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By Bonnie McCurtain, M. Ed

As I reviewed a children's book entitled "The Secret Keeper", authored by Kate Coombs, the subject caught my attention and caused me to think. In the story the town's people brought the main character Kalli all of their secrets. The secrets consisted of confessions such as the plain girl who admired the handsome boy and dared not say anything to him, the little boy who did not like his new baby sister, and the rich farmer who turned away the beggar that came to his door. Kalli held everyone's secrets and they left feeling light hearted until one day Kalli became very ill. The people gathered and as Kalli lay in bed, unable to get up. When they asked what was wrong, she whispered that the secrets were so heavy and dark. The secrets made Kalli sick! It became clear to me that in this simple children's story the question must be asked: can secrets make you ill?

In my search for psychological validation to this question, I came across a book authored by Gail Saltz, M.D. The book is entitled The Anatomy of a Secret Life and delivered what the title reflects. We all have secrets. To have a secret is to be human and have an inner self. Secrets, good or bad, are merely private information that no one else knows. Secrets can build relationships by bonding two or more people together as we share parts of our inner selves with others, creating intimacy.

Some secrets are harmless and can even spare other's feelings, like not telling your friend that her new haircut makes her look 10 years older. However, a secret can take on its own life, consuming many hours of waking thought, worrying about being revealed, and using a great deal of energy in order to maintain the secret and make sure it is concealed.

Sometimes a secret becomes another life and the secret keeper is no longer present in his or her own life. This lifestyle destroys intimacy with loved ones and may result in the individual waking up one day and wondering, "how did I get here?" These secrets are a combination of secrets we keep from others and those we keep from ourselves about things we do not want to face within our inner selves. These secrets become not only harmful to ourselves but also to those around us. There is a pivotal point at which the secret that you carry consumes you and starts to control your life, becoming heavy and dark. Whether it is alcohol abuse, stealing from others, being a victim of past abuse, lying, infidelity, a raging temper, having low self esteem, dealing with illness and other disabilities, or the many, many, other issues that are our secrets, the question to ask is: Do you keep your secret or does your secret keep you? If your secret keeps you and makes you ill, consider getting help with a trusted person or a professional to help you take your life back.

Incidentally, Kalli got her life back! The town's people realized Kalli's burden and started sharing with her their good secrets, giving her back her health. Kalli was still the secret keeper but held both the good and the bad secrets people shared with her. Through the process Kalli also found a most important gift, someone she could share her secrets (parts of her inner self) with, and she lived ..happily ever after.

Bonnie McCurtain is a counselor at Edmond Family Counseling and can be reached at 341-3554.