Opening up to people can be a frightful decision, especially if you’re struggling with trust issues or have difficulty expressing yourself. Sometimes you face problems that can’t be explained in a single sentence when someone asks “what’s wrong?” Opening up means telling someone an extended explanation of a personal issue and why it bothers you, not to mention placing faith that the listener will be able to understand. It’s extremely frustrating to work up the courage to talk about something difficult, only to find the person you’re talking to isn’t following or treats your issue as something that can be easily fixed.
When I was in high school I used to wear my heart on my sleeve, so to speak. If someone said “hey, how are you?” I would spill out an unfiltered story about whatever was bothering me. At the time I reasoned that I didn’t want to lie, and if someone asked me how I was, I genuinely thought they wanted to know. It wasn’t until years later that I realized “hey, how are you?” is a greeting, not a literal question, and answering it like a literal question each and every time made me come off like a depressing mess. There’s a big difference between the greeting and the legitimate question, and the sooner you can tell which is which, the sooner you can tell who actually cares.
That being said, just because someone is concerned about you, that doesn’t always mean they’re the right person to open up to. Sometimes a person wants to help but can’t. There are many reasons for this. Conflicting personalities, life views, personal histories- unfortunately, opening up to someone often requires a certain degree of synchronization to be effective. It’s sort of like a relationship; even if two people like each other, they may not be able to make something work between them.
So how can you tell who’s a good person to open up to, or when the appropriate time is? Unfortunately, there is no single answer to these questions. Different people have different problems, and it affects them with different intensities. However, there are a few things you can still do.
Even if there isn’t anyone you feel you can truly open up to, chances are you know a couple of people you’re at least comfortable with. If you’ve never tried speaking to them about deeper issues, try feeling them out. Don’t bombard them with the entirety of what’s bugging you, but casually try to work a small part of your problem into conversation. See how willing they are to listen, show empathy, and ask questions. Who knows? They may be more helpful than you thought. If not, at least you tried. I know that might not seem like a lot now, but it proves you have more strength than you might think.
If it’s possible, you can try therapy. Therapists can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never spoken to one before, but they offer a special opportunity you can’t get anywhere else: you can speak to someone about anything in a closed space, and nothing will ever leave the room. Sometimes people don’t want to open up because they’re afraid it will create conflict with other friends, family, or coworkers. It might seem weird, but speaking to someone that’s not connected to anyone you know has more advantages than you may think. You don’t need to worry about your confessions biting you in the ass. And sometimes you need an outsider’s opinion. Sometimes you’re too involved with a situation, and you create problems that aren’t there. Having an unrelated party listen to you may help you back up enough from the situation to see what’s worth worrying about.
Of course, sometimes there isn’t anyone you can really count on. Sometimes you need to open up, and for whatever reason, other people can’t be counted on or reached. I know. It sucks. There’s this storm inside of you building up, and if you don’t find somewhere to move it, you feel like you’re going to explode. This is why it’s important to be able to rely on yourself. If there isn’t anyone else, open up to you. Take a notebook out and write out how you’re feeling. You can write whatever you want in one sitting, put it down and come back later, keep a daily log, even tear it up once you’re done. You’d be surprised how much better you can feel after writing some thoughts down. Big difference between letting them swim around in your head and putting them out in a physical form.
If writing doesn’t work, you may need to just say it out loud. Try talking to yourself when you’re alone. Scream or cry in a private place. Vlog. Don’t put everything up on YouTube in a desperate attempt to gain pity, but make some video journals just for you. For about a year, I made weekly vlogs to talk about how I was feeling, what I’d been learning, etc. It really helped. It helped me be aware of how I spoke and came off to other people, it helped me see how I fell into the same cycles of depression, and it helped just get some things off my chest. It might seem weird, but if you have a webcam and mic feature on your computer, give it a try. You can always delete it after if you want.
Opening up is never easy. It takes a lot of trust, faith, and courage. And sometimes it never works out. But it’s important to recognize when and who to open up with if you want to make any kind of progress with your situation. Again, everyone has different capabilities and opportunities, so there’s some degree of trial and error associated with this. But keeping everything bottled up inside rarely works out. You need to open up every once and a while. So good luck learning how to do it effectively. 🙂