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  • Writer's pictureHelen Dempsey-Henofer

Concealment and your mental health

Hey Hey Hey You Incredible Human,

Little update on what's going on in my world: In May of this year I presented at my first post-grad school conference.

Some of the self-doubting thoughts I experienced prior to my presentation sounded like: is there *really* a need for this? I mean just because I have an idea... doesn't mean it's any good. Could be a total turd.

I presented on working with nonreligious clients to an audience of my professional peers. Assuming you've visited my website (I'm not sure how you'd be reading this letter otherwise) you know that I aspire to work from a humanist feminist lens. I believe to my core that we all need space where we can be who we are and, if we choose, to explore the social scripts we've been given.

So, following this value of creating space for authenticity I presented. And wouldn't you know it, it was appreciated!

That the content was well-received was a relief.

It really could have been a turd.

Why share this with you?

I imagine that you sometimes also doubt yourself. I imagine that worrying about how you'll be received, if you'll say the right thing - or if you'll say the thing right - sometimes gets in your way.

I'm not going to tell you that once you make the choice it's going to be seamless. You could flop and make a mess. What I'll ask you to consider is what it costs for you not to try. How does that impact how you show up in your life?


There's a strong correlation between concealment

and mental health challenges.

Okay, so this was part of my presentation on the challenges faced by nonreligious people. Concealment is what you do when hiding parts of yourself. Believing that you have to keep your experience hidden is isolating but it's not only true for my fellow heathens. There's been oodles of research on concealment in specific populations related to mental health.

What's important for you to consider is how this impacts you.

When I'm talking to my professional peers about how to work inclusively with clients, I invite them to be aware of biases and how their assumptions contribute to concealment. What messages are they bringing to the room about how people "should" be? Can they check those at the door and - instead - be intentional in bringing an attitude of openness and curiosity?

I'm suggesting the same thing to you. Rather than entering a room with a client, you're sharing space with your experiences. You're making choices about how to engage with yourself. If you're getting in your own way of showing up authentically, notice what's happening for you. Try approaching your experience with an attitude of openness and curiosity. It can be enormously challenging to find welcoming spaces in the world, but you can start by making space within yourself.

Reading a letter isn't therapy. If you're in Virginia and looking for a therapist, visit the website to schedule a free consultation. While not a substitution for the individual care of mental health treatment, what the letter does is it puts therapy concepts into writing so that they can be accessed more widely. If you know someone who'd benefit, forward this on to them. There are two ways to sign up for updates, a consent checkbox for new clients in intake, or easy-peasy from the website... available for anyone.


Finally, You Incredible Human, I want to acknowledge how scary it can feel to just think about about showing up in life differently... honestly. You might fear that you'll die of exposure. I'd be lying if I told you it's never crossed my mind, Can I perish from being seen?

It's not for me to tell you when or how. Our lives and challenges are different, but I'm glad you're here, reading this letter, thinking about how you make space for yourself.

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