ourselves with over-working, food, shopping, alcohol or other drugs. Perhaps our secret is the real behind-closed-doors dynamic of our family relationships.

Whatever our secrets, they make us sick.

Shame thrives on secret-keeping. We know that shame cannot survive empathy. By sharing a secret with someone we trust deeply in a way that feels safe for us – we transform that secret into a struggle – and struggles we can work though.

One of the core element of the practice of self-fidelity is Letting Go. We can all put down the burden of a big secret and transform it into a big struggle by sharing it with just one trusted person – just one kind soul.

Self-Fidelity Practice To Play With 

If you have a secret that is weighing you down, perhaps this week you can spend some time thinking about who you could share it with.

The idea of sharing your secret with a trusted friend, coach or therapist may sound terrifying. However, the upside can be tremendous. Put down the burden by finding just one kind, trustworthy person to confide it.

Or, perhaps you can be the person that holds the space for another person to feel safe enough to speak their truth. Then you can remind them that they too are a sparkling diamond who can claim the sort of life they deserve.


You’re only as sick as your secrets.

AA slogan

Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?



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